In our last installment we covered Day 1 as a Hunter, with the basic hunter leveling information you needed to start out at level 1 and make it up to level 10. In this installment of hunter 101 we’ll be taking a look at how to use a hunter pet.

At level 10 you are able to get a real hunter pet, and the ability to tame any one of thousands of potential pets wandering loose in the wild. This guide should tell you everything you need to know about using your brand new hunter pet when leveling.

Hunter Pet Types

As a very brief overview, hunter pets have three different talent trees, just like hunters do.

  • Ferocity: Ferocity pets have more damage-dealing talents and are the highest dps pets.
  • Cunning: Cunning pets often have root, stun, or other typically pvp-related talents, that can also be useful while leveling. Cunning pets also have several dps-related talents in their tree and run pretty much neck-in-neck with ferocity as high dps pets.
  • Tenacity: Tenacity pets are tanking pets — they do less damage, but have many talents to reduce the amount of damage they take, and can be great for tanking tougher mobs, or larger groups of mobs.

An important thing to understand right off the bat about hunter pets is that all hunter pets do the same base damage. All hunter pets do melee damage, and have a basic attack. This basic attack is called Claw, Bite, or Smack — but they’re all exactly the same and all do the same damage. Every hunter pet does the same melee damage, same basic attack damage, and inherits the same amount of attack power from you, the hunter. The only thing that makes them different is their special abilities and their talent tree.

Any pet will serve you just fine for leveling. If you’re really concerned about what pet gives you the most damage, then a Cat pet brings a buff that will help your dps the most. The Bear pet brings a buff that will decrease the damage your pet takes the most — though the Turtle’s ability is also very useful for this (and not available until level 20).

You can find out all the pet special abilities by reading the WHU Pet Special Ability Guide.

Pets level just like you do, and stay at the same level as you. As they level they get stronger and eventually gain talent points — but they also get stronger as you get stronger. Pets inherit a percentage of your ranged attack power, your armor, and your stamina. They do not inherit dodge/parry/block, so don’t try something silly there. All pets inherit the same percentage of attack power and armor, but tenacity pets get a much larger percentage of hunter stamina.

Taming Your Hunter Pet

At level 10 you will finally learn Tame Beast. This will let you tame most beast mobs in the game. You can only tame mobs that are your level or lower, and you cannot tame critters (indeed, there are various beasts that you can’t tame for whatever reason as well). You can use your new Beast Lore ability to check and see whether a pet is tameable. Once you tame a creature, it will automatically level up to your level.

You cannot tame a new creature if you already have a pet out. If you want to switch pets, you’ll need to abandon your current one: you can do this by right-clicking on your pet’s portrait and choosing Abandon. Alternatively you can place your current pet into your Stable, by visiting a Stable Master. Your Stable can hold up to 20 different pets.

Eventually as you gain levels you’ll have the ability to have something like a mini-stable that you carry around with you, with up to five pets. You can still only have one pet out at a time, but you can store other “active” (not really active) pets in this mini stable.

If you have extra active petslots, you can just use Dismiss Pet to dismiss your current pet (he goes in the active pet mini-stable) and then tame a new one.

Naming Your Hunter Pet

You can name your pet whatever you’d like by right-clicking on the portrait and choosing Rename.

Note that you can only name your pet in this manner once. If you change your mind down the line you’ll be able to get a Certificate of Ownership, which is made by the inscription profession and will let you rename your pet again. The Certificate of Ownership can often be found on the auction house, but if not you can just ask in trade channel and find someone willing to help.

Controlling Your Hunter Pet

Now that you’re level 10 you have a real hunter pet — not the training wheels guardian pet that you had from levels 1-10. This pet is much more versatile and you can tell it what to do, and when to do it.

You’ll notice that you have a new action bar on your screen, sitting above your bottom right action bar. This is the pet action bar, and it is divided into three sections: the first three boxes are pet commands, the middle four are pet special abilities, and the last three are pet stances.

Hunter Pet Commands

Starting with the pet commands on the far left of your pet action bar, we have Attack, Follow, and Move To. These basic commands give orders to your pet to do certain things.

When you press pet Attack, you pet will charge out and attack whatever target you have selected. By default this behavior is mapped to Control+1, and almost all hunters use either Control+1 or their own keybinding or macro to send their pet to attack — clicking is inefficient. If you command your pet to Attack, it will attack your current target regardless of what stance it’s in.

You can call your pet off an attack either by using the default control+0, or by putting your pet into Passive stance.

The vast majority of the time you will want your pet on Follow. This just means that your pet will follow you wherever you go. If you tell it to attack, it will still go attack — Follow does not interact with Attack in any way. If your pet is not on follow, it will just hang out wherever you last told it to go. If you move to far away from the pet, it will despawn (though you can always call it back with Call Pet).

Move To
The Move To command will force your pet to move to a specific place, and then just stay in that place until it receives other orders. Move To has very limited practical uses, and can often get messed up when you’re trying to use it in combat (your pet might ignore the Move To, or might ignore other orders, when in combat). When I was a wee hunter just starting I used the old version of this to make my pet wait outside of any building that I went into.

Hunter Pet Special Abilities

Your next four slots on the pet action bar are reserved for pet special abilities. Each pet has its own special ability (though some of them are not available until a higher level). In addition you can train your pet in extra special abilities by spending talent points.

All pets share a couple of special abilities, including Growl (which creates extra threat on its target) and Cower.

You can customize which pet special abilities appear on this part of the pet action bar. Just open your spellbook, and move over to the pet tab. Any active special ability can be moved from the pet’s spell book to the pet action bar. Note: abilities don’t have to be on the pet action bar to work.

If you click on a pet special ability, you will trigger it, just like any of your abilities. However, many pet special abilities can be turned on “auto-cast” mode, in which case the pet AI will attempt to use them at appropriate times. For most attack or buff-type specials, that means that AI will try to use them every time they’re available. To put an ability on auto-cast, just right-click on that ability. Note that you can do this with pet special abilities that aren’t even on the action bar: open the pet spellbook you can right click on any pet ability to put it on auto-cast. Of course not every ability can be placed on auto-cast.

As a general rule of thumb, when leveling you always want Growl and any attacks or buff special abilities on auto-cast. Things like Cower and stuns/silences/roots you’ll want to put on the pet action bar to control manually.

Hunter Pet Stances

Your hunter pet has three stances: these control the behavior of the pet AI. In the end game of raiding or pvp many hunters prefer to leave their pet in Passive stance and manually control their pet abilities, though there are plenty of hunters who use the other stances as well.

In Assist stance the pet AI does it’s best to have your pet help out in whatever you are fighting. If something attacks you or your pet, your pet will attack back. In Assist stance your pet will also attack whatever you are attacking; however, it will only attack a target after you’ve been attacking it for several seconds. For this reason if you’re using Assist stance you’ll still have to manually send your pet in to attack before you start shooting. In Assist stance your pet will also switch targets to attack anything that you’ve been attacking for a few seconds.

In Defensive stance your pet will attack anything that attacks you, or that attacks your pet. Your pet will not, however, attack unless something attacks you first. Defensive stance has very limited uses in the game, especially since Assist stance covers the same behavior, plus attacking what you attack.

In Passive stance your pet will do nothing at all unless you order it to do so. You can have a dozen Murlocs eating your face off while you’re desperately shooting an ogre, and your pet will just sit by your side and watch. However, if you command your pet to attack while it’s in Passive stance, it will still attack and continue to fight until you tell it otherwise, or its target is dead (and if its target dies your pet will return to your side). At any point while your pet is fighting, you can click on passive stance again to command it to stop fighting and return to your side (even if it’s already in Passive stance).

In general you’ll probably want to start off your hunter in Assist stance. This gives you the easiest pet behavior and lets you concentrate on learning your other hunter abilities rather than having to micro-manage your pet. However, you will still want to manually send your pet in to attack before you start attacking, so that your pet can get aggro on your target.

Also for many multi-target situations, Assist stance is less desirable. Often you’ll want your pet attacking one target while you deal with another. In that situation you’ll have to have your pet on Passive or Defensive stance and manually control it.

The Hunter Pet

Now you should know all of the basic of using your new hunter pet: the strongest and most versatile pet in WoW. Now we’re ready to start talking about hunter stats and hunter leveling builds, next on the Hunter 101 series.


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  1. Delta says:

    Hey Frost, another great article!

    Only thing I could see a bit misleading is the talk about Stables. I haven’t leveled a new hunter since cata launched, so I’m unsure of how many stable slots a new hunter gets. But it might be important to talk a bit about “active pets” vs “stabled” ones. To me the “dismiss pet sends it to the stables” might confuse a few new hunters.

    I may just be over thinking it, since everything else sets up quite nicely :)

    • Frostheim says:

      I didn’t want to get into it too deeply, since at level 10 hunters have 1 slot and no stable. My hope is that the process of gaining more stable slots in the course of the game is pretty self-explanatory.

      • Gorman Ghaste says:

        But that’s the thing, hunters get access to all 20 stable slots at level 10, so they don’t have to abandon their starter pets to tame something else, they just have to visit a stable master. It is only the active slots that increase over time.

  2. Hulder says:

    Great guide, I’d have one thing to add though – “Growl” should be off when in an instance, and on when solo levelling.

    • Frostheim says:

      As this guide is targeted at level 10 hunters, I feel pretty good saying leave growl on. I’ll be doing a 5-man leveling section in the future — though leaving growl off in 5-mans is certainly not always the right choice, *especially* when leveling.

      • Hierakles says:

        Similar to this, I feel that Cower should be left on autocast, especially for a level 10 hunter. The pet AI is rather intelligent about when to activate it, from what I’ve noticed, and it rarely seems to get wasted.

      • aHappyHunterPeep says:

        so no lvl bias here, that was very good reading ty :)

  3. Tibbelkrunk says:

    I did the same thing with leaving my pet outside buildings when I was a wee hunter.

    After all, it’s only polite not to be dripping elf guts all over somebody’s nice floor.

  4. Kirk says:

    Shouldn’t the illustration at the top of this article say ‘Hunter 102’ instead? ;)

  5. Ominous says:

    Every time an article like this comes out, I feel more and more sure of being able to point to this site as virtually a one-stop-shop for starting hunters and certainly most others.

  6. Henrique says:

    ” it will only attack a target after you’ve been attacking it for several seconds.” Isn’t that Defense and not Assist?

  7. Stridur says:

    Should also put pet talents in this

  8. Snoggi says:

    While this is a beginner’s guide, I would like to point out that Defensive stance isn’t pointless. In fact, when combined with this macro:

    /use Arcane Shot
    /petattack [@pettarget,noexists]

    it’s better than Pet Assist will ever be (will make your pet assist you only if it doesn’t have a target yet (so you can set it on a different target), and it allows you to omit the ‘send pet in to attack manually’ at the beginning of combat).

  9. Lirithiel says:

    I’m pretty sure you have access to your stable at lvl 10. I am in the process of lvling my second hunter (alas it is not a dwarf either) and as soon as I was able to, I started hunting rare pets. I tamed Duskstalker, Mother Fang, Bjarn and Timber at lvl 10 which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had no access to my stable. Perhaps not all 25 slots but access nonetheless.

    • Daron says:

      According to petopia:
      you start the game with a full 20 slots in the stable.

      “All hunters have access to the 20 inactive pet spots in the stable.

      You don’t have to unlock these or purchase them – they are available as soon as you enter the game.”

      • Daron says:

        Of course… a lot of the info on that section of petopia seems out of date… so who knows =/ I can’t check at the moment because I’m unable to play wow for another couple months.

  10. Ben says:

    When will we be able to download the latest podcast?

  11. Gzr says:

    I have a level 10 hunter with 20 stable slots.

  12. Anadallin says:

    Nice guide.
    I just ran an instance as healer, together with a level 80 hunter, who didn’t know these basics. I gave him a small introduction covering use of special abilities bar to be able to turn off and on taunts at will, while soloing and leveling.
    He was insisting to use a bear or gorilla at first – with full taunts. He died quickly. I will lead his attention to this and other articles on this site.

  13. Cobber says:

    Great guide. Thanks! As a newbie hunter I was wondering whether pets stay at the level that you tamed them when they are in the stable (or at the level you last used them) — or whether they auto level to your own level when you get them out of the stable.

  14. Darkelka says:

    Thanks so much for a great guide, I only stumbled across it the other day. Just a note on the Defensive stance. I just wanted to point out I find it useful when wanting to pick off things one by one. I have had occassions where my pet has charged into an area when on assit and then drawn a mob after them when they return leaving me being outnumbered. With defensive the single target comes to me and then the pet assists once I’m struck. Anyway just an observation.

  15. Barnza says:

    when i caught a basilisk it said with beast lore to have cower and Petrifying gaze but when i went to the pet tab of the spellbook those skills didnt show, idk why this is happening reply to this post for suggestions