Pointer dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Often called the English Pointer, this is one of the most common pointing breeds used for hunting in England and the United States. Hundreds of years of selective breeding have developed great chasing and pointing skills in this dog, but he is also very well tempered and gentle, thus making him an excellent family companion as well. He will be most happy to be a member of an active family, who loves outdoor activities and is willing to play with him for hours each day.

Breed Characteristics 

AdaptabilityBelow Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Sporting Dogs 
Height:1 foot, 11 inches to 2 feet, 4 inches tall at the shoulder 
Weight: 45 to 75 pounds 
Life Span: 12 to 15 years 

The Pointer is an excellent scent dog, used intensively on hunting fields to point out bird game for the hunter and retrieve it. His tall, elongated body, with pointed nose and tail, suggests this purpose from the very first moment you see him. Nowadays, he is still one of the best gun dogs, standing still and pointing in the right direction while birds rise into the sky and patiently waiting for hunters to shoot them. He is also known as the «Cadillac of bird dogs» because of his speed and ability to run all day in the field.

Due to his sporting nature, a non-hunting Pointer will enjoy a whole range of exercise, so he may be a very good companion for a cyclist or runner. Other fields this breeds excels at are agility, rally, field trials and obedience. This is mainly because of his ability to run fast and great will to please his human. The best way to train a Pointer is by enforcing good behavior with praise and rewards, rather than scolding him for what he did wrong.

His gentle nature and love for people, together with an easy to maintain coat, had also made him an excellent family dog, especially appreciated by children as a great playmate. Keep in mind that his energetic nature can be overwhelming for older people or novice owners, as he needs consistent training and exercise.

Main Highlights
  • Pointers are very active and energetic dogs, and require a lot of vigorous exercise, otherwise they may spend their energy destroying your home by digging, chewing or engaging in other destructive behaviors. You must exercise this dog at least one hour per day, so take this into account when choosing to bring a puppy home;
  • They are very independent and strong minded, and will always try to challenge your authority if you don’t display firm leadership. This breed may not be the best choice for novice or first-time dog owners;
  • Being so stubborn, a Pointer needs consistent training, but he is a very intelligent and fast learning dog, so you can take him very far into various competitions;
  • A pointer won’t do well in an apartment unless taken out to exercise very often. The best home for this breed is a house with a large yard, where he can run and get rid of all his energy;
  • Pointers are loving family dogs that should not be kept outdoors. Allow them to spend time with their humans instead, or they will suffer from separation anxiety;
  • They get along well with children or other pets they were raised with, but it’s not a very good idea to leave them around young children, as they may hurt them accidentally. Also, pointers may be interested in pet birds, so you may want to keep them apart.
Breed History

The Pointer Dog’s origin is somewhat uncertain. Many say that this breed developed during the 1650s, when several pointing breeds were brought from the mainland. According to his physical appearance, the Pointer is a crossing of at least four breeds: Bloodhound, Greyhound, Foxhound and Bull Terriers, and various setter breeds afterwards.

Other sources state that the Pointer has developed during the 16th and 17th centuries from other pointer dog breeds, like the Portuguese and Old Spanish Pointer, which were brought from the mainland during that time.

During the 19th century, Pointers were brought to the U.S., where abundant hunting lands demanded for a lot of hunting and pointing dogs, so the breed flourished there and many lines were developed. They did have difficulty in competing with the Setters, and at first, Pointers weren’t even allowed to compete in bird hunting trials together with them. After decades of selective breeding and enforcing of the pointing traits, Pointers eventually began beating Setters at their own game around 1910. This was the time when the Pointer began dominating the pointing breed competitions up until this day.

The breed was recognized by the ACK in 1879, and in 1938 the American Pointer Club was founded, two years after Elhew Kennels began breeding with success a popular line of gun dogs.

Nowadays, the Pointer Dog is a very popular breed in the United States, though not among the most common, ranking only 103rd among the breeds registered there.


The Pointer Dog is a medium to large-sized breed, with males reaching 25 to 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 55 to 75 pounds, while females only stand up to 23 to 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 45 to 65 pounds.

Personality and Character

Pointer dogs are generally well-tempered and little to no aggressive at all. They are very affectionate and loyal family dogs and love to spend time with their human pack, mostly by relaxing on the family’s sofas and chairs. They are also a «couch potato» dog, provided that they get their daily exercise, as we now know they are very energetic dogs.

They are social pets, who will happily live together with other dogs or cats, as well as children of any age. Despite not being territorial, they would still be reserved towards strangers until they get to know them better. Pointers would bark at strange sounds or movements, but they are hardly good as watch dogs, since they won’t care about any visitors coming into the yard or home.

Pretty strong-minded and sometimes stubborn, the Pointer Dog will surely take the lead if he feels his owner is not sure about being the pack leader. You must stay mentally strong at all times near a Pointer, or he will feel your emotions and feed from your energy and take you over. Display firm, but kind leadership and always stay calm if you want your dog to keep calm as well. His strong hunting instincts will develop very early, and 8 weeks old puppies will already begin displaying pointing behaviors.

Health and Potential Problems

Although generally a healthy and genetically stable breed, the Pointer Dog may suffer from one or more of these illnesses:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: this term is used for a range of eye diseases triggering the gradual decaying of the retina. This will make the dog become night-blind at first, followed by gradual loss of eyesight during the day. Dogs may adapt very well to living with this condition, but it is very important to have them genetically screened for it, to avoid the perpetuation of the gene;
  • Entropion: is a term used to describe an eye irritation caused by the eyelid folding inward. This condition may affect one or both eyes, but it can be repaired by surgical intervention. The symptoms become obvious by the time the puppy reaches 6 months old, when you will notice him rubbing at his eyes;
  • Cataracts: are usually noticed as the eyes get a cloudy appearance. This is an opacity on the lens of the eye, which makes it difficult for the dog to see. This condition usually appears in old dogs, but sometimes it can be removed surgically to improve his vision;
  • Cherry Eye: this condition is caused by the gland in the third eyelid (or nictitating membrane) becomes swollen and bulges out. This looks like a red mass in the interior corner of the eye. It can be repaired by surgical intervention;
  • Hip Dysplasia: usually affecting larger breeds, hip dysplasia may also appear in smaller ones, deepening with jumping or falling. This condition may not be very obvious, so X-ray screening may be necessary to track it. Arthritis may develop as a dog with this condition ages, so keep a close eye on his joints, especially if you know his parents were also affected;
  • Neurotropic Osteopathy: it is a rare bone disease, which eventually affects the spine, due to abnormalities in the nerves. This can occur when the puppy is between the ages of 3 to 9 months old;
  • Epilepsy: these dogs may be prone to epilepsy, a disorder that may cause seizures. It is incurable, though it may be kept under control with adequate medication;
  • Addison’s Disease: is a serious disease, caused by the insufficient production of adrenal hormones by the adrenal gland. You may notice your dog vomiting, lacking energy or having a poor appetite, so it’s good to take him to the vet, even though these symptoms seem vague and you thing they may indicate a lighter condition. Stress and potassium levels may emphasize these signs and even lead to death if the condition is not discovered in time. Screening tests are available for this disease, and affected dogs or those who are predisposed should never be bred.

Always get your puppy from a responsible breeder, who is able to show you the genetic test results of hid breeding stock, as well as any screening test result for inherited diseases. Ideally, he should also have health clearance of the puppies’ grandparents to prove that they come from a healthy line. Serious breeder will never breed any ill or vulnerable dog just to make profit.

Care Features

Pointers are really active and energetic dogs, which need a lot of daily exercise to keep fit and healthy. Even though they are not hunting, they will happily accept any kind of exercise, from running, hiking, playing fetch, etc. Their hunting instincts, though, can make them try to chase of hunt at a high distance from the owner, so make sure your yard is well-secured with a strong fence that he cannot jump over. Also, avoid placing high objects near the fence, which may help him escape and wonder away from home.

The best family for this breed is an active one, who enjoys sports, hiking, camping and any outdoor activities, where he may release his energy and explore the surroundings.

Being such active dogs, Pointers are not suitable for apartment living, unless you can take them out for a few hours of daily exercise. The best home for these dogs is a house with a large yard.

Feeding Schedule

You can save a lot of money by feeding your dog high quality food that suits his particular needs. Energetic dogs, especially sporting breeds like the Pointer, need a high-calorie diet, to help them keep up with their activities. Feeding an adequate diet will prevent the from developing food-related health issues like obesity (which is not a serious threat in this breed, though), allergies, hot spots, etc.

Usually, 2-3 cups of high quality dry kibble is the recommended amount to feed a Pointer, but it all depends on his age, size and physical activities. When introducing a new food stuff into his diet, make it gradually by introducing smaller portions into his usual serving, and slowly increase the amount. Always read the feeding instructions on the food package, as different brands may have different concentrations for dogs of the same size, so you may need to adjust the amount accordingly.

Feed your dog two or three smaller servings per day, and avoid free feeding, even if you don’t notice any weight increase. Free feeding may affect the dog’s metabolism and lead to other illnesses.

Females that are pregnant in late stages or breastfeeding should be given as much food as they want, to allow for proper development of the puppies and to make sure they have enough milk. Puppy kibble is best for them during this time, as it holds more nutrients than regular adult food.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Pointers have short, smooth coat with sheen. Their usual coloration is white with lemon, black, orange or liver markings, but it’s not uncommon for a Pointer to be solid colored in any of these shades. There are some tricolor pointers that have white coat plus two other colors, but this is a quite uncommon coloration, those in lighter colors like white or lemon have flesh-colored noses, while dogs with liver, black or orange marks have dark nose tips. Some Pointers display heavy or light speckles (or ticking) on the light colored areas of their coats.

This breed is a light shedder, so s weekly brushing with a hound mitt is usually enough to remove dead hair and keep it away from your furniture or clothes. For extra shine, you can also rub his coat with a chamois.

A Pointer needs three or four baths a year, but make sure you use a shampoo designed especially for dogs, and be very careful about any itchiness or irritations he may have after being washed. Between these baths, he would only require regular brushings and occasional wipe downs with a baby wipe or a damp cloth to keep a fresh and tidy look.

Constantly check your dog’s teeth and ears, and wipe the ear gently with a damp cloth. Don’t go inside it, only clean the parts you can see. Teeth should be brushed at least two or three times a week to prevent bacteria ant tartar from accumulating and to avoid gum disease. Trim his nails as needed, usually once or twice per month if your dog doesn’t wear them down naturally. Usually, you can guess the time to trim them when you hear them clicking on the floor as your dog walks by the house.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Pointers are very friendly dogs, so they will usually get along very well with other dogs, cats and children. Puppies will enjoy playing with kids, but don’t underestimate the adults, as they are still quite energetic and need to run, jump and play.

They may try to hunt down smaller pets, especially birds, so make sure you either keep them apart, or teach your puppy that they are not prey. He may not learn this, though, due to the hundreds of years of enforcing his hunting traits.

Always supervise young children while playing with the dog to avoid accidental biting because of kids pulling their tails, paws and ears, especially in very young dogs. Teach them never to touch a dog while sleeping or eating, and especially to not try to take away his food, no matter how good friends they usually are. Food is food and dogs never bargain about it!

If you are looking for a good hunting assistant, as well as a loving companion, this is really a breed you need to consider. But remember that the Pointer Dog is not suitable for occasional hunters or busy families, neither for old people, because of their overflowing energy levels. Always display firm leadership towards dogs of this breed, to remind them you are the pack leader and they need to obey you. Obedience training is not a hard job due to their strong will to please and high intelligence, so you have any reason to enjoy his companionship.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.