The Pointer is a loyal and clever companion that is popular among hunters and field sports enthusiasts. They are a high-energy breed that can make an excellent best friend for an active family.
The Origins of the Pointer
The Pointer, sometimes known as the English Pointer, has been around for generations in the United Kingdom and portions of Europe. The dogs have a long history dating back to the 1600s. They are thought to have been bred from a mix of Spanish Pointer, Foxhound, Greyhound, and Bloodhound dogs. Before being recruited in to find game on shoots, English Pointers were bred to locate hare for greyhounds to chase. Their mix of scent abilities, pointing accuracy, and high speed, along with their level of endurance, gained them a reputation as one of the world's top sporting breeds. Although they were not bred to retrieve, they could be taught to do this as well.
It's important to note the American Kennel Club (AKC) calls these dogs Pointers, but in the United States, they may also be referred to as English Pointers to distinguish them from German Shorthaired Pointers (GSP).
What is the Difference Between the English Pointer and German Shorthaired Pointer?
These two distinct breeds are often mistaken for each other, no doubt due to their similar appearance and lineage as hunting dogs. The English Pointer is a bird dog specialist, where a GSP is more versatile in the field. Members of both breeds can display high prey drive, and need training and exercise to maintain tranquillity at home.
English Pointers come in a wider range of colors than German Shorthaired Pointers, which are often liver, or liver and white, in color. Although both dog breeds have similar energy levels and temperaments, the English Pointer is known to be calmer and less prone to separation anxiety. Individual GSPs may display a need for high activity, where an English Pointer may settle down more easily. Both breeds need to run, however, as hunting is in their blood.
What is the Difference Between the Show Pointer and the Field Pointer?
In the United States, Pointers are separated into two categories; the traditional show Pointer and the field Pointer. In the rest of the world, there's only one type; the show Pointer. If you were to take a look at a piece of artwork from the early 1900s, the field Pointer is likely the one you would see.
In the mid 1900s, Americans began breeding for a different type of Pointer, the field Pointer. These breeders want to emphasize and preserve the Pointer's hunting abilities. Over time, the field Pointers became smaller, with a tail that stood straight up, and retained the ability to travel further off-leash.
Show Pointers are registered with the American Kennel Club. Field lines may also be registered with the AKC as Pointers, and you may find a Pointer registered through another group, such as the Field Dog Stud Book. Most Pointer you see today are bred from show lines, often registered through the AKC.
Pointers were designed to be field gun dogs with an athletic build capable of working for long periods of time and a high degree of energy. Males are taller than females, with an average height of 28 inches at the withers, compared to 23 inches for females. Males can weigh up to 75 pounds, while females can reach up to 45 pounds.
The Pointer coat is short, dense, and silky, and requires little care. Brush them a few times a week to remove any dead fur and spread the oils from their coat throughout their fur. They only need a bath every few months, unless they need one after they become muddy while working in the field. They are available in a variety of hues, including white with black, lemon, liver, or orange patches, as well as white with two other colors. They're also available in solid black, lemon, liver, and orange.
The Pointer is a fun-loving, mischievous dog. Although they have a high prey drive, they also adore spending time with their families, including children. They are well-known for following the children in their family around, playing for hours on end, and being patient while they wait for children to find the next task. They're also known to be great guard dogs, alerting their family to any strangers or unusual activity in their home.
The Pointer is best incorporated into a family with an active lifestyle. They do require a bit of exercise, but once their energy needs are met, they are happy to relax in the house, too. They are the best of both worlds for those with active lifestyles during the day and looking for cuddle time at night.
If you're thinking about getting a Pointer, make sure you have enough time to give them the exercise they require. Although they are outstanding hunting dogs, this does not imply that you must take them hunting. A couple of lengthy runs each day, as well as agility, obedience, and tracking competitions, could be part of their workout routine. Hiking, running through the woods, and swimming are other viable options. If you don't have a sizeable amount of property, search for a fenced-in area nearby to allow them to expend their energy.
To avoid future difficulties, wait until the dog is at least 2 years old and their bones and joints have fully matured before engaging in severe exercise, such as frequent running. Before starting an exercise regimen, consult your veterinarian to determine the best method for releasing your puppy's energy.
Mental stimulation is also important. If there's inclement weather, providing them with Kong toys or dog puzzle games could help. Playing interactive games, such as hide-and-seek, is also fun while expending mental and physical energy.
Although this can be related to their independent and clever nature, pointers have a reputation for being stubborn. They respond well to positive reinforcement and enjoy mentally stimulating activities such as clicker training. They make outstanding sports dogs in dog agility, competitive obedience, and scent work, in addition to hunting. Like all dogs, Pointers should be socialized as soon as possible and enrolled in a manners program for basic obedience and positive reinforcement training.
The Canine Good Citizen program is also an excellent non-competitive option that enhances good manners in your dog. The program involves a 10-step test conducted by an evaluator that ensures they can navigate through life appropriately. If your Pointer passes the 10-step test, they will receive a certificate and the title of CGC will be added to their name. Passing this test is one of the prerequisites of certain therapy dog organizations, and it's a terrific way to reinforce the obedience training you have been working on, along with providing extra mental and physical exercise.
Pointer Health Concerns
A Pointer can be expected to live for about 12 to 15 years. They have a few common medical issues:
- Like most athletic, larger dogs, Pointers are prone to hip dysplasia, a disorder of the joints that can be painful and cause lameness.
- Entropion affects a dog's eyelids, which can cause damage to a dog's cornea. This can lead to vision problems or even blindness.
- Another eye condition often found in Pointers is cataracts, which is cloudiness in the eyes that causes vision loss.
- They are prone to injuries on the tips of their tails due to their high activity level and short fur.
- Some Pointers will be born deaf in one or both ears.
- Hypothyroidism is a gland disorder that causes lethargy, weight gain, and skin issues.
Famous Member of the Breed
A dog named Judy, a brave and determined Pointer, was a Navy Mascot in World War II. Unfortunately, the warship that Judy was aboard -- the HMS Grasshopper -- was attacked and sunk by enemy planes, but Judy and her fellow crew members managed to swim to a nearby island. They went two days without water once they arrived on the island. Then Judy discovered a freshwater spring for her and the crew to drink from. This is only the beginning of Judy's remarkable efforts, though.
The sailors and Judy all ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp and were subjected to harsh beatings. In 1944, the POWs, including Judy who had been smuggled on board in a sack, were transferred to Singapore aboard the SS Van Warwyck. When they were hit again during an air strike, only about 200 out of the 700 prisoners survived. Judy rescued as many sailors as possible by pushing driftwood to them. Rescued by a Japanese tanker, the Japanese planned to kill Judy as soon as they reached land.
Judy's rescue efforts didn't go unrewarded. An aircraftsman by the name of Frank Williams convinced the camp commander to register Judy as a POW. Judy became the sole dog recognized as a POW in the second world war. As a POW, Judy was under legal protection, sparing her from being killed at the camp.
Upon returning to Britain, this remarkable Pointer was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal in 1946. Judy remained with Frank, the aircraftsman responsible for saving this incredible dog's life, until the Pointer's death in 1960.
Where Can You Get a Pointer?
The American Pointer Club is a good source of breeder information if you decide to find a Pointer puppy. The AKC Puppyfinder also includes breeder listings. Purchasing a Pointer puppy will cost you between $700 to $4,300, with some field-bred dogs on the higher end of the price scale.
Rescuing a Pointer
Pointer Rescue provides information on Pointers available for adoption across the United States. You can also search the listings on Petfinder and Save-a-Rescue to find Pointers and Pointer mixes in all-breed rescues and shelters.
How Can You Tell if Your Dog Is a Pointer Mix?
Some common Pointer mixes that often come from less reputable breeders are Labrador Retriever-Pointer mixes, English Springer Spaniel-Pointer mixes, Pointer-Pit Bull mixes, Beagle-Pointer mixes and Pointer-Golden Retriever mixes. Pointers share a similar look to the German Shorthaired Pointer as well as a similar physique to many athletic breeds, so it can be easy to mistake them with other breeds. Another way adopters will determine if a dog is a Pointer mix is if it "points," although you can see this behavior with many breeds of dogs, so it's not an absolute. The best way to determine if you have a Pointer mix is through a DNA test.
Is the Pointer the Right Dog For You?
Pointers are clever, loyal dogs who can make a wonderful companion for the proper owner. This could be the breed for you if you're a jogger or runner, or if you participate in outdoor sports on a regular basis. If you're looking for a dog that will get you out and exercising every day to enhance your health, a Pointer will certainly do the trick.