Pointer: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Chocolate brown colored German shorthair pointer dog pointing in green grass

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The pointer dog is a powerful yet graceful dog breed, with a very clear job: to point. The hardworking, even-tempered breed has a centuries-long history of pointing game birds. High-energy pointers are capable of great speed and agility, making them a perfect companion for runners, cyclists, or anyone who is athletic. Their affectionate, loyal natural means they are an ideal family pet.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 17.5 to 20.5 inches

Weight: 55 to 75 pounds (males), 45 to 65 pounds (females)

Coat and Color: Short coat, color combinations of white with liver, lemon, orange, or black markings. May have solid coloring in any of these colors.     

Life Expectancy: 12-17 years

Characteristics of the Pointer Dog

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Pointer

A noble breed, the pointer dog dates back to the 17th century. It’s believed that they are related to the greyhound, bloodhound, foxhound, and a setting spaniel in existence at the time. Though they’re widely known as bird dogs, the original job of the pointer was to find hares for greyhounds to chase.

The breed adapted to point for birds when the use of guns during hunting excursions became more popular; they've remained extremely common as bird dogs ever since. Before the development of guns, the pointer’s role was just as important, as birds were netted rather than shot. When guns started being used, the pointer was still needed to both point as well as retrieve the bird.

The pointer’s shape is instantly recognizable; both its long head and finely pointed tail help do their job of pointing game for the hunter. A pointer will stand tall and still with one foot off the ground to point the hunter in the right direction. Though they have always been alert and focused in the field, over the years, the pointer has become a mischievous, playful, and fun-loving companion at home.

Today, pointers frequently win some of the country’s most prestigious trials for pointing dogs in the country. Thanks to its sporting dog heritage, competitive nature, and love of attention, this breed is a natural at dog sports such as field trials, rally, agility, and obedience. In 1878, pointers were one of the first nine breeds registered in America. Pointers were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) when it was founded in 1884.

Canine war hero
Judy the English Pointer receives a Dickin Medal. She was the only dog to be registered as a Second World War Prisoner of War. Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Pointer Dog Care 

Like many sporting breeds, the pointer dog is an affectionate, loving dog that’s devoted and loyal to their family. They are friendly and welcoming to new people. The intelligent, non-aggressive breed is very good with children and other pets, as they can be very intuitive and sensitive along with active and playful. The breed is happiest when they’re in the middle of the action and always wants to be wherever their family is. Thanks to its need to always be alert in the field, the pointer can also make for an adept watchdog.

While they are active dogs that enjoy being outdoors, most pointers actually prefer to be indoors with their owners hanging out on the couch. These highly athletic dogs will still require regular daily exercise and overall are generally calm and relaxed dogs. Their athletic history means this is a dog that loves to run and should have ample opportunities to play off-leash in a safe environment, such as a fenced-in backyard. When not given the opportunity to burn off some of their energy and never-ending endurance, a pointer will not be as calm and content in the home and could potentially become destructive, particularly if left alone for long periods of time.

The pointer’s short coat keeps grooming simple. These dogs are average shedders and will need to be brushed regularly and have their ears cleaned on a routine basis.

The pointer dog’s intelligence means they are very trainable. Like other sporting dogs, they can be sensitive and may not respond well to more harsh training methods. Instead, they thrive on positive reinforcement like praise, treats, and other rewards.

Pointer puppy
Westend61 / Getty Images
English pointer dog
Jelena Safronova / Getty Images
pointer dog running with owner
RK Studio/Katie Huisman / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

While generally a healthy breed, the pointer can be prone to a few common health conditions, including:

Pointers can also experience eye disorders and bloat, a life-threatening stomach condition.

Diet and Nutrition

The pointer dog should perform well on any high-quality dog food, whether it's commercially-manufactured or home-prepared with a veterinarian’s supervision. The breed’s diet should be appropriate to their age, and while this dog is highly trainable, care should be exercised when giving treats as rewards as they can lead to obesity. While the pointer has average dietary needs, they will require more exercise than other breeds.

Pros

  • Thrive on positive reinforcement

  • Intelligent and highly-trainable dog

  • Friendly family dog

Cons

  • Require a good amount of daily exercise

  • Can be sensitive to harsher training

  • Like a lot of attention

Where to Adopt or Buy a Pointer

While not an overly popular breed, pointer breeders can be found across the country. Make sure you buy from a reputable breeder that provides proper medical records and recommendations.

  • To find a local breeder, the American Pointer Club (founded in 1938) has a state-by-state list of breeders.
  • There are pointer rescue organizations like Pointer Rescue, that feature breed rescues and connect with regional rescue organizations.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

When determining if the pointer dog is the right dog for you, be sure to research all aspects of the breed and consult other pointer dog owners, breeders, and rescue groups to learn more. Be sure to check out these other dog breeds:

There's a whole world of potential dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right pooch for you.