The Pointer is a noble, intelligent, and energetic breed. These dogs (literally) made a name for themselves with their pointing skills. But today, they make loyal family pets as well as hard-working hunting companions.
The Pointer dates back to the mid-1600s in Europe, but the origins of the breed are murky. That might explain why we have so many varieties of Pointers today—including short-haired, wire-haired, and silky-coated. But one thing is sure: Pointers make versatile gundogs that can point, flush, and retrieve from land or water.
Pointers and Greyhounds used to work together to form a hunting dream team. The Pointers would find and point to hares for the speedy Greyhounds to chase down and catch.
The breed came to America in the late 1800s and quickly became popular hunting companions and, eventually, affectionate family pets. The Pointer was one of the first nine breeds registered in the United States in 1878. It received American Kennel Club recognition in 1884.
The Pointer has an alert, intelligent expression and a muscular body that gives the impression of compact power and agile grace.
Coat and Coloring
The Pointer's lustrous coat is short, dense, and smooth. It may be solid black, liver, lemon, or orange—or any of these colors combined with white. The breed's nose is black or brown in darker colored dogs. But it can be flesh-colored in dogs with lighter coats. Ticking may be visible in some dogs.
Distinctive Physical Traits
The Pointer's ears reach just below the lower jaw and hang close to the head. The round, intense eyes are usually dark, contrasting with the markings on the coat. The tail is thick at the root and tapers to a point at the tip.
Though Pointers have these specific traits, all dogs display physical characteristics passed down through their DNA. Learn more about dog traits and how they're inherited.
Pointers are ideal family pets because of their alert, loyal, and affectionate personalities. This breed does well in active households with plenty of room to run and play. And you'll get bonus points for a sunny yard because Pointers prefer to live in warm climates.
This breed needs plenty of human companionship to be happy. Pointers want nothing more than to participate in activities with their people. They're also protective and patient with kids.
Though most are known for being calm, even-tempered pets, some Pointers may have a lot of nervous energy. And the breed can sometimes be reserved with strangers.
Pointers need high-quality food that's appropriate for their life stage (e.g., puppy, adult, senior). They also benefit from diets formulated for large-breed dogs. It keeps them from growing too fast, which may decrease the incidence or severity of hip dysplasia as they age.
Pointers are more prone than other breeds to bloat (also known as twisted stomach). To help prevent bloat, break your dog's food up into several meals a day, and use a food bowl designed to slow their rate of eating. Also, avoid feeding your Pointer immediately before or after any kind of vigorous activity. These are just a few ways you can help prevent this life-threatening condition. Consult your veterinarian about other methods, including surgical options, for preventing bloat.
All dogs are at risk for obesity if they eat too many calories. Avoid accidental overfeeding by measuring out their meals. And be sure to include calories from treats when calculating their daily intake. As a general guideline, treats should make up no more than 10% of a dog's calories.
Pointers have relatively low-maintenance coats. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristle brush or a hound glove is typically enough to remove loose hair and keep your pup's coat looking clean and glossy.
It's important to trim your Pointer's nails regularly. Overgrown nails can be painful and could eventually lead to issues walking or running.
And finally, maintaining good dental hygiene is essential for any dog's long-term health. In addition to scheduling professional dental cleanings, aim to establish an at-home routine that includes regular teeth brushing.
Bred to work, Pointers are energetic dogs. As such, they need regular exercise and mental stimulation to be happy. Field trials, agility, tracking, and obedience events can help them exercise their bodies and minds at the same time (while bonding with their owners).
These high-endurance dogs also make great running buddies and hiking companions. And they're always game for a good romp in the backyard with their favorite human.
The Pointer's intelligence and even-temperament make it a relatively easy breed to train. These dogs respond well to gentle, reward-based training using their favorite treats or toys.
Socializing your Pointer early will help them develop into a well-mannered adult dog. This is especially important if you have other pets at home.
Pointer Genetic Health Conditions
Acral Mutilation Syndrome
Acral Mutilation Syndrome (AMS) causes insensitivity to pain, leading to a tendency to lick or bite paws excessively. This often results in loss of toenails, fractures, and toe amputation.
Knowing if your Pointer is a carrier or at-risk for these conditions can help you and your veterinarian plan for your pup’s lifelong care. With Wisdom Panel™ Premium, you can get results for over 200 genetic health tests.
Reviewed July 26, 2020 by Annette Louviere, DVM