Complete Guide To The Pointer: Personality, Exercise, Health and More

The ultimate bird dogs, high-energy Pointers live up to their name. Intelligent, focused and confident, they continue to do what they’ve done best for centuries — point.

While I’ve almost always seen Pointers come into my veterinary practice as hunting dogs, that’s started to change in the past few years. More people seem to be enjoying these beautiful, active dogs as family pets instead of partner in the field.

How Big Do Pointers Get?

Male25″ – 28″ at the shoulder55-75 lbs
Female23″ – 26″ at the shoulder45-65 lbs

What Do Pointers Look Like?

Pointers are powerful yet graceful despite their 50-70 pounds. Agile, they’re long and lean with a proud carriage — there’s nothing timid or hesitant about them. Drop ears hang below the jawline, highlighting a square muzzle and intense round eyes in colors from green to brown.

Their short, dense coats come in four solid colors with or without white markings:

• Liver
• Lemon
• Black
• Orange

Tails are thickset, tapering to a point at the hock. Carried straight or just above the back, they add to the Pointer’s balance and symmetry. All Pointers share a similar conformation and may resemble English or Irish Setters but with a tight-fitting coat.

What Is The Personality Of A Pointer?

Pointers are even-tempered but exuberant — they’re the first to the party and the last to leave. Instinctive, their hunting abilities manifest as early as two months old. Owners shouldn’t expect too many days off.

Born to be in the field, they’re adaptable but make questionable apartment dogs — they need a family with a vibrant, outdoor lifestyle. Affectionate and loyal, they’re eager to please and responsive to training, but they’re poor kennel dogs. They need constant human or canine companionship.

How Much Exercise Does A Pointer Need?

Pointers rank second only to sled dogs for their exercise needs. Tireless, they need more than an occasional walk. They’re excellent running partners and will thrive with families who’ll make them a regular part of their busy days.

Non-sporting dogs need activities that simulate the field environment. Trips to the dog park and AKC athletic events from obedience trials to tracking competitions are fun ways to burn off physical and mental energy.

A fenced-in yard is a bonus for owners who can’t always keep up. Pointers prefer companionship and structured activities but will entertain themselves with balls and room to run freely. A quick swim or a game of fetch is always appreciated.

How Much Grooming Does A Pointer Need?

Pointers shed year-round and seasonally, but their short, sleek coats are a pleasure to care for. A quick brushing once a week with a medium-bristled brush or grooming glove removes dirt and dead hair, minimizing shedding and distributing vital skin oils. A Pointer should gleam.

Frequent bathing isn’t necessary unless they develop an odor — their coats are naturally soil-resistant. But dogs that retrieve waterfowl or swim regularly should be rinsed and dried after a dip in a chlorinated pool or water of questionable quality. Salt, chemicals and organic matter can irritate their skin.

Long-eared, the Pointer’s dark, moist ear canals are hospitable for yeast and bacteria. Regular ear cleaning with an alcohol-free, pH-balancing solution may help prevent infections.

Active, Pointers typically get enough exercise to abrade their toenails down naturally, but their compact feet are prone to discomfort if their nails are allowed to overgrow. Check them every two weeks and trim them with clippers or a grinding tool as needed.

What Is The Best Food For A Pointer?

If you have a Pointer puppy that is so hyperactive that you can’t keep weight on them, feeding a normal puppy food would be recommended. If you can consistently see the ribs sticking out on your puppy, this is what you’ll want to do. You also may need to feed them more than what’s recommended as Pointers tend to be a lot more active than many other breeds.

Best Puppy Food For Pointers:

Best Adult Food For Pointers:

If you have an adult dog that is so active that is also has a tough time keeping weight on (I think specifically of my hunting-caliber Pointers that always come into the practice looking emaciated because they never stop running), consider keeping them on puppy food and even supplementing their diet with puppy canned food as well (stick with the brand you’re already using for the dry food as this will hopefully limit stomach upset).

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

How Long Do Pointers Live?

12-17 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Pointers Have?

Of all the extremely active dog breeds (think Retriever, GSP, etc), Pointers have been the healthiest in my experience. While they can certainly have orthopedic issues such as hip dysplasia or ALC tears, I don’t see them commonly.

I do see arthritis in various joints as they age but that’s largely due to the miles that these dogs put on their bodies throughout their lives. For that reason, I do recommend starting a Pointer on a joint supplement at around the age of 4-5 years.

Other than that, the only times I see Pointers as patients are when they get cuts or other minor issues related to just running around and being their normal bouncy selves.

Where Can I Find Out More About Pointers?

American Pointer Club

AKC Breed Profile

Where Can I Get A Pointer?

Breeder Listings with the American Pointer Club

How about a Pointer Rescue? You can try the folks at Pointer Rescue! They placed over 150 dogs in 2020!

Interesting Facts About the Pointer

Pointers are hardworking, family-friendly dogs. But here are a few surprising facts about this unique breed.

Did you know?

• Pointers Were Selectively Bred for Hunting

Good hunting dogs don’t just happen, they’re bred for physical features and talents specific to their quarry. First bred in England in the 1600s, they’re the product of interbreeding several dogs.

Creators wanted an intelligent hunter with the speed and agility of the Greyhound, the nose of a Bloodhound and the tenacity of the Foxhound. Records aren’t precise, but Setters and Spaniels may be part of the mix.

• They’re Devoted Partners

Pointers partner with humans and other dogs in the pursuit of prey. When they smell game birds, they stand still with one foot raised off the ground, “pointing” the hunter in the right direction. Once used to hunt hares, they would locate the animals and let hounds take over the chase.

And Persistent

Pointers are said to “stand steady to wing and shot,” meaning that they hold their positions as birds take to the sky and shots are fired. The world’s most famous Pointers, Pluto and Juno, are among the finest examples. Legend has it they held point over a covey of partridges for over an hour while their master caught up.

• Pointers Were Among the First Breeds Recognized by the AKC

Developed in Europe, Pointers first came to the US in the late 1800s. One of the first few registered breeds in America, they were among the first nine dogs recognized by the AKC upon its inception in 1884.