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English Pointer

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

The Pointer is a medium to large dog from the United Kingdom bred for hunting. It may also be called the English Pointer and dates back to the 1600s where it was bred to be a gun dog and point to hare and later on birds when out with human hunters. With the arrival of field trials it was also found to have a very competitive nature and excels in other areas too like obedience and agility events. The Pointer is also an energetic but loving companion and can be a great family dog in the right home.

The Pointer at A Glance
Name Pointer
Other names English Pointer
Nicknames Bird Dog
Origin United Kingdom
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 45 to 75 pounds
Average height 23 to 28 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Short, dense
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, black, yellow, white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 117th by the AKC
Intelligence Average – understands new commands with 25 to 40 repetitions
Tolerance to heat Very good – able to live in hot climates just nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Moderate – needs some help in cold weather
Shedding Low to average – should not leave too much hair in the home
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight if overfed and under exercised but not prone
Grooming/brushing Low maintenance – just brush once or twice a week
Barking Occasional – may need training to control it
Exercise needs Very active – if not being kept to hunt will need a lot of physical activity
Trainability Easy to train – eager to please
Friendliness Excellent with socialization
Good first dog Low – should be owned by experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Moderate to good – socialization is needed as it has a high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Low – needs a home with a yard
Handles alone time well Low – does not like to be left alone for long periods of time
Health issues Not a healthy breed – there are many issues some of which are hip dysplasia, epilepsy, eye problems, allergies and skin problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $270 a year for dog treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $255 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training
Average annual expenses $1010 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $500
Rescue organizations Several including, and
Biting Statistics None reported

The Pointer’s Beginnings

It is thought that the Pointer may have origins going back to Spain however those origins are muddled and not certain. It can be found first mentioned in records dating back to the mid 17th century in England. Those early versions were said to be quite fierce, but further development gave it a much better temperament. It is thought in its development are dogs such as the Bulldog, Italian Pointer, Greyhound, Setter, Bloodhound, Foxhound and Newfoundland. Before guns were used in hunting the Pointer was used to find hare which the Greyhound would then go after. Its name comes from the fact that when it found the prey it would go still and point its body in that direction for the hunters to find.

In the early 18th century when hunters started to use guns Pointers became even more popular because they were so good at catching scents, and could cover a large area very quickly so were used to flush out birds too. They were not used as retrievers though and while they were good in warm weather they struggled when it was too cold. Aristocrats all had Pointers in their kennels to hunt with. Two famous Pointers were Juno and Pluto owned by a Colonel Thornton who held their point towards partridge for over an hour. A joke about a hunter who lost his Pointer ends with the skeleton of the dog being found still in its pointing position towards a bird’s skeleton.

New Lease on Life

It is understood that the Pointer actually came to the US before the Civil War, possibly with early colonists, but it was not recorded until the Civil War. It was especially popular in the South when used to hunt quail. It did well in the US where there was so much open land for hunting in. In the south it remains popular and is called the bird dog. Its main prey is the bobwhite quail but it is also used for the grouse, pheasant and woodcock. The breed has barely made any changes apart from becoming a little more refined in looks. The AKC recognized the breed in 1884 and the American Pointer Club was started in 1938. Today it ranks 117th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Pointer is a medium to large dog weighing 45 to 75 pounds and standing 23 to 28 inches tall. It is a powerful dog with straight front legs, a long neck and tail that is larger at the base then tapers to the tip. It has a short, dense and smooth coat. Common colors are white with orange, lemon, liver or black markings, but can be any solid color. Some also have ticking on the white parts of the coat. You can also get tricolored Pointer though these do not happen often.

This dog has a head that is as wide as the length of its muzzle and its muzzle is deep. Its nose is brown or black for dogs that darker colored and flesh colored or lighter in lighter colored dogs. Its eyes are round and dark and the ears hang down and are a little pointed at the ends.

The Inner Pointer


Pointers are very alert and make great watchdogs. It will bark to let you know of an intruder and since it has moderate protective instincts it may act to defend you and its home. This is not a breed that is best suited to new owners, it needs a confident, firm, in control and active owner to handle it. The Pointer is brave, independent, somewhat sensitive, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. With the right owners it is loyal, sweet, devoted, friendly and patient. It is smart and it barks occasionally so that may need training to control it. With strangers the Pointer can be reserved at first but usually is excellent with them once it adjusts.

If it gets enough activity and stimulation it is calm but sometimes mischievous still and fun loving. If it does not get enough from you though it gets high strung, destructive and neurotic. If you are not a strong leader and are too meek it will also be hard to control and willful. Its pointing instincts will start to develop around the age of 2 months and that us when you can start working with it. It likes to be a part of family activity and makes a good companion with sufficient exercise. It does have a strong competitive streak and that shows in how well it does in field trials and show events. At the end of the day though when it is time to relax it will be very happy to get on that couch with you! If you do not let your pets on the couch you should know that the Pointer will do its best to change your mind.

Living with a Pointer

What will training look like?

For people with experience the Pointer is moderately easy to train, but for others it may be a bit more challenging as though it is intelligent it is independent and sometimes willful. Expect results to be gradual and make sure you are very firm but still positive and fair. Be consistent and rewards its successes, encourage it and use treats to motivate. Dogs can sense when owners are in control and confident and when they are nervous and timid. It is important it does not take on your nervousness as its own. Pointers can get easily distracted so keep the sessions engaging and short and fun. The training should begin as soon as you bring your puppy home, and it will be less headstrong at that point too!

One thing to be prepared for is that housebreaking this breed can be a bit slower than you might expect so be patient and consistent. Use crate training and set a schedule that is regular and one you stick to. Socialization is another aspect of training you need to start early. Expose it to different places, animals, people, sounds and situations to ensure it grows into a confident and well rounded dog. With the right care this is a breed that adapts very well.

How active is the Pointer

Pointers are a very active breed and need very active owners happy to have a dog join them when jogging, walking, hiking and so on. It is not suited to apartment living and it really needs at the least a large yard, or even land to run on and explore. This is a dog that loves to gallop so it needs some space and a safe area to do so off leash. If you have land that is one place, but you can also take it to local dog parks where it can play with you too and socialize. Any land or yard should be well fenced and secured. If it does not get enough time to burn off its energy it will be restless, destructive, hard to control and to live with. Along with off leash time at least three times a week it should be taken out for at least two long walks a day totaling between one to two hours a day, or it can run with you as you cycle or jog with some training. As well as ensuring it gets lots of physical activity it needs mental stimulation too.

Caring for the Pointer

Grooming needs

The Pointer is not a high maintenance dog to own. It sheds a low to average amount so there may be a small amount of hair to deal with around the home. Brush it once or twice a week with a firm bristled brush or hound mitt, and to keep its coat gleaning give it regular rub down with a chamois or towel. Avoid giving it a bath too often, that can damage its natural oils and dry out its skin. Just bathe when needed and in between use a damp cloth to give a wipe down. When you do give it a bath only ever use a gentle dog shampoo. Always make sure too that you rinse it thoroughly to avoid shampoo residue being left behind. After going out on a hunt be sure to give it a good dry down with a towel to stop it becoming chilled.

You should clip its nails if they get too long using proper dog nail clippers. Take care not to cut too far down as it will nick into blood vessels and nerves that will cause pain and bleeding. If you are not sure about it have your vet show you how, or have them do it for you. You could also have a professional groomer do it. With its feet they should also be checked after it has been working or exercising to make sure there are no injuries or burs in them. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week and its ears need to be cleaned and checked for infection weekly. Use a damp cloth or dog ear cleanser and cotton ball, never insert anything into the ear.

Feeding Time

A Pointer will eat between 2 to 3 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much exactly depends on metabolism, activity level, health, age and size.

How is the Pointer with children and other animals?

This breed is great with children especially when raised with them and with good socialization. Children and Pointers will help each other burn off some energy by playing together and getting up to all sorts of mischief together. Pointers are also affectionate and loving towards them and protective off them. However they can be rambunctious especially up to two years old and with that kind of energy items and young children can get knocked over. Make sure you teach children how to touch, approach and play nicely with dogs and supervise young children. It can get along well with other pets, especially when raised with them but it is not a good dog to have around pet birds for obvious reasons. This is also not a dog aggressive breed, it does not tend to be overly territorial and comes from a background of being in hunting packs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 12 to 15 years the Pointer is somewhat healthy but there are some issues that can come up including dwarfism, hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, skin problems, Addison’s, eye problems, allergies, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, heart problems, deafness and neurotropic osteopathy.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people and causing bodily harm over the last 35 years in the US and Canada, there is no mention of the Pointer but one statistic does mentioned a Pointer mix. There was one incident with this dog and it was with an adult but there was no maiming or death. Pointers are not especially aggressive and are not likely to be so towards people however all dog breeds have a potential to be teased, taunted or driven into it or can just have off days. Make sure you socialize, train, look after and give enough attention and exercise to your dog, and that you choose a breed who’s needs you can really meet. This can lessen the chances of something happening.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Pointer puppy will likely cost around $500 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder, but for something from a top show breeder is going to cost more. Always use a trusted source when you are looking for a new pet, avoid places like pet stores, back yard breeders or other puppy mill sourced options. Another option is to check out rescues and shelters. While you may not find a purebred Pointer you might find a mix that you fall in love with and giving a dog a new home is a wonderful thing. Adopting a new dog or puppy will likely cost around $50 to $400.

There will be items needed for your new pet such as a crate, collar and leash, carrier and bowls and these will cost about $220. Initial health needs such as a check up, shots, deworming, micro chipping, spaying or neutering and blood tests will come to about $290.

Annual costs are another factor in being a pet owner. You can expect to spend around $1010 a year as a starting figure to cover things like food, miscellaneous costs and health care. $255 of that will cover basic training, license, miscellaneous items and toys. $270 or so will be for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. $485 will cover basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots and check ups along with pet insurance.


Looking for a English Pointer Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Pointer is a very energetic breed and needs strong and active owners, a home with land and space, lots of mental stimulation and good training and socialization. With the right owners it is sweet, kind, loving, loyal and entertaining. It needs watching around birds but otherwise should get along well with other pets and can also be good with children.

Popular Pointer Mixes

Beagle and Pointer Mix
General Information
Size Medium
Weight 50 to 60 pounds
Height 16 to 20 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Somewhat sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Fun loving



Lab Pointer
Lab Pointer
Labrador and Pointer Mix
General Information
Size Large
Weight 35 to 50 pounds
Height 22 to 28 inches
Life span 10 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional to regular
Activity Very active
Breed Traits




Featured Image Credit: Jelena Safronova, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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