What To Know About Pointers

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on May 25, 2022
7 min read

Pointers are both excellent hunting dogs and loyal family companions. They’re categorized in the sporting group. 

These dogs are energetic but know how to keep their exuberance in check. They’re noble dogs that could be the perfect addition to a wide variety of homes. Just keep in mind that they need a lot of access to the outdoors to be at their happiest and healthiest.  

Pointer size. Pointers are a medium-to-large-sized breed. Usually, males are slightly larger than females. 

Males have an average height of 25 to 28 inches at the shoulder. Females are, on average, 23 to 26 inches tall. Healthy males can weigh anywhere from 55 to 75 pounds. Healthy females weigh anywhere from 45 to 65 pounds. 

Talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is overweight

Body shape. The pointer mixes power and agility. They have compact bodies with a moderate amount of muscle. Their chests are deeper than they are wide, which allows their legs to move freely.

Their front legs are straight and have oval paws with long, arched toes. 

Other pointer traits include skulls that are as wide as the length of their muzzles. Their ears are set on the skull at about eye level. They hang close to the head and fall just below their lower jaw. 

Their tails taper to a point and are rather long.  

Lifespan. Pointers can live a long time for their size. The average Pointer lifespan is 12 to 17 years. This means that you should be prepared for a long life with your pet before bringing one home. 

Coat. Pointers have short, dense coats. They’re smooth to the touch and have a good sheen when properly groomed. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes nine different colors for the breed. These include: 

  • Black
  • Black and white
  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • liver

Their coats can also come with four different kinds of markings like black points and ticks. 

Eyes. These dogs have large, rounded eyes. They should be dark in color, preferably darker than their coats. 

Personality. The pointer personality is rather even-tempered. They have dignified, aristocratic demeanors. 

The pointer temperament is rarely timid. They’re always alert to their environments and show good sense during most interactions. 

The AKC rates them a five out of five for their affection for their families and a four out of five for their playfulness. 

Grooming. Pointers have simple grooming needs. You can brush them on a weekly basis with a soft brush or grooming glove to remove debris and dead hairs. 

Regularly check their long ears for signs of infection. You should clean them with soft gauze and a dog-safe cleaner. Talk to your veterinarian for brand recommendations. 

You should also trim their nails regularly and brush their teeth on a daily basis to complete the grooming routine. 

Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times. 

Your pointer needs high-quality dog food. Find a brand that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life, including puppy- and senior-specific foods. 

You need to consult your veterinarian before choosing to make an at-home blend for your dog. Making your own food can be complicated and time-consuming. You also need to specifically meet all of your dog's nutritional needs to keep them healthy. This requires a precise food blend. 

Also make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen. 

Exercise and Mental Stimulation. Pointers are an athletic breed that needs a good amount of exercise every single day. You should play with them extensively or take them on long walks every day. 

It’s also helpful to have a fenced-in yard where they can run around all day. Enough exercise will encourage them to be calmer companions inside your house. 

They also need a fair amount of mental stimulation. You can satisfy both their mental and physical needs by competing in dog sports like field events, obedience, tracking, and agility. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Talk to your veterinarian for the best vaccine recommendations for your dog. There are core vaccinations that all dogs will need, as well as some that are region- or lifestyle-specific.   

Some necessary core vaccinations include:

It’s safe for your dogs to start these vaccinations when they are six weeks old. There are also other non-core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.

Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. These days, heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.

There are a number of health problems that your pointer could be born with or develop throughout their lifetime. Common pointer health issues include: 

  • Gastric torsion orbloat. This is when there’s twisting in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract — specifically in the stomach. Your dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or liquid and may then twist, creating a sudden and life-threatening situation called gastric-dilation volvulus. Signs include an enlarged abdomen, retching, and drooling. It’s treated with surgery and will prove fatal if left untreated.
  • Orthopedic issues. Examples include hip and elbow dysplasia. Dysplasia occurs when the ball and socket of your dog's hip do not fit or develop properly as they grow. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other, wearing down and eventually making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life. 
  • Skin problems and allergies. There are a number of different diseases and allergens that can cause your pet’s skin to dry out and become itchy or infected. One example is a yeast infection that can affect their ears or skin. Look for hairless areas or redness. There are many different treatments for these conditions, including special shampoos. See your veterinarian whenever you notice a persistent or spreading skin problem.  
  • Juvenile cellulitis. This is a condition that affects pointer puppies more than other breeds. It leads to swelling and inflammation in their faces and the lymph nodes under their jaw. You need to seek medical attention if you notice these signs because the condition responds well to rapid treatment with antibiotics and steroids. 
  • Addison’s disease. This is a condition where your dog’s adrenal gland can’t make enough hormones. It can appear similar to other conditions, so your veterinarian will need to do a blood test to confirm the diagnosis. It can be fatal if left untreated, so have your veterinarian regularly screen for this problem. 
  • Bleeding disorders. Your dog could inherit any number of bleeding conditions, including Von Willebrand's disease. This is a clotting disorder. Your dog can often appear normal until they’re injured or need surgery. Then, it’ll become apparent that they’re losing too much blood. Treatments can involve medications or surgery. 
  • Blastomycosis. This is a fungal infection that damages your dog’s lungs and can affect a lot of the rest of their body as well. The spores can be inhaled while your dog explores wetlands. It can be fatal without proper treatment, so see your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your dog’s breathing. 
  • Thyroid problems. A common problem is hypothyroidism where your dog’s body can’t make enough thyroid hormone. Signs can include dry skin, hair loss, and behavioral problems. Your veterinarian should screen for this condition on an annual basis and treatment is usually in the form of a pill to replace the hormones.
  • Eye problems. The two main eye problems for this breed are cataracts and entropion.  Cataracts make the lenses in your dog’s eyes opaque. Entropion is a condition where your dog’s eyeballs roll inward. It causes irritation. Both problems eventually lead to blindness. You can choose to treat them with surgery. 
  • Heart diseaseHeart murmurs can be an early sign of heart disease in your pet. With early detection and the proper medications, your dog can live for years with heart disease. You should have your veterinarian check them regularly to catch the condition early on.
  • Idiopathic epilepsyThis is a condition where your dog can have unexplained seizures. Get them to the veterinarian as soon as possible. 

These dogs were bred to be hunting companions. You can see their hunting instincts set in as early as two months of age. This means that training is crucial for this breed. 

Also, keep in mind that they’re not particularly good with young children. They are rather open with strangers, though, and don’t make for the best watchdogs. 

In terms of physical characteristics, they shed a moderate amount and drool infrequently. They bark a moderate amount as well, particularly when there’s prey or some other provocation nearby. 

Pointers are also called English pointers in much of the world outside of the U.S. They were originally bred in England around 1650. These were the days before rifles were invented. The dogs were created to work in tandem with coursing hounds like greyhounds. At this point, rabbits were their main prey.  

The pointers would locate prey and indicate where it was by pointing. Then, the hounds would chase it down. 

In the 1700s, rifle shooting became the more popular form of hunting. Pointers adapted and learned to hunt game birds instead. Now, they can both point and retrieve prey.