The English Pointer, also known as the Pointer, is a breed of dog in the Sporting Group. Unlike many sport dogs, this breed of dog is happy to just hang out with members of the family and as such they make excellent house pets. The English Pointer was recognized by the AKC in 1884 and AKC approved in 1975.
The average English Pointer stands between 23 and 28 inches high at the shoulder and weighs between 44 and 75 pounds (the females are smaller and lighter than the males). Their short coat is very easy to care for, but their floppy ears should be cleaned on a regular basis and frequently checked for any signs of infection.
The Pointer's history is quite an old one, traceable through writings and artwork back to the middle of the 17th century. While the Pointer was refined in England, many canine historians credit Spain as the breed's actual country of origin. The Pointer's ancestors probably include Spanish pointers and a number of other breeds, such as the Foxhound and Bloodhound for their scenting instincts, the Greyhound for its tremendous speed and the Bull Terrier for its "bull-headed-ness" and tenacity. Spanish setters were almost certainly part of the mix. Spanish pointers were much heavier and more course than the Pointers we know today. These dogs appeared in Britain in 1713, at the end of the War of Spanish Succession, when British army officers brought them home. Italian pointers were also brought to England around the same time and were crossed with Spanish pointers, contributing to the Pointer as we know it today.
Early on in their development in England, Pointers were used to hunt and point to hares in the field, so that coursing Greyhounds could locate them and chase them down. The Pointer's type, temperament and hunting ability were fairly well-standardized by the end of the 1700s and actually have changed very little since then. Pointers in America can be traced to the Civil War period, when they were brought to this country by their English owners.
The Westminster Kennel Club was organized in the early 1870s, primarily for the development and improvement of the Pointer in the United States. Some of the very first officials of the Westminster Kennel Club imported an English Pointer named "Sensation" and used him to help build the breed in this country. An engraving of that dog is still displayed on the Westminster Kennel Club's logo.
Today, Pointers are regarded as among the finest bird-hunting dogs found anywhere in the world. The American Kennel Club recognized the Pointer for full registration in 1884, as a member of its Sporting Group. The United Kennel Club recognized the English Pointer shortly thereafter, in the early 1900s, as a member of its Gun Dog Group.
The average life expectancy of the English Pointer is between 12 and 17 years. The increased health risks associated with the breed include cherry eye, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, and skin allergies.
English Pointers are a true sporting dog who should not be confined indoors for a long period of time. They are athletic and energetic, and are happiest when they are running. They are sweet, gentle animals who are polite and welcoming to strangers and shouldn't be relied upon to be watchful guard dogs. They are best suited for active families, preferably those who enjoy hunting.
English Pointers are rowdy and rambunctious and need a lot of exercise; and just when you think they've had enough, they'll probably want more. This breed was not designed to be a household pet, but rather to be a sturdy, reliable hunting companion in the field, and the modern Pointer has not lost this desire. For owners who do not hunt, a commitment should be made to enroll their pointer in tracking or agility activities in order to satisfy their need to run and think. If a Pointer does not get enough exercise, they will resort to barking and chewing which may develop severe anxiety.
Training a Pointer in basic obedience can be difficult, but is an absolute necessity. They suffer from sporting dog ADD – they will be distracted by sights, sound and smells and will want to abandon training to chase after something more interesting. For this reason training should involve a lot food and should be conducted in short spurts. The two most valuable commands you can teach a rowdy pointer is "down" and "stay."
House training a Pointer is a long process and many breeders and trainers recommend crating a Pointer until he gets the hang of it, which can unfortunately be several months.
Chasing is the Pointers biggest problem. Unless they are hunting in the field, they should be kept in a fenced-in yard or on a leash at all times. They will chase after anything that moves, and once they give chase, they are completely deaf to your calls to return home.
Rowdiness and hyperactivity are common in Pointers, even those who are properly exercised. They are always brimming with energy and love to greet everyone they meet, which usually involves a lot of jumping. Teaching a Pointer "down" and "stay" can save you from alienating your friends and neighbors.
The Pointer is bred primarily for sport afield; he should unmistakably look and act the part. The ideal specimen gives the immediate impression of compact power and agile grace; the head noble, proudly carried; the expression intelligent and alert; the muscular body bespeaking both staying power and dash. Here is an animal whose every movement shows him to be a wide-awake, hard-driving hunting dog possessing stamina, courage, and the desire to go. And in his expression are the loyalty and devotion of a true friend of man.
The Pointer's even temperament and alert good sense make him a congenial companion both in the field and in the home. He should be dignified and should never show timidity toward man or dog.
The skull of medium width, approximately as wide as the length of the muzzle, resulting in an impression of length rather than width. Slight furrow between the eyes, cheeks cleanly chiseled. There should be a pronounced stop. From this point forward the muzzle is of good length, with the nasal bone so formed that the nose is slightly higher at the tip than the muzzle at the stop. Parallel planes of the skull and muzzle are equally acceptable. The muzzle should be deep without pendulous flews. Jaws ending square and level, should bite evenly or as scissors. Nostrils well developed and wide open. Ears--Set on at eye level. When hanging naturally, they should reach just below the lower jaw, close to the head, with little or no folding. They should be somewhat pointed at the tip--never round--and soft and thin in leather. Eyes--Of ample size, rounded and intense. The eye color should be dark in contrast with the color of the markings, the darker the better.
Long, dry, muscular, and slightly arched, springing cleanly from the shoulders.
Long, thin, and sloping. The top of blades close together.
Elbows well let down, directly under the withers and truly parallel so as to work just clear of the body. Forelegs straight and with oval bone. Knee joint never to knuckle over. Pasterns of moderate length, perceptibly finer in bone than the leg, and slightly slanting. Chest, deep rather than wide, must not hinder free action of forelegs. The breastbone bold, without being unduly prominent. The ribs well sprung, descending as low as the elbow-point.
Strong and solid with only a slight rise from croup to top of shoulders. Loin of moderate length, powerful and slightly arched. Croup falling only slightly to base of tail. Tuck-up should be apparent, but not exaggerated.
Heavier at the root, tapering to a fine point. Length no greater than to hock. A tail longer than this or docked must be penalized. Carried without curl, and not more than 20 degrees above the line of the back; never carried between the legs.
Muscular and powerful with great propelling leverage. Thighs long and well developed. Stifles well bent. The hocks clean; the legs straight as viewed from behind. Decided angulation is the mark of power and endurance.
Oval, with long, closely-set, arched toes, well-padded, and deep. Catfoot is a fault. Dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed.
Short, dense, smooth with a sheen.
Liver, lemon, black, orange; either in combination with white or solid-colored. A good Pointer cannot be a bad color. In the darker colors, the nose should be black or brown; in the lighter shades it may be lighter or flesh-colored.
Smooth, frictionless, with a powerful hindquarters' drive. The head should be carried high, the nostrils wide, the tail moving from side to side rhythmically with the pace, giving the impression of a well-balanced, strongly-built hunting dog capable of top speed combined with great stamina. Hackney gait must be faulted.
Balance and Size
Balance and over-all symmetry are more important in the Pointer than size. A smooth, balanced dog is to be more desired than a dog with strongly contrasting good points and faults. Hound or terrier characteristics are most undesirable. Because a sporting dog must have both endurance and power, great variations in size are undesirable, the desirable height and weight being within the following limits:
Dogs: Height -- 25-28 inches
Weight -- 55-75 pounds
Bitches: Height -- 23-26 inches
Weight -- 44-65 pounds
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Sources: American Kennel Club