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Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
He’s one of the earliest Sporting breeds, used as far back as the 17th century to point hares and later birds for the new 18th century sport of “wing shooting.” The lithe and muscular Pointer is full of “hunt,” and he has a competitive spirit that makes him tops in field trials. He’s handsome, dressed in a short, smooth coat of liver, lemon, black or orange, with or without white.
The emblem of the Westminster Kennel Club is a Pointer named Sensation, who was imported from England by club members in 1876. He was a handsome lemon and white dog who lives on as the cover dog for the WKC’s show catalog.
On the surface, the Pointer is a sensible and dignified dog, but beneath that noble appearance lurks a fun-loving and mischievous dog who considers himself one of the family. His reputation is that of hard-charging field trial competitor, but at home the Pointer is as likely as any dog to share the sofa with you during the big game, play ball with the kids for as long as they want, and alert you to the presence of strangers. More so than many Sporting breeds, he has a protective nature and is an excellent watchdog.
With other people and dogs, he’s a congenial guy, a little reserved but rarely timid and not inclined towards aggression. Cats may excite his hunting instinct, but if he is raised with them he can learn to get along with indoor cats. Outdoor cats may be fair game, though. Pet birds should watch their tailfeathers.
The Pointer is a bit hard-headed when it comes to training, but he responds well when you are firm and consistent in giving direction. His hunting skills are apparent at an early age, and once he learns something, he never forgets it. In the field, he has style, but more than that he has stamina and a nose that gives rise to the description “bird-finding machine.”
A home where he can have the opportunity to get plenty of outdoor activity is best for this breed. Besides hunting, he is versatile enough to do well in agility and obedience trials. Joint health and overall health permitting, Pointers who live in non-hunting families can make great jogging or bicycling companions (wait until he's at least 2 years old, when his bones and joints are developed enough for running, and check with your vet before beginning any exercise program with your pet), but what they live for is hunting, so don’t be surprised if your dog is constantly stopping to point birds. If you’re gone during the day, he’ll sack out on the couch until your return.
When it comes to grooming, nothing is easier to care for than the short, smooth Pointer coat. Brush it weekly with a rubber curry brush to bring out its sheen. The fine coat sheds only a little.
The Pointer is much more than a fine hunting dog or field trialer. He can become a devoted friend if you give him a chance.
The Pointer’s ancestors are thought to have originated in Spain a few centuries ago, but the Pointer itself was developed in Britain and is sometimes referred to as the English Pointer. Breeds that were probably used to create the Pointer were the Spanish Pointer, Foxhound, Greyhound, Bloodhound, various setter breeds, and maybe even a Bulldog somewhere along the way.
The first records of Pointers date to 1650, before the era of hunting with guns. The pointer would find the prey, usually hare, and then Greyhounds would be sent to kill it. When firearms came into use for bird hunting, the Pointer became the premier hunting dog and has never looked back.
Early Pointers were described as ferocious, a far cry from the dogs we know today. The setter crosses were likely an attempt, a successful one, to improve the Pointer’s temperament.
Pointers were brought to the United States before the Civil War and became popular in the South for hunting quail. The breed has changed little since that time except to become a bit more refined in appearance. Even a Pointer in an illustration from as far back as 1786 could pass for one of the modern specimens.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Pointer in 1884. Today the breed ranks 111th among the dogs registered by the AKC.
The Pointer looks like an aristocrat, and he is, but he’s also fun-loving and mischievous from the get-go. And although he constantly has birds on the brain, he also loves spending time with his family, adults and children alike. In fact, he’s certain that he is the heart of the family, and maybe he is. He goes hunting with them, plays endlessly with the kids, stands patiently while little ones steady themselves by holding onto him, and alerts everyone to the presence of visitors, strangers or anything else unusual. In the field he’s hard-charging, but at home he’s mild-mannered and a bit reserved, at least with people he doesn’t know.
A Pointer isn’t your everyday family dog, though. He’s a highly engineered hunting machine, the Ferrari of the Sporting breeds. Plan to spend time each day giving him the exercise he needs. A couple of long runs, the opportunity to run alongside your bike and, his favorite, going hunting or training for hunting are all good ways to help him expend all his energy. A word of caution, though, wait until he's at least 2 years old, when his bones and joints are developed enough for running, and check with your vet before beginning an exercise program with your pet. Is there a safely enclosed or traffic-free place near your home where you can walk for an hour or so while your Pointer runs? Pointers can also excel in agility, obedience, rally, tracking and, of course, field trials, where they are top competitors.
When it comes to training, Pointers can be stubborn, but they are highly intelligent and learn quickly when presented with firm, consistent commands and rewarded for correct behavior. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise or treats works well, but harsh treatment will backfire.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a larger, more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.Whatever you want from a Pointer, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
In the Pointer, health problems that have been seen include hip dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, and allergies. Many breeds, including the Pointer, can develop hypothyriodism, a common hormonal problem, in middle age. Heart conditions, like aortic stenosis, have been reported in Pointers, as well as congenital deafness.
The American Pointer Club is a member of the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Pointers can be CHIC-certified, breeders must submit hip and thyroid evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) and Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) certification of hips is also accepted. Optional CHIC test results that can be submitted are an OFA congenital cardiac (heart) evaluation and an OFA evaluation for congenital deafness based on the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you he doesn't need to do those tests because he's never had problems in his lines, his dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Pointer at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
A Pointer has a short, dense, smooth, shiny coat. There’s just about nothing easier to groom. Give him a quick going over weekly with a rubber curry brush or hound mitt to remove dead hair and distribute skin oils. A rubdown with a chamois brings out shine. (Don’t use same one you use on your car; it might be treated with chemicals.)
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two, or less often if your Pointer wears down his nails naturally with all the exercise he gets. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Pointer and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the American Pointer Club (APC). Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the APC’s mission statement, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to sell puppies only with a written contract.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Pointer puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring, field, or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, field titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Pointer might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Pointer in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Pointers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Pointer. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Pointers love all Pointers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Pointer Club can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Pointer rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Pointer home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
Wherever you acquire your Pointer, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Pointer to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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