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English pointer walking in grass outside

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 23-28 inches
  • Weight — Females 45-65 pounds, males 55-75 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Short, dense coat
  • Coat color — Coats are black, white, lemon, liver, and orange, either solid or with white. Markings are either points or ticked. They are often confused with German shorthaired pointers, who have similar coat colors and markings.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-17 years
  • Temperament — High energy, athletic, independent
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — England

English pointer fun facts 

  • English pointers were bred as hunting companions. The breed was developed in England to locate hidden birds. Their name comes from their tendency to “point” their muzzles towards game.
  • They have incredible speed…and stamina. Pointers, a breed that includes German pointers and Portuguese pointers, can run up to 35 miles per hour. In addition to this lightning speed, healthy pointers can run 10-20 miles in a single day.
  • They were one of the first dog breeds recognized in America. The breed was one of the first of nine recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1878.
English pointer in a forest

English pointer temperament and characteristics 

English pointers are a playful breed and generally get along well with other dogs. Because of their hunting roots, caution should be exercised around cats and other smaller animals, especially birds. The breed is considered high energy and will fare better in homes with large open spaces rather than smaller units and apartments. They are great family dogs and are generally good with children, but may be reserved when strangers approach. All in all, English pointers thrive on exercise, outdoor play, and lots of love and attention.

Common English pointer health problems 

English pointers have a long life span of 12-17 and are generally considered very healthy. But like any breed, they are prone to several medical conditions. Here are some of the health issues that English pointer owners should be aware of:

  • Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). Because English pointers are deep-chested dogs, they are susceptible to bloating. This condition occurs when gases cause the dog’s stomach to twist on itself and can be potentially life-threatening.
  • Hip dysplasia. This hereditary condition causes instability in the joint between the head of a dog’s femur bone and the hip socket. English pointers with hip dysplasia can experience arthritis down the road if the condition worsens.
  • Cataracts. Like many breeds, English pointers are prone to several eye disorders, including cataracts. Symptoms include cloudiness in the lenses of their eyes, vision impairment, and possible blindness.
  • Dental disease. English pointers are particularly susceptible to dental diseases that can infect their teeth and gums. This could have a negative impact on vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
  • Hypothyroidism . Up to 26% of English pointers can experience hypothyroidism, a condition where the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, and thinning hair.

Cost of caring for English pointers

English pointer owners will want to familiarize themselves with typical costs associated with veterinary care and enroll in health insurance early to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. Alternatively, having money set aside in a pet savings account can protect you and your dog in the event of an emergency.

As with any breed, the cost of care will be different from dog to dog and will depend on health conditions that arise, but English pointer owners should expect to spend anywhere between $1,000 to $2,000 dollars a year caring for their pet.

English pointer resting on a sofa

History of the English pointer

While the origins of the English pointer remain muddied, the breed was first recorded back in 1650 in England. Greyhounds, foxhounds, bloodhounds, and bull terriers are all thought to be included in their lineage.

Even before guns were invented, English pointers were developed to work alongside greyhounds to assist hunters to track down hares, which the hounds would then chase. When rifles came along, the breed found a new purpose in wing-shooting by locating hidden birds, raising their tails and “pointing” their muzzles towards the prey, and then fetching the game after the hunters took their shot. Dubbed the “Cadillac of Bird Dogs,” to this day English pointers remain unrivaled in their ability to point and retrieve game birds.

When the American Kennel Club was established in the late 1800s, English pointers were one of the first breeds recognized by the organization. Because of their hunting roots, the dog excels in agility and sport competitions, most notably in tracking and agility jumps.

Caring for your English pointer

Before bringing home an English pointer, you’ll want to take steps to prepare such as puppy-proofing your home, planning your first trip to the vet, and scheduling vaccinations. Because of the breed’s strong prey drive, they can take off suddenly if they spot a bird or other small animals. FidoAlert provides your pet with a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared in the event they go missing.


English pointers are a high-energy breed that will need at least an hour of exercise each day in the form of walking, running, hiking, biking, or mental stimulation. Because of their prey drive, owners should avoid letting their dog off leash outside of a fenced-in area in the event they spot a small animal and take off after it. English pointers are excellent jumpers and climbers, so a tall and sturdy fence is key.

If not properly physically or mentally stimulated, the English pointer will resort to destructive behavior like chewing and digging. Keep in mind that they are a short-haired breed that will need a warm coat in cold climates. English pointers are also incredibly athletic and can meet their exercise needs through agility courses.

English pointer standing in tall grass


English pointers require minimal grooming thanks to their short coats that shed lightly year round. Plan to brush the breed just once or twice a week to remove any loose hair and bathe them once every four to six weeks unless they get dirty or muddy. Because they are prone to tartar buildup and dental diseases, English pointers should have their teeth cleaned and inspected 3-4 times a week. Their ears should also be cleaned weekly and their nails trimmed monthly to avoid discomfort.

Diet and nutrition

Because of their large stature, English pointers require more calories than most other dogs. As with any breed, owners should consult with their vet to determine how much to feed their furry friend. Generally speaking, you will likely need to give your English pointer anywhere between 2 and 4 cups of high-quality dry food divided into two meals each day, depending on their weight. Because the breed is prone to bloating, owners should consider puzzle feeders and slow-feed bowls to reduce the amount of air they swallow as they eat.

Slow feed bowls can be effective in slowing down a dog who eats too fast, which can contribute to bloat. So these bowls can be one way to reduce the incidence of this condition.

Dr. Dwight Alleyne

Training your English pointer

Although the English pointer is highly intelligent, they are also an independent breed which can make them stubborn when it comes to training. As with any dog, it is recommended to start when they are a puppy before they learn undesirable behaviors. Because they’re natural hunters, the breed will get easily distracted by any nearby movement or activity.

Using treats and positive reinforcement will help keep the focus on you. The breed is also incredibly athletic and does well in agility training and dog sports, particularly activities that involve tracking and nose work.

Cluseup of an English pointer outside

Breeds similar to the English pointer

Not quite sure that an English pointer is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • German shorthaired pointer. If you’re looking for a dog similar to the English pointer, it doesn’t get more similar than the German shorthaired pointer. With similar coats, size, and energy, the breeds are often mistaken for one another
  • Greyhound. Between their lightning-fast speed and ability to hunt with sight, it may come as no surprise that English pointers and greyhounds used to work in tandem to hunt hares across 17th-century England.
  • Weimaraner. Also bred to hunt, weimaraners do best in active households with large spaces to run around. While keeping up with their physical demands can be a challenge, it can also be a solution to restless kids.

Frequently asked questions

Are English pointers good family dogs?

The breed is considered an excellent fit for families with kids of all ages. They love attention and because of their high energy, do well with active kids up to the challenge of tiring them out.

Do English pointers bark a lot?

While English pointers are not considered frequent barkers, they do have watchdog tendencies and may bark as strangers approach to alert their family. Similarly, they have high exercise needs and may resort to barking if not properly physically and mentally stimulated.

Are English pointers considered healthy?

English pointers have a long lifespan and are generally considered healthy, but like any breed, they are susceptible to certain medical conditions. As deep-chested dogs, they are prone to bloating while eating. Other health issues could include hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and dental infections.

Can English pointers be left alone?

While the breed is independent, they are also very active and considered a high-energy breed. If not properly exercised, the dogs will resort to destructive behaviors when left alone, such as chewing or digging. While training can help curb this, making sure they get at least one hour of exercise a day is the best way to keep the dogs calm when left to their own devices.

Are English pointers difficult to train?

While English pointers are intelligent, they are also independent and will need consistent training sessions to learn obedience and social skills. They love affection and do best with positive reinforcement and reward-based training methods. Because of their natural athleticism, owners should also consider agility training for their dogs, even if they don’t want them to compete in dog sports.