How To Breed English Pointers – History, Health, Breeding Tips & FAQ

How To Breed English Pointers – History, Health, Breeding Tips & FAQ

This free guide includes everything you need to know about breeding English Pointers. This breed is a popular gun dog, known for its even-temper and loyalty. Pointers are etched into hundreds of paintings and shows, and to breed this recognizable individual is a goal of many breeders alike. A medium to large-sized breed with a variety of colors, it’s no wonder they are so desirable.

Background of English Pointer Breeding

The English Pointer is the poster breed for gun dogs. The name of the breed comes from their ‘pointing’ stance when indicating prey to hunt. After the prey has been spotted, the hunter would tell the dog to give chase. The purpose of this breed is similar to the German Shorthair Pointer’s.

History of the English Pointer Breed

The English Pointer has a rich and colorful history starting from the 1700s, and the breed has been well-known since. They make brilliant hunting dogs due to their extraordinary sense of smell.

The English Pointer has actually been found to be a mix of six different breeds. Initially, the hunting dog of choice in the USA was the Irish Setter, but the English Pointer soon became number one.

The 17th Century English Pointer

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the first Pointer (Judy) was brought to England by British Army officers. The first Pointer was, in fact, a Spanish Pointer. After the war of the Spanish succession, the dogs were brought back from the Netherlands.

A little confusing but bear with us!

To simplify, the Dutch worked alongside Britain throughout the war (1701-1714) and during some visits, this is when the officers brought dogs back. This was done towards the end of the war in 1713. There is debate, whether the dogs were brought back from the Netherlands, and were given by the Dutch or Spanish colonies there.

A Longtime Hunting Dog

In the 1800s, the English Pointer was brought across to America and soon replaced their current hunting dog of choice, the Irish Setter. The AKC officially recognized them as a breed in 1884. In the early twentieth century, the English Pointer became more well known and wanted by hunters. This is because of their precise sense of smell, agility, and speed. Furthermore, as they were both a larger breed and calm around other animals and humans, they worked well as a single hunting dog, in a group or with a mounted hunter.

In 1938 the American Pointer Club, Inc represented the breed for the AKC.

The Modern English Pointer

The modern English Pointer is still used all across America for game hunting, in particular, birds. Although recognized as a working dog, this breed is loved by many as a household pet.

Many hunters will purchase this breed as a companion dog but will use them for work on the weekends. They are a high energy breed so they will enjoy the time outdoors and the enrichment of the hunt. They are known to work alongside breeds such as beagles and greyhounds, other popular hunting dogs. Although, this breed is owned in many households simply as a family member.

Appearance

drawing of the ideal English Pointer dog
A drawing of the ideal English Pointer dog.

This agile breed comes in a wide range of colors but is known more for their square snout and recognized pose. Their tail has short fur and it can stick straight up in the air or outright when pointing. They have strong legs and a muscular chest, perfect for the strength required to chase after prey. Some have longer jowls than others but all of them have folded ears and a narrow stance.

Size – This breed is long and lean. They range in height from 23-28 inches depending on gender and are therefore classified as a medium to large breed. Their weight is typically spread from 45-75 pounds, again, gender influences this as the majority of this weight is muscle.

Coat & Colors – The fur style is short and smooth; their coat dries quickly and does not need trimming and very little brushing. Their coat patterns can be either solid or patterned. As for color, they can come in four primary dual coat colors including black and white, liver and white, orange and white, and lemon and white. They also come in tri-colors and solid colors of any of the previously mentioned.

Face, Head & Ears – One specific trait of the English Pointer is its square snout. The muzzle is long enough to grab any prey, especially birds with broader bodies. Their ears are folded and the corners usually tilt past the base of their jaw. Some individuals have eyes that are blue, some brown. They also have the variance of some having deeper set eyes than other breeds and some are set much further forward.

Hind Legs – These dogs are known for their strength and agility, a lot of which comes from their hind legs. These are muscular and well angled for a strong running start during a chase. Their thighs are long and toned for endurance and also for controlled movement, including stealth.

Body – According to the AKC, the body including the neck, shoulders, and back are all described as long in the ideal candidate. The back should be strong with only a slight rise in the spine. Again, the neck is muscular and only has a slight arch from shoulder to head. As for their shoulders, the blades should be close together and sloping.

Temperament

The English Pointer is a wonderful, loyal, and high energy breed. But like every breed, they have their pros and cons. This breed is incredibly sweet-natured. They are loyal to their owners and families and show minimal aggression. They enjoy attention, affection and are great to train. This is because they love to please and have high intelligence. Furthermore, because of their high energy, training is a brilliant way to burn off excess energy. It also allows you to bond with your pup in an enjoyable manner. Surprisingly, even though they are hunting dogs, these pups are usually good with any person or even pet as long as an effort is made for an introduction.

A High-Energy Breed

Any type of dog may be a great family companion, and with their calm and sweet disposition, English Pointers are no exception. However, they are a very high energy breed, so they may not be great for very young children. This is because, in excitement, they may knock them over. However, with proper training, this should not be a problem.

Pointers can easily be distracted though, so even with proper training, you will have to be on high alert to monitor them. This goes for them being inside the house and on the job as well. When working, if they are not monitored, they may begin chasing something else or not respond when you call for them back. Again, start training young and put effort into it and it will certainly pay off.

Stubborn Dogs

One negative trait of English Pointers is their stubbornness. This can be a problem alongside their easily distractable mind, especially without the proper training.

When hunting, if an interesting smell, noise, or movement catches their attention, they may pursue it, despite your commands. In a household, they may avoid listening to you or calming down when told, their emotions and wants can outweigh your instructions.

Popularity

What initially caused the popularity of the English Pointer? Well, after the Spanish pointer was brought back from the Netherlands, it was cross-bred with six other breeds deliberately to create the ideal bird and gun dog. British countrysides adored the breed for its looks and practicality when hunting.

Once the breed was taken over to America, hunters began to incorporate it alongside Greyhounds and Irish Setters to test its abilities. It did not take long for the breed to grow in popularity amongst hunters because of its sense of smell, speed, agility, and train-ability. Quickly, it replaced other breeds and became the number one American hunting dog during the twentieth century.

Becoming Family Dogs

But soon the breed branched out due to how adaptable Pointer dogs are. People started purchasing English Pointers to be family dogs as hunters bragged about their loyalty and devotion. They are also eager to please and can be wonderful first dogs for those with enough time and space to keep an energetic dog happy.

This breed is more well-suited in the countryside due to their boisterous nature and love to run. They do not do well when being kept on a leash during a walk or being in the house constantly. So if you are considering purchasing this breed, make sure you have enough time and space to enrich them properly and help keep their tail wagging.

pointing dogs
“Pointing dogs, sometimes called bird dogs, are a type of gundog typically used in finding game.”, Wikipedia

Health Issues When Breeding English Pointers

As a breed, the English Pointer is generally healthy; they suffer from fewer health problems than the average breed. They typically begin to become vulnerable the older they get as opposed to some breeds, who have a general mid-level of vulnerability from birth. However, that does not mean you should not monitor them or be aware of the diseases they are prone to. By knowing which areas and illnesses they are more likely to contract, you can provide treatment or take them to the vet as soon as you worry.

Lifespan

On average, an English Pointer dog lives for 12 to 17 years. This is because they are generally a healthy breed. They are not giant in size and exercise a lot naturally.

This breed is a large commitment partly due to their life length. But also, as they are hunting dogs, they require much more stimulation and exercise than an average dog. As an owner, you will have to be prepared to exercise and play with them multiple times a day to keep them enriched. Furthermore, they can stay active and boisterous up until old age, this means this stimulation may be required multiple times a day for over a decade.

Every breed comes with its own health problems. Here we will summarise those most prominent in the English Pointer so you can be prepared to identify them in any individuals you buy or litters you produce. Remember to always screen your dogs before breeding from them, this can prevent health problems in the pups.

Eye Diseases

Unfortunately, English Pointers are prone to multiple health complications with their eyes. They often get cataracts, which is a condition where the eye becomes misty in appearance and the dog gains blurred vision. This should be monitored as the thicker the cataracts lens becomes, the more likely it is to lead to blindness. This condition is seen more prominently in older dogs.

They are also prone to getting progressive retinal atrophy. This is where the retina gradually degenerates over time. The more this occurs, the more your dog will struggle with their vision which will lead to blindness. You can recognize this initially from dilated pupils and a glow or eyeshine at night. Without intervention, any dog can become blind within one year after the disease has begun. Specific antioxidant vision supplements can be provided to help prevent this disease, hence why it is crucial to be aware of the symptoms.

Thyroid Disease

Pointers are a high ranking dog breed at risk of thyroid problems and disease. This can be where either their thyroid is overproducing or under-producing hormones. It can lead to weight gain, depression, and tiredness. The exact symptoms depend on whether they are affected by hypothyroidism, under-producing thyroxine, or hyperthyroidism, overproduction of thyroxine.

This disease is usually treatable, but can severely affect your dog if left unnoticed. Be aware of behavioral and physical changes in your dog to spot this. The hormone thyroxine is what increases or decreases your dog’s metabolism. In the majority of cases, this is caused by problems in the thyroid. Hypothyroidism is much more common in dogs and is easier to treat as well. It can affect the organs but is still less severe in symptoms than hyperthyroidism. Usually caused by cancer, hyperthyroidism can cause breathing and heart problems and even lead to sudden or eventual death without treatment.

Allergies

In English Pointers allergies manifest through skin irritation. This can be itchiness, swelling, flaking, and hair loss. You will often notice your dog licking or gnawing in the area. If they are licking or gnawing at areas that are affected when dogs have allergies, be aware. Areas include their stomach, paws, and any folds of their skin such as their ears or in between their toes.

Allergies may be in reference to pollen which will be prominent every spring. These can be reduced by a vet prescribed antihistamine every day. However, be aware that it may not be pollen and your dog may be irritated from something in the home. This could be anything from perfume to clothes softener, which is very difficult to identify with the number of products in a home. Antihistamine can be effective here too, but if you are able to identify the cause, remove it from where it could affect your dog.

common symptoms of allergies in dogs
Commons symptoms of allergies in dogs. (diagram from Dalton Veterinary Associates)

Heart Disease

One prominent heart disease seen in the English Pointer is Aortic Stenosis. This is when there is a blockage in the aorta, a large artery that transports blood from the heart to your dog’s body. This means their heart has to work harder to push blood past the blockage. This can lead to a number of worrying symptoms including breathing and exercising difficulties. Depending on the severity, your pup may require surgery to have the blockage removed.

There are a few other problems found commonly in English Pointers, but often these are seen in any dog breed, but you should still be aware of them. Dental problems can affect your pups, such as cavities or misaligned teeth, these can be monitored through vet checks and how much your dog is eating. Also be aware of obesity, a problem that can have severe side effects due to hip and elbow dysplasia prominence. Monitor your dog’s diet and make sure to stay on top of their exercise habits. Decrease portion size and increase exercise if they begin to put on excess weight.

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

Dysplasia is where the joints do not develop normally, this leads to stiffness, pain, and decreased mobility in your dog. It will also lead to eventual arthritis and joint inflammation that can lead to bone or muscle damage and severe pain. It is an inherited disease which means it can be screened for in potential parents. Although this disease usually takes place in older dogs, it can be seen in younger pups too so monitor the individuals for any sign of pain or reluctance to move. As the English pointer is such a high-energy and active dog, it should not be too hard to identify when they are out of character or less mobile.

Be aware that dogs that are overweight are more likely to suffer from this condition due to the pressure on their joints. There is no direct cure but pain killers, herbal supplements and sometimes surgery can ease pain and increase mobility.

stages of dog hip and elbow dysplasia
The different stages of hip dysplasia in dogs.

Importance of Exercise

There are two main reasons you need to give your English Pointer a lot of exercise, they are prone to obesity and are very high energy dogs. Their high energy levels mean they need to be regularly stimulated to avoid negative behavior due to frustration and anxiety. Walk your dog twice a day and try to play with them and teach them tricks, this will use their energy up and keep them feeling happy. Furthermore, it means you can minimize anxiety or frustration-based destruction and use the energy to teach them tricks and good behavior.

As for obesity, keep your dog on a healthy and appropriate diet alongside regular exercise and there is no reason they should have excess weight. If they are still having trouble, it may be a thyroid problem and you should take them to the vets. Finally, it can enrich their mood and general mental state. Keeping English Pointers stimulated and engaged will keep their mind working. Boredom can easily lead to anxiety or depression and this can be incredibly detrimental to your dog. Keep them active, play with them when they bring you a toy, and walk them when they are going stir-crazy.

How To Breed English Pointers

Now for the part you have all been waiting for, breeding English Pointers! They can be a difficult breed to breed due to the large number of birthing problems they have. You need to be aware of these so all the puppies and the mother can stay happy and healthy. Here are all the details you need for breeding an English Pointer.

Average Litter Size

English Pointers have an average litter size ranging from five to six puppies. However, be prepared that your dam may have one to ten puppies.

A large puppy count would increase some of the benefits of breeding, such as the number of puppies you can sell in the end. But there are also cons with this including the birthing risk to your puppies and bitch alongside the ongoing prices of food and vaccinations increasing too.

Birthing Problems

The number one reason the English Pointer has difficulty with pregnancy and dystocia is because of their small pelvis. They were bred to have this physical trait for agility and stealth during hunting, but the downside of this is the increased risk during birth to the dam and litter. The female may not be able to physically push the puppies out, therefore the puppies may start to lose oxygen and this may even lead to death. This can increase the need for a C-section which is a risky surgery for your dogs and a costly procedure for you. The best way to attempt to avoid this is to use females with naturally wider hips. Or, if you are using two different breeds, ensure that the female is the larger of the two breeds.

Pricing

The average cost when selling an English Pointer puppy is between $1,000 and $1,250. Therefore, with the average litter being six, you can usually expect to make a profit of $6000 minimum. However this depends on factors around the puppies’ birth and genetic line, and you have to deduct the costs of food and veterinary care during pregnancy, birth and after.

Average costs of dog breeding usually total to $3000 yearly, therefore, depending on the litter size and the number of dogs you are breeding changes your yearly income. Furthermore, you need to take into account that the presented puppy costs are for individuals that are registered, have over a three-generational lineage and you, as a breeder, are well advertised.

Clientele

Predominantly, these dogs are bought by farmers, and individuals or families interested in hunting.

Farmers or those with a lot of land are perfect owners for this high energy breed as they have the room needed for the dog to freely roam. This means the Pointer will not feel stifled. Furthermore, farmers can train the dogs as hunting or gun dogs, which is especially useful if they farm small or game birds. The dog will keep away predators as well as bring in extra income from hunting.

Similarly, those interested in hunting may purchase an English Pointer as it is the ideal hunting and gun dog. If someone is passionate about hunting, they will want all the tools available to benefit them, a gun dog is one of the best. Furthermore, these owners get a lifelong companion as well as someone as interested in their passion as them. Finally, due to the breed’s loyalty and calm nature, they are wonderful family dogs. Perfect for a couple with children looking for a new best friend.

english pointer clientele
Farmers are usually the most interested in buying a well-trained English Pointer puppy.

English Pointer Dogs – FAQs

We’ve explained the breed, told you the pros and cons of breeding English Pointers, but you may still have some questions left. Let us answer them now through the four most searched questions about English Pointers.

Are English Pointer dogs aggressive?

English Pointers are not an aggressive breed. They are friendly, curious, and boisterous individuals. This misconception comes from their loud bark and reservations when meeting strangers. But once they feel comfortable and safe, this breed is soft and sweet.

Are English Pointers hypoallergenic?

English Pointers are not hypoallergenic. However, they do not shed much and have a very thin coat which is beneficial to those sensitive to dog hair. This breed will require a little grooming but not often due to how short their fur is and the fact it is not densely packed.

Are Pointers easy to train?

Pointers are not an easy breed to train. Like we have mentioned, they are eager to please and love stimulation. But this is counteracted by their short attention span and boisterous energy, which can interfere with training. It will take time to train them so be sure to have patience and training time put aside regularly. This is extremely important to do to control their excitability and manage their possible destructive behavior.

At what age is a Pointer fully grown?

As this breed is mature to large-sized, it takes a longer period of time for them to reach full maturity. On average, an English Pointer will reach full maturity at two years old. Because of this, be prepared for a teenage-minded dog for a longer period than most!

Hopefully, we have answered all your English Pointer questions and given you the knowledge you need to decide if breeding them is right for you. This is a wonderful breed with a brilliant history that maybe you will begin to add to.