Types of Pointer Dogs
There are many factors that influence what dog breed is best for hunting. In this article we’ll look at the best pointer dogs for hunting, and in future articles we’ll examine flushing breeds, retrievers, hounds, and terriers. There are as many types of pointer dogs as there are animals to hunt, but we’ll take a look at just a few of our favorites.
Pointing breeds are any dog breed whose characteristics during a hunt is to stand motionless “pointing” their snouts towards the target. Historically, pointers have been used to locate birds in the bush and signal their handlers of the preys whereabouts. Though steadfast workers, these breeds often make great family dogs as well. Now, let’s examine what makes pointers great gundogs and how they assimilate to life off the field.
The American Brittany is our pick for best pointer dogs due to its innate pointing skills and pleasant disposition. Considered one of the oldest pointer breeds, the American Brittany was bred from the French Brittany. It was known as the Brittany Spaniel until recently when the name was officially changed in 1982.
The medium sized breed should measure between 17.5 and 20.5 inches, and males should weigh around 40 pounds. The American Brittany, if trained well, will point to game and lay down as a signal. A strong sense of smell and retrieving skills round out their abilities as one of the best hunting dog breeds.
The versatility of the breed goes far beyond hunting though. The friendly American Brittany loves people and is loyal to the core. Ancestral characteristics of the breed, from the French Brittany, make Brittany’s a great companion and watchdog. As with most hunting breeds, the Brittany is intelligent and active, making them a less-than-ideal choice for apartment life. However, if the owner is active and willing to commit time to vigorous daily exercise, the breed will do fine in apartment living.
Another great choice for best hunting dog breeds is the English Setter. Like the Brittany, the English Setter lays down and points with on paw. The breed has been well documented as a great gundog over the last 400 years, and it’s assumed the breed has been around for centuries more than that.
Larger than the American Brittany, the English Setter should stand at about 25 inches tall and males should weight around 70 pounds. These long and lean dogs are known for a distinct feathered tail, and for their enthusiasm for all birds. Their agility and obedience make them well-suited for a hunting companion, and their eagerness to please make them a great family companion.
English Setters are, at heart, a working breed. They want to be doing something with their owners. So, keeping them busy will result in a happy owner and well adjusted dog. We wouldn’t recommend an English Setter for apartment life, unless ample time is devoted to daily exercise and training.
German Shorthaired Pointer
In the competition for the best pointer dogs, the German Shorthaired Pointer came in second by a very short hair. This relatively young breed was created in the mid 1800’s when German hunters decided they wanted their own national pointer breed. The goal was to create the most versatile pointing dog possible, and they succeeded.
Standing at close to two feet tall, with males weighing in around 60 pounds, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a medium sized hunting dog which was crossbred with other hounds and pointers. The result was a hard working gundog with a superior sense of smell and an unmatched endurance and fortitude. The combination of breeds also resulted in a dog that’s equally at home on land as in water. It’s said that the GSP can easily adapt to any and all types of hunting, regardless of terrain or the game size.
So, why didn’t the German Shorthaired Pointer take the top spot for best hunting dog breeds? Prowess in the field was one factor we used to assess the best pointer dogs. Living with different types of pointer dogs was another. Although the GSP is loyal, friendly, and eager to please; its energy and intelligence comes with a price. The breed is known for possessing natural hunting abilities which require little training to solidify, as well as a tendency to be hard extremely headed through their adolescence. They also require an excessive amount of exercise and mental stimulation to quell destructive tendencies. The GSP exemplifies the notion of a working breed and they need to be treated as such for a positive ownership experience. We highly suggest not subjecting the German Shorthaired Pointer to apartment life.
The Gordon Setter is a Scottish favorite suited mostly to bird hunting. What they lack in speed, they make up for in stamina and sense of smell. Owners can be confident that they won’t endure any “wild goose chases” with a Gordon Setter by their side.
The Gordon is larger, by pointer dog standard, pointing breed. Males can way up to 80 pounds and stand as tall as 27 inches. This breed is a quick learner with a strong memory, meaning that whether in the house or field, the dog seams to get wiser with age.
Had the Gordon Setter been a more complete hunting dog, it would have surely ranked higher on our list of best pointer dogs. The Gordon’s limited hunting use is pleasantly counterbalanced by its household manner. They make excellent watch dogs because of their unbreakable family bonds. The Gordon Setter is devoted to pleasing its owner, whether in the bush or in the living room. Compared to other working dog breeds, the Gordon does not require as arduous of an exercise routine. Daily walks can allow for apartment life, but the breed would be happier with a backyard to explore.
By way of the Emerald Isle, the Irish Setter could’ve won for most beautiful pointer dog. The unmistakable chestnut coat is medium in length, and may contains small splashes of white on the neck and toes. Like the Gordon, Irish Setters are bird dogs to the core. Their longer muzzle and neck make retrieving and carrying fowl an easy task. Unlike the Gordon however, the Irish Setter is quicker and more agile.
The Irish Setter is another of the larger breeds, with males weighing up to 80 pounds and standing at 28 inches. There was a time in history when the Irish Setter was mostly removed from working lines, but dedicated breeders has reinstated the characteristics that once made it a popular gundog.
The breed is known to have an outgoing, almost comical personality. So, life with an Irish Setter should never be dull. The typical Irish Setter will be great hunting dog, devote companion and loving family member. With companionship and beauty comes grooming. Consistent brushing helps keep the medium length coat from tangling, and professional grooming will be needed from time-to-time. The quicker, more agile Setter requires more exercise than other breeds, For this reason, we don’t advise Irish Setters be confined to apartment living.
One of the lesser known types of pointer dogs, and taking third our list of the best hunting dog breeds, is the Weimaraner. Originally bred for nobility to hunt large game, like boar and wolves, the Weimaraner is a slow, steady, and strong hunting companion. The breeds stealth-like movements and silver-grey coat earned it the nickname “grey ghost.”
Weimaraners have the most unique appearance of the pointer dogs we considered. In addition to the silver-grey coat, Weims eyes can be many shades of amber to gray and blue. They are on the larger side, with heights around 27 inches and males weighing in around 75 pounds. The most impressive gundog characteristic this breed possesses is the webbed feet, making them extraordinary swimmers. Their ability in the water is matched by their stamina. Weimaraners are powerful dogs with seemingly never ending energy supply.
Of all the hunting dog breeds we’ve considered, the Weimaraner may be the best suited for family life. The dog was originally bred to be a house dog, and as such, suffers from separation anxiety. This disorder can be magnified if the breed is not exercised enough, or left alone for extended periods of time. The weimaraner is truly a lover of its family. The only thing a Weim needs more than its family, is exercise. Daily runs are recommended over walks, swimming when possible, and a fenced yard should almost be mandatory. The strong will and high intelligence of Weimaraners make them excellent companions, when trained well. Training should be done early, often, and firmly to avoid developing bad habits.
Best Pointer Dogs
All the pointers on this list are an excellent choice for any hunting excursion. Each breed has its pros and cons, but ultimately we selected the breeds we believed were most versatile in the field and adapted best to family life. Some breeds are more suited to small game, while other excelled at both. Picking the best hunting dog breeds is as much about needs as it is personal preference.