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You might have seen cartoons where dogs suddenly go still, their tail and muzzles pointing straight ahead, signaling that they’ve found something or someone. Dogs do this in real life (albeit not as dramatically) and are known as “pointers,” using their muzzles to indicate the direction a hunter should go to get quarry.
More recently, pointer dogs have adapted to other hunting tasks, such as tracking and retrieving prey on land and water. Pointer dogs come in all kinds of breeds, with all types of coats and colors. They also make great family pets, depending on their temperament.
Whether you’re looking for a high energy breed or a dog that meets all your hunting and sporting needs, this list breaks down the ten dog breeds that point like a pro!
10) English Setter
Breeders named the Setters for “setting,” meaning they would “set” themselves in a position that indicated prey was close. All Setters have long glossy fur, but the English setter sometimes has spots in its fur. Setters are also gun dogs, so they specifically work with gun hunters.
English Setters are also amazing show dogs. Those bred for the show usually have longer, glossier coats, while those bred for hunting have finer, leaner bodies, with less shaggy hair.
While English Setters are incredible pointers, they also make for good family dogs. Although they can adapt to the calm home environment, they require lots of exercises, up to two hours a day. They love mental stimulation, particularly when on the hunt, and they have a job to do.
9) Irish Setter
Much like its English cousin, the Irish setter makes a fantastic family dog with lots of energy and affection. On the other hand, Irish Setters are also boisterous and may not always get on with smaller animals, given their hunting instincts. They work best in wet or moorland areas, as well as anywhere wide open and spacious.
Irish Setters require lots of daily exercises too. They adore human companionship, so they don’t like being left alone for too long. They prefer having a job to do since leaving them alone too long leads to boredom or hyperactivity.
Despite their boisterous tendencies, Irish Setters are not very assertive breeds, so they make great therapy dogs. If you prefer positive training, Irish Setters respond quickly and smartly to that.
8) English Pointer
Considered one of the finest gun dog breeds of its kind, the English Pointer is a favorite among gun hunting enthusiasts. Unlike other pointers, the English Pointer is slightly less versatile in that it can point to prey but not retrieve it. However, that does not lessen the breed’s excellent hunting abilities and its renown among hunters.
The English Pointer is a much more reserved breed, with less of a need for human companionship. Nonetheless, they are still a sensitive and eager-to-please breed. Like other pointers, they require a lot of exercises but can always quickly adapt to new surroundings. English Pointers also make good hunting dogs thanks to their silent, non-aggressive approach.
Named after the French province to first develop the breed, people bred Brittanies (sometimes called Brittany Spaniels) to hunt birds. Their coats come in various colors, usually in orange and liver or black and liver, but other color combinations exist as well.
Although bred for hunting, Brittanies are sweet-tempered and learn quickly. They still need plenty of exercises, though, for at least an hour every day. Brittanies are also sensitive to correction, so they must be treated especially kindly with positive reinforcement.
Luckily, Brittanies are versatile in their hunting skills, namely in that they can both hunt and retrieve prey on land or in water. If you need a hunting dog that also does well with families and children, Brittany is a sound choice.
6) Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide, not just for their hunting ability but also for their kind, playful nature. You’ll most often see them as therapy or service dogs, but they make excellent hunting companions.
Probably more than any other hunting breed, Labradors can stay in cold water for extended periods. If you like hunting fowl and your quarry falls into a body of water, you can count on your Labrador Retriever to get it for you. Their active sense of smell allows them to excel at tracking and to retrieve.
Alongside their keen hunting instincts, Labradors have an even temperament that can tolerate small children and animals, making them a good family dog choice.
Although not a popular dog choice in the United States, the Pudelpointer has tremendous momentum as a family and hunting dog in Germany. The breed itself is a cross between the German hunting poodle, or pudel, and an English Pointer. Its coat is wiry and slightly dense, but the breed does not shed too much.
The Pudelpointer combines the best hunting dog traits, such as a love for the hunt and an ability to hunt and retrieve. They can use their hunting abilities on both land and water with tremendous speed and agility. On top of that, it is a playful and sweet breed that is perfect for families.
It’ll be a while before the Pudelpointer’s popularity dramatically increases in the United States, but it is a hunting and family dog worth waiting for.
It might be hard to believe, but this lean, ghostly-looking dog is a popular choice with royals around the world. Way back, this dignified breed hunted large game, like bears, boars, and deer. They are more often used now for hunting rabbits and foxes.
Weimaraners have a vast store of energy that requires an active owner to satiate. Luckily, they form strong connections with humans and work well with new hunters. Owners should be careful when training since Weimaraners are not independent breeds and can quickly form separation anxiety.
Weimaraners have a strong prey-drive, though, so it’s not the best pet to have if you also have cats or other small animals. However, it is still a playful dog that loves to work and play games with their owners.
3) Gordon Setter
We’ve seen quite a few Setters on this list, but we cannot leave out the Gordon Setter. The breed’s original intent was to hunt gamebirds, like quail, pheasants, and partridge. Like other Setters, they have a lot of energy and loyalty and make good family dogs. The Gordon Setter can be boisterous, though, so they might not be suitable for young children.
Athletic owners might be keen on the Gordon Setter since they love to run and require 60-80 minutes of exercise daily. This breed does not mature very fast, so they can keep puppy-like energy and playfulness long into their adult years. Despite their slow maturation, they are still intelligent and confident dogs who can hunt and point with the best of them.
2) Wirehaired Pointing Griffon
Like the Pudelpointer, the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon is a rare breed in the United Kingdom and North America. However, its coarse, wiry coat allows it to hunt and track through the underbrush and in water. Its main hunting specialty is the upland game and waterfowl.
Speaking of their coats, Wirehaired Pointing Griffons shed considerably less than other breeds. You can worry less about cleaning up their hair and more about training and exercise, their favorite activities.
Wirehaired Pointing Griffons prefer positive reinforcement training and have soft temperaments. A people-oriented breed, they prefer being close to their owners. As with other pointing dog breeds, they love regular, intense exercise and do not do well with extended periods in kennels. They are resilient on the hunt and are easy and fun to train.
For many years, the Vizsla has held a high place among both hunting and family dogs. The breed has tremendous versatility as a hunting dog, hunting fields, forests, or water. The Vizsla combines the fearlessness and enthusiasm of a hunting dog and a family dog’s affection and sensitivity.
Vizslas are natural hunters who easily pick up training. Like other pointer dogs, they prefer quiet training with little to no harsh commands. However, they do need a lot of mental stimulation to prevent boredom or to become destructive. For owners who love bike rides or runs, Vizslas prove to be excellent companions on outdoor adventures.
When properly trained, Vizslas are exceedingly gentle and attach greatly to their owners. Many families with young children choose them as childhood companions. You might even find your Vizsla begging to come underneath the bedcovers with you come bedtime.
While we are proud of this list, many other pointer dogs do an awesome job hunting. In the end, you must decide which breed will do the job you want. Do you want a hunting companion, a family dog, or both? Somewhere out there is a perfect breed for you, so get searching, and we hope you find your match soon.