Notes on living with a Pointer puppy
© 1999 VIP Pointers

DISCLAIMER

These notes are non-expert, personal opinion and do not constitute professional advice or direction.  The information is provided “as is” and “with all faults” and is for information-purposes only.  Do not rely on this information for any issues regarding health or safety without also consulting a professional in the area of concern such as a veterinarian, trainer, groomer, etc.  Also, references and Websites named in this document should not be considered as endorsements.  The information herein is provided in the spirit of sharing a love for dogs and Pointers in specific.

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Picture of puppy sleeping by food bowl

Picture of puppy's first night in new home

Picture of puppy stretched out among play toys

FEEDING

We’ve found that our growing pups (weaning age until about four months old) do well with four meals per day, gradually shifted to three meals per day.  Older pups seem to do well with two to three regular meals a day -- depending on age --morning and midday/early evening.  We generally don’t feed past 8pm at night so the pups have less urge to relieve themselves during the night.  We feed our dogs a dry food that does not contain chicken by-products (by-products can include beaks, feet, feathers, etc.), or added sugar such as beet pulp.  On general principle, we also avoid food containing anything listed as “animal” or "meat" by-products, which we’ve been told can contain any animal species (including cats and dogs – yuk!).  Our preference is for dry foods that don’t contain any by-products at all, opting for beef and lamb meat.  To the dry food, we will sometimes add a good-quality canned food (same considerations as the dry food).  We also avoid soy, corn, artificial colors and chemical preservatives except natural preservatives such as tocopheral [vitamin E].  Some dogs might be allergic to grains such as wheat -- a common additive to dry dog foods -- if your dog has itchy, dry, flaky, and/or red skin; itches and scratches a lot but no sign of fleas or other biting insects; or bites at its feet or skin then food allergies could be a culprit.

Our dogs are also fed “people” meats and vegetables such as carrots, cooked beans, cooked rice, and cooked meats (no bones), etc.  There are many persons who also suggest supplementing with digestive enzymes and Omega fatty acids.

We avoid certain foods we’ve been told can be harmful to dogs, such as onions, avocados, or chocolate.  Check with your veterinarian regarding what foods are OK to share with your dog. 

And don’t forget to have PLENTY of fresh, clean water available for the dog throughout the day.  We do feed dog biscuits (note the caveats, above) – click here for a dog-biscuit recipe.  We also occasionally give our dogs plain (not basted or flavored) rawhide chews – made in America of American beef, and made without bleach or tanning products.  We don’t buy grocery-store brands of rawhide chews… they’re sometimes made in foreign countries and we’ve been told the rawhide can contain heavy metals (such as arsenic), glue, and worse.  Some dog breeders and veterinarians do not recommend giving dogs rawhide -- which can potentially bind up in the dog’s stomach or intestine –- ask your veterinarian for his/her advice.   We don’t, however, feed our dogs cattle hooves and pigs’ ears, preferring to stick to more-digestible snacks like raw carrots now and then… better for the dog, in our opinions.

HOUSEBREAKING

Pointers tend to be clean in their homes.  We make a point to take pups out (BEFORE we play with them) first thing when we wake up, around lunch time, around 4-5pm, and again at 10-11pm.  If we decide to wake a pup from a nap for playtime, we FIRST carry the pup outside and wait until the pup has at least urinated prior to bringing the pup back inside.  If the pup has eaten a meal within the last hour, we also wait until the pup has pooped outside as well.

Picture of puppy face
Picture of puppies wrestling

NAIL TRIMMING

Regular health care includes keeping toe nails trimmed, but check with your vet or local groomer as to how this should be accomplished.  You will need a special trimmer designed for dog toenails.  You will also want to have some styptic powder such as KwikStop (brand) on hand before you try trimming your dog’s toenails by yourself --each toenail has a blood supply located WITHIN the toenail, and trimming too close to this blood supply can cause the nail to bleed (and hurt the pup BIG TIME).

WINTER WARNING! Road salts and chemicals can irritate Pointer paws. If you walk or exercise your dog around roadways with salt residue, be sure to rinse your dog's feet to rid the pads and toe hair of those chemicals. Dogs can lick their feet and ingest those chemicals...

VACCINATIONS/WORMING

Other regular health care includes annual vaccinations (distemper/hepatitis/parainfluenza/parvo virus vaccinations, and Rabies vaccinations every three years once the pup is over one year old… a one-year vaccine is usually given to pups under one year old, at least in our area of the country) *or* annual blood tests (titre tests) to help ensure that the dog has reasonable immunity to common canine diseases; annual tests for heartworm and a program of heartworm prevention (see your veterinarian or pet healthcare advisor about how best to protect your dog from heartworm disease); occasional (or as needed) fecal exams for intestinal parasites and treatment if needed.  We prefer to not vaccinate our dogs against Leptospirosis until the dogs are several months old as we’ve been told by at least one veterinarian that this vaccination might contribute to later autoimmune (allergies, as example) problems in dogs, but consult with your veterinarian for his/her advice regarding your dogs risk of contracting Lepto.  We also do not routinely vaccinate for Lyme disease, infectious tracheobronchitis (kennel cough) or Giardiosis… again, check with your vet, as there are risk situations when these vaccinations might be necessary.  Our personal feeling is that the fewer potentially-unnecessary vaccinations and toxins the dogs receive, the better for the dogs' health in the long run.  Healthy dogs are less likely to have problems with parasites such as fleas, mange and worms. Always get advice from a trusted veterinarian, however, as each dog is different in its health needs based on its physical condition, environment, area where it lives, and exposure to health risks.  Keep your dog’s vaccinations/immunity current with whatever program you and your veterinarian establish!  A site we’ve enjoyed that offers lots of information on canine and feline health and care is http://www.peteducation.com – the site is hosted by Drs. Foster and Smith.

Picture of puppy in playhouse, looking out door window
Picture of puppies being cuddled
Picture of puppy asleep, curled in ball

GENERAL HEALTH

Pointers as a breed are usually very healthy with few genetically-transmitted (inherited) major health concerns as compared to many other popular purebred breeds. However, there are a few inheritable problems that can cause serious concern for pet owners -- such as seizures, dwarfism, and hip dysplasia.

BRUSHING

We try to brush our dogs with a soft rubber curry brush or grooming glove at least once per week – they love it!  It seems that dogs generally shed the most during spring and fall when the days start to get longer and when the days start to get shorter… regular coat brushing helps to keep shedding under control and the dog’s skin and coat healthy. 

BATHING

Pointers usually don’t require much bathing, except for times when they might be covered in mud or other yucky stuff (watch out for Pointers around barnyards… they’re notorious for loving to roll in you-know-what), or when they have a health need.  If you have to bathe your dog, use a shampoo designed for dogs -- it should have the proper pH for a dog’s skin and coat -- and DO NOT get soap in the dog’s eyes, nose, mouth, ears, or other "sensitive" areas (you know what we mean).  Rinse off all soap thoroughly.  Check with your vet or groomer for bathing tips – some recommend putting a mild ointment in the dog’s eyes to protect from soap irritation, and cotton in the dog's ears to help keep soapy water out.  Have your veterinarian show you how to check and clean your dogs ears, too. For medicated shampoos, be sure to follow the directions carefully.  Pointers also love a good, brisk towel drying!

Picture of five puppies, paws hanging over edge of table

Picture of puppies biting each other's face
Picture of puppy playing with toy

Picture of puppy sitting in patch of ivy

 

TEETH CARE

At about four months old, your pup should be getting/have its adult teeth.  Watch out when playing games of tug-o-war… tugging games can pull teeth out and/or out of alignment. 

Correct adult Pointer “bites” (meaning the alignment of the front teeth [incisors] top and bottom) should be level/even (top incisors rest directly on top of the bottom incisors) or “scissors” (top incisors rest just in front of, and touching, the bottom incisors.  However, little puppies can have bites where the top or bottom incisors are in front of or behind the opposing teeth and then the whole alignment can change in the opposite direction -- the lower jaw continues to grow and change for quite some time, and so can the alignment of the incisors. In talking with breeders of many sporting breeds it's a widely-held belief that little puppies with slight "overbites" can end up with nice scissor bites as adults. On the other hand, underbites (lower incisors fitting in front of the upper incisors) seem to be less likely to "fix" themselves by the time the pups become adults. We've seen in our own dogs that the shape and character of the dog's skull continues to change until the dogs are over two years old!

Check regularly to make sure the pup is not retaining a “baby tooth” once the adult tooth is trying to push its way in… a retained tooth can cause a misalignment of the adult teeth.  You (or your veterinarian) might need to gently pull out a loose baby tooth if it’s sharing the space with an exposed adult tooth – your veterinarian can advise you how to handle that situation if it occurs.  Be gentle with your pup… you should make the handling of the pup’s mouth a pleasant experience not a painful or traumatic one!   Note that during the ‘teething’ period the pup’s neck and muzzle might be sore, so try to avoid tugging on the pup’s collar with a leash during this period – you don’t want the pup to have a negative association (based on its mouth discomfort) with the use of a leash.  Adult dog teeth will need brushing – yes, its true.  Use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs.  Follow your vets advice for frequency of brushing… don’t let your dog lose its teeth later to tartar buildup.

BASIC TRAINING

Remember always that Pointers as a breed tend to be sweet, loving, sensitive animals!  Most learn and respond best to positive reinforcement – i.e. rewarding the behavior you desire, and NOT reinforcing behavior you want eliminated.  Catch them in the act of being good, and reward them for that behavior!

Many people don’t realize that THEY are the ones who’ve TRAINED bad/negative behaviors by reinforcing those bad/negative behaviors (including gun shyness and noise sensitivity).  As example of reinforcing negative behavior: if a pup whines and cries for attention (mind you, there IS a difference between a dog letting you know it is hungry, thirsty, needs to go outside, etc. and a dog demanding attention), and you yell at the dog to be quiet, you’ve given the dog some attention and reinforced his success with that barking trick! Ignoring bad behavior (you can wait out that noisy pup’s crying jag… REALLY), then reinforcing the good behavior (taking the pup out to play once it has been quiet for an appropriate period of time), helps to teach the pup what you want. 

This doesn’t mean you can’t discipline a puppy, simply that you must be sure that the dog understands your appropriate correction is associated with its behavior -- abusive behavior on the part of a dog owner or trainer is NEVER appropriate! Be consistent in your use of commands and cues, be FAIR in your training, and respect the fact that your pup has senses and emotions not unlike a small child but does NOT have the same ability to ‘chain’ very complex sequences of cause and effect as well as a child.  If you correct your pup, and the pup does not understand why you’re doing that, you can CAUSE future problems with shyness, extreme submissiveness, and fear aggression.  Timing of corrections to behavior in order to solicit an appropriate association by the dog is a true science… you might think you’re correcting a problem, and instead you’ve caused one by making the dog distrustful of your actions. Again, be CALM, FAIR and use LOTS OF POSITIVE REINFORCMENT!  And also again, catch your pup in the act of being “good” and reward that behavior… repeat the reward each time that the good behavior happens. 

There are lots of good books on training dogs.  You’ll need to be the best judge of your dog’s temperament when deciding what method works best for you and the dog.  Don’t be pulled in by popular “fads” when it comes to training – take your time, share your love with your dog through this communication process, and realize how truly amazing it is that this little foreign being works so hard to learn your ‘language’ and share in that love.

We strongly suggest that puppies and owners attend a "puppy kindergarten" class sponsored through a reputable obedience training club or association. These classes provide an excellent way to socialize pups in a controlled situation. Remember, though, that you're the final judge as to the quality of the class -- keep the puppy's welfare in mind and choose a class that compliments your puppy's training needs.

Picture of Pointer at sit position
Picture of Pointer preparing for field training
Picture of two little puppies out for first field training day

Picture of puppy with ears flying in the breeze

Picture of a pup getting a hug

Picture of Mark Welch and Diva resting in the grass

TEMPERAMENT

Pointers are beautiful dogs that normally have loving, sweet temperaments.  Although some Pointers may grow up to be aggressive toward other dogs if allowed, this can often be avoided by socializing the puppy in a non-threatening, controlled environment around other dogs (not loose in a park or around unknown dogs!) – protect the pup from being unintentionally hurt by a larger, active dog.  Dog aggression is frequently a defensive or protective reaction – don’t reinforce this behavior by petting or encouraging such behavior in your pup.

With that said, however, we do not tolerate any aggression or extreme dominance toward people!  We don’t let pups chew on hands or feet when they are little… this can be a difficult habit to break.  We try to make sure that pups accept us taking away food now and then, and learn to trust that we will give the food back.  When giving treats such as food scraps or dog biscuits, we don’t let the pups snatch the food from our hands.  We give a voice correction such as “Ahhhhdt!” (the word “no” is way too overused in daily life, so we try other words/phrases for corrections) and gently take the tidbits away from the pups.  We then offer the treats again with a calming phrase such as “Gently!” as the pups take the treats.  We repeat this until the pups understand that they won’t get the tidbits until they are a bit softer in taking the treats.

And, please - please - PLEASE be sure to socialize your pup with people and different situations, under adult supervision, frequently and in a loving, safe way. Teach your pup to be brave... encourage the pup to investigate new places, noises, smells by checking out the new things first and showing your pup that all is OK. Be happy and inquisitive -- not coddling -- and the pup will learn that there is little to fear.

BEHAVIOR

We hope to avoid some of the more negative aspects of puppy destructive behavior such as chewing, digging, jumping, etc. by providing a regular schedule of play and rest for the pup, a safe place for the pup to sleep away from too much noise and confusion, and frequent play and training sessions (training can be fun for the pup) to stimulate the pup’s mind.  We believe that most destructive behavior is born out of boredom – give your pup things to do that challenge it to think and learn.

Make sure the areas where your pup plays are free of hazards such as poisonous plants, small objects (choking), electrical wires and circuits, household chemicals, etc.  As example, consumed antifreeze can be deadly!  In this respect, having a pup in the home is like having a toddler about… protect your pup from harm.

We recommend crate training or "place" training for the pup's security and comfort. There are many books and videos available on teaching a dog to accept a crate or location restraint. Choose a method that works best for your dog's temperament and your situation.

Picture of puppy in wire crate - sad face

Picture of puppy asleep in wastebasket

Picture of old dog napping in sunshine LIFESPAN

The life span for a Pointer has been averaged by some as nine to twelve (9-12) years.  However, most companion Pointers live well into their mid teens!  With love and care, you should enjoy many years of happiness and joy with your Pointer.  We only wish that your pup brings you as much fun, friendship and love that ours have brought to our lives… should that be the case, you will have been “blessed,” too!

TRAINING BOOKS/WEBSITES

One book we've found useful is "Smarter Than You Think" by Paul Loeb -- this has been an interesting and worthwhile book for teaching basic obedience and dog-attention.  One must pay close attention to how Paul describes the process and timing of his technique, as it involves tossing a soft object directly at the dog and making contact… if you don't do this properly, you could potentially teach the dog to be shy/fearful.

We've also found that "clicker" training (use of a noise-making clicker) has been helpful in training our Pointers for agility and obedience competition.  There are several good books out on how to use a clicker to reinforce behavior -- pick one that suits your personal needs/taste… you can do a search on the Web for sites/books/videos that teach clicker techniques.

A book that interested us is “The Dog Who Loved Too Much.”  It discusses behavior problems (including separation anxiety) and their causes and corrections.  Better to not develop a problem than to have to correct one!

For field training and info, there are several books we’ve enjoyed reading including:

“How to Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves” by Bailey

“How to Train Your Own Gun Dog” by Goodall

“Wing and Shot” by Wehle (talks specifically about Pointers)

And field-training/basic obedience advice we’ve found especially worthwhile has come from Delmar and Rick Smith’s books/tapes/training sessions (http://www.ricksmithkennels.com)

Picture of Pointer on point
Picture of Pointer with prize ribbon
Picture of Pointer in field

Picture of Dora with owner Russell

Picture of Minko with owner Amy

Picture of pretty head study

 

MICROCHIPPING/TATTOOING FOR ID

We like the idea of dogs being microchipped for positive identification if lost.  It’s also not a bad idea to get an identification tattoo done as well.  If your pup has not been microchipped you can have a veterinarian do this procedure or go to a microchipping clinic in your area.  Microchipping involves the insertion, via needle, of a bio-compatible glass container about the size and shape of a grain of rice to be inserted under the dog's skin at the scruff of the neck.  The Home-Again brand microchip has a burled (rough) end that is designed to keep the chip from migrating once inserted. 

Tattooing involves marking a permanent-ink ID on the dog, usually on the inside of the dog's thigh or inside the dog's ear. Thigh tattoos require the area to be shaved where the tattoo will be placed. This procedure can be done at a vet's office or at a tattooing clinic. Some persons choose to use a "squeeze" numbering device for tattooing ears.

The tattoo can consist of any permanent information that will help get the dog returned to you. Many people use social security numbers as ID. Phone numbers generally don't work well as permanent ID, since phone numbers might change during a dog's lifetime. Others use kennel club registration numbers as ID. Figure, though, that the person finding your dog might not know what those numbers mean or how to get the dog back to you. It's a wise idea to register your ID with a national animal recovery service, such as provided by the AKC. You can fill out a form and send in to the American Kennel Club (AKC) to register your dog's microchip, tattoo or other permanent ID with the AKC's Companion Animal Recovery program (http://www.akccar.org) -- a service designed to return lost pets to their owners.  The fee for registration varies depending on who performs the ID procedure -- humane organizations are offered a lower fee than are veterinarians.  AKC's site listed previously will tell you how much you must pay.

Note that microchipping and tattooing are not entirely without risk of harm, but the risks are usually minimal if done properly.

REGISTERING YOUR PUPPY

Here in the U.S., there are three main registries for purebred Pointers:

American Kennel Club (AKC)

Field Dog Stud Book (FDSB - American Field)

United Kennel Club (UKC)

and for Canada:

Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)

and for the United Kingdom:

The Kennel Club (KC)

The worldwide dog club that links all dog clubs internationally in the interest of worldwide uniformity of breed standards is the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). Most national clubs of many countries in the world, including all of continental Europe, part of Asia, the middle East, Africa, and most of south America are members of the FCI. Even most former east-block countries have now joined the FCI since the fall of the iron certain. The only notable exceptions in the western hemisphere or "non-third world countries" are England, Canada and the United States:

Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI)

Each registry has its own requirements, so check out the Websites above for further details. You can usually register your purebred Pointer with more than one group, if you wish, as each group has separate competitions, titles and awards programs. However, they all require that your dog be purebred and have appropriate registration papers from the breeder, signed over to your name. When you buy a purebred Pointer, be SURE you get the dog's registration slip at the time of purchase and that it is filled out completely and signed by the former owner and/or breeder.

Note that the AKC will issue "Indefinite Listing Privileges" (ILP number) to purebred dogs that do not have registration papers! This is so you may enter your unregistered purebred dog (say for instance, a dog you rescued that doesn't have any papers) in many AKC events such as agility, obedience trials, and hunting tests. If you have a purebred Pointer that does not have registration papers and you want to join in the fun of AKC competition - check out AKC's ILP page at: http://www.akc.org/reg/ilpex.cfm

Visit the above registry Websites to get information on competitions, events, seminars and more.

Picture of Pointer standing with feet on log

 

Picture of Pointer splashing in the water

 

Picture of three generations of VIP Pointers

 

Picture of three Pointers: Liver, black and orange

 

Pictures of four dogs that have been listed on Pointer Rescue's site
RESCUE

We support PointerRescue.Org, Inc. (PRO) – visit their Website at http://www.pointerrescue.org

A book we’ve recommended to people who want to know more about dog rescue and owning a rescued dog is “Save That Dog!” by Liz Palika.

There is also more information on caring for Pointers at the Pointer Rescue site listed above.

Donations and volunteers are always needed at PRO, so please consider sending a donation to Pointer Rescue to help them save the lives of Pointers like those shown to the left...

TO OUR POINTER FRIENDS EVERYWHERE --
MAY YOUR DOGS LIVE LONG, HEALTHY, HAPPY LIVES!

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