Pointers are fantastic creatures, and some people may wonder if they would make good service dogs. Their happy and gentle personality definitely makes them a dog that people want to be around.
Pointers generally do not make good service dogs. Although they have some traits that make them possible candidates, most pointers are too high-energy to effectively do their jobs well.
Service dogs come in all shapes and sizes. One dog within a breed may be a good candidate; whereas, another dog in the same breed would not meet requirements.
Pointers have many abilities to make them service dog material, but there are many other factors which need to be considered before choosing whether or not to pick them.
Pointers as Service Dogs
You commonly see golden retrievers or labrador retrievers as popular service dogs nowadays. These are the “mainstream” breeds, as I like to call them. They’re popular, gentle, and loving.
Pointers are not usually the breed you consider when looking for a service dog. They don’t have the well-rounded temperament for the job. According to Pawsitivity Service Dogs, there are 3 traits that make the German Shorthaired Pointer a good option for service/therapy. These include:
- Low reactivity
- High trainability
- Low Aggressiveness
German shorthaired pointers (not English pointers) fit into this category along with popular service dog breeds such as the golden retriever, labrador retriever, Newfoundland, and the collie.
The main factor that kicks the German Shorthaired Pointer out of the group is that they’re way too energetic.
Pointers, of any variation, have always been bred mainly as hunting dogs. They follow the scent of birds, hares, or other small prey and “point” it for their hunters.
This specific ancestry means that they have high energy combined with endurance and agility. They are bred to run around outside for hours on end tracking and chasing.
Service animals do not require those particular skills to be successful. As a matter of fact, they usually require the opposite.
Pointers require hours of exercise daily to get them to a comfortable level of calm for owners. Having a pointer as a service animal would require you to go outside and let them run around, play games that are mentally stimulating, and work off all of their energy that builds up each day.
Pointers are also easily distracted. This isn’t a good trait for a dog that needs to be your guide, helper, or emotional support throughout a normal day.
Depending on the type and severity of your personal needs, a pointer may be able to be a good service animal for you if you’re willing and able to put in the work. The great thing about pointers is that they’re loyal and loving, but they’re definitely a handful.
They would require a lot of consistent training. They will be better suited for environments with less responsibility and the ability to be outside working out for long hours.
What Makes a Good Service Dog?
Many people assume that any dog can be trained to be a service dog! This may be true with the right circumstances and patience, but there are a lot of dog breeds that just do not fit the bill.
Becoming a certified service dog is a lot harder than someone might think. Dogs are tested in different areas to make sure they’re good options. Evaluators look to their reactivity, aggressiveness, and trainability levels to see if they’re up to the task!
As I mentioned above, the German shorthaired breed of pointer is a good fit for all three of these categories; however, they have too much energy that goes to offset any of the positives.
“Rescues are always surprised at how low-energy and how low prey-drive we like candidates to be, for instance–it makes them harder for us to train but ultimately easier for the handler to live with. “pawsitivityservicedogs.com
Pointers’ energy is really endearing when they’re acting as regular pets for families, but when it comes to being effective service dogs, they have too high a prey-drive and too much energy.
There are many types of service dogs, and each kind needs to have slightly different strengths. For some people, the pointers’ shortcomings aren’t a huge hindrance to their service needs.
The different types of service dogs include:
- Guide Dog
- Mobility Dog
- Hearing Dog
- Medical Alert Dog
- Autism Service Dog
- Psychiatric Service Dog
Some may group therapy dogs (such as emotional support animals) in with the service dog category, but they are usually off on their own. Service dogs specifically are trained to assist people with varying disabilities.
Pointers may be able to learn to help in some of these areas, but they struggle with focus and need a lot of attention to create the kind of calm you’re looking for in a service dog.
One thing, I will say, that makes pointers a good service dog is their simple grooming regime.
They only need a good brushing a couple of times a week to keep them clean and healthy to be able to go into public places without problems. Other than that, they aren’t really suited for the job.
Pointers are known and often categorized for their impressive energy levels. They are natural born hunters and thrive living with active owners.
Something that makes the pointer a less desirable option as a service dog is their tendency towards destruction when they are cooped up too long and get bored.
Pointers will start to chew on anything they can get their paws on, bark constantly, and dig holes in your backyard when they’re left to their own devices for too long. They don’t mean to be bad, but those are the only outlets they can find for all their pent up energy that they can’t get rid of.
It’s important for any pointer owner to know how much time needs to be dedicated each day to exercising their pointer. It’s key to a happy dog and life. They are the most congenial companions when they’re given the proper care they need.
Caring for a pointer is a lot harder than other breeds because of this time commitment. It’s something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of making one into a service animal.
You have to consider how much time are you able to give to stay their exuberance to make them a suitable service animal.
Pointers’ Wanderlust and Distractability
To be a good service dog, he or she needs to be calm and focused. A dog can’t be aggressive or reactive and needs to be easy to train. Well, pointers definitely aren’t aggressive animals, they’re not very reactive, and they’re very intelligent dogs that are easy to train.
The problem that pointers have is that they are very energetic and can lose focus easily.
Thinking back to their hunting background, they needed to constantly be on the lookout for a scent or sound of prey to alert their hunter. This hyper-attentiveness means that their focus can be pulled quickly to something moving or running away.
Once they get their mind on it, the prey drive takes over and almost nothing can stop them. This isn’t a good thing if the pointer is acting as a mobility, guide, or hearing dog.
You need to be able to trust your service dog to get you where you need to go, and it may be hard for the pointer to stay focused in crowded areas with a lot of activity.
The wanderlust tendencies of a pointer make it hard for them to be trusted off leash for any amount of time. A combination of distractibility and wanderlust make the pointer a poor option for a lot of service jobs.
This doesn’t mean that they are bad pets or poor options for families. They just aren’t suited for the (sometimes) sedentary life of a service dog. It’s a simple fact that service dogs cannot be overly active. Pointers would need to be on good behavior constantly and sit for long periods of time which goes against every fiber of their being.
Pointers are buzzing with energy 24/7, and no matter how much they want to be with you and do as you say, they need to be active.