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Can Pointer Dogs Swim

If you like water activities like boating, fishing, or even just going swimming at the beach, then, of course, you’re going to want to have your dog along. And knowing if your dog can swim is better found out before the water is too deep. But Pointers aren’t known for swimming, so can they swim? Let’s find out!

Pointers are not known for swimming. They are known for pointing at prey, as a hunting companion. But, they do have the physical ability to swim. If safely and adequately introduced to water, Pointers can swim. However, there might be training required.

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A German Short-Haired Pointer sits on a dock contemplating whether or not to go for a dip.
To swim or not to swim, that is the question…

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Pointers and Swimming

To understand the Pointer’s motivations, we need to understand the Pointer’s breeding history. If we look at the dog’s history, it should lead us in the right direction for getting an understanding of where these dogs have been.

Pointers have been around since the 1600s. Right about 1650ish to be a little more accurate. The Pointer originated in jolly old England, as they say. They are a master of pointing out prey and have been a loyal component of many a successful hunt for centuries.

Historical Pointer Facts

The Pointer was, quite often, used in hunting in conjunction with other dog breeds. One dog, the Pointer, would point out prey. Then the hunters would ‘release the hounds’ to give chase to the victim and take it down.

Another way Pointers have worked for hunters is as a gun dog. They accompany the hunter and point out the direction of prey for the hunter to shoot. 

The use of Pointers in conjunction with Retrievers as dual team gun dogs, one to point out prey, the hunter shoots the victim, and the Retriever retrieves the prey. What a team!

But, this history and use for hunting don’t tell us much about the dogs swimming abilities. It does tell us that the majority of the dog’s purpose has been on land and not included the need to swim. Not in recent times, at least. 

Types Of Pointers

German Wire Haired Pointer

German Wire Haired Pointer
German Wire Haired Pointer

The term Pointer includes a group of breeds, all very similar and related. According to Wikipedia, the following kinds are examples of Pointers/Setters, which are both ‘pointing dogs.’

English Setter

The English Setter is a ‘gentleman’ by nature, although they are also known to be a bit strong-willed. These beautiful, medium-sized dogs stand between 24 to 28 inches at the withers (60 – 71 cm). They are typically quite intelligent and able to learn a variety of hunting commands.

Being a Setter Dog, this breed can retain training to find prey via their scent. The English Setter was historically used for hunting fowl, and thus are inherently quite good at this particular type of hunting. They are known to be able to set in position once they find their prey and then, upon command, flush out the victim so the hunter can fire upon them. They have also been utilized for flushing out prey for falconers.

Gordon Setter

The Gordon Setter is another example of a medium-sized Sporting/Gundog breed. The dog typically has a beautiful and shiny black and tan coat. The tan portion, usually around the face and feed, is often dark mahogany or rich chestnut coloration.

This dog is an empathetic, confident, and intelligent breed. Like most setters, they are capable of being trained with multiple and complex commands. Due to being so smart, the dog breed does require a lot of playtimes and mental stimulation.

Irish Red and White Setter

These beautiful and stunning dogs are elegant and highly intelligent. Their compassionate and kind appearance gives them the look of an old friend. The breed is a master of freezing in the standard-setter pose as they lock in on their prey.

This classic Irish breed of dog has been around for centuries, since as early as the 1600s. They are fantastic hunters, and their ability has only grown better along with hunters changing from nets to firearms as technology progressed.

The Irish Red and White Setter are a medium-sized, friendly, and relatively quickly trained dog. If you have a desire to add a sporting/hunting dog to your family, this is one of my top recommendations.

Irish Setter

Thought of by many as one of the most beautiful of dogs, the elegantly built Irish Setter is a medium to large dog. These dogs stand around 24 inches plus, at the withers. They have a beautiful chestnut to mahogany colored coat.  

The Irish Setter is an amiable and intelligent dog, capable of learning multiple abilities. Like other setters, they are excellent hunters. Their ability to freeze in position, pointing toward the found prey, with their tail sticking out horizontally behind them, has made the Setter an excellent example of hunting prowess. And their friendliness makes the Irish Setter an ideal addition to any family.

English Pointer

Pointers are great dogs that make a fantastic addition to any family. They are intelligent and harmonious. Their larger size makes them intimidating for would-be intruders, but their friendliness does not allow them to qualify as a half-decent guard dog.  

The Pointer or English Pointer is an excellent hunting dog that, like the Setters, points at its prey.

The dog stands typically between 24 and 28 inches at the withers, making it larger than many of the more medium-sized dog breeds in the same group of gun dogs or sporting dogs.

Another name for the pointing dog is Bird Dog. Some examples of Pointing Dogs, which are also called birding dogs, are as follows.


These pointing dogs are not only pointers but also have a natural hunting ability. The breed also has an excellent retrieval ability. Both of these abilities are dependent upon proper training, of course.  

Brittany usually stands 17 – 21 inches at the withers (43 – 53 cm). This medium-sized sporting dog is a part of the Spaniel family. They are a friendly and intelligent dog breed.

German Short-haired Pointer

The German Short-haired Pointer is a medium-sized gun dog with a hunting origin. These dogs stand between 21 and 25 inches at the withers and are usually between 40 and 70 pounds.  

The GSP is an intelligent dog, capable of learning multiple tasks. It’s the ability as a hunting dog has gained it the reputation of a capable pointer. Although not known for their swimming ability, the GSP is quite capable of crossing streams or ponds with little effort (assuming the currents are favorable, of course).

Swimming For Fun Or Need

Depending on the goal you have for your dog, getting your Pointer into the water may for a few reasons. You might use the dog for hunting. The Pointer’s world-renowned skills at pointing to their prey make them and the Setters excellent hunting dogs.  

Neither Setters nor Pointers is known for their swimming abilities. However, there must have been many hunting trips where they had to cross a stream, river, or perhaps pond. The ability to swim is not lost on these dogs, even if they are not known for said ability.

Pointers are capable of enjoying themselves at the beach with their human families. However, these dogs are typically introduced to the water from a young age. Like most dogs, as long as they are trained, or shown how water can be fun, they won’t have a problem swimming or splashing around.  

If you feel the need to train your dog to cross the water as directed, then using inspirational techniques may work out to prepare your Pointer to cross the water. As mentioned, Pointers are generally healthy and agile dogs, so physically speaking, they are more than capable of swimming, whether it is for fun or work. However, training the dog from a young age is strongly recommended.

Introducing Your Pointer To The Water

Like any dog, they learn the best when added to something from a young age. That’s not to say you can’t introduce your Pointer to some water fun. They might like it. But, it is a bit of a roll of the dice, the older the dog, and the more they are used to land compared to water.  

The good idea is to introduce your dog to water in a safe and controlled environment. You might use a shallow kids pool in the backyard, for example. A lot of dogs will react negatively towards water if all they have experienced is at bath time. So, try to make the introduction a fun, playtime event. Get your dog excited about getting wet.  

Tips and Tricks To Dog Water Introduction Training

Some tips I have for making sure you have an excellent introduction to water are as follows.

  1. Encouragement. Keep it positive. Your dog can sense your mood. Show the dog that it’s fun and exciting, and the dog will follow along.
  2. Don’t Scold. Don’t ‘tell’ your dog to go in the water. And don’t scold the dog if the dog acts shy at first. Your dog will come around.
  3. Be Patient. Dogs are like little people. They each have a personality and feelings. And they can be fickle. The key to a successful introduction is maintaining your course until the dog follows suit. It may take a bit of time, so be patient.
  4. Repetition. Repeat positive encouragement until you get the desired result. It might take several days, or even a week or two to get your dog motivated. Remember, your dog has feelings, and you need to encourage the positive and steer clear of the negative. That is the best path to achieving positive results.
  5. When in doubt, get a dog life jacket. It will help them feel more secure once they learn how it holds them afloat. Again, slow steps for training them to wear it and use it. Don’t ever just throw a dog into deep water. Encourage them to get into water themselves.  


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