By Dan Sayers

Breeders of purebred dogs speak a language all their own. Wherever they gather, at dog shows, seminars or in chat rooms, words and phrases are used that have very narrow definitions. Their usage makes it difficult for a novice to fully participate in the conversation, and all but impossible for the general public to follow along.

There’s more to talking with a breeder than correctly using the word “bitch.”

Much of the breeder’s language is derived from domesticated livestock or veterinary science. Veterans who’ve spent a lifetime perfecting their own family of purebreds use agricultural and medical terms with confidence. When noted breed authorities get together, the dialog that results can effortlessly span the broadest topics, although the words spoken will often have the narrowest of definitions.

Those words are quite often derived from the breed standards. As guide for both breeder and judge, the standard describes those characteristics of make, shape and behavior that define a breed, distinguishing it from all the rest. Distinctions between breeds can be subtle, so standards use very specific words to illustrate singular traits. These buzzwords become part of every breeder’s dog show dialect, guiding both conversations with peers and decisions made in the whelping box.

A modern Pointer.

One of the first breeds recognized in this country is the Pointer. The breed was developed in England in the 17th century and has greatly contributed to the creation of the modern bird dog. Its current AKC standard was approved in 1975 and describes a dog bred primarily for the field that “gives the immediate impression of compact power and agile grace.” Its noble head, tapering tail and “frictionless” movement are essential characteristics understood by dedicated breeders to be the keys to preserving Pointer function and type.


In the General Appearance section of the standard, the breed is described as “an animal whose every movement shows him to be a wide-awake, hard-driving hunting dog possessing stamina, courage, and the desire to go.” Breeders know that this is a dog that runs! These personable dogs, single-minded when searching for birds, are top athletes, fully alert when in action – wide-awake.


The Pointer’s powerful movement is further enhanced by the action of its unique tail. “Heavier at the root,” according to the standard, “and tapering to a fine point,” the tail moves rhythmically from side to side, keeping time with the dog’s pace. Its length is “no greater than to the hock” and is “carried without curl, and not more than 20 degrees above the line of the back.” The tail is mentioned in the American Pointer Club’s  Illustrated Standard as being referred to by many breeders as a “bee-sting” tail. This is a classic feature of the breed and a frequently used buzzword.

Dish Face

The carriage and conformation of the Pointer’s head are the breed’s hallmark. Carried high with nostrils wide, the head may have parallel planes or a nose that is “slightly higher at the top than at the muzzle.” This so-called “dish face” is particularly distinguishing and stamps the dog as an unmistakable member of this companionable field dog.