In the past century, many children were told it was rude to point, which is ridiculous, as pointing a finger, or extending the arm can provide valuable assistance with directions.
Today, it’s not frowned upon, and not only do people do it to be inclusive of those who may be deaf or hard of hearing, but animals can point too. It can seem quite adorable for a dog to do it, but they are doing it with purpose.
While you may know that certain dog breeds are quite intelligent and are already born knowing this “sign language”, that they can also trained to do it. If you have a golden retriever, you may wonder if they can point?
- What Is Pointing?
- What Breeds Point?
- Do Golden Retrievers Point?
- Can a Golden Retriever Be Trained to Point?
- Can My Dog Be Communicating to Me in a Different Way?
- I Don’t Hunt, What Are Other Purposes of Pointing?
- Do I Need to Train My Golden Retriever to Point?
- What If I Don’t Know How to Train My Pup or Adult Dog?
What Is Pointing?
A dog may lift up their left or right foreleg into the air and point with their paw. They are trying to draw your attention, so you look in a specific direction. Certain dog breeds are bred for hunting.
They may have been trained since puppies to do this. But it’s not just puppies trained this way. A non-hunting breed of dog may do it too. You may see your dog stop on a path, sniff the air, and lift one foot up into the air, and bend their arm to point a paw. It almost looks like a statue.
And without a doubt, they are trying to draw your attention. This position is to inform their owner that there is a prey animal’s scent in the air.
What Breeds Point?
There are eight dog breeds that are naturally inclined to point. These include the Brittany, English Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, Gordon Setter, Spinone Italiano, Vizla, Weirmaraner, and the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon.
Golden Retrievers generally aren’t on this list. Of the above dog breeds, almost all naturally point and do not need to be taught how to do it.
Do Golden Retrievers Point?
Generally no, they don’t. Golden retrievers can flush out game, but not through pointing. They don’t typically find the prey and then freeze into position, and point and stare at the bird, rabbit, or squirrel. They don’t hold until their human has noticed and gives the sign that they can move.
Can a Golden Retriever Be Trained to Point?
Yes, any dog can be trained to point. You just can’t expect your Golden Retriever to naturally point or learn so quickly as one of the above breeds. You should also have reasonable expectations.
It’s possible that you will not be able to train your dog to do this stance, or that he/she may hold for a few seconds but not freeze. But it is fun to train our dogs, and even if you don’t hunt, you may want to add this fun routine to your outdoor walks to bring out some of the natural instincts in your pet dog.
Can My Dog Be Communicating to Me in a Different Way?
It can take a couple of years of pet ownership to begin to understand how our small family members communicate with us. Eventually, you and your dog will develop your own way of communicating with each other.
Your dog may have their own pointing position characteristics. It’s important to learn how to read these cues, especially since a Golden Retriever may not be providing the exact cues as a German Shorthaired Pointer would.
Check your dog’s tail. If it’s wiggling, the bird or rodent may also be moving. Where is your dog looking? That’s where the prey is. If the head is aimed down, the animal is closer on the ground, whereas higher up, the animal is further out. Barking is another cue, though training will stop them from barking, which can alert the prey that a predator is near.
I Don’t Hunt, What Are Other Purposes of Pointing?
You don’t actually have to make your dog a hunter to enjoy the benefits of natural dog instincts. Just like you’d provide a mouse toy to your pet cat so they can play-hunt inside your house, you can also provide some fun for your dog too.
You can train them to find prey outdoors, but not have them actually run for it, nor do you have to hunt it yourself. You can simply release your dog from their pointing position, praise them, and go on with your walk. This play activity is a healthy and natural way for you and your dog to learn to communicate.
And if you regularly go out for walks in the wild with your dog, your dog can also provide a valuable warning for you in the event that there is a bear, coyote, wild cat, or other possible harmful creature out there that can hurt you. Your dog could save your life by warning you!
Do I Need to Train My Golden Retriever to Point?
Everyone wants to be the best possible pet parent. While it’s not a requirement to get your Golden Retriever to point, adding this training to your daily routine can be a fun activity to enjoy.
If your dog already knows how to sit, fetch, stop, come, bring, jump, and the usual dog tricks, add “point” to add some additional fun to your day.
What If I Don’t Know How to Train My Pup or Adult Dog?
If you’ve tried training your Golden Retriever puppy or adult dog to point and it’s not working out, you can always hire a professional dog trainer to assist you. You’ll need to be present during the training sessions so that you learn how to cue your dog, and how to get them to freeze in position and point on command.
You’ll also learn a command to release your dog and to praise them to let them know that they’ve done well. There are plenty of dog trainers that you can find online.
For some dog breeds, this is a natural instinct. For others, such as the Golden Retriever, it is a learned or taught behavior. But that’s fine, as you’ll have some additional fun with teaching your dog new tricks!