The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP)
She may not be the best choice as a first dog for the uninitiated, but the versatile and high-energy German Shorthaired Pointer makes an excellent dog for an active family. Long celebrated for her performance as a gundog, she is easily trained, hardy, agile, and friendly, with an insatiable appetite for work—hunting, tracking, or tirelessly retrieving the toy you tossed into the water for her. She has inspired fiction and non-fiction writers alike—to say nothing of painters and sculptors—and excels in competitive sporting events. The GSP, with her lean, sinewy build and distinctive 'ticked’ coat, is at once an exceptional athlete, a superior hunting dog, and a loyal companion.
The German Shorthaired Pointer may be referred to as the GSP.
German Shorthaired Pointer Mixes
German Shorthaired Pointer mixes may be available from shelters and rescues. While a German Shorthaired Pointer mix may share common physical traits and temperament with a GSP, any number of other breeds' characteristics may also be present. DNA testing is not a standard practice in most shelters, so breed mix is usually a best guess based on appearance and any information provided by previous owners when the dog is surrendered.
If you want to adopt a German Shorthaired Pointer mix or AKC registered GSP, contact shelters or rescue groups to let them know you’re interested, as they may maintain a list of specific requests. Be advised that even in an AKC registered German Shorthaired Pointer, the personality may differ from the breed standard based on a dog's unique genetics, experiences, training, and socialization.
Common German Shorthaired Pointer mixes include Labrador Retriever, Weimaraner, and retriever- or spaniel-type dogs.
Physical Description/Breed Standard
Coat - German Shorthaired Pointers possess a striking coat in solid liver, or a combination of liver and white: it may be ticked (dotted), patched (large liver spots against a white coat), or roaned (a fine mixture of white and liver colored hairs). It is a taut coat, short, thick, and water repellent, but a little longer on the underside of the tail and the back edges of the rear end, or 'haunches.’ The GSP coat feels rough to the touch, except for the softer, thinner, and shorter hair on the ears and head.
Male: 55 to 70 lbs
Breed Standard and History
The German Shorthaired Pointer is either square or slightly longer than she is tall. She wears an intelligent, animated expression and possesses the look of nobility, her lithe gait balanced and well coordinated, and without wasted effort. She is neither overly small nor unduly large; her outline is graceful, with a clean-cut head, sloping shoulders, a deep chest, and adequate muscle. Her tail is typically docked to 40 percent of its length, held horizontally when she walks, and hanging at rest. Her head is properly proportioned with the rest of her, with medium-sized, almond-shaped eyes in dark brown, and full of expression. Her ears are broad and lie flat against the head, which is reasonably broad, arched on the side and slightly round on top. She has a powerful jaw, and her muzzle is sufficiently long to take and properly carry game for a long time. Her short, strong, and straight back rises slightly from the root of her tail to her withers; her loin is slightly arched and her hips broad, falling somewhat toward the tail in a graceful curve.
The modern German Shorthaired Pointer came about as a multipurpose hunting dog sometime during the mid- to late 19th century, although a version of the dog may have existed as early as the 17th century. The forerunner was the German Pointer or German Bird Dog, a large dog with a keen nose created through crossbreeding between Spanish Pointers and Bloodhounds. Hunters selected for dogs with docile and obedient personalities, but over time added Pointer bloodlines from England to refine the breed, resulting in a more 'elegant’ canine who worked well on land and in the water. Prince Albrecht zu Solms-Braunfeld of the Royal House of Hanover encouraged breeders to select dogs based on function over form, eventually resulting in a lean, athletic hunting dog who also made an affectionate companion.
Dr. Charles Thornton of Montana imported the first known German Shorthaired Pointer to the United States in 1925, and then began breeding them; five years later the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the GSP. But after WWII, many German breeders hid their prized dogs—along with other valuables—in Yugoslavia, sharply limiting the GSP gene pool for West German breeders, who had to rebuild the dog from scratch. In the United States, the German Shorthaired Pointer continued to thrive and enjoyed its peak success in competition in 1968. The GSP companion dog appears as 'Pearl’ in a popular detective series by Robert B. Parker, and in various works of nonfiction; today she continues to shine as a top-notch gun dog and all-around agreeable family companion.
AKC Breed Category
The energetic, eager, and highly trainable German Shorthaired Pointer is intelligent and friendly, and enthusiastic without being nervous, although she can develop separation anxiety if you routinely leave her alone for long stretches. She is a house dog, and not a yard or kennel dog—left to her own devices she may become destructive. And while she’ll love the entire family, she may choose a favorite. She will bark to announce visitors or strangers, and may show reserve around them, but is not an aggressive dog. She is the consummate people pleaser and will try especially hard to make you happy when you reward her with praise, play, or food. Male GSPs make slightly more outgoing companions and more aggressive hunters than females; but if your female has a litter of puppies, she will protect them fiercely.
Are German Shorthaired Pointers Good with Kids? GSPs do well with children, especially if they’re raised with them, and in particular with older kids: they have lots of energy and make active playmates. They can be too high-energy around toddlers; the best scenario is a home with older children who understand how to interact with dogs.
Are German Shorthaired Pointers Good with Other Pets? GSPs can get along with other dogs, but sometimes show aggression towards dogs of the same sex. They may also show aggression towards small, furry animals (cats or rabbits, for example) because of their hunting heritage. If your GSP is raised with the family cat, she’ll probably be fine around her, but may not be as docile with the neighbor’s cat who wanders into your yard.
Are German Shorthaired Pointers Good Guard Dogs? The GSP makes a reasonably good guard dog. She is intensely loyal to her family and will bark and alert everyone to visitors or strangers, but without showing aggression. Nor will she welcome visitors with indiscriminate tail wagging, but may be reserved around them.
On a scale of one to five—five being high-energy—the German Shorthaired Pointer is a solid five. You must give this hardworking dog ample opportunities for exercise, because she needs it in spades; she will gladly curl up with you on the sofa afterwards. And you’ll need at least a six-foot fence if she will be outdoors unsupervised, as she will try to escape her enclosure when she grows bored in your absence.
Indoor The German Shorthaired Pointer wants to be indoors with you and your family, but is a poor choice as an apartment dweller because of her exceedingly high level of energy. Left alone for long periods she may turn to destructive chewing and neurotic barking. Obedience training is crucial for the GSP, and crate training is recommended.
Outdoor The German Shorthaired Pointer was made for an active outdoor lifestyle. She may be susceptible to hypothermia in the cold, if she burns up what fuel she has in pursuit of prey, and then finds herself in a wet and windy environment with a dropping temperature. The best thing you can do is keep her well fed and hydrated, and possibly switch to food with a higher fat content in winter. Likewise, her feet are vulnerable to injuries if she will work in deep snowpack; dog boots can help.
Your GSP will perform well in the heat, especially when she can hop into a nearby pool or river to cool down after exertion.
Exercise A walk around the block is child’s play, not even a respectable warmup for the GSP: this gal needs at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day, and preferably more if you can give it to her. If she is not a gundog, she’ll do well with long walks, or running or hiking with you. She’ll also enjoy a prolonged game of fetch in the back yard.
Endurance Because this breed was developed for work, the German Shorthaired Pointer can rise to just about any occasion where endurance is required.
Activity distance rating
Food Most German Shorthaired Pointers thrive on two to three cups of high-quality kibble daily, given in two meals, although gundogs may need increased rations or a higher fat content diet during the winter hunting season. Like people, dogs are individual: how much you feed your GSP depends in large measure on her size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Consult your vet to fine-tune your dog’s diet. She should not be allowed to 'graze’—you should be able to see her waist when you look at her from above, and to palpate her ribs (not see them) without pressing hard.
Alone Time The German Shorthaired Pointer scores low marks for tolerating alone time: keep her inside with you, and try not to leave her alone routinely for long periods. If your lifestyle will not allow for this, the GSP is probably not the dog for you.
Health and Grooming
10 - 15 years
The German Shorthaired Pointer’s coat is easy to groom and sheds only seasonally. Use a firm bristle brush on her coat once weekly, and bathe her as needed. Check her feet after she’s been working in the field, and dry her thoroughly after a hunt to keep her from chilling. Examine her ears regularly for signs of infection, including a bad odor, redness, or tenderness. Trim her nails every month, and brush her teeth regularly—if she’ll tolerate it—for good dental health and fresher breath.
Common Health Issues
While this is generally a healthy breed, some health problems in the German Shorthaired Pointer may include:
You can minimize serious health concerns in a German Shorthaired Pointer by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions. Ask the breeder for health clearances for both parents, from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for normal eyes. Confirm health clearances by visiting the OFA website (offa.org).
The German Shorthaired Pointer is an enthusiastic learner and reasonably easy to train. Basic obedience is a must, but because of her hunting dog heritage the GSP is an independent thinker: exercise patience with her during basic training, using kindness and consistency, and positive reinforcement—food rewards and praise, for example. If you’re harsh, she’ll simply dig in her heels and refuse to execute your request. Keep training sessions interesting, short, and upbeat, and end on a high note.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is an excellent candidate for advanced training, most especially for work in the field and in the water. The GSP is also used in search-and-rescue operations.
Sporting Dog Training
The entire world of dog sports is open to the German Shorthaired Pointer. Her personality, intellect, and physique help her excel at a number of dog sports, including dock diving, agility, pointing, tracking, retrieving, and hunt tests. But if your GSP is not a hunting dog, she’ll take it in stride and turn her natural environment into a veritable sporting event, jumping off your boat dock into the water with agility, leaping high into the air to catch the ball you tossed her, scrambling up rocks on your hike instead of going around them, and 'inventing’ her own agility course with the found objects in your back yard.
Why is the German Shorthaired Pointer’s tail docked?
Should I crate train my GSP?
How old should my GSP be to start gundog training—and how long will it take to train her to hunt?
Is it fair to buy or adopt a German Shorthaired Pointer if I don’t plan to hunt?
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