The German Shorthaired Pointer – Ultimate Breed Information Guide

Whether you are looking for a hunting buddy or a companion dog that can keep up with your active family, the German shorthaired pointer has you covered. But all that energy and instinct to work mean this bouncy canine isn’t for everyone.

Keep reading to find out if the German shorthaired pointer is the right high-octane canine to add to your household.

“Sam German Shorthaired Pointer” by Harold Meerveld / CC BY-SA 2.0

General Characteristics of the German Shorthaired Pointer

  • Other names: Deutscher, Deutsch Kurzhaar, GSP
  • Height: 21 to 25 inches
  • Weight: 45 to 70 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
  • Origin: Germany
  • Colors: Liver or black with various markings including roan and patched
  • Activity level: High
  • Grooming needs: Minimal
  • Best suited for: Dedicated and active owners or families

The German shorthaired pointer is an intelligent breed with a high drive to please, but their endless energy makes them a difficult dog to own in the wrong situation. “2805 Piper and her reflection in Ridley Creek (cropped)” by Annie Thorne / CC BY-NC 2.0

The History of the German Shorthaired Pointer

Despite the name, the GSP is much more than a pointing dog used to flush fowl. These dogs are versatile hunters prized for their ability to track, retrieve, and assist in the capture of many animals, from birds and rabbits to deer and other large game. And this versatility was exactly what the German shorthaired pointer was originally bred for.

During the 1700s, avid gamesmen in Germany were experimenting with a number of canine crosses in an attempt to build the perfect hunting companion. They relied on both pointing dogs like the German bird dog as well as tracking hounds to add value to these mix breeds.

Sometime in the 1800s, they succeeded in building that perfect dog and in 1870 the first German shorthaired pointer stud book was created. They had managed to develop a dog with the nose of a hound, the sight and pointing instinct of a traditional pointer, and the ability to retrieve game on both land and in water.

But the perfection of these dogs didn’t stop with their abilities. Even their coat was perfected for the task of stalking prey across the countryside. Their dark liver or black markings often sit atop a coat of roan patterning, perfect for disguising the dogs against muddy, snow-covered hills.

These dogs were bred to be amazing athletes. They were also bred to do everything a hunter could need from tracking game to fetching downed birds. “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Bailey” by Annie Thorne / CC BY-NC 2.0

Most impressive of all, the breed that developed from this German ingenuity was highly intelligent, motivated to please, and full of boundless energy.

With so many sought after features, it is no wonder that the popularity of this dog spread quickly across the globe. In 1925, C.R. Thornton bred the first American litter of GSPs. He adored the breed both for their hunting versatility and their unyielding affection for their human family.

Today, the GSP is one of the top 10 most popular breeds in America. While they are still frequently used for hunting, most find their place in the home as a cherished companion and playmate for children.

The Temperament of the German Shorthaired Pointer

Intelligent, driven, and always aiming to please, the shorthaired pointer makes the perfect pal for the avid outdoorsman as well as a great family pet. But their need for near-constant activity and attention doesn’t mean they will thrive in every home.

The pointer was bred to run free across the countryside chasing down game and retrieving fowl for hours on end. Even dogs that are used for hunting are likely to have ample energy to spare during downtime between trips. For this reason, these dogs are best suited for active families who can give them the mental and physical stimulation they require.

Learn more about German shorthaired pointers from a man who breeds and hunts with them in the video above.

All that energy makes these dogs the perfect choice for canine sports like agility, nose work, tracking, dock diving, and more. They love to train, especially if what they are learning is exciting and challenging. And if you don’t provide that challenge, they are likely to find their own. Shorthaired pointers who don’t get enough stimulation often resort to turning the house upside down or finding their way out of the yard to engage in their own hunting expedition.

Because they require so much exercise, especially in the great outdoors, these dogs do not do well in apartments. They thrive in homes with large yards where they can chase squirrels and pester birds.

But when they are not running laps around the yard, all they want is to be with their people. This breed is incredibly affectionate and does not do well when left alone for long periods. They can be standoffish with strangers but will warm up fast given the chance. They enjoy being around children and seem to have a natural instinct for looking after toddlers, assuming their exuberance doesn’t get the best of them.

Overall, the GSP is a happy, sociable, and intelligent dog that needs a highly active family willing to put in the time to wear them out.

The German shorthaired pointer is an intelligent dog, but if not given an outlet for this mental energy, they can become destructive and anxious. 

Health Issues Common to the German Shorthaired Pointer Breed

Most German shorthairs are fairly healthy, especially those that come from reputable breeders. Still, there are a number of diseases and health issues associated with the breed that all prospective owners should be aware of.

Here are some of the most common health concerns seen in this breed:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Epilepsy
  • Anxious behaviors
  • Bloat
  • Heart disease
  • Mammary cancer

Given their propensity for being active and their deep, rutter like chests, it is especially important that you take precautions to avoid bloat. Gastric dilatation volvulus, or bloat, is a fairly common occurrence is deep-chested breeds that is usually fatal if not treated immediately.

To decrease the risk of ending up with a German shorthaired pointer with potential health issues, make sure to research your breeder and only purchase a puppy from a reputable and responsible person. There are also a number of adoptable GSPs out there looking for a great home. Contact your local rescue today. 

During bloat, a dog’s stomach distends and fills with gas and then begins to flip. This torsion causes reduced blood flow to the heart and other organs. If the condition is caught early, vets can usually stabilize the dog by tapping the stomach and releasing the gas. But in many cases, bloat requires emergency surgery.

A number of factors appear to increase a dog’s risk of bloat in addition to chest size. Dogs who eat too quickly or eat large portions of food or water at once are at a higher risk of bloat. At one time, it was thought that feeding dogs from raised bowls would prevent bloat, but now we know that this actually increases the likelihood of the problem.

But, by far, one of the biggest contributors to the development of bloat is activity too soon after a meal. Since GSPs always seem to be active, you will need to make a conscious point of scheduling quiet time after your dog eats. Allow about one to two hours to let your dog digest their food before playing fetch, taking them on a jog, or dropping them off at doggy daycare.

Do German Shorthaired Pointers Do Well With Children and Other Pets?

GSPs are naturally affectionate dogs, and that affection often extends to younger family members. They are typically not aggressive and tend to be tolerant of horseplay, making them great companions for toddlers. However, they are known for their spastic behavior and spring-like legs, which can put young children and even elderly relatives at risk of being knocked over.

Early socialization will help your dog learn to play and live alongside other canines peacefully. It will also help them be more confident and happy in a variety of situations. “1664 Piper Meets Hershy” by Annie Thorne / CC BY-NC 2.0

Homes with older children may be especially well suited for a GSP. Not only do these dogs enjoy the company of kids, but the kids will enjoy having a high energy companion to run around the backyard with. And you will enjoy not having to be solely responsible for wearing the dog out.

When it comes to other canines, GSPs love to play. Going to the dog park or doggy daycare is a great way to burn off some energy and they will enjoy making new friends. Even within the household, these dogs tend to be happy to share their space with other canines. Occasionally, some individuals may not tolerate dogs of the same sex, with this trait being seen most often in females.

But, when it comes to other furry family members, GSPs typically don’t do well. Their high prey drive and need to chase anything that runs makes them a danger to cats, rodents, and rabbits. Even your neighbor’s cat could be at risk is if they happen to wander into your yard at the wrong time.

While it is possible to socialize a puppy with other animals early on, you should not purchase a GSP expecting them to live peacefully with other types of pets, especially those much smaller than themselves.

What to Consider Before Bringing Home a German Shorthaired Pointer

Think a GSP would make the perfect addition to your active lifestyle? Here are a few more things to consider before committing.

Before you commit to this high energy breed, make sure you are ready and able to care for them for their entire lives. These dogs take a lot of dedication and they can be very long-lived. 

Activity Level

Have we mentioned these dogs have energy? Expect GSPs under the age of three to be especially destructive and difficult to deal with unless you can provide enough activity. Most dogs, even mature adults, require at least two brisk walks a day. But if you really want to assure your house is safe from destruction, you should consider investing in a doggy daycare membership, dog walker, or at least begin a new trail running routine.

These pups also need a lot of mental stimulation which can be accomplished through frequent high energy training sessions or dog sports. Because of their retrieving instincts, they also typically enjoy a long game of fetch. Hiking, biking, and rally are also activities that will tire the brain and the body at the same time.

Trainability

GSPs aim to please and are highly intelligent, making them generally easy to train. However, they are known to get bored easily, especially if something is too repetitive or goes on for too long. Because they are prone to anxiety, they do best with positive training presented as a fun game. Using force or punishment with these dogs is likely to cause lasting behavioral problems.

Aim to get your GSP puppy into training classes as soon as possible. Not only is this great socialization and a way to set boundaries before they reach the destructive teenage phase, but it will also give them a positive outlet for all that energy. Beyond obedience, consider trick training to give you and your dog something to do on rainy days while you’re trapped inside.

By spending the time and effort on training, you’ll be doing you and your German shorthaired pointer a favor. After all, it is much easier to tire out a dog that you can trust to run off-leash and return to you when you call. “German Shorthaired Pointer” by Harold Meerveld / CC BY-SA 2.0

Grooming

The German shorthair has a short, sleek coat that is easy to maintain. They do shed almost regularly with heavy sheds twice a year, but a weekly brushing is usually enough to control this. Save bathtime for when their outdoor adventures leave them muddy and stinking, otherwise lay off the soap so their skin doesn’t get dried out.

Because they have floppy ears, make sure to check for redness and a sour smell frequently and treat ear infections when needed. Like all dogs, they will need their nails trimmed about every six weeks.

Nutrition

To feed that boundless energy, choose a high-quality food with plenty of protein from animal products like chicken, lamb, and turkey. Younger dogs will do well on foods that also have a lot of healthy fats. Once your dog slows down (assuming they ever do), make sure to watch their weight and adjust their portions or switch to a senior food as needed.

Cost

A purebred GSP pup will cost anywhere from $700 to $5,500. If you want a working gun dog, expect to pay toward the higher end of that range.

Overall, owning a GSP will cost around the same as the average dog, but do budget more for activities and pet care since these dogs need a lot of attention and a lot of exercise.

10 Fun Facts About the German Shorthaired Pointer

Now that you know a little more about owning a GSP, its time to learn some fun facts about the breed.

  1. GSPs have webbed feet like other water retrievers.
  2. The pointer tail is usually docked about midway up, just before the curve.

While the majority of German shorthaired pointers are liver, they can also come in black. “WPA Photo 20150307 133246_01” by Williams Partnership / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  1. When a GSP points, the tail should be straight out and in line with their back.
  2. Traditionally, German shorthaired pointers with yellow eyes have been faulted since their stare resembles the watchful eyes of a bird of prey, which could frighten game during hunts.
  3. The German shorthairs head and muzzle were bred to be slightly oversized to allow them the ability to carry heavy animals back to their owner.
  4. Their coats can be solid colored or patched with ticking or roan (a thick ticking pattern).
  5. They are very observant and can make good home guardians.
  6. The Air Force has used them as sniffing dogs for explosives.
  7. While they look similar to the German wirehaired pointer, the two are actually distinct breeds.
  8. It isn’t unheard of for pointers to live well into their teens.

Before You Go

Wondering if the German shorthaired pointer may be a little over-active for your taste? Here are a few more breeds to consider.

Leave a Comment