Are you thinking about getting a German Shorthaired Pointer? Whether you want a highly active dog that can join you on all your outdoor adventures, in search of your perfect hunting companion, or you’re simply charmed by their dapper good looks, the German Shorthaired Pointer may be the perfect dog you’re seeking!
Consistently ranked among the top 10 most popular breeds in the United States, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a versatile, all-purpose hunting dog that is also an excellent companion for active families. They excel in many different canine sports, such as agility, tracking trials, and field trials, and are always up for any challenge. Yes, even if it’s to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail!
These athletic dogs are intelligent, loyal, affectionate, and known for being gentle and good with children, making them wonderful family dogs. However, their high energy levels mean they are only suitable for active families that can provide them with plenty of exercise and stimulation.
And before you decide to bring a German Shorthaired Pointer into your home, let’s look at this popular breed in detail to see if they are the right dog for you. This comprehensive guide will cover everything you need to know about the German Shorthaired Pointer breed, from their history and origins to their physical traits, temperament, health concerns, exercise needs, and more!
|An Overview of German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Characteristics|
|Weight||45 - 70 pounds|
|Height||21 - 25 inches|
|Life Expectancy||10 - 12 years|
|Coat Type||Short, thick coat with a dense, water-repellent undercoat|
|Colors||Liver, Liver & White, Liver Roan, Black, Black & White, Black Roan|
|Breed Size||Medium to large-sized dogs|
|Affectionate With Family||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Good With Children||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Good With Other Dogs||4.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Friendly Towards Strangers||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Breed Health||4.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Shedding Amount||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Grooming Needs||2.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Adaptability||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Trainability||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Prey Drive||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Playfulness||4.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Protective Nature||4.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Energy Level||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Apartment Living||1.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Good for First-Time Dog Owners||1.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Tolerate Being Left Alone||1.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Cold Tolerance||2.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Hot Tolerance||4.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Tendency to Drool||2.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Tendency to Bark||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Tendency to Snore||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Tendency to Dig||2.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Exercise Needs||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Mental Stimulation Needs||5.0 out of 5.0 stars|
|Puppy Costs||3.0 out of 5.0 stars|
Breed History & Origin
The early version of the German Shorthaired Pointer originates from the 17th century in Germany. However, the breed we know it today wasn’t developed until the 19th century, when German hunters wanted to create an ultimate do-it-all gundog. They desired a perfect, versatile hunting dog with a superb nose, exceptional pointing, tracking, retrieving, and flushing ability that can work on both land and water.
While there are many different theories about how the GSP came about, most believe that the breed was created by firstly crossing the old Spanish Pointer and the German Bird Dog, also referred to as the German Pointer. Various German scenthounds were then brought in to enhance its scenting ability and soften its temperament. However, German hunters weren’t satisfied with its look and decided to cross the breed again, but this time with English Pointers to add style and elegance.
And the result is the German Shorthaired Pointer that we know and love today! A sleek, powerful, highly intelligent, loyal, and good-looking gundog with incredible speed, stamina, keen sense of smell, a strong hunting instinct, and an eagerness to retrieve fallen game on any terrain.
The first known German Shorthaired Pointer made its way to the United States in 1925, imported by Dr. Charles R. Thornton, and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) five years later.
Today, GSPs are still used as hunting dogs. And their wonderful temperament and versatility have also made them a popular choice as a family companion dog, show dog, and working dog in many different capacities such as drug detection, search and rescue, and more. In fact, GSPs are an all-rounder breed that excels in any activity you throw their way, from obedience trails to field trials to dock diving. There’s nothing these dogs can’t do!
Size & Appearance
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a medium to large-sized breed. Male GSPs typically weigh between 55 and 70 pounds and stand 23 to 25 inches tall, while females are slightly smaller, weighing 45 to 60 pounds and standing 21 to 23 inches at the shoulder.
GSPs have a muscular, athletic build with a gentle, intelligent look. The AKC describes them as “an aristocratic, well-balanced, symmetrical dog with conformation indicating power, endurance and agility, and a look of intelligence and animation.”
By the breed standard, GSPs have a clean-cut head well proportioned to their body, with a long muzzle and dark brown, almond-shaped eyes that give them a good-humored, intelligent look. Their ears are set high on the head, just above their eye level, and should extend to their mouth corner when laid in front without being pulled. They should have a large brown nose. The larger, the better. GSPs with a spotted nose are not desired, and a flesh-colored nose is considered a disqualification.
The neck is of proper length, and their nape is rather muscular and progressively broadens towards their body. The chest reaches down to the elbows but is not barrel-shaped. The back is strong, straight, and sloped slightly from the root of the tail to the withers, with a slight arch over the loin. The tail is set high and must be docked roughly 60 percent off its original length.
GSPs have flat, well laid back shoulder blades, with long upper arms parallel to each other. Their legs have a straight bone structure from hock to pad, thighs are well-muscled, and they should have a smooth, graceful gait.
Color, Coats, & Markings
This handsome breed sports a short, thick coat with a dense, water-repellent undercoat that helps keep them dry and warm when out in the fields on moderately cold days. The hair is slightly longer on the tail’s underside and the back edges of their backsides and a bit shorter, thinner, and softer on the head and ears.
German Shorthaired Pointers have two base colors, liver and black, and can come in either just the solid base color or a mixture of the base color and white. That means GSPs can be solid liver, solid black, liver and white, or black and white. A solid white GSP will be disqualified.
In terms of the patterns, they can come in ticked, patched, roan, or a combination of ticked and patched. A ticked GSP has small liver or black spots on a white background coat. A patched GSP has large patches of color (the base color) on a white base coat. Finally, a roan GSP may have base-colored patches over parts of their body with a mixture of white hairs and a dense mottled base color coat that makes them look darker.
German Shorthaired Pointers are an all-around breed perfect for any family looking for a loving and adventurous pup. They are outgoing, playful, and affectionate dogs that enjoy the company of their human family. They make great family companions and get along great with kids, though they shouldn’t be left unsupervised with very young children as they may accidentally knock them over.
GSPs are super energetic and need a lot of physical exercise and stimulation to stay happy and healthy. When I say a lot, I mean at least an hour and a half to two hours a day of vigorous activity. Yes, intense exercise! A simple walk around the block isn’t going to cut it for this breed, and they certainly won’t be content lounging on the couch all day.
GSPs need a job. They need something to do, whether it be competing in dog sports, going on hikes, canicross, swimming, hunting, which they are bred for, or playing fetch in the backyard. They need activities that can keep their bodies and minds active. Otherwise, they can become destructive and may start developing problem behavior like digging, chewing, or excessive barking.
German Shorthaired Pointers are natural hunters with a strong prey drive, which means they’re likely to chase after any small animals they see. So obedience training is essential. You would also want to keep them on a leash when outside and ensure your yard is securely fenced. Socializing them early on and introducing them to different people, sights, sounds, and smells is also crucial, as that will teach them how to interact with the world properly.
GSPs aren’t suited for apartment living, given that they’re a highly active breed. They need an outlet for their boundless energy. A house with a large fenced-in yard would be ideal.
And if you’re looking for a guard dog that can stay home alone all day and help you look after your property while at work, you might want to reconsider getting a German Shorthaired Pointer. Because GSP is also not a breed that can be left alone for long periods as they love companionship and being around people.
Blessed with a dense undercoat, GSP can tolerate cold weather better than many other short-coated breeds, though they still don’t like being outdoors in the cold for too long.
Does that mean winter hikes, snowshoeing, winter camping, skijoring, and other winter outdoor activities are out of the question, then? No. Absolutely not.
Remember, GSPs need lots of exercises to help burn off their excess energy, so getting them outdoors during the winter months is just as important. You’ll just need to make sure to put winter snow boots on them and bundle them up in a warm, cozy jacket or coat to protect them from the cold.
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As you already know, German Shorthaired Pointers are high-energy dogs that need tons of exercise every day. While one and a half to two hours of vigorous activity are ideal, they’ll settle for an hour if that’s all you have time for, but just make sure the exercise is strenuous enough to tire them out.
German Shorthaired Pointers are the type of dogs that will never say no to a game of fetch, a run in the park, or a hike in the woods. They are always down for anything that involves being outdoors and working up a sweat. They are also natural athletes who excel in various dog sports such as agility, dock diving, flyball, frisbee, tracking, etc. So if you’re an active person who loves spending time outdoors or is looking for a dog to compete in canine sports, then this breed would be a great choice.
And remember, exercise isn’t just about physical activity but also mental stimulation. So you’ll need to keep your GSP’s mind active, too. That means plenty of interactive games, like hide-and-seek, treasure hunt, or it can be as simple as providing them with different types of toys and teaching them new tricks.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a smart dog and, in fact, ranks as the 17th most intelligent dog breed! Plus, they are eager to please. So training a GSP is relatively easy. However, because they are also independent thinkers, you may find them to be a bit stubborn at times and consistently test your boundaries to see what they can get away with. So you’ll need to be consistent, firm, and patient when training them.
While German Shorthaired Pointers are smart and quick learners, they can be easily distracted by small critters because of their strong predatory instinct. And that also makes recall training a challenging task. But again, if you are firm, consistently reinforce your commands, and teach your GSP that your recall command is non-negotiable, you’ll be well on your way to having a dog that will always come when called.
As with any dog breed, early socialization is essential. You’ll want to expose your GSP to as many different people, places, and experiences as possible when your pup is still young so they grow up to be confident, well-rounded, and polite adult dogs. And we recommend enrolling your GSP in a puppy class to help them learn how to behave around other canines.
One final note on training, German Shorthaired Pointers are a sensitive breed. They won’t react well to harsh scolding or physical punishment and respond best to positive reinforcement methods like praise and belly rubs. Because they’re also food motivated, you’ll have an easier time teaching them new tricks and commands if you use tasty treats as rewards.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is relatively healthy with an average life expectancy of 10-12 years. However, like all breeds, they’re predisposed to certain health conditions. Some of the most common health issues seen in GSPs include:
- Cancer. According to the survey sent to all German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America (GSPCA) members, cancer is, unfortunately, one of the most reported health problems in GSPs, with mammary tumor, mast cell tumor, and lymphosarcoma being the most commonly found. Sadly, cancer is also the leading cause of death in this breed, with 27.97% of all reported deaths resulting from this disease. While scary, the good news is that you can help reduce your dog’s risk of developing the most common type of cancer in GSP (mammary tumor) by having them spayed or neutered.
- Cone Degeneration. Cone degeneration is an inherited condition caused by the deterioration of photoreceptor cells in the retina, resulting in day blindness. It’s seen more frequently in breeds like German Shorthaired Pointers, Alaskan Malamutes, Labradors, and German Shepherds, and unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. The best you can do is help your dog get used to their surroundings, avoid moving your furniture around, and walk them on a leash when outside to guide them and keep them from bumping into things. You can also try putting dog goggles on them, as the tinted glass may just be dark enough to block out sunlight and help them become more mobile.
- Epilepsy. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent seizures, causing involuntary muscle movement. The commonly reported trigger is stress, which can be caused by changes in the environment, car rides, thunderstorms, fireworks, vet visits, etc. Fortunately, canines with epilepsy can still live a normal life but will require lifelong medication. It’s also crucial to note that these episodes will occur randomly. So if your GSP has epilepsy and you still plan to go hunting with them, make sure they wear a hunting dog GPS collar because if seizures happen while they are out in the field, they can become disoriented and potentially lost.
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). GDV, also known as bloat, is a serious condition that deep-chested dog breeds like German Shorthaired Pointers, German Shepherds, and Weimaraners are at a higher risk of developing. GDV occurs when the stomach twists on itself, resulting from being filled with too much gas, food, or liquid. This can cut off blood supply to their heart and other organs and is potentially fatal if not treated immediately. So if you notice your Pointer acting restless, drooling excessively, retching without bringing anything up, having a distended abdomen, or appearing weak and lethargic, take them to the vet ASAP as these are all signs of bloating. Though there is no guaranteed way to prevent GDV, feeding your GSP smaller meals throughout the day rather than one large meal and avoiding strenuous exercise immediately after eating can help reduce the risk.
- Hip Dysplasia. While more common in large breeds, GSP can also suffer hip dysplasia. It is a condition in which the hip socket doesn’t develop or form as it should, causing joint pain and may lead to lameness and arthritis, or osteoarthritis, to be more specific, later in life. Several factors can contribute to this canine hip deformity, including genetics, rapid growth rate, imbalanced diet, and improper exercise. And depending on the severity, your vet may suggest treating this condition with weight reduction, exercise modification, physical therapy, and taking joint supplements and or anti-inflammatory medications to help ease your GSP’s discomfort. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Note that not all German Shorthaired Pointers will get all the health problems listed above, and some of them are hereditary. That means some diseases could’ve been prevented if you were to buy your GSP puppy from a responsible breeder who can provide you with health clearances for the parents.
Health tests that the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America (GSPCA) recommends breeders get done are cardiac examination, eye examination, hip and elbow evaluation, and cone degeneration DNA test.
Nutrition and Feeding
German Shorthaired Pointers will need two to four cups of food per day, on average, and it varies depending on their age, weight, and activity level.
For example, a young, working GSP will need more calories than a senior GSP who’s not as active. Pups up to six months old should be fed 3 to 4 times a day, while those older than six months can have their meals reduced to 2 times a day. A 70-pound adult GSP may need up to 4 cups of food per day, whereas a 50-pound adult GSP only needs roughly 3 cups of food each day. So always refer to the food label for their recommended serving size.
When choosing the type of food for your German Shorthaired Pointer, we recommend high-quality dry kibbles because they contain all the nutrients your GSP needs and are more convenient, which is an easier and safer option.
For puppies, make sure to look for a large breed puppy formula. They need food with high protein content from animal sources like whole chicken, fish, beef, and lamb, with the correct ratio of fats, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D to help support their growing bones and joints. As your GSP enters adulthood, they will need fewer calories, and you would want to switch to an adult formula with a minimum of 18% protein and 5.5% fat. If your GSP hunts, ensure to feed them a high-performance dog food tailored for athletic, working dogs instead.
Additionally, you would want to avoid food containing high carb content or fillers like corn, wheat, and soy, as well as those with artificial coloring and flavoring agents, as they can cause digestive problems and are of no nutritional value to your GSP.
Grooming & Bathing
Luckily, the German Shorthaired Pointer has a short, sleek coat that is easy to groom. Weekly brushing with a firm bristle brush is enough to remove loose hair and keep their coat looking its best. And though they are not considered heavy shedders, they will blow out their coats during spring and fall. So be prepared for some extra hair on your clothes and furniture during those times!
GSPs don’t need to be bathed too often either. Once every 3 to 4 months will do unless they’ve gotten themselves into a muddy mess, and make sure to use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo that won’t irritate their skin when showering them. You can also consider using waterless shampoo or dry shampoo in between baths to help keep them clean and smelling fresh.
GSPs have long floppy ears, which means they are prone to infection. So, it’s imperative to check and clean their ears regularly, ideally weekly or at least once every two weeks, with an ear cleaner for dogs. Also, you’ll need to trim their nails every few weeks to keep their claws from becoming too long and making them uncomfortable to walk.
Teeth brushing is just as crucial for GSPs as it is for humans! Plaque, tartar, and bacteria can build up on their teeth and cause decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems. So, try brushing their teeth at least 2 to 3 times a week using dog-specific toothpaste. But, this is often easier said than done as most dogs don’t take kindly to having their teeth brushed! If your GSP is one of those who won’t sit still for teeth brushing session, you can try using a canine dental wipe, gel, or chew instead.
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What to Expect When Owning a German Shorthaired Pointer - A Brief Summary
Living with a German Shorthaired Pointer means being active and outdoorsy. These athletic dogs need 1.5 to 2 hours of exercise every day. Not the typical leisure walks around the neighborhood, but rather an intense workout like hiking and running.
GSPs are intelligent dogs and need a strong and confident owner who can provide them with firm, consistent leadership. They also thrive on human companionship. They are not the type of dog who is happy being left alone all day.
So if you don’t have the time or energy to keep up with their high activity level, or if you are a first-time dog owner, work long hours, or travel often, then GSPs are probably not the right breed for you.
Owning a German Shorthaired Pointer is a big responsibility. So think long and hard before bringing one home. If you’re up for the challenge, willing to put in the time and effort, and can give them the attention they need, get ready to enjoy years of companionship, fun, laughter, and love!
Buying a German Shorthaired Pointer From a Breeder
A responsible breeder will only breed dogs free of genetic disorders and health problems. So, finding a good breeder is the first and most important step to getting a healthy GSP puppy.
A good, responsible breeder can provide you with all the necessary health clearances for both parents. Also, they will welcome any questions you have about the breed and be more than happy to show you around their facility. Plus, they can tell you the breed’s history and will be able to provide you with references from other GSP owners, veterinarians, and trainers they’ve worked with. They will also allow you to meet the puppies to see how the pups interact with their siblings, giving you an idea of what to expect in terms of your potential pup’s personality.
Avoid breeders who are only interested in quickly selling you a puppy without taking the time to answer your questions or provide you with any information about the breed. Also, stay away from pet stores, as most get their puppies from puppy mills.
Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce puppies for profit, with little to no regard for the health or welfare of the dogs. The conditions in these places are often deplorable, and the puppies are often sick and display behavior problems. So you’ll definitely want to avoid that!
When meeting a potential breeder, pay attention to how they treat their dogs. Are the dogs happy, healthy, and well-cared for? Do they have plenty of space to run and play? Are the puppies being raised in a clean and healthy environment? If not, that’s a huge red flag, and you should move on.
Always do your research, and it’s better to take your time when looking for a breeder and find the right one than to rush into things and end up with a sickly puppy or one with behavior problems. Not sure where to look? The AKC marketplace and the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America (GSPCA) are always great places to start.
Once you’ve found a breeder you’re comfortable with, be prepared to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 for a German Shorthaired Pointer puppy, and expect to pay more if they are show-quality or come from a champion bloodline.
Adopting a German Shorthaired Pointer From a Rescue or Shelter
Adoption is always another great option! There are many GSPs in shelters and rescues across the country waiting for their forever homes. And the best part is, you can adopt one for a fraction of the price of buying from a breeder, usually around $300 to $600.
You can check your local shelters and rescue organizations to see if they have any GSPs available. If you can’t find one in your area, check out the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America’s website. They have a list of rescue groups that might be able to help you find the perfect GSP for your family.
Fun Facts About GSPs That You Probably Don't Know
- German Shorthaired Pointers are used by the US Air Force and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as detection dogs.
- German Shorthaired Pointers are multi-tasking, versatile hunting dogs that can track, point, retrieve, and hunt various game, like waterfowl, upland birds, rabbits, raccoons, and deer!
- There’s nothing GSPs can’t do! They are talented dogs that excel in many different canine sports like agility, obedience, tracking, and dock jumping!
- German Shorthaired Pointers have won the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show’s Best in Show 3 times!
- GSPs have webbed feet and are excellent swimmers.
- All GSP owners have seen their dog’s “Pointer Pose.” When GSPs pick up an interesting scent, they’ll stand stock-still with one front paw raised and their tail straight out behind them.