About the German Shorthaired Pointer
Male German Shorthaired Pointers stand between 23 and 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 55 to 70 pounds; females run smaller. The coat is solid liver (a reddish brown), or liver and white in distinctive patterns. The dark eyes shine with enthusiasm and friendliness. Built to work long days in the field or at the lake, GSPs are known for power, speed, agility, and endurance. “Noble” and “aristocratic” are words often used to describe the overall look.
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GSPs make happy, trainable pets who bond firmly to their family. They are always up for physical activities like running, swimming, organized dog sports—in fact, anything that will burn some of their boundless energy while spending outdoor time with a human buddy.
- Temperament: Friendly, Smart, Willing to Please
- AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 9 of 195
- Height: 23-25 inches (male), 21-23 inches (female)
- Weight: 55-70 pounds (male), 45-60 pounds (female)
- Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
- Group: Sporting Group
German hunters spent generations crossing various breeds until they perfected this versatile bird dog sometime in the 1800s. They were so successful that, to this day, GSPs are among the top-winning breeds in competitive hunting events.
The German bird-dog tradition dates to at least the 1700s, with master breeders experimenting with tracking hound–pointing dog crosses in the quest for a quick but powerful hunter possessing plenty of nose and versatility. It comes as no surprise to learn that a key player in the early development of this breed of noble bearing was himself a nobleman, Prince Albrecht zu Solms-Braunfels.
The prince and his fellow enthusiasts succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings in creating a do-it-all hunting dog. Here, a breed historian ticks off the GSP’s credentials: “a staunchly pointing bird dog; a keen-nosed night trailer; a proven duck dog; a natural retriever on land or water, with pleasing conformation and markings, and great powers of endurance; and an intelligent family watchdog and companion.”
The GSP has been hunted with success on a variety of quarry: gamebirds, possum, rabbit, raccoon, and even deer. With his webbed feet and sleek but sturdy construction, the GSP burnishes his résumé as one of dogdom’s finest swimmers. Emblematic of the breed’s eager versatility was Marvin, a GSP from North Carolina, who in late 2013 achieved his 75th AKC title.
Care and Training
Feed a high-quality dog food that is appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and activity level. A pup under 6 months old will need to be fed more than twice a day; once the GSP reaches adulthood, a meal morning and evening should be sufficient. Because the breed is subject to bloat, they should not be fed immediately after running or other vigorous exercise, nor should they be allowed to run or exercise for at least an hour after eating and drinking. The ideal evening mealtime would be after physical activities are through for the day.
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The GSP does best with plenty of exercise and things to do, such as running, swimming, and dog sports—in fact, anything that will burn some of their boundless energy while spending time outdoors with a human buddy. Their routine should ideally include ample physical activity twice a day. This might be in the form of brisk, half-hour walks morning and evening or running and playing in a securely fenced area. GSPs are smart and athletic and excel in a wide range of canine activities that exercise mind and body, from field events to agility, obedience, and dock diving.
Early training is essential for the German Shorthaired Pointer. Socialization and puppy training classes are vital, continuing with practice in basic obedience commands. This is an intelligent breed that learns quickly with consistent training sessions. GSPs need a purpose, and without one they can be destructive if left to their own devices. The breed can be extremely challenging from six months to three years old. GSPs have a very high energy level and a strong prey drive, and they need an owner with an active lifestyle to guide the dog’s exuberance and intensity into positive outlets.
10 Things To Know About German Shorthaired Pointers
1. GSPs are extremely versatile hunting dogs.
Bred to be instinctive hunting all-rounders, these multitasking pups can hunt, point, and retrieve, and have been used to hunt quarry of all kinds, including rabbits, raccoons, game birds, and even deer.
2. If there’s prey nearby, they’ll find it.
Because they were bred to hunt, GSPs have razor-sharp instincts for anything that could be prey, such as squirrels, birds, or rabbits. This prey drive might cause them to bolt during off-leash exercise, or scale fences or walls in pursuit of their quarry. They should be kept in a well-secured area, and off-leash exercise should be approached with caution and adequate awareness of the surroundings.
3. They are brown-and-white bundles of endless energy.
This is not a quick-walk-after-work kind of dog. The GSP requires serious exercise: running, swimming, long walks, playing in a fenced area, and anything else you can do to take the edge off their energy. Two daily sessions of ample physical activity are recommended, though with a GSP, there’s no such thing as too much exercise.
4. You will want to take your GSP to training classes.
Because they have so much energy and such a strong prey drive, GSPs can become destructive, especially in their early years, and especially if they don’t get enough activity. Early and consistent training can help keep these destructive tendencies in check. And luckily, they’re very quick-learning and eager to please, making obedience classes fun for owner and dog alike.
5. They make great family dogs, but can be a handful for small children.
The German breeders who developed GSPs wanted companionable family pets, as well as hunting dogs—and they succeeded. The GSP is a very affectionate, loving companion that mostly likes children and other dogs, though since they’re so rambunctious, some experts advise against having them in households with children under seven.
6. GSPs are very good swimmers.
Thanks to their webbed feet and sleek, muscular build, GSPs are adept in the water—and most love it. But watch out in winter: with their shorter hair, GSPs can easily get too cold, even in water that works well for a longer-haired dog such as a Labrador Retriever.
7. There’s almost no dog sport GSPs won’t excel at.
These dogs were bred as all-rounders, and it shows. You’ll find GSPs competing in Agility, Field Events such as Coursing and Pointing Breed Field Trials, Dock Diving, Flyball, Rally, and more. With all that energy to burn, finding the right sport for your GSP is a great outlet for both dog and owner.
8. Bloat is a serious condition that GSP owners should keep an eye on.
Though generally a healthy breed, GSPs can suffer from bloat, a medical emergency in which the stomach fills with air. Exercise and activity should be avoided for an hour either side of eating and drinking. The best time for GSP’s dinner is at night, after all activity is done.
9. Be prepared for your GSP to shed. A lot.
In warm climates, GSPs might shed year-round; elsewhere, the shedding might be more seasonal. Either way, their short hairs can get embedded all around the house. Grooming every few days with a grooming glove or rubber horse brush will help keep the worst of them from your carpet, couch, socks, feet, etc…
10. They may grow old, but GSPs are always young at heart.
Though your GSP might look physically mature by the age of six months, it can take a few years for these dogs to mature out of puppy behaviors—which equates to a puppy with the strength of a full-grown dog (hence the need for training). GSP owners also report that their beloved pets often stay spry and ready to run or chase even into their old age.