German Shorthaired Pointer

Introduction to the German Shorthaired Pointer

The versatile German Shorthaired Pointer was developed in Germany in the 19th century as an all-purpose gun dog. Today the breed continues to excel in the field but they are also great at obedience, agility, rally, tracking, search and rescue, flyball, as therapy dogs, or just about anything you care to train them to do. They are highly intelligent, affectionate, and very athletic dogs. They make excellent family pets but they do require plenty of regular daily exercise. Along with being outstanding hunters in the field, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a capable water retriever.

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History of the German Shorthaired Pointer

While the British developed numerous specialist gun dog breeds over the centuries (spaniels, retrievers, setters, and so on), on the European continent, especially in the 19th century, the trend was toward developing all-purpose hunting dogs. One person can keep one dog instead of keeping a kennel full of dogs for hunting different game. This resulted in breeds such as the Vizsla from Hungary, the Weimaraner from Germany, and the German Shorthaired Pointer, among others. The exact origins of these European breeds are debatable, though there was some overlap and mingling of bloodlines at different times. It’s probably safe to say that they all owe something to the old Spanish Pointer (now extinct). The German Bird Dog (also extinct), the Pointer from England, English Foxhounds, and German dogs used for tracking probably contributed to the German Shorthaired Pointer’s ancestry. As a result, many of these new breeds, including the German Shorthaired Pointer, became exceptionally versatile, able to successfully hunt anything from upland game birds to raccoons and even larger game like deer. Today the GSP is still highly sought after as a field dog.

German Shorthaired Pointers were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930. Today the GSP is the 11th most popular breed in the United States by registration numbers.

German Shorthaired Pointer Health-Related Issues

If you are interested in a German Shorthaired Pointer we encourage you to visit the parent club web site for the breed. These health pages provide information about issues that are common in the breed, rare disorders, genetic tests, and research supported by the clubs.

According to the information we found, German Shorthaired Pointers are usually considered to be a healthy, sturdy breed. A 2014 breed health study found that cancer was by far the leading health concern for most GSP owners, followed by allergy/skin-related problems, bone/skeletal issues, and heart/cardiac problems.

Health problems that can appear in the breed include hip dysplasia and osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD) which affect the bones. Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disorder that can affect some dogs. Hypothyroidism or low thyroid is present in the breed. Pannus or chronic superficis keratitis occurs in some dogs. This is an immune-mediated condition that affects the cornea or clear part of the eye. The condition usually responds well to topical treatment.

GSPs can also be prone to cancerous lesions, especially in the mouth, but they occur on other parts of the body, too.

GSPs can also be prone to bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus) since they are a deep-chested breed.

Epilepsy is also found in German Shorthaired Pointers but it is found in virtually all breeds and mixes. It is estimated that it may affect about 4 percent of the entire canine population.

You can check the database for health statistics regarding the German Shorthaired Pointer on the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) web site. According to the OFA statistics reported, none of the health issues for the breed look bad.

According to a UK health survey, German Shorthaired Pointers typically live to be about 12 years old, with some dogs living to be 15 to 17 years. In the U.S. the GSP is estimated to live about 12 years.

German Shorthaired Pointer Temperament

The GSP is generally a loving, affectionate dog. They are intelligent and friendly and at times a little goofy at home. Puppies are boisterous and rambunctious. Adults are usually bold, especially in the field. The GSP is a smart dog and they enjoy training. They are typically eager to please – even enthusiastic – and like to learn new things.

The German Shorthaired Pointer is usually very good with children. They love to be around people and they make an excellent pet for an active family. These are big, athletic dogs and they need a chance to run several times each week. They have a lot of energy. If they aren’t able to use it they can become destructive at home, tearing up your house and yard.

We do recommend early socialization and training for the GSP puppy. They tend to be wild as puppies, just because they are like big kids with a lot of energy. Puppy kindergarten classes and early training can help them learn some manners and help them focus. It’s good for them to meet new people and see new places and things.

Most German Shorthaired Pointers make good watchdogs, barking to give warning, but they are too friendly to be a serious guard dog. GSPs usually get along well with other dogs. However, if you have other small pets such as cats or bunnies you may need to take special care.

GSPs do require a yard with a good fence. This is especially true if your dog gets bored since these dogs are so both smart and athletic. If the mood strikes them they can easily find a way out of most fenced yards. Be sure your fence is sturdy and your GSP is kept entertained. As long as your GSP has other activities to keep him satisfied such as spending quality time with you or doing some kind of training that he enjoys, he probably won’t be checking the fence for an escape route.

As mentioned above, German Shorthaired Pointers are extraordinarily versatile dogs. They make wonderful therapy dogs, hunting dogs, and they excel in obedience, agility, rally, and a host of other dog activities. They are also happy to go for long hikes with you. This is an outdoorsy dog but, above all, they want to spend time with you, preferably doing something fun and active.

German Shorthaired Pointer Grooming

German Shorthaired Pointers are beautiful dogs. They are sometimes called “noble” or “aristocratic” in appearance. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America refers to the breed as “medium” in size but most people would probably consider them a large breed. Males are 23 to 25 inches tall at the shoulder; females are 21 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder. Males weigh 55 to 70 pounds; females weigh 45 to 60 pounds.

The breed can be black, liver, black & white, liver & white, and roan, patched, and ticked combinations of these colors.

The German Shorthaired Pointer requires very little grooming. Brushing is good for the dog’s skin and coat, however. It’s also a good way to bond with your dog.

Bathe as needed.

German Shorthaired Pointers tend to shed a little all the time. Although their cost is short, it’s thicker than it looks. Owners report that they have fine GSP hair on all of their clothes and furniture.

German Shorthaired Pointers are not clipped.

DO check ears regularly for mites, excess earwax, and other problems. Keep the ears dry and clean as needed to avoid ear infections.

Trim your German Shorthaired Pointer’s nails regularly.

Brush your dog’s teeth regularly and have your veterinarian check them when you visit to prevent problems from developing.

German Shorthaired Pointer Fun Facts

  • Because the German Shorthaired Pointer has a thick coat and sheds so much, many owners use a “hound glove” or even a horse’s rubber curry comb on the coat to help remove dead hair.
  • Even though they are very smart dogs, owners say that GSPs can be mentally slow to mature. They are often two years old before they act like adult dogs. Before then, even though they are big and strong, you are dealing with a teenager.
  • The German Shorthaired Pointer’s tail is traditionally docked. It is still docked in the United States.

Common German Shorthaired Pointer Mixes

Here are the German Shorthaired Pointer mixes we found online: German Shorthaired Pointer/Labrador Retriever; German Shorthaired Pointer/Beagle; German Shorthaired Pointer/Weimaraner; German Shorthaired Pointer/Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

German Shorthaired Pointer FAQs

What is a German Shorthaired Pointer Life Expectancy?

Both in the UK and in the United States, German Shorthaired Retrievers are reported to live about 12 years.

Are German Shorthaired Pointers easy to train?

Yes, German Shorthaired Pointers are very intelligent and considered easy to train. They are often eager to please. In the book The Intelligence of Dogs, the GSP is ranked as the 17th dog in working intelligence – rated Excellent for the breed’s understanding of new commands and obeying first commands.

Do German Shorthaired Pointers shed a lot of hair?

Yes, German Shorthaired Pointers shed constantly. Even though they are a shorthaired breed, their coat is quite thick. It is soft on their head and ears but elsewhere on their body it is not as soft. You should own a good vacuum cleaner if you have a GSP.

Do German Shorthaired Pointers make good apartment pets?

It’s possible that an older adult GSP could make a good apartment pet but you would have to be dedicated to providing your dog plenty of exercise every day. In most cases, especially with puppies or younger German Shorthaired Pointers, we would say the answer is no, these dogs would not make good apartment pets because they simply need too much exercise.

Are German Shorthaired Pointers good with Children?

Yes, German Shorthaired Pointers are known for liking children. This is a very family-oriented breed. Keep in mind that young German Shorthaired Pointers have tons of energy and they can be wild and rambunctious. It’s possible that a puppy or young dog could knock over a toddler. However, as for temperament, the GSP is a very sweet, affectionate dog. We would recommend them for active families with children. As always, we suggest that adults supervise interaction between any dog and children, just to be safe.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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