German Shorthaired Pointer

A German Shorthaired Pointer is an excellent hunting and sporting dog that excels in hunting and retrieving, both on land and in the water. As sporting dogs, they are highly trainable, very loyal to their owners, and versatile in their hunting abilities. They are friendly dogs and suitable as pets and companions, as long as you are willing to provide them with the time, space, and exercise they need to stay happy and healthy.

German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shorthaired Pointer Original image by user The_Little_GSP on Flickr. CC BY-NC 2.0.
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It's important to remember that your German Short Haired Pointer will require a daily time commitment and a place to burn off all of that excess energy. If you live in an apartment or in a city where leash-walking is your only option for exercise, this type of dog is probably not for you. However, if you have an active lifestyle, enough space, and are looking for an adventurous, loyal companion, the German Shorthaired Pointer may be a good choice for your family. Though GSPs make excellent dogs for active families, they may choose a single person in the family to bond with most closely. German Shorthaired Pointers excel as retrievers, trackers, and pointers and are still bred and trained for sporting puposes. However, they are quick learners and excel in many active disciplines like agility, flyball, and various hunting dog trials.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The German Shorthaired Pointer breed is also commonly known by the names GSP, DK, Kurzhaar, Deutscher Kurzhaariger Vorstehhund ,Deutscher Kurzhaar.

Popularity: Very popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 14 years

Breed group: Sporting Dogs (AKC), Gundog Dogs (KC), Pointers and Setters Dogs (FCI)

Size: Medium

Male Female
Height 23 - 25 in 21 - 23 in
Weight 53 - 71 lbs 44 - 60 lbs

Coat: Short

Colors: Black, Brown, White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Minimal

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Very high

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Very sensitive

Good for novice owners: Not really

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Low

Barking: Average

General health: Average

Cost to keep: Average

History

The versatile German Shorthaired Pointer was developed in the 1800s in Germany as a hunting dog. Officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930, the actual origin of this sporting dog breed is somewhat uncertain.

It is thought that the German Shorthaired Pointer is descended from a breed called the German Bird Dog. The German Bird Dog is related to the Old Spanish Pointer which first showed up in Germany in the 1600s. In addition to the Old Spanish Pointer, it is thought that the German Shorthaired Pointer has roots in English Pointer and Arkwright Pointer breeds, as well as different German hounds and tracking breeds. The first studbook was created in 1870, so there is no official record of the breed's genealogy and development prior to this point.

What is known is that the German Shorthaired Pointer of today was bred to be an all-purpose gun dog, suitable for work both on land and in the water. Breeders sought to produce a willing, energetic, and enthusiastic dog that is friendly, obedient, and trainable. They desired a hardy, reliable dog that would hunt many types of game large and small and would be proficient in all manners of sport including retrieving, tracking, and of course, pointing.

Appearance

A German Shorthaired Pointer gives the impression of a versatile and agile gun dog, with an intelligent and animated expression.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Well-proportioned head, medium-sized eyes, good humored expression, long muzzle, and large ears that lie flat.

  • Well-balanced, strong body, and straight back.

  • A high docked tail is high set and carried either down or horizontal.

  • Short, thick coat is thinner and softer on the ears and head.

  • Colors: solid liver or a combination of liver and white.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

German Shorthaired Pointers are well-known for their intelligence and trainability. They are a sporting breed, bred to hunt and retrieve game on land and in water. Though they are highly trainable, they are intense, high-energy dogs and though they are friendly companions, they are not recommended for novice dog owners.

As with all intelligent breeds, GSPs require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Because they are bred as working dogs, German Shorthaired Pointers are high-energy dogs that require a lot of exercise. At least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise per day, preferably off-leash is needed to keep your dog healthy and happy. Without enough activity and stimulation, your dog may engage in annoying and possibly destructive behaviors. As retrievers, they are considered to be "mouthy" and will enjoy carrying things and activities and play that involve fetching.

German Shorthaired Puppies are susceptible to certain bone disorders like hip dysplasia. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

GSPs were bred for their hunting ability and bond with their owners. Therefore, they require a lot of attention from their owners. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.

Protective

Though not aggressive dogs, GSPs will alert you to an intruder's presence with barking. They can be a bit reserved with strangers. A GSP will generally be protective over her litter of puppies.

Living Conditions

Because of their activity level, German Shorthaired Pointers are not suitable for apartment/city lifestyles. Their need for exercise and off-leash activities means they need a large space to run and play. They are also known for being escape artists and can jump quite high. If you plan on leaving your dog in a yard unattended, you will need a fence that is at least six feet high. Ideally, your dog will not have to spend too much time alone. They are social dogs, especially with their people, and may develop separation anxiety when left alone.

Children and Other Pets

German Shorthaired Pointers can be good with children if they are raised with them, and make good playmates for older, active kids, but may be too enthusiastic around younger children. They are large, energetic dogs, so caution should be taken around small children (under the age of 6) as they could easily knock over a child while playing.


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

GSPs need proper socialization to get along with other dogs and may have issues with other dogs of the same sex. They have a strong prey drive, and existing with small, furry pets will require training, socialization, and supervision.

Health

The average life expectancy of a German Shorthaired Pointer is between 12 - 14 years. Like all breeds, the German Shorthaired Pointer is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A German Shorthaired Pointer is prone to these diseases:
  • Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD) (hereditary)
  • Entropion (hereditary)
  • Lymphedema (hereditary)

Grooming

German Shorthaired Pointers have short, thick, water-repellent coat that is low-maintenance. GSPs are low shedders and only require a weekly brushing with a short-bristled brush.

Bathe your dog when necessary using a pH balanced shampoo for dogs.

Teeth brushing two or three times per week (daily is best) helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

If your GSP goes for a swim their ears need to be carefully dried afterward to help prevent bacterial infections. Your dog's ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad smell and the outer ear should be cleaned with a cotton ball and an ear cleaner designed specifically for dogs.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

GSPs are large, high-energy dogs, so they will require a fair amount to eat. 2-3 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Keep an eye on your dog's weight, as an overweight dog faces health problems both in the short and long term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.
Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).

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