Breed of the Week: The German Shorthaired Pointer


The German Shorthaired Pointer, also commonly referred to simply as the GSP, is a sporting dog that’s used to hunt and land a variety of game This is a very high-energy dog that thrives on exercise, so if you choose this breed, you’re going to have to make sure that you’re willing to provide him with a lot of play and activity. He needs challenges, both physically and mentally, and if you can meet those challenges, the German Shorthaired Pointer can be a wonderful friend and loving companion.


The German Shorthaired Pointer is a highly versatile sporting dog, strong and regal. This dog will hunt! He’ll hunt furred and feathered game, and even help you to hunt deer. Then, at the end of the day, he’ll snuggle up with you and the kids.

German Shorthaired Pointers are elegant looking dogs, with short dense coats and tails that are typically docked. Some breeders are foregoing docking, as is the case with many other breeds, but docking is still the standard for the German Shorthaired Pointer.

The GSP is an enthusiastic dog, very bonded to his humans. He doesn’t like being left alone, and might become destructive if you don’t spend time with him. The GSP can also be a bit barky when it comes to strangers, but he’s not aggressive.

This is a breed of dog that becomes bored easily, so he needs lots of attention.


The GSP is believed to date back to the 17th century, as a cross between Bloodhounds and Spanish Pointers. They have keen noses and an obedient nature. They work equally well on land and in water.

The GSP has a noble background, having been originally bred by Prince Albrecht zuSolms-Braunfeld(say that five times fast!) of the House of Hanover. He bred athletic, lean dogs that were also highly intelligent and wonderful companions.

The GSP is believed to have come to America in the 1920s, having been brought in by Dr. Charles Thornton, a Montana resident. His breeding program obviously worked, because the AKC recognized the breed in 1930.

German Shorthaired Pointer

World War II affected the propagation of many breeds, and the GSP was no exception. It wasn’t so much the case in the United States, though, where the breed had a pretty good gene pool and a lot of people who were interested in promoting the breed. By the 1960s, the GSP was actually one of the most popular breeds in America.

Today, the GSP actually enjoys a very high level of popularity, ranking #19 among the 155 breeds that are recognized by the AKC.

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GSP males typically weigh 55-70 pounds, and stand 23-25 inches at the shoulder. Females are a bit smaller, weighing usually 45-60 pounds, and standing 21-23 inches.


GSPs are smart, loving and enthusiastic. They are prone to separation anxiety, though, so you’ll want to keep your GSP in the house – never out in the yard!

These dogs are usually of good temperament, but it’s worth mentioning that temperament can be affected by a number of things. If you’re looking for a GSP puppy, you want to be sure that you can see the rest of the litter, and the parents. Choose a puppy that’s kind of “middle-of-the-road” – you don’t want a dog that’s bullying the rest of the litter, or cowering off in a corner. You want a puppy that’s available and curious. That will go a long way to telling you what he’s likely to be when he grows up.

All dogs need early socialization, and your GSP is going to be no different. You want to make sure that you expose your GSP puppy to all kinds of people and experiences when he’s young. Puppy kindergarten is a great idea, because it’s a place where he can learn how to interact with other dogs. Also, take your puppy around the neighborhood in order to help him develop good social skills.


Generally speaking, GSPs are healthy. However, any breed of dog can be prone to certain conditions. Your GSP might never become ill, but there are certain things you should be aware of.

1. Hip Dysplasia

This is a condition that can (but seldom does) affect any breed of dog. It’s a deformity in the hip joint. Most of the time, dogs with this condition can live very happy, healthy lives. In serious cases, pain medication or even surgery might be required. This is rare, though.

If your dog does have hip dysplasia, though, don’t breed him or her. For that matter, don’t breed any dog that has any defect.

2. Cancer

Cancer can be a problem with any dog, of any breed. With GSPs, the most common types of cancer include mammary tumorsand lymphosarcoma.

3. Lymphedema

This is a disorder that causes swelling in the muscular tissues due to fluid buildup.

4. Entropion

This is an eye condition. Usually, it becomes obvious at about six months.  With this condition, the eyelid rolls and irritates the eyeball. If your dog is constantly rubbing at his eyes, entropion could be the cause.

5. Von Willebrand’s Disease

This is a clotting disorder that is something like hemophilia in humans. A von Wllebrands dog might bleed excessively following surgery, or might have nose bleeds or bleeding gums. Bitches might bleed overly long during a heat or following whelping. This is a blood disorder that can be found in both humans and dogs. It affects the clotting process due to the reduction of von Willebrand factor in the blood.

6. Bloat

Also known as gastric dilation volvulus, bloat is a condition that can be life-threatening. It occurs when the stomach fills with air or gas and then twists. The dog can’t vomit or belch to get rid of the gas, and if the condition isn’t treated, the dog could die. This is believed to be a hereditary condition, so if your dog develops bloat, don’t breed him or her.

7. Care and Feeding

If you live in an apartment or other small space, I would advise against getting a German Shorthaired Pointer. They do best when they have a big yard to play in, because they’re very energetic dogs. Even a big yard isn’t enough to keep this breed happy – you should also walk your dog at least twice a day. Properly exercised, though, your GP will be more than happy to cuddle up and nap with you at the end of the day.

As to feeding, these dogs aren’t known to be gluttons, so if you want to free-feed (as I do with my Boxers, Janice and Leroy) you can. If you prefer to feed on a schedule, though, the recommended amount is 2-3 cups of dry dog food each day, spread out over two meals.

Of course, every dog’s nutritional needs are different. Most GSPs are pretty active, and will need to be fed at the top end of the scale. If you have one that’s a bit of a couch potato, though, scale it back.

If you’re wondering if your GSP has been porking up, just do the hand and eye test. Take a look at your dog. Stand facing his butt, and ask yourself if you can see a waist. If you can, it’s probably all good. If you can’t, then maintain the position and look down at your dog. Place your hands on his spine, and point your fingers toward the floor. Then, try to feel his ribs. If you can feel them right away, he’s too thin. If you have to press your fingers in a lot to identify the ribs, he’s too fat. Adjust the amount of food you’re giving him accordingly.

Coat and Grooming

The German Shorthaired Pointer has a short, thick coat on the butt and throughout the back, but less thick toward the head. As to color, the coat is either solid liver, or a combination of white and liver.

GSPs are easy to groom, and their coats are water-repellent.

GSPs need to be brushed weekly, but hardly ever need to be bathed unless they’ve been working.

As is the case with any breed, you should check your GSP’s ears weekly too rule out rashes and redness. You should also brush his teeth regularly to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. Check out his feet, too – if he’s been walking on hard surfaces, his toenails will probably wear down naturally, but if not, you’ll have to trim them.

It’s a good idea to get your GSP used to having his toes handled – this will make it much easier if you do have to trim his nails, and also make it easier when he needs to be handled at the vet’s office.

Other Pets and Kids

GSPs are usually good with other animals, with the possible exception of rabbits, hamster and gerbils, which they might consider to be prey. They’re typically very good with kids, although it’s usually best to introduce a dog into a household with older children. Sometimes, young kids just don’t understand that a dog needs to be respected, and they can be a bit rough.

Any time that you’re introducing a dog into a household where kids are present, it’s more important to train the kids than it is to train the dog. Make sure that the kids know not to bother the dog when he’s eating, not to wake him up suddenly, and of course not to pull on his ears or his tail. When kids know how to interact with dogs, you won’t usually have a problem.

As to other dogs, it’s usually best to have dogs of the opposite sex in the household. This goes for any breed, not just the GSP. Same-sex dogs will often fight over breeding rights (real or perceived) and sometimes, they’ll fight to the death. If you’re going to have two dogs of the same sex, both should be neutered.

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The Final Word

German Shorthaired Pointers are great family dogs, and even good for novice dog owners. Proper socialization is important, though, as it is with any dog. They might not able all that good with smaller animals that are in the household, though, so if you do have ”little guys” it would be better to introduce a young GSP rather than an adult.