Facts About the German Shorthaired Pointer Dog Breed
The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is an athletic dog originally bred as a gun dog. They still retain their working attributes, and show dogs are quite capable of being trained to retrieve and point or flush out game. Several German shorthaired pointers have won what's known as a 'double championship'—winning championship status in the show ring and in gun dog field trials.
This should lead you to realise that the GSP isn't a breed for the couch potato owner. They really do need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, otherwise they will get up to mischief out of boredom. Two hours exercise each day is a recommended minimum for an adult GSP.
They have also been specifically bred to go out in all weathers, so this isn't a breed that will poke its nose out of the door on a wet day and opt for a duvet day instead of a walk!
German Shorthaired Pointer History
GSP were developed in Germany from dogs throughout Europe known collectively as bird dogs. Some of these breeds became specialised as either pointers, trackers or retrievers. In the 1800s pointer type dogs became very fashionable amongst the aristocrats and large land owners. However in spite of being called pointers, the aim with the GSP was to produce a really good multi purpose hunting, pointing, tracking and retrieving dog.
By 1870 the look and temperament of the GSP began to be standardised in Germany and they set up a pedigree register for the breed. The breeds which went into making the GSP included Old German, English and Spanish pointers.
GSPs were established in America around 1925, but initially only brown ticked or spotted dogs were included in the breed standard. Even today, in America black GSPs can be registered and compete in field trials but not in the show ring. In America the show standard demands that the tail be docked in a long dock leaving 40% of the original length (American Kennel Club).
They were only introduced to the UK in any numbers after the end of the Second World War, but due to their all round ability as gun dogs they quickly became popular with game keepers and hunters. Traditionally in the UK GSP's tails were docked with a long dock. Docking is technically illegal here now except for medical reasons, so if you get a puppy it should have a full tail.
The GSP really enjoys human company and unusually even the hunting factions amongst the breed clubs state that they often don't do well kept kenneled, but prefer to be part of the family. GSPs that I've known have been comfortable living sociably with other dogs in the home and good at meeting other dogs out and about.
They thrive in an active home with plenty of exercise and free running. They respond well to training and most are very intelligent. However, they are also quite sensitive so do better with a consistent and kind approach. If you want one as a pet rather than for working with, you might find it worth giving the dog an alternative task to get its mind around such as canicross (cross country running with dogs) or dog agility.
Note: Having said that most are very intelligent, there is of course breed variation and Bradley the dog pictured below was lovely natured, but wasn't the brightest button in the box!
The German short haired pointer is known for its good health overall, however reputable breeders will still submit their dogs for testing usually for hip displasia and often elbow scored, tested clear for von Willebrand's disease (a blood clotting disorder) either by DNA test, tested clear for heart defects by echo-cardiogram and eye testing for progressive retinal atrophy.
Don't be put off by this list of tests. They are carried out to ensure the ongoing good health of the breed.
German Shorthaired Pointer Facts
black, liver (brown), or either colour ticked or with white
short and smooth
21-25 inches at the withers (53-64cms)
12 years on average
Gundog (UK) Sporting (USA)
Where to Get a GSP
The German short haired pointer club of your country is the best place to go if you are looking for a puppy or to re-home an older dog. They will have a list of breeders.
In the UK at least GSPs rarely come in to rescue centres but the breed club have their own re-homing scheme. They arrange the re-homing of around 45 dogs per year.
You can expect to be rigorously questioned by breeders or re-homers who will try to ascertain whether you are a suitable owner for the breed. They will want to be confident that you will provide the exercise and training that the dog needs and are likely to be particularly keen if you can offer a working and or show home.