I have trained and worked in animal care as well as in career advising. I live in Lancashire, UK.
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," meaning they've earned 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 of exercise each day is the recommended minimum for an adult GSP.
They have also been specifically bred to go out in all weather conditions, so this isn't a breed that will poke its nose out of the door on a wet day and opt for a duvet nap instead of a walk!
German Shorthaired Pointer History
GSPs 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 aristocrats and large landowners. However, in spite of being called pointers, the aim of 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 a pedigree register was set up 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 significant numbers after the end of the Second World War, but due to their all-around ability as gun dogs, they quickly became popular with gamekeepers and hunters. Traditionally, in the UK, GSPs' 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 being kept kenneled. They prefer to be part of the family. GSPs that I've known have been comfortable living sociably with other dogs in the home and are 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 they 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: There are of course breed variations, and Bradley, the dog pictured below, was lovely-natured, but he wasn't the brightest button in the box! That being said, most are very intelligent.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is known for its good health overall. However, reputable breeders still submit their dogs for testing, usually for hip dysplasia, elbow scored, von Willebrand's disease (a blood clotting disorder), 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
Colours: black, liver (brown), or either colour-ticked or with white
Coat type: short and smooth
Size: 21–25 inches at the withers (53–64cms)
Lifespan: 12 years on average
Show group: Gundog (UK), Sporting (USA)
Where to Get a GSP
The German Shorthaired 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 into rescue centres, but the breed club has its 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.
- GSPCA German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America
- German Shorthaired Pointer Club of Canada
- German Shorthaired Pointer Club UK
Ruth on July 04, 2020:
I obedience trained & showed a Chihuahua and have always admired the GSP..Now have the chance to get a pup...I'm 73...am I too old to take this on?
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on February 07, 2013:
Thanks for the information and for sharing the lovely photos, Nettlemere. This sounds like a very interesting dog breed.
Nettlemere (author) from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 07, 2013:
Thank you for your contribution Alexandry - it's nice to hear that your experience of GSPs was positive.
aviannovice, thank you for visiting - they are a handsome breed - although it has to be said that Bradley with his over long tongue had also mastered the 'slightly silly look' too!
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on February 07, 2013:
This sounds like a wonderful breed. They are very nice looking, too.
Adrienne Farricelli on February 06, 2013:
I like these dogs, they're so versatile! Had the pleasure of training one in Italy and was impressed at how intelligent they are! Voted up and awesome!