The German shorthaired pointer (GSP) is a breed of dog developed in the 19th century in Germany for hunting.
The breed is streamlined yet powerful with strong legs that make it able to move rapidly and turn quickly. It has moderately long floppy ears set high on the head. Its muzzle is long, broad, and strong, allowing it to retrieve even heavy game. The dog’s profile should be straight or strongly Roman nosed; any dished appearance to the profile is incorrect. The eyes are generally brown, with darker eyes being desirable; yellow or “bird of prey” eyes are a fault. The tail is commonly docked, although this is now prohibited in some countries. The correct location for docking for GSP is after the caudal vertebrae start to curl, leaving enough tail to let the dog communicate through tail wagging and movement. The docked tail should not be too long or too short but should balance the appearance of the head and body. The GSP tail is carried at a jaunty angle, not curled under. When the GSP is in classic point stance, the tail should be held straight out from the body forming a line with the pointing head and body. Like all German pointers, GSP have webbed feet. They are known for going after water fowl in the water.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is a member of the Sporting Group.
Coat and color
The German Shorthaired Pointer’s coat is short and flat with a dense undercoat protected by stiff guard hairs making the coat water resistant and allowing the dog to stay warm in cold weather. The color can be a dark brown, correctly referred to in English as “liver” (incorrectly as “chocolate” or “chestnut”), black (although any area of black is cause for disqualification in American Kennel Club sanctioned shows), or either liver and white or black and white. The American Kennel Club recognizes only a solid liver or liver and white coat. Commonly the head is a solid or nearly solid color and the body is speckled or “ticked” with liver and white, sometimes with large patches of solid color called “saddles”. Roan coats are also common, with or without patching. Solid liver and solid black coats also occur, often with a small blaze of ticking or white on the chest. While the German standard permits a slight sandy coloring (“Gelber Brand”) at the extremities, this coloring is rare, and a dog displaying any yellow coloring is disqualified in AKC and CKC shows. The colouring of the GSP provides camouflage in the winter seasons. When standing next to dead trees and in broken snow, the white and dark brown coat makes the dog difficult to see.
Since the German Shorthaired Pointer was developed to be a dog suited to family life as well as a versatile hunter, the correct temperament is that of an intelligent, bold, boisterous, eccentric, and characteristically affectionate dog that is cooperative and easily trained. Shyness, fearfulness, over submissiveness, aloofness, lack of biddability, or aggression (especially toward humans) are all traits that can occur. The GSP is usually good with children, although care should be taken because the breed can be boisterous especially when young. These dogs love interaction with humans and are suitable pets for active families who will give them an outlet for their considerable energy; they must be avidly run multiple times a week. Most German shorthaired pointers make excellent watchdogs. The breed generally gets along well with other dogs, though females appear to be much more dominant during interbreed interaction. A strong hunting instinct is correct for the breed, which is not always good for other small pets such as cats or rabbits. With training, however, the family dog should be able to discern what is prey and what is not, and they can live quite amicably with other family pets.
The German Shorthaired Pointer needs plenty of vigorous activity and thrives with lots of exercise and running. This need for exercise (preferably off lead) coupled with the breed’s natural instinct to hunt, means that training is an absolute necessity. The GSP’s distinctly independent character means that any unused energy will likely result in the dog amusing itself, most probably in an undesirable manner.
Failure by the owner to give this active and intelligent dog sufficient exercise and/or proper training can produce a German shorthaired pointer that appears hyperactive or that has destructive tendencies. Thus the breed is not a suitable pet for an inactive home or for inexperienced dog owners. Although these dogs form very strong attachments with their owners, a bored GSP that receives insufficient exercise may feel compelled to exercise himself. These dogs are athletic and can escape from four foot and sometimes six foot enclosures with little difficulty. Regular hunting, running, carting, bikejoring, skijoring, mushing, dog scootering or other vigorous activity can alleviate this desire to escape. The natural instinct to hunt may result in the dog hunting alone and sometimes bringing home occasional dead trophies, such as cats, rats, pigeons and other urban animals. In addition to exercise, especially formal hunting, the GSP needs to be taught to distinguish legitimate prey and off limits animals.
Like the other German pointers (the German wirehaired pointer and the less well known German longhaired pointer), the GSP can perform virtually all gundog roles. It is pointer and retriever, an upland bird dog and water dog. The GSP can be used for hunting larger and more dangerous game. It is an excellent swimmer but also works well in rough terrain. It is tenacious, tireless, hardy, and reliable. German Longhaired Pointers are proficient with many different types of game and sport, including trailing, retrieving, and pointing pheasant, quail, grouse, waterfowl, raccoons, possum, and even deer.
The GSP is intelligent and bred for a certain amount of independence (e. g., when a dog is working out of sight or sound of its handler in the field). Along with its superb hunting ability and companionable personality, the intelligence and the obedience of the GSP make it one of the more popular large breeds.
Most German shorthaired pointers are tough, healthy dogs, but according to Mayor B. Loney, DVM (NAVHDA Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine, April, 2003) the breed can be subject to a number of hereditary disorders due to their breeding. A few individuals may suffer from hip dysplasia, genetic eye diseases, epilepsy, skin disorders and cancerous lesions in the mouth, on the skin and other areas of the body. As with other breeds, unspayed female GSPs are prone to breast cancer. This risk is reduced if they are bred.
Like many other deep-chested dogs, German shorthaired pointers are highly prone to gastric torsion, AKA bloat. Correct precautions, such as refraining from feeding immediately before or after exercise, feeding several smaller meals throughout the day instead of a single, large one and avoiding the consumption of large amounts of water with dry food, should always be taken.
As with any other hunting dog, contact with game can cause the spread of fungi and bacteria that can easily colonise in the gums or cause infections on open wounds and small cuts from scratching against plants and bushes during a regular hunting session.
German Shorthaired Pointers along with other sporting dogs requires a lot of exercise and space to run. GSPs have a lot of energy and if not given the right amount of attention, can become bored and destructive. GSPs do not do well left alone all day or if relegated to a kennel without plenty of human interaction.
GSPs are a very clean breed. The short GSP coat needs very little grooming, just occasional brushing. They typically shed constantly. GSPs should be bathed only when needed. (One necessary time would be after hunting.)
Like all dogs with flop ears, GSP can be prone to ear infections and their ears require regular checking and cleaning.
The GSP has a median lifespan of 9 years in a Danish survey and 12 years in a UK survey. In the UK survey about 1 in 8 lived to >15 years with the longest lived dog living to 17 years.
As the GSP is a medium/large, active breed, the dogs can require considerable food. Older or less active GSPs can also become obese if fed more than suitable for the individual’s activity levels. A healthy weight should permit the last two ribs to be felt under the coat and the dog should have a distinct waist or “tuck-up”.
Due to the short GSP coat, body heat management is not generally a problem. However, the GSP’s high levels of activity require the breed to drink considerable amounts of water to prevent dehydration. Early symptoms of dehydration show itself as thick saliva and urine with an excessively strong and distinct smell.