German Shorthaired Pointer

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 08 Apr, 2013


Also known as Deutsch Kurzhaar and GSP, The German shorthaired pointer is one of the most versatile of hunting breeds, combining pointing, retrieving, trailing and even game-killing abilities. With a sleek, athletic body and a unique dappled coat, this is an instantly recognizable breed.

GSP's are athletic and streamlined, with powerful hind muscles that aid in quick pursuit or sudden turns during a hunt. To aid in swimming, the breed also has webbed feet. Its muzzle is long, broad, and strong, allowing it to retrieve even heavy game. Shorthaired pointers have broad ears that flop over close to the head. It is also very common to have a shorthaired pointer's tail docked, though this is now illegal in some countries.

One of the most interesting things about a German shorthaired pointer's appearance is its coat, which is dense and sleek, and also comes in many interesting colors. A dark brown color, often identified as "liver" is quite common, as is black, though a black coat disqualifies a dog from showing in the AKC. These colors are often accompanied by white spots, sometimes in large amounts, other times in a mottled appearance that is known as "ticking". A very common color variation is a dog whose whole front half is liver, followed by ticking on the hindquarters and extremities. The German shorthaired pointer's coat is also extremely functional, having a dense undercoat topped with stiff guard hairs which are water repellant and seal in warmth. Overall this breed not only has a uniquely beautiful appearance, but also an extremely functional one as well.


The German shorthaired pointer came about through the purposeful blending of various breeds beginning as early as the 17th century. The earliest dog that the German shorthaired pointer can be traced to is the Spanish pointer, which was introduced in Germany in the 1600s.

The German hunters were after an all-purpose utility dog that not only had a good nose, but could point, track, was an excellent retriever, in both field and water for both feather and fur. They also wanted a dog that was an excellent weekend hunter, but made a good family companion and watchdog.

It is not entirely known what breeds were mixed with the Spanish pointer to achieve the German shorthaired pointer of today, but it is thought that the foxhound, schweisshund, German bird dog, English pointer, and several Scandinavian breeds were mixed along the way to create the breed.

The breed was recognized in the late 1800s in Germany with the first shorthaired coming to America in the 1920s. The German shorthaired pointer gained AKC recognition in 1930. the breed soon attained a reputation as the ideal dog for the hunter who wanted only one dog that could do it all.

The GSP was bred to point, retrieve, trail wounded game, hunt both large and small game, furred and feathered and to work in low or heavy cover as well as water. The dog was also intended to be a family companion good with both adults and children.


The German Shorthaired Pointer needs plenty of vigorous activity and needs to work off energy on a regular basis. Playing fetch, agility training, hiking, and swimming are all great ways to work with a shorthaired pointer if they are not to be used as a hunting dog. If this breed is not trained well and exercised regularly they can become quite destructive, simply out of sheer boredom.

It is tenacious, tireless, hardy, and reliable. In short, it is a superb all-around field dog that remains popular with hunters of many nationalities.

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.


Height: Males 23-25 inches; Females 21-23 inches
Weight: Males 55-70 pounds; Females 45-60 pounds


Most German shorthaired pointers are tough, healthy dogs, but the breed can be subject to a number of hereditary disorders just as any other purebred. 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. Because the shorthaired pointer's nose is long and thin, the nasal passages can become constricted and cause the dog to gag and have difficulty breathing.

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.

One final health concern for German shorthaired pointers is the unexplained enlarging of the nipples, even in male dogs. This is normal for the breed, and most of the time is harmless. If the nipples are bleeding or there is discharge though, the dog should be taken to the vet, because these things can be a sign of cancer.


About 12-15 years


German shorthaired pointers are a very clean breed. Their short coat needs very little grooming, just occasional brushing. There is typically only one coat shed in the year. They should be bathed only when needed. A rub with a piece of toweling or chamois will leave the coat gleaming. Check the feet also, especially after the dog has been exercising or working. Dry the dog thoroughly after hunting to prevent chilling. Like all dogs with floppy ears, German shorthaired pointers can be prone to ear infections and their ears require regular checking and cleaning.

Shorthaired pointers also require a fair amount of high quality food as a working breed, though they need to be exercised in order to avoid obesity.


This breed is not recommended for apartment life and does best with a large yard and an active, athletic family. When they lack in exercise they can become high strung, and frustrated. GSPs do not do well left alone all day or if relegated to a kennel without plenty of human interaction.

They may be able to jump any fence that is lower than 6 feet tall. Under-exercised, bored GSPs are great escape artists.

It is also important to have a fenced yard for shorthaired pointers, because of their hunting instincts. Once a shorthaired pointer is set on the trail it can be hard to recall them unless they are very well trained. The natural instinct to hunt may result in the dog bringing home occasional dead trophies, such as squirrels, rats, pigeons and other urban animals. 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.

Well adjusted, stable minded GSPs who receive enough mental and physical activity along with a balance of consistent leadership will get along with other dogs and cats.

This breed likes to bark and they can be reserved with strangers. Most German shorthaired pointers make excellent watchdogs.

Faithful, spirited and friendly, they like and mix well with children, although care should be taken because the breed can be boisterous especially when young.


The German shorthaired pointer is very intelligent and takes to training with great enthusiasm and skill. All the basic obedience training commands are picked up easily by GSP's. The German shorthaired pointer will not listen if they sense that they are stronger minded than their owner, however they will also not respond well to harsh discipline. The GSP needs an owner who displays a natural air of authority. Firm, but calm, confident and consistent with rules they must be made to follow. They crave order and need structure in their life. If this breed lacks in either exercise or leadership they can develop separation anxiety and possibly become destructive and nervous. Be sure to use positive reward based training methods with your Pointer - they certainly don't require (or enjoy) any forceful methods based on intimidation and fear.

A couple of training issues you will want to get right with a German shorthaired pointer are the "come" command (they love to wander off at the dog park!) and how to walk nicely while on leash. Pointers are very strong so you don't want to get involved in a tug of war with your dog while on leash - no one wins in such a game.

Even though some may appear physically mature by the time they are six months old their brain may not be engaged until they reach two years of age. Thus you may have an adult size dog with a "teenage" brain.


If you are looking for a sweet, energetic, and very smart dog, a German shorthaired pointer would be an excellent choice. One of the most energetic breeds, the German shorthaired pointer is a hunting dog by nature. Protective, clever, eager and willing to please, they are very fond of their human families. Happy-go-lucky, they love nothing more than to engage in some type of constructive activity with their owners such as a long walk, jog, hike, hunt, or a game of Frisbee.

Not only does a German shorthaired pointer make a good hunting partner, the breed also makes an excellent family dog that is generally intelligent, bold, affectionate, cooperative, and easily trained.



Cincinnati Dog Knowledge Center

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