The German Shorthaired Pointer is a classic member of the gun dog family and is sometimes called a bird dog. Originally bred for hunting in Europe, the breed loves chasing wild animals and often feels the same way about toys. When you train your pup properly, you’ll find that it loves chasing after the toys that you throw and bringing them back to you. As a pointer, the dog points its snout when it picks up a scent trail. This can result in your dog going after squirrels or signaling the presence of other animals on your nightly walk. Also called the GSP, this is a dog that you can train to hunt everything from raccoon and possum to deer and rabbit.
Thanks to the breed’s webbed feet, German Shorthaired Pointers can easily cut through any type of water. They love swimming in large bodies of water such as oceans and lakes and may jump into a stream or river too. The American Kennel Club added the breed to its registry in the 1930s and saw multiple dogs win some of its special events over the years. A dog by the name of Marvin from North Carolina won a major AKC award in 2013. This is the type of dog that does well in large homes and spaces where it has room to roam and play. Before you dd one of these companions to your home, you’ll want to consider how the GSP will fit with your needs and family.
10Gun Dog History
The German Shorthaired Pointer is one of the oldest dogs in existence today. Experts trace the roots of the breed back to the pointer dogs from the 13th century. They became more popular during the 17th century in both France and Italy. Breeders living in those countries called the GSP quail dogs and net dogs because they often assisted hunters. Found in parts of Europe throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the dogs became companions for hunters who used them to flush out a game from bushes and other areas.
Some credit the popularity of the breed in the United States to Charles Thornton.
Thornton was a doctor living and working in Minnesota who bought a pair of dogs from a breeder in Austria. Others credit the breed’s popularity with two men who became friends on a hunting trip a few years later. They acquired several of the dogs from a German breeder and began breeding them in the Midwest. Others purchased their own GSP dogs from these two men.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the GSP bred in the 1930s as more breeders in the Midwest began selling the puppies. This allowed owners to show the dog at official AKC events. The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America, Inc. would open in the 1960s and later let owners open associated clubs of their own across the country. This club allows owners to talk about some of the challenges associated with owning these dogs and get tips on breeding and showing them.
Many GSP owners choose to dock the tails of their dogs. They do so because of the high energy level of the breed. Your GSP can seriously injure its tail because of its excitement. The dogs will often shake their tails vigorously at the sight of a treat or a beloved human companion. That action can cause the dog to break its tail, which may require surgery to fix. While the owners of other breeds will dock most of the tail, most GSP owners will only dock 40% of the dog’s tail. This significantly reduces the risk of injury to the dog’s tail.
When you own a German Shorthaired Pointer, you can buy from a breeder who handles the docking or has a veterinarian do the docking for you. This breed typically has a tail in the same color or a similar color to that found on the muzzle. Some of these dogs may have a multicolored tail or a tail with spots too.
Though some owners worry that docking their dogs’ tails will harm the animals, it’s a safe procedure. The vet will put the pet under anesthesia that lets the dog sleep during the surgery. Your pet may feel sluggish and lethargic immediately after the procedure but resume normal activities within a few days. The veterinarian will provide you with instructions on how to care for your dog. Those instructions let you know when you can resume feeding your pet and when to return for a follow-up appointment.
8Feeding a GSP
The GSP is a highly energetic dog that can burn hundreds of calories in a single play session. These pets require a different amount of food as they age. Until the dog reaches the age of six months, you’ll want to schedule meals at least three times a day. You can check the dog food packaging or ask your vet to see how much food you should provide at each meal. It’s often helpful to follow the same schedule every day, which allows your dog to develop a routine. You may want to offer food in the morning when you get home from work and then a little later at night before taking the dog for a walk.
As the GSP ages, it won’t need as much food. You can usually get by with twice a day feedings.
You may opt for a small meal at the beginning of the day and then a second when you return from work. The first feeding provides the dog with the energy that it needs while you’re away. One thing to keep in mind when owning a German Shorthaired Pointer is that you shouldn’t let them exercise immediately after eating. It’s important that you give the pup at least one hour to fully digest the meal. If you worry that your dog isn’t getting enough food, keep an eye on its energy level. A GSP who needs more calories may act lethargic and have no energy or require frequent breaks when playing.
7Friendly and Affectionate
If you want a friendly and affectionate dog who will greet you at the end of a long day, the GSP is a great choice. This breed has a high friendliness rating and loves the families who raise them. The dog is quite loyal and prefers to be around people it knows rather than strangers. If you take it in as a puppy and raise it around the same people, you’ll find that it develops bonds with every member of your family. Many owners find that their dogs form bonds with family and friends who visit their homes often too.
The GSP is one of the top breeds for those who have children too. It is a sturdy dog who can withstand the love and attention that kids shower on it. The dog does not have the bad attitude that other breeds have and can usually handle attention in the form of hugs and kisses. Many German Shorthaired Pointers forming loving relationships with the children in their homes and will let those kids climb on them and even pull their tails. When you first introduce the dog to your home though, you’ll want to keep an eye on your children and make sure that they are easy and gentle with the puppy. It can take some time for the dog to form a bond with a new human. The GSP is also friendly with other dogs and may want to make new friends quickly with the animals you come across on walks and in dog parks.
6General Size and Appearance
Apartment dogs are often small in size and can handle being in small and enclosed spaces. The GSP is not an apartment dog though because it needs more room. This breed is medium in size and can be quite large once it finishes growing. The GSP can weigh up to 70 pounds too. An average weight for a male GSP is between 55 and 70 pounds, but females of this breed can reach weights of between 45 and 60 pounds. The weight of your dog can vary based on the amount of activity it gets and how much you feed it. If you have any concerns about your pup’s weight, you can talk to your vet. An underweight GSP will have a concave stomach and rib bones that you can see through its coat. Dogs that are overweight will typically have convex stomachs.
A purebred will have a coat that features shades of white and liver. The liver is a deep shade of brown that some call chocolate brown. Most dogs of this breed have a speckled or spotted appearance too, with dark white or tan coats that have spots of the liver. Some dogs have more spots than others though. You may bring home a GSP that has a full liver colored muzzle and multiple spots along its back and legs. Females of this breed can reach heights of up to 23 inches, but males can reach heights of 25 inches. Some GSP dogs remain a little smaller than others though, even those from the same litter.
5Grooming a German Shorthaired Pointer
As a GSP owner, you need to know how to groom your dog during its puppy years and after it reaches adulthood. These dogs have a short coat and do not shed as much as others do. The coat can be quite soft to the touch or a little rougher. Regular brushing will help soften the coat and keep the GSP from shedding all over your furniture. You can use a metal comb/brush or one with stiff bristles. Those bristles actually give the dog a soft massage as you brush it and will pull off any loose hairs clinging to its skin. You may want to start near its head and work your way back and down, but you can also work on small areas of the dog’s coat at a time. Brushing your dog just once a month helps you bond with the GSP and remove any excess oils.
The GSP breed does not need washing as often as other breeds do. You may only want to bathe the dog after it spends some time playing in the mud or when its coat feels oily to the touch. This breed can suffer from skin allergies that worsen with frequent baths. If your dog has sensitive skin or allergies, you’ll want to use a hypoallergenic shampoo. After washing your GSP, make sure that you fully the dry its coat, especially if it has sensitive skin. You can use soft towels or a hairdryer on its lowest setting.
4Nails, Teeth and Ears
Grooming a GSP requires more than just bathing and brushing the dog. You’ll also want to take care of its nails, teeth and ears. As this dog is quite active, you may find that it doesn’t need its nails clipped as often as the dogs you had before does. The simple motion of running across hard floors inside your home and hard surfaces outside can wear down its nails and let you wait longer between clippings. An easy way to tell if your dog needs its nails clipped is with a listen. If you hear its nails clicking and making other noises as it touches the ground, it’s time to clip those nails.
One thing to keep in mind about the GSP is that its ears are low and hang down towards the ground. Your dog can pick up debris from anything its ears touch, including dirt from the ground and dead skin cells and hair from your furniture. You should clean your pup’s ears at least once a week to remove dirt and debris. There are a number of different ear cleaning kits that you can pick up from a pet store, but you can also use a dry or damp cotton ball to remove buildup. As you clean the dog’s ears, make sure that you look for any signs or symptoms of an infection. The GSP also requires regular brushing of its teeth. This removes plaque and prevents the buildup of bacteria that can make your dog sick.
3German Shorthaired Pointers are Susceptible to Some Health Conditions
As much as you love your GSP, you should know about some of the conditions that can affect its overall health. One of those is Von Willebrand’s Disease. Also called VWD, it is a type of bleeding disorder that prevents platelets from binding when an injury occurs. It is very similar to hemophilia. Both males and females of this breed can develop the condition, which causes the dogs to develop dark bruises and bleed from their noses and mouths. If the dog loses a significant amount of blood, it may develop anemia too. You should look for blood in your dog’s urine and/or feces and blood along the gum line. Some dogs experience bleeding as their owners brush their teeth.
Gastric torsion is another medical condition that often affects the German Shorthaired Pointer. This causes parts of the digestive system to twist, which prevents food and water from moving through the bowel and out the anus. Your vet may talk to you about canine hip dysplasia also. Often called CHD, this condition occurs due to deformities in the dog’s joints. Not only can it cause discomfort and pain, but it can prevent your dog from engaging in all its favorite activities such as chasing your kids or playing fetch. GSP owners must make regular appointments with a veterinarian and undergo routine tests and a physical exam every year. The vet will look for signs of CHD and similar conditions that affect the joints. He or she will also listen to any concerns you have or symptoms you spotted.
2Fetch is a Favorite Game
As the GSP has such a long history and was originally bred for hunting, don’t be surprised if your new dog loves playing fetch. This game relies on the instincts bred into them and encourages them to get up and get active. You can use something as simple as a rubber ball. When you throw the ball, the dog will chase after it and bring it back to you. The GSP often responds well to toys that squeak or make other types of noises because this mimics the sounds that wild prey make. This type of dog is similar to a retriever and may know how to play the game instinctively, even if you never played it before.
German Shorthaired Pointers enjoy any activities that are similar to the game. They like chasing after things and may enjoy a day or a few hours at the dark park. This lets them interact with other dogs and humans and play games with those animals. Pointers easily pick up new and unfamiliar scents though, which may cause a few problems. When your dog encounters something new, it may follow that scent and run away without waiting for you. That’s why it’s so important that you keep your dog on a leash. If the dog constantly pulls on the leash, you may want to use a harness when spending time outside. When it comes to rewarding your dog for following commands, nothing beats food. A simple treat lets your GSP know that it did well.
1GSP Dogs Need Training
While the GSP is a great dog, you shouldn’t expect it to be loyal and follow your commands right off the bat. You must train your dog to listen to you and do what you ask. A good training regime should include crate, leash and potty training. With potty training, you teach your dog where to use the bathroom. This reduces the overall damage to your home and teaches the dog to only use the bathroom outside. The GSP learns quickly and may discover that simply standing by the front door tells you that it needs to go out.
Crate training is equally important. You can keep your pup in the crate until it’s time to use the bathroom. If you create a safe and comfortable environment inside the crate, the dog won’t want to go to the bathroom there. Crate training also lets you get a good night’s sleep because you can keep your GSP inside the crate at night. When buying a crate, get one larger than you think you need. Your puppy can grow into it later.
You’ll also want to work on training your GSP to walk on a leash. Experts recommend keeping a collar on the dog at all times and letting it walk around the house with a leash and/or harness attached to the collar. This helps the puppy adjust to the new items. With regular training, you can avoid accidents in the house and keep your new dog from tugging on its leash during walks.
The German Shorthaired Pointer is one of the most adorable puppies around, but it grows into a cute adult dog too. These loyal companions are perfect for those who enjoy hunting because they can train their dogs to flush out a wild game and chase after animals on their trips. They also do well in rural areas where they have loads of free space. If you have a home with a large backyard or can handle taking the dog for frequent walks, you’ll love the GSP too.
This breed is a member of the pointer family and the hunting and gun groups. It adopts a pointer stance when it catches a scent trail. The dog will stand with all four feet planted on the ground and its tail pointing almost straight back. You’ll also notice that its nose points in the direction of the scent. As it follows that trail, the dog may sit closer to the ground with its nose directly on the dirt or grass.
Pointers are loving and accepting of most people and animals, which makes them a good choice for busy homes. Your new GSP will make itself right at home and become friends with your older cats and dogs as well as your family members. They are also excellent show dogs and perform well in AKC sanctioned events. When you learn the 10 things you should know before owning a German Shorthaired Pointer, you can rest assured that you know everything about the GSP breed.