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German Short-Haired Pointer: Complete Dog Breed Guide - PawSafe

German Short-Haired Pointer: Complete Dog Breed Guide

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

German Short Haired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), a breed celebrated not just for its skilled versatility in hunting but also for its distinctive appearance and amiable nature. Whether you’re an avid hunter or looking for a dynamic family pet, the GSP might just be the perfect addition to your life. Known as the premier sporting breed in the U.S. and the top bird dog in North America, these dogs are cherished for their ability to point, flush, and retrieve game across land and water.

In this guide, we will delve into everything you need to know about owning a German Shorthaired Pointer, from their personality traits and care requirements to health concerns and suitability as family companions. Terry Chandler of Rugerheim Kennels and president of the National German Shorthaired Pointer Club, praises these dogs for their intelligence and adaptability: “They are exceptional family pets and are great with children. They are great house dogs and can be house-trained very easily.” However, Terry also cautions potential owners about their need for exercise, emphasizing, “They’re athletes. So if you have a GSP you need to take them out regularly for exercise.”

Join us as we explore the intricacies of this beloved breed, ensuring you have all the information needed to decide if a German Shorthaired Pointer is the right dog for you. Whether you’re looking to bring a puppy into your home or understand more about this capable breed, this article will provide you with detailed and expert-backed insights. Let’s get started on this exciting journey together!

German Shorthaired Pointer Keypoints

  1. German Shorthaired Pointers are energetic hunting companions with a strong prey drive and need for daily exercise.
  2. These GSPs excel at hunting upland birds and waterfowl, but their intelligence makes them adaptable to various activities.
  3. Their short, dense coat requires minimal grooming but sheds seasonally.
  4. GSPs are known for their trainability and willingness to learn, making them rewarding companions for active owners.
  5. Bred for close work with hunters, GSPs can be prone to separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods.
  6. Their hunting instincts can lead to chasing squirrels or other animals, requiring consistent training and management.

The German Shorthaired Pointer Profile: Physical and Personality Traits

a German Shorthaired Pointer pointing in classic behavioral trait

So, let’s have a quick overview of the GSP. 

Physical Attributes

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is a robust and versatile hunting dog known for its athleticism and functional beauty. Males typically stand between 23 to 25 inches (58 to 64 cm) at the withers, while females are slightly smaller, measuring 21 to 23 inches (53 to 58 cm). Weights range from 55 to 70 pounds (25 to 32 kg) for males and 45 to 60 pounds (20 to 27 kg) for females. 

Their coat is short, thick, and feels rough to the touch , designed to offer protection in harsh field conditions.

Colors include solid liver or combinations of liver and white, such as liver and white ticked, liver patched and white ticked, or liver roan. 

Black and white variations are also seen, including black roan and black and white ticked. 

Unaccepted colors include any shades of red, orange, lemon, tan, or solid white.


Terry Chandler, an expert breeder and president of the National German Shorthaired Pointer Club, praises the breed’s temperament, highlighting their intelligence and friendly disposition: “These are exceptional family pets, great with children … they are protective of their family and kids..” The GSP is an active breed that thrives on interaction and is eager to please, making it both an excellent working dog and a loyal companion.

With proper socialization, the GSP gets along well with other dogs, however they have a very high-prey drive and may not do well with smaller animals they can chase.

Breed Standards

The breed’s standards emphasize a look of nobility, which is achieved through balanced and symmetrical conformation indicative of power, endurance, and agility. The ideal German Shorthaired Pointer is neither too small nor too large but gives the impression of medium size with a short back and good coverage of ground. The breed’s heritage is evident in its efficient, alert movement and a coat that conforms to its working nature. 

These characteristics make the German Shorthaired Pointer not only a competent sporting dog but also a cherished companion in homes around the world. Their adaptability and eager nature are complemented by a physique that is built for active work, both on land and in water, embodying the essence of a multipurpose gun dog.

Living with a German Shorthaired Pointer: Pros and Cons

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is renowned for its adaptability, thriving in various living environments as long as its needs for physical activity and mental stimulation are met. This breed is equally at home in a rural setting with plenty of space to roam as it is in more confined suburban settings, provided that its exercise requirements are diligently maintained. 

They are best suited to active families who can match their energy levels and enthusiasm for outdoor activities.

Exercise Requirements

A hallmark of the GSP’s breed is its need for substantial daily exercise to effectively manage its abundant energy levels. Terry Chandler notes, “They’re athletes. If you have a GSP, you need to take them out regularly for exercise. They are not made for short walks around the block; these dogs need to cover long distances at a decent pace.” 

Ideal activities include long runs, hikes, hunting and interactive play that not only satisfy their physical requirements but also engage their sharp minds.

Pros and Cons of Owning a German Shorthaired Pointer

Highly Adaptable to Active Lifestyles: Thrives with active owners, excellent for runners, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts.Not Suitable for Apartment Living: Requires space and extensive daily exercise; not ideal for confined living spaces.
Friendly and Social: Makes excellent family pets, known for being good with children and other animals.High Energy Levels: May become destructive if not exercised sufficiently; needs constant mental and physical stimulation.
Highly Trainable: Known for intelligence and eagerness to please, making them responsive to training.Strong Prey Drive: Natural hunting instincts can lead to chasing small animals, requiring careful management and training.
Good for Active Individuals: Ideal for people who enjoy active sports such as marathon running.Not Allergy-Friendly: Sheds moderately, which may not be suitable for people with allergies.
Versatile in Various Dog Sports: Excels in canine sports, including agility, tracking, and competitive obedience.Needs Regular Grooming: Requires consistent grooming to manage shedding and maintain coat health.
Protective of Family: Naturally protective, making them vigilant watchdogs without being overly aggressive.Requires Early Socialization: Needs extensive socialization to prevent timidity and to manage their protective nature properly.
Affectionate and Loyal: Forms strong bonds with family members and is typically very affectionate.Can Be Overwhelming for Novice Owners: Due to their energy and intelligence, they can be a handful for first-time dog owners.

Owning a German Shorthaired Pointer can be a deeply rewarding experience for an active owner who enjoys outdoor activities and is committed to integrating their dog into these pursuits. Their friendly nature and intelligence make them delightful companions, but potential owners must be prepared to meet their significant exercise and mental stimulation needs.

Health Conditions and Lifespan of the German Shorthaired Pointer

young German Shorthaired Pointer liver roan on white background

The average lifespan of a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is around 12.3 years, which is fairly typical for a breed of its size and activity level. Maintaining their health with proper care and regular veterinary check-ups can help ensure they live a full and vibrant life.

German Shorthaired Pointers are robust dogs but like any breed, they have predispositions to certain health conditions. Alex Gough’s book offers detailed insights into various canine diseases and is a valuable resource for understanding the specific health challenges faced by GSPs. These include:

Skin Conditions:

Exfoliative Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (ECLE) –  This condition typically begins between 6 months and 2.75 years of age and is characterized by skin issues that often do not respond well to treatment, leading to a poor prognosis.

Familial Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (CLE) — Presenting before 10 months of age, CLE is difficult to manage, and therapies often lead to euthanasia. It is inherited in a simple autosomal recessive pattern.

Genetic Disorders:

Junctional Epidermolysis Bullosa (JEB) –  An inherited blistering disorder affecting the skin and mucous membranes, identified specifically in GSPs.

Hereditary Lupoid Dermatosis – Another form of cutaneous lupus with a suggested autosomal recessive or polygenic recessive inheritance, affecting GSPs across several countries.

Hormone Conditions:

Hypothyroidism – GSPs may develop thyroid issues, with females and younger dogs more likely to have thyroid hormone autoantibodies, indicating a predisposition to hypothyroidism.

Liver Conditions:

Primary Hepatitis – Multiple factors, including infections, toxins, immune reactions, and breed-specific metabolic errors, can cause liver issues, with females being more predisposed.

Musculoskeletal Conditions:

Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CCL) Disease – This condition has a significant genetic component, with GSPs showing a higher risk compared to other breeds.

Hip Dysplasia – Common among many larger breeds, this is a notable concern for GSPs, particularly affecting younger and neutered male dogs. This is a condition that can lead to their backlegs giving out.

Neoplastic Conditions:

Cutaneous Haemangiosarcoma – This is a type of cancer affecting the skin, for which the breed shows a higher risk.

Neurological Conditions:

Idiopathic Epilepsy –  Known to have a hereditary basis in several breeds, including GSPs, where it presents a significant health concern. Read here for more on what triggers seizures in dogs.

Eye Conditions:

Cone Degeneration (Hemeralopia or Day Blindness) – This genetic condition leads to vision problems and is characterized by a specific mutation found in GSPs.

These conditions highlight the importance of genetic testing and responsible breeding practices to minimize the prevalence of inheritable diseases in German Shorthaired Pointers. 

Best Foods for Different Life Stages of the German Shorthaired Pointer

The dietary needs of a German Shorthaired Pointer vary throughout their life stages, requiring tailored nutrition to ensure optimal health.


GSP puppies need a high-quality puppy formula that supports rapid growth and development. Look for foods that are rich in proteins and fats from real meat sources to support their energy needs and developing muscles. Calcium and phosphorus should be balanced for healthy bone development.


As adults, German Shorthaired Pointers require a diet that can keep up with their high energy levels. Foods rich in lean proteins from animal sources help maintain muscle mass, and moderate fat levels support sustained energy without contributing to obesity.


Senior GSPs often need lower-calorie diets to help maintain their weight as their activity levels decrease. Diets rich in fiber and with adjusted protein and fat levels are important, along with supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

Special Dietary Considerations

For a breed as active as the German Shorthaired Pointer, maintaining lean muscle mass and joint health is crucial. Diets should include:

  • Omega fatty acids for skin and coat health.
  • Antioxidants to support immune health.
  • Joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin, especially for older dogs.

Recommended Food Brands

When selecting a food brand, choose those known for high-quality ingredients and tailored formulas that cater to the needs of active breeds like the German Shorthaired Pointer.

  1. Blue Buffalo – Offers life stage-specific formulas with real meat and a precise blend of carbohydrates and proteins to meet the energy needs of GSPs.
  2. Royal Canin – Provides breed-specific diets that are formulated to support the dietary needs of German Shorthaired Pointers, including size-specific options for larger breeds.
  3. Orijen – Known for high-protein, grain-free recipes that mimic a natural diet, suitable for maintaining lean muscle mass in active breeds.
  4. Hill’s Science Diet – Offers scientifically formulated options that focus on joint health and weight management for senior dogs.
  5. Purina Pro Plan – Provides a range of options that include performance formulas designed for athletic dogs, with added amino acids for muscle nourishment.

Selecting the right diet for a German Shorthaired Pointer at different stages of their life can greatly influence their overall health and longevity. 

Daily Care and Management of the German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) has a short, dense coat that is relatively low maintenance compared to other breeds. However, regular grooming is essential to keep them looking their best and to maintain skin health.


Weekly brushing is sufficient to remove loose hair and distribute natural skin oils which help to keep the coat healthy and shiny. During shedding seasons, more frequent brushing may be necessary to manage the increased hair loss.


Bathe your GSP as needed — usually every few months or when they get particularly dirty from outdoor activities. Use a dog-specific shampoo to protect their skin’s natural oils.

Nail Trimming

Regular nail trimming is crucial as overly long nails can cause discomfort or lead to problems with walking and running. Aim to trim their nails every 3-4 weeks.

Ear Care

GSPs have floppy ears that can be prone to infections, so it’s important to check and clean their ears regularly, especially after swimming or bathing.

Routine Care

Maintaining the overall health of a German Shorthaired Pointer involves more than just proper grooming; it includes several routine care practices that can help prevent common health issues.

Dental Care 

Dental hygiene is vital for preventing bad breath, gum disease, and other oral health issues. Brush your dog’s teeth several times a week with a toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs.


GSPs are highly energetic and require ample exercise to maintain their health and happiness. They benefit from at least one to two hours of physical activity per day, including walks, runs, and playtime. Incorporate activities that fulfill their hunting instincts, like fetching games or agility training.


Feed your GSP a balanced diet suited to their age, weight, and activity level. Ensure fresh water is always available to keep them hydrated, especially after exercise.

Health Check-Ups

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor their health and catch any potential issues early. Discuss a vaccination schedule with your vet and keep up with routine preventative treatments for parasites.

By adhering to these daily care and management practices, you can help ensure your German Shorthaired Pointer stays healthy, happy, and active throughout their life.

Training and Behavior of the German Shorthaired Pointer

Running white and liver GSP dog exercising in training playing fetch for exercise

The German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) is renowned for its intelligence and eagerness to learn, making it a highly trainable breed. Terry Chandler, a respected breeder and president of the National German Shorthaired Pointer Club, emphasizes the importance of utilizing these traits effectively through structured training. 

“Start socializing the puppy immediately when you get them,” advises Chandler. He suggests incorporating games that encourage retrieval, such as using socks or other safe items, to harness their natural instincts in a positive way.

Addressing Behavioral Challenges

GSPs possess a strong prey drive that requires careful management. Introducing structured play and training exercises that simulate hunting scenarios can help channel this drive constructively. Activities like fetch, agility courses, or scent work are excellent for keeping their minds engaged and bodies active. 

Chandler highlights the need for significant exercise, “These dogs are athletes. They need to go out for at least a couple of hours and let them run. They’re not made for short walks around the block.”

Moreover, due to their intelligence, GSPs can sometimes show a stubborn streak in training sessions. Consistency and patience are key. 

Early obedience training should include essential commands such as “heel,” “here,” and “whoa,” which Chandler points out are crucial for managing their energy and ensuring safety during outdoor activities. “The most important word is ‘whoa’ to teach them to freeze and point no matter what they do,” he notes.

Importance of Socialization

Proper socialization from a young age is critical for the GSP. Exposure to various environments, such as hardware stores and other public spaces, can help desensitize the dog to different stimuli, reducing anxiety and fear-based behaviors. Chandler stresses the importance of this early socialization to develop a well-rounded and sociable dog.

GSPs are also known for their “soft mouth,” an essential trait for retrieving game without damaging it. This can be encouraged from a young age through gentle play and training that reinforces gentle handling of objects. Managing their high energy and prey drive with appropriate outlets will ensure that the GSP grows into a disciplined and joyful companion.

By investing time in comprehensive training and socialization, owners of German Shorthaired Pointers can enjoy the full potential of this intelligent and active breed.

Purchasing and Adoption of German Shorthaired Pointers

German Shorthaired puppy for sale

When looking to bring a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) into your home, selecting a reputable breeder is crucial. Ethical breeders are committed to the health and well-being of their dogs, adhering to breeding standards that promote the physical and emotional health of the puppies. 

Prospective owners should look for breeders who conduct genetic testing, provide health clearances, and allow visits to see the puppies and their living conditions. A good starting point is the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America (GSPCA), which offers resources for finding responsible breeders.

Adoption Options

Adoption is a valuable option for those considering a GSP. Rescue organizations often have dogs that need new homes, ranging from puppies to adults. Adopting a GSP can be rewarding, giving a dog a second chance at a loving home while often being more cost-effective than purchasing a puppy from a breeder. Organizations such as Southeast German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue (SEGSP Rescue) specialize in rehoming these dogs and provide support for new owners.

Cost Overview:

The cost of a GSP puppy prices range from $500 to $1,500 for puppies from reputable breeders. However, high-end lineage puppies can cost even more due to their potential for hunting and competition capabilities. 

It’s important to consider not only the initial cost but also ongoing expenses such as food, veterinary care, training, and supplies, which can add up to several hundred dollars annually. Investing in high-quality food and routine healthcare can mitigate some common health issues associated with the breed, potentially reducing long-term costs.

Adopting from a rescue organization can reduce the initial financial outlay, though potential owners should still prepare for regular health and maintenance costs. Adopting a GSP provides an invaluable opportunity to offer a loving home to a dog in need while enjoying the companionship of this active and intelligent breed.

German Shorthaired Pointer vs. German Wirehaired Pointer: What’s The Difference?


Owning a German Shorthaired Pointer is a fulfilling experience that brings joy and energy into any household. These dogs are known for their intelligence, versatility, and friendly nature, making them exceptional companions for active families and individuals alike. Their ability to adapt to various living environments and their eagerness to participate in a wide range of activities make them ideal for those who lead an active lifestyle.

Before deciding to bring a GSP into your home, it’s essential to consider both the rewards and the responsibilities associated with this breed. From their substantial exercise needs to their regular grooming and health care requirements, prospective owners must be prepared to commit time and resources to ensure their GSP thrives.

Whether you choose to purchase from a reputable breeder or adopt from a rescue, the German Shorthaired Pointer offers unparalleled companionship. As you embark on this journey with a GSP, the connection you build will be one of mutual respect and profound affection, epitomizing the deep bond between humans and their canine friends.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.