German Shorthaired Pointer

Ana Oliveira
Dr Ana Oliveira (DVM, University of Lisbon)
 
Photo of adult German Shorthaired Pointer

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a multipurpose working dog breed that was created for hunting and developed to work both on land and water. Sleek but powerful, German Shorthaired Pointers are quick to move, athletic, and highly energetic, needing a lot of exercise and running opportunities.

Besides being the perfect sports dog companion, German Shorthaired Pointers also make great family pets, as they are people-oriented and have a kind and protective nature. They are loyal and intuitive, independent but highly trainable. Their hunting skills and friendly personality, along with their intelligence and obedience make them a desirable dog breed for hunters and non-hunters altogether.

About & History

German Shorthaired Pointers have probably started being developed in the 17th century, although the breed as we know today has emerged much later, by mid-late 19th century, in Germany. The idea was to create an all-purpose dog breed that could be used for hunting all types of prey, in all types of conditions and terrains. This goal was ultimately achieved, as German Shorthaired Pointers feature all these characteristics, and still they are amicable dogs to keep as companions. Their name comes from their classic point stance – a natural pointing posture they assume with their bodies when they find game and that is characterized by lowering their heads, keeping a steady gaze, and lifting one of their paws, forming a line with the head and body, as if they take the shape of an arrow to indicate hunters where the prey is.

Although the exact origin of the breed is not known, it probably originally descended from an Old Spanish Pointer brought to Germany in the 17th century. Other dog breeds that are believed to be involved in making the German Shorthaired Pointer are the English Pointer, the Arkwright Pointer, German hound and tracking dogs, the Bloodhound, the Foxhound, the Weimaraner and the Vizsla. Breeders were looking for a good personality, a stylish and streamlined looks, obedience, coupled with a good scenting ability and versatility. The English Pointer was added to the mix for elegance, while the other dog breeds helped with all the other desired features. Prince Albrecht from the Royal House of Hannover is credited with encouraging breeders to breed for function rather than breeding for form.

The first German Shorthaired Pointer was taken to the US in 1925 by Dr. Charles Thornton of Montana and the breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1930. However, it was not until the 1950s that the breed started developing, peaking in 1968. By the 1940s in Germany, with the advent of World War II, most of the breeding ceased and the best dogs were sent to Yugoslavia to protect them from the war. Later, during the Cold War, West German breeders did not have access to dogs because most of them were taken to Eastern Europe, so they had to redevelop the breed from a limited gene pool. Nowadays, German Shorthaired Pointers are used to point and retrieve prey, being able to hunt birds, waterfowl, as well as rabbits, raccoons and even deer.

Appearance

German Shorthaired Pointer Large Photo

German Shorthaired Pointers are medium-large, athletic dogs. Their coat is short, flat, with a dense, water-resistant undercoat. Coat colour may be:

  • Liver
  • Black
  • White
  • Liver roan/ticked
  • Black roan/ticked
  • Liver and white
  • Black and white

The head is usually solid colour and the body is ticked with liver and white. Some dogs may have larger patches of solid colour, as well. The colour of the muzzle matches the colour of the coat and it is long and wide. They have floppy ears that are set high on the head and their tail is traditionally docked in countries where it is still allowed. Their feet are webbed, which makes them good swimmers.

Males weigh between 25 and 32 kg (55-70 lb) and females between 20 and 27 kg (45-60 lb). Their height typically varies from 53 cm tall (21 inches) in females to 64 cm (25 inches) in males.

Character & Temperament

German Shorthaired Pointers are enthusiastic and tireless dogs that are always ready for an outdoors adventure. Because they were selected for hunting, they will be at their best when running freely on a field. They enjoy exercise and any type of physical activity will make them happy, as they are curious by nature and need lots of stimuli. They are the perfect companion for families who do a lot of outdoor activities, such as hiking, bicycling, or running. They will certainly enjoy running alongside their owners’ bike, as well as skijoring, carting, or any sport that involves pulling.

Despite being such an active dog breed, German Shorthaired Pointers also love to curl up on the sofa next to their owners after a long, extenuating day. They are very affectionate and loving dogs and they do well with children, but because they can be very lively and boisterous, parents should always keep an eye on them, as they could knock children down while playing. They are cooperative, very intelligent and intuitive, with a tendency to please, especially if rewarded with praise or food.

They can be best described as loving both an active life and human interaction. Lack of either will make them anxious, hyperactive, and destructive. They are clever and they will find their way to entertain themselves in less appropriate ways, as they will also manage to jump fences and escape enclosed spaces. They are not suited for a life in a kennel or for spending too much time on their own. Because they connect with people and form strong attachment bonds, they can suffer from separation anxiety. Training is important to manage this tendency and leadership should be enforced and is a must, as they can be quite independent in their manner.

They usually get along well with other dogs, although some German Shorthaired Pointers may be dominant around other dogs, especially females towards other females. Their hunting instinct may lead to chasing small pets and even bringing them as gifts to their owners. Training is therefore essential to teach German Shorthaired Pointers the difference between legitimate preys and off limits animals, such as cats or other furry pets. Due to their avid need for running, off leash exercise is the best, which is why training is also so important. They should be correctly trained to behave while off leash, so that a responsible attitude towards animals and other people’s pets is kept at all times.

German Shorthaired Pointers may be somewhat reserved with strangers, which, coupled with their tendency to bark, make them good watchdogs. Still, socialization is important to make them friendly and at ease around other people. Furthermore, they are loyal and reliable, while eccentric and bold at the same time. The German Shorthaired Pointer is an interesting dog breed with many desirable features and easily liked by all kinds of dog lovers.

Trainability

Photo of German Shorthaired Pointer puppy

German Shorthaired Pointers are easily trained. Nevertheless, they can be independent thinkers, thus a consistent, firm leadership is essential. Harsh punishments are completely discouraged, as that will probably make it harder to achieve the training goals. Kindness and positive reinforcement with food treats and praise are preferred. An active and stimulant training session is of utmost importance as they need constant stimulation.

They can get easily bored, so it may be a challenge to keep them focused during an entire training session. Training is essentially important to make them understand the difference between prey and non-prey animals, as well as keeping a good behaviour when walking around off leash. Socialization is another important aspect of training to prevent shyness towards strangers and dominant behaviours towards other dogs.

Health

German Shorthaired Pointers may live up to 16 years, making them a long-lived dog breed, although most dogs will live until they are 12 years old. They are generally healthy, but may be prone to the following health issues:

  • Hip dysplasia – Hip dysplasia is one of the most common orthopaedic conditions in dogs and German Shorthaired Pointers seem to have a genetic predisposition for developing the disease, although it is the interaction between genes and environmental factors that determines the development of hip dysplasia. The condition is characterized by a malformation of the hip joint that leads to an incorrect fitting of the thighbone onto the hip socket and subsequent inflammation and degeneration of the joint cartilage. It causes pain and lameness and treatment is usually aimed at relieving the symptoms, although surgical treatment may also be performed.
  • Pannus – Pannus is an inherited disease of the eye that is immune-mediated and affects the cornea. It may also be called chronic superficial keratitis and, as the name suggests, it is a disease for life that should be managed in order to prevent relapses throughout life. It usually begins as a pink, protuberant mass on the lateral or outer side of the cornea that progresses into a flatten, dark, and expanded lesion that may cover the entire eye and thus cause visual impairment and even total blindness. Disease management is achieved by using topical corticosteroids or other immune modulating drugs, as well as antibiotics whenever secondary infections are present.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) – PRA is an inherited disease of the retina part of the eye, in which a specific type of cells, the rod cells, are programmed to die. PRA usually occurs in both eyes at the same time and it does not cause pain. It progresses over time and affects sight. Though it cannot be cured, antioxidant supplementation is used to save some day vision in dogs.
  • Bloat/gastric dilatation volvulus – Bloat is believed to occur due to the ingestion of air during meals in deep-chested dogs with a predisposition for the condition. It usually occurs when the dog eats, especially when it avidly ingests food, and does exercise right after. The stomach expands with air and may rotate around itself, blocking the blood flow (gastric volvulus). Dogs experiencing this condition will appear restless, anxious, and will attempt to vomit. Owners should be aware of such condition, as it is life-threatening and treatment, which is surgery, should be sought immediately.
  • Lymphedema – Lymphedema is the retention of fluid and swelling of tissue due to collection of lymph, a watery liquid that contains the white blood cells and circulates in the lymphatic system. The result is the accumulation of liquid in the subcutaneous fat, becoming especially evident in the dog’s limbs. There is no cure but the disease may be managed and symptoms alleviated to prevent lameness due to swollen limbs.

It is also important to watch out for the amount of food fed to German Shorthaired Pointers, as it should match the amount of exercise they do. When feeding them too much for their level of exercise, they may have a tendency for obesity.

Exercise and Activity Levels

This dog breed is a very energetic and active one, needing lots of exercise. One to two hours of daily exercise is recommended to keep up with their needs. They will mostly love running, but they will enjoy different types of activities that involve exercise, playing, or exploring the surroundings, especially in the company of humans. They know how to swim and they are very adaptable to different climates and landscapes, making it easy to provide them with an energy outlet.

Grooming

German Shorthaired Pointers are very clean dogs and they have an easy-care coat. Their short coat should require occasional brushing only, but because they tend to be heavy shedders, it is a good idea to brush them more regularly. Regular checking and cleaning of their ears is imperative, as they have long, floppy ears that may accumulate dirt and prevent airflow, making it an ideal environment for bacterial growth and consequent ear infections. Baths are recommended as needed, as they are outdoor explorers and may get muddy often.

Famous German Shorthaired Pointers

German Shorthaired Pointers were popularized in some fiction and non-fiction works, as well as in real life:

  • Bashan and I, a book by Thomas Mann that describes the author’s love for the breed.
  • The mystery series written by Robert B. Parker about a Boston detective named Spenser that features three German Shorthaired Pointers that share the same name, Pearl.
  • Days of Heaven, the 1978 film written and directed by Terrence Malick, that features a hunting scene with German Shorthaired Pointers.
  • Haus is a German Shorthaired Pointer donated to the American Air Force to sniff out explosives.

Cross-Breeds

German Shorthair Pointers may be crossbred with different dog breeds. Some examples of these mixes are:

  • German Shorthair Toller – Cross between a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
  • German Shorthaired Lab – Cross between a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Labrador Retriever
  • German Shorthaired Pointerpoodle – Cross between a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Poodle
  • German Shorthaired Sprointer – Cross between a German Shorthaired Pointer and an English Springer Spaniel
  • German Shorthaired Weimaraner – Cross between a German Shorthaired Pointer and a Weimaraner

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