German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

German shorthaired pointer outside in brush

Tara Gregg / EyeEm / Getty Images


The German shorthaired pointer (or GSP) is a medium-to-large sporting breed native to Germany with a slim build, floppy ears, and signature liver brown colors on its short coat. Athletic, smart, and friendly—sounds like a recipe for popularity, doesn’t it? For the German shorthaired pointer, this versatile combination has landed it in the AKC's top 10 most popular dog breeds. A GSP is both a top family dog and a hunter’s ultimate companion.

Sturdy yet agile, this pointer excels in the field but is also an alert, friendly dog breed for active individuals and families. Keep in mind that the GSP has plenty of energy to burn, but if you can keep up with this energizer canine, you’ll have an intelligent, lively companion for life. 

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 23 to 25 inches (males); 21 to 23 inches (females)

Weight: 55 to 70 pounds (males); 45 to 60 pounds (females)

Coat: Short and thin

Coat Color: Solid liver, liver and white, liver roan, or liver and ticked

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Temperament: Intelligent, companionable, active, bold, attentive

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Germany

Characteristics of the German Shorthaired Pointer

The German shorthaired pointer is a quick learner that thrives on having a job to do. Considering that these dogs were bred to spend hours with hunters tracking, pointing, and retrieving game, they have a tireless work ethic that needs to be channeled into desired behaviors. When they're at home, GSPs have very affectionate personalities. This breed is a popular choice for families with older children thanks to its loyal temperament and enthusiasm for playing. Younger kids, on the other hand, may become overwhelmed by the dog's energy level.

Whatever activities you’re into, plan to involve your GSP. It's best to adopt this breed if you spend plenty of time outside and have the ability to bring your dog along regularly. They love to be with their family, but they also require extensive exercise. When they receive both, they’re known to be happy, sociable dogs. Without enough exercise, the enthusiasm of the GSP quickly turns into destructive energy.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding High

History of the German Shorthaired Pointer

This dog breed’s name is a clear giveaway to its country of origin. The German shorthaired pointer did, in fact, originate in Germany in the 1800s. Sporting enthusiasts set out to develop a gundog that could hunt game and retrieve birds equally well. Also important in the development of this versatile canine was a friendly, trainable personality that would make the dog a capable partner but also an easy companion.

It’s believed that a variety of German breeds and European hunting dogs were bred to optimize the GSP for tracking, pointing, and retrieving purposes. The now non-existent German Bird Dog, the bloodhound, and perhaps English and Spanish pointing dogs were cross-bred to create what was simply known as the “shorthair” hunting dog. By 1870, a studbook was established for the breed. 

Outside of Bavaria, the breed became known as the German shorthaired pointer. Throughout Europe and in the United States, hunters quickly recognized how capable the GSP was on the hunt for small game or as a duck hunter’s dream dog. This breed loves to swim, being equipped with webbed feet and an agile, athletic body for water retrieving.

The first German shorthaired pointers were brought to the United States in the late 1920s. By the spring of 1930, the GSP had attained AKC recognition. Its popularity continues into modern times, making the AKC's top 10 list for the most popular dog breeds. These dogs are an obvious choice for sportsmen, but they’re also popular as active companions.

The German Shorthaired Club of America advocates for the development of a dog that excels in the field and in the show ring. A "dual champion," the GSP succeeds at the highest levels in both competitions.

German Shorthaired Pointers at The Coursing, 1856

Heritage Images / Getty Images

Handler Valerie Nunes Atkinson with German Shorthair Pointer named CJ who won the Westminster Kennel Club's Best In Show visits The Empire State Building

John Lamparski / Getty Images

German Shorthaired Pointer Care

Because of its short coat, the German shorthaired pointer doesn't require much grooming other than the basics. When it comes to exercise, however, this breed can be high-maintenance for families that don't regularly spend time being active outdoors. Thankfully, these easily trainable dogs quickly learn desired behaviors and make great companions for new activities.


Plan to give your Gerrman shorthaired pointer at least two good exercise sessions each day. An appropriate amount will take more than a quick walk around the block: The more time you can spend mentally and physically challenging these dogs, the happier they'll be.

If you’re a sportsman, your GSP will never give up before you do. Anyone seeking a dog to go jogging, hiking, or on other adventures will find a willing companion in this breed. They also excel in virtually all canine sports—including agility, flyball, dock diving, rally, and field trials. Choose an activity, and pointers will use their natural talents and athleticism to learn it.


The GSP's coat is coarse and relatively thick but short in length. Grooming is easy, typically only requiring a quick wipe with a grooming mitt and maybe an occasional bath (especially if your dog finds an odor to roll in). However, be prepared for steady shedding. The small hairs of the GSP are known to be shed on furniture, floors, and clothes. 


Since these dogs were bred to be people-oriented, they have a strong desire to please their owners. Cultivate and develop this tendency through early and ongoing obedience training. You’ll have an attentive, well-behaved dog, and your GSP will better understand what you expect.

The gun dog persona is so intertwined with the personality of the GSP that many puppies exhibit pointing behavior on their own. An intense gaze, lowered stance, and a “pointed” foreleg often comes naturally to the breed. If you're planning to adopt this breed for hunting, you're sure to be pleased with the ease of training for this work.

These dogs generally get along well with others, but their high prey drive can lure them into chasing cats or other small pets. While the GSP is generally obedient when it comes to recalls, this prey drive can cloud your dog's better judgment and lead to wild chases. Use caution if you exercise this breed off-leash.

German shorthaired pointer puppy in grass
 WilleeCole / iStock / Getty Images
Liver german shorthaired pointer in grass
 Vik898 / iStock / Getty Images
Liver and white German shorthaired pointer hunting in grass
Oleksandra Korobova / Moment / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Likely thanks to its genetically diverse background, the GSP is a relatively hearty breed. These dogs don't experience health problems often, though their active nature may make them susceptible to injury. However, there are still a few genetic conditions that may arise with German shorthaired pointers, including:

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: These malformations in your dog's joints can cause pain when they move around, and might require surgery in severe cases.
  • Epilepsy: This neurological condition causes seizures. Moderate cases can usually be treated with lifelong medication.
  • Cancer (including canine hemangiosarcoma): The abnormal growth of cells caused by cancer can be life-threatening if not treated early. Consult your veterinarian about performing preventative tests to catch this disease before it progresses.
  • Addison’s Disease: Affecting your dog's adrenal glands, this disease prevents them from producing important hormones to balance electrolytes in the body.
  • Progressive Renal Atrophy: This condition in your dog's retina eventually leads to blindness.

Some pointers are also affected by Lyme disease. While it's not an inherited condition, the outdoorsy lifestyle of the GSP increases its chances of contracting this disease from ticks. Use a reliable flea and tick regimen for prevention.

Diet and Nutrition

The German shorthaired pointer knows how to work up an appetite. This active dog breed won’t need much persuasion to eat a meal—but make sure it’s a quality, high-protein dog food that will meet your GSP’s nutritional needs. Talk with your veterinarian to create a portion plan suitable for your dog's age, weight, and activity level.

To maintain athleticism and for a long, healthy life, avoid overfeeding these dogs and give treats in moderation. Like other large breeds, be aware that pointers are sometimes affected by Bloat. Discourage your dog from gulping down his meal, and try to minimize running or high-intensity activity immediately after mealtimes. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a German Shorthaired Pointer

Hunting for a GSP of your own? Start your search with rescue organizations that might exist in your area or region. This lovable breed sometimes proves to be too active for some individuals or families, but it might be just right for you!

If you’re searching for a German shorthaired pointer breeder, do your research first. While this dog’s popularity means that it’s not hard to find puppies, it's important to find a responsible GSP breeder. Ask to meet one or both parents of the litter and ensure the breeder has clear medical test results for hips, elbows, and eyes. Puppies typically cost between $500 and $1,500, but prices may be higher depending on their pedigree and availability.

Start your search with these rescue groups and breed organizations:

German Shorthaired Pointer Overview

  • Friendly and affectionate

  • Eager to please

  • Excellent swimmers

  • Extreme energy

  • May have strong prey drive

  • Considerable shedding

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The key to a happy life with a GSP is to understand the commitment before you bring your four-legged friend home. Like all dogs, pointers need training, time, and proper care. However, they also require a lot of exercise. Set appropriate expectations for the fun and work that come with such a dynamic sporting dog.

If you're interested in the German shorthaired pointer, you may like these similar sporting breeds: 

There are plenty of dog breeds to suit all kinds of lifestyles and homes. With a little research, you can find your next best friend!

  • Is a German Shorthaired Pointer a Good Family Dog?

    German shorthaired pointers, also called GSPs, are great family dogs for those that live active lifestyles. This breed's high energy level means it isn't always suited for young children, but the GSP is a loving companion that is known for its affectionate temperament with adults and older kids.

  • Are German Shorthaired Pointers Protective?

    German shorthaired pointers are likely to alert their owners of uncommon situations or strangers outside the home. Since they are usually very friendly, GSPs are better alert dogs than guard dogs—but like many breeds, they can be effective protectors when they sense significant danger.

  • Are German Shorthaired Pointers Hard to Train?

    German shorthaired pointers are known for their easily trainable nature. GSPs were originally bred to be intelligent, eager-to-please hunting dogs that also make great companions.