Country of origin
The German shorthaired pointer (GSP) is a breed of dog developed in the 19th century in Germany for hunting.
The breed is streamlined yet powerful with strong legs that make it able to move rapidly and turn quickly. It has moderately long floppy ears set high on the head. Its muzzle is long, broad, and strong, allowing it to retrieve even heavy game. The dog's profile should be straight or strongly Roman nosed; any dished appearance to the profile is incorrect. The eyes are generally brown, with darker eyes being desirable; yellow or "bird of prey" eyes are a fault. The tail is commonly docked, although this is now prohibited in some countries. The correct location for docking for GSP is after the caudal vertebrae start to curl, leaving enough tail to let the dog communicate through tail wagging and movement. The docked tail should not be too long or too short but should balance the appearance of the head and body. The GSP tail is carried at a jaunty angle, not curled under. When the GSP is in classic point stance, the tail should be held straight out from the body forming a line with the pointing head and body. Like all German pointers, GSP have webbed feet.
Coat and color
The German Shorthaired Pointer's coat is short and flat with a dense undercoat protected by stiff guard hairs making the coat water resistant and allowing the dog to stay warm in cold weather. The color can be a dark brown, correctly referred to in English as "liver" (incorrectly as "chocolate" or "chestnut"), black (although any area of black is cause for disqualification in American Kennel Club sanctioned shows), or either liver and white or black and white. Commonly the head is a solid or nearly solid color and the body is speckled or "ticked" with liver and white, sometimes with large patches of solid color called "saddles". Roan coats are also common, with or without patching. Solid liver and solid black coats also occur, often with a small blaze of ticking or white on the chest. While the German standard permits a slight sandy coloring ("Gelber Brand") at the extremities, this coloring is rare, and a dog displaying any yellow coloring is disqualified in AKC and CKC shows. The colouring of the GSP provides camouflage in the winter seasons. When standing next to dead trees and in broken snow, the white and dark brown coat makes the dog difficult to see.
Since the German shorthaired pointer was developed to be a dog suited to family life as well as a versatile hunter, the correct temperament is that of an intelligent, bold, and characteristically affectionate dog that is cooperative and easily trained. They rank 17th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being excellent working dogs. Shyness, fearfulness, over submissiveness, aloofness, lack of biddability, or aggression (especially toward humans) are all traits that can occur, but are more less likely to exhibit than not. The GSP is usually good with children, although care should be taken because the breed can be boisterous especially when young. These dogs love interaction with humans and are suitable pets for active families who will give them an outlet for their considerable energy; in this regard some competitively trained GSPs are walking dynamos; they must be avidly run multiple times a week. Most German shorthaired pointers make excellent watchdogs. The breed generally gets along well with other dogs, though females appear to be much more dominant during interbreed interaction. 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.
The German shorthaired pointer needs plenty of vigorous activity. This need for exercise (preferably off lead) coupled with the breed's natural instinct to hunt, means that training is an absolute necessity. The GSP distinctly independent character and superior intelligence mean that any unused energy will likely result in the dog amusing itself, most probably in an undesirable manner.
Failure by the owner to give this active and intelligent dog sufficient exercise and/or proper training can produce a German shorthaired pointer that appears hyperactive or that has destructive tendencies. Thus the breed is not a suitable pet for an inactive home or for inexperienced dog owners. Although these dogs form very strong attachments with their owners, a bored GSP that receives insufficient exercise may feel compelled to exercise himself. These dogs are athletic and can escape from four foot and sometimes six foot enclosures with little difficulty. Regular hunting, running, carting, bikejoring, skijoring, mushing, dog scootering or other vigorous activity can alleviate this desire to escape. The natural instinct to hunt may result in the dog hunting alone and sometimes bringing home occasional dead trophies, such as cats, rats, pigeons and other urban animals. In addition to exercise, especially formal hunting, the GSP needs to be taught to distinguish legitimate prey and off limits animals.
Like the other German pointers (the German wirehaired pointer and the less well known German longhaired pointer), the GSP can perform virtually all gundog roles. It is pointer and retriever, an upland bird dog and water dog. The GSP can be used for hunting larger and more dangerous game, and in addition has a scent hound's talented nose. It is an excellent swimmer but also works well in rough terrain. 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.
During hunting sessions, a completely instinctive scent-hiding activity through rubbing against carrion can be observed.
Most German shorthaired pointers are tough, healthy dogs, but according to Mayor B. Loney, DVM (NAVHDA Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine, April, 2003) the breed can be subject to a number of hereditary disorders just as any other purebred due to their breeding. 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. As with other breeds, unspayed female GSPs are prone to breast cancer.
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.
German Short-hair Pointers along with other sporting dogs requires a lot of exercise and space to run. GSPs have a lot of energy and if not given the right amount of attention, can become bored and destructive. GSPs do not do well left alone all day or if relegated to a kennel without plenty of human interaction.
GSPs are a very clean breed. The short GSP coat needs very little grooming, just occasional brushing. There is typically only one coat shed in the year. GSPs should be bathed only when needed.
Like all dogs with flop ears, GSP can be prone to ear infections and their ears require regular checking and cleaning.
The GSP has a longer life expectancy than many breeds of this size, commonly living 12 to 14 years, with individual dogs living to 16 to 18 years not uncommon.
As the GSP is a medium/large, active breed, the dogs can require considerable food. Older or less active GSPs can also become obese if fed more than suitable for the individual's activity levels. A healthy weight should permit the last two ribs to be felt under the coat and the dog should have a distinct waist or "tuck-up".
Due to the short GSP coat, body heat management is not generally a problem. However, the GSP's high levels of activity require the breed to drink considerable amounts of water to prevent dehydration. Early symptoms of dehydration show itself as thick saliva and urine with an excessively strong and distinct smell.
The precise origin of the German Shorthaired Pointer is unclear. According to the American Kennel Club, it is likely that the GSP is descended from a breed known as the German Bird Dog, which itself is related to the old Spanish pointer introduced to Germany in the 17th century. It is also likely that various German hound and tracking dogs, as well as the English Pointer, also contributed to the development of the breed. However, as the first studbook was not created until 1870, it is impossible to identify all of the dogs that went into creating this breed.
In art and literature
Robert B. Parker's most popular mystery series features a Boston detective known only as Spenser who has had a series of three solid-liver German shorthairs, all named Pearl: one who stood with him during a bear charge in his rural youth; one given to his girlfriend by her ex-husband; and the third Pearl, to keep company with Spenser and his girlfriend in their late middle age. Author Parker appears on many of the Spenser dustjackets with a solid-liver GSP male identical to the three incarnations of Pearl in the series.
Rick Bass's ruminations on living and hunting with a German shorthaired pointer in Montana can be found in the book Colter: The True Story of the Best Dog I Ever Had.
Sportswriter Mel Wallis' memoir Run, Rainey, Run, explores the extraordinary relationship he had with an extremely intelligent and versatile hunting German shorthaired pointer.
The 1978 film "Days of Heaven," written and directed by Terrence Malick, features a brief scene of dogs hunting the prairie. The GSP shown is Jocko von Stolzhafen, twice GSP National Champion (Field) and perhaps the best GSP of his era. A year or so later Jocko vanished while running at a training camp, presumably stolen.
The logo of the American Kennel Club is a Pointer, not a German shorthaired pointer, though frequently mistaken for the latter.