A look at the versatile hunting dog the German Shorthaired Pointer
This is the first in a series of Project Upland hunting dog breed profiles. While the appearance and characteristics of bird dogs breeds vary greatly, individual dogs of one breed may have the skill and temperament equal to that of a different breed of dog. It’s impossible to generalize about a breed without sparking objections somewhere along the way. With a nod to the pitfalls of generalizing, we’ve chosen to focus on the hunting characteristics that set one breed apart from another.
Original purpose of the German Shorthair
The German shorthaired pointer (originally Deutsch Kurzhaar) was developed in the mid 1800s. During that time, the concept of the “versatile” hunting dog became a priority in western Europe as a practical alternative to the more aristocratic preference. Wealthier hunters would own several breeds, one for each hunting task. But the versatile dogs had to do it all—find and point upland game, retrieve waterfowl, track fur and feathers, and work consistently on varied terrain and weather conditions.
Early shorthair lines are believed to have been created primarily from Spanish pointers. English pointers and setters were mixed in among different German hounds. Many versatile breed developers are focused on traits serving the dog’s work after the shot. German shorthair breeders, on the other hand, emphasized the pre-shot field work: search and point. As a result, shorthairs are renowned for the elegant athleticism of their points as well as their remarkable stamina and drive.
Hunting style and temperament of the German Shorthaired Pointer
Today’s German shorthaired pointer can be divided into three general types: field trial lines, show ring lines, and traditional hunting shorthairs. Those bred specifically for the foot hunter tend toward a medium range and pace when they work. And shorthairs love to work. They air and ground scent equally well and adapt readily to the cover and tempo of all types of upland bird hunting. Shorthairs have stable temperaments with a solid balance of water and field drive. They take correction in training with resilience and make wonderful, sociable family companions.
Traits important to hunters
Medium. Males generally run 55-70 lbs. Females weigh in at 45 – 60 lbs.
Short, tight, low maintenance. Colors range from all liver or black to brightly ticked or roan to all white with a brown or black head.
Most German shorthairs’ point develops early like their affinity for water. They are high energy dogs from puppyhood through adulthood, needing regular exercise to give that exuberance an outlet.
There are no major red flags in German shorthair health concerns other than those generally associated with large athletic breeds, such as the risk of gastric torsion or hip dysplasia.
Finding a good breeder
The U.S. has many fine German shorthaired pointers and Deutsch Kurzhaar breeders. The latter are shorthairs bred under the registry of the Deutsch Kurzhaar Verband, e. V. parent organization in Germany. Because of this, there is a wide selection to choose from. With a popular breed that possesses such a wide variety in appearance and breeding program objectives, prospective buyers need to know what type of German shorthaired pointer they want. Be sure the dogs you’re considering were bred to fit the bill. Another pitfall of popularity is that there are many inexperienced breeders who may not understand what a particular genetic match might produce in terms of appearance, temperament, and hunting ability.
Nancy Anisfield is an outdoor writer and hunting dog photographer, creative director for the Ugly Dog Hunting Company, member of the Pheasants Forever / Quail Forever Board of Directors, and co-owner of the Track2Wing Project which grants Action trackchairs to individuals with mobility challenges who want to train and hunt with bird dogs. She and her husband live in Hinesburg, Vermont, where their lives are governed by her two German shorthaired pointers and his two German wirehaired pointers.