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German Shorthaired Pointer – A Bird Hunting Dogs Series

German Shorthaired Pointer – A Bird Hunting Dogs Series

A German Shorthaired Pointer stands on a tailgate just before hunting

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.

Health risks

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.

View Comments (16)
  • Great breed profile Nancy. Reminds me of the book superb book Pointing Dogs Volume One: The Continentals by Craig Koshyk. Our family is particularly partial to Drents (Drentsche Patrijshond) which is a great pointers of the continental versatile type for grouse or partridge. Lots more information on Drents is available at and I might mention they got recognized as an up and coming breed by Outdoor Life ( Can’t wait to read future breed profiles. Respectfully.

    • Jess — I’d guess that an increase in cancer wouldn’t be breed specific; it may be occurring in many breeds. (You and I know more GSPs than other breeds and hear more about them.) I also wonder if there really are more incidents of cancer appearing in dogs these days or if it’s a matter of veterinary medicine having advanced in its ability to diagnosis cancers.

      • Interesting conversation with Mike’s aunt tonight. Early 70’s her vet told her GSPs prone to tumors that turn cancerous. She had 3GSP they all passed away from cancer.

        I am second guessing all our supplements and top of the line food. $$$ spent and could not reach 10 years old with our son.

      • Hi, I just arrived at this discussion after following an interest of mine in upland hunting. I just had to reply. My colleagues at the University of Washington are actually working to address precisely some of these questions about cancer in dogs, particularly its breed specificity. Some of the confounding factors you mention such as changes in our ability to detect cancer are certainly important and must be considered when thinking about rates of cancer and other disease in dogs. We are working on, and hope to publish soon, papers that assess the relative risk of all kinds of diseases in a breed-specific way. I will talk to my colleagues and see if we can get a discussion going for Project Upland. Perhaps there would be interest in an article for the magazine, or some other content to help bridge the gap between scientific veterinary research and bird dog enthusiasts.

  • I had a rescue GPS for 13 years. She was my first and only dog I ever had. I would so much love to get another. My poor girl got cancer and that’s why she passed. But one thing I can say is she never wanted anything to do with Water? Thinking maybe she had a bad experiance in the water before she was found abandoned in the woods.
    The only thing that’s keeps me from getting another rescue is the adoption fees that are asked for now days. When I got her I did not have to spent a dime for her, and she came with food and toys. But today you could actually get a registered GPS from a breeder for less money than adopting.

    • Our GPS does not like water either, I’m happy to hear it isn’t just ours, we got like when she was 6 months old she is definitely a small game and bird Hunter, she is now 9 years old and pretty healthy for the most part.

  • This breed is the perfect breed for me and my wife. Many owners search forever for the perfect breed for them and I feel very lucky that I came across this breed. My older boy Chance (12) has helped me run 20mile run to prep for a marathon, been a fantastic pheasant hunting buddy, and even better companion in the home for my wife and I. Now we have two other, Hashi 3 and Gus 10months. Easy to train, affectionate and unbelievably loyal

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