So You Think You Want a German Shorthaired Pointer

Tuesday night, a gorgeous and flawless GSP named GCH VJK-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey “CJ” won Westminster, the nation’s most watched and notorious dog show. Past history has often shown a spike in popularity of the winning breed following Westminster, as has often happened with certain movies, such as 101 Dalmatians. Not every movie or every Westminster win, but it’s a real possibility. What typically comes with this spike is a correlating increase in rescues because people have not done their research and can’t handle the dog that is not what they envisioned off of the small sliver they’ve seen in the winning dog or a fictional dog character in a movie. As an experienced GSP owner, the win by CJ is cause for some concern because these wonderful, incredibly athletic and active dogs are certainly not for everyone. Here’s my realistic perspective on a breed that has my heart forever.

The Pros   

The pros are many! First, these dogs are BEAUTIFUL. They are my ideal. I don’t want to hunt behind or look at something that I don’t love every day, and I never tire of looking at these guys. I love a sleek, short coated, athletic, chiseled dog, and GSP’s are that to a tee. Their movement is poetry to watch, and seeing a dog go from a full ground eating gallop slammed into an intense, statuesque point can induce goosebumps. Their lovely chiseled heads are art, and touching their velvety ears relaxes both human and dogs alike. And the variety of colors—from solid to roan to light ticking and in liver or black—we all have our own preferences but there is a whole rainbow to choose from.

These dogs are also very smart. They might act like dopey derps and dorks but they really are intelligent. They tend to be silly and goofy which is where the derp and dork side comes through but I find it endearing and often entertaining. Personality abounds in this breed. I don’t find that they have the conniving intelligence that I have experienced with Weims, which in my opinion makes them more trainable. They are incredibly biddable dogs and when worked with properly, can shine in just about any sport.  


Happiest when working, and with their biddable personalities, versatility of these dogs is another pro. They are not only the quintessential versatile hunting dog, the breed that dominates in NAVHDA, but versatile across the board. They excel in just about everything they try—from hunting venues to agility to dock jumping. Mine have personally done well in everything I have asked of them beyond hunting: conformation, frisbee, weight pull, skijoring, and dock jumping. Which ties into another pro that helps them be so successful at everything—athleticism. A finely bred GSP is as well oiled a machine as a Thoroughbred horse. HEART is another contributing factor to their success, and another big pro. I have found in all of my GSP’s that they not only have such heart in trying everything 100%, but it also makes them very adept at reading their humans and offering emotional support when you need it.

The Cons 

Most of the pros can also be considered cons. Yes, they are beautiful dogs which is what might attract potential owners who are only drawn in by looks and disregard all other factors. Many of us experienced GSP owners are concerned that people will be sucked in by first the gorgeous looks of the adults and then the puppies—beyond irresistible.  


Their intelligence and drive could most definitely be a con for an unprepared pet owner or inexperienced dog owner. A GSP not engaged or stimulated enough is a GSP that will become frustrated, destructive, and unhappy. They will find their own activities to engage in, and an owner in over their head might not be able to handle a dog that gets to that point. These are working dogs that need a job to do on a regular basis. 
The biggest con to potential new owners is this breed’s energy level. It’s pretty extreme, and one of the highest amongst all dog breeds. Most of these dogs, particularly those with any working dogs in their pedigrees, are not going to be satisfied with a casual stroll around the block. They need to RUN. And run. And run. And run! For example, I took my 20 month old GSP for a 4 mile skijor run the other day, where he was not just running but in a harness actually pulling me on skis for 4 miles. I then took him for a 30 minute hike where he was loose and ran the entire time. When we got home he wanted to play fetch—he was not done. While my older GSP finally has a nice off switch at 7 years old, some GSP’s are basically impossible to wear out. I’m a runner and I take mine running with me—where I will be exhausted at the end of a 5 mile run, it’s just a warm up for the GSP’s. I’m a crazy dog lady who is a glutton for punishment and actually want a high energy dog, but it’s even too much for me at times. I consider myself an amateur trainer and I’m super active with my dogs—I cannot imagine my younger GSP in the hands of an inexperienced new owner. He would likely end up at a shelter. My parents are dog people but they think my young GSP is insane and are glad they don’t have one.    

People became very concerned about pet owners wanting Belgian Malinois after the movie Max last spring. While people might want them, as is the case here with GSP’s, I would hope that breeders are the guardians that they should be of these breeds and not just sell them to anyone who wants one. Just as potential buyers need to do their research when looking to buy a purebred dog, so too must the breeders on their puppy buyers.There are always bad breeders out there, but unless there is a huge incredible spike in popularity and demand, there will not be an instant rise in unscrupulous breeders out to make a buck. Any decent breeder will vet out their buyers and do their best to ensure their puppies they have put their heart and soul into creating end up in good hands.

I absolutely adore GSP’s, and will always have one in my life. I love helping new GSP owners and getting people involved in the breed. All I ask is that potential owners do their research, meet some real life GSP’s, and learn all they can before they take the plunge and get hooked for life! 



23 thoughts on “So You Think You Want a German Shorthaired Pointer

  1. Very good article. We run our one-year old GSP 2-3 hours per day at the dog park and sometimes that’s not even enough. This is definitely not a dog that you can just walk around the block.


  2. I am a GSP owner. Hanna is the 3rd GSP we have owned. Wonderful, to the point article!! Hanna is 18 months old. Some mornings I am playing Frisbee with her outside @ 6:00 am. I so hope that people think twice before getting a GSP. They are too wonderful to end up in a Humane Society or worse, because somebody didn’t research the breed first. Thanks so much for the article. (well written)


  3. My favourite breed of all! I adopted a male year and a half od GSHP from my local shelter. His cage card said he was destructive. I learned he had already been in two homes and I would be his third. I worked at a vets at the time and was well aware of the needs of a GSHP. We did daily hikes and runs and trips to the park to play frisbee. He was never crated and never touched a thing in my house. He was the best dog I ever owned, so loyal and loving!
    I can’t wait to get another one.


  4. We Love our girl. 22 months old. She is all energy. We keep her busy as possible and she still has energy after being run or worked in the bush.
    The most loveable breed, but full speed ahead all…..the…..time!


  5. I have an English Pointer (slightly less energy than a GSP). People we meet on walks frequently ask about them. I tell them what wonderful dogs they are – smart, cuddly, funny, great hiking partners and then I tell them that they’re not for everyone and why. Like the author said, a casual 15 minute walk on a leash doesn’t cut it – they need a couple hours of running. It sickens me to see a beautiful and sensitive pointer dumped in a shelter because some idiot didn’t do the proper research on a dog they’re considering. They’re working dogs and that definitely needs to be considered before purchasing or adopting one. I wish everyone who was even thinking about adopting a pointer would read this article!


  6. This is a great article. Thank you for being a responsible GSP Championship owner. Im a new owner to a GSP. I researched before buying and LOVE my GSP. My GSP goes and goes like my toddler. They both keep me in shape and tired 🙂


  7. Well written article. I just want to say to those who may be thinking about getting a GSP after all they’ve read is to remember that there are many many perfectly fine beautiful pure bred GSP’s waiting in rescue and shelters. Both of ours are rescue you and I would not get one any other way. My current one who’s now 10yrs old we got from a rescue when she was 7 months. Even though she’s 10 she grabs my sneakers the minute I get home from work to be sure she goes for at least a two mile walk. Even at 10 her energy level is still way up there. All I can say is are the best. Great family dog a little crazy a lot of energy but a lot of love.


  8. Great article and I hope potential buyers take heed. My GSP came to live with me at 1 1/2 years old after the former owner’s wife said it has “her or the dog” following multiple mutilations of shoes, bras, and anything else she could find to play with. I take my dog hiking with me and if I walk 6 miles, she runs at least 12 or more as she is constantly scouting ahead and behind for anything her beautiful nose can find interesting or any challenge she jump jump over. She is now approaching 9 on May 27 and my “walks” with her still include her running next to me on a golf cart traveling 15 – 20 mph. Shsssssh. Do not remind her she is a bird dog, as she still sleeps with me when not relaxing on her own chenille doggie bed with tempur pedic pillows!


  9. We own two rescued GSP’s. They are marvellous members of our family. And yes, they need to run and run and run! This is a wonderful breed, and we were thrilled to see the Westminster win!!


  10. Very well said. I’ve had both gps and a a wiem, and I love both. But now, my life style has changed and probably won’t be able to have another. They are first and foremost athletes. If you aren’t willing to match their energy level, don’t get one. I have a Jack Russell now. People comment how energetic he is, even at ten years old. Hah , you ain’t seen nothing.


  11. Great article. I have two gsps mother and her 8 month old daughter. Love them. The pic with the female and pups I had two look twice! She could be a twin to my Bristol !


  12. My first GSP, 20 years ago was adopted from a local shelter. He was skin and bones and not healthy. I fed him and treated all his ailments. He grew from a skin and bones 37 lbs 4 year old pointer to a 75 lb beautiful dog. When he started bouncing off walls I Googled GSP. Lucky for me I have a farm with land. Daily runs through the the field kept up with the excersize needs. When he was about 13 I noticed he didn’t need 1 to 2 hours of running to be sane. These dogs need land and to hunt. They have that in there blood. I am on my 3rd GSP and they will always have a place in my heart.


  13. Loved your article and photos! We have a GSP who is 12 years old and still thinks he’s just a pup. We live out in the country and he has acres to run and play with our grandchildren. He loves to eat apples that he picks from our orchard in the backyard. We have owned three of this breed and we know that when you get one….you really don’t own them….they own you! We love our “BEAR”!!


  14. We rescued our gsp at nine months, she is now eight years,still crazy, runs our large yard and hunts small prey stupid enough to come into or under the yard, she knows when there’s a new scent. My weim on the other hand is laid back baby and cuddler, not interested in her energy level at all.


  15. My girl is GSP x Lab and even she is go go go go go. Also, everyone I have talked to says these guys can be very hard headed, and to make expectations clear with them! I adopted my girl months ago as a 1yo….. WOW. I was not prepared for her energy, luckily, although unprepared, I was well equipped to handle it and have since adjusted. She keeps me busy! Lol


  16. Obie is our second full bred GSP (we had a GSP Lab mix as our first dog). He is everything that everyone in this blog says GSP’s
    are. The weird thing about him though is that despite his love of running he also loves to sit on a bench on Main Street (on my lap) and people watch. He will do that for an hour easily every day if we let him. He is black and large, so people often mistake him for a Great Dane puppy. He loves everyone he meets; with his gorgeous looks and great personality everyone in our small town knows him and loves him.


  17. Very informative article. I have Labs, & have for 30+ years, &, despite the popular pics of a Lab lounging by a fireplace, etc., this breed, too, needs much more exercise & mental stimulation than some other breeds. I know this with each new puppy I’ve gotten. And, in my dotage, if I find I can’t be the kind of person to provide these things, as much as I LOVE Labs, I will agree to a lower maintenance dog-:). It is sad that people will choose a potential addition to their family as if they were at Baskin Robbins, choosing the Flavor of the Month!
    Thank you for your very real description of owning a high energy dog, be it, as in this case, a GSP, Lab, or other “working dogs”. Hopefully, it will help prevent some frustration& disappointment in some owners/families, as well as the dogs they mistakenly choose.


  18. Perfect we have a GSP who is eleven and the moment I put my shorts on she knows we are going to the beach to,swim and chase ball for as long as she wants. I never want another breed in my life


  19. We love our GSPs! We began with a liver and white brother and sister. We then bread our female once with a black and white and have one daughter! The three have been perfect for our family! They have grown up with the grandchildren. The first female has traveled to S. Dakota with my husband on Pheasant Hunting trips and both females love partridge and Woodcock hunting here in Maine!


  20. We thought we were ready for a GSP because I had been raised with (low energy) dogs and we read a lot in advance. Nope! The first 6 months were pretty intense and not all that fun. We found a good trainer to help with obedience and leash work and have put in the time and effort, but 4+ years later we are still dealing with our initial mistakes.

    That said, she is a great dog and I love her spirit and athleticism. We skijor 8-13 miles a couple times a week in the winter and she runs in the forest for at least 2 hours 3-5 times a week. She is still be an awful leash puller often, despite all the training, and is the most stubborn dog I’ve ever seen.

    I cringed when a GSP won the Westminster Dog Show, because this is one dog that doesn’t need to be popular among unprepared families in cities. I met several people telling me beautiful she is and how they used to have a GSP but got rid of it at 6 months because they were too much.

    It’s a lot of work to keep her exercised, especially when I am very busy myself, but she gets me outside on days I would normally be at the desk and that’s what I signed up for – I chose her, not the other way around, and she deserves an active lifestyle (and would go crazy without it).

    Great article, and forewarning to would-be GSP owners!


  21. After 40 years of GSP in the family I don’t know why you would ever want any other dog. High IQ’s and energy but the best people dog. Every young child should grow up with one,two or more.


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