All About German Shorthaired Pointers

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on May 19, 2022
8 min read

German shorthaired pointers are a loyal and loving breed in the class of dogs known as the sporting group. They make a great addition to any family, even if you have kids and other pets. 

But keep in mind that they were bred to be adaptable hunters. They’re intelligent and full of energy, so they won’t be happy lazing about all day. Make sure that you can provide lots of stimulation and time outdoors before bringing one home. 

Body size. German shorthaired pointers are considered a medium-sized breed. Males are an average of 24 inches in height at the shoulders, and females are an average of 22 inches. Most purebreds will be within an inch of these averages.

These dogs tend to have greater variation in their weight than their height. Healthy males can weigh anywhere from 55 to 70 pounds. Healthy females fall into the range of 45 to 60 pounds. You should consult a veterinarian for diet and exercise advice if your German shorthaired pointer is much lighter or heavier than these ranges. 

This medium size is useful in a pet. The dogs have the strength and stride to keep up with you, something that not all small breeds can do. Plus, they’re more compact than large dog breeds, so they’re less likely to pull a petite person right off of their feet in a fit of enthusiasm.  

Body shape. Overall, the German shorthaired pointer has a streamlined look. They’re often described as noble and aristocratic animals.

The body is designed to be as well-balanced and symmetrical as possible. This increases their speed and agility when they hunt game. 

Their chests should extend down to their elbow joints and fall somewhere in between being perfectly round and barrel-shaped. This is meant to give them power without detracting from their flexibility and speed. 

They were bred to hunt on both land and in water. This is the reason for one of the most interesting German shorthaired pointer facts: they have webbed feet.

Their muzzles are well suited for the role of hunting dog. The dog's muzzle is much longer than many breeds. A perfect example of a German shorthaired pointer has a muzzle with the same length as their skull. These long, strong muzzles allow the dogs to grab game and carry it for extended periods of time.

Lifespan. Like most medium-sized breeds, you should expect at least a decade with your dog if you get them when they’re a puppy. The average German shorthaired pointer's lifespan is 10 to 12 years.   

Fur and eyes. Like you’d expect from the name, these pointers have short fur. It’s thick and feels tough when you touch it.   

The ideal color for the breed is liver — a reddish-brown hue — or liver and white. But the dogs can also be: 

  • Black
  • Black and white
  • Liver Roan
  • Black Roan 

Roan coloring is when many individual white furs are intermixed with the colorful fur — in this case either liver or black — mostly on the animal’s torso.

Their eyes are almond-shaped, not circular. Breed purists prefer dark brown eyes, but they can also be yellow, a difference that won’t bother most pet owners. 

Personality. These pointers will constantly engage in surveys of the world around them through intelligent and good-humored eyes. Their hunting-dog nature gives them a lot of energy and a love for the outdoors.   

This energy can make them a real handful, particularly in their first three years of life. But they can compensate for this with training. The American Kennel Club ranks them five out of five for trainability, both for hunting and general household purposes.

These pointers were specifically bred to be biddable and eager to please. They bond tightly with their families. 

The breed has earned a four out of five for playfulness, openness to strangers, and vigilance. This means that they’re sociable animals that are both comfortable and alert in a wide range of situations.  

Grooming. German shorthaired pointer care is less demanding than with other breeds. They need minimal grooming: you’ll be fine just brushing them every few days.

The breed does shed, especially at hotter times of the year. Regular baths with gentle soap can help reduce the amount of fur that gets left around your house. 

In order to prevent medical problems, you should keep your dog's nails trimmed short and regularly clean their ears. 

Feeding. The amount of dog food that your German shorthaired pointer needs depends on their age. Adults are fine with a meal in the morning and one at night, but you’ll need to feed any puppies under six months old more often. 

The breed has a tendency to bloat, so keep this in mind when designing your feeding schedule. Bloat is a potentially fatal condition where your dog’s stomach swells and can even twist. Don’t let them exercise until an hour after they eat, and don’t feed them immediately after exercising. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. The American Kennel Club gives the German shorthaired pointer a maximum of five out of five for both their need for physical activity and mental stimulation. 

Running, swimming, and organized dog-based sports are great activities for this breed. They need plenty of physical activity at least twice a day. 

You should also give them plenty of toys and different kinds of activities around the house to keep them occupied. 

Long stretches of inactivity and boredom aren’t healthy for this breed. It’s important for you to take these needs into consideration if you’re going to bring a German shorthaired pointer into your life. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. High activity levels can increase the number of injuries that this breed receives, so regular veterinary visits are key to maintaining the health and stamina of your German shorthaired pointer. 

Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all dogs should get a core set. This includes vaccinations for:

Vaccinations can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are also other non-core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian. 

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. You should also make sure to discuss ways to prevent heartworms with your veterinarian. 

Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you.   

Some health problems are more prevalent in this breed than others. Common German shorthaired pointer health issues include:

  • Heart diseaseAn example is cardiomyopathy. Signs of heart disease could include difficulty breathing, fainting, and a decreased desire to exercise. The treatment will depend on the severity of your dog’s condition. Your veterinarian could prescribe medications as part of your dog’s treatment. 
  • Eye conditions. These include progressive retinal atrophy, where your dog will eventually go blind. You may start to notice them struggling to see at first, particularly at dusk and dawn. At present, there isn’t a treatment for this condition. Other examples include entropion, ectropion, cataracts, and retinal dysplasia. Your vet should perform annual eye exams to look for any signs of deterioration.
  • Hip dysplasiaThis condition is where the ball and socket of your dog's hip do not fit or develop properly as they grow. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other, wearing down and eventually making it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life. 
  • Bloat. Also called GDV (Gastric dilation - volvulus), this condition is particularly problematic for the breed because of their size and deep chest. Your dog’s stomach fills up with gas, food, or liquid and then twists, creating an often sudden and life-threatening situation. Signs include an enlarged abdomen, retching, and drooling. It’s typically treated with surgery.
  • Blood clotting diseases. This can include conditions like hemophilia, thrombocytopenia, and Von Willebrand’s disease. Von Willebrand’s is a genetic disease marked by heavy bleeding. Your dog can be tested for the gene that causes this condition. Signs of blood clotting diseases include easy bleeding from your dog’s nose and gums. Your dog may need a blood transfusion if they lose too much blood.
  • Idiopathic epilepsy. This is a condition that can cause seizures in dogs for unknown reasons. Signs that your dog has had a seizure include facial twitches, paddling a single limb, fear, and vomiting. There are medications that can help reduce the likelihood of seizures. You should get medical help as soon as possible if you believe that your dog has had or is having a seizure. 

Typical German shorthaired pointer characteristics make them ideal for many different kinds of homes. The American Kennel Club has given them a score of five out of five for being good with kids and four out of five for being good with other dogs. 

They only bark a moderate amount of the time and don’t drool heavily. 

These dogs are built for long days in the outdoors, so they make particularly good companions as hiking, camping, and hunting dogs. Specifically, they’ve been known to hunt: 

  • Game birds, particularly waterfowl
  • Possums
  • Rabbits
  • Raccoons
  • Deer 

No one knows the exact timing and ancestry that created the German shorthaired pointer. They were bred at some point in Germany in the 19th century. 

They’re most closely related to the German bird dog, which was in turn bred from the old Spanish pointer, a breed that was introduced to Germany in the 17th century. A number of other German hound and pointing dogs — the exact kinds are now lost to history — were also used to create this particular pointer. 

The most likely nobleman to have had a hand in the breeding was named Prince Albrecht zu Soms-Braunfels. He was a prolific dog breeder at the time. He had a particular interest in creating a do-it-all hunting dog. That phrase is a fantastic description of the German shorthaired pointer’s skills. 

The breed was first formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930. They had their first specialty show in 1941 and their first licensed field trials in 1944.

Today, German shorthaired pointers are, as a breed, the most likely to win at any competitive hunting event. They’re also beloved pets in homes all around the world.