When a German Shorthair Pointer won Best of Show two years ago at Westminster Kennel Club,
GSP breeders were worried that there would be a huge demand for puppies, and that once the pups began to grow, a huge influx of them would be sent to humane societies. Why? Because, German Shorthairs aren't for everybody, but if you have a lot of patience and a true love of active dogs, you'll find they are loyal and affectionate, and they will always give you more than you give them.
Although German Shorthair Pointers are considered "hunting dogs," they should not be housed in a kennel day after day, only being taken out during hunting season. These dogs need lots of exercise, and the more contact they have with humans, the better dog they will become. In the 1940's it was considered proper to keep them kenneled or tied to a dog house, fed little, and only taken out for field hunting. The motto was "Skinny dogs are better hunters." Fortunately, this is no longer acceptable. It is not a good idea to keep one confined to an apartment either, unless you can run them a mile or two at least twice a day. It is a good idea, however, to keep the dog crated at night. It helps with housebreaking, and it's also good if they need to be boarded or taken to the veterinarian for overnight stays. If they can become crate trained, you can be assured they will be happier if you have to leave them.
GSP's should be taught obedience training as soon as you take them home. The earlier their training begins, the easier it will be to make them mind. Males especially are very head strong, and if they see a moving object at a distance, they will go after it â€“ not looking right or left â€“ and could be killed or injured by a car or truck that can't stop. Teach the basics first, like to sit and stay, to walk by your side, and most of all, to come to you. The easiest way to train a dog to come to you is tie a long lead to their collar and call them to you, pulling them at first, until they realize you want them to come to you immediately. Once they do it on their own, you can reward them with hugs, pats, or small treats. Teach them to walk by your side without pulling. You may need a choke or training collar for this. As you walk along, if they go forward, tug on the chain and say "heel" or some other word to get them back to your side. You'll need to work with them about twenty minutes a day. After their training, reward them with a large romp in a big fenced-in area, if possible.
If the dog won't mind you in your own yard, it won't mind you in the field. Even if you don't want to use it for hunting, you will still need it to be well-behaved. GSP's are very large and strong, and they could knock over a woman or small man very easily if they become excited. As many people buy them for their children, they will need to learn respect so as not to injure the children as well.
Although females are calmer than males, they still can become excited, but the males are notorious for being excitable. Getting them neutered by five or six months of age helps. If they are still a handful, remember that they don't become full grown until they are about two years of age, and it takes that long to get the puppy out of them as well.
When you are assured the dog will come to you when called, take it for a field trip in an area rich with pheasants or geese. Let him walk ahead of you and see if he'll point up something. Most likely, he will have already pointed to toads, cats, or rabbits in your yard at home, but if not, he'll need to get a scent to bring on his natural instincts. If he flushes out some birds, don't let him chase them. He needs to learn to point at them first.
Once you have basic obedience mastered, if your plan is to use them as hunting dogs, you will need to teach them to fetch. This is a game they love, and they can spend hours at a time fetching a ball, an old sock, or anything you want to throw for them. They need to learn to bring it back to you and drop it at your feet. Once they do, reward them profusely and tell them how good they are. Then you can graduate to decoys. Some people use actual pheasants or ducks to train pointers to retrieve. They either hunt them themselves or buy them deceased from farmers. Or, they rub their scent over a stuffed decoy and teach the dog to bring it back that way. Don't let the dog play with or chew on the decoy, because he would do that to your catch as well.
When the dog is six months of age to a year, take him out into the fields with you and shoot some blanks in the air, getting him used to the sound of a gun. Once he is comfortable with the sound, get a partner to throw a decoy in the air when you shoot, and ask the dog to fetch it. Eventually, he'll get the idea and when you finally shoot a real bird, he should be able to fetch it. Although pointers are meant to point and retrievers fetch the game, pointers also have soft mouths and can bring you back your catch without tearing it up.
Whether you are hunting a German Shorthair Pointer or just having one as a pet, the key to both your and the dog's happiness is getting it lots of exercise. Pointers can run all day, and you'll need to keep that in mind before bringing one home. If their muscles are worked daily, or if they have a large area to romp and play in, they will be healthier as they age, with less sore muscles and stiff joints. A healthy German Shorthair Pointer can live to be over twelve years old if cared for properly. One that is left outside on a leash or in a kennel has a much shorter life expectancy.