Training Your German Shorthaired Pointer: Best Tips, Common Mistakes, and More!

Written by Erica Scassellati
Published: December 11, 2023
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German shorthaired pointers are medium-sized high-energy dogs with short dense coats. These pointer dogs were originally bred as hunting dogs. Today, they still make great hunting companions. GSPs have a lot of energy and need an owner with an active lifestyle. When properly trained they form a deep bond with their family and are great pets for any high-energy dog lover.

Breed Overview — German Shorthaired Pointers

When training your German shorthaired pointer, it’s important to know some basic information about the breed. GSPs have a short, smooth coat protected by a dense, water-resistant undercoat. They are typically dark brown, lighter brown (liver), or liver and white, with a distinctive ticking.

GSPs are medium-sized dogs. Males typically measure 23-25 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 55-70 pounds, according to the American Kennel Club. Females typically measure 21-23 inches and weigh around 45-60 pounds. GSPs are generally healthy dogs that live 10-12 years.

As their name suggests, German shorthaired pointers were originally bred in 19th-century Germany as versatile hunting dogs. GSPs could successfully point out birds, trail game at night, retrieve prey from land or water, and more.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that GSPs are athletic dogs that require a lot of exercise. They are generally good-natured dogs who form a strong bond with their family. Despite their energy, GSPs are also good with children and other dogs.

The dog german shorthaired pointer runs on a green field. A dog with a nice expression of the face

German shorthaired pointers require a lot of exercise.

©MVolodymyr/Shutterstock.com

German Shorthaired Pointer Training Tips

It’s important to begin training German shorthaired pointers early. GSPs are an intelligent breed and can pick up on basic commands from a young age. Start with simple commands such as name recognition, sit, and leave it.

GSPs are high-energy dogs, so ensuring that they get the proper exercise and mental stimulation is key. Otherwise, this breed can become destructive. According to the American Kennel Club, they can be especially difficult from 3 months to six years old.

The good news is that GSPs revel in almost any form of exercise they can get. This breed is a great choice for owners with an active lifestyle who want to bring their pup along to walk, run, hike, or even swim! GSPs need vigorous exercise every day. You can also add activities with mental stimulation, such as clicker training, suggests greatdog-gsp.com.

Socialization

Early socialization with other puppies and people is essential for GSPs. Puppy classes allow your dog to interact with other pups in a controlled environment. The classes often teach important skills such as leash walking and are tailored toward young dogs.

The American Kennel Club recommends being aware of your dog’s “fear stages,” which can seem to come on suddenly. Take your dog to public places where they can encounter people. When friends or strangers approach your dog, have them bend down low, and allow your dog to make the first move.

Belinda Venner, whose dog is now the top-ranked GSP for obedience, recommends ignoring your dog’s fear responses during this stage, as it is only temporary. “Don’t cater to it. Don’t say, ‘Oh you’re OK,'” she told the AKC. However, it may be appropriate to remove your dog from a situation where they continue to show fear of a stranger.

Cute German Shorthaired pointer puppy. Puppy pointer barks. Puppy dog on a walk.

Begin leash training your German shorthaired pointer puppy as soon as you bring them home.

©encierro/Shutterstock.com

Grooming

German shorthaired pointers are pretty easy to groom and typically only require a good brushing every few days. However, sometimes they become more prone to shedding and will need more frequent brushing.

GSPs need an occasional bath, as well as ear cleaning and nail trimming. Getting your dog used to grooming from a young age helps make this process much easier.

“Start clipping their nails right when they come home,” Venner told the American Kennel Club. She also recommends using treats to make nail trimming a positive experience and tackling only one nail every day.

Potty Training

Potty training any dog breed can be a challenge, so get started early with your German shorthaired pointer. Stick to a routine and even a designated potty spot to help your dog get the hang of things. Take your pup out frequently and offer plenty of praise, treats, or playtime as a reward right after your dog successfully goes potty outside.

iHeartdogs also recommends paying attention to certain cues your GSP may give, such as whining or scratching at the door, that they need to go outside. You can even teach your dog to use potty bells!

The outlet also suggests confining your dog to a smaller area, such as a crate, while they are unsupervised. This helps dogs learn to hold it until they can go outside, as they are clean animals that don’t want to soil their space. Gradually increase your GSPs’ freedom to other areas of the house as they get the hang of potty training.

For the first few months of after bringing your puppy home, you’ll have to take them outside to go potty in the middle of the night. The American Kennel Club recommends placing your dog crate next to your bed and making sure they go right back inside and into the crate after going potty at night.

Milestones

Here is a comprehensive list of training and socialization milestones, according to the American Kennel Club:

  • Bring home your GSP puppy: 8-9 weeks
  • Begin a grooming routine and potty training: right away
  • Introduce basic commands: right away
  • Teach leash walking: right away
  • Introduce your puppy to other people: 8-12 weeks
  • Introduce your puppy to other dogs: 12-14 weeks
  • GSP puppy should sleep through the night without needing to be taken outside to potty: 12-16 weeks
  • Puppy begins teething: 4 months
  • Enroll your pet in puppy classes: 4 months

How to Train a German Shorthaired Pointer to Hunt

German shorthaired pointers make great hunting companions. Taking them out for a hunt is also a great way to physically and mentally stimulate them. You should still begin training your pup with basic obedience and socialization.

If you plan on taking your GSP hunting, you can also introduce your puppy to live birds. Gradually expose them to the sound of gunfire and continue to give them regular exercise.

After the basics are established you can begin to train your GSP in pointing. The Fi Smart Dog Collar blog recommends beginning with a wing or feather to simulate a bird’s scent. Reward your dog with treats and praise when they freeze and “point.”

In the same vein, you can begin to teach retrieving with a dummy or soft retrieving toy. Toss the object a short distance and gradually increase the distance as they successfully bring it back to you. Use lots of treats and positive reinforcement and your dog will get the hang of things.

German Shorthaired Pointer dog in grass

German shorthaired pointers make great hunting companions and can be trained to point and retrieve.

©S.M/Shutterstock.com

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes in dog training apply to almost any breed. For example, while speaking to the American Kennel Club, Penny Leigh, CPDT-KA recommended always using positive reinforcement to train dogs, and avoiding “telling the dog ‘no’ or making negative sounds like ‘ehhh,’ etc.”

One of the biggest mistakes you can make with German shorthaired pointers is not being prepared for the amount of exercise they need. GSPs are not an easy breed and are not recommended for first-time dog owners. They require a lot of attention and mental and physical stimulation. Depriving a GSP of enough of this would be a huge mistake and lead to behavioral problems.

A GSP owner outlined a few of her own biggest mistakes in raising her puppy on her blog. This dog owner mentions not spending enough time leash training her GSP early on as one of these mistakes. Another was not sending her dog to a formal obedience school. Finally, she mentions allowing her dog to become accustomed to sleeping in her bed.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © f8grapher/iStock via Getty Images

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About the Author

Erica is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on history, food, and travel. Erica has over 3 years of experience as a content writer and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which she earned in 2018. A resident of Kansas City, Erica enjoys exploring her home town and traveling around the world to learn about different cultures and try new food.

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