German Shorthaired Pointers

If you've ever admired the versatility, athleticism and stamina of a decathlete, you'll admire the German Shorthaired Pointer. Whether or not you can live with such an energetic, strong and challenging companion is another matter entirely. This hunting dog was bred to do it all, even to be an attentive, family-loving companion and a watchdog for the property. Few breeds are more versatile -- and more demanding of their owners' energy and attention.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

While not a dog to be ignored in the backyard by a bookish family, the German Shorthaired Pointer is a wonderful choice for very active families. If you're the kind of person who's always in the outdoors and wants your dog with you, there are few better companions for the longest hike or run you can dream up. Their size and natural protectiveness will help keep you safe on a dawn training run. Your children will be loved and attended to by your Pointer, and while this dog will likely alarm bark if someone's at the door or on your property, they're usually not aggressive with people or strange dogs once they know you've got it covered.

Underestimate the need to keep this dog exercised in body and mind, however, and you and the dog will both be very unhappy. Left to his own devices, a bored German Shorthaired Pointer who doesn't get the exercise he needs will take matters into his own paws: Digging up the yard, climbing fences to explore the neighborhood, barking at everything that moves and chasing small wildlife and pets with the zeal of the determined hunting dog that he is.

These dogs need daily sessions of heart-pumping exercise, the more the better. And they also need training to control that energy in the off-leash full-out runs they require. They're a natural for high-drive canine competitions, as well as -- no surprise here -- hunting anything they're legally allowed to go after. These dogs are up for anything, and have lively minds and trainable natures.

As befitting a dog of such versatility, the German Shorthaired Pointer can have a mind of his own. That means training and socializing from an early age is essential to keep your companion under control. Big, strong and enthusiastic, this breed needs to be taught how to behave around the children he loves, or you'll be picking the kids up off their fannies. They may also need to be trained not to "hunt" the family cat or other small pets.

The German Shorthaired Pointer packs a lot of lean muscle into a powerful 40 to 70 pounds or more. They're distinctive "ticked" or spotted coat that usually comes in shades of brown and white, although some other patterns and colors do occur. The tail is usually cropped to a few inches in length, and the ears are large and flop down.

The grooming needs are minimal; a fast weekly brushing, occasional bathing and regular nail trimming and ear cleaning are all that he needs.

Health Issues Common to German Shorthaired Pointers

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a relatively healthy breed, but they do suffer from a number of health problems, some of them genetic.

While less common than in some other breeds, German Shorthaired Pointers can suffer from hip dysplasia, a crippling malformation of the hip socket that requires costly surgery to repair and that can result in painful arthritis later in life.

Cancer is the breed's leading cause of death, with an 11.5% incidence rate according to the 2005 survey conducted by the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America. Females have a very high rate of mammary tumors, in particular. Epilepsy, eye diseases and some problems with skin and ear infections as well as allergies have been reported, but again, compared with other popular purebreds, the GSP is pretty healthy -- a very strong motivation for good breeders to keep the breed that way by continuing to do health clearances on their breeding stock and for puppy buyers to support those breeders' efforts by seeking out their dogs.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your German Shorthaired Pointer before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy German Shorthaired Pointer Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers all breeds and popular mixes, shipped with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Start your search for a breeder at the website of the German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America. Your puppy's breeder should be a member in good standing of the national club and have agreed to abide by its Code of Ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.

Look for a breeder that is active in some form of canine activity such as hunting, field trials, showing or obedience.

Ask your breeder for written documentation that your puppy's parents were cleared of genetic problems including at a minimum hip certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip); heart health certification by a boar-certified cardiologist and OFA; eye clearance within the previous year from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF); testing clear for Cone Degeneration Disease, an eye disorder found in the breed. Many breeders also get their dogs' elbows and thyroids cleared by OFA as well.

Don't hesitate to seek out a rescue dog of this breed. Many GSPs end up in need of new homes not because there's anything wrong with them, but because their owners didn't really have the right lifestyle or skills to make the relationship work. If this is the right breed for you, a good rescue group should be able to help you find an adult dog that will be a perfect fit for your needs.

Puppy or adult, take your German Shorthaired Pointer to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, particularly ear infections.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for German Shorthaired Pointers

Pet insurance for German Shorthaired Pointers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because German Shorthaired Pointers are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for many of the breed-specific conditions to which German Shorthaired Pointers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your German Shorthaired Pointer is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.