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Unraveling the German Shorthaired Pointer Standard

German shorthaired pointer


All Breed Standards are open to interpretation by the reader. Even clearly written Breed Standards can be difficult to understand. Standards were often written by horsemen, using terminology suitable for horses but perhaps not for dogs.

German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Standard

In the AKC German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) Breed Standard, the statement “…with a short back, but standing over plenty of ground” causes much confusion, as it seems improbable that a dog could have both a short back and stand over plenty of ground. To understand the statement, one must consider the whole of the Standard.

For example, under General Appearance: “The German Shorthaired Pointer is a versatile hunter, an all-purpose gun dog capable of high performance in field and water. The judgment of Shorthairs in the show ring reflects this basic characteristic. The overall picture which is created in the observer’s eye is that of an aristocratic, well balanced, symmetrical animal with conformation indicating power, endurance and agility and a look of intelligence and animation. The dog is neither unduly small nor conspicuously large. It gives the impression of medium size, but is like the proper hunter, ‘with a short back, but standing over plenty of ground.’”

The German Shorthaired Pointer is a versatile hunter, an all-purpose gun dog capable of high performance in field and water.

When reading these sentences: “The dog is neither unduly small nor conspicuously large. It gives the impression of medium size, but is like a proper hunter ‘with a short back, but standing over plenty of ground,’

Georgina Byrne (Der Deutsch-Kurzhaar) describes the German Shorthaired Pointer by referencing the type of horse used for hunting with pack hounds. The reason for this reference is because, like GSPs, horses used for hunting with a pack of dogs need to be nimble yet powerful. Short-backed horses tend to perform better at this function. However, short-backed horses with straight angulation in the rear (like draft horses) do not. Hence, the likely addition of “standing over plenty of ground” to describe the front and rear angulation required to be an athletic hunting dog.

Early German Shorthaired Pointer influencer and expert, and President of the Berlin Stud Club (Stammklub), Dr. Paul Kleeman, once said that the rules of structural engineering also apply to the rules of nature.

To work right, a dog must be built right. It has to be born right.

So, one must also take angles and proportion into consideration. The desired angulation in German Shorthaired Pointers is matched, front and rear. German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Standard calls for the layback of the shoulder blade, from vertical, nearing a 45-degree angle, and the upper arm (humerus) as long as possible to the elbow (ulna), also nearing a 45-degree angle from vertical. To match, the pelvic bone (ilium to the ischium) and the hip joint to the stifle joint (femur) should also reflect the front angulation at approximately a 45-degree angle for each.

German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Standard

Good angulation facilitates a smooth, ground-covering stride, which allows the Shorthair to hunt on all terrains—all day. Dogs with poor angulation, or unbalanced angulation, work harder than a correctly built dog and move with a shortened stride and choppy gait. Despite their great desire to hunt, these dogs tend to be retired early due to injuries, as they must work harder and put more stress on their bodies.

Critical to creating a short-backed dog standing over plenty of ground are the overall proportions of the GSP. In the Standard, the wording says: “Measuring from the forechest to the rearmost projection of the rump and from the withers to the ground, the Shorthair is permissibly either square or slightly longer than he is tall.

While it is permissible for a German Shorthaired Pointer to be slightly longer than tall, it is a slippery slope. A longer back allows for more angulation in the rear without the associated foot interference or side-winding that would be seen in a shorter-backed dog. These dogs may have a bigger stride and appear “flashier” in the show ring; however, a longer back can be less stable and prone to injury.

A dog that is square or slightly longer than tall, and has proper angulation, will have the appearance of a “short-backed dog standing over plenty of ground” and will be able to move with an efficient, ground-covering stride.

With GSPs, there is the added complication of coat markings that can create optical illusions of back length, and shoulder and rear angulation. Judges must always “look beyond” coat markings to see the structure of the dog. Putting hands on the dog can remove the trompe-l’oeil effect.

German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Standard
4.2b. Skull and Foreface, and Forequarter/Hindquarter Bones/Angles: E = approx. the same length as F; G = H = I (I may be slightly longer); J is to K & L as 1 is to 1.75 (approx.).

Also from the German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Standard: “Symmetry and field quality are most essential. A dog in hard and lean field condition is not to be penalized; however, overly fat or poorly muscled dogs are to be penalized. A dog well balanced in all points is preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects. Grace of outline, clean-cut head, sloping shoulders, deep chest, powerful back, strong quarters, good bone composition, adequate muscle, well carried tail and taut coat produce a look of nobility and indicate a heritage of purposefully conducted breeding. Further evidence of this heritage is movement which is balanced, alertly coordinated and without wasted motion.

Overall, judges must consider that for a dog to look right, it must be built to move right. Flashiness is not desirable in a Shorthair. Look for an aristocratic grace in outline, power and endurance in the overall appearance, sloping shoulders that shape a strong, short back, a deep chest, angulation that is balanced front and rear, a lithe gait without wasted movement—feet that should remain close to the ground, with good reach and drive—and foot extension with follow through. The topline should remain firm, with flexibility. Proper conformation is the key to proper ground-covering movement.



Are you looking for a German Shorthaired Pointer puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home a German Shorthaired Pointer dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


German Shorthaired Pointer Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the smart German Shorthaired Pointer dog breed with articles and information in our German Shorthaired Pointer Dog Breed Magazine.


German Shorthaired Pointer Breed Magazine - Showsight