What’s the Difference Between a German Shorthaired Pointer and an English Pointer?

A German Shorthaired Pointer on the left, and an English Pointer on the right.

Both the German Shorthaired Pointer and the English Pointer are loving family companions and highly adaptable hunters.

However, there are fundamental differences between these breeds, whether you are looking for a hunting companion, a family pet, or both. 

What’s the difference between a German Shorthaired Pointer and an English Pointer? German Shorthaired Pointers are more intense than English Pointers in nearly every way. GSPs are more energetic, require more training, and shed more. Generally, the GSP is a better hard-working dog while the English Pointer may be a better family pet.

If you’re trying to decide which of these breeds is right for your family, it’s crucial that you understand the key differences between them so you don’t wind up with a dog for whom you are not prepared to handle.

Key Differences Between German Shorthaired Pointers and English Pointers

Trait

German Shorthaired Pointer

English Pointer

SizeMale: 23 – 25 inches

Female: 21 – 23 inches

Male: 25 – 28 inches

Female 23 – 26 inches

WeightMale: 55 – 70 pounds

Female: 45 – 60 pounds

Male: 55 – 75 pounds

Female: 45 – 65 pounds

Life expectancy10 – 12 years12 – 17 years
Acceptable colorsblack, black and white, black roan, liver, liver and white, liver roan, white and liverblack, black and white, lemon, lemon and white, liver, liver and white, orange, orange and white
Acceptable markingspatched, patched and ticked, tickedblack points, liver point, self-colored points, ticked
SheddingLots of shedding year round, especially during seasonal sheddingModerate shedding year round. May have slight increase seasonally, but won’t be dramatic
ExerciseExtremely high exercise needs, requiring structured activity most daysNeeds exercise everyday but can be entertained in a fenced yard or with a jog
TrainingTraining is mandatory but not difficult with this eager-to-please breedNeeds some basic training but may resist extensive training that doesn’t involve human interaction

Subtle Differences Between Pointers

Both the German Shorthaired Pointer and the English Pointer are powerful, driven dogs used for hunting for many years.

Both breeds are great companion dogs as well. So, what are the differences between these two breeds?

History

Both of these dogs were bred to point, but they came from different backgrounds and are very different dogs in many ways.

The German Shorthaired Pointer is the product of generations of breeding by German hunters looking for the perfect versatile bird dog. 

Many would argue that they were successful, as the GSP is still a top winner at competitive hunting.

Each aspect of this dog was bred for perfection, from the sensitive nose to the athletic and versatile body structure. They even have webbed feet to make them excellent duck retrievers.

English Pointers were bred for centuries, since well before rifles were invented.

They were used along with coursing hounds for hunting hares. Pointers found the hares, and hounds chased them down. 

As guns became popular for hunting, the Pointer evolved into a gun dog.

The Pointer’s evolution can be said to be more organic, whereas the German Shorthaired Pointer was created more deliberately. 

Appearance

These Pointers are similar in size, but the English Pointer tends to stand a little bit taller and weigh a little bit more than the German Shorthaired Pointer.

Both come in a number of color variations, but the colors vary somewhat. 

German Shorthaired Pointers are usually ticked with black or liver markings, while English Pointers are more often found in solid markings.

Shedding

Both of these Pointers are short-haired dogs, but they vary in how much they shed.

The German Shorthaired Pointer sheds regularly year round, and sheds especially heavily at certain times a year. 

To keep these short, stiff hairs from ending up embedded in fabrics throughout your home, you’ll need to brush your dog regularly and vacuum consistently.

By contrast, English Pointers shed considerably less.

Weekly brushing with a soft brush is enough to keep hair from accumulating in your house throughout most of the year.

You may notice some shedding increase seasonally, but it won’t be nearly as dramatic as is expected with a German Shorthaired Pointer.

Exercise

There are very few dogs who need more exercise than the German Shorthaired Pointer. This energetic breed is happiest when moving at a fast pace all day long. 

They excel in all kinds of dog sports and continue to place higher in competitive hunting than all other breeds.

It doesn’t really matter what you want to do with a German Shorthaired Pointer; what matters is that you do a lot of it.

English Pointers need a lot of exercise every day to be happy. Still, they aren’t as obsessed with activity or are as work driven as German Shorthaired Pointers.

English Pointers can do well with a fenced yard to let them run off their energy and a good run every day. 

These intelligent dogs are also happy to engage in training, but many are happy to burn off energy by themselves without needing a lot of active training-based exercise.

That said, the more training you give your English Pointer to develop self-control, the more behaved he will be in the home.

Training

German Shorthaired Pointers are extremely trainable.

Much of the reason they excel in hunting the way they do is not because of their innate hunting ability but their ability to tune in with and obey their handler. 

This makes them eager learners in a wide variety of skills. For the GSP, training is completely necessary. An untrained GSP is very difficult to live with. 

These dogs tend to be prone to challenging their owners, especially between the ages of 6 months and 3 years.

They have a very high prey drive, which can be challenging to control without plenty of self-control training.

English Pointers are happy-go-lucky dogs who enjoy pleasing their owners, but they aren’t quite as committed to it as GSPs.

Your English Pointer may be a little bit more prone to distraction or may tend toward laziness, rather than being very committed to obeying you. 

On the other hand, many English Pointers excel in training tasks, especially those that keep them connected to their people, like therapy work and search and rescue.

It is very important that your English Pointer get some basic training to learn how to control themselves, but they don’t need extensive training every day to be happy.

Behavior With New People 

The German Shorthaired Pointer has a very threatening bark, but that’s about as far as their home-defense routine goes.

These are friendly, outgoing dogs who love meeting new people and making new friends.

Most GSPs like everyone they meet and are very happy to welcome new people into the home. 

English Pointers tend to be a bit more reserved than the GSP when encountering new people.

They may take longer to warm up to your friends, and they are more likely to put on an impressive show when strangers arrive at the house. 

These alert and highly responsive dogs make excellent guard dogs, provided they get to live with you in the house, and only alert when someone comes to the gate or door.

Health

Both of these Pointers are generally quite healthy, but overall, the English Pointer tends to be healthier.

German Shorthaired Pointers are prone to several more genetic issues. They have a slightly lower life expectancy than do English Pointers.

Recommended Health Tests for German Shorthaired Pointers

  • Hip and elbow evaluation.
  • Ophthalmologist evaluation.
  • Cone degeneration DNA test.
  • Cardiac exam. 

Recommended Health Tests for English Pointers

  • Hip evaluation.
  • Ophthalmologist evaluation.
  • Thyroid evaluation.

Related Questions:

Which Is a Better Family Dog, the GSP or the English Pointer?

Both of these dogs can be wonderful family pets, provided they get plenty of exercise, training, and engagement.

If you’re not sure whether your family is active enough for this kind of dog, the English Pointer is a better choice than the GSP. 

Unless you have a job for the GSP to do, it is best to pick the slightly less intense and more easy-going English Pointer. As an added bonus, the English Pointer sheds less.

Which Is the Better Hunter, the English Pointer or the GSP?

Hunting enthusiasts will argue vehemently about the preference for the English Pointer or the German Shorthaired Pointer.

Regardless of personal preferences, field results seem to be clear: the German Shorthaired Pointer excels in competitive hunting events. 

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