Originally bred in Germany in the late 1800s, the German Shorthair Pointer, otherwise referred to as a GSP, is one of the few hunting breeds that can perform all gundog roles namely pointing, retrieving, and hunting. With this need for mixed agility, the GSP is a bundle of pure energy, which can best be expelled through rigorous and varied exercise including water activities. They were also bred to be excellent companion dogs and make for loyal and loving pets.
The German Shorthair Pointer does well in water with his webbed feet and short water-resistant coat. His athletic and muscular build makes him a strong swimmer and his mixed gundog abilities allow him to quite happily retrieve a waterfowl in shallow or deeper water.
Due to being such all-rounders, the German Shorthair Pointer generally takes quickly to water, but this might not always be the case and you may need to train your GSP to be a water lover. His intelligent and easily trainable personality means that with just a little patience, your GSP will do as well in water as on land.
What Makes A German Shorthair Pointer Good In Water?
There are a number of elements to a German Shorthair Pointer’s physique that allows them to be proficient swimmers. Their webbed feet are a big component in why they are strong swimmers. Just like with the webbing of a duck’s feet, a German Shorthair Pointer webbing assists them with a powerful paddle motion as the webbing offers more resistance against the water. This propels them through the water faster and more easily than other dog breeds.
German Shorthair Pointers are also sleek and muscular which means their streamlined frame can move lithely through the water. Their muscular build gives them the strength for powerful water strokes.
The German Shorthair Pointer’s short coat is water-resistant, which is a great pro for when swimming as much of the water does not get soaked up in its hair. Not only does this mean that the GSP does not get dragged down in the water by the weight of its water-logged coat, but that once out of the water they will dry quickly and it’s less of a hassle for you when transporting them in your vehicle or allowing them back in the house.
With energy and enthusiasm for days, it’s no surprise that this versatile pup is as comfortable in the water as on land. Bred to spend long days out on the hunt, a GSP has the endurance required for swimming.
With German Shorthair Pointers specifically bred to be able to handle all the disciplines of a hunting companion, including retrieving, it was necessary to breed into them a love and affiliation with water. The English Pointer traditionally is not a fan of water, but is also not an all-rounder and is mainly used, as their name denotes, to point out the prey.
Unlike their British predecessor, the German Shorthair Pointer was meant to be a multitalented hunting dog that would be required to retrieve as much as point and hunt. For this reason, it was necessary for them to become adept at swimming so that they are able to retrieve waterfowl and compete with the best of the retrievers.
Although the GSP is a fine swimmer and retriever, they are certainly not the best in this category. If you are specifically looking for a retriever that is good in water the following breeds come out top.
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- American Water Spaniel
- Standard Poodle
- Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
- Curly Coated Retriever
- Irish Water Spaniel
If you are however looking for a hunting dog that is also your best friend, can hunt, point and retrieve on land and in water, then the German Shorthair Pointer is in a league of its own.
How To Teach Your German Shorthair Pointer To Swim
Although the ability to swim has now been bred into the GSP, genetics alone do not define a dog and perhaps your pup hasn’t naturally taken to the water of their own accord. There are some easy training techniques to follow to get your GSP swimming in no time.
The idea when it comes to introducing your dog to water and in turn, swimming is to do it progressively. Do not under any circumstances throw your dog into the water. This is a sure-fire way to create a dog that is averse to all things wet.
The best place to start is in shallow warm water where your dog is able to stand. Allow him to get used to the water in this environment first. Do not have any expectations for him to swim yet at this stage.
Once your dog has grown accustomed to the shallows you can then start playing a bit of fetch with a favorite toy. Be sure to only do this in the shallows where they can still walk. After a few rounds, your pup would have probably completely forgotten about the water.
When your GSP seems comfortable splashing about in the shallows, start throwing the toy a little bit further, increasing the distance each time. Repeat this action over a few days until eventually, you reach the point where your dog is swimming to reach his toy. And voila that’s pretty much it. Your dog has had a slow and progressive, non-stressful introduction to the water and swimming and soon enough you’ll find him plowing in all on his own.
What Should You Do To Take Care Of Your German Shorthair Pointer When He Swims?
Now that you have your GSP swimming and love it, there are a few things to take into consideration to ensure his swimming experiences are safe and fun.
With those big, gorgeous, floppy ears they are at risk of getting ear infections from swimming. Water that sits in the ear is a breeding ground for bacteria, therefore be sure to give your pup’s ears a good dry after a swim.
That short coat means that in really hot weather, your GSP also runs the risk of getting sunburnt. If you are going to be out in the peak heat periods of the day be sure to invest in some sunscreen designed for dogs and reapply after he has been in the water.
It’s advisable to give your GSP a bath after a day out swimming. You never know what pollutants may have been in the water, but also nobody is a fan of that wet dog smell. A hose down with some dog shampoo will eliminate this.
The Dangers of Excessive Swimming For Your German Shorthair Pointer
Although not specific to German Shorthair Pointers, water intoxication is a danger factor of excessive swimming for all dogs. Essentially what this means is that your pooch ingests too much water in a short period of time and it throws off the balance of electrolytes in their system. This can lead to brain damage, heart failure, and death. Luckily it’s not very common, but it does occur more often in swimming dogs, so it is important to be aware and see that your pup takes regular breaks when swimming.
When Should You Take Your German Shorthair Pointer Swimming?
An important aspect to keep in mind with your GSP and swimming is the time of year and the temperature of the water. Unlike Retrievers with their thick, oily coats, your GSP won’t have this kind of protection. Their short hair means they can get really cold swimming in winter weather and chilly water.
Just like humans, dogs can get hypothermia from being cold and this can occur in cold water, but even from being wet in cold and windy environments. To protect your GSP from getting seriously ill or even dying, it’s best to avoid having them swim in cold conditions. Should your rambunctious GSP run into the water of his own accord in wintery temperatures, it would be best to coax him out of the water quickly, dry him off and rather to take him home to get warm and not expose him to the frigid outdoor weather.
Ultimately your German Shorthair Pointer will fare well with swimming. Whether you want to take them out on the hunt to retrieve waterfowl or simply are wondering if they’d like to get a bit of exercise in your pool, you’ll have no concerns with the ability of your GSP to swim. Unlike the English Pointer, the GSP is a water lover making this affectionate pup an all-around champion companion.