Tips on training and showing a German Shorthaired Pointer

Tips on training and showing a German Shorthaired Pointer

Events & Shows

German Shorthair Pointers are handsome, elegant dogs that show off their striking lines extremely well. As such, a healthy, well-bred GSP is a natural show dog which is good news for owners who would enjoy exhibiting their canine companions. With this said, it's always a good idea to go to a few local shows before taking part in one which is the best way of understanding what dogs and owners are expected to do in any chosen classes.

An owner's stance and behaviour will affect how a dog performs

Dogs pick up on an owner's emotions and feelings which affects how they react and perform. In short, owners need to be calm and relaxed before they even begin a training session and the same applies to when they take part in an event at a show. A great way of gaining the confidence needed is to watch really good dog handlers put their GSPs through the paces and then to copy them. The key is to remain patient both with your German Shorthaired Pointer and yourself because mistakes will happen which just needs to be accepted as par for the course and not something negative.

The importance of show stance""

Judges always assess a GSP when they adopt a ""show stance"", but they also watch them as they move around the showring. It is the best way for a judge to see a dog's build and the way they move whether at the walk or trot. However, getting a dog to stand still can prove challenging so it’s important to focus on this aspect first. The good news is that as previously mentioned the breed has a natural build that lends well to doing this.

By placing a hand under a dog's chest and a hand under a dog's chin, helps accentuate a GSP’s natural lines. The next step is to gently lift a dog so their front paws are slightly lifted off the ground before slowly lowering them again. This sees a dog place both front feet parallel to each other while at the same time being in line with the tip of their elbows as well as the top point of a dog's shoulder. Sometimes small adjustments may be needed which can be done quickly without disturbing a dog too much.

Next, by either holding a dog's muzzle or head, the next step is to position a dog's hind legs which should be done one at a time with the end goal being to have them parallel to one another so a dog's hocks are perpendicular to the ground. A dog's balance can be checked by gently stretching their head and neck which allows a dog to get their own balance by adjusting the weight where needed. Lastly, by holding a dog's head in one hand and holding the tail horizontally with the other hand, a dog adopts a well-balanced and relaxed show stance.

It is very important to gently and quietly encourage a dog the whole time when first teaching them to adopt a show stance and when they do it in a relaxed and accepting way, to reward them with lots of praise. A training session must always end on a good note so that a German Shorthaired Pointer looks forward to the next one and it’s when high value “rewards” really come into their own.

Teaching a dog to move smoothly and naturally

German Shorthaired Pointers have a naturally elegant gait which means teaching them to move nicely in the showring is that much easier. Most dogs enjoy this part of ""showing"" a little too much making it harder for dogs to keep all ""four feet"" on the ground. Teaching a GSP to stay calm and relaxed when running around a ring full of other dogs is a big ask and as such, focussing on this aspect during a training session is a must. Repetition is the key to successfully training a dog to stay calm when running around the showring.

Showing a dog on the move means keeping things at a moderate pace and it must be one that suits the dog. As such handlers should synchronize their pace to their charges which ensures that both handler and dog move as one. It is also important for a dog to remain parallel to their handlers and not to pull which would affect their overall balance. At the start of every class handlers and dogs are asked to move around the ring together before a judge inspects each dog individually. A good handler would use as much space as they can which is the best way to ""show off"" a dog to their best advantage. It is essential for dogs to be kept in full view of the judge which means putting them between a handler and a judge. It can be an exciting time for a dog so it is essential that dogs do not barge into a judge at this stage of a class.

Practice makes perfect

As previously mentioned, repetition is the key to successfully training a GSP to behave nicely in a showring. This means spending anything from 5 to 10 minutes every day practicing all of the above. The problem is that new handlers never know how their dogs are going to perform when there are lots of people and other dogs around. As such, it's a good idea to join a dog club that offers ""Ring Craft"" training sessions and many local clubs can be found on the Kennel Club website.

It's a great way of getting valuable showing tips and for an eager German Shorthaired Pointer to get used to being around other dogs. It also allows them to get used to strange noises and sounds they may have never heard before and which they are bound to hear at a real show. It also trains a dog to accept being touched by other people preparing them nicely for when a judge wants to handle them in the showring. In short, a GSP would not get nervous when a stranger approaches them.

The value of an independent opinion

Another great thing about enrolling a German Shorthaired Pointer into Ring Craft training sessions is that it allows people to offer advice on how a dog should be handled in the showring so that they perform nicely showing off their best attributes which not only includes their looks, but their temperaments too.

The different types of show

Currently, there are 5 types of show which are Kennel Club approved and dogs must be over the age of 6 months to take part in any of them. The different classes are as follows:

  • Companion
  • Limited
  • Open
  • Premier
  • Championship

It is worth noting that the last four shows are only open to Kennel Club registered pedigree breeds.

Choosing the type of show to enter

To begin with, most people like to enter their GSPs into Companion Shows which are held to raise money for various charities. They typically take place at local fetes, agricultural shows or sometimes at rescue organisations. A Companion Show usually has 5 classes for both KC registered pure breeds, but they have lots of classes for non-pedigree dogs too.

Once a dog gets used to taking part in a local show, it's time to think about entering them into shows that have a lot more in the way of regulations and rules which is the case with Limited Shows. There are typically 12 classes or 16 classes in this type of show depending on if the show has been organised for a single breed or several breeds and there is always an Open class in the show too.

Dogs can be awarded Best of Breed in their class which allows them to take part in the ""Best of Show"" class which is typically the last class of the show. It is a great way of building up a dog's portfolio because any dog that has previously won a Challenge Certificate or won any shows that would count towards them being eligible for a Championship title would not be allowed to enter into this type of show which in short, means it levels the playing field.

Open Shows are very much like Limited Shows with the main difference being that they cater for a lot more breeds. They also have a class for Best Puppy which is a great way of getting young dogs started off and to build up their confidence in the showring. Premier Shows are organised for all pedigree breeds and are a bigger type of Open Show where dogs can qualify to take part in the most highly prized dog show namely Crufts.

When it comes to Championship Shows, it is every owner and handler’s dream to enter a German Shorthaired Pointer into this type of show. The reason being that it is the only dog show in the UK where dogs can be awarded the title of Show Champion. Some Championship Shows are organised for just one breed with a sub group that could include hunt, point and retrieve pure breeds, whereas others cater for many breeds. The number of entries tend to rise from hundreds to thousands at this type of show so the competition is strong.


Training a German Shorthaired Pointer is great fun because they are so receptive to learning new things. As a breed, GSPs have a wonderful advantage in that they are built so nicely which means they always show themselves off so well in the “showring”. Teaching a dog to perform nicely is also great for their overall education because it teaches dogs to stay focused on their handlers which in turn means a much better behaved and well-balanced dog. German Shorthaired Pointers love being busy and are never happier than when they are given lots of one-to-one attention which they naturally get when they are being trained and in the showring.




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