The GSP was created to fulfil the need for a versatile hunting dog due to the rise of the German Empire in the 1880s. The heightened demand for meat and hides required a dog with a sensitive nose, discipline and an instinct to focus on the hunt! The GSP we know today were developed from old Spanish Pointers and Braque Francais with the addition of German bloodhounds for tracking and scent-work purposes whilst also softening the breeds temperament. In the 1860s, this mixture was further crossed with English pointers to improve their speed and pointing instincts. The end product was a sleek, intelligent, loyal and versatile gundog with incredible stamina, a highly developed pointing instinct and an eagerness to retrieve game. Now that we all share that knowledge, it can be agreed that the GSP has an extremely high prey drive.
Whilst it is important to remember that all dog breed have evolved from wolves, the GSP has never lost that prey drive. We bred them to become exceptional hunters and trackers and have continued to refine those skills even today! They are still extremely common working dogs when it comes to a hunting companion. Spaniels, Labradors and GSP’s are arguably the top three working dogs in the field.
A GSP is a working dog through and through and has the intelligence to reflect that! With their high working drive and their high intelligence, they make for a great companion if you love walks off the beaten track where they can satisfy their need to track and hunt through the foliage. They will be happy in a family home as long as you train them according to their instincts. Focusing their training on what they were bred to do is the key to fully engaging their brains. But remember to be firm when training them. Their instincts will make way to a sudden chase after wild rabbits. But with consistent and engaging instruction, a GSP will make a loyal and loved member of the family!
The GSP is best suited to a busy, active lifestyle. They are extremely intelligent and have a high working drive. They are best suited to experienced dog owners or those that can allow for their GSP to be predominantly outside exploring or working. They will need confident training, not for the faint hearted. A key aspect of this dog’s personality is that they instinctively have a very high prey drive. And so you should be wary when your GSP is off-lead, it can prove too tempting to most should a rabbit come into its eyeline!
With their training, you can start them off with simple commands almost as soon as you get them home! (After letting them settle in first!) But because of their drive to work, they’re very receptive to learning from a young age! Even though a mature Pointer will be able to understand complex verbal and physical cues, you still want to start them off with simple, one-word commands. Just the usual ‘Sit’, ‘Stay’, Wait’ ect. Once they mature, that’s when you can really start to challenge them.
When it comes to the training of you GSP, including activities that will satisfy their instincts will make for a very obedient and happy Pointer. So historically, they are versatile hunting dogs. This means they can excel at tracking, hunting, and retrieving. Mimicking these activities, if you’re not from a hunting home, is what will mentally satisfy your Pointer.
Do keep in mind that a dog that has been so specifically bred to hunt and retrieve game, a firm hand will sometimes be needed to override that. In an open space that is home to wild animals, your Pointer will have an extremely strong instinct to chase and retrieve everything that catches its eye! Whilst you aren’t 100% sure of your dogs steadiness or recall, a longline is key. A longline wont take away from your training but it will give you that safety net of stopping you Pointer from running off to chase the wild rabbits!
As a puppy, once they’re cleared to meet and greet other people and other dogs, it is so so important to socialise them correctly. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean meeting as many dogs and as many people as possible! It’s more that they need to explore the world around them in a positive way to ensure you have a well-rounded dog that’s less likely to be reactive. Taking this rambunctious, intelligent dog into places like cafes and dog parks and teaching them from a young age not to charge over to every dog they see and learn to listen to you regardless of what distractions surround them is crucial to a happy life with them. For a dog with such strong instincts, you want to teach them to focus on you from a young age and continue that throughout their lives. Giving them the correct socialisation, letting them know what is expected from them in a variety of surroundings, will help you have that iron clad control you need with a breed as strong willed as this one!
Let’s recap what we’ve gone through today.
The GSP has been cultivated and bred to be an impressive hunter meaning they have a very high level of prey drive. This is something they have excelled in for hundreds of years and it is something that they still excel in today! Being aware of their history and temperament means you can be prepared for the challenges a high prey drive can create.