Top 5 Tips to Survive the Puppy Years with a German Shorthaired Pointer

The Story of River

365 days ago today (Aug 29, 2017), James called me and said, “I’m going to get the 10-week old puppy”. It was a Tuesday, I was working. We had visited a litter of puppies only a week or so old the day before. I’d never met a german shorthaired pointer (GSP) prior to that. We were considering adopting one of these littles in a few months time… but then we saw a leggy pup about 10-weeks old. And when James held him, the pup nibbled his chin. Looking back, it was all over from here. We went home to talk it over, and the next morning James called me to tell me he was going to get the older puppy.

So, we brought home the sweetest GSP puppy, with the cutest face.  Totally unprepared. We didn’t have a dog dish, a leash, or a crate.  We learned quickly as River turned our lives upside down. We’ve come out stronger as a couple, and with the happiest dog around.

River is full of life and always puts a smile on our face. Here are our Top 5 Tips for surviving the first 12-months with a GSP.

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#1. Physical Exercise

German shorthaired pointers are high energy. I mean HIGH energy. There is a reason this is numero uno. River needs AT LEAST an hour of exercise a day, and he will always take more if he can get it. River NEVER says no to an adventure. You’ll need to have a large yard or access to a dog park where he can run off-leash (safely, of course!).

When we bought River, we were living in town with a tiny fenced-in back yard. We had to take River to the local parks at least once a day to get his hour in to stretch his legs. Though we enjoyed taking him, there were many days when it definitely added stress to our already busy schedules.

Now that we have moved and have 5-acres of land, it has been SO. MUCH. EASIER. River can run around all day, while we take care of things around the house. But also, River never fails at getting us out of our daily routines and into the outdoors.

James says: It was really important to get River “off-leash” as much as possible when he was young. Now, he has learned to stay near me and is quick to respond in the field.

#2. Mental Exercise 

It was just as important to intentionally stimulate River’s brain when he was young. German shorthaired pointers are so eager to learn. We did the basic commands – come, sit, stay, shake – and then other fun ones like “where’s mummy?” in which River would have to search the house for me. James would also hide scent around the house or yard and have River sniff it out.

When River doesn’t get enough physical or mental exercise, he can get rowdy and destructive. We’ve been lucky he usually takes it out on his dog toys. Which brings me to my next point…

#3. Toys & Chews 

River LOVES his Kong* toy. I stuff it with peanut butter and give it to him which entertains him for as long as it takes to lick every scrape of peanut butter out of the Kong. Sometimes I’d put his food in it, or a non-rawhide chew to really entertain him for awhile. River loved the ones by SmartBones*. They even had a “calming” chew  stick *which I liked to think worked… if only for awhile. River at least loved them.








#4. Containing the River Monster

When River was young, we crated him when we were gone during the day and to sleep at night. When I just couldn’t deal with his rambunctiousness and needed to cook dinner or fold laundry without him obsessing over stealing socks, we put in him what we called “puppy jail”. Basically, just an exercise pen*  similar to this one (though not the exact one we used) that gave him a bit of room to walk around and play with toys, but not get into (too much) trouble. We have got so much use of this silly exercise pen! We used it block of stairs, or rooms he couldn’t go in, and now we use it around the small oil heater in his kennel.

We hated keeping River in the crate all day while we were at work. We discovered doggie-day care which was AWESOME for tiring out our little monster, and I think helped River so much with socialization. But expensive. When we moved to the country, we built River an indoor-outdoor kennel which he enjoys. Our dog trainer said he can “sit and watch the birds – it’s like doggie TV!”

#5. Leash walking

This is the the biggest thing I wish we would have done differently with River. As I said earlier, we spent a lot of time with River off-leash when he was  young. Which was great… except now he is not good at leash walking. We’ve tried so many different types of techniques, leashes, collars, and we just couldn’t get him to walk nicely on the leash! We use a slip-lead by Remington now (sold here, pack of 2*), and I wish we would have discovered this when he was young! River is 58-lbs of muscle, and when he sees a critter he’ll about pull you off your feet (which my mother in law and mother can attest too!) It’s a work in progress.

Owning River has helped us grow as a couple both in patience and communication. He has also certainly encouraged us to get outside in  all types of weather- more than ever. River is the happiest when he is outside, which gets us out exploring our own backyard every single day.

So, are you thinking about adopting a German Shorthaired Pointer? Well, buckle up! GSPs are high energy, smart, and always eager for an adventure (this is an adventure blog, after all).

Adventure on,

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