GSP vs English Setter: Everything You Need To Know

Let’s take a look at the differences in owning a German Shorthaired Pointer vs an English Setter.

As someone who has worked with both, hunted with both, and been around both with their families, I know a thing or two about these two breeds and can hopefully offer some advice in picking between the two. 

If you’ve been reading my posts for a while, then you probably know I’m a lover of GSPs – that’s why I got Hank to begin with.

So, you might think that a GSP vs English Setter post from my perspective is already biased. And you’d be right.

GSPs are great, I love them, they’ll love you – you should go and get one. But, that’s also not the point of this article.

You can’t product review a dog like you can a TV or laptop. What you can do is look at them both side by side and point out the areas they excel in.

So, as much as I love GSPs, this post isn’t a comparison post in the traditional sense, because I’m not looking for which is better.

I’m just presenting you with the key information about each breed from my own experiences and from my own research and letting you decide which would be a better fit for you if you’re thinking about welcoming a furry friend into the family.

So, let’s get into it.


I’m going to start each section by talking about GSPs because they’re what I know. In terms of temperament, I think Hank is a quintessential GSP.

He is excitable and curious, always looking for something to do, but as friendly as they come.

Let’s put it this way, if you’re looking for a guard dog, GSPs are not for you. They’re people pleasers who are always looking to impress their owners any way that they can.

I guess if I was to sum up all GSPs temperaments in one word, it’d be ‘active’!

English Setters couldn’t be more different. They too, are incredibly friendly and intelligent, but they’re temperament is much calmer than a GSPs.

I’ve walked into rooms with English Setters inside and I might as well have been an inanimate object for all the care they seemed to give.

They have a very placid temperament compared to GSPs. You’ll see later that this doesn’t stop them from being excellent hunting or working dogs, but they just seem to enjoy chilling out. The same definitely cannot be said for Hank.


I’ve sort of covered personality above, but I just really wanted to highlight that the two are very similar on this front.

Friendly, sociable, and incredibly intelligent, they make excellent pets and working dogs because of how easy-going they are when it comes to socializing with others and being put into new situations.

The major difference I’ve seen in their personalities is to do with stubbornness. Yes, Hank can be stubborn sometimes, just like any other dog, but I’d say 99% of the time his eagerness to please me will win out.

But I’ve seen English Setters point blank refuse to take their walk or follow a command, and when they decide they’ve had enough, they really have had enough.

Don’t get me wrong, English Setters are still really loving dogs, but they have a hidden stubborn streak that most owners aren’t prepared for.

Learning to deal with this can be a little tricky at first, but I’ve also seen amazing English Setter owners who can coerce their dogs into doing precisely the thing they didn’t want to do 5 minutes ago too, so it really is just a matter of getting to know your dog to get them on side.


One thing I’ve noticed about GSPs is that they love ALL people. Babies, toddlers, children, teens – whatever members of the family you’ve got, GSPs will love them as their own quickly after joining the household.

Another really attractive trait that GSPs have when it comes to being part of the family is their protectiveness – but more specifically their protectiveness without aggression.

They’ll watch for danger and protect any little ones in the household, but they don’t do so aggressively. They’ll still allow you to go near your children and care for them etc, which I know isn’t always the case with protective breeds.

As for English Setters, they really are a shining example of being a perfect family pet. They might seem slightly aloof with strangers (like from my story above about being completely ignored) but with their family they are incredibly loving.

Better yet, their chilled-out temperament makes them incredibly patient when it comes to spending time with little ones.

Toddlers will grab ears and pull hair, but an English Setter will sit and take it without becoming aggressive.

In many ways, you need to be more vigilant of your children than you do of your dog when you have an English Setter because your children are much more likely to accidentally hurt your dog than they are to hurt one of your children.


They classify both GSPs and English Setters as moderate shedders, so if you’re looking for a low shedding breed, neither of these are right for you.

Shedding can be maintained with regular brushes, trimming their coats, and baths or showers.

But even with the best will in the world, both dogs will shed more than other breeds, so if it’s a deal-breaker for you, then it’s time to move on.

Health Issues

Both dogs suffer with quite similar health issues that owners really need to be aware of, so I’ll list the ones they share here:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancers
  • Eye and Ear Infections

Now, that list might seem a little concerning, but I want to reassure everyone that no matter what, certain breeds will be more susceptible to certain health issues.

Anybody who tells you that a breed is 100% healthy, 100% of the time, is lying to you. What I do know though, is that both GSPs and English Setters are very healthy, happy breeds who will live a long life.

Sometimes illnesses will occur that are unpredictable, and just because it isn’t on the list above doesn’t mean it can’t happen to the breed at all. Likewise, just because it is on the list above doesn’t mean it will happen.

Really, health issues needn’t be a concern for either breed, but having an awareness of what could happen is always better than having no awareness at all, and that’s why I’ve chosen to add this section in.

Hunting Ability

Both GSPs and English Setters are excellent hunting dogs. But I also need to warn you. GSPs are incredibly active, and whilst Hank is a wonderful companion for me whilst hunting, he has a tendency to be a little excitable.

That means that he can, and does, scare away ducks and other animals that I’m trying to hunt. That’s not me saying that Hank and other GSPs aren’t great hunting dogs, because they are.

They point with exceptional accuracy, have a nose like no other dog I’ve seen, and will retrieve the kill quickly and efficiently.

Managing his excitable nature is just a skill I’ve needed to learn to bring him under control when I really need him to focus, so that’s something you should expect to have to do with your GSP too if hunting is an activity you’d like to do together.

English Setters are quite different. I’ve seen English Setters wait to retrieve a kill with the patience of a cheetah stalking its prey.

Their chilled-out temperament makes them excellent hunting dogs because they won’t get excitable in the same way Hank does for me.

That means you needn’t worry about what they’re doing or where they’re going, because the likelihood is they’re just relaxing nearby, waiting for the opportunity to retrieve a kill, or scare some birds into the air for you to shoot.

One thing I will say is that English Setters are best suited to being a bird dog as opposed to a game dog, because they were originally bred for that purpose and their abilities seem to suit that far more.

Take-Home Message

Really, you can’t go wrong with either breed. They are both excellent breeds who make wonderful family pets and hunting companions, but their differing temperaments certainly affect their behaviors.

It’s up to you to decide which breed suits you and your needs more, but whichever way you go, they’re both friendly, sociable, well-bred breeds who will be a great addition to your household!


An Owner and a huge fan of GSP's! I have owned my GSP for 7 years now and learned so many things along the way to share with you all about German Shorthaired Pointers!

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