A German Shorthaired Pointer is a great hunting companion. Originally bred as a bird dog in Germany, this Pointer is great at tracking and retrieving birds.
It’s their natural instinct and I’ve found with my GSP Hank that it only takes some basic training to make them proficient at hunting birds.
Where things get a little trickier for GSPs is when you need them to retrieve animals from the water.
Waterfowl are common for GSP owners to want to hunt, but if you’ve ever taken one hunting with you, then you will have seen how easily they become cold.
That means you’re going to need to invest in a top-quality neoprene vest to help them with their temperature regulation.
However, I’ve always struggled to find a neoprene vest that fits Hank correctly, and the main reason for that is their body shape.
So throughout this post I’ll be talking about why a neoprene vest is a necessity for GSPs, why GSPs are notoriously difficult customers when searching for a neoprene vest that’s right for them, how to overcome these challenges, and then I’ll suggest the top 3 neoprene vests for GSPs based on my own experiences with Hank, and the advice of fellow GSP owners. Ready? Alright, let’s get into it!
Why you need a neoprene vest for your GSP
GSPs are great at hunting lots of different animals, but if they aren’t chasing birds, then they’re probably chasing ducks.
When waterfowl hunting season begins, temperatures are usually pretty high, so your GSP will cope with the warm temperatures well.
But when late season arrives, temperatures can easily dip below freezing, causing your GSP to be in and out of the water during icy breezes.
GSPs have excellent coats that help repel water away from their skin, but even their temperature regulation can’t keep up with freezing conditions when they’re wet too. So, a neoprene vest is important for your GSP for some key reasons:
Protect them from the environment
If you’re taking your GSP out hunting early in the season, then you’re going to encounter overgrown shrubbery, sharp brush, and abrasive grasses.
In order to keep your GSP safe during this time, it’s good to get into the habit of making them wear a neoprene vest to protect them from scratches.
It might only be a small thing, but a scratch in the wrong place can cause a lot of pain for your dog, and it can even become infected and possibly a much more serious condition as a result.
Even during the late season after they have harvested fields, there can be a lot of exposed branches that can poke and cause injury, so if you want to protect your GSP from the environment, pick up a neoprene vest.
Another important aspect of a neoprene vest is its ability to help keep your dog’s core temperature up. As I already mentioned above, late season usually brings chilly waters and biting winds, two things that mix badly, especially for a GSP.
Still, it isn’t all about keeping temperatures up though. If you want your GSP to wear a neoprene vest during the warmer months like I do with Hank to keep them safe from the environment, then look at picking up a neoprene vest that’s a little thinner – but I’ll talk more about neoprene thickness in a later section.
For now, you just need to know that the thicker the neoprene, the warmer your dog will be, so adjust according to when you hunt and your GSPs specific needs.
The final reason neoprene vests are so important is the flotation support it offers your dog.
I know GSPs, and I know they will keep going even when they are on the brink of exhaustion – so anything we can do as owners to make their life a little easier should be done.
By offering them some flotation support with a neoprene vest, you are taking the load off them a little, making their work a little easier for them to achieve without exhausting themselves and potentially ending up in dangerous waters.
Why is buying a neoprene hunting vest so difficult for GSPs
GSPs are difficult customers when buying neoprene hunting vests because of their build and body shape. They are lean and have barrel chests, making them much more difficult to buy for than, say, a labrador retriever. But why is that?
Lean body shape
Having a lean body shape means your GSP is uncommonly thin. It’s how they are built and it’s how they are meant to look (despite people who know nothing about the breed often thinking they’re underweight).
That causes problems when you’re trying to find vests that fit your GSP, though, because a very lean body shape is difficult to fit.
Take a labrador retriever for example. My friend has a black lab, and he has never struggled to find a neoprene vest like I have for Hank.
That’s because a lab has a much more common body shape. You know that a large vest will fit them without a problem. But don’t worry, it isn’t impossible to find an excellent quality neoprene vest to fit your GSP.
You just need to know where to look. But more on that later…
A GSP is a breed of dog with a barreled chest, meaning it is much larger and rounder than the rest of their body. This again makes it difficult to purchase a vest that fits them correctly.
A lab won’t struggle here because they don’t have a barreled chest like a GSP, making their body shape much easier to fit a vest to.
What to look out for in a neoprene vest
There are some key things you want to look out for from a good neoprene vest generally, but also some important things to keep an eye out for when shopping for a German Shorthaired Pointer specifically.
The following list of features should be at the top of your must-haves, and whenever I’m in the market for a new neoprene vest for Hank, I always refer back to this list so I know I’m getting a vest that’s right for him.
The right thickness of neoprene
There are different thicknesses of neoprene. For hunting during warmer months, look for a vest with 3mm of neoprene or less because this will keep your GSP cool whilst protecting them from the environment and providing sufficient flotation support.
For winter months, look out for a vest with 5mm of neoprene or higher. It might not sound like a big difference, but neoprene is naturally very good at reflecting body heat anyway, and a hunting GSP is often one that’s working up some serious body heat. Those extra few mm can make all the difference.
Because a GSP has such a difficult body shape to fit a vest to, you want to look out for a neoprene vest that has a custom fit design.
This means you’ll be able to adjust the neoprene vest to fit your GSPs shape in the best way possible. These vests may not be perfect, but they’ll be as close to perfect as you’ll get with a GSP.
Obviously not every neoprene vest has custom designs, so if you can’t find one, look out for one with plenty of sizing options or a thorough sizing guide so you can get the best fit for your GSP.
Finally, any neoprene vest should be camo in style. This gives your GSP the best shot to sneak up on the waterfowl they’re hunting.
GSPs are especially boisterous on the hunt, so make sure they have this extra layer of camouflage to keep them from giving you away.
My top 3 neoprene vests for GSPs
I’ve scoured the internet looking for the best neoprene vests for GSPs, and with a little help from fellow GSP owners talking about their experiences online, my own experience with Hank, and my requirement-led internet search, I’ve finally found a top 3.
I’d be happy to purchase any of these for Hank, so these are in no particular order. For this section, I’ll tell you the average price, why I love it, and provide you with an Amazon link so you can see the product for yourself.
I would recommend shopping around online too though, because you may get it cheaper elsewhere – but I’ll leave that up to you. Without further ado, I’ll finish by providing you with my top 3 neoprene vest for GSPs:
First up is the Browning camo neoprene dog vest available at Amazon here.
You can usually pick up this for around $40, so it isn’t too expensive. It’s well made too, so should last you a while. The thing I love most about it, though, is its custom-fit design.
It’s perfect for GSPs because you can make it fit their unique shape really well. It is only 3mm of neoprene so more suited to warmer weather, but I still haven’t been able to find a vest that fits a GSP quite as well as this one does.
Next is the Rig’Em Right waterfowl elite dog vest, an excellent alternative, and available here. This one is a little pricier at around $80, and it isn’t a custom fit either.
Now I won’t say what size you need for your GSP specifically, because they are all different, as we know. However, a medium has been used successfully with GSPs in the past (and there is a clear sizing guide which tells you how to measure your dog too for best results).
The main reason I love this one though is its three layers. A 3mm neoprene, a 5mm neoprene, and a flotation layer – all adding up to the perfect all-round neoprene vest for GSPs.
To finish, let’s look at the Avery Boater’s dog parka, available here. You can usually pick this up for around $50, depending on the size.
This is the perfect all-season hunting vest, and whilst it doesn’t have a handle like the Rig’Em option above (perfect for pulling your dog out of the water if you’re hunting on a boat), there are two cutouts that can be used similarly.
The quality of this one is astounding, designed to withstand even the harshest of conditions. It’s both breathable in the summer and insulating in the winter, and it has a complete camo design and flotation layer too.
Once again it isn’t a custom fit, but with 8 different sizes available you’ll find one that fits your GSP well.