Liver German Shorthair Pointers: All You Need To Know

People are sometimes confused by the pattern and color variations in German Shorthair Pointers (GSPs). Some have liver-colored patches, ticks, and spots against a white or roan background, while others are solid liver.

However, not all GSPs have liver coloration in their coats, with some dogs being solid black, black roan, black and white, or with black ticks and patches on a white background.


Liver German Shorthair Pointers are intelligent, energetic dogs that need regular exercise and lots of interaction with their people.

It is possible to get black variants of GSPs, but the American Kennel Club doesn’t allow them to be shown in the conformation ring. Liver is the standard breed color.

There is no color combination in GSPs that includes black, white, and liver. They either have black or liver-colored patterns. In some dogs, the liver coloration can look almost black, but the nose is a dead giveaway, with liver-colored dogs having liver noses and black dogs having black noses.

How Do Breeders Know If They Will Have Liver Colored GSP Puppies?

The parents’ genes determine a GSP’s coloration, and certain color genes are more dominant than others. For instance, a black GSP is a black dog because the black gene is dominant over the liver gene.

However, the black GSP could carry the liver as a recessive gene, so if one or both black GSP parents have the liver gene, they could still have a liver-colored puppy. 

When black parents don’t pass on the dominant black gene, then the recessive liver gene can express itself, and they can produce liver offspring.

However, if both parents are liver-colored, they cannot produce a black puppy because they don’t carry the dominant black gene. If they did, then they wouldn’t be liver colored themselves; they would be black.

If the parents are black GSPs, it is unlikely that all of their puppies will be liver-colored, but the only way to prove that they carry the liver gene is to breed them unless their parentage is known to include a liver-colored dog.

Some puppies from such a litter may be liver-colored, but others are likely to be black.

The colors do not always present as solid. A GSP is considered black and white, or solid black if he has a black nose.

Even if he has only one patch of black on a predominantly white background, he is still considered black. The temperament of a GSP has no relationship to the coat color.

The Liver Color Is Standard For German Shorthaired Pointers

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes black as an acceptable color in GSPs, but kennel clubs in some other countries may not.

Black used to be considered a genetic impurity until relatively recently, and the AKC still does not allow black GSPs to compete in the show ring, although they can enter other competitions. The colors recognized by the AKC are –

  • Black
  • Black and white
  • Liver
  • Liver and white
  • Liver roan
  • White and liver
  • Black roan

Roan is when the dog’s background color is not white but is very densely speckled or mottled with either black or liver.

Such a dog can have solid liver patches against a roan liver background. The black roan will have a black mottled background color that makes him look dark grey – except for his solid black patches.

At dog shows, GSPs are judged on their conformation and movement, not their coat patterns or head markings. The liver coloration can be very dark or relatively light.

The GSP’s lips, paw pads, nose, and skin around the eyes must all be liver-colored in a liver dog.

Ideally, the GSP must not have any black, red, lemon, orange, tan, or black coloration and must not be solid white either. Solid liver GSPs often have some white on their chests.

GSPs have a double coat with rough, dense, short outer fur and a short, dense undercoat.  

The kennel clubs will not recognize a dog that has a pink or flesh-colored nose. Fans of the GSP and breeders alike will tell you that having a healthy dog with a good temperament is better than selecting for color.

They say you should never choose a dog only based on color because this could set you up for disappointment.

The coat colors accepted by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) based in Belgium are slightly different from those of the AKC. They are –

  • Solid brown (liver) without markings
  • Liver with small white or flecked markings on the chest and legs
  • Dark liver roan with liver head, liver patches, or specks
  • Light liver roman with a liver head, liver patches, specks, or without patches.  In this coat type, the liver hairs are few, and the white hairs predominate
  • White with liver head markings, brown patches, or specks
  • Black with the same patterns that are recognized for liver
  • Yellow, tan markings are permissible (this is a very recent addition to the standard)
  • Blaze, fleck, and speckled flews are permissible.

The nose must be liver in liver-colored dogs and black in black dogs. A flesh-colored nose is only allowed in dogs with white as their primary background color. Yellow eyes are regarded as a fault.

The United Kennel Club, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, states that the coat may be solid liver or various combinations of liver and white, including liver and white-ticked, liver-spotted and white ticked or live roan.

It also recognizes that the coat may be solid black, any combination of black and white, including black and white ticked, black-spotted and white ticked, or black roan.

The UKC says that the dog must not have a flesh-colored nose or any red, orange, or lemon color in the coat.

Although it is still allowed in the US, the docking of dogs’ tails has been prohibited in some countries. However, the UKC says that no GSP will be penalized in any of its events if its tail is not docked. 

If a GSP’s tail is docked, it is usually done about halfway down so that the dog can still use his tail in the pointing posture.

Breed Characteristics Of German Shorthair Pointers

The typical GSP coat is short, sleek, liver, or liver and white in various patterns and requires no professional grooming. The ears are naturally floppy and velvety. They are classified as gun dogs and adopt their characteristic pointing pose from quite a young age.

Personality-wise, they are alert, intelligent, energetic dogs that love hunting and running. They are generally playful and good with children and other dogs and would suit an active family that loves the outdoors. Exercise is essential for GSPs.

Males range in weight from fifty-five to seventy pounds and stand around twenty-four inches at the withers.

Females are slightly smaller, weighing between forty-five and sixty pounds and standing at twenty-two inches at the withers. Their life expectancy is between twelve and fourteen years.

They are graceful athletes with a deep chest and keen nose and are equally good on land and in water. The lines of the head are clean, well defined, and well proportioned.

Their eyes are various shades of brown and tend to tone in with the coat. Light-colored eyes are considered undesirable in the breed.

According to the UKC, the gait of the GSP should be smooth, effortless, well-coordinated, and powerful. The AKC says a smooth, lithe gait is essential. Long hair in the body coat is considered undesirable and is severely penalized by the AKC. 

You can happily take your GSP with you while out running or cycling as long as he is well trained and socialized. They love to play fetch and do well in a variety of dog sports. In the classical pointing stance, the tail is held straight up at the back with one foreleg lifted and the nose and spine pointed forward.

The coat is water-resistant, which makes them the ideal upland bird and water dogs. They can point and retrieve and perform just about any gun dog role as they are hardy, tenacious, and tireless. If you are considering a GSP for hunting purposes, the coat color is not as important as the dog’s ability to perform out in the field.

The liver German Shorthair pointer is more readily available than the black coloring. In terms of temperament, there is no difference between the two colors, but of course, every dog is an individual with its own unique character.

The German Shorthair Pointer originates, as its name suggests, from Germany, but they are a popular dog all over the world.

The German Shorthaired Pointer Club of America has an illustrated standard for GSPs that is worth checking out here. It is intended as a visual tool for GSP breeders, exhibitors, owners, and fanciers and a guide for judges in the show ring.

The Color Of A German Shorthaired Pointer Changes With Age

Liver German Shorthaired Pointers are born with a white background and liver patches – unless they are solid liver.

Their roaning, speckles, and ticking only come in as they get older, typically starting at about five weeks and deepening until they are six months of age. The puppies, therefore, look a lot lighter than they will as adults.

A way to see if your GSP puppy will be roan is to look at the pads under her toes. If the toe pads are primarily pink, the puppy is likely to be liver and white.

If the toe pads are mostly liver, the dog will be roan. They do shed, and their short hair can get embedded in furniture and carpets.

They should be brushed weekly and kept clean by having a bath periodically. If they live outside in a colder climate, their undercoats will be thicker and softer, and when the weather warms up, they will shed it. Regular brushing helps to limit the number of dog hairs in and around your home.

If the puppy has a combination of liver, black, and white, he is not purebred. Advertisements for rare color variations should be treated with suspicion as GSPs are not bred for color but for temperament and performance ability.

Sometimes breeders think they can charge a premium for a rare colored dog, but in the case of GSP’s, there is no acceptable rare color variation.

GSPs are either liver or black or patterned with these two colors on a white or roan background. A reputable breeder will not try to breed lemon or gray-colored GSPs.

Both the black and liver variants of GSPs can be used in obedience trials and hunting tracking and agility competitions, but black dogs cannot be shown in the conformation ring.

The Needs Of The German Shorthaired Pointer Breed

This breed needs active involvement with its owner and family. GSPs are not a dog to be left outside and ignored, although they can sleep outside if their kennel is warm, comfortable, and protected from the elements.

They make good watchdogs because they are alert and intelligent but are too friendly to be good guard dogs.

Puppies should be taught to sleep in a crate as they can be very curious and get up to mischief if left unattended. If they get bored and don’t get enough interaction and exercise with their owner, they can be destructive.

If you treat your GSP well, they can make loving, loyal companions and are not only meant for hunting.

The GSP is a relatively healthy breed with few genetic problems, but you should also make sure to get your puppy from a reputable breeder who has done all the necessary health checks on the parents.

Ideally, the breeding pair should have a certificate proving they have been tested for elbow and hip dysplasia using tests recommended by the Orthopaedic Foundation for Animals.

They should also have DNA clearance for a genetic eye condition called Cone Degeneration. 

GSPs are easy to train and generally eager to please. However, they can be inventive and think for themselves if left to their own devices or if you don’t keep them focused on a particular training exercise.

They can be pretty sensitive, so the owner should be calm, gentle, and firm, not harsh, impatient, and overbearing when teaching them new things.

They have a reputation of being good with children but may inadvertently knock a small child over when they are playful.  When selecting a GSP, avoid dogs that seem aggressive, overly shy, or fearful. 

Liver GSPs are sleek, beautiful dogs that are a pleasure to have around when treated with love and kindness.

Puppies should only be given chew toys under your supervision as they could break them up and swallow pieces leading to intestinal blockages. Some individuals may be more inclined to chew than others.

GSPs need a garden to run in as well as regular morning and evening walks, and swimming is another excellent form of exercise for them. 


Liver German Shorthaired Pointers come in solid liver or liver and white or liver and roan with a surprising variety of coat patterns.

The liver theme can be replaced by black, but black GSPs cannot compete in the show ring in the United States. You should never choose a GSP puppy based only on color because the dog’s health and temperament are much more important than their coloration.


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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