Training a German Shorthaired Pointer to Walk on a Leash

GSP Leash Walking GTNP

When starting leash walking training with your dog the #1 goal is to make your pup think and better yet KNOW that you’re the center of the universe and the one in control. The Alpha of the pack per say.

This is especially important with a smart breed like German Shorthaired Pointers. Dog leash walking takes patience to start, and t’s worth the time as it’s something that will go along way in building a new bond between you and your best friend.

This may be challenging at first as your new dog will be excited by all the sights and smells around them, especially a working dog breed. And of course they are going to “test” you.

Keep in mind – a dog that pulls on the leash or pulls on lead should be trained to follow your lead. When you see someone being pulled behind their dog on a walk, it’s bad for the dog and owner creating horrible habits that can be hard to break.

Here are some leash walking tips we have learned over the years in our dog leash training guide below:

How to Train a German Shorthaired Pointer to Walk on Leash

I recommend starting out by using soft delicious dog treats for positive re-enforcement training. If you can’t find any treats nearbye or in a pinch white string cheese always works or training, cooked hot dogs too.

What’s neat about these treats is they can also be used to hide pills, smart dogs catch on quickly luckily the Greenies do a great job of hiding them with a flavor dogs can’t resist.

Your German Shorthaired Pointer may wonder about eating cheese at first but as with my dog Char after one bite she was hooked, most likely yours will be too. String cheese makes for an easy to digest soft treat that works wonders for training.

Avoid hard stuff like milk bones while training.

Get Your Dogs Attention

Start by having your dog sit in front of you, ideally you have already mastered this part of the training. If not you can use words and then apply pressure to the top thigh bone which will make your dog sit, reward them, use word sit and good. Eat, sleep, repeat.

Once sitting has been mastered, with a loose leash and a treat in your hand slowly take a few steps backward, as the dog follows stop and if they sit or stop, reward them with a treat. Simply loose leash walking games like this are fun, yet challenging for the dog and owner alike.

I like to train with the Ruffwear Roamer Dog Leash this the best leash for walking a dog and training a GSP to walk  that I have found. It comes in a variety of lengths, colors and works just about every outdoor pursuit you can imagine. Just remember to not allow your dog to pull! EVER…

Dog Leash Walking Training Timing

At first leash walking training can be INCREDIBLY frustrating, my advice is to take lots of deep breaths if your dog doesn’t want to sit, or something else distracts their attention while training, pause and then start over. And you might even have to just come back to it on another day.  Don’t beat a dead horse… The German Shorthaired Pointer temperament can be intense, actually, it always is.

Dog Heel

Its best for your dog to learn to heel to one side of your body while walking.  Since we hunt, and I carry my shotgun in my right hand, so my dog has learned to walk next to me on the left staying away from the gun.

We start our attention walking right out the front door daily. After about 5-10 minutes of repetition, I was able to see great results and for the most part, Char would stay closer to me then she had the past few days without wanting to pull.

One thing that really helped was to alternate between stopping and walking, stopping, and walking. Start small, if you can make it to the end of your driveway, congratulate yourself. Then tomorrow, the neighbor’s house and so on and so on.

I think it’s important to mix the training locations up as dogs are smart and need stimulation, especially working breeds.

By the time you know it you will be loose leash walking without treats. Leash training an older dog will work the same, although it may take even more patience as by now the dog understands it can think and act as it pleases.  An old dog can learn new tricks, it just requires patience and lots of tasty dog treats and for it to know it’s not the leader or alpha or the pack, you are!

What I noticed most about this training is I now have my dog’s attention while we go for walks. This took some time but the more you invest now into your dogs the happier the next 10+ years of your lives will be (plural) as this is your dog is a family member, don’t ever forget that.

Its also important to get your dogs to gaze and eyes to focus on you while walking on a leash, not a million miles ahead of you. Char would pull, I would stop she would turn around look at me and start walking back towards me. At that point I would continue walking, sure it may look silly and take a good deal of time to travel any distance but the dog and I are getting it.

Patience is your friend.

Take it a step farther and try this training outdoors without your sunglasses on. This lets your dog learn, see, and understand the different looks and facial expressions you give them as soon they will do the same to you. Remember we haven’t learned how to speak dog, and dogs, for the most part, don’t speak English.

German Shorthaired Pointer Training Book

For anyone interested in hunting with their GSP.  The book, Bond of Passion: Living with and Training Your Hunting Dog, lays out some great foundations on where to start. Although it’s old, the information has not changed when it comes to building a bond with your hunting dog / best friend.

Human Training

Training seems to be 30% about the dog and 70% about the human. It’s extremely important to control your emotions and energy around German Shorthaired Pointers or any dog for that matter. At times I will get frustrated when I’m being pulled and yanked in different directions or when the dog just simply chooses to ignore my “come” command. You’re not alone, and even the best of dogs will test from time to time.

Learning what to do when your dog does not react to a command takes time. Our instinct is to raise our voice, just like our parents would do. That doesn’t work, not does being physical. It will end up hurting you more than your dog as the old saying goes, this will hurt me more than it hurts you.

Speak calmly and firmly when giving your dog commands and before you know it you will have a best friend and pal that respects your voice.

Leash Walking

German shorthair pointers are incredibly strong muscular dogs. Getting pulled on the leash is not uncommon with a German Shorthaired Pointer, or any working breed. However, this can, and needs to be changed!!!

I have started to come to a complete stop anytime the dog try’s to pull. I simply call her to me and reward her with a treat. I have found the Loose Leash Positive reinforcement is the best way to train a German Shorthaired Pointer. If she pulls we don’t walk, if it becomes too much, simply turn around and go back.  Don’t get frustrated or angry. The dog will pick up on your emotions and once you let go and head home they will know something is up.

Socializing Dogs

My dog Char grew up with her mom and aunt on a ranch and had some interactions with other dogs but only GSP’s with high energy. I felt it was best for her to meet other dogs in the area as soon as possible. While at the same time I was a bit hesitant as my last pointer didn’t interact well with other dogs. She was great with humans but just had some sort of complex where she thought she was the alpha at all times. Stealing toys, causing fights and such. (Turns out a majority of pointers, even females are Alphas)

How to train your German Shorthaired Pointer

It’s never a bad time to go back to basic commands, start with “Sit”. Even for a dog that knows the command this is a fun game and has the two of you interacting. Sit, stay, come.  Reward. These 3-basic commands are important for German Shorthaired Pointers as they are one of the dog breeds that can walk off-leash especially for recreating and hunting.

Walking a dog on a leash is something every dog owner should master.  You owe it to your dog if nobody else.  An added bonus of having a dog that can walk on a leash especially a working breed is if you need someone to watch your dog they will feel much more comfortable, and perhaps you as well to have them walk your dog on a leash vs letting them run as some hunters and recreational do with working dogs.

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About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News based in Jackson, Wyoming.

4 Comments on "Training a German Shorthaired Pointer to Walk on a Leash"

  1. Hi
    We have a 6mth female pointer/lab. We’ve managed to settle the pulling, but she has a thing about attacking the leash and the hand that holds it. Any advice on how to stop this behavior? We’ve tried to stop the walk. Ignore and not give attention. Distract with a different behavior like “sit”. Tried a play session with a toy that we bring to break up the walk. Feeling at a loss 🙁

    • Hey Nicole,

      Have you started an healing training? Pup may be like come on mom, let me off leash a bit. The biting on the leash thing seems to be pretty darn common. Does this happen at the start of the walks? If so may just be pent up energy.

      Better yet, there are harnesses you can use for your dog where the leash attaches on the back near the neck, you can hold the leash in the air, like at your head level anytime they try and bite at the leash. This trick also works wonders for pulling as if you reach up, they really have no way to pull fwd, vs holding on and going with the momentum.

      Really appreciate you reaching out.


  2. Fransisca Langille | March 8, 2020 at 9:41 PM | Reply

    Hi, I have a quick question if you got a second. I’m planning a hunting trip in the Olympic rainforest. About 20 miles with likely rain. Do you have a favorite boot that you would use in that situation? Thanks big time for the help. I really appreciate it.

    • Mike Hardaker | March 23, 2020 at 10:25 AM | Reply


      Have you looked into Danner boots? They are made in the PNW, built to handle rain and are super comfortable. I have 3-4 pairs now I used for different needs, hiking, hunting, around town. etc

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