Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Should you own a German Wirehaired Pointer?

As the acting breeder referral for the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America, I receive a lot of phone calls and emails from people looking for a puppy. Many of these inquiries are from people who have never owned the breed before, and may have never owned a sporting breed before. I often ask them; Why this breed?

Those who have never owned one before have seen pictures of GWP puppies, and they fall in love with those adorable fuzzy little puppies. Some have done a bit of homework and have read about the breed and believe it's the right breed for them. Then we have the hunters who are looking for a hard core working dog.

Should you purchase a GWP? 
Will this breed fit into your lives? 
Let's see.
The first thing I want people to know about this breed is this; this is a high energy breed. They need exercise, the more the better. If you think a 30 minute walk, once a day is adequate exercise, don't get a German Wirehaired Pointer.
Adequate exercise for a GWP will include a good hard hour run at least once or twice a week. Daily exercise will keep them and you happier. We always say, a tired GWP is a better GWP. This is a thinking breed, they need a job, something to keep their brains engaged in the right direction. If you don't give them something to keep them occupied, they will find something to do, and you probably won't appreciate their choices very much.

  • If you don't like the outdoors, don't get a German Wirehaired Pointer.
This is a honest to goodness hunting dog! Their instincts will tell them to hunt. They may hunt your cat, the birds at your feeder, the squirrels in your back yard. If they can catch these critters, they may bring them to you or they may dispatch them. If you are feint of heart in these matters, this will not be the breed for you. Hunting is their heritage, it's in their blood, it is what they have been bred to do.
  • If you want a "sometimes dog", a dog who will go lie down and nap, don't get a German Wirehaired Pointer.
This is a breed who needs to be with their people. They are not happy being left out of whatever you are doing. If you don't like a dog that follows you everywhere, needs to be in the bathroom with you, must sit next to your chair, you will hate this breed. Teaching a GWP to be alone, in their crate or in a kennel is a must when they are young. But don't expect to keep them this way for extended periods of time, not if you want a well adjusted dog.

  • If you are an immaculate housekeeper with white rugs and dirt annoys you, don't get a German Wirehaired Pointer.
That beard that make people fall in love with them as puppies can carry an amazing amount of dirt, food and water. I have never met a German Wirehair that didn't have to clean their beards after eating, and their favorite place to do that is on the carpeting or the couch. Most all GWP's will get a drink of water, then drip it all over the floor on their way to lay their head in your lap. Wet laps are part of the breed. A good GWP coat will shed most dirt and debris, but it will collect some outdoor stuff. This will be brought into your home, and deposited wherever they lie down.

  • If you are a truly kind hearted soul who hates to see dogs disciplined, and can't bear to correct puppies, don't get a German Wirehaired Pointer.
GWP's are a very smart breed, but this also gets them into trouble. Most of them can be stubborn, and most of them would rather do things their way then your way. As youngsters they must learn that NO means NO! You must be more determined than they are, you must have eyes in the back of your head to watch them all of the time. They must learn that they are your shoes, not theirs. They must learn that whatever you give them is actually yours and you are only lending it to them. They must learn to respect you, your family and your home.

  • If you don't have a good strong high fence, you probably should not own a German Wirehaired Pointer.
Remember, this is a working dog, a hunting dog, and they will wander if not kept in check. Their noses and natural curiosity will lead them away from home if given the chance. GWP's are a very athletic breed, and they can jump a 6 ft fence from a stand still if they choose. They will find a hole in a fence, they can dig, they can climb. If they decide they are getting out, they will try to find a way out. Normally, they don't want to run away and will just find the front door, but out they will be.

  • If you are not a hunter, should you own a GWP? 
Lots of people own the breed and the dogs are not hunted. However, these owner have found ways to keep their dogs exercised both phsically and mentally.

Here are some activities to consider if you are not hunters and want to bring a GWP into your home;
Obedience training
Some people get involved with obedience training their GWP's. While not known to make great competitive obedience dogs (they tend to think to much) this kind of activity will keep you and your Wire on the same page.

Hunting Tests
The AKC has a hunting test program which will allow you to get your dog out into the field and doing what he was bred to do. There are 3 levels, Junior, Senior and Master. These tests are a wonderful way for you to bond with your GWP, meet other GWP owners and we encourage everyone to give it a try. You can find out more about AKC hunt test by going to the
AKC web page.

Agility is a relatively new sport for our dogs. You may have seen some Agility competitions on TV, or at a local dog show. GWP's seem to do pretty well in Agility, it makes them thing and it's full of running, jumping and climbing. Great exercise!

Field Trials
There are several venues of pointing dog field trials out there. There are
AKC trials, NBHA, NSTRA each of which has different levels of competition. Follow the links to read about them all. Around the U.S. there are local GWP clubs, each of which holds both hunting tests and field trials. Joining a local GWP club not only gets you involved with other GWP owners, but it will introduce you to many ways to enjoy your dog.

The North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association is comprised of owners of the versatile hunting breeds (Vizsla, German Shorthair Pointers, GWP's, Griffons, Brittany's) who get together to help each other train dogs. Their focus is on making a dog a useful hunting companion for the upland and waterfowl hunter. Even if you never plan to actually take to the field with a gun, working your dog on birds is a good thing. Remember, your GWP is a gun dog, a versatile hunter for water, field and forest.

Last, but not least the GWP is a breed that is extremely loyal to their families. In Germany, they were expected to protect hearth and home, and these instincts are still in there. They are natually protective of what they deem as theirs, and this will include your house, your car, your yard and your children. 

Are GWP's Nasty? I've heard they bite!
I suggest to all new GWP owners that they should not encourage or condone any signs of aggression from a young Wirehair. Most all Wires will go through a period of over protectiveness at some time in their growing up stages, and this should be stopped quickly leaving little doubt in their minds that this will not be tolerated. Don't worry, should your dog ever find the need to really protect you, you will be surprised at how well they will step up to do so. 

Also,  many GWP's can become dog aggressive at some point in their lives. They don't like to share, and this is another thing they need to learn will not be tolerated. Since most GWP owners will  hunt with others, who also own dogs, our GWP's need to learn that they must tolerate and get along. We can't make them love other dogs, but they cannot attack or be allowed to become bullies. At the first sign of dog aggression, they must be given a swift and hard corrrection.

Now that I have given you all of the negative things about this breed, here are some of the great things. 
  • GWP's are loyal, almost to a fault. They love their owners and a more loyal breed is hard to find. 
  • GWP's are very intelligent, they can almost outthink us, and sometimes this can be a pain in the butt. 
  • GWP's generally have tremendous prey drive which makes them wonderful and determined hunting dogs. Show them what you want them to hunt, and they will give it their all. 
  • GWP's don't shed like most dogs. A good coated dog usually only needs a bath now and then and they don't drop hair all over your house. 
  • GWP's are a fairly healthy breed. Hip dysplasia, thyroid and some forms of cancer are out there but in general they don't have many of the health concerns of other breeds. 
Should you decide a GWP is the breed for you, do your homework and find a breeder who is breeding the type of dog you wish to own. You can contact me, or go to the GWPCA website to look for breeders. 


Jan & Judy said...

Your "Should you own a German Wirehaired Pointer" article was both informative and amusing. Looks like they have a lot more energy than I do!

Anonymous said...

I had a german wirehair as a child and he was very very over protective. In my opinion he did not have enough training as a pup because I was only 13-19 yrs old and was responsible for training a thick headed dog! I'd like to have one again. I still have a big hole in my heart where that dog was... RIP Deutchie!

Randi said...

Loved your article - we have an 8 month old and he is everything you made him out to be - and completely loveable! He's definitely a part of the family, and definitely smarter than us. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a 4 year old male and he is being aggressive with other dogs and has biten me. When you say swift and hard correction what should i do. Weve gone to obdience training and i love him very much. It scares me though. Hes great with adults and grew up with our female lab mix who he gets along with. Help

Anonymous said...

Great information. I have a 7 year old. He's my first registered dog and I wanted one that could do everything. So: Intl. Champion, Junior Hunter, NAVHDA NA-112, Canine Good Citizen, Novice Rally, Companion Dog, Therapy Dog. And loves to hunt - tons of drive and determination. He respects the electric pasture fence so he has a few acres to run in each day. Absolutely needs it! Wanda G.

Jim B said...

FYI, the plural of GWP is GWPs. GWP's is possessive.