Both the German Wirehaired Pointer and the German Shorthaired Pointer are sporting breeds developed in Germany and although it is generally believed that the two breeds are closely related, their exact relationship remains unclear. Both breeds are known as versatile gundogs, capable of working in many different types of terrain and performing a variety of different hunting tasks. Originally these breeds were primarily bred and used solely for hunting, but in more modern times a growing number of fanciers have taken to keeping them as companion animals, especially in the United States. The German Wirehaired Pointer is also known as the German Wirehair, the German Wirehaired Pointing Dog, Deutscher Drathaariger Vorstehhund, the Drahthaar, and the GWP.
The German Wirehaired Pointer is a recently developed breed, whose origins only go back to the latter half of the 19th Century. Despite the breeds relatively short history, much of ancestry is debated. The breeders who first created this dog did not keep many written records, and therefore most of its origins have been permanently lost. However, much more is known about the creation of the German Wirehaired Pointer than its older sibling, the German Shorthaired Pointer.
In German-speaking countries, versatile gundogs have always been greatly preferred. German hunters wanted a dog that could work in any environment, and perform every aspect of hunting; scenting, pointing, and retrieving. They also wanted dogs that would hunt both feathered and furred quarry. Over several centuries, a variety of dog which became known as the German Birddog or German Pointer developed. This dog was not a breed in the modern sense, but a collection of localized varieties. Very little is known about its ancestry, but it is thought to have been a descendent of the Spanish Pointer crossed with local hunting breeds. During the 1700’s and 1800’s, British dog fanciers began to keep studbooks of their dogs and to exhibit them in conformation shows. One of their newly standardized breeds was the Pointer. Pointers were exported to Germany in the early to mid-1800’s, where they were crossed with the German Pointers. The resulting dogs were more refined in appearance, as well as having better noses and heightened pointing instincts.
However, the new and improved German Pointers were still not ideal for some German hunters. These hunters wanted an even more versatile dog. Although the German Pointer was quite capable of working in water and rough terrain, it is not ideally suited to such environments, as its coat is somewhat too short. These hunters wanted to create a new breed which would be better protected against water and dangerous plants. They began to cross the German Pointer with wire-coated hunting breeds. It is unknown when this process started, but it was probably between 1850 and the late 1860’s. There is a substantial dispute as to which breeds were used, and to what extent each breed factored in. It is universally agreed that the German Pointer played a role, although how prominent of one is disputed. While most claim that the German Pointer is the primary ancestor of the German Wirehaired Pointer, others claim that it played no greater a role than several other breeds. Various breeds of Griffon (wire-coated scent hounds and gun dogs native to Western Europe and especially France) were certainly used, although exactly which ones is a mystery. The Stichelhaar and the Pudelpointer also definitely factored into the German Wirehaired Pointer’s ancestry. It is commonly suggested that the Pointer, the Poodle, the Spinone Italiano, the English Foxhound, the German Shepherd Dog, the Standard Schnauzer, and possibly the German Pinscher were used as well. By 1870, a distinct variety had been developed. This new breed became known as the German Wirehaired Pointer, and the older variety became known as the German Shorthaired Pointer. The wiry coats of these dogs gave them extra protection from brambles and thorns, as well as making them more capable of working in water. The German Shorthaired Pointer was long bred by casual hunters who desired both a companion dog and as a working gun dog. The German Wirehaired Pointer was developed by more serious hunters who selectively bred almost entirely for working ability, and developed a somewhat harsher tempered dog. .
The dog show craze that began in England began to spread to German by the closing decades of the 19th Century. This movement coincided with the Unification of Germany led by Prussia. The resulting nationalist movements met the dog show craze, and breeders of many different dogs from across Germany sought to standardize and improve German breeds. German Wirehaired Pointer breeders had begun to keep records of their dogs and their breed was first formally recognized in 1870. The German Wirehaired Pointer became a regular at dog shows, but remained primarily a working breed.
The German Wirehaired Pointer made its first appearance in the United States around 1920. This breed was first imported by sportsmen seeking a more versatile gundog than the Pointers, Setters, and Spaniels which were common in the country at that time. The German Wirehaired Pointer initially grew slowly in popularity. American hunters were more accustomed to working with specialized gundogs, and this breed initially had only mediocre success competing in field trials against such breeds as the Pointer. Gradually, American hunters began to appreciate the versatility of this dog in the field, and its numbers began to increase. In 1948, the United Kennel Club (UKC), a registry devoted primarily to working dogs, first recognized the German Wirehaired Pointer in the Gun Dog Group. In 1959, the American Kennel Club (AKC) followed suit when the breed was placed in the Sporting Group. At that time, the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America was founded to protect and promote the breed, becoming the official parent club of the breed with the AKC.
The German Wirehaired Pointer has continued to slowly grow in popularity with American sportsmen. The breed has become a successful competitor in field trials and a common hunting companion. This breed is especially popular in the Midwest, where it frequently hunts quail, pheasant, and waterfowl. Although commonly used to hunt rabbits and other small mammals in its native Germany, Americans very seldom use the breed for this purpose. Native breeds such as Coonhounds, Feists, Catahoula Leopard Dogs, and Curs are much preferred for furred game by American hunters. The German Wirehaired Pointer is commonly used as a working gundog in the United States, but is much less common than the German Shorthaired Pointer. In America, this breed is seen as being better suited to a serious and regular hunter than the casual sportsman, while the German Shorthaired Pointer and the Brittany are seen as being more acceptable for the occasional hunter.
Although this breed has to compete with much more common and better known water dogs, such as the Labrador Retriever and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, it still maintains a large number of dedicated fanciers, and in 2010, the German Wirehaired Pointer ranked 77th out of 167 total breeds among AKC registrations. Most German Wirehaired Pointer fanciers are quite happy with their dog’s level of popularity. It allows them to maintain a substantial breeding pool, but also to control the quality and working ability of their dogs. In recent years, a number of fanciers have begun to keep German Wirehaired Pointers primarily as companion animals, though far fewer than is the case with the German Shorthaired Pointer. Although the German Wirehaired Pointer can make an excellent family companion, most breed members have some difficulty adapting to a life outside of rural areas. This breed is first and foremost a working gun dog, and this will likely remain the case for the foreseeable future. Although it is impossible to get accurate statistics, the vast majority of German Wirehaired Pointers are either working or active gun dogs.
The German Wirehaired Pointer is very similar in appearance to the German Shorthaired Pointer, but slightly larger and with a different coat. German Wirehaired Pointers are medium to large dogs. Males of this breed should stand between 24 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder, and females should stand between 22 and 26 inches tall at the shoulder. Breed standards do not call for an ideal weight, but breed members in good condition usually weight between 60 and 70 pounds. The German Wirehaired Pointer is an athletic breed, and appears both muscular and lean. However, this is a very sturdy breed and should never appear fragile. The German Wirehaired Pointer is slightly longer than it is tall, at a ratio of approximately 10 inches in length for every 9 inches tall. This breed stands slightly taller at the shoulders than it does at the hips. The tail of the German Wirehaired Pointer is traditionally docked to roughly 40% of its natural length. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries. The natural tail of a German Wirehaired Pointer is of medium length. This tail is generally straight, although it may be slightly saber-like.
This head and facial features of this breed are mostly average in size, although they appear larger than they actually are due to its fur. The head is proportional to the body size of the dog, and merges gently into the muzzle. The muzzle itself is roughly the same length as the head, long enough to provide some extra area for scent receptors. The muzzle is also deep and wide, giving this dog the ability to retrieve large game birds. The muzzle ends in a large nose which is either black or brown depending on the color of the dog’s coat. The rounded ears are medium sized and hang down close to the dog’s head. The eyes are medium sized and oval in shape. The ideal eyes are as dark as possible. The overall expression of this breed is bright and intelligent.
The coat of the Wirehaired Pointer is perhaps this breed’s most defining characteristic. This is a double-coated breed, with a short, dense undercoat, and a wiry and harsh outer coat. The outer coat is medium length and quite thick. This coat should be long enough to provide a great deal of cover from the harsh vegetation and the elements, but not so long as to obscure the breed’s outline or to hinder it movement. The hair on the lower portions of the legs is somewhat shorter than on the rest of the body. The hair on the face, ears, and head is also shorter, but is still very thick. This breed has a thick beard and equally thick eyebrows, although they are not especially long. The AKC and UKC differ on what colors are acceptable for the German Wirehaired Pointer. Both the AKC and the UKC allow for this breed to be solid liver, liver and white spotted, liver and white spotted and ticked, and liver and white ticked. The AKC also finds liver roan dogs acceptable, but not the UKC. In contrast, the UKC allows black ticking and black roan dogs, with or without patches, but the AKC does not.
Whereas the German Shorthaired Pointer is becoming known as a family companion as well as a hunter, the German Wirehaired Pointer remains almost strictly a working dog. Although this breed is a highly skilled gun dog, it has a temperament which is closer to a generalized hunting breed such as Curs and Hounds than most pure gun dogs. This makes sense as the German Wirehaired Pointer was bred to tackle any species of game in any environment.
German Wirehaired Pointers are known to form some of the closest bonds of any sporting breed. These dogs are extremely loyal and become extraordinarily devoted to their master. This breed is known for being a one-person dog. They tend to have a favorite person, and to greatly favor that person over all others. This is most certainly the case when one of these dogs is raised by a single person. When raised with a family, the German Wirehaired Pointer will form very close bonds with every member of the family, but still usually selects one person to become especially attached to. This bond can become problematic as this breed absolutely craves human companionship. It is quite common for a German Wirehaired Pointer to suffer from very severe separation anxiety, and these dogs do very poorly when left alone for long periods. This is definitely a dog that prefers the company of those it knows to those it does not. Even well-socialized German Wirehaired Pointers tend to be quite aloof with strangers, and show very little interest in them.
This breed; however, is rarely aggressive. These dogs are willing to make new friends, but it can take quite awhile and usually don’t make many new good friends. Breed members tend to make very good watchdogs, and their barks can be quite intimidating. The average German Wirehaired Pointer would probably not make a very good guard dog as they are simply not aggressive enough. German Wirehaired Pointers can make a very good family companion, and most do fine with children. This breed is fairly tolerant, and most absolutely love the affection and playtime that children provide. However, children must be taught how to display proper leadership skills. German Wirehaired Pointers quickly figure out which family members are below them in status and may become bossy with them. Young German Wirehaired Pointers may be too rambunctious for very young children, and may accidentally play a little bit too rough with them.
While this breed is not known for extreme animal aggression, German Wirehaired Pointers are known for having issues with other animals. As is the case with all breeds, German Wirehaired Pointers will form close bonds other dogs. However, this breed definitely tends to be dominant and pushy with other canines. These dogs like to be in control, and are willing to do what it takes to be in control. As they are not especially willing to back down, German Wirehaired Pointers do have a tendency to get into scraps. When not properly corrected from a young age, this dominant tendency can lead to full-fledged dog aggression. As is the case with most breeds, issues are more severe between dogs of the same sex, and most severe between unneutered males. Issues may develop between German Wirehaired Pointers and very small toy breeds, as the smaller dog may be mistaken for potential prey. German Wirehaired Pointers are bred as hunting dogs, and they retain a substantial amount of prey drive. Unless very well trained, this breed will attack small animals. Pets such as rabbits and hamsters are probably not safe around a German Wirehaired Pointer.
As is the case with all dogs, German Wirehaired Pointers can more than likely be socialized to coexist with cats. However, this breed will probably take great pleasure in chasing and harassing household felines. Always remember that a German Shorthaired Pointer that peacefully lives with a cat that it has known for years very well may pursue and attack a neighbor’s cat which is strange to it. The German Wirehaired Pointer definitely has a reputation as a cat killer, although not to the extent of some breeds such as the Siberian Husky and the Bluetick Coonhound. German Wirehaired Pointers which are left outside for extended periods will most likely bring home animals which they have killed, which may range in size from a spider to a raccoon.
German Wirehaired Pointers are quite trainable, and are regarded as highly intelligent. This breed has competed very well in obedience and agility trials. Breed members are natural hunters and take to work in the field very quickly. This breed makes an excellent and willing hunting companion, capable of hunting all types of game on all terrains. However, this breed will give most owners substantially more training difficulties than the average gun dog. Owners who are accustomed to working with such breeds as the Labrador Retriever or Brittany will likely be very frustrated by a German Wirehaired Pointer. While most breed members are generally willing to please, they certainly do not live to do so. Many breed members have a stubborn streak, and some are deliberately willful.
This is a dog which is more than smart enough to figure out exactly what it can and cannot get away and which will choose to live its life accordingly. Unlike many gun dogs, German Wirehaired Pointers frequently challenge an owner’s authority. Owners of these dogs must remain in charge at all times. Otherwise, a German Wirehaired Pointer will take charge on its own. German Wirehaired Pointers will almost certainly not obey anyone whom they see as lower than themselves on the social totem pole. Even when well-trained, German Wirehaired Pointers tend to be distractible. It is not uncommon for one of these dogs to catch a scent and go chasing after it, ignoring all commands to return in the process. Owners who are willing to take the extra time and effort, and who are able to consistently remain in control, are likely to be rewarded with a very well-trained German Wirehaired Pointer. However, they will probably never get quite the results that they may from many other breeds.
German Wirehaired Pointers are an extremely energetic breed. This is a working dog through and through, and is capable of hunting for hours on end in extremely difficult and challenging environments. The average German Wirehaired Pointer is capable of running even the most active owner into the ground, day after day after day. There are very, very few dogs that require as much exercise as a German Wirehaired Pointer. This is not a breed that will be fully satisfied with even a very long walk. These dogs need a long daily run, and greatly prefer time to run around off leash. While every individual dog is different, expect a minimum of between one and two hours of vigorous activity, preferably in addition to time off leash. This is a breed which adapts very poorly to apartment or even close-quarters suburban life, and it is very difficult to keep them happy without a large yard.
It is absolutely imperative that owners meet their dog’s exercise requirements. A German Wirehaired Pointer which does not have its needs met will almost certainly develop mental and behavioral issues, and quite possibly extreme ones. This is a dog that will find its own means of releasing energy if one is not provided for it. Bored German Wirehaired Pointers will almost certainly become very destructive, excessively vocal, hyperactive, and overly excitable. If you are not willing or able to provide a dog with long period of rigorous exercise, you should most certainly not acquire a German Wirehaired Pointer. The energy levels and work drive of a German Wirehaired Pointer actually make it appealing to most fanciers. This is a dog that loves to hunt, and will do so for very long hours in the field. Although hunting is definitely most breed members’ favorite activity, they would most likely enjoy a number of other extreme activities such as hiking or swimming as well.
Similar to the German Shorthaired Pointer, the German Wirehaired Pointer is a talented escape artist. This dog is driven to roam and explore, and to do so over vast areas. They love to follow their senses, and are very dedicated in the pursuit of quarry. This breed was developed to follow game through some of the harshest terrain in Europe and America, and the average fence will not be a major impediment to them. This dog is one of the dog world’s most extreme athletes, and even six foot tall fences are easily scaled by them. If a fence is too high to go over, these dogs can and will dig under them. This powerful and determined breed is also capable of breaking or chewing through a weak fence. Any enclosure which holds a German Wirehaired Pointer must be very, very secure.
The German Wirehaired Pointer has greater grooming requirements than the German Shorthaired Pointer, but lesser requirements than most similarly coated breeds. The coat should be brushed at least twice a week with a firm bristle brush. This breed needs to have its coat stripped in a manner similar to many terriers. This process is easy to learn to do at home although some owners choose to have it done professionally.
Occasionally, the hairs may need to be hand plucked, usually in the fall and spring. As with all hard working dogs, the skin and feet of a German Wirehaired Pointer should be carefully checked for injuries after a day in the field. This breed needs to have its ears cleaned on a regular basis to prevent irritation and infection. German Wirehaired Pointers are considered average shedders, who will definitely leave hair on furniture, carpets, and clothes, but probably not cover them.
The German Wirehaired Pointer is considered a healthy breed. This is a dog that is bred primarily as a working animal, and any genetic disorders would greatly reduce its working ability. The average life expectancy for these dogs is between 14 and 16 years, which is very high for a breed of this size. Deaths at young ages are much more likely to be from accidents than from health issues. This does not mean that German Wirehaired Pointers are immune from genetically inherited disorders. It does mean that they suffer from fewer of them and at lower rates than is common among purebred dogs.
One problem which is known to occur in German Wirehaired Pointers is Von Willebrand’s Disease or VWD. This is a blood coagulation disorder which is most common in humans and dogs. The disease is caused by a deficiency of the Von Willebrand Factor, a protein necessary for platelet adhesion. This disease causes easy bruising, excessive bleeding, and sometimes nosebleeds or gum bleeds. Unspayed females may also display unusually heavy menstruation. Some cases of VWD may not require treatment, although severe cases often do. This disease can be fatal as it may result in excessive bleeding. This condition can be especially insidious as it is often not diagnosed until a serious injury occurs or a surgery is performed, and at that point it is often too late to sop the bleeding.
It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed. The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.
Although a generally healthy animal, German Wirehaired Pointer owners must be on the lookout for: