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The German Wirehaired Pointer – Judging Conformation for Field Ability

German Wirehaired Pointer in the field


When judging German Wirehaired Pointer breed in the show ring, it is unreasonable to ask a judge to determine the field abilities of a dog—that is what Field Trial and Hunt Test judges are for. But, we do ask our Conformation judges to determine which dog is most suited to field work—based on the Breed Standard, our blueprint for the ideal hunting dog.

With this in mind, judges need to visualize how each dog might perform in the field, and award placements based on which dogs would be the best to take on an all-day hunting trip in tough brush.

German Wirehaired Pointer judging

A dog that doesn’t move soundly, who has inefficient movement, who “pitter-pats,” would probably not be able to hunt hard all day. That dog will tire out a lot quicker than the dog that has an easy, effortless gait with plenty of reach and drive. A sound-moving, well-built dog must be a top priority for any serious hunter who plans to hunt all day, and possibly a number of days in a row.

A dog that isn’t balanced (equal angles—front and rear) will have inefficient movement and will tire out more quickly than a dog that is balanced, regardless of the amount of angle the dog has.

Now, what about the all-important coat that breeders are constantly preaching about? Picture the dog with beautiful, long furnishings running through the sagebrush, thick brambles, or field of cockleburs. The hunter who owns that dog will spend the evening pulling, brushing, and cussing his dog’s coat. Or maybe there’s snow on the ground and it’s cold—the long furnishings will collect snowballs, possibly even between the toes, causing the dog to go lame. And when the dog with the soft coat goes into the freezing lake for a retrieve, the cold water will instantly hit his skin, making him very cold and very likely to stop working. The dog with the soft coat will also suffer more cuts and scratches, because tough brambles will cut right through his coat and to his skin.

German Wirehaired Pointer judging

What about the dog that’s standing in your ring with the shorter, but wiry, coat and minimal furnishings? When he runs through the field of cockleburs, the burrs won’t stick to his coat, and the one or two persistent burrs that stick to him will most likely get pulled out by the dog himself while he’s riding in his crate at the end of the day. The hunter with this dog will be able to enjoy the evening relaxing with his dog.

What if the shorter-coated dog has to do a water retrieve? Well, his wiry, dense coat will repel the water, similar to a Labrador Retriever (or a duck.) He will shake off the cold water when he gets to the shore and will be happy to continue hunting. And if he’s running through the snow, you can be sure he won’t be collecting “snowballs” in his coat! And his dense coat will act as a shield against the tough brush, so he won’t be all cut-up at the end of the day.

And, let’s talk temperaments a while. Our ideal hunting dog will have a bold, confident personality so that he can work independently, at a distance from the hunter. A needy, insecure dog will stay too close to the hunter to be of any use in the field at all. And what about that dog that jumps out of his skin when he hears a loud noise outside the ring? He’s most likely sound-sensitive, which will render him completely useless when the hunter fires his shotgun. A dog that shows aggression towards other dogs will mean that the hunter will never be able to hunt with his buddies who also have hunting dogs—after all, nobody wants to hunt with a guy whose dog is continually interfering with the other guys’ dogs.

German Wirehaired Pointer judging

What if the dog doesn’t like other people? Imagine that your dog has disappeared over the ridge, where your buddy is hunting. You ask your buddy to get the dog for you, and the dog runs away from him, and in the opposite direction as you. Now you’ve got to spend your time hunting for your dog, instead of hunting with your dog for birds! Not to mention, who wants a hunting buddy that none of your friends can touch? That’s not a dog to be proud of. Also, remember that hunting season is no more than four months out of the year—the German Wirehaired Pointer will be a member of the family when not hunting, so he better have a temperament you can live with!

For a hunter, those are the “biggies”—temperament, coat, movement, and overall soundness. Another thing a hunter will look at is tailset. German Wirehaired Pointers will not be quite as beautiful as a Setter or Pointer when it’s pointing, but we certainly don’t want a tail that is set too low or too high (Terrier Tail—yuck!). We want our dogs to look good when on point.

German Wirehaired Pointers should have good feet—after all, when running all day, the feet are shock absorbers, and good, thick pads will serve a dog well when he runs through a cactus patch. Splayed feet will eventually lead to a dog that completely breaks down, and cat feet will not be efficient shock-absorbers.

German Wirehaired Pointer judging

Size is important—too small, and he can’t handle a goose, and too big, and he’ll tend to “break down” quicker. And a dog that is too “course,” with heavy bone, will not be very agile in the field. A dog that is too fine-boned will not be the “brush buster” that hunters need, either.

A strong, solid jaw is needed for a German Wirehaired Pointer, which is expected to retrieve as part of his job description. The rectangular jaw is the perfect shape to carry a large bird, such as a pheasant or a duck. The jaw is balanced by the rectangular-shaped skull. The strong neck and good shoulders are also necessary for a dog that is expected to do multiple retrieves.

Correct ear-set and dark-brown eyes give the dog a pleasing expression, but aren’t as critical to a hunter. And coat color is a “personal preference,” with different people believing that certain colors are more visible in the field, depending on the conditions. I think that I can see my solid livers in the field the best, unless they’re in the rimrocks looking for chukar. Others prefer the visibility of white coats, unless they’re hunting in the snow. And, of course, there is the infinite combination of liver and white hairs that creates our liver roan, liver-spotted, and liver-ticked dogs. For a serious hunter (and judge), color should be of minimal concern.

So, the next time you’re looking at a class of German Wirehaired Pointers in the show ring, picture those dogs working in the field, and consider how each virtue and fault will affect the dogs’ performance in the field. Then select the dog that should make the best hunting companion.

And, if you’re a hunter looking for your next hunting buddy—whether you’re looking for a puppy or an adult dog—you should consider the dog’s conformation and how it will affect performance in the field.



Are you looking for a German Wirehaired Pointer puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home a German Wirehaired Pointer dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


German Wirehaired Pointer Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the smart German Shorthaired Pointer dog breed with articles and information in our German Wirehaired Pointer Dog Breed Magazine.


German Wirehaired Pointer Breed Magazine - Showsight