German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP) enthusiasts love to complain about “dog shows” and how this sport is ruining the breed. I am a firm believer that it’s not “dog shows” that ruin a breed, but rather, it’s the people involved who do so.
Let’s be honest, winning is fun. In this country, competition is the highlight of our lives, whether it is in sport, business, or our personal lives. It’s just not good enough for us to be good—we have to be the best! In order to be the best, the greatest, the winningest, there are often things that get overlooked or ignored.
In the world of dog shows today, winning Best of Breed is only a stepping stone to the almighty Group. After all, winning Best in Show is what dog shows have become “about.” Racking up Group points, and gathering BISs, has become more important than being the Best GWP. I think this is unfortunate and not good for our breed—or any breed for that matter. Now, don’t get me wrong, a Best in Show is a wonderful achievement, and anyone receiving one should be very proud of their dog. Trust me, I would be! But should it be the most important thing in our shows today?
In the world of flashy show dogs, the German Wirehaired Pointer has always been the stepchild. This is not a flashy breed. It does not have a beautiful flowing coat, it doesn’t have silky, shiny hair, and it’s not what you would call a “cute” breed. Now, of course, those of us who love the breed think they are the best thing in the world. But flashy? Cute? Nah! The GWP was never a breed sought out by those who only wanted to own a “show dog.” But that trend appears to be changing.
The German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America (GWPCA) has always put a lot of emphasis on the “Dual Champion” (DC), and since its inception, the Champion/Master Hunter. This is a breed that can compete in both the show ring and in Field Trials or Hunt Tests, and does well enough at both to finish its FC (Field Champion)/MH (Master Hunter) and its CH (Champion) titles. This is a difficult goal to achieve and it takes a dedicated owner to accomplish.
Unfortunately, many think that bringing a Field Champion to the show ring and expecting to compete is impossible. It certainly should not be. While the vast majority of GWPs will never set foot in a show ring, there certainly are more of them that could—and should.
For some reason, field people think that as soon as a dog has a CH in front of its name, it makes the dog useless for the field. They also believe that unless their dog is flowing with coat, has extreme angles front and back, and drools for bait, they don’t have a chance. The other side of that coin are the “show only” folks who love to make statements like, “It’s not bad… for a field dog.”
There is only one Breed Standard for the German Wirehaired Pointer and it makes no distinction between “field” dogs and “show” dogs. While the Standard describes the ideal GWP, we all know that there are quite a few “types” that fit the bill. Too many believe that all field dogs are leggy, rangy, and short-coated—not so. Too many believe that all show dogs are stocky, thick-bodied, and long-coated—not so. There are good and not so good in both venues, and it’s our job to produce and promote the best.
The GWPCA has an ongoing education program that attempts to educate judges to the nuances of our breed. One of the things that is stressed in the seminars is that this is a working dog, a dog expected to hunt fur and feather, climb chukar hills, plow through the swamp, and negotiate the forest. In order to do these things, a German Wirehaired Pointer must be mentally and physically sound. It must be tough enough to fight furry critters and retrieve them to its owner, but also tender-mouthed enough to bring a quail to hand in one piece. Its coat was designed to be as no-nonsense as the breed itself, protective and utilitarian. No feathers and flowing coat on this breed.
It can’t all be up to judges, however. Breeders and exhibitors must strive to bring into the ring dogs that fit the Standard. The dog with the coat that must be continually stripped to “appear” short and harsh is not correct, and we are only hurting ourselves when we promote these dogs. Judges can only judge what is brought to them, and if that is all they see… well, who can we blame? On the other hand, we certainly rely on our judges to keep the whole dog in their mind when they are judging, and we ask that they judge the breed for the breed, not for what the breed can go on to achieve in the Group ring. We also ask our judges to remember what this breed was put on this earth to do—and to judge them with this as the utmost priority.
If you are considering bringing your working dog to the show ring, there are a few things to do beforehand. First, if you are not familiar with the Breed Standard, find someone who is and have them evaluate your dog. Be open-minded and listen to their comments. Remember, no dog is perfect and every one of them has a flaw here and there. If you think your dog has enough positive things to merit it becoming a champion, go for it.
While our breed should be mostly a natural-coated breed, all GWPs will benefit from a good grooming before walking into the show ring. This does not mean it needs to be stripped and fluffed up (this is totally improper for the breed), but a good bath, thorough brushing, and overall neatening won’t hurt. All wire-coated breeds need to have that dead hair removed at times, so make sure you give your dog a good going-over.
The dog should be in good physical condition. He should be fit and in shape. All German Wirehaired Pointers that walk into the ring should be in good working condition. A fat, sloppy dog does not fit our Standard. Remember, this is a breed that should appear athletic, ready to go, and be able to go all day long. A dog that looks like it has been half-starved is not in good condition either. Ribs and hip bones should be covered, but not hidden under a layer of fat. Dogs that are being actively campaigned may be heavily muscled in the shoulder and thigh areas, and these areas may appear or feel lumpy. A good judge will use their hands and eyes to decide if this muscling is appropriate and proper, or hiding poor structure underneath.
While a dog that self-stacks and moves at the end of the lead is impressive, it really has nothing to with the quality of the dog. Teach your dog to stand still; especially while a judge is examining it. Some dogs may need some exposure to being examined so that they feel comfortable with having a stranger in such close proximity. Wires are jealous of “their space” and many don’t like people (or dogs) in their faces. A German Wirehaired Pointer should have a brave and upstanding temperament, and while he may not appreciate a judge going over him, he must prove his stability by allowing it. Any GWP that refuses to be examined or that shows aggression or fear in the ring should be excused.
A German Wirehaired Pointer should have a brave and upstanding temperament, and while he may not appreciate a judge going over him, he must prove his stability by allowing it.
Teach your dog to gait calmly and boldly on a lead. Your dog needs to move both away from and back to a judge in a straight line so that its movement can be evaluated. A German Wirehaired Pointer should have free, clean, and ground-covering movement. A properly built German Wirehaired Pointer should have a tight body, free from rolling and shuffling. A dog that does not (whether by poor training or by improper structure) or cannot reach with its front, and drive with its rear, is not covering the most ground with little effort.
Your dog will also be asked to move around the ring so that the judge can evaluate his side movement. A dog that is calm and sure of itself will certainly look and move better than one that is straining and fighting the entire way around the ring. Remember, the judge needs to see how the dog is using itself. If they cannot see the legs and feet, they cannot judge the dog.
When the ribbons are handed out, win or lose, remember to be a good sport. You may not agree with the judge’s decisions, but once they are made it’s over. As breeders and exhibitors, we have a choice to enter or not enter our dogs. It’s our responsibility to know which judges truly understand our breed, and which judges simply view them as a “filler” breed. Just as in the field, there are judges who put more emphasis on certain characteristics; there are judges who are more knowledgeable than others. And then there are judges who really should not be judging dogs. It’s up to us to knfow which is which.
Our breed has a pretty darn good record of producing Dual Champions (considering how few are registered each year) and for this we should be very proud. We have not gone the route of the Setters and Spaniels (show vs. field), and every German Wirehaired Pointer should be a “field dog.” It’s what the breed is! Our goal as breeders, exhibitors, and judges should be to make sure that this trend continues; that the German Wirehaired Pointer continues to be one breed, mentally and physically fit to do whatever task is asked of it.
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.
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