Temperament: Of sound, reliable temperament, the German Wirehaired Pointer is at times aloof but not unfriendly toward strangers; a loyal and affectionate companion who is eager to please and enthusiastic to learn.”
To understand the temperament that is desired of the German Wirehaired Pointer, it is important to understand the historical background and use of the breed. They were developed to find game for their owners, both feather and fur, large and small, before and after the shot. Most are still used for these purposes today. This may include game birds, ducks, rabbits, feral pigs, deer, fox, and coyotes—all needing very different approaches and levels of nerve or braveness.
Historically, the dog needed to have strong nerve, yet be biddable and responsive, able to gently retrieve a shot partridge, bay and hold a wild boar or dispatch vermin. The dog needed to have an “off switch” to be able to quietly and calmly accompany the hunter in a duck blind, yet be able to track and bay loudly when furred game was found. After the hunt, they were expected to be a part of the family and protect hearth and home. That’s a lot of hats for one dog to wear, but a German Wirehaired Pointer with proper temperament can wear them all.
The standard tells us the dog may be “aloof” with strangers, and this is usually true. “Aloof” can mean cool, detached, standoffish, haughty, and/or reserved, but does not include shy, nasty, frightened or aggressive. No Wirehair should ever present as shy or frightened, as that temperament would never be useful in its work or as a family companion. Aggression toward people or other dogs is never acceptable, but don’t confuse confidence with aggression. No Wirehair should go looking for a fight, but if challenged, a confident dog will usually not back down. Rather, it will stand its ground.
A sound-minded, confident Wirehair will accept being petted. However, don’t expect them to fawn over you until they have accepted you as a friend. They have a strong sense of self and of their personal space, and many don’t appreciate that space being invaded by those whom they don’t know or respect. When approaching an adult Wirehair, it is best to be upfront about it. Don’t “baby talk” to the dog, and don’t stare or be hesitant. As an owner or handler, I always appreciate those who speak to me first before putting their hands on the dog, as my acceptance of you tells my dog that all is well. Puppies can be silly things and they can test the patience of the best handlers with their antics. In the conformation ring, there may be times when the best that a judge can do is provide a good ring experience and not demand a polished performance.
Now, to the flip side: Although we do want the breed to be brave with strong nerve, we also know that most German Wirehairs are clowns with their families. They have a wicked sense of humor and will go out of their way to be naughty—to get a rise out of you. They can be downright silly. To own one, you must have a sense of humor, but also a firm set of rules. They are, generally, good with children and are naturally protective of the kids in their families.
The breed is loyal and devoted to their owners and, with the right training and patience, can become very willing and cooperative partners in whatever you choose to do with them. Obedience, Agility, Tracking, Nose Work and, of course, Hunting—all things to do with a Wirehair. The breed excels at almost any sport that involves physical activity, but can rebel if trainers use a heavy hand or insist on regimental training methods.
If you think that a German Wirehaired Pointer is the breed for you, we always suggest meeting as many as possible from various breeders. They certainly are not the breed for everyone or every family, especially if you do not enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle. To find a breeder near you, we suggest that you check out the Breeders Page on the German Wirehaired Pointer Club America’s