Understanding the German Wirehaired Pointer Coat

It’s important to note that the German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP) is a breed whose coat IS its definition. Just as, for example, a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier with a harsh or off-color coat would not be acceptable, neither should we, as breeders, exhibitors or judges of German WIREHAIRED Pointers, accept and/or promote coats that are far from ideal.

In the meantime, let’s talk about what a GWP coat IS and what a GWP coat IS NOT.

To start with, the ideal coat, the correct coat, the coat that we are all trying to produce consistently, is a harsh, dense, flat-lying coat with hair that is from one to two inches long on the body. The individual hairs are strong, straight and hard—“crisp.” The entire body coat is dense. In other words, there are a lot of strong, straight, hard hairs. This coat does not attract burrs, is practically impervious to briars and brambles, is largely waterproof, and keeps the dogs warm in the winter and cool in the summer while always protecting them from damage when working in the field.

The furnishings of this ideal coat are made from the same strong, straight, hard hair. The head coat is much shorter, with the appearance that the top of the head and ears are clean and nearly smooth. The beard and eyebrows, the leg hair, and the underline hair should ALL consist of this same quality of hair. The ONLY places that our standard calls for soft hair is the undercoat and between the toes.

It is possible that some judges have never seen this type of coat, particularly if they don’t judge a significant number of these dogs or if they are new to the breed. When it shows up in their ring, they may fault it simply because it doesn’t look like the other dogs in competition

The GWP standard is very explicit: “A dog must have a correct coat to be of correct type.” The difficulty seems to be in understanding what is
correct coat.

With this in mind, let’s look at what is
NOT correct.

First, a long, soft, open or wooly coat is incorrect. Unfortunately, by the time a judge sees these dogs in the ring, most of them have been body stripped, trimmed, thinned, sculpted, and sprayed into what appears to be an acceptable package. Any GWP breeder or handler worth his or her salt can take a dog and make it “look right.”

The first two places to check for a correct coat are the beard and the legs. This hair is very difficult to manufacture. If the beard and legs are long and soft, it’s a good bet that the coat has been over-groomed, according to the standard: “Extreme and excessive grooming to present a dog artificial in appearance should be severely penalized.” In other words, if the coat doesn’t—naturally—look like what the judge sees, the dog is being presented with an
artificial appearance.

Another indicator of a coat that is excessively groomed is when you see the crinkly “Terrier Jacket” type of back coat. The GWP does NOT have a coat like an Airedale, Lakeland, Welsh, Wire Fox, Scottie, Westie or any other Terrier. It should NOT be groomed in a manner that imitates the
Terrier breeds.

Correct coat is a requirement for correct type.

The GWP standard calls for eyebrows to be of strong, straight hair, and the beard and whiskers to be of medium length. An incorrect coat will look and feel like a German Shorthaired Pointer. There will be no eyebrows and, at best, a few hairs at the corner of the mouth. The truly incorrect “slick” coat will almost never be shown in the conformation ring.

With all of this said, it’s time to consider judging priorities. Correct coat is a requirement for correct type. An incorrect coat is a function fault: Soft, rolling toplines; splayed feet; restricted movement; shallow, concave chests; mismatched angles—all of these, and many more, are “function faults.” They apply to the breed’s primary function, which is to serve as a utilitarian, multi-purpose hunting dog. Light eye color, head shape (other than the length and depth of muzzle [required] for retrieving game) and other “aesthetic” faults in no way affect the dog’s hunting ability.

A judge may have a ring full of dogs, yet none with the ideal coat. (Or the best coats may be on the worst physical specimens.) Please prioritize by function. Good running gear is functional. Correct coat is functional AND necessary for correct type.

Wirehairs are tough, rugged dogs created by a no-nonsense people to perform difficult work. This is what they were 150 years ago, and it is what they are and should be today. Trying to remake our breed into “pretty” dogs only caters to the “generic show dog” mentality that has been so roundly and soundly repudiated by far greater minds in the dog fancy than mine. There is distinct beauty in a sound Wirehair with a correct coat that is groomed naturally. There is strength, agility, and nobility of purpose in the dog that defines the breed.

  • Laura is an AKC Breeder of Merit and a retired member of the Professional Handlers Association. Laura is a second-generation breeder of German Wirehaired Pointers, under the Scotia Kennel banner. Scotia dogs have earned well over 100 titles; in the show ring, field, and performance events. Her dedication to breeding dual purpose dogs reflects a stated goal of preserving the all-weather, rugged, sound-minded gundog the breed’s founders envisioned. Laura has served the GWPCA as AKC Gazette columnist, Judges Education Committee Member and Chair, Vice President, President, National Events Coordinator, and Wire~News Editor. Her background as a newspaper reporter, marketing rep, and researcher/writer for audio driving tours has served her well in her side projects. Her current adventures as host of PureDogTalk and The Good Dog Pod podcasts lend her particular combination of skills to outstanding breeder education channels.

  • Show Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

You May Also Like

Breed Standard: A Timeless Picture In Words

It’s time to enter the show ring, but the judge is standing at the ...

Time for a Discussion…. How do you look at dogs?

From the June 2019 Issue of  ShowSight. Click to subscribe.  We’re having an interesting discussion ...

Official Standard of The Affenpinscher

The Affenpinscher is a balanced, wiry-haired terrier-like toy dog whose intelligence and demeanor make ...