German Wirehaired Pointer (GWP): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

German Wirehaired Pointer in a forest

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The German Wirehaired Pointer is often regarded as the ultimate gundog, with perfect hunting, pointing and retrieving skills. They're well-suited to those with a passion for the great outdoors, and with their boundless enthusiasm, energy, and intelligence, they excel in competitive dog sports. Their loyalty and fun-loving natures endear them to breed enthusiasts.

Breed Overview

Group: Sporting

Height: 24 to 26 inches (males); females are smaller but not less than 22 inches

Weight: 50 to 70 pounds

Coat: Straight, coarse, wiry topcoat, and a dense undercoat; usually have a distinct beard and whiskers.

Coat Color: Liver and white or solid liver; can have spotted, ticked or roan patterns

Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the German Wirehaired Pointer

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly  High
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  High
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability High
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the German Wirehaired Pointer

The German Wirehaired Pointer (Deutsch-Drahthaar), just like their close relative the German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), was developed for its all-round hunting skills in early 19th century Germany.

It's believed that they came about as the result of crosses between traditional Pointers, Pudelpointers and Wirehaired Griffons, amongst other dogs.

The focus was on developing a harsh and water repellant coat to allow these rugged dogs to point and retrieve comfortably on land and in water. Their beard, whiskers and long, thick eyebrows also help to protect their face when flushing in the undergrowth.

As well as the difference in their coat, the GWP is slightly larger, with a longer body than the GSP, and they're known for being a little more intense.

They were given official breed status in their native Germany in 1870, and the first GWPs were imported to North America around 1920. The AKC recognized the breed in 1959.

While not as common as the GSP, who the AKC ranked the 9th most popular of all breeds in North America in 2018, they're still much loved by enthusiasts. They ranked 63rd most popular breed in the same listing.

German Wirehaired Pointer Care

While the GWP isn't considered a hyper breed, they're highly driven and aren't dogs suited to living in a relatively sedentary household.

They need plenty of exercise and enjoy having a job. If you enjoy long hikes and are keen on training or competitive dog sports, then you'll likely be able to meet the needs of this energetic and intelligent breed.

If they don't get enough daily stimulation, problem behaviors can arise as a result of boredom.

If you enjoy running or want to try your hand at agility, scent work trials or another dog sport, you'll have a willing and able partner. GWPs have exceptional stamina and athleticism, and they're very eager to please.

Alongside lots of exercise, they would benefit from being in a household where there's someone around for them most of the day. The breed enjoys company, and it also means they will get additional stimulation around the home. Providing them with lots of interactive toys is also beneficial.

German Wirehaired Pointers are very loyal, and they form strong bonds with their family members. Raised together, they can make fun-loving and playful companions for respectful children.

While they can live well alongside other dogs they have been raised with, careful introductions should be done with new dogs, especially when it's two males. They can be prone to guarding behavior and alert barking too and tend to be more people-focussed dogs.

They can be aloof and even wary when it comes to strangers, and early and appropriate socialization is required to ensure they don't develop nervous or aggressive reactions.

GSPs are highly intelligent, but they can also have an independent and creative streak too. Keep training sessions short, fun, reward-based and stimulating, and you'll see the best results.

Because of their hunting instincts, care would have to be taken if introducing them to a resident household cat, and they may have a strong prey drive when it comes to small furries. This also means that you could have to work hard to achieve a reliable recall, and they may need to remain on leash-in certain environments where the temptation to chase or roam may be too high.

The breed doesn't have high-maintenance grooming requirements. They're not excessive shedders, and a thorough brush through of their coat around once a week should be enough to keep it in good condition.

Their coat will likely need hand stripped periodically to prevent it from becoming untidy, and to allow healthy new hair to come through well. Stripping is a specific skill and is usually best done by an experienced and gentle groomer.

Puppy German Wirehaired Pointer
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A black and white German Wirehaired Pointer
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German Wirehaired Pointer retrieving a duck
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Common Health Problems

German Wirehaired Pointers are known to be a healthy and robust and, for a larger breed, can live to a ripe old age. As with any breed, though, they can be prone to certain genetic health conditions. Some of these include:

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: These are two of the most universally common genetic conditions. These involve the abnormal formation of the joint or joints, and it can cause problems with pain and mobility issues. The level of severity can vary, but, in the worst cases, corrective surgery is required.

Von Willebrand's Disease: This blood disorder causes problems with clotting ability. It can remain undetected until a dog has surgery or an injury, and they experience excessive bleeding. Currently, there's no cure, but it can be treated by administering a blood transfusion. Good breeders will test prospective parents for the condition before breeding from them.

Hypothyroidism: In rare cases, GWPs can be prone to a genetic form of hypothyroidism called Autoimmune thyroiditis. Good breeders will health check for this. Symptoms of the condition can include weight gain, lethargy and changes to the coat and skin. While there's no cure, once diagnosed, it's possible to manage the condition through medication.

Diet and Nutrition

As with any dog, you should feed your German Wirehaired Pointer a high-quality and properly portion-controlled diet.

With their deep chests, GWPs can be more susceptible to the life-threatening condition Gastric dilatation volvulus, commonly referred to as Bloat. This causes the stomach to twist in on itself, and it can happen very suddenly and progresses quickly. It can be difficult to treat, extremely painful and can even be fatal.

There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding this condition, but it's widely accepted that feeding smaller meals more often, rather than one large meal a day can be helpful. If your dog is a fast eater, using a slow feeding bowl to slow them down may also be beneficial.

Pros
  • Boundless energy, well suited to an active household

  • Loyal and loving

  • Low maintenance grooming regime

Cons
  • High prey drive

  • Not always keen on strange dogs

  • Needs lots of exercise and stimulation

Where to Adopt or Buy a German Wirehaired Pointer

If you're getting a puppy GWP, as with any breed, be sure that you find a responsible breeder before taking the plunge. This will mean you'll have a greater chance of having a healthy, well-adjusted pup, and you won't be accidentally supporting the unethical and cruel puppy farming industry.

Starting your research with an organization like the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America is a good idea.

If you're keen to offer a deserving dog in need a forever home, you could reach out to your local rescue shelter or find a breed-specific charity like National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue. Dog adoption is a rewarding experience and one worth considering.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you want to research other breeds with similar traits to the German Wirehaired Pointer, why not also consider the following:

There are so many fantastic dog breeds that it can be overwhelming when it comes to making a choice. Don't rush into a decision, do your research, be honest about your lifestyle and household dynamics and you'll be better placed to find a companion that will thrive in your home.