There are mainly 3 different breed standards that exist for the German Wirehaired Pointer (Deutsch-Drahthaar) Obviously the home country of the breed is Germany.
To help clarify these standards, we include our interpretation of the combined standards of the UK, Germany and America and our opinions on the breed.
The GWP is defined as a medium sized hunting dog. It should be well balanced and sturdily built in line with its original purpose. The breed has a characteristic wire coat covering its entire body giving full protection of the skin against the elements.
Nature and Temperament
The US standard calls for a sound reliable temperament, aloof but not unfriendly to strangers, eager to please and enthusiastic to learn. The FCI standard calls for a solid, controlled and balanced nature, neither shy nor aggressive. The UK standard stresses gentle, affectionate and even tempered whilst alert, biddable and loyal.
The true nature of the GWP is better reflected in the US standard, which is a an initial aloof, distant attitude to strangers, but that the GWP is intensely loyal, reliable and biddable in nature with people it knows or trusts. A GWP should never be nervous or lack confidence.
The UK standard makes the dog sound too much like a labrador, which it is not, the GWP is a much more lively and alert hunt/point/retrieve breed and needs to have its intelligence and instincts correctly channelled, whether simply fetching a ball or out on the moors pointing grouse.
They are a large, powerful and intelligent breed that need to be trained and managed accordingly.
Head, Skull, Eyes, Ears and Mouth
The head should be in balanced proportion to the body, moderately long with a medium/moderate stop. The skull should be broad and only slightly rounded at the sides. The UK standard calls for the muzzle and skull to be of equal lengths whilst the US and FCI standards call for a ‘long’ or ‘fairly long’ muzzle.
The nose should be strongly pigmented, liver or black, with wide/open nostrils, without any spots or flesh coloured areas. The FCI standard is alone in wanting a ‘slight ram’s nose’ ie. a Roman nose.
The lips should be thick and tight fitting and not overhanging. The pigmentation should match that of the coat. The US is alone in allowing lips that are a ‘trifle pendulous’.
The eyes should be medium sized and oval, neither deep set not protruding, with a lively and alert expression. Eye colour is hazel or darker in the UK, yellow eyes are not favoured in the US whilst the FCI standard prefers ‘dark as possible’. Eye colour will look different depending on how dark the coat colour is – eyes look lighter against darker dogs, than the same eye colour in a lighter coated dog.
Ears should be medium sized, set high on the head and lie close, They should reach the corner of the lips when brought forward. The FCI standard calls for broad ears without folds, the US wants ears that are ‘not too broad’.
All standards agree that the true bite of a GWP is a scissor bite, ie. upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth. There should be 42 teeth and the teeth should be well developed and set square to the jaw. Missing pre-molars are especially looked out for on the Continent and US.
Like all dogs that retrieve, they should be soft mouthed and handle game gently. This cannot be assessed in puppies and can only be judged through looking at whole breeding programmes and competitive working results.
Neck, Topline and Body
The neck should be strongly muscled, be slightly arched and medium length. The skin should be close fitting, ie. no dewlap as on hounds.
The top line should be straight and slope slightly downwards from withers to croup.
The chest should be broad and deep with a prominent forechest and well sprung ribs that are neither barrel-shaped nor flat . The US agree with this view, calling for a deep, capacious chest. In addition, the UK has an arbitrary measure that the chest should be less of a hand’s breadth between the elbows. Generally the chest should be deep, with a good forechest and be in proportion to the dog. Barrel shaped dogs and slab sided dogs should be penalised as they will not be able to function as true working dogs, they will suffer from restricted movement or lack of lung room.
The sternum should reach well back and there should be a slight but apparent tuck-up.
The loin should be short, broad and muscular. This does not mean that the dog should have a short back, but that the rib cage should extend well back to keep the loin to be short, whilst maintaining the correct length of body.
Body length in the UK is merely defined as being ‘slightly longer’ in body length (point of shoulder to back of thigh) than height (at withers). The FCI standard prefers dogs to be square, almost equal in length but allows them to be up to 3 cms longer. The US calls for a 9:10 ratio of height to length.
The hindquarters should be straight and parallel when viewed from behind, well angulated in stifles and hocks with strong bone.
The FCI standard calls for upper thighs to be long, broad and muscular with good angulation to the pelvis. A strong stifle with good angulation of upper and lower thigh. The UK agrees with this calling for well muscled thighs and well bent stifles, whereas the US prefers a more moderate angulation to match the moderate front angulation.
The FCI calls for short hocks (something that is not mentioned in the UK and US standards – although desired by most breeders) but all standards agree that the hocks must be parallel, neither turning in nor out when viewed from behind when stationary nor toeing in or out on the move.
Feet are as per the front feet.
Movement and Gait
The gait of the GWP is critical as it often shows up conformation faults that can be hidden in stacked dogs by a good handler. Often wide fronts, loose elbows and cow hocks are apparent only in movement.
A GWP should drive from the rear, cover lots of ground with a smooth, free flowing movement. The top line should remain firm, not roll or flex, with elbows and hind quarters moving in straight and in parallel, neither turning in nor out.
As already said, this is one of the main distinguising characteristics of the breed and needs to be correct.
The coat is weather resistant and to some degree, water repellant. It should be wirehaired, cover the entire body (including the insides of the legs) be harsh to the touch, lie close fitting to the body and be tight.
Density of the coat is important as many coats are too ‘open’ and the skin is visible. The FCI standard is alone in emphasising that where the coat is shorter it should also be denser to afford protection.
Hair on the head and ears should be short and dense, with bushy eyebrows and a strong beard (but not too long) to emphasise the expression. This is a GWP, not an Italian Spinone.
Only the US standard specifically permits grooming, but stresses that this should be done only to ‘tidy’ the dog up to its natural appearance. Grooming is generally not desired in FCI countries and UK, but it does happen – whatever the breeders might claim.
Here there is a big disagreement in standards. In the FCI standard ‘brown roan’, ‘black roan’, with or without patches and solid brown with or without a white patch on the chest are the only colours permitted. The UK has similar definitions replacing ‘brown’ with ‘liver’ as a better description of the true colour, and emphasises that solid black and tricolours are ‘not desirable’. Neither restrict the appearance of the head (blazes etc.).
The US standard excludes any black in the coat at all, the head is stated as liver (although white blazes are permitted) and ears are liver.
There is a lot of debate amongst GWP breeders about what colour ‘liver’ is – liver is a very dark brown colour, not reddish or orangey in nature. Light liver colours often reflect a lack of pigmentation generally in the dog and should be examined on that basis.
Size and Weight
In the UK standard dogs are between 23 1/2 inches (60cm) and 26 1/2 inches (67 cm) at the withers. They weigh between 55 to 75 lbs (25-34 kg).
The FCI standard allows dogs to be 1 cm taller and in the US standard they are 1/2 inch (1.2cm) smaller. Neither of these standards indicate a precise weight range, preferring to ask for the correct balance.
In the UK standard bitches are between 22 (56 cm) and 24 1/2 (62 cm) at the withers. They weigh between 45 and 64 lbs (20.5-29 kgs).
The FCI standard places bitches between 57 and 64 cms whilst the US standard simply states that bitches should be generally smaller than dogs but not less than 22 inches (56 cm).
In summary, the FCI standard paints a picture of slightly larger GWP’s with deep chests, prominent forechests, well angulated front and rear with real emphasis on correct parallel elbows and hocks both stationary and on the move. The FCI standard tends towards squarer dogs, but permits longer ratio (up to 3 cm).
The UK standard is very similar to the exacting FCI standard, but a little less precise in its descriptions – especially in terms of stressing correct movement and depth of chest. Slightly longer in body than square is preferred and lighter eye colours permitted.
The US standard wants smaller, more moderately angled dogs than the UK or FCI standards. Black colouration is not permitted, neither are yellow eyes. US dogs have steeper shoulders and shorter upper arms than the equivalents in UK and FCI countries and there is a relatively high number of predominantly white dogs, rarely seen outside the USA.