Elegant, strikingly coloured, short-coated; Weimaraners, Hungarian Vizslas and German shorthaired pointers are becoming more and more popular as pets and show dogs. There is a down side to this popularity, as the breed club rescue co-ordinators know only too well. People assume that because they are gundogs, they will be easy to train and live with, but they do not consider what that appealing puppy will grow into or what its ancestors were designed to do.
It is a matter of some pride to their owners and breeders that unlike the popular breeds of British gundogs - Labradors, Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, English Setters - the HPRs have not split into show and working lines. There are working dogs close in the ancestry of the show dogs and vice versa. Many show dogs are pictured in advertisements in the dog papers, on point or retrieving game. This all looks very lovely but what does it mean to the average owner?
In the shooting season, my dogs will work all day, hunting for 5 or 6 hours. Dogs who work on the grouse moors will gallop over very difficult terrain, often expected to keep going for miles before encountering game. They are strong, persistent hunters who will be equally persevering when retrieving game, especially wounded birds. If this powerful hunting instinct is not allowed a suitable outlet, the dog may well find its own amusement - running off, chasing deer, sheep, bicycles and the neighbourhood cats. Not allowed an appropriate amount of exercise and mental stimulation, an adolescent male in particular can drive his family to distraction. Tracking and searching games are ideal (not chasing balls and sticks, which is highly stimulating and can wind an already stressed dog up to a state of manic over-excitement.) HPRs can make excellent working trials and agility dogs.
German Shorthaired Pointer
When working, HPRs, setters and pointers air-scent. In a pet dog, this tendency to a high head carriage means that if the dog scents something of interest on the wind, he will be off before the owner has a chance to react. Training the dog to recall and turn to a whistle rather than to a voice, helps to keep in contact with the dog at a distance.
aka "Silver Shadows"
In their native lands, HPRs were also expected to guard the home. In Germany, a Weimaraner was expected to stand as a last defence between his owner and an armed poacher or a charging wild boar. This strength of character can readily turn to aggression if the dog is not appropriately socialised. Too many bored, under-socialised young males come into rescue when their owners realise that they cannot cope.
There are a number of HPR breeds recognised by the Kennel Club in Great Britain, they include the German Shorthaired, Wirehaired and Longhaired Pointers, the Brittany, Large and Small Munsterlanders, the Weimaraner (in long and short coated varieties), the Italian Spinone and Bracco Italiano, the Hungarian Vizsla and wirehaired Vizsla. There are other breeds in Europe, including the various French braques and the Korthals pointing Griffon, which have not yet reached the UK.
You don't have to work your HPR as a gundog, but an understanding of what that work entails, and the qualities that it requires in the dog, can help you to devise a lifestyle suitable for both dog and family. Appropriate socialisation, a reasonable amount of physical exercise, plus mental stimulation will result in a loyal, happy companion. The bond between owner and working dog is something special; I would not be without an HPR in my life.
The poem below was written for a German shorthaired pointer, Motto (Geramer's Galahad of Brandonburg) who shared our home and hearts for 14 ½ years, and was a true gentleman of a dog.
In Memory of a Hunt-Point-Retriever
I know a place where pheasants fly to roost
Over wooded land that never knew the plough.
Where honeysuckle ropes hang green and loose
And bluebells' crisp ripe shoots are springing now.
Where wild roses bloom in tangled mats of thorn
Beneath an ash whose leaf-mould turns to loam.
Among the briars we cleared the virgin earth
And dug his grave, the day we brought him home.
His burnished coat had faded down to grey
And clouded eyes, which once shone bright and deep.
His time had gone, the spring of life unwound,
We laid him easy down, to his last sleep.
I remembered only that I felt his heart
Beat, then pause, then stop beneath my hand.
His body, once quick-silver loose and warm,
Laid cold and stiff in the embracing land.
The wind fell still, a moment caught on point,
Though through my tears I neither felt nor heard.
Perhaps he knew, and understood that grief
Had choked away my final loving word.
A photograph, a drift of scattered hair,
How little left; the bones beneath the earth.
The hunter caught, ensnared by passing time,
So short a passage runs to death from birth.
So on, to other days and dogs I go,
But in my wake, like sparks of sun on frost,
To light the dark, their many candles glow,
Precious memories of those I loved and lost.
About the author of this article - Sylvia Glanville-Hughes
I obtained my first Weimaraner 25 years ago, and have owned Weimaraners, German shorthaired pointers and Hungarian Vizslas. I have trained most of my dogs to work as gundogs, the current three Vizslas all work through the season, beating and picking up. I also try to train them all to at least Kennel Club Good Citizen gold award standard and have gone over completely to clicker training.
After losing a lovely dog who was put to sleep because of temperament problems, I decided to find out more about aggression and how to prevent it.
I attended a seminar given by Sheila Harper and associates, where I learned so much that I promptly joined International Dog Training School 2002 and have recently completed my portfolio and hope for certification in the near future.
I am a member of the Kennel Club's pilot scheme for accredited training instructors, I have been assessed and approved as a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and an associate member of the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe. I have obtained my CAP1 (competency assessment programme, foundation level) in clicker training and am working towards CAP2.
I am particularly interested in clicker training for working gundogs and the causes and prevention of gastric torsion (bloat) in dogs, having owned a Weimaraner who suffered from bloat at 8 months of age. I show my dogs occasionally and I write articles on dogs for breed club magazines and for 'Teaching Dogs' magazine.
This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).
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