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Grooming the German Wirehaired Pointer
A Grooming Primer for the German Wirehaired Pointer
By Judy Cheshire
The wirehaired coat on a GWP is perhaps the breed's most important distinctive feature. The dogs were originally bred to be all purpose hunting companions, finding fur and feather on varied terrain and retrieving in water and on land. The top coat should be harsh and flay lying, weather resistant and to some extent, water repellent. A GWP coat is often confused with a terrier coat. The nature of our dogs' coats is different from hat of a brokencoated terrier (i.e. Airedale, Welsh, and Lakeland). The softer undercoat changes with the seasons becoming dense in the cooler fall and winter months and shedding out or thinning during the spring and summer. Terriers ordinarily do not shed out their undercoats. A correct GWP coat doesn't curl or open up after a day in the water, the way a terrier coat might. While the coat of a GWP might have as harsh or tight of a jacket as a terrier, it also should not have the maintenance of a terrier coat. The head coat should be naturally close fitting, while the coat around the shoulders and over the croup tends to be slightly thicker than the rest of the body coat. Furnishings should be of moderate length and wiry enough to protect sensitive areas from sharp branches, thorns and burrs. A short, smooth coat is not protective and a soft woolly coat and profuse furnishings only counteract their originally purpose by attracting dirt and debris. A correct GWP coat should be functional and low maintenance.
The GWP breed standard places great emphasis on coat. It states, "A dog must have a correct coat to be of correct type." As breeders, we strive to product the ideal coat. In reality, we know that this very important quality can be inconsistent. The standard also places a severe penalty on "extreme and excessive grooming". This guide is not meant to encourage the presentation of an overly
groomed dog, but it is intended as a basic outline on how to trim. Therefore, depending on the amount of coat you dog has, its texture and how quickly the coat replenishes itself, you may use this outline in whatever way it applies to your individual dog.
Besides a good comb and brush, there are two basic tools that are useful. The first should be a medium to fine toothed terrier stripping knife, used primarily for taking down top coat (i.e. Gately, McKnyfe, Pearson or Twinco). The second is a fine toothed rate for removing unwanted undercoat (Hauptner Real is the brand I'm most familiar with). A good time to begin working your dog's coat is when it is blown. It will look unkempt and scraggly and life up in strange directions instead of lying flat. At the same time, the furnishing will usually look limp rather than standoffish and sometimes the beard and eyebrows appear bleached out. Now is the time to take the entire body coat down from the head to the tail, including the hindquarters, leaving only the eyebrows, beard, chest and leg furnishings.
Hold the stripping tool in your palm; grab a small amount of hair between your thumb and the blade of the knife. Pull the hair out in a quick, straight motion in the direction it grows. At the same time, grab the dog's skin above the area you are working in order to give yourself some traction. Proper stripping will never hurt a wirehaired coat; it will encourage better growth and correct texture. If our dogs were frequently ruining in heavy cover, this job would be done naturally. At first you may find trimming to be difficult. Don't hesitate to spread the work out over several days.
The next step is to take care of the primary work on the furnishings. Comb the feathering on the dog's legs up and out to the sides. Remember, the furnishings need not be profuse, only protective. With your thumb and forefinger, pull out any hair that is long or limp. The furnishings should be short enough and have enough texture to stand off the leg a bit in order to catch burrs, twigs and any other potentially harmful debris. Pull any discolored or overly long hair from the beard and eyebrows in the same way. Pull only a small amount at a time to avoid overdoing it. Fine finishing and blending will come later. Keep the coat on the cheeks short, while leaving everything inside an imaginary line from the outside corner of the eye to the corner of the mouth pretty much "as is". Excessively long hair on the ear leather should be removed, leaving only a fringe is you desire. Now look at the dog from the front. Chest furnishings should not extend from shoulder to shoulder, like a skirt. This will only detract from the dog's movement. Furnishing should begin at the sternum and extend down between the dog's forelegs and blend into the hair on the underside of the chest.
After this initial stripping job is done, just brush your dog to stimulate the natural coat growth. In about three weeks time, you may notice undercoat sticking out through a fresh growth of wiry top coat. You may carefully remove this by gently plucking it with your fingers or your stripping knife. It should come out very easily as this is blown undercoat. Approximately eight weeks from the initial stripping (amount of time can vary from 6‑12 weeks) the coat should be looking just about right. When it looks its best to you, that's the time to start `rolling' or rotating the coat. This means to pull off a small amount of top coat at staggered intervals so that there is always fresh wiry coat coming in to replace the blown or dead hair.
Every week or two, depending on your dog's coat, its length and how fast it grows, pull a scant layer off the entire body. You only want to `top' the coat, not take it all the way down. Also use the fine‑toothed rake to remove any blown undercoat. This tool is more or less used to `comb' the coat (holding the tool almost parallel to the body). Do not use this tool to strip or pull coat out! Just rake it through the coat. There are certain areas on the dog that you always want to remain short, such as the underside of the neck, from behind the beard to the sternum, the hindquarters when looking at the dog from the rear and to some extent, the point of the shoulder. Keep these flatwork areas in mind when you do your weekly grooming. Leg furnishings, eyebrows and beard should be picked through bi‑monthly to remove any dead hairs. Obviously, if you're showing your dog, you'll have to keep more strictly to your grooming regimen than if you just want to keep him looking relatively neat. Remember, the amount of work you're required to do will be in direct proportion to the correctness of your dog's coat.
Head: The coat on the top of the skull should be close fitting. Pull out any excess hair at the stop so that each eyebrow is distinct. Shape the eyebrows by pulling stray hairs with your thumb and forefinger in the direction they grow, leaving them longest at the inside corner of the eye. Never scissor them! The beard may be tidied in the same manner as the eyebrows, cleaning away the hair around the corners of the mouth back to the ear. Ear fringe may or may not be left on at your discretion, but the ear leather itself should be kept fairly close.
Neck and Shoulders: The neck and shoulders should carry a wiry coat that blends into the rest of the body. There should be a smooth flow from the short length of the skull to the moderate length of the back coat. From the point of the shoulder to the elbow it can be a bit shorter, so that the coat doesn't `fly' when the dog moves. The throat, from the chin behind the beard to the top of the sternum, should be close.
Front Legs: The tuft at the elbow is removed, as well as any excess hair around the wrist or at the top of the leg where it meets the upper arm. In other words, the leg furnishings should be fairly uniform from top to bottom. Also, remember that many goodcoated dogs don't need their furnishings trimmed, because they don't grow in excess.
Back and Hindquarters: The body coat should be dense and flat‑lying without hiding the outline of the dog. Blend the coat over the croup into the tail. The tail should be well covered but not `bushy' ‑ nor should it have any feathering handing from it. Blunt the end of the tail with a scissors or thinning shear. Remove any unwanted feathering from the back of the leg and the hock, while blending the furnishings on the front of the knee into the coat on the dog's hindquarters.
Underside: While leaving some furnishings on the brisket and under the chest, the underside of the dog should taper to the tuckup, making it apparent. Shape this by plucking with your thumb and forefinger. Do not scissor!
Feet: Any long hair around and between the pads may be scissored. Trim nails regularly.
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