Deutsch Drahthaar vom Moorehaus
Bred by hunters for responsible hunting.
Forrest Moore
Breed standard...
through performance
to standard.
Southeast Hunter Chapter
Group North America
Arko vom Moorehaus at 12 yrs old (Dec 2012)
Arko vom Moorehaus
  How to Buy a Gun Dog
  by W. G. Griswold, DVM

With notes on the Deutsch Drahthaar and vom Moorehaus Drahthaars

© 2003 W. G. Griswold, DVM
Posted by vom Moorehaus Drahthaars with permission from the author

"It was hardly a casual thing, picking a pup. Here was a creature with whom I would share the next fifth of my life: a housemate, family member, hunting partner, friend. One does not pick children, one is given them; but with dogs one assumes the burden of choice."
—Charles Fergus, in A Rough Shooting Dog

As a veterinarian, I'm frequently asked how I would select a puppy if I were looking for one. More often than not, the question is posed by a disappointed pet owner whose new puppy has failed to live up to expectations: the pup may have a congenital (birth) defect or genetic disease, be ill, difficult to train, or have any number of other problems, both real and perceived. Usually, however, the problems I see could have been avoided with a little consideration, research, and preparation prior to bringing the dog home.

Two years ago, I became the proud owner of a Deutsch Drahthaar or DD, a German wirehaired pointer bred and registered in the German registry maintained and supervised by the Verein Deutsch Drahthaar/Group North America (VDD/GNA). The search leading up to "Rana's" arrival at my home was born of a newfound interest in wingshooting and the desire to own and train a working gun dog. The entire selection and purchasing process spanned a period of several months. During this time, I evaluated many factors, including the motivation behind my decision to get a dog, my family's lifestyle, what I desired in a dog, what I expected from a kennel or breeder, and how I would house, care for, and train my new companion. This personal journey now serves as my answer to "How would you pick a puppy?"

Self evaluation
Why do you want a dog?

While everyone's motivation for wanting a dog is different, it's important to understand why you want a dog. There are many valid and understandable reasons to purchase a puppy, whether you live far from family and desire a companion, you want a hiking partner, or you need a dog to herd sheep. However, if your reasons for choosing a gun dog don't include the intention to train and hunt with your new companion as well as a strong desire to accept complete responsibility for the well being of an intelligent, yet dependent, animal, perhaps your search should stop right here.

For me, the reasons to get a dog were many: I'd longed for a dog since I'd lost my childhood friend, firsthand experience with housebreaking and training would make me better veterinarian and more qualified to advise others, and many of my outdoor hobbies could be shared with a dog. As a hunter, the reason was simple: a conscientious hunter simply cannot tolerate the loss of game, and a dog would aid in assuring that killed (or worse—crippled) game would rarely be left in the field.

Are you ready for ANY dog?

It's imperative that you stop here to think this out. Do you have the time, space, financial resources, dedication, patience, and energy necessary to raise and train a puppy? If you're at work before dawn and at the gym or taking night classes until well after dark, who will feed, walk, and teach the dog? How will you pay for this? If the dog's purchase price requires you to forego another luxury or eat ramen noodles for a month, how will you afford the medical care necessary to keep the puppy healthy? And what if it gets sick? Is your back closet packed with boxes full of hobbies or projects you've picked up only to abandon a short time later? Do you find yourself snapping at coworkers or roommates only to apologize later for your short temper? Are you worn out when you get home from work each day and inclined to spend weekends sleeping in? Do you enjoy the freedom to take a road trip whenever the urge strikes? If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, maybe now is not the time for a dog.

Do you have children? While pets can help teach children important lessons about responsibility, love, and loss, they are ultimately a parent's responsibility. Recent studies have even demonstrated that dogs belonging to families with children are at greater risk for surrender to shelters than those belonging to childless homes. Like children, pets require a significant investment of time and money; can you afford to divide your time and resources between the kids and a new pet?

You may be certain that you're ready, but how about the rest of your family? Bringing a dog into a home that is not unanimously in favor of the change is risky at best. At worst, it can result in the eventual surrender of your new hunting buddy to a rescue group or shelter.

Are you ready for a GUN dog?

By nature, gun dogs are intelligent, active breeds that require plenty of attention, extensive training, and abundant exercise. Rare is the gun dog that is born steady to wing and shot or lacks for energy. If you're not serious about training and hunting your dog, do yourself and the pup a favor and hunt with a friend or hire a guide with dogs for that once-a-year hunt.

Breed evaluation
About purebred dogs and registries

Registration of purebred dogs is usually regulated by a breed club or similar organization. Breed clubs were initially developed to unite individuals with an interest in breeding, training, and showing purebred dogs. Included among the stated goals of most breed organizations is the improvement of the breed by selecting for dogs that meet the published breed standard, a written representation of the "ideal" dog of that specific breed. These standards most frequently focus on external physical appearance, and rarely mention such important factors as musculoskeletal conformation, absence of genetic diseases, ability to perform a desired skill or task, or temperament. Furthermore, breed groups rarely impose mandatory evaluation of breeding dogs to ensure that they even meet this breed standard; maintaining the genetic integrity of the breed is left up to the individual breeder and genetic quality can vary tremendously from kennel to kennel and litter to litter.

The VDD, on the other hand, strictly regulates the breeding of Drahthaars registered under its direction. All dogs to be used for breeding must pass at least one standardized evaluation including temperament assessment, gunshyness testing, external examination for genetic defects, and evaluation of search, nose, point, tracking, and cooperation with its handler—most dogs complete two or more such tests. Dogs who fail these tests are permanently excluded from the breeding program. Once they've passed the natural ability tests, all dogs must be certified by a committee of veterinarians as being free of hip dysplasia prior to being approved for breeding. Finally, all pairings must be approved by the VDD breedwarden before breeding occurs.

While not a guarantee, the purchase of a VDD-registered Deutsch Drahthaar helps ensure the genetic quality and potential of your dog. The strict breeding regulations imposed by the VDD ensure that breeders select for performance, temperament, and conformation. Simply put, even an average DD, with proper training and guidance, has the potential to become an excellent or exceptional gun dog.

Before Rana's arrival, I'd never owned or trained a gun dog before. I learned of the VDD through two clients who have now become valued friends. In the research I did prior to purchasing my dog, I grew to feel that even with no prior experience with gun dogs, DD's, and the individual VDD kennels, I could be reasonably assured of getting a dog that would perform up to my expectations based simply on the strict testing and breeding requirements imposed by the VDD.

Which breed is for you?

Not all gundogs are created equal. While known for their ability to locate and point game, pointers and setters are not always the best retrievers; their development as upland hunting breeds also limits their suitability to waterfowl hunters. Retrievers, on the other hand, love to fetch, but may have less interest in finding and flushing game for upland hunters. The DD, along with the German shorthair, Weimaraner, Hungarian vizsla, and several other breeds, are collectively known as versatile hunting dogs. Versatiles were developed to "do it all;" these Jacks-of-all-Trades locate, point, track, and retrieve feathered and furred game on land and in water. These breeds are well-suited to the hunter who seeks a variety of game but can't afford to keep a kennel full of more specialized dogs.

This was my primary consideration when selecting a DD from among a dozen other breeds. While my home state of Arizona claims three species of native quail among its excellent upland hunting, there are also opportunities to take waterfowl and small game in many areas of the state. I intended to pursue numerous types of game and needed a dog to be able to handle a variety of different situations. Rana has fit the bill nicely, assisting in the harvest of Gambel's and Mearn's quail, dove, band-tailed pigeons, jackrabbits, cottontails, squirrel, and several species of waterfowl. He loves water work, but is equally at home quartering desert hills, grassy canyons, and snow-littered slopes in search of upland birds, tracking furred game, and sitting at a heel marking falling dove for retrieval.

Breeder Evaluation

Selecting the right kennel is just as important as selecting the right breed. In choosing a kennel, you should carefully consider the breeder's motivation for breeding, the value provided, and what your gut is telling you.

Every breeder has a different motivation for breeding dogs. Some aim for bench show awards or obedience titles, others cherish field trial championships, still others are primarily interested in earning supplemental income. A breeder who does not include "improvement of the breed" among their motivating forces is breeding for selfish reasons at best, and dishonest ones at worst. Because of the breeding requirements imposed by the VDD, a registered kennel has no choice but to include improvement of the breed as a motivating factor.

A breeder of hunting dogs should be a hunter and have a desire to produce dogs possessing the real-world skills necessary for a hunting dog. While the retriever that can perform a 500-yard blind retrieve and the pointer that will find birds three miles ahead of the hunter are impressive, let's be realistic. Field trialing has become a sport in and of itself, and while field trial championships are great, dogs bred for this purpose don't necessarily possess the qualities a hunter needs.

Price should never be a primary consideration when you begin your search for a breeder or kennel. You are shopping for value. Value comes in many forms. It should always include the pedigree of the puppy's parents, proof of evaluation of the sire and dam for genetic diseases, history of the puppy's previous veterinary examinations and inoculation against infectious diseases, the support a breeder will provide after the purchase, and a guarantee of health. It may even include extras like written information about care and training, a free health certificate or shipping kennel, or, as in Rana's case, an old house slipper that smelled like his littermates to help reduce stress during the 2500-mile trip to his new home.

Once you have found a few breeders who produce puppies of the quality you desire and offer great value, visit their kennels, meet the sire and dam, discuss the kennel's nutrition and healthcare programs, and ask for (and speak to) references. A breeder who is reluctant to provide references or answer questions is likely hiding something and is best avoided. Ask questions until you are satisfied with the answers you've received. When you've done all this, consider what you've learned, along with the price of a pup, the individual breeders' personalities, and your gut feelings, before you make a final decision.

I will freely admit to having been a prying pain in the ass in my search for a quality kennel. A breeder who is serious about producing good dogs should welcome clients who are just as serious about buying one. I knew I had found the right kennel when Forrest told me he wished everyone who bought a dog from vom Moorehaus put him through what I had.

Living up to your end of the deal

Owning a dog is an enormous responsibility that will likely span the next fifth of your life. You must provide food, shelter, medical care, and love to an animal completely dependent upon you for its survival. Proper training will make the ride much smoother for all involved. In addition, the bond formed while training your own dog is absolutely phenomenal. Before you begin training–before your pup even arrives–spend time learning how dogs think, learn, and communicate. Realize now that they are not little people in fur coats, and they require a strong leader who can help them learn. Understand that consistency, dedication, and a fair amount of "tough love" will be necessary if everyone is to get along well.

Owning a gun dog carries with it even greater commitment, but pays much larger dividends. Most of a gun dog's training should be performed by the dog's owner. During this time, you and the dog will learn to trust each other and work as a team. However, beginners shouldn't undertake this process alone. Enlist the assistance of your breeder, other VDD members, the local chapter of NAVHDA, or the members of pointing dog club. Read books, periodicals like Pointing Dog Journal, and tap online resources. Train, train, train, then hunt that dog. Gun dogs are born to hunt; don't let your pup down by turning him into a house pet simply because you "don't have the time" to get into the field anymore.

Finally, owning a DD involves a very special obligation not only to your dog, but also to your breeder's kennel and the breed as a whole. Part of the training process for any DD should include entry in the spring and fall puppy tests, the VJP and HZP. These tests help you set training goals, objectively assess your pup's abilities and progress, and provide your breeder with useful information regarding your pup's litter and the pairing that produced it. Without the data provided by the tests, the breeding program that makes the DD such a great breed will be lost.

Rana's "room" was ready for him when he arrived at our home. Training, or teaching, anyway, began as soon as he had settled in and continues today, a month after his second birthday. The training process will likely last his lifetime. He participated in both the VJP and HZP, earning the highest score in his litter in the VJP and the high dog score in his HZP despite having a first-time trainer and handler. His success is best attributed to his breeding and the VDD breeding program, but I must take some credit for the hard work that we both put into preparing for the tests.


Buying a dog is a process, not an event; it should never be undertaken on impulse. Carefully consider your motivation for getting a dog and the resources you have available to care for it. Research the breed or breeds you are interested to find the one that best fits your lifestyle, household, and hunting interests and style. Exercise equal diligence in your search for a breeder, and keep looking until you find one who can answer your questions to your satisfaction. Plan for your pup's arrival well in advance, and do the pup justice by living up to your own responsibilities. Failing to do all this will increase the likelihood that you will wind up disappointed with your dog; more often than not, this disappointment can be avoided by dedicating your time and effort to raising the dog you want. On the other hand, taking your time and doing things right will virtually ensure many years of unparalleled companionship—and heavier game bags.


Before Rana, I couldn't imagine what life with a gun dog would be like. Today, I couldn't imagine life without one. He arrived at the start of the 2001 hunting, and immediately began accompanying my wife and me into the field. He was obedience trained using slight variations on "The Kohler Method of Dog Training", and field trained with the assistance of vom Moorehaus Drahthaars and fellow VDD members Jim Chalmers and Kit Critchlow. Dog-eared copies of books such as "The Drahthaar Puppy Manual", produced by vom Altmoor Kennels, and NAVHDA's "The Training and Care of the Versatile Hunting Dog", coupled with as a subscription to "Pointing Dog Journal" and online research all guided me and contributed to my growing knowledge of field training techniques.

I never expected to become a "breed snob" like so many of the purebred dog owners I've met over the years, but owning a DD has given me a greater appreciation of how special not only one dog, but an entire breed can become to a person. I don't believe I'll ever own another breed. Rana is everything I'd hoped he'd be: biddable, intense, intelligent, friendly, and talented. He's a fantastic house dog, hiking buddy, and hunting partner. I'd recommend a DD to anyone looking for the same.

Deutsch Drahthaar vom Moorehaus
Forrest Moore
Southeast Hunter Chapter
Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar
Group North America
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