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A Grooming Primer for GWP's

 
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dualgwp
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PostPosted: 07/02/03, 1:31 pm    Post subject: A Grooming Primer for GWP's Reply with quote

This was written by Judy Cheshire a few years ago and has been printed in the Wire News.
Judy was the past President of the GWPCA and is the Judges Education Coordinator for the club and is also the Chair of the Breeders Education Committee.

Hope this helps everyone , remember, this is a general grooming primer. Since there may be a difference in coats (thickness, length and harshness) you may have to change some of the things here and there to suit your dog.

A Grooming Primer for the German Wirehaired Pointer
written by Judy Cheshire

The German Wirehaired Pointer 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 produce 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 overly groomed dogs. It is intended as a basic outline on how to trim. Therefore, depending on the amount of coat your 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.
The wirehaired coat on a GWP is, perhaps, the breed's most 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 flat-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 that of a broken-coated terrier (i.e. Airedale, Welsh, Lakeland).The softer undercoat changes with the seasons, becoming dense in the 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 German Wirehaired Pointer might not 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 original purpose by attracting dirt and debris. A correct Wirehaired coat should be functional and low maintenance.
Tools
Besides a good comb and brush, there are two basic tools that are useful. The first is 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 rake for removing unwanted undercoat (Hauptner Real is the brand I am most familiar with). A good time to begin working your dogís coat is when it is blown. It will look unkempt and scraggly and lift up in strange directions instead of lying flat. At the same time, the furnishings 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 you 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 on 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 running 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 time.
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 if 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 ís the time to start "rolling" or rotating the coat. This means to pull off of 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. Continue brushing and raking as before as well as topping the body coat every so often to keep it in shape. Leg furnishings, eyebrows and beard should be poicked through bi-monthly to remove and dead hairs.
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 tided 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 good-coated 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 hanging 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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Jon P
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PostPosted: 07/02/03, 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I respect Judy's knowledge of the GWP and grooming, IMHO what is being described here is for the most part the preparation of the improperly coated dog which has become more the standard for the GWP. A properly coated working dog requires little maintenance and certainly evidences NO feathering. Yes, there is a wide variance in GWP coats but for the most part they are too long and too profuse, even for the American standard which calls for coats up to 2 inches in length. (The German standard calls for coats up to 1.4 inches in length. Of the very few dogs that will be rated with a "V" (excellent) in coat in Germany, almost all will have coats much shorter and harder than are seen here in the US.) Anyone who is honest will admit that it is often hard to finish a properly coated dog in the ring because of the favor shown to longer coated dogs, which can be enhanced by the skillful grooming of toplines, stifles, breastplate, etc. This has led to a more Griffon type of coat in the GWP and thus the need for more grooming.

I advise any buyer to research carefully this subject before purchasing a pup. Properly stripped and then presented a month or two later, most dogs can appear to have coats far better than they really are.

The best coats I have known require a good stripping out once a year in the spring and maybe minor touch up once or twice more during the year. Properly coated dogs have hard coat over the toes, chest and legs, and no feathering. IMO, a coat that must constantly be "topped" or rolled is a coat that would quickly be unruly and can't be considered correct.
A good test of a dog's coat - when a dog is considered to be in best coat, soak the dog down. If you can see skin through the hair on the back, haunches or chest, the dog is either overgroomed or undercoated.

This said, many of these dogs will be great working dogs whether their coat is correct or not. There are very few correct coated GWPs - I just have a problem leading folks to believe that feathers and constant grooming is normal and acceptable in the breed. This I believe is a direction that the show ring has taken the breed.
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PostPosted: 07/02/03, 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you that that is the direction that the show ring has taken the breed. If you look at the terriers of old you will see the same thing. Many of the older dogs had naturally very wiry coats. But they were short. The show people decided that longer furnishings on the beard, lower chest and legs looked more stylish in the show ring. The result of that breeding are dogs that require constant care and are not as wiry as they should be. In GWP's the result is also a coat that gathers burrs in the field, especially while duck hunting.
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PostPosted: 07/02/03, 8:08 pm    Post subject: reality.... and then.... Reply with quote

Jon, while we may all agree that a proper GWP coat may not need the grooming talked about in this article, there are well bred GWP;s that do need grooming to be maintained as not only as good working partners, but to keep them healthy.

Should we just "not talk about it"? Should we just let folk flounder about in never never land and keep them wondering how to at the least, keep their dogs clean and looking good?

Maybe you have never had a poor coat in any litter you have bred, but the vast majority have had them, and it's our responsibility to help folks learn how to deal with them.

Geez, not every dog is born perfect. If not perfect, they can still be good dogs! I love a great Wire coat, but I still maintain there is more to this breed than just a great wire coat. Yes it's important, and we have to strive for it, but there is more to a great dog than the coat.

for those of you with dogs that have less than perfect coats.... this article will give you a guide on how to keep the coat under control.

Those with dogs with perfect coat can diregard it.
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PostPosted: 07/03/03, 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are right about litters with some dogs with short coats and some with long coats. I raised one dog that had the coat of a griffon. But when I saw the breeders dogs almost all of them had that same coat. I would still prefer that coat to a coat that is as short as a shorthairs. But all breeders should strive to produce the proper coat. It is so nice when you get it. My last pup came from a litter where all the pups had the proper coat so I know that it can happen. Even that one dog I had with the griffon coat was never stripped. I just kept her brushed with a good brush and never had any problems.
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PostPosted: 07/06/03, 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dualgwp,
I have no problem with your comment - every dog has a right to good health and grooming. However, there is a certain acceptance of these soft, long, and/or feathered coats among the GWP enthusiasts that you will not find in other countries. Many GWPs that have been used for breeding here in the US would not be allowed or seen as acceptable breeding quality in Europe, Scandinavia, etc. I could accept Judy's article better if there were more comment on what a correct coat is and pointed criticism that feathers are signs of an improper coat, as is the need for constant topping, stripping of undercoat, etc. There are extremely few proper coats among GWPs - most have too much coat, requiring far too much maintenance. This has been popularized by the emphasis on looks for the show ring. This is an area that the club might take some leadership in re-educating the membership.

too many dogs in the show ring are being shown in a state of partial coat - by that I mean, the coat is stripped and then the dog is shown as the coat comes in and appears shorter, coarser, and closer fitting than it really is. Its illusion - for the judges, many of which don't know much about the breed anyway.

Just MHO
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PostPosted: 07/15/03, 3:41 am    Post subject: grooming help Reply with quote

Was "surfing the web" the other day and did a Google search on "Grooming Broken coats".... this search brought me to a whole bunch of sites describing the stripping how to's for terrier and wire coats.

I understand the Airedale Club of America has a pretty good booklet out that shows the stripping methods. Now, we don't have airedales, but the methods are the same.

Just thought maybe this could be of use to some out there.
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