Frequently Asked Questions
Q - What should I expect to be able to do with a spring-born pup during its first hunting season?
A - Given proper exposure and play training during its first several months, you should expect your pup to search, point, and retrieve naturally. We expect our pups to put in at least a productive couple of hours of upland hunting by about six months of age, and to be retrieving greater snows and giant Canadas by that age also.
Q - I hunt only upland game birds; should I still be interested in a Deutsch-Drahthaar?
A - Absolutely. While one of the DD's greatest assets is its ability to do such a diverse variety of hunting tasks so well, the hunting test prerequisites for "certification for breeding" work very effectively to insure that your pup will have the companion gun dog skills you're looking for. For example, the traits of Nose, Field Search, Pointing, and Cooperation are rated in both the spring puppy test (VJP) and in the fall breed test (HZP).
Q - I'm a waterfowl hunter, and only a waterfowl hunter. Should I consider a Deutsch-Drahthaar?
A - While at vom Altmoor we do as many different types of hunting as we can fit in, waterfowl hunting is our first love. Dissatisfaction with high cripple losses with our Springers and Labs was one of our primary reasons for switching to the DD. While we very much respect the incredible levels of obedience and directional control seen in retriever field trials, we want dogs that, regardless of the difficulty of the conditions, will find the cripple that has taken a hidden route two hundred yards from where it went down. You can't really appreciate what we're talking about until you've watched a DD follow a duck's scent trail across dozens or hundreds of yards of wind-swept open water. What many people don't realize is that the breed started out as a heavy-duty retriever. While the upland capabilities have since been further developed and refined, great emphasis is still placed on game recovery after the shot. Given the great respect of the German hunter for wild game, this should come as no surprise.
Q - Can a Deutsch-Drahthaar handle cold weather waterfowling?
A - In our opinion, the typical DD is similar to the average Lab in cold tolerance. We have owners in Alaska and northern Quebec that are more than satisfied. Most DD's will make a retrieve, or die trying. Heat is another matter. Many DD's are, in our opinion, heat sensitive, and must be conditioned to it before they can be expected to perform well in hot weather. Of course, this is pretty common in all reeds of dogs.
Q - I see GWPCA ads that say that their dogs are "aka Deutsch Drahthaars," and I see some breeders
selling FDSB "German Drahthaars." I don't get it.
A - We could spend a few thousand words on this one, but this isn't the appropriate forum. Suffice it to say that some folks try to get as much mileage as they can out of the Deutsch-Drahthaar's worldwide reputation for excellence, even though what they have is no longer a DD, but rather an offshoot of the original breed. Saying that GWP's or German Drahthaars are the same breed as the DD just ain't so - that's like saying that the Cocker Spaniel and the Springer Spaniel are the same breed. In both cases, they used to be, but are no longer. None of which is to say that there are not superb dogs in each of these breeds. If you're looking for a started or trained dog strictly for hunting, we would say to disregard breed/registry considerations, and just examine each one available according to your own criteria. In our opinion, it's when buying a pup that the VDD designation means the most to you - your odds have just risen dramatically that the pup will possess all the qualities that are important to you.
Q - Some non-VDD breeders of wirehairs say that their dogs are "proven in the field," whereas VDD dogs
are just bred to pass tests. I want a pup that has real potential, who do I believe?
A - The VDD/JGHV tests are designed to incorporate the elements commonly found in hunting situations and to evaluate those traits that all hunters consider important. The judges are licensed hunters certified as having proven themselves as trainers and handlers of versatile hunting dogs and as having sufficient knowledge and experience to properly evaluate and describe their observations. The scores at which they arrive become a permanent part of the dog's record, good or bad, and are readily available to anyone having the appropriate research resources. Whether it's Pointing, Nose, Cooperation, Water Work, etc., most VDD breeders have the resources available to not only look at the scores of the parents, but also of their siblings, and to do the same for every dog on the pedigree. We know of no other system on this continent that can provide such a wealth of objective information. While it is impossible to exactly duplicate all possible hunting situations, field testing is the only objective, public, and verifiable proof of the hunting ability of not only the dog being examined, but of his ancestors and descendants. Certainly, testimonials from owners of unknown experience isn't even on the same playing field as this kind of objective data.
Q - I'm a very competitive person and would like to be involved in many different types of competitions where my
dog and I can show that we're winners. Is the Deutsch-Drahthaar for me?
A - Probably not. The hunting tests upon which the breeding system is based are evaluations, rather than competitions. While we're all proud of a high score when it's earned, the dogs are there to be rated against an objective standard in a number of areas - no attempt is made to rate one dog in comparison to another. And, the sanctioned German versatile hunting dog association tests on this continent are comparatively few and far between - a great deal of travel is normally needed if you wish to enter a given type a second time. Also, in most cases a dog can be evaluated in a given type of test no more than twice - what the German's refer to as "sport handling" is discouraged. Of course, there are various types of open-registry competitions across the country where your Deutsch-Drahthaar will be welcomed, such as local pheasant or chukar "championships." While your DD will probably not be permitted to enter any AKC events, there are organizations, such as NAVHDA, where you can become very involved by participating in training days and other types of versatile hunting dog tests. So, whether it's the VDD/JGHV testing system or NAVHDA, it might be possible for you and your buddy to be very active in group versatile hunting dog activities year-round, depending upon where you live, but competition is not really what the DD is about. The bottom line is that we are hunters and breed the DD for other hunters, and we consider these other types of activities to be simply a prelude to, or a means of training for, the real thing.
Q - Is there a particular reason why I should purchase a pup from vom Altmoor, as opposed to another VDD kennel?
A - You have to work hard at it to make a mistake if you're purchasing a VDD pup. Chances are, you'll be extremely happy regardless which of the VDD kennels you choose. The pup is very likely to have the same high potential, regardless of kennel or breeding. After all, we all adhere to the same system of ability testing and breeding controls. With a VDD pup, what the new owner does with the pup in its first two years is probably of greater importance than source or even parentage. At vom Altmoor, we do have a great deal of experience in breeding gun dogs, Deutsch-Drahthaar's in particular. Given that experience, we might be a little better than some in helping you pick the right pup and trying to predict things like adult coat and temperament. We also think that our emphasis on personal knowledge of all the characteristics of our breeding dogs, as opposed to concentration on just test scores of the parents or a few ancestors, is in the buyer's best interest. Our primary consideration is whether or not we like the dog - his or her personality for want of a better description - no matter how superb a performer a dog might be, it can't make up for not wanting to live with him. Conversely, we find ourselves unable to warm up to dogs who don't have the abilities we want. Perhaps most importantly, we think we have a good reputation for support long after the sale - whether it's illness or a training problem, we can usually offer helpful advice. Having said that, if you would like to check out other VDD breeders in the States, wander over to VDD/GNA's website at vdd-gna.org. There you'll find a list of registered kennels and upcoming litters of other breeders. Again, if you stick with a VDD pup, you'll find it hard to go wrong, regardless of breeder.
Q - I'm really interested in breeding the pup that I get. What assurance do I have that the vom Altmoor pup that I
purchase from you will mature to be a breedable specimen?
A - None. There are too many variables and stringent controls which are unrelated to hunting performance to predict. Our goal is to produce gun dogs which make hunters proud. If you are lucky enough that yours turns out to be desirable for breeding, that's just an added bonus. Anyone starting out with DD's with breeding as a goal, as we did, in our opinion needs to purchase at least two or three, in hopes that one will survive the selection process. The Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar breeding criteria are extremely difficult - just one missing or crooked tooth, for example, can eliminate a dog from the breeding program. When that is added to a breeder's own prerequisites, odds of a given dog being deemed breedable by both the breed club and a conscientious breeder can get quite small. In our first 15 years, we raised, trained, tested, and then rejected, 24 dogs. These included imports, those we purchased from other breeders, and those raised from our own breedings. They' were all very good to superb gun dogs, but had one or more faults that kept us from using them.
Q - I've heard some say that the larger Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar breeders are more interested in profit than high standards. What do you think about this statement?
A - By standards of other registries, even the most prolific VDD kennels are tiny in comparison. We know of no VDD breeders that produce more than four or five litters per year, and none do that consistently. The last time we calculated, some years back, we found that we would have had to have been charging about $1,100 per pup when the going rate was $800 or under, just to break even. Since pups rarely cost more than what the breeder lays out up front (and often much less), we doubt that profit is the motive. Of course, those who breed only incidental to their gun dog ownership, and don't go through large numbers of dogs to select only the best for breeding, might make a "profit" if they consider feed, vet care, test entry costs and so on as hunting expenses that they would incur whether they bred or not.
Q - I hear that these dogs are great at recovering big game, but I sure don't want my dog chasing deer.
A - Any gun dog with any hunt in it is going to chase deer if it's frequently exposed to deer and hasn't learned that that isn't what the owner hunts. From beagles, to Brits, to Labs, to Springers, all of ours have chased deer until they learned that isn't what we were after, or until corrected. If you put your dog on plenty of birds, rather than plenty of deer, there shouldn't be a problem. But recovering big game is an entirely different area. In this case, the dogs are taught to follow only the blood trail. Blood tracking is done almost exclusively on lead, and the dog must be absolutely reliable on deer - it cannot take up fresh scent of healthy deer in preference to the blood trail. The dog must be completely deer-broke or it will be useless for blood-tracking. In other words, as contradictory as it may seem, blood-trackers are actually among the most deer-proof of all gun dogs.
Q - OK, you're obviously sold on this breed. But, no breed is perfect, what are the downsides with this one?
A - In our opinion, there are two. The first is that a significant proportion are quite sensitive to heat. It's the one thing that will stop some Deutsch-Drahthaar's from performing as they should. We consider this a minor flaw since they can all be conditioned to work in heat, and the same thing occurs in most or all gun dog breeds. And, as a general health concern, all dogs should be first conditioned to it before expecting them to work in hot weather. Interestingly enough, while we've seen this heat sensitivity in several of our pups, we've never been able to make any correlation between it and coat length or density, and only minor guesses as to the importance of genetics. It just seems to be an individual metabolism kind of thing. The second negative aspect of the breed is also a health concern. DD's are so mentally and physically tough that owners sometimes miss warning signs of illnesses. By the time the owner realizes that something is wrong, it's too late to save the dog. Admittedly, this is a very rare occurrence, but it's something that owners should keep in the back of their minds. When you think something may be wrong, be a little quicker to investigate than you might be with a softer dog.
Q - I have heard that Deutsch-Drahthaar's tend to be man-sharp and dog-sharp. What's your opinion?
A - The best way to decide whether or not there's even any logic to this statement is to give some thought as to who the predominant users of the breed are - the German hunters. In the Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar alone there are over 11,000 members, and who knows how many times that there are of hunters who own DD's but don't belong to the breed club? And, in contrast to the American hunter, hunting in Germany is much more of a group affair - while respected much more than in the States, game is still thought of as a crop to be harvested and controlled within very specific population parameters. And, those kinds of controls are best achieved with group hunts. No one involved in a group hunt is going to tolerate a sharp dog. So, this allegation goes against all logic. The next thing that must be considered is the mandatory examinations the DD must go through before it can be certified for breeding - it's very difficult to sneak one through with a serious temperament flaw without it being noted. As VDD/JGHV judges, we've done dentition examinations (a part of every test) on a great many DD's of all different ages, and have never been bitten, or even felt that there was a likelihood of it. As owners of dogs of many different breeds over the years, we have been bitten by a beagle and a Brittany, both of which we raised and trained from puppyhood, but never by a DD. As breeders who stay in touch with our owners, we know that fewer than about two percent of the pups we've produced have ever bitten anyone inappropriately. We think that's pretty good for any breed. And, we're beginning to think that it's much more an environmental thing than having anything to do with genetics - in spite of what nice people the owners are, we've seen a couple instances where the owner has a problem with one dog, replaces it with another completely unrelated, and has a similar problem. While we would never take a chance by breeding to a man-sharp dog, as time goes by we think that environment is as least as important genetics. As to dog-sharpness, we've probably had to break up fights involving the majority of the sporting breeds, and many of the working breeds. In our opinion, a Deutsch-Drahthaar is no more likely to start a fight than is a Lab, Brit, Pointer, Springer, or whatever. Most dog fights in the field happen because of handler carelessness/discourtesy - handlers who don't have their dogs under control when in a group of other hunters and their dogs. The bottom line is, do right by your pup in terms of socialization and exposure to strangers (both dogs and people), discipline it appropriately when necessary, never keep it on a chain or cable run, and obedience train it well as it matures, and you're likely to never have a problem with sharpness, regardless of breed.
Q - Some people are against using what they term "convenient" studs - ones that are close to home - while others say that they use only their own personal gun dogs. How do you feel about this?
A - We've used studs from New York, Virginia, Ontario, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, and Wyoming. We've also used studs from our own back yard, or close to it. We base our decisions on our "best guess" as to what might most appropriately balance or mesh with the characteristics of the bitch. In our selection process we don't weight high test scores very greatly - instead we look at the test scores of a given dog (AND its siblings and parents) for any glaring deficiencies or patterns of deficiences. Such deficiencies may be a basis for rejection, but high scores alone won't be used as a basis for selection. Most of all we like to have first-hand experience with the dog, and know a good deal about the orthopedic soundness, hereditary health, and temperament of its siblings. We know of several high-scoring dogs which have been used and/or are being used which we would not even consider using because of temperament considerations or our knowledge of major faults in the siblings. In contrast, we're looking for dogs which are well-balanced in all aspects. If we have such a dog in the back yard, that's great, and if not we'll go to it. As we've said before, in the VDD system, you have to work at it to make a mistake in picking a litter or pup, and this also pretty much applies to picking a stud.
Q - What about all this emphasis some people place on motherline?
A - In our opinion, motherline was of importance in the early development of the breed, but becomes less important with each passing year and with VDD e.V.'s increasing emphasis on uniformity. Once you realize that the motherline of any given puppy is going to be the same as the motherline of the female in the top right corner of the pedigree, you might tend to agree with us. This single great-great-grandmother is but one of sixteen great-great-grandparents - the other fifteen might be of a completely different motherline. To take an extreme example, while a given pup might be designated as being of one of the Deutsch-Kurzhaar motherlines, fifteen of the sixteen great-great grandparents might be of Pudelpointer motherlines. If this were the case, do you think it would be appropriate to expect Deutsch-Kurzhaar motherline characteristics in the pup?
Q - There's some controversy as to whether pups should go to their new owners around their 49th day or around their 70th day. What's your opinion?
A - We once were having a friendly conversation with Richard Wolters, the gentleman primarily responsible for the "49th" day dogma, and we offered the opinion that in this and some of his puppy behavior test opinions, he was full of it. His response was roughly, "You're right, but it sells books." The ten week proponent claims that seven weeks is too young to leave home and puts forth the argument that many breeders wouldn't want to keep pups until ten weeks because, "The profit that might accrue by seven weeks dwindles rapidly in that intervening three weeks from seven to 10." In actuality, keeping a pup an extra three weeks is going to cost one more booster, one more worming, and less than a twenty pound bag of feed - all things considered, this is minimal. Both of these theories were based on behavioral studies of non-socialized litters, and measuring their mean average age of certain developmental milestones. Based on a great deal of personal experience, we believe that pups given proper care and attention by the breeder should go to their new homes anytime between about day 49 and 60. (In a kennel which produces hundreds of pups per year, we'd want to see the pup in its new home roughly between days 49 and 56.) We would never recommend intentionally keeping a full-size litter of Drathaar pups until day 70 - too many negative traits can develop in the pups. The VDD Breeding Regulations call for pups to be tattooed with their registration number during their seventh to eighth weeks (42 to 56 days). We place our pups as soon after day 49 as is possible under this regulation. If there are a couple still with us at day 70 that's OK, so long as we're spending lots of time with them, but we think the pups are much better off if they are in their new homes by about day 63.
Q - How do you raise your pups?
A - Our bitches whelp their puppies in our house, usually in our bedroom, where we are able remain with them constantly during the first 24 hours, and remain nearby for at least the first three days. The puppies stay in the house until they start climbing out of their whelping box, which usually starts around three to four weeks. Next they go into a very large concrete kennel alongside the barn. The kennel panels are movable and we use them to expand the runs into multiple accessible areas with toys and dog houses, a sort of puppy playground and maze. They receive several hours attention in the outside run each day. Play training and various types of response conditioning begin as early as the pups are capable of accepting it. Bitches stay with pups throughout this time and are allowed to wean them naturally. While we take great pride in how our pups are raised, we're not sure that it's all really necessary. We've seen plenty of pups from other breeders which were raised quite differently, and turn out just as well. We feel that the bottom line is (and this ties in with the above question) that, so long as the pups go to their new homes at a reasonable age, how they turn out is going to depend much more on what the new owner does with them than what the breeder did with them. A pup neglected by its new owner is going to have problems, no matter what the breeder did with it. We strongly recommend that new owners enroll their dogs in group puppy socialization and obedience classes, or make sure that their pup receives the equivalent exposure.
Q - Just how much stock do you place in this business of test scores?
A - Make no mistake about it, we think the VDD/JGHV system of testing and prerequisites for breeding are the best thing that has ever happened for the hunter. Having said that, we think that too many folks place too much emphasis on high test scores. There are many other aspects of the dog that must also be considered. And, test scores are best used as a tool to discern patterns - patterns of excellence and patterns of deficiencies. They are best employed by breeders not looking at just the scores of a given parent, but instead by also looking at the scores of that parent's littermates and parents, and their littermates. There are too many "made" dogs and neglected dogs out there, and too much "luck of the test" (both good and bad) to attach tremendous significance to one score on one day for one dog. And, breeders need to be cognizant of appropriate goals - are they trying to produce dogs which are going to be outstanding versatile hunting partners for their hunter/owners, or are they trying to produce dogs capable of exceptionally high scores, but only when handled by a professional or someone whose life is essentially devoted to working with his dog? Our goal is to produce a pup which, in the hands of the average person with a reasonable amount of time for training, will become an outstanding gun dog, in both the field and water. Many of our owners brag on the fact that, while they spent comparatively little time training their dog, it still turned out to be an incredible hunter, with all the traits that they could hope for. While we certainly don't recommend skimping on the exposure and training time, this is the type of pup we're trying to produce.
Q - Is there any difference between the pup I get from a VDD breeder here in North America and one that comes from Germany?
A - No.