Matching homeless GWPs with loving owners is our primary goa
Where Do Rescue Dogs Come From?
By Diane Turner, NGWPR Vice-President
Each year an estimated 3.3 million dogs enter our nation’s animal shelters and rescue programs. Of that shocking number, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the organization tasked with tracking such things, estimates that more than half are strays — dogs without identification found wandering the streets and neighborhoods. The majority of the others admitted into the shelter system are dogs relinquished by their owners.
According to statistics, while euthanasia numbers are down, nearly 670, 000 dogs in shelter care will be put to death this year — the majority die simply due to shelter overcrowding. Others are put down due to ill-health or because of serious behavioral issues.
As sad as those statistics are, the news is not all bad. Fortunately, an estimated 620, 000 shelter dogs first considered to be strays when brought into care will find their way back to their families. And even more positive, adoptions are booming, with an estimated 1.5 million dogs expected to find permanent homes.
National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue
Approximately 25% of all dogs in shelter care are purebred. And of those, it is estimated that between 300–400 are German Wirehaired Pointers (GWPs) or Wires. The National German Wirehaired Pointer Rescue (NGWPR) association, which is the official rescue program of the German Wirehaired Club of American (GWPCA), is able to bring fewer than 100 GWPs into foster care each year .
Through the sponsorship of the GWPCA, national rescue can provide those Wires lucky enough to be transferred to a NGWPR foster with medical care, training and the experience of living with a family. Suzanne Oslander, the NGWPR National Coordinator, reports that the average time a dog stays in foster care is four to six weeks. The time spent with a foster family offers each dog the rich experiences most have missed in their previous lives.
Often Wires in shelters have been outside dogs, living away from families in the backyard, a kennel, or an out building, and some are even chained to a dog house or other structure. Though the old idea that hunting dogs can’t be good house dogs is still common, philosophies are changing and more and more Wires who hunt are also house dogs and family members.
Some dogs who begin their lives as cute GWP puppies in the home are vanquished from the household due to destructive behavior and others become outside dogs as a result of aggression towards a family member or another pet. Then there are the youngsters that have no “off switch” — they are such high-drive dogs that they are difficult to live with, leaving their owners feeling overwhelmed. These types of GWPs are the escape artists, smart and savvy, who frustrate their owners until finally their people give up (see story about Shayna, AKA Elsie below), leaving them to come or go as they please and wander the streets. In some cases overwhelmed owners dump the troublesome GWPs on country roads — the owners think the dogs are so smart they can fend for themselves. While more responsible owners with problem dogs give up and simply turn their GWPs into the nearest animal control facility or shelter.
In cases where the dog seems out of control, NGWPR offers a mentoring program for troublesome Wires whose owners are ready to surrender their dog. Often times the intervention of a knowledgeable GWPCA member can resolve the issues between an overwhelmed family and their ill-mannered Wire. The goal of the mentoring program is to keep GWPs in their homes rather than to have them end up in the shelter system.
But for the dogs who do come into NGWPR care, the weeks with the rescue afford the dog a time to decompress and the foster family time to evaluate the dog’s behavior and to resolve any on-going medical or training problems. Any unspayed females or intact males are altered prior to being adopted. But that time in foster care doesn’t come cheap. The average cost of caring for an NGWPR foster dog is around $400.
Though the number of Wires that find their way into shelter care each year is small in comparison to other breeds, the number of GWPs ending up in shelters often exceeds the number of Wire puppies born and registered with AKC in a year.
So back to the original question, “where do the stray and surrendered GWPs really come from?”
BREEDERS. And breeders come in many varieties, yet unfortunately, too often, all breeders are lumped together. But breeders can be divided into a few distinct groups.
PURPOSEFUL and PRESERVATIONIST BREEDERS:
Most GWPCA members who breed and most Verein Deutsch-Drahthaar (VDD) breeders understand that they are the guardians of their breeds and that improving and preserving the breed is the driving force of any serious breeding program. As life becomes more fast-paced, and urban areas become more crowded and regulated, the number of people breeding purebred dogs has declined. Each year there are fewer and fewer responsible breeders — people who plan the breeding of the best and most-titled dogs they have. They participate in dog shows, obedience trials and field events. They spend years studying pedigrees, looking at stud-dogs, evaluating temperaments and planning the next generation. They health test all breeding stock and breed only dogs that meet the breed standard.
Responsible GWP breeders dock tails and remove dewclaws, provide vaccines, worming, microchips and health care for each puppy. They socialize the puppies from the moment the puppy takes its first breath — exposing the puppy to people, sounds of the household, cats, other family pets, horses and dogs of different breeds. Because these breeders carefully select the families for their puppies and offer continued support and encouragement to the new owners as the puppies grow, the dogs they breed rarely show up in the shelter system. These responsible breeders may interpret the breed standard differently, have different protocols for health maintenance and socialization of their puppies, but the one thing they agree upon is the philosophy, “if you put puppies on the ground it’s your responsibility to care for them throughout their lives.” And that means taking a troublesome teenage dog back when his/her owner cannot cope or providing a home for a senior dog when the owner has passed away or the dog’s living situation has changed.
Family breeders or “backyard breeders” are the folks who own a sweet-natured, AKC registered, female Wire. For a variety of reasons they may decide that their female should have “the opportunity to have a litter.” Unless they are working with a reputable breeder, most often family breeders do not understand that just being “registered” does not mean that the dog is of the quality to be bred. They find a registered male in the area or use their female’s kennel mate and, without consideration to structure, pedigrees, temperament, working ability or health testing, they breed their female. Sixty-three days later the puppies arrive.
Most times these puppies are well-socialized because the members of the family spend a lot of time with the babies. These family breeders tend to be very responsible when it comes to health care for the bitch and her puppies.
Often the puppies are given away to family and friends. These new owners may have no idea of how much time, effort and training GWP youngsters need. As they grow into adulthood, these are the puppies that tend to end up in shelter care. If the frustrated time-constrained owner releases the dog to a shelter organization, the adoption counselors may call the breeder to see if the family will take the dog back. However, most of these people are not in a situation to take on another canine family member so the dog they bred remains in shelter care.
These are the breeders who often communicate/advertise via social media. They do not belong to any organization, so they adhere to no code of ethics nor do they abide by any health-testing guidelines for the breed. Few if any have even read, much less know, the standard for the breed. They may hunt with their dogs but they do not actively participate in conformation shows, which are the basis for selecting breeding stock, nor do they take part in field tests or trials.
Instead, they have several AKC registered dogs that they breed over and over. Some of these breeders advertise “rare all-white Wire puppies,” apparently not understanding those puppies have the propensity for deafness and multiple health issues. Or those who tout “lemon” GWP puppies — the liver gene so diluted that the proper dark brown color has faded to a pale yellow. Others advertise mismarked puppies who appear to have spots like an Appaloosa horse. Or some have puppies with all or mostly white heads. Puppies are sometimes raised in a barn or other outside facilities without the constant human contact and household experiences that make GWPs great family dogs.
These breeders often sell the puppies without consideration as to which type of home might suit each puppy best. They do not microchip their puppies, so animal organizations are unable to contact them if a dog they bred ends up in shelter care. And if by chance the breeder is located by a rescue agency, they most often refuse to take the dog back.
Once the money for the puppy is in the breeder’s hands, any loyalty or responsibility to the puppy or the new owner is over.
And finally there are the genuine “puppy mills” — high volume breeding facilities — some better than others — all designed for one purpose and that is to produce and sell puppies of different breeds. Some do health care for the bitch and her puppies, though often the care is scanty. Again these people have no interest in breeding to the standard or doing health testing on any of the dogs they breed or in working to improve any breed.
Actually few GWPs are produced by the puppy mills because the demand for GWPs is small and Wires are considered a hard breed to confine and one that does not thrive or produce well in a kennel situation. Only one documented litter is known to have been produced in a Kansas mill several years ago. Those puppies were sold to pet shops throughout the country with one ending up in NGWPR care.
As GWP fanciers we can all agree that one Wire in an animal care facility or a rescue program is one too many. So how can things change to eliminate our breed from contributing to the overall shelter statistics?
Adopt when you can. If you are looking for a Wire as a companion and family dog, then a rescue dog is a wonderful choice. Some rescue dogs do hunt so if you inquire about a rescue GWP discuss your interest in hunting behind a Wire with the adoption counselor or foster. The foster care giver of any rescue GWP will know if the dog has hunting skills or instincts. If you are interested in participating in companion events such as rally or barn hunt with your GWP, AKC offers the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program for purebred dogs that are not registered. PAL dogs can compete in any companion or performance event — the exception is, of course, conformation shows where breeding stock is chosen.
If you are looking specifically for a puppy, buy only from a responsible purposeful breeder. Go to the GWPCA website (https://gwpca.com) and read the breed standard — know what is acceptable under that standard and what is not. Understand the health testing that the club recommends for any dog that is to be bred. GWPCA has a breeders list — let that list be your guide to finding a happy, healthy puppy.
Ask questions of the breeder:
· What are the temperaments of the parents?
· Have both parents passed their health checks?
· What titles have the parents earned?
· Do the parents have bird/hunting instincts
Though you may be drawn to those cute puppies that do not meet the breed standard, do not support irresponsible non-affiliated breeders — each puppy sold just encourages the breeding of more puppies. When you make the decision to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder be prepared to wait — most folks who have serious breeding programs only breed a litter or two every year and they will have waiting lists.
What can be done to lower the numbers of purebred dogs in shelter care?
Education. If you know of a friend or a family member who is thinking about including a canine partner in their life, take time to speak with them. Almost every breed has a rescue organization where a family looking for a purebred dog may be able to find one that will be perfect for them. If they choose to buy a puppy or an older dog from a breeder, then explain the difference in breeders and encourage them to decide on a dog from a reputable one.
Working together we will take the first steps to reduce the numbers of dogs in shelter care, and in doing so we will help lower the euthanasia numbers.
The phase “Purposeful and Preservationist Breeder” is borrowed from a program presented to the AKC Delegates by breeders Doug Johnson and Bill Shelton.
Diane Turner is a long-time breeder of Belgian Tervurens and German Wirehaired Pointers. She is the co-breeder/owner of the 2016 GWPCA National Specialty Best of Breed winner and was the first National Coordiantor of NGWPR. Currently she serves as Vice-president of the NGWPR Board of Directors. Through the years, she has fostered well over one hundred purebred and All-American dogs.
If you currently have a troublesome GWP and are feeling overwhelmed, contact the breeder of your dog and ask for help. If the breeder is unable to help and you are considering relinquishing your dog to an animal shelter, please contact NGWPR National Coordinator Suzanne Oslander at (860) 921–7827 and request a mentor. The goal of the mentoring program is to support owners and keep dogs in their homes.
This issue’s Feature rescue story:
Troublesome Young Wire Finds Peace With Minnesota Family
Reprinted from Wire-New
Winter 2014 Issue
Almost every year there is one NGWPR dog whom the rescue volunteers dub as the program’s “juvenile delinquent.” Most always it is an energetic teen-aged boy-dog who has gotten himself in to a variety of troublesome circumstances and thus has received the nomenclature. But to everyone’s surprise, in 2012 it was a dainty little female Wire who captured the title.
“Shayna” as she was then known, began her life of crime as a five-month-old puppy. After being on the lam several times, her first owners relinquished the puppy to the Arizona Humane Society in Phoenix. Within a couple of weeks, a second family was charmed by the adorable fuzzy-faced youngster and quickly adopted Shayna but that didn’t work out so well. Within days she was returned to the shelter for once again repeatedly escaping from the yard and wandering the neighborhood.
This time Shayna spent a couple of months at the facility before going to her third home. Her time with that family did not last much longer than a few days and she was back again because her new owners could not “control” her.
Though a bit hesitant, the adoption counselors gave it one more try. They carefully screened the next set of brave adopters, then explained to them about Shayna’s past issues and educated them about how to handle such an energetic young dog. Convinced they could manage her, the adorable Shayna went off to her fourth home this time with a younger, more athletic couple.
Within a month, Shayna was back at the shelter. Before the misdemeanors had been piling up but this time Shayna had crossed the line. Her crimes were listed as felonies! Entertaining herself when her new owners were away, Shayna destroyed their very expensive leather sofa and when she was bored with redesigning the sofa she spent the rest of her time inside ripping up the brand new carpet throughout the house.
Within a couple of hours, she was bored and out the doggie door she went. She scrambled to the top of a seven-foot block wall then jumped out of the yard. On the lam again, Shayna found the neighbor’s chicken coop and broke in — after all she is a bird dog! In a flurry of feathers, the neighbor’s unfortunate chickens met their end.
When her fun with the chickens ceased, Shayna left the neighbor’s yard and wandered into a nearby housing development where she found a passel of cats to chase. Finally one of the neighborhood cat-lovers was alerted and the authorities were called and Shayna was taken into custody.
Having spent most of her life in shelter care and having four unsuccessful attempts at living in a family situation, Shayna was not a candidate for adoption. NGWPR was contacted and Shayna was transferred to a foster family. It was a winter evening and already dark when Shayna arrived at the Turner home in southern Arizona. Taken to the dogs’ yard, Shayna immediately spotted the 30-foot-tall Mesquite tree and despite best efforts to stop her Shayna scrambled up the tree to the higher branches to find the nesting birds. It took two men and a 12 foot ladder to retrieve Shayna from the tree.
After several months learning obedience exercises and house manners Shayna was finally ready for an other adoption attempt.
GWPCA members and NGWPR fosters Neal and Cindy Lambert of Minneapolis applied to adopt Shayna. Neal was looking for a great bird dog and Cindy and their two young sons wanted a dog that was full of fun and energetic but would “cuddle’ while they watched TV. Shayna was perfect for the Lamberts and the Lamberts were perfect for Shayna. Once settled in Minnesota, Shayna gave up her troublesome ways and received the new name of Elsie. She became an excellent field dog and settled into life with the Lamberts.
Now 11 years old, Elsie is a wonderful part of the Lambert family and a reminder that with lots of love and patience even the most troublesome dog can change.
National GWP Rescue is a nationwide rescue program whose volunteers work tirelessly to provide funding, foster homes, medical care and training for GWPs found in shelters, animal control facilities and to those GWPs whose current owners are unable to provide a suitable situation.
Working hand- in-hand with governmental and local shelters, NGWPR provides a safe and responsible home for GWP’s in need. Placed with an experienced GWPCA member, fostered GWPs that have been neglected, untrained or have medical issues quickly blossom as they are readied for their “forever” homes.
Prior to releasing our rescued GWPs for adoption, volunteers provide obedience, manners, and house training. We hold to the philosophy that a mannerly dog has a better chance of fitting into a new household.
NGWPR believes that Wires were designed to hunt and unlike some other rescue programs, we are happy to place dogs with field experience or bird instinct with potential owners who enjoy hunting behind a Wire. However, NGWPR insists that any rescue dog first be a house dog and companion, then a weekend hunting partner.
Please go to our website to learn more.