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Pudelpointer: Rare, Versatile Gun Dog

Pudelpointer: Rare, Versatile Gun Dog

With bloodlines originating from both German hunting poodles and English pointers, the pudelpointer is a true versatile hunting dog that excels in both the uplands and the wetlands. (Jerry Imprevento photo)

Back in 1975, Bob Farris was living in Idaho, where he was training gun dogs and hunting upland game birds and waterfowl.

He was running an English setter for pheasants, chukar, Hungarian partridge, and the many species of grouse found in Idaho, and a Chesapeake retriever for retrieving ducks and geese.

Although both breeds of dogs did a good job of hunting, Farris thought it would be good to have one breed of gun dog that could hunt everything. He admired German wirehairs, but at the time they were too compulsive about hunting unwanted furred game and other creatures. And German shorthairs have hair that is too short for hunting waterfowl in the winter.

“About this time, a customer brought in a Pudelpointer for training. Supposedly, the Pudelpointer was then a rare breed from Germany,” said Farris. “They combined the prey drive, search, and intense pointing instincts of the English pointer, with the retrieving skills of the German ‘pudel’—an ancient ‘water dog’ famous for its fetching instinct and love of retrieving in cold water.”

The customer’s dog did all the things it was supposed to do, and pretty soon Farris owned his own Pudelpointer, which he hunted nearly every day of the upland bird and waterfowl seasons. Because Farris was so impressed with the dog’s natural abilities in the field and on the water, he and his wife, LaFaye, decided to breed the Pudelpointer as a way to maintain and improve their best qualities, and Cedarwood Kennels was born.

That was the beginning of a major breeding program for Farris that has involved testing dozens of Pudelpointers in the North American Versatile Hunting Association (NAVDHA) as well as other hunt-testing programs to produce a gun dog that started out as rare and is now becoming a main breed among the versatile gun dogs.

Today if you say Pudelpointer, nearly anyone who trains and tests any breed of dog in NAVDHA or competes in NASTRA or hunts a wide range of game birds, the name Bob Farris will probably come up. He and LaFaye are the couple who has done the most to popularize and bring the Pudelpointer from a rare breed to a main breed in North America in the past 30 years, many would say. Starting with a few breeding dogs, Farris now has dozens of breeding dogs, all with NAVDHA testing prizes, some with NASTRA winning titles, and hundreds of Cedarwood hunting dogs scattered all across North America.

The History of the Pudelpointer

In 1881, a German gun-dog breeder named Baron von Zedlitz wanted to create the ideal gun dog that would track, point, and retrieve game birds on land and in water. The objective would be reached by crossing an English pointer (named Tell) belonging to Kaiser Frederick III with a German hunting Pudel (named Molly) owned by Hegewald, a famous German author on the subject of hunting dogs. At this time in history, the Pudel was a common “water” dog (“Pudel” meaning “water” in German) well-known for its natural ability to retrieve anywhere game birds were hunted.

Pudelpointer carrying bird in mouth
The pudelpointer is perfectly equippped for pointing upland game birds. (Jerry Imprevento photo)

The idea of this breeding was to combine the intelligence, water love, retrieving instinct, trainability, willingness to please, and protective coat of the Pudel with the hunting desire, bird drive, pointing instinct, keen nose, and endurance of the English pointer.

Because the Pudel genes were so strong, only 11 Pudels were used with over 80 pointers during a 30-year period. From then on, only occasional reintroduction of pointer genetics has been necessary.

Today’s Pudelpointers are a medium-size dog between 22 and 28 inches at the shoulder, and weighing anywhere from 45 to 70 pounds. Every Pudelpointer should have facial furnishings consisting of bristly eyebrows and beard. Its coat is usually a liver-brown in color, with a stiff hair that is two to four inches in length. Slightly shorter and somewhat longer curly hair is allowed with the standard, but it’s not preferred.

From the beginning in Germany, the Pudelpointer was formally hunt-tested along with other gun dogs, such as the Deutsch kurzhaar and the Deutsch drahthaar, to maintain and improve its hunting qualities and conformation. Although the Pudelpointer did well in the tests, as a breed it did not keep up in numbers with the other German gun dogs. The two World Wars reduced its population totals even further.

In 1956, the Pudelpointer breed was introduced into North America by two Germans—HD Hume and Sigbot “Bodo” Winterhelt. Bodo was one of the founders of the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association. Despite the support from various Pudelpointer breeders, hunt-testers, and game-bird shooters, the breed in general is still considered rare by many gun-dog people.

Bird Hunter & House Dog

“Like most versatile gun dogs, Pudelpointers will hunt most all game birds. My husband and I got Annie to hunt pheasants in the Dakotas, and for quail where we live in eastern Kansas,” said Sarah Schmidt, who hunts behind a Pudelpointer. “In doing lots of research on the Pudelpointer, I found that these dogs were a good fit for our hunting style and home life. We’d had an American Brittany, but we always had a problem with her ranging too far in the field. She also tended to be too hyperactive in our home and the kennel.”

In the field, Schmidt said their Pudelpointer stays close and, if too far out, comes right back with a couple of tweets on a whistle or a few beeps on her e-collar. In the house, Schmidt says Annie is a couch potato that might bark once or twice when the doorbell rings, or when in an outside kennel, she will bark if her water bucket is empty or a stray cat or dog crosses the yard.

Controllable prey drive is a big factor in Annie’s behavior. By “controllable,” Schmidt means she was born to hunt game birds and to ignore animals with fur. Schmidt likes to compare her to her oldest brother’s Deutsch drahthaar, Clint, that compulsively hunts anything with a heartbeat. Last year, Clint found and fought a porcupine in the morning, and then jumped and killed a raccoon in the afternoon. The next day, he found and battled a skunk. Annie watched all this, and at one point closed in on the coon fight but gave up on it with one nick from the e-collar.

Natural Retrievers

Last March, on a conservation-season spring snow goose hunt in northern North Dakota, Sean Evenson got to show the natural retrieving abilities of Diesel, his two-year-old Pudelpointer.

During that hunt, Diesel swam out in freezing water and retrieved a couple of wind-tipped snows from the pond, then tracked and fetched three more wounded birds that had run into the CRP field. Next, he brought in two dead geese from the edge of the corn stubble. And, finally, on the way back to the blinds, he bumped into another wounded snow that took off flying low toward the decoys. He gave chase, and with a long leap grabbed the bird from midair. Diesel received a standing ovation from the hunters, and Evenson was congratulated for being such a great dog trainer.

“I was quick to point out that most of the credit went to Diesel, because this was his first goose hunt and his performance was mostly the result of his natural ability,” said Evenson. “Diesel’s natural abilities as a retriever have shown up in fetching doves in September, ruffed grouse and woodcock in October, and pheasants wherever we hunt them. Sure, I spent some time and effort in training him, but the best training he’s had has come from actual experience.”

Finding a Pudelpointer Puppy

For help in finding a well-bred Pudelpointer puppy, Bob Farris suggests using the resources provided by the North American Pudelpointer Alliance, a group of nearly 40 Pudelpointer breeders scattered across the United States. These Alliance members work together to maintain and improve the breed’s genetics by using the Breedmaster computer program. This software gathers information on Pudelpointers back to the 1920s, has more than 1,300 dogs included, and can be used to guide Alliance members in making science-based decisions in creating puppies.

In looking at any Pudelpointer litters, Farris has some major warnings.

  • Be careful of any breeder not associated with the 40-plus kennel breeders in the North American Pudelpointer Alliance. There are rogue breeders out there attempting to ride on the laurels of those who have taken the Pudelpointer to the top of all versatile breeds. These rogue breeders are only interested in capitalizing financially.
  • Avoid any breeder asking for a deposit, especially before pups are born. These are usually breeders that are not too concerned as to where their pups are going, and are willing to accept the first client who rings their phone.
  • Avoid breeders putting breeding restrictions on the pups they sell. They often require thousands of dollars to lift these restrictions if you ever choose to breed the pup you have purchased from them, even once the dog has been successfully NAVHDA tested.
  • Avoid breeders who do not train or handle their own dogs in NAVHDA tests, and instead use a professional trainer exclusively. What do these breeders know of their own breeding stock if they hire all training?

Bob Farris has probably done more than anyone to bring the status of the Pudelpointer from a “rare breed” to a “main breed,” according to one of Farris’s fellow NAVHDA judges. There are a few critics who complain that Farris uses the NAVHDA testing system to further his own ends, but there are many admirers of Farris for what he has done to maintain and improve the Pudelpointer as a versatile breed of gun dog. Where Cedarwood Kennels’ accomplishments are considered, the figures don’t lie. Every Pudelpointer breeder has a chance to benefit from what Farris has done.

“One major factor in Farris’s breeding program is that he requires everyone who participates to prove that their dogs are true gun dogs that hunt all the time for upland game birds and waterfowl,” said a NAVHDA judge. “All breeds of gun dogs would be better if all dog breeders would do what Bob Farris has done with the Pudelpointer.”

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