Today's Large Munsterlander

Today's Large Munsterlander
Photo Credit: Ted Wells

“Golly, what a pretty dog! What breed is it?” Cindy Shell often hears such remarks when she takes Mandy, her Large Munsterlander, to the local dog park.

“Mandy is a German longhaired pointer,” Shell sometimes says when she prefers not having to explain what a Large Munsterlander is.

The irony is that the Large Munsterlander (LM) was considered a German longhaired pointer until 1919, when the Germans who bred German longhairs decided to exclude any dogs with predominately black and white coats. The reason: they looked too much like English setters, and at that time in European history, relations between Germany and England were anything but friendly.

So, in 1919 some Germans with black and white longhaired pointers started their own breed club, choosing the name Large Munsterlander, based on the Munster region of northwest Germany where most of these dogs were located. At that point the LM became a separate breed of gun dog with its own separate and special characteristics, which are still seen in today’s dogs.


Here are some of those unique features.


Temperament

“Petability” is the word Curt Shreve uses to answer the question: “What have you tried to breed into your line of Large Munsterlanders in terms of temperament?”


“By ‘petability,’ we’ve tried to develop a dog that, in addition to being a good hunter, is also a great personal companion—easy to live with in the house and around the yard…a dog that is tolerant of other canines and most other domestic animals,” Shreve says.

“The reason this petability has been so important is that 35 years ago, when we first brought LMs over here from Germany, we soon discovered that too many of them had ‘sharp’ temperaments. They were ‘fighters and biters,’ ready to go to battle with other dogs and also very fond of fur,” Shreve recalls. “They would hunt anything with a heartbeat, including raccoons, skunks, and porcupines. And they would disappear chasing after deer, moose or antelope whenever the opportunity arose.

“‘Land sharks’ we called many of the dogs in this first generation of LMs. After several decades of being bred to American standards of milder temperament, this land shark type of behavior has been brought under better control.” As a consequence of this development in LM temperament, the breed is now often described as affectionate, loyal, trustworthy, gentle and trainable.


“One reason we chose a Large Munsterlander is that we saw the breed had a moderate prey drive,” says Mike Royce, the owner of Kate, a two-year-old LM purchased as a 10-week-old pup out of a pair of NAVHDA Natural Ability Prize I parents. “When Kate was a year old, she took off from our yard one day and went down the road to where the neighborhood ‘cat lady’ fed about a dozen feral felines. A half hour later Kate came trotting home with something white in her mouth. It was a kitten, still alive but half drowning in dog spit.

“To make a long story a little shorter, we now have a house cat that Kate sometimes stalks and points while the cat arches its back and hisses. But in two years, there has never been a battle,” Royce says. “Kate naturally seems to know she shouldn’t hurt the house cat.”

three hunting dogs in the field
Today’s Large Munsterlanders generally have an easy-going temperament that makes this breed compatible with other gun dogs at home and on a hunt.

This ability to recognize the difference between gamebirds and other animals carries over in the field where Kate, with the help of an e-collar, easily and quickly learned not to chase deer or to attack skunks, raccoons or porcupines.


Natural Ability & Trainability

“All three of the LMs we’ve had over the past 16 years have shown what I call a solid natural hunting ability as gun dogs,” says Ted Rosinsky, an LM owner from New Hampshire. “By that, I mean they naturally have a good prey drive as well as a natural point, search and retrieve, all of which emerged within the first year of their lives.

“We got our dogs as pups born in January or February so that, with some basic training in the spring and summer, they were ready by fall for the hunting season,” Rosinsky adds. “No, they didn’t perform like 100 percent adults, but they did make a worthwhile contribution to most trips for ducks, ruffed grouse, woodcock and pheasants. And they did learn a lot that first season so that the next season they were even better.”

Rosinsky believes much of this early success with his LMs stems from getting his pups from breeders who had qualified the parents in tests provided by the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA). “Both parents of my pups had to have passing scores in at least NAVHDA Natural Ability or, better yet, the Utility test,” Rosinsky says.

“Most LMs that I’ve trained have been above average in their willingness to positively respond to lessons in basic obedience and introduction to hunting,” says Rob Richards, a retired professional dog trainer from Michigan. “LMs, however, tend to be a little soft and sensitive but, if you recognize this and train gently and go easy, they make dependable progress.”

E-collars for LMs? “Most of my canine students are sent home with e-collars,” Richards says. “But only after I give their owners lessons on how to gently operate this remote training tool, and because LMs can be soft and sensitive, I make sure their owners are careful and well-educated about using this device.

“I recommend that they start out by reading an article titled “Thirty-Two Tips for Choosing and Using Modern E-Collars” found on the GUN DOG website (gundogmag.com), which gives some helpful guidelines on choice and operation of most e-collars now on the market.

“I personally use (and recommend to LM owners) e-collars with a combination of multiple levels of stimulation and beeper/locator features so that a dog can be gently persuaded to obey learned behavior such as ‘come’, ‘whoa’, ‘kennel’, and ‘heel’,” Richards adds. “Higher levels of stimulation are used to control impulsive behavior like chasing deer or fighting porcupines, skunks and raccoons. Most LMs do well with modern e-collars in the hands of insightful owners.

“The beeper/locator, which can be remotely activated from the transmitter, can tell the handler where a dog is when in heavy cover. The beeper/locator can also be used to communicate with a dog at a distance delivering the commands for come in or change direction. All this works without putting physical pressure on the dog. LMs tend to do well using these methods,” Richards concludes.

Gamebird Tracker

“I’ll bet $50 that my broken-wing rooster is buried where he fell in this clump of canary grass. And that Meg is chasing a rabbit down a row of sorghum instead of digging my bird out of the cover right in front of us,” the disgruntled hunter complained loud and long, as Rod Fisher relates the story of Meg, his two-year-old Large Munsterlander.

“Meg had pointed the rooster and I flushed it so this guy, who hadn’t shot a pheasant all day, would have an easy shot. Well, he did hit the rooster with the third round from his 12 gauge, but only broke a wing so the bird had good legs it used, I guessed, to take off down a row of knee-high sorghum 300 yards in length,” Fisher recalls.

“After being gone for 10 minutes, we could see Meg coming back towards us in the food plot.” ‘Does she have the bird?’ someone asked. I said I didn’t know because all we could see was the top of her head and tail.

“Well, Meg had the still-alive rooster and everyone, of course, was amazed and complimentary. And though I was pleased with Meg’s performance, I was not surprised because she and I had been working all summer to train her for this kind of experience.

“Like other versatile gun dogs, Large Munsterlanders back in Germany were bred and trained to track wounded small game animals and wounded big game animals on the run,” Fisher says. “So Meg just needed some training to bring out this natural talent.

“At first, I dragged dead pheasants on a rope to create a scent trail several hundred feet long in 24-inch high grass. Then I switched over to live pheasants from a game farm. With clipped flight feathers and a 20-foot long piece of blaze orange yarn tied to one foot, these birds were released in a variety of habitat conditions. Within a few weeks, Meg became a super running-rooster-tracker.”

Natural Retrievers

“By the time Mick was four months old he was a ‘natural’ retriever, fetching training dummies and dead gamebirds on land and out of water,” says Mitch O’Connell. “I’ve seen pretty much the same natural ability in three other LMs that belong to my hunting buddies. That doesn’t mean the dogs don’t need practice and polish, but it does mean we didn’t have to run them through a stressful force-fetching program.”

Munsterlander retrieving pheasant in field

For the last four years, McConnell and three of his hunting partners have been going to North Dakota in October for a five-day waterfowl hunt on a section of farm land covered with a half dozen prairie potholes. “One slough is just right for putting out decoys along the three-foot deep shoreline. But because the middle of the water is six feet in depth, we have to use Mick for retrieving. Wearing a Neoprene vest for warmth and extra buoyancy, he will swim out and fetch more than a dozen ducks every day.

“With some training in the backyard and on a pond in a public park close to home, Mick has learned how to take a line, stop on a whistle, and to follow hand signals left and right,” McConnell says. “When we are done hunting by mid-morning, I’ll take our birds to the other side of the slough and hide them in the cattails, then send Mick to retrieve them again. This is really good practice. My hunting buddies say that Mick looks like a long-haired Labrador.”

Coat Qualities

“Oh, what a pretty dog,” Kathy Milner often hears when she takes Milly, her five-year-old Large Munsterlander, for a walk close to home in Kansas City, Kansas. “Milly does look pretty most of the time,” Milner says. “But her good looks take some year-round grooming that starts in summer when I shear off most of Milly’s coat so she can hunt for September mourning doves in 80-plus-degree temperatures. She doesn’t look so pretty then, but she can better handle the heat.”

Then around the first of October, Milner gives Milly one more close shave, this time to prevent cockleburs and other sticky weed seeds from tangling in Milly’s hair. “If we don’t cut Milly’s coat to a quarter inch in length, each day after a hunt we spend half an hour pulling burs from her back, belly, tail, legs and ears. Within a month, though, her hair grows back long enough to keep her warm on cool days when hunting grouse and woodcock in the woods and pheasants and sharptails on the prairie,” Milner says.

Finding a Pup

“Anyone looking for an LM puppy should follow all the standards guidelines in searching for a well-bred litter” is the advice of Mike Melotik, the owner of Breezy Point Kennel in Birnamwood, Wisconsin. “Remember, you pay for the pup but you get the parents.

“In other words, the pup is the final product of its mom and dad so, when quizzing a breeder, ask why this breeding was done and if there are any health issues or genetic defects in the line of dogs. And what credentials do the parents have in terms of official test scores from organizations such as NAVHDA?

“Go to the Large Munsterlander Association of America (LMAA) website (www.largemunsterlander.org) for a list of members who have litters available or planned,” Melotik suggests. “There are LMAA members scattered across the USA, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Idaho, Maine, South Dakota, Texas, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Oregon.”

Each member should be willing to have prospective puppy buyers make a visit to their kennels to see their line of LMs and that, in Melotik’s opinion, “is the best way to get a well-bred LM puppy.”

Conclusion

“Hey, look, a Large Munsterlander!” This is a comment Jason Rowe has heard more frequently in the past few years when he takes Jack, his eight-year-old LM, for a trip to the local dog park for some exercise or on a trip to North Dakota for ducks, grouse and pheasants.

“I seldom have to explain that no, Jack is not an English setter, nor do I have to tell people that Jack is a German longhaired pointer even though a hundred years or so ago they were the same breed,” Rowe says. “Today the average gun dog owner recognizes Jack as a Large Munsterlander, which goes to show that the LM in general is becoming more readily recognized and more popular.”

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