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In hot pursuit: the Deutsch Langhaar hunts it all--and does so well.

At the Pheasants Forever Festival last year, a booth displayed a regal hunting dog with flowing dark hair and a feathered, full-length tail.

"Is that some kind of English setter?" many asked.

The obscure breed is actually known as the Deutsch Langhaar, also sometimes called the German longhaired pointer. Yet some Festival-goers were still left in the dark--they had never seen this breed up close or even heard about them. Despite the DL's relative lack of fame in North America, this pointer is a popular gun clog overseas, in particular in Germany where the dog was originally bred.

The Deutsch Langhaar was developed to be a hunter of upland gamebirds, pointing them until Hushed by a shot-gunner and retrieving them to hand. Yet their breeding also suited them for a wider range of hunting activities.

They excelled in retrieving shot waterfowl, and were even used for rabbit hunting. Trailing big game like deer or wild boar was something they also took on willingly. Such versatility is set forth by the European and North American breed clubs as the fundamental feature of DLs worldwide.

According to the JGHV, a versatile hunting dog organization in Germany, the earliest references to the DL date back to the Middle Ages. In 1818 it was described in the local hunting press as a dog "useful before and after the shot," When the DL was later crossbred with English pointing dogs, the breed became even faster, with a sharper pointing instinct and improved stamina.

From the start, DLs have been strong, muscular canines with a low-set frame, flowing lines and a calm, controlled temperament that makes for easy training. The correct coat is three to five inches in length, in all brown or dark roan with patches of white and white ticking accepted.

Average height and w-eight are 25 to 26 inches at the withers and 65 to 80 pounds for a male, and about 24 inches and 55 to 65 pounds lor a female. All tails should be well plumed to the tip.

* ALL-AROUND DOG The DL falls into the versatile pointer category for good reason: It can take on tough retrieves of ducks and geese in any weather, then hunt pheasants and quail without missing a beat. Deer and coon hunters have a fondness for the breed as well.

"Generally, most Deutsch Langhaars will adjust their working range to the bird species being hunted," said Hermann Rohling, president of the Deutsch Langhaar Gruppe Nordamerika, as he directed two DLs into a 40-acre stand of pasture grass. Within a few minutes, a brown-and-white male DL slammed into a classic point and a liver-colored female came in to back him. A rooster was flushed, shot and retrieved efficiently to Rohling.

"Out on the open prairie when hunting prairie grouse, most Langhaars will open up and work further out, but generally they will stay in sight of the shotgunners," Rohling attested, "This same natural adjustment to the habitat takes places in the woods when hunting ruffed grouse and woodcock. Though young DLs will take some time and need some experience at adjusting their working distances, the older they get, the better they get."

As for waterfowl? "It's a piece of cake," Cortney Schaefer said confidently when asked if Elli, her four-year-old DL, would fetch a duck that had fallen in some cattails 100 yards across a vast pond. "This is the sort of retrieve Elli was trained to make in order to get a perfect Prize I Utility Score in a NAVHDA test."

Given a back command and a hand signal, Elli hit the water with a big splash and swam a straight line to within 20 feet of where the duck was hidden in the deep cover. After a brief search the bird was found, picked up and soon delivered to Schaefer.

Do all DLs naturally perform this well in the duck blind?

"All of those I've seen do," Schaefer said. "These dogs have been bred for performance in fetching everything from ducks and geese to pheasants and quail to rabbits and hares. Retrieving is in the blood just as sure as it is in the genetics of Labradors, goldens or Chesapeakes."

But special consideration must be given to the DL's distinct prey drive. Their desire to pursue extends beyond gamebirds to wild animals like raccoons, skunks and porcupines. Consequently, the DL owner needs to be on guard for close encounters. Even cats on the loose can be considered a target species.

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"Gertie, our four-year-old German longhair, was raised in our home with two house cats that co-exist comfortably with the dog. On cold nights, all three of them will sleep piled together in front of the fireplace," said Ed Eggers of Fargo, N.D.

"But any stray cat that crosses our fenced-in back yard is in trouble if Gertie sees it. A fast cat that knows it should run when Gertie comes after it will be OK. But any old tomcat that stops, raises its back and wants to fight will lose the battle."

To keep DLs on the task of hunting a specific target, focus on gamebirds as the main purpose of most of your hunts, Eggers said.

* TRAINING TIPS Though most DLs respond well to conventional hands-on training techniques, many professionals recommend using an e-collar for advanced training objectives. Jim Keller, a full-time trainer of versatile gun dogs at Keller's Kennel near Lincoln, Neb., said electronic collars are a good idea even for an experienced DL: "For those who hunt upland gamebirds and shoot waterfowl in really wild places, I also recommend a combination e-collar with stimulation and beeper-locator for even the best trained longhair," he said.

Schaefer concurs, "I would recommend using an e-collar when training and hunting most any DL, or any other high-powered versatile hunting dog for that matter," she said. "But only if the e-collar operator is fully competent in the use of the device. I have found a combination collar with both stimulation and a beeper-locator to be a good way to enforce lessons in basic obedience and to find a dog when out-of-sight in heavy cover."

For the willing trainer and hunter, finding a DL breeder isn't too challenging in spite of the breed's obscurity.

"Most all reputable German longhaired pointer breeders will try hard to place their pups with buyers who are hunters," said Monica Jacob of Rochester, Mich. "Anyone calling a breeder should expect to be quizzed about their general knowledge of gun dogs and their reasons for wanting a German longhaired pointer.

"Every breeder we know will want to know what the prospective buyer hunts and how often," she continued. "We occasionally get calls from people who say they are attracted to our dogs because they are pretty or because they are looking for something different. Usually these are seen as poor reasons for having one of the dogs."

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Jacob said she encourages and nearly insists that her puppy buyers test their dogs in NAVHDA or the Versatile Hunting Dog Federation to prove the natural trainability of the dogs.

"Plus, after any DL has successfully completed any of these tests, that dog should be ready to hunt any popular gamebird," she added.

A DL that doesn't hunt is likely to be a bored and destructive dog.

"All German longhaired pointers must be gun dogs first and foremost," said Del Peterson, president of the German Longhaired Pointer Club of North America. "These arc high-powered dogs that need daily attention by way of exercise to release their energy and maintain their physical condition.

"And, ideally, they should be hunted as often as possible. These are not dogs that can be turned into contented couch potatoes or warehoused in an outside kennel."

According to Hermann Rohling, getting a DL to hunt just one game species for a few weekends each season is a waste of dog power.

What is the future of the Deutsch Langhaar in North America? There is no doubt that this breed has a low profile in this country. But that image is changing as more hunters see the many-sided features of this truly versatile gun dog.

RELATED ARTICLE: Two Clubs, Two Names

The DL is represented by two breed clubs in North America: the Deutsch Langhaar-Gruppe Nordamerika (DL-GNA) and the German Longhaired Pointer Club of North America (GLPCNA), each with its own ideas of what breeding and testing programs best suit the breed.

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The DL-GNA has direct ties to DL breeding and versatile hunting dog organizations in Europe and abides by their rules for breeding and testing the breed in North America. Inaugurated in 2008, the DL-GNA is a member of the JGHV and utilizes the JGHV tests as a basis for its dogs' breeding suitability. Though DL-GNA members can test their dogs in NAVHDA and the Versatile Hunting Dog Federation, all testing and breeding authority rests with the main versatile-hunting dub, JGHV, in Germany. See their site, www.dl-gna.org, for more information on the club's standards and membership.

The GLPCNA, also founded in 2008, exists independently of the DL-GNA and pursues a breeding program that includes German longhaired pointers from a broader range of bloodlines and less restrictive testing practices. The GLPCNA requires the dogs to pass one natural ability hunting test and an advanced level test before they can be bred. Though not affiliated with the DL-GNA, the GLPCNA uses some of the same brood stock as the DL-GNA. See their site, www.germanlonghair.org, for more information on the club and its membership details.
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Author:Thoms, Jerry
Publication:Gun Dog
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:1591
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