Concern for a Breed

  So, is there such a thing as the Westminster curse? What about the Disney curse? You know where if a dog is depicted in a hit movie from Disney or wins Westminster that the breed becomes so popular that it is actually detrimental to the breed. 

  I am not too sure about the validity of the curses but there is something to say about breeds that get extremely popular.

  Over the last few years, I have been noticing the increase in the number of German Shorthaired Pointers (GSP) in the field. They literally seem to be everywhere.

Stock Photo from the internet

  I have attended a number of events over the last few weeks from AKC to UFTA and the majority of the competitors have been GSP’s.

 This is not really a bad thing, but it has me thinking about the breed and can their popularity be something that would be a cause for concern.

  What do I mean by this, in the past we have seen breeds become popular because of one reason or another that it was a detriment to the health of the dogs being bred and never mind the how they performed.

  This is usually where someone says give me an example.  In the bird dog world, I can think of two examples that have gone down this road. They are the American Cocker Spaniel and the Irish Setter.

 Let’s talk about the Irish Setter for a minute. People became enamored with the beautiful mahogany coat and the elegant lines of this dog. This infatuation led to breeding more for coats than for the ability of the dog to do his job in the field.

Stock Photo form Internet

So as this went on for a number of years, good hunting lines of Irish Setters became hard to find. 

 A dedicated group of people got together with two of the well-known registries and presented the case to breed the remaining lines of hunting Irish to English Setters to put hunt in the dogs. These dogs then had to be bred back to pure Irish Setters and after two generations the dogs could be registered as Irish Setters. 

 In the end this is what gave rise to the Red Setter as the field type is known. 

Stock Photo from the internet

 Fortunately, there are breeders today that are concerned with performance and are bringing the Irish Setter back.

 What does this have to do with the GSP you say? I say that since the breed won Best in Show at Westminster in 2016 the rise in popularity has increased greatly.

  Now I know that the breed is a great companion in the field. They do well with a family and are generally healthy. These are some of the attributes that make the breed appealing to hunters. 

This is Hattie that belongs to a friend.


 However. today if you are looking for a puppy you see an inordinate amount of GSP puppies as compared to the other breeds. This to me is concerning.

  The rise in popularity seems to suggest that people are willing to pay a premium for a puppy. This is good for the breeder. They make a few dollars, but if the breeder only sees dollar signs and not the improvement of the breed then how beneficial is it to the breed?

  If the dogs being bred don’t have health screenings done for bad hips, elbows, eyes and the lot, how do you know you are breeding the best candidates? Just because this dog runs well and that one looks good doesn’t mean they should be coupled. 

  Recently I heard from a trainer that specializes in GSP’s, this trainer said that they were getting out of the breed. When I asked why, one of the reasons was that they are seeing more and more dogs that are not interested in birds. This is bad for a breed that is used as a bird dog.

  It seems like we have been down this road. The breed is getting so popular that a lot of people are breeding dogs that have no business being bred and that is actually hurting the breed.

 I am not implying that every breeder is doing this. It does seem though that the ones that are just chasing a dollar are out pacing the ones that care about the breed. This seems to be the same fate that the Irish setter faced.

 I hope I am wrong, but this is how I see it.

 The only way to slow this, in my opinion, is to ensure that if you are buying a GSP get them from a reputable breeder. One that works with his dogs in the field, whether it is NAVHDA, Field Trials, Hunt Tests or personal hunting dogs. This breeder should also be conducting health checks to ensure the dogs that are being mated are as healthy as they can be to ensure the improvement of the breed not just in the field but the health of the breed as well.

 Also ask to speak to previous buyers and see what their experience with the breeder’s dogs have been. You will get more than an earful if the dog is not healthy or performing well.

 I hope that I am wrong about the popularity of the breed being a detriment. I don’t want to see it become the next Irish Setter or Cocker Spaniel. That fate would be horrible for such a good bird dog.

4 Replies to “Concern for a Breed”

  1. Again, great article Brian. The popularity of this breed is indeed growing faster than people think. Health checks are a must with any breed. If an owner truly cares about his pup then I think it’s most important that they do so. People can help this problem if they are more selective of the dogs origin, as you said. Thanks for bringing this to light. By the way, there is a breeder out west that’s producing poor quality GSPs. I tried to fix this but couldn’t get the support. If anyone wants to know my story, I’ll be glad to share it one on one. Hoping some day you’ll do an article on dog transport. Another concern for dog health care. See you soon my friend.

    1. Thanks Rod. I know of the experience you had with the breeder that you mentioned. It is never a good experience to deal with a situation like that. As far as writing about dog transport I appreciate the suggestion and I will definitely do that.
      I appreciate you being part of the discussion. See you soon.

  2. We have had a lot of conversations about this topic. On the flip side of that, we need to be cautious of the gate keepers as well, that is how breeds get to the brink of extinction. Which leads to a push to breed but not necessarily focus on the performance of the dogs. Then the cycle starts again.

    1. You are absolutely correct. People that tend to make it impossible to get a dog do as much damage as people that indiscriminately breed their dogs. All breeds I think need a healthy balance of people that want to breed for the improvement of the breed and produce dogs that are healthy and perform well.
      Thanks for being part of this discussion.

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