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They're Few in Number, but Pudelpointers Are a Breed Apart

November 29, 1985|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

Some lovers of sporting dogs insist that pudelpointers are the Rolls-Royces of sporting dogs. It's estimated there are only about 200 of them in the United States, and Bodo Winterhelt was looking at 10 of them.

He looked over his collection, in the kennel area at his hunting dog training center in Quartz Hill, near Palmdale. The dogs, seven of which belong to him, squirmed in their kennels, figuring the morning inspection meant they were about to do some field work.

"OK, Dazzler, let's see what you remember," he said, and flipped open the latch on the kennel door of a 2-year-old female. The sleek dog with the brown coat bounded onto the cement floor of the kennel and onto the fenced three acres of low-cut brush behind Winterhelt's house in the Antelope Valley.

"Dazzler, sit," Winterhelt commanded. The dog skidded to a stop, and sat, motionless, about 50 yards away from a quail coop. Winterhelt released a dozen quail, with clipped wings, and the fat little ground birds scurried off to high grass near a fence. Seated patiently 50 yards away, Dazzler couldn't see this activity. But her posture and erect ears indicated she knew a drill was forthcoming.

"High-on!" Winterhelt commanded, with a hand motion aimed roughly near where the quail were hiding. Dazzler ran across the brush, snorting and sniffing, then went into her "actin' birdy" mode, the motion a bird dog makes when it first smells a bird. The turns become shorter, the motion less smooth and slightly herky-jerky.

Then, Dazzler froze into a perfect point. Well, almost perfect.

"Aw, Dazzler," Winterhelt, muttered, slightly disgusted. Dazzler's tail drooped.

Winterhelt lifted it gently to an erect position, with both hands, and it stayed there.

Dazzler maintained the point for a full minute, while Winterhelt watched. The dog's eyes began to wander. Then its head turned slightly toward Bodo and the ears drooped, as if to say: "Come on, what do I do now?"

"Ah, ah . . . " Winterhelt warned, and the point was resumed.

Dazzler held the point for another full minute. When Winterhelt said "High-on!" she broke and ran, running with nose to the ground, in search of more quail.

Bodo Winterhelt, a 59-year-old Canadian who could pass for 39, is a canine guru to dozens of Southern California sporting dog owners. He controls the sale and breeding in Southern California of all pudelpointers. We're not talking mutts here. We're talking doggies with major league price tags--$5,000 to $6,000 for a fully trained pudelpointer pup.

Providing Bodo likes you, that is.

"I sit down and talk to a prospective pudelpointer buyer," Winterhelt said. "I want to know why he wants the dog. I won't sell a pudelpointer to someone who won't use it as a hunting dog. And I want to make sure a buyer understands he can't breed the dog without my permission. In fact, it's in the contract--if I find out an owner has bred his pudelpointer without my permission, he owes me $10,000.

"The breed is absolutely pure now. There're only about 200 pudelpointers in the United States and they're all good dogs. You can't buy a bad pudelpointer and I want to make sure the breed stays that way."

That factor, the consistency of excellence throughout the breed, is what makes pudelpointers so coveted by hunters of upland game birds such as quail, chukar and pheasant. Not that pudelpointers don't do water work, of course.

"They are excellent waterfowl dogs, also," Winterhelt said. "In fact, their name implies that--in German, 'pudel' means puddle."

Pudelpointers resemble wirehaired pointers in their physiques, but most are slightly longer haired than wirehaireds. Some pudelpointers are born shorthaired, but they typically have slightly shaggy coats, most visibly displayed by a beard under the chin and prominent eyebrows.

Winterhelt, who charges $300 per month to train a field dog, doesn't say that pudelpointers are superior dogs. He does maintain, however, that with pudelpointers you get the best of two worlds, the field and home.

Pudelpointer owners who have owned other breeds say pudelpointers have an excellent blend of the aggressiveness desired in a field dog, but also a laid-back, sweetheart disposition in the home.

Says Lloyd Derby, who owns a 7-year-old pudelpointer: "Most guys wouldn't think of letting their hunting dogs in the house, because they're so high strung. A lot of them knock lamps over and jump on people. My Addie changes the moment she comes in the door. She can be still excited about having just gone hunting, but a minute later she's lying down in front of the fireplace, going to sleep."

Says Dave Whiteside, owner of the Leona Valley Hunting Club in the Antelope Valley: "I'd drive a hundred miles to see a pudelpointer work."

Winterhelt--who trains other breeds in addition to pudelpointers--began breeding pudelpointers in 1949, in Germany.

In World War II, he fought in the German Army, at the Russian front. He was recovering from a stomach gunshot wound when the war ended.

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