A bird dog’s endurance, or stamina, is positively influenced by a smooth, fluid, effortless gait. A dog exhibiting such a gait will strike the ground lightly, rather then laboriously or in a “pounding” manner. Such a gait is, therefore, highly desirable, and is derived from sound, functional athletic conformation. A smooth gait is easier on pads, and dogs so blessed are less likely, over time, to develop degenerative, repetitive motion joint problems.
As Bob Wehle notes in Snakefoot, the Making of a Champion, "A dog's field performance and endurance are just as good as his body will permit. A dog must have correct conformation to have the smooth, effortless gait that allows him to finish the long heats in the same fashion as he started. Because of good running conformation, some dogs require much less conditioning than others to get the same results. The standard I have used has produced the type of dog that can perform in the manner desired by the sportsman and field trial judge, and still be pleasing to the eye in repose."
Bob Wehle, for 66 years, bred his Elhew strain pointers primarily for superior performance characteristics. He, nevertheless, understood that many of these characteristics could only be optimized by simultaneously breeding for sound functional, athletic conformation. For this reason, and because he also had an artist’s eye and appreciation for a beautiful bird dog, Mr. Wehle adhered faithfully to a comprehensive conformation standard. This Elhew pointer conformation standard, taken from his Snakefoot, The Making of a Champion, calls, for the following attributes:
“A large, square muzzle: a definite stop at the eye: a balanced head: dark eyes and small, well placed ears; teeth even and full; neck long and free of excess skin or throatiness; shoulders smooth and tight with the blades nearly meeting at the top; front legs straight and well separated with a full, deep chest; feet strong and mildly arched, with toes together; back slightly arched with strong, well-developed loins; stomach tight and well-tucked up; hind quarters square and straight with a slight slope to the tail set, with plenty of angulation in the hind legs, but always square; tail mounted high and carried high; while pointing, tail straight without hook or sickle; good overall balance.”
To this description I would add: straight legs, not cow-hocked (rear) or out at the elbows (front); front feet straight, not turned out; (male) testicles both present, and tucked up tight; bite normal, with upper front teeth slightly overlapping lowers; overall conformation pleasing to the eye, and conducive to athleticism.
Certainly, a dog can fall short of this conformation standard in one, or more, respects and still be a good bird dog. Dogs which largely meet this standard, however, will travel and point birds in a more attractive manner, exhibit more stamina and long term durability, and be more pleasing to the eye when in repose in the house or kennel. They will also annually cost their owner the same to feed, house, and provide health care for as a bird dog less favorably endowed. Acquiring a prospect likely to comply with Bob Wehle’s conformation standard seems, therefore, a logical, appropriate goal.