Winter has finally arrived in Nebraska.  It has been unusually mild, with only one or two significant snows up until last weekend.  I had wondered if Mother Nature was going to be like the animated segment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where she skips significant seasons (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZLP0siJI-8), but it our case going directly from fall to spring.  But alas, after our 70 degree day in January, she reminds us now that it is indeed winter.

Dogs and kids alike enjoyed the snow last Saturday!

Sam Wirehaired Pointing Griffon snow

Sam races through the snow

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons kids

Sue, Sam and BB sled with the kids

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon snow

Mae wanders about in the snow

Although you can’t tell in the picture from last week, Mae is certainly with puppies.  Her tummy has grown considerably since this last picture and like all pregnant mamas, her priority is food!  We will have her X-rayed the first week in March to get a puppy count and expect her puppies to arrive sometime around March 15th.

My Valentine’s Day present is a whelping box kit and we have a spot in the garage prepared for setting it up.  The actual whelping will most likely occur inside the house in the laundry room, which is an easier spot for me to access for monitoring but will keep mama and pups out of being messed with by the human kids.  We’ll have a disposable carpet remnant on the floor and a woodchip-filled sandbox to warmly welcome them into the world.  As the pups get bigger and squirmier, we’ll transition them into the heated garage with the whelping box.  Once they hit 3 1/2-4 weeks, they’ll be big and strong enough to move into an outdoor kennel with an insulated dog house.

Breeders who tightly line-breed (with humans, known as inbreeding) their dogs have to cull (kill) defective animals.  Up to now, I have not had to cull puppies (as all of my breedings are outcrosses, or unrelated), but I do accept if my female outright rejects a pup.  Dogs have senses far beyond our own and I believe if a female selects a pup to “push away” it tells us as humans that there is an internal problem that will later manifest itself in ways we do not want to deal with.  Although some breeders pride themselves in never losing a pup, I do not want to be tube and/or bottle feeding puppies that the female has rejected, only to have them crop up with a defect later in life.  So, if we turn up with a litter born one size, but end up a pup or two short at 3 weeks, know that it is all part of the natural process of breeding healthy hunting dogs and not trying to pawn off puppies rejected by the female for a few extra dollars.

Moving on!  My dogs are primarily outdoors, but do spend some evenings in the house.  When the temperatures dip and your dogs are outside the most important things to consider are:

Nutrition: Similar to hunting season, during times of cold a dog will eat about twice as much as warmer weather.  Right now, my dogs are eating about 2 1/2 cups of Diamond Performance dog food apiece (http://www.diamondpet.com/products/diamond/dogs/dry_food/performance_formula_for_dogs/), plus table scraps.  As to not overfeed, I’m focusing most of my tablescraps on Mae, but the others do get some of mom’s bad meatballs or dad’s goofy gumbo when we have an entire recipe not go our way.  Otherwise, the kids put off enough food refuse to keep them happy!

2) Water.  When we go through a hard cold spell like this there are two options.  Bust icy buckets twice a day (we use Fortex/Fortiflex buckets to prevent breakage http://www.fortexfortiflex.com/cornerbuckets.html) or use plug-in heated buckets (http://www.tractorsupply.com/allied-precision-heated-bucket-2-25-gal-capacity-2170071).

3) Shelter.  As a small operation, we do not have a large climate controlled kennel building.  As the wiry double-coat of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon has to be cold tolerant, the current temperatures do not phase the dogs as long as they have quality shelter.  Our dogs are housed in the Dog Den 3 from K-9 Kondo, manufactured in Stapleton, Nebraska http://www.k-9kondo.com/products/Dog-Den-3%2C-Large%2C-Unassembled.html.  They are warm and large enough to house two adult dogs or to house a female and a litter.  We do not use the heater option, but use cedar chip bedding on the floor for insulation in the winter and to control bugs in the spring, summer and fall.

4) Exercise.  Feed your dogs enough so that they can comfortably exercise without compromising body conditioning.  Running and playing with their family and kennelmates is essential to stable mental health, even if the dogs are brought into the house for socialization.

Speaking of coming into the house for socialization, tonight is a designated “dog party” night, where the dogs come in to hang out and watch evening “telly” (TV) with the family.  Mostly, they chew on their cow hooves, which gives off a bit of a barnyard breath aroma, but they last longer than the 15 minute rawhides and keep them from perpetually wrestling with each other or breathing in people’s faces for attention.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffons in the house

TV time the evening of Feb. 11th: Mae, Sue, BB and Sam

Another daily dog chore now is waiting for Sue to come into season.  She’s showing some body changes that indicate it is coming and based on the calendar it is 3-5 weeks away, but I still like to be precise.  Sue and Sam are already kenneled together, so he’ll know when it is time, but the tell-tale sign to me will be when she comes into pro-estrus.  Pro-estrus is the vaginal bleeding that proceeds fertility by 6-9 days.  Mae’s fertility was days 7-9 following her pro-estrus, so it’s a fairly exact event.  Breeding dogs is very much a science and I enjoy learning more about it each year.

Next weekend, Charles and I will be attending Pheasant Fest in Kansas City, the Pheasants Forever National Convention http://pheasantfest.org/.  Our Pheasant Fest coverage will appear on our hunting blog page http://versatilehunter.com/ and live coverage via our Twitter feed, on twitter.com follow @VersatileHunter.  The dogs will be at home with the kids being babysat by grandma, but we look forward to cheering on our fellow griffoniers in the Bird Dog Parade on Friday!

I’ve also been spending time networking with griffoniers worldwide on the various Facebook groups:

The Good Griff Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/goodgriffclub/ The Good Griff Club is primarily North American (US and French Canada) with some Eastern European representation.  Mostly a “brags” page for photos and training/care questions.

Griffon Korthals https://www.facebook.com/groups/Korthal/ Very international, with many members from throughout Europe (UK, Spain, France, Germany, Finland, Sweden, etc.) as well as North America.  Both a photo/brag place and a space for sharing what we are doing with the breed in our respective regions and trying to understand how we can all come together for breed improvement.

Griffology…or you might be a Griff person if…https://www.facebook.com/groups/214318631949690/ The silliest of the groups, for funny photos and stories of griff ownership.

Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Rescue https://www.facebook.com/groups/332544350741/ Griffoniers around North America watch websites such as Petfinder for adoptable Wirehaired Pointing Griffons and spread the word to find fosters and homes.

So that’s the news from Bluestem Kennels!  Thanks for putting up with my soapboxing and randomness.  None of the products mentioned in this article are paid endorsements, they are all products that we honestly use and have found useful.  All of them, except for the dog houses (available on gundogsupply.com) are available at your local Tractor Supply or Bomgaar’s (or check your local farm store if you don’t have these stores).

Make sure to check our Pheasant Fest coverage next weekend and Mae’s belly photos sometime thereafter!