Hunting Season Update

Charles has been having a great fall hunting with the dogs. It is tough to get motivated to blog about hunting when someone else is doing it and you have to sit out. I’m still working through some health issues that I need to get cleared in order to return to the field, but I’m hoping that I can take in a few late season outings after the first of the year.

He made it out to the Nebraska Sandhills for duck opener in October, where Chief and Fire saw lots of action.

Fire duck 2018

Fire with a limit of ducks

Chief duck 2018

Chief with a nice haul of ducks

Ruth was able to get some quail under her belt with Charles and Matt down here in southeast Nebraska.

Ruth quail 2018

Ruth is not being photogenic with the quail taken with Matt and Charles

He and the dogs had a great time with some landowner friends out in the south central part of Nebraska chasing wild pheasants. For whatever reason, the dogs didn’t end up in the photo, but our dogs were the ones retrieving these birds with Charles handling. The dogs must not have been too annoying because they were all invited back for next season.

Charles Neb Pheas 2018

Goodbye, North Dakota. You may have noticed that there was no pheasant hunting trip to North Dakota this year after almost a decade of getting up there every year. Between the droughts up there and habitat loss due to changes in farming practices, it just doesn’t make sense for us to buy the extra licenses and make the trip up there anymore. Nebraska has made a recovery to a point that although it might not be at levels seen in the 1990’s for pheasant in our area, there are some great quail numbers here and the pheasants are just a bit west.

Breeding Plans Update

We’ve decided to sell our little house and acre here on the far west end of the wooded neighborhood near Fontenelle Forest and are moving to 3/4 of an acre and a big house on the southeast corner of the wilderness area. Our new backyard borders directly with the 2000 acre Fontenelle Forest refuge property, so we’ll be able to take a hike whenever we like. The new yard is not zoned agricultural like our current property (where we can have as many dogs as we want), so we will need to keep within the city limit of having three adult dogs.

Due to the move and having our oldest daughter graduate in May, we will not be having any planned litters in Spring 2019.

I believe that I have notified everyone who has e-mailed previously in order for folks to have time to get on other breeders’ lists. If I overlooked your e-mail, I apologize. And one never knows, accidents can and have happened before. But I’ve had one or two litters every year since 2010, even an accidental litter a couple of years ago during the year that I planned to take off, so we need a break with the other events going on in our lives. I would like to use the time to go back and survey our current puppy owners, get a good final count on the number of puppies that I’ve had, make sure that all of my litter documentation is in compliance with the AKC and NAVHDA, and maybe even assemble a new gallery of past puppy photos. Our hunting photo gallery has a bunch of photos, but is a mess, so I’d like to clean that up too. And I’d like to get a new video camera to do a new grooming video. So much to do, so little time.

Training Plans

Up this spring, we have Stonyridge Zoro going for his NAVHDA Natural Ability Test. He’s had some wild bird exposure earlier in the season and did well, but I want to get him out on some roosters and quail once I’m back in the field. It seems like forever to warm up enough in order to work on the water retrieve and we’re a long ways off from that right now. I should get some training pictures of him now that he is full grown. He is the sleeker type of Griff with the shorter, flat coat that is ticked, with short fur on the top of the head and ears, but with a beard and eyebrows. He is right around 50 lbs and well muscled. I really like that he is not too tall or heavy, which is what we struggle with in males of the breed out here.

Since Fire will be off from having a litter, we are going to work with her on getting ready for the NAVHDA Utility Test. It is hard to believe that she will be five in February, which is the perfect age for a Griffon to train for the test. They are pretty slow to mature, so all of the old-timers have told me to wait until this age to UT. She is a great natural hunter. This will be our third owner trained/handled NAVHDA UT dog.

Ruth is right in the middle. She’s done her NAVHDA Natural Ability Test. Like her mother, Fire, she got the maximum score of 112 and a Prize I. She needs so much work with middle level field work such as a staunch “whoa” in any and all situations, backing/not stealing another dog’s point, being polite when another dog retrieves/not trying to steal the bird, heel, basically everything that makes a dog a joy to work with in the hunting field and not training as you hunt wild birds.

Training as you hunt wild birds, although it gets the job done and is effective, can really ruin what could be a nice hunt. Not doing yard work and not working with planted birds in field training scenarios in the off-season just leads to screw ups by the dog and handler in the wild bird field and fewer birds in the bag. As much as I love the Nebraska Sandhills, I have spent countless hours trudging up and down dunes for another sharptailed grouse. Been there, done that. LOTS. If we want to branch out in our quarry, doing high altitude hunts such as white ptarmigan and Himalayan snowcock, foothills birds like the California quail, chukar, or dusky grouse, woodland hunts for woodcock and ruffed grouse, the desert quail species in the Southwest US…so on and so on. Those are once-in-a-lifetime trips. On a sage grouse or Himalayan Snowcock, you might only get one chance at a shot. It’s one thing if you miss because you’re a crappy shot (that’s me). But bad dog work makes it awful. As our friend and trainer Leo “Black Shockey” Boman says “train, don’t complain”.

And speaking of training, it isn’t just the dogs who need work. Those mountain hunts require some serious stamina, so it’s time for the humans to hit the trails or the pool or whatever it takes to get in shape to get ready.

Chief moves on

Due to the upcoming move, we have sold Chief as a started stud dog on contract. He was sold to a previous puppy owner who was looking for another dog here in town. We still have rights to breed with him should we choose to do so in the future. I am not sure if Kyle is interested in having him as an active stud to service females, but it is something for him to consider. If you are interested in using him as a stud on your female and live near Omaha, let me know and I can pass your contact information on to Kyle.

Chief and Kyle

Chief and Kyle head for his new home

What’s going on in the breed?

The AWPGA had their president step down and there are some new regional representatives, as well as new people working on their magazine the Griffonnier, they have some regional specialty shows coming up and are working on 2019 Nationals in Idaho. Take a look at their Facebook page or website if you’d like to get involved, we need new enthusiasm in the club. So many people have been very active long-term and it leads to open positions to volunteer. After four years of the magazine, I’ve stepped away from being active in the club for awhile, but love to keep up with everyone’s successes in the field and ring. It is a great way to meet people who are as equally passionate about these dogs as we are.

Across the various Facebook groups, we have several people who are attempting to be breed wardens of sorts. I appreciate their efforts, it is a huge cross to bear. The explosion of the breed through advertisers using them in commercials, our breed’s success in major televised dog shows the last few years, and just word-of-mouth has created a crazy demand for puppies and information about the breed. I stay out of the Facebook conversations as much as possible, it is just too overwhelming at this point to try to keep up. I really just need to get with some knowledgable folks and write a book at some point. But that is not today or anytime soon.

What should you look for in a breeder?

Don’t look for quick, flashy responses or lots of litters. We all have families and other careers. You will most likely wait a long time to hear back from them and wait even longer to get a puppy. Not always, sometimes buyers fall through and last minute puppies come up from great breeders. At a minimum, make sure that the parents have hip scans and are hunt tested (at a minimum AKC JH or NAVHDA NA). If you are wanting a solid hunter, lots of wild bird hunting photos too, not just pictures from one hunt.

Not all breeders give regular photo and video updates of the litter as they grow, so don’t necessarily expect a weekly update like I do. Not a lot of breeders will meet you or ship the puppies air cargo, it just varies (like I’ll do air cargo, but can’t meet, you have to come to my house).

Ask other breeders about them, good breeders are friends with one another. Most Griff breeders are odd, I’ll admit it. Having a successful breedings, getting the females through pregnancy, whelping litters (and all of the nasty mess that entails with stillborns and the ones who fade away in a few days), finding quality homes, trying to maintain some semblance of contact with owners over time, maintaining records, keeping up on research in health and genetics, dealing with having to retire dogs that we love, losing some dogs to accidents and old age, training, training, training, training, handling the dogs daily, various clubs and tests and all of the work that goes in to keeping those running, trying to educate the public about our breed and how it should be raised. It’s nuts. We are all nuts. So be prepared for some weird. We’re not some major corporation putting out a seamless, well-packaged product. We’re a bunch of people trying to keep a dog breed going and doing our best at it.

Thank you to all of my fellow crazy Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breeders for being out there. When I first started nine years ago, there weren’t that many of us. All across the country new people have stepped up to take on this daunting task of keeping this breed going in a QUALITY way. Not just churning out puppies to meet the demand. You can’t have a huge number of dogs of this breed and do them any sort of justice, they are very demanding of your attention and time. When this breed had a depression in the 1980’s, there was a breeder who had 40 of these dogs in a kennel. I can’t even imagine. I really think that the most one person could have and handle it is six. They aren’t good kennel dogs at all, they prefer indoor/outdoor with most of it being indoor. So if you see someone with ten or twenty of these dogs, I would seriously question it unless they were absolutely full-time dog people (and I know that there are a few good ones out there who have this number, so I don’t want to insult anyone, just do your research).

Make sure that the breeder asks you as many or more questions as you ask them.

Merry Christmas – Happy Hanukkah – Merry Kwanzaa

Blessed Winter Solstice – Festive Festivus – Happy New Year

Whatever the seasonal observance you observe this time of year, enjoy it. If you have a Griff, enjoy it with your Griff. You can even dress them up with hats and outfits if that tickles your fancy. I am not one of those types. But if you are, have fun with it. Peace.