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R Litter Confirmed by Ultrasound

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The Bluestem Kennels “R” Litter was confirmed by ultrasound today! Please see the earlier breeding announcement blog post for additional photos of the parents and our “About Our Dogs” page for pedigrees and health clearances. Right now, we have 11 reservations with deposits. This is going to be a large litter so there is a possibility that if you put down a deposit and made a reservation now, that there could be a puppy available. We are also repeating this breeding in the fall, so if you get on the list and don’t get a spring pup, you could get a fall pup: bluestemkennels@gmail.com.

Why do back-to-back litters? Ruth is young, in her prime breeding years at age 5 and we are finally in a place where we can expand our breeding kennel. She is the great-great granddaughter of Am/Can CH Duchasseur Moustache, UT I, an AWPGA Hall of Famer from Quebec, Canada. The Quebecois bloodline was joined with our strong foundation blood from the upper Midwest US. A fantastic combination of health, hunt drive and family companion.

Obi is a new start for us, coming out of a small breeder in Wyoming. He has hips in the top 10% for the breed recorded by Penn-HIP. He is the most silly, gentle male we have ever owned as a family dog. He also has great biddability and is easy to train. We have high hopes to eventually take him to NAVHDA Utility Prize I in his life.

So this is the beginning of the next chapter.

I had to stay outside during the ultrasound due to COVID restrictions. York Vet in York, South Carolina
Ultrasound photo taken by the vet tech
Ruth resting with her little sister Sally a couple of nights ago

As we read test scores and judges evaluations in NAVHDA’s Versatile Hunting Dog magazine, as well as talk to other owners and breeders, it is tough for us to decide where to go next with bringing in outside blood again. We are keeping a male from this litter, so our backs are a little against the wall to come up with a mate for him somewhere. Now that I’m within halfway decent driving distance of Quebec, my eyes wander up there (also because I love the food and hanging around Vieux Quebec “est tres bien”). But I need to do my research on any new paperwork and veterinary requirements. But that is not where we are right now!

We need to focus on getting ready for the puppies. They are taking over the guest bedroom from the guests. I will finally have a whelping box with a bed next to it, like I’ve always wanted. So now it is just time to watch and wait! I will post more pictures of Ruth as she gets bigger and some of Obi training and just playing in the yard (once this rain goes away).

Happy New Year from Bluestem Kennels! Going into our twelfth year of puppies in style!

Our 2021 NAVHDA Utility Tests

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We are planning a litter between Obi and Ruth for Spring 2022. I will post a breeding announcement with all of their pedigrees, health clearances, genetic and hunt test results once I get the official results of the Utility Test. My goal is to have it done by my birthday November 9th. If you have contacted us about this litter, watch for an email in your inbox about the interview and deposit process at the beginning of November. I will take 10 reservations/deposits and we usually have 8-13 puppies. God willing. Our email is bluestemkennels@gmail.com if you are interested.

Our goal was to pass these NAVHDA Utility Tests and we did just that. Obi and Ruth ran on Saturday, October 23rd at the Carolinas Chapter fall test. It was pretty cool to have four of the six dogs doing Utility Tests be Griffs. Karen Krautz ran her two: Comet and Chigger, punching her ticket to Invitational 2022 with a UT I for Chigger. We were really close with Obi, but he was playing with the birds on his retrieves in the field and danced around during remaining-by-blind when he was supposed to be holding still. Ruth is a phenomenal wild bird hunting dog, but wasn’t obedience trained from day one like Obi, so she’s a mediocre test dog. She did all of the skills, but sort of begrudgingly and half-hearted since she doesn’t like testing. Obi seems to just love it and really had a good time. It’s amazing to see the difference that the early training makes, the old field trialer “just let them be a puppy for a year” just doesn’t cut it with Griffons when you need to put serious pressure on them when they are older.

I am going to post the photos divided by dog so that it doesn’t get confusing. The test went in the following order, with all of the dogs dogs running going through that segment before moving on to the next: 30 minutes of bird field, 10 minutes of duck search, heeling down the bank, steady-by-blind/remaining-by-blind, duck retrieve, duck drag. I am going to just sort of explain the test and how the dog did on that part of the test as I go, in a very unorganized and unplanned way. I also have the score cards here and I’ll just blurt out the scores as they apply.

Before I get too far, I want to thank Charles for training and testing the dogs for this during our move. Even though it sometimes felt like he was avoiding unpacking boxes to go and train dogs, it is an important part of having them and it needed to be done. Chapter gunners were just phenomenal on our two runs. I even caught a photo of a bird getting totally smoked (I’ll need to circle the bird so you can see it). Thank you Jerri Stanley for judging for her seventh weekend in a row. Thank you to Senior Judge Ric Kildow for telling me to be quiet about 100 times because my voice is so loud. And thank you to judge Leon Hairie for coming back to the Carolinas after also judging Caleb’s junior handling on Natural Ability, it was fun having a familiar face.

Bluestem Peaches En Regalia Ruth”

I kept telling Charles to prepare for Ruth to be mediocre. She is not a test dog, but she loves to go ham on the wild bird hunt. In the field, her first point she was super-steady, but from there she broke on the shot several times. She is a great bird finder and retriever, so those weren’t the problems. Her field scores were: Search – 4, Pointing – 4, Steadiness Total – 2, Retrieve of shot bird – 3, Nose – 4, Stamina – 4.

Ruth on point with Charles
Ruth on point with gunnar
Ruth on retrieve
Ruth bringing the bird back to Charles
Charles taking the retrieve from Ruth
Ruth working the field
Ruth in the water tub cooling off
The chukar were acting wild that day!

I am really digging the diversity of the Sandhills Game Lands over by Marston, North Carolina. Not only did it have the cool sandy-soiled pine barren field for birds (that is burned frequently to keep the oak saplings from taking over), but they have an amazing set of beaver ponds for duck work. The duck search pond access was definitely “no cars allowed” and you had to have a full size 4×4 pickup to cross the creek to get there.

4×4 Creek Crossing
Nasty mess of swamp for the duck search pond

Ruth’s duck search was pretty crummy, but enough to get the job done. She didn’t get out too far and there was too much running on the bank. But she didn’t run and hide under the truck or sit under Charles’s feet. She did some stuff in the pond for 10 minutes. The score: Search for Duck – 2.

Ruth on the duck search

She did really good on the heeling down the bank to steady-by-blind. The score: Walking at Heel – 4. As you can see, we switched to a second, more open pond in order to do the steady-by-blind and duck retrieve.

Ruth walking at heel

This photo is not in focus on the dog, because the grass throws the camera off, but this is a good illustration of how things went on steady-by-blind. This is the part where the dog is supposed to be sitting in the blind. Obviously, she is not, she is looking at Charles shooting a shotgun off in the distance. I think that this is one of the tougher skills for us to work on, because we are don’t do waterfowl hunting with blinds, we are just training to pass this part of the test. Also, there are multiple gunners: the handler is shooting and so is a chapter gunner. I haven’t quite memorized the shot sequence, but the judge will point at who is supposed to be shooting after the dog is placed in the blind. It goes back and forth between the chapter gunner and the handler. At the very end the handler comes down to the blind and repositions the dog just outside of the blind, shoots again, then a duck is thrown from the other side of the pond. Ruth’s scores: Remaining by blind – 3, Steadiness by Blind – 1, Retrieve of duck – 3.

Ruth by the blind (sort of) with Judge Jerri Stanley looking on
Ruth swimming for the duck
Ruth retrieving the duck

The last skill is the retrieve-by-drag. Basically a dead duck is dragged through the grass and the dog has to locate it and retrieve it to the handler. It is pretty easy, except that it is at the end of a very long day with lots of obedience, pressure and work. There was one dog who did Prize I perfect work all day, then ran off and started quartering the woods upon release instead of doing the duck drag. They are dogs, they do stupid stuff like that. But it is part of the test, to see if they come apart mentally. Ruth’s score: retrieve-by-drag – 3.

Ruth bringing her retrieve-by-drag duck back to the truck

Ruth’s final score in the NAVHDA Carolinas Chapter fall test Utility Test was Prize III, 159 Points. Some of the overall scores that weren’t included in my writing thus far were: Cooperation – 3, Obedience – 2, Desire to Work – 3. Ruth is now Bluestem Peaches En Regalia NA I, UPT II, UT III.

Wyo Plainsman Kenobi “Obi”

Aside from their pedigrees, the main difference between Ruth and Obi is the way that they were raised. Ruth was brought up that first year with minimal obedience work and just allowed to be sort of a wild bird hunting fool. Obi has been raised with obedience work and the foundations laid for this testing process the entire time. We are extremely happy with the way Obi has turned out, as we had attempted to develop two other outside studs that did not work out for us due to health issues. They cost us years in time and thousands of dollars. Yet it is all part of trying to re-establish a breed that was on the verge of extinction forty years ago and has a limited gene pool. Many folks ask where Obi came from, assuming that it was from a known breeder in our clubs. But luckily I know pedigrees really well and that gives me opportunities to utilize lesser known or infrequent breeders who don’t participate in the clubs. We feel lucky to have gotten a great dog out of Laramie, Wyoming who is a great-grandson of our Mae and also a close relation to our Sam. We look forward to seeing his progengy in the upcoming months.

Obi did outstanding in the field portion of the test with the exception of his retrieves, he was playing around with the birds a little on his way back. He was rock-solid steady to wing, shot and fall, until he was tapped on the head and released to retrieve the bird. His field scores were: Search – 4, Pointing – 4, Steadiness Total – 4, Nose – 4, Stamina – 4, Retrieve of Shot Bird – 2. The cover was super thick, so I didn’t get pictures of every point or retrieve, I am just posting the photos that I have in the order that they were taken.

Obi on point
Obi pointing on the left with Charles searching for the bird on the right
Obi bringing in a retrieve
Charles walking in on another point from Obi
Obi on point with a gunner searching for the bird
Obi pointing and Charles trying to kick up a bird
Another photogenic retrieve for Obi
Obi handing the bird to Charles
A nice side profile of Obi on point
Obi having fun running the field
Chukar hiding out

Obi on retrieve to Charles
Charles walking in to yet another Obi point
Charles trying to kick up a bird for Obi while the chapter gunner and judge Ric Kildow look on
Charles phantom gunning while the chapter gunner smacks a chukar in the butt (if you zoom in you can really see the detail)
Obi bringing back yet another chukar
Tub time for Obi after a good run

That was my first time out in the field with Obi, so I had no idea on how well trained he was. I was pretty blown away with his performance when we moved the duck search pond. They let a flightless duck go on one end of the pond, then fire a shot at the other end of the pond and away they go. He went to the far side and searched the bank, then swam around the whole far side of the pond…he worked hard the entire 10 minutes. He knocked that one out too, here is his score: Search for Duck – 4.

Obi looked for the duck for 10 minutes

Walking at heel to steady-by-blind looked good too: Walking at Heel – 4.

Obi walking at heel to the blind

At this point, I really couldn’t look I was so nervous. I knew that we were so close to a Prize I and this was the make or break moment since we struggle with training for the blind since we don’t really use it in real life. I have to look at the score card to see where the flub is, so he stayed in the blind for the shots, but when he was relocated next to the blind for the final shot and duck throw, he broke to retrieve the duck before he was released by command to do so. Scores: Steadiness by blind – 4, Remaining by blind – 3, Retrieve of duck – 4.

Obi super at-the-ready for the duck retrieve
Obi bringing back the duck

Last but not least again, we did the duck retrieve by drag. Score: Duck retrieve by drag – 4.

Obi bringing back his drag duck

Other overall scores for Obi: Desire to Work – 4, Cooperation – 4, Obedience – 4, for a total of 199 points and a Prize II. I think there is a way to get 199 points and a Prize I, but I think that the weighting of the “retrieve of shot bird” points knocked him down to a Prize II. So Obi is now Wyo Plainsman Kenobi NA I, UPT III, UT II.

I know that post has gone on a bit with lots of photos and scores and explanation of Utility Test skills, but this is the first time that we’ve tested at this level and I actually fully understood what was happening and was able to capture all of the pieces in photos. Maybe this will help someone else work up the courage to train for the NAVHDA Utility Test. It is a great bonding experience with your dog, if nothing else.