Our First NAVHDA Utility Test

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On Saturday, August 17th was our first North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) Utility Test in Sioux Falls, South Dakota with the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter.  In the running were Sweetgrass Plainsman Samson “Sam” age 5 and Bourg-Royals CB Bluestem “BB” age 2 with my husband Charles handling both dogs.  The Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter is one of the best in the country and folks come from all over to participate in their events.

They come from far and wide...

They came from far and wide…

The Natural Ability dogs were first in the field on the day, with Sam as the first Utility Dog who ran.  His very first point was not on one of the planted chukars, but was a wild rooster pheasant!  The gunner said that he was twitching to fire, but it isn’t that time of year just yet!  Sam did fairly well on his first three finds, but it just started to get out of control.  The field was packed with birds and he was finding them every 45 seconds in some places.  He just came apart.  Sam has been hunting wild birds his whole life but has only received steadiness training in the past year, so he just couldn’t handle the overwhelming number of birds.  His pointing and retrieving never fail, but his habit of breaking on the shot came out in full force.  He probably had 10 total finds, but only held on maybe 3 or 4 of them.  Afterwards, Apprentice Judge Leo Boman told us that we need to go ahead and make a correction with the dog in the field, not letting him mess up over and over without trying to right it.  This is different than AKC, where the dog is supposed to work without correction and commands or face an order from the judge to “pick up your dog” (meaning you failed).  So that was a great tip for future handling.


Charles walking in on one of Sam’s points

Although it shows Charles carrying a shotgun, it is not loaded and only the two chapter gunners do all of the shooting for the test.

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the shot

A bird in the air, Sam breaking on the flush

Sam on retrieve

Sam on retrieve

Charles was pretty disgusted as he walked out of the field with Sam, but I knew that was where the dog would make mistakes and his time to shine would come later on in the day.  We had to shake it off quickly because we were running 2 out of the 3 utility dogs that day, so it was a short break until it was BB’s turn.

BB has become an outstanding field dog and proved in this test that she is ready to move on to Master Hunter runs in AKC (American Kennel Club) Hunt Tests.  She had 4 or 5 finds and every single one was textbook steadiness.  There was even a point where Charles chose to run after a bird to try to flush it and BB just stood there stone still.

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB stands steady with a bird in the air (see it up between the trees?)

BB retrieves to hand

BB retrieves to hand

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

Another bird in the air with BB standing steady

BB on retrieve

BB on retrieve

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

Moment of Impact: BB stands by as a bird gets hit in front of the smaller cottonwood

We walked out of the bird field with BB feeling as if we’d taken our first steps toward a Utility Prize I.  We were very hopeful.  It was time for a delicious lunch of chili and cornbread.  You can’t beat the food at NAVHDA tests!

The next order of business was the duck search for the utility dogs.  Sam was up first and we had no worries about his performance.  Swam the full 10 minutes and searched the pond thoroughly.  He did not find the duck, but that isn’t the point of the exercise.

Sam going hard on the duck search

Sam going hard on the duck search

BB’s weak spot is the water.  With Sam always dominating the retrieves while we are duck hunting, she just hasn’t had a chance to get fired up about it.  She did an okay search, then came and sat down by Charles at around the 7 minute mark.

BB out on the duck search

BB out on the duck search

Afterwards we talked to Dan Griffith, who is a full time trainer of German Wirehaired Pointers and a very experienced Utility Tester.  We were wondering if Charles should have re-cast her out into the pond.  Dan told us that if you re-cast without judge’s instructions, it is automatically a one point deduction.  If the judge wants you to re-cast, they will tell you.  Do not re-cast on your own.  Another great handling tip for the future.

The Natural Ability dogs did their duck retrieve first (which BB had no problem with at her test, NA Prize I with a perfect score of 112).  The setup for the Utility dogs was that they walk on leash on heel through a set of posts to the blind.  The dog is released from the leash and “whoaed” behind the blind.  Shots are fired and the dog has to stay steady behind the blind.  The dog is then moved just outside of the blind so that he can mark where the throw of the duck lands.  More shots are fired and the duck is thrown.

Sam marks the throw.  You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

Sam marks the throw. You can see the heeling posts in the foreground.

We were in no way prepared for the 50 yard duck retrieve that they set up for the Utility Dogs.  The throw was way outside of shotgun range and it is only because of Sam’s absolute love of swimming and water that he was able to pull it off.  We had not trained for that distance at all.

Sam brings in the duck

Sam brings in the duck

At that point, we knew that it would take a miracle for BB to get that duck.  She did great in the blind and I saw her mark the throw, but she got distracted by the decoys next to the shore and would only go about 20 yards out to search (within shotgun range).  We tried to cast her farther, but to no avail.  BB did not get the duck and received No Prize as a result.

The final event was the track.  Flight feathers are pulled from a pheasant or duck and left in a pile at the start.  The pheasant or duck is either allowed to run and hide on its own, or if a carcass is used, it is dragged to a particular spot.  Sam never follows a track from point A to point B.  He knows that the bird is there, he just wants to go to points C. D, and E, then pee on them, then find the bird.  So he did the track…sort of:)

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

Sam comes back from his track with the duck

BB does an amazing job of tracking and always goes from point A to point B flawlessly.  But as she didn’t get the duck, it was all for naught.  So we ended the day with Sam earning a Utility Test Prize III.  It was our first test and I was just happy to bring home a prize, especially on Sam who has just been a wild bird hunting dog for so long.  BB was perfect in everything but the water.  We will hunt her alone on wild ducks down in Missouri for early teal season in a few weeks and then Nebraska High Plains duck season a few weeks after that.

It was a great time in Sioux Falls and we learned so much from folks.  It was great seeing Cliff Koele of Coppershot Griffons, home of several NAVHDA Versatile Champions, who recently announced his retirement from testing and breeding.  He will now focus on fishing and mentoring other breeders/trainers.  We had so much fun with all of our fellow handlers, the volunteers and the judges.  We learned and laughed.  It’s just dogs after all.

Congratulations to our fellow griffoniers who also participated in the weekend from Aux Lake Kennel!  From left to right: Keith Feldhaus and Deke UT I, Scott Moore and Josie as observers, Rick Jones and Jessie NA II and the godfather himself: Larry Woodward and Holly UT I.  Thank you Kim Jones for allowing me to use your photo.  We had a chance to spend time with the Joneses since Jessie ran on Saturday, but only saw everyone else briefly as we were ships passing in the night.  Their UT dogs ran on Sunday.

Aux Lake Crew

Aux Lake Crew

Wow and a big thank you to the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter for a great test.  We will be back.

I have so much more to write about, but am just out of time for today.  I will be sure to post again later this week before hunting season starts on Saturday!!  I have some pupdates that I need to clear out of my queue before I get way behind!  Talk at you later this week.

Summer comes to a close…

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It has been a very busy summer of work, family, travel and dog training here.  Sorry that I have not had a chance to keep you all updated, with the kids all at home with me, it makes it challenging to find the time and quiet space to do it all.  I suppose it would make the most sense to me to work backwards chronologically with the news.

On Friday we will be traveling up to Sioux Falls, SD to run Sam and BB in the NAVDHA Utility Test at the Fall Test of the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter on Saturday.  They have been doing well in practice and I’m hoping that they both prize.  Some folks grumble about whether they get prize I, II or III, but it is one day in the life of a dog.  If the dog is having a bad day, there is something in the environment that they don’t like, the conditions are not what we are used to, etc., etc., the dog might not get the prize we want.  In the recent issue of Versatile Hunting Dog, NAVHDA’s magazine, two of my most respected dog training mentors ran dogs in UT and NA and didn’t prize at all.  These are folks who have been doing this way longer than we have, or most folks I know have, for that matter.  We don’t reach some sort of state of dog perfection and never have a bad day or a bad score.  So any and all NAVHDA prizes are celebrated here!

The last couple of weeks we have been on the road on summer vacation.  The dogs stayed over with our friends at Pheasant Bonanza in Tekamah, Nebraska (http://pheasantbonanza.com/) while we were gone.  They have a full training and boarding set-up there, we elected to board only.  It is nice to take your dog specifically to a place for gun dogs that is clean and well-maintained.  The dogs came back healthy and happy. (Not a paid endorsement)

BB’s OFA hip certificate came in the mail while we were on vacation, so she will be ready to be bred sometime around the new year.  We are still working out who we are going to use as a stud, so we will be sure to keep you posted.


While we were traveling, I spent the day in the Lion Country Supply office.  Right now, I am in the process of updating their catalog of over 2300 dog training supplies.  It was cool to meet the people and see the facility.  My favorite part of the office was the gun dog humor found on the restroom doors.  Instead of Women and Men it was Setters and Pointers, ha!

Setters and Pointers on the restroom doors at LCS

Setters and Pointers on the restroom doors at LCS

The kids dropping me off at the office.

The kids dropping me off at the office.

Before we left for vacation we were training every chance we had!  Every weekend was spent on trips to the pond and field.  Even when we were sitting around the backyard, we were practicing blind dummy retrieves and “whoa”.

Sitting in the yard: Mae, BB and Sam

Sitting in the yard: Mae, BB and Sam

BB brings in the goose Dokken Dead Fowl dummy from a blind retrieve

BB brings in the goose Dokken Dead Fowl dummy from a blind retrieve

Sam's goose blind retrieve

Sam’s goose blind retrieve

I suppose I should explain a blind dummy retrieve.  That is where the dogs have to stay in the yard on “whoa” and one of us goes way back into the woods and hides the dummy without them seeing where we placed it.  One of the dogs is then released to go fetch the dummy.  The dummies are not scented and the dog is only finding them by sight, which is fairly difficult for them.

We had a cool new dog box shipped out to us from Michigan.  It is a hound style box and the dogs have lots more room and are able to stick their heads out of the side of the box.  It will make the long distance trips much more comfortable for the dogs and we are glad to have finally retired the “slave ship”.  It was a nice enough dog box, but it just didn’t have enough room for multi-day roadtrips.

BB and Mae getting ready to depart on the maiden voyage of the dog box

BB and Mae getting ready to depart on the maiden voyage of the dog box

Sam and Mae at the pond in the new box

Sam and Mae at the pond in the new box

Well that pretty much sums things up for the time being, I will be sure to update you all next week as to the outcome up in Sioux Falls, keep your fingers crossed for a good Saturday for us!  I am still running behind on returning voice mails and e-mails, so I apologize to those of you who have reached out to me and I haven’t gotten back to you.  I have dedicated time set aside this week to get caught up before we head north on Friday.  Talk at you next week!

Oh and hunting season starts in two weeks!  Woot!

News Galore: Upcoming Breeding, AWPGA National Specialty and Pupdates

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Upcoming Breeding

Sue is coming into the very first stages of heat.  I’m going to take photos and document the whole process for a future article, which I don’t think will be of much interest and will probably kinda gross out some of my readers, but when I was getting my internet education and book learning on the physiology of a female’s heat cycle, the only photographs I could find were from toy dogs and it helped me out some, but I would like to get it down for the future of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon breed.

But back to Sue, she is probably 2-4 weeks away from breeding, so that puts whelping in February-March and puppy homegoing in April-May.  I currently have six reservations with deposit, therefore the entire breeding may already be sold, but there is a possibility for additional puppies from this litter.  We will also have a litter from Sam and Mae this spring, so if you haven’t yet made a reservation there is still time for 2013, but I get phone calls and e-mails daily, so if you are looking for a pup from us this year now is the time to get in touch with us either by e-mail at bluestemkennels@cox.net or phone (402) 682-9802.  For information about our current breeding dogs, please click on the “About Our Dogs” button up at the top of the page.  This will be Sue’s fourth and last litter.

Hunting Season Progress

Charles, Sam and BB had a great trip to North Dakota at the end of October, make sure to check it out on the Hunting Blog (versatilehunter.com or just click the button at the top of the page).  We’ve all taken a mid-season break, Charles has been spending time in the deer woods (even though our freezer is full of birds and I keep begging him not to go since we don’t have room for one) and I’ve had a spell of illness.  I know that Charles and his friend Matt have a trip to Kansas planned for next weekend, but I probably won’t get out in the field until Christmas, as I had surgery on my upper jaw a couple of weeks ago and I want that to fully heal before putting a shotgun up to my face.  So my dog time has mainly been spent in just daily exercise and socialization.

Caleb and Sam enjoying some play time

Cordelia and Conrad having a slumber party with BB

A Brief History of the AWPGA

I recently had an e-mail question from a puppy buyer about the AWPGA vs. the WPGCA.  I might as well take the time to explain it here for everyone’s benefit.  Back in the 1980’s there occurred what I call “The Great Schism”.  Similar to the medieval division of the Christian church, Griffondom came to a loggerhead and there were two groups who could no longer co-exist.  The WPGCA was the original breed club in the United States, but many of the controlling individuals were concerned that the hunting ability of the purebred genepool at that time was compromised and that there was an irreparable genetic depression that required an infusion from another breed to avoid total collapse in not only the health of the breed, but in their abilities as Korthals intended.  Therefore this group decided to crossbreed with the Cesky Fousek, a similar breed from then Czechoslovakia.  A detailed history of the breed and the club can be read in Joan Bailey’s book Griffon: Gun Dog Supreme.  Mrs. Bailey was part of the crossbreeder element and stayed with the WPGCA, so the breakup is not mentioned in her book.

In crossbreeding, the WPGCA created dogs not recognized by the American Kennel Club or the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.  They intentionally created a designer hunting mutt.

A brave group of individuals decided to leave the WPGCA and form the AWPGA to preserve the purity of the breed and retain purebred status with the AKC and NAVHDA.  Through concerted private effort across North America, AKC/NAVHDA breeders took steps to ensure that the genetics and hunting ability were bolstered.  Importations of purebred griffons occurred at that time and continue to this day from the Netherlands, Germany and France.  Hunt testing through NAVHDA and the AKC has been emphasized.  Participation in AKC conformation dog shows is yet another important element to make sure that our breeding stock is fitting the original mold intended.

The effort has been an astounding success.  The breed had its first sporting group placement at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2011 by GCH Fireside’s Spontaneous Combustion.  Griffons were the second largest group of Utility Prize I dogs tested for their Versatile Champion title at the NAVHDA Invitational this year.

We continue to promote genetic diversity through a team approach, making sure that our bloodlines do not become too tightly inbred by buying breeding stock from one another or utilizing outside studs.  With 30 years of hard work behind them, the veterans of the AWPGA can declare a victory in this battle and us youngsters can appreciate their efforts and continue the work that lies ahead.

AWPGA National Specialty

Every year in October the AWPGA has their National Specialty dog show and convention in a different region of the United States.  This year was the midwest region’s turn and it was being held right up the road in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Plus it was being chaired by my friend Kay Farris, who is just an amazing lady.  She has handled her own dogs to conformation championships and is organizer extraordinaire for the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter, which also moonlights as an AKC club called the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club.  Kay and I have gotten to know each other through showing our dogs this summer up in Minnesota, plus she has been test secretary at all of the testing we’ve done or have considered doing in Sioux Falls.

I almost cancelled my reservation to nationals at the last minute.  It was my first time going and breeders have a bad habit of thinking that we have seances with Korthals himself, know exactly his intentions for what the breed should be and everyone else just doesn’t quite have it exactly right.  I thought for sure that I would be picked on and snubbed as a newcomer.  But I was excited to meet the people that I had been talking to online and at a minimum I knew Larry and Paula Woodward are nice, as we’ve tested with them around here before.  So we went.  Charles, BB and Sam met Mae and I on the night of Wednesday, October 24th on their way home from North Dakota at the host hotel, the Best Western Ramkota Inn in Sioux Falls.

We had decided to attend Thursday’s NAVHDA Natural Ability test handler’s clinic for a couple of reasons.  The first being that even though Charles handled BB to a Prize I with a maximum score of 112 at the Heartland Chapter’s Spring NAVHDA Natural Ability test, we were winging it to an extent.  We knew the elements that were to be tested, just assuming that our normal training and exposure for hunting would suffice and it did.  Yet we wanted to learn the specifics of the judging of the elements being tested.  Secondly, I’d been dying to meet one of the presenters, Bill Jensen.  Bill has owned and bred Wirehaired Pointing Griffons as Alder’s Edge Kennel of Minnesota for decades and has also served as a longtime NAVHDA judge.  Joan Bailey’s book Griffon: Gun Dog Supreme gives credit to Bill and his late wife Barb as being instrumental in establishment of the breed in North America. (You can click on any of the photos to enlarge them)

Bill Jensen gives instructions for the field portion of the handler’s clinic

Early morning lots of big, fat, wet snowflakes fell upon the dog walkers.  We were all walking griffons, so we greeted one another with a nod or a grunt, but it was too cold and dark for proper introductions just yet.  Luckily, Kay had accounted for the morning weather for our NAVHDA Natural Ability test handler’s clinic that day and we were first meeting for explanations from and discussions with our presenters at the hotel up until lunch time.  In addition to Bill, we had two other experts present: Larry Woodward of Aux Lake Kennel in Kansas who has successfully handled in countless NAVHDA and AKC tests, including NAVHDA Invitational and AKC Master Hunter.

Larry Woodward (left) giving additional instruction for the field portion of the handler’s clinic

Our third expert was NAVHDA judge and new griffon breeder from Connecticut, Mike O’Donnell.

Mike O’ Donnell prepares to throw a chukar into the water for a dog who was struggling to retrieve the bumper

There were close to the maximum of 25 attendees at the session, with most of us being relatively new to the breed (we’ve had griffons for 8 years, compared to some who have 30-40 years) and spent a good three and a half hours at the hotel talking to the experts about training and testing.  We then went out west of town to the field grounds and had a delicious lunch of chili, BBQ sandwiches and fixings graciously prepared by Cliff Koele (also an expert handler for NAVHDA Invitational and breeder through Coppershot Griffons of Iowa), Rick Farris (Kay’s husband, UT I handler and Dakotah Griffons breeder) and the other members of the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA chapter.

Field lunch on Thursday, Cliff Koele standing in the middle

After lunch we hit a very cold, wet and windy field to practice judging two different pups in a mock NAVHDA Natural Ability test.  The first had never been tested and had little field training, whereas the second had a Prize I with a 112 score on the test.  It was very interesting to judge each of the elements and talk to one another and the judges about we agreed or disagreed on the scoring.  By the time we wrapped everything up around 4 PM, we were down to less than half of the number of people we started with due to the cold and wet.  Even though Charles and I were very underdressed (we thought we were tired of wearing our hunting gear and foolishly wore street clothes), we shivered our way through the end, but there were many from the southern climes that just weren’t used to it.  We really enjoyed the clinic and it was a great way to get to know our fellow attendees before the whole social scene hit.

There was just enough time to head back to the hotel and thaw out before the welcome reception Thursday evening.  There were lots of yummy hors d’oeuvres (you know, snacks) and as one of my friends said, it was “Facebook comes alive!”  It was fun to finally talk face to face to some of the people I had been chatting with on the internet for some time and have a few drinks with them, but the festivities didn’t last too long because Friday was an early morning at the dog show.

Chatting around the hors d’oeurves table, the folks I recognize (from L to R): Pat McKinley, Vicky Foster, Amy Caswell-O’Clair, Bill Jensen, not sure of the lady getting food, Charles Upchurch (at the back of the room), Meghan Sweeney-Vos, Anne Summerfelt (I think, back of her head) is facing Dawn Connor-Wood, with Kristi Rogney on the far right.

The dog show folks started rumbling around the hotel at about 5 AM, getting the dogs walked and gear loaded up to move over to the fairgrounds, we were setting up grooming tables between 6-7 AM, with the first of the griffs in the ring at 8 AM.

Reserved grooming area for Wirehaired Pointing Griffons. Jody Kirtley grooming, Willie Garrou grooming, Brooke Garrou walking dog.

2012 National Specialty bling, organized by Tajia Retzlaff and Meghan Sweeney-Vos

Mae and I had spent months practicing conformation handling at the local dog club, but you never know how a dog is going to perform from one day to the next.  I am an inexperienced handler and Mae was really a stubborn pain, so this was her first and last time in the ring.  I was very shocked that we actually took home a ribbon, I call it my pity prize.  We took 2nd in Hunting Bitch class and I’m so tickled over it that this is still my profile picture on Facebook:

Charity and “Mae” AKC/NAVHDA Little Lady Aspen NA II take 2nd place in the Hunting Bitch Class at the 2012 American Wirehaired Pointing Griffon Association National Specialty

Close-up of my ribbon

The whole day was very emotional and intense, especially seeing between 25-30 griffs in the ring for the Best of Breed competition.  I have no idea how long it took the judge to evaluate all of the dogs, but it felt like time was standing still and that nobody was breathing.

Everyone in the ring for best of breed. This one is tough to label, I see Lisa Durand’s pro handler on the far left, I see Lorraine Rothrock with her back to us with the blonde ponytail kneeling down and Larry Woodward is on the very far right with the blue shirt.

Dawn Connor-Wood’s female “Wilo” won best of breed, which was met by many tears from the owner and much excitement from the crowd.  The full results from the National Specialty dog show are available at http://www.onofrio.com/execpgm/wbsrbred?wtsrk1=EMPI1619041WPG

Wilo’s handler, Dawn Connor-Wood and Wilo, 2012 Best of Breed.

We were supposed to go into the annual meeting one-half hour following the dog show, but everyone was so emotionally drained from the intensity of the morning that it was delayed until our pizza supper in the evening.  Many of us spent the afternoon touring and shopping in Sioux Falls.

Pizza dinner and annual meeting. Front table (L to R) Meghan Sweeney-Vos, Tajia Retzlaff and Kendall Santos.

The annual meeting lasted around four hours, from 6 PM until 10 PM, but it still felt like we had only scratched the surface of what we all wanted to talk about.  I’m sure that if we had started the meeting at 1:30 PM as was planned, we would have been there all day AND all evening.  It was all very civil discourse and debate.

Many of us did the dog show on Saturday, others ran in the Korthals Cup competition, which I never made it out to, but I assume was very similar to the NAVHDA or AKC Hunt Test formats.  But my highlight of the day was the Saturday night banquet and auction.  Not only was the food delicious (prime rib and all the trimmings), but we all just really had a good time after getting to know each other over the weekend: having drinks, sharing more stories, cheering for the award winners and bidding up auction items to fund the club.  There were a lot of laughs shared that night, it was awesome.

Kay Farris addresses the crowd at the banquet

There were folks still going Sunday morning, some headed back to the dog show, others back to the Korthals Cup with the final event of the wild game lunch at the field, but Charles and I needed to go home. The kids were crying that they hadn’t seen their dad in two weeks and mom had been gone too long.  I wish we’d had more time to chat with everyone in Sioux Falls, it just felt so crazy and intense the whole time.

There are so many people I’ve neglected to mention and shout out to, I’m just going to run down a list.  Thank you, Dick Byrne (Flatbrook’s Sporting Dogs, California), veteran member, for making us feel welcome.  Thank you, Kristi Rogney (Whiskeytown Sporting Dogs, California), then acting president, for tactful management of the annual meeting and of course, your friendship.  Thank you, Dawn Connor-Wood, for an amazingly professional treasury report.  Thank you, Willie and Brooke Garrou, for hanging out with us at the specialty dog show.  Thank you, George Kline, for being a humorous emcee of the banquet and just an all-around funny guy to hang around (oh, and I got the car magnet that you sent us, thank you again!!!).  Thank you, Patty Geist of Kearney for showing up so that we weren’t the only Nebraskans!  Thank you, Vicky Foster for helping me in the show ring, you are my new hero for expertly handling your own dog in both the show ring and field tests.  Thank you to Glenn Kroese for showing me how to put my show lead on the dog correctly after the judge got after me about it.  Thank you, Elaine Hunsicker (Fireside Sporting Dogs, Maryland) for chatting with me about “The Great Schism” at the dog show, it was cool to finally meet someone in person who was there when it happened and willing to talk about it.  Thank you to Julie Carlstrom (de Jac Pine Kennels, Wisconsin), judge at the Korthals Cup, for chatting with us about our recently acquired co-owned female, NAVHDA de Jac Pine’s Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. I know that Charles would like to thank Mike O’Donnell for lots of good conversation.

Thank you to all of our other many new friends that we’re so excited to hang out with again next year in Colorado.  If you are a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon enthusiast, are reading this and are not a member of the AWPGA, please consider joining by going to awpga.com, click on “The Club” at the top, read the By-Laws and the Code of Ethics in the dropdown menu, then go all the way to the bottom of the dropdown menu and fill out an application form. Then plan on joining us in October of next year in Denver, Colorado for the 2013 shindig!!


Seven month old TracHer, from our Sam/Mae C Litter  is out chasing lots of pheasants in North Dakota!

Seven month old TracHer, female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, practicing her retrieve on a pheasant in the snows of North Dakota.

TracHer’s C Litter sister Frankie, who lives in Colorado, took a trip to Kansas where she worked hard searching the fields, having some stylish and staunch points.

Frankie, 7 month old female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, searching the fields of Kansas for some roosters.

Five month old Gomer, from our Sue/Sam D litter is learning how to retrieve antlers out in Illinois.

Gomer, five month old male Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, looking handsome in the yard.

Gomer’s D Litter sister Dottie followed along with some other dogs on opening weekend in Nebraska.  She’s just learning the ropes with pointing and retrieving, but loved to pose for this photo.

Dottie, female Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, 5 months, with some Southeastern Nebraska roosters


Wishing you all a very blessed Thanksgiving.  I am very thankful for my readers, who seem to enjoy partaking of this silliness.  I am also thankful to be healthy enough to finally write a post, as obviously I’ve been holding it all in and had to spend most of today writing!

Some Notes on Sue and Sioux Falls

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By popular demand, I need to update you all on how Sue is doing!  She is very heavy, but is still living outside for a little while longer.  She and BB were sharing a kennel while Mae was on a strict diet after her puppies left, in order to get her teats to retract, but I recently moved BB in with Mae by the request of Sue (plus Mae is doing fine on getting back into shape).  BB is still very puppy and likes to play, so Sue was getting tired of that business.  She is still taking walks twice a day, but is moving much slower than everyone else and eats and drinks double her normal rations.  We have houseguests over the Memorial Day weekend, but after they are gone I will be moving Sue into the house for monitoring.  I suspect that she will whelp the first or second week of June.

Pregnant Wirehaired Pointing Griffon

A very big Sue in the yard this morning

Last weekend was the South Dakota Pointing Dog Club’s AKC Hunt Test in Sioux Falls, SD.  The organizers are actually the Midwest Tri-State NAVHDA Chapter, who takes on that name to put on AKC Hunt Tests.  As there were a number of other griffons entered by fellow breeders that we had only visited with online and over the phone, we decided to go ahead and enter BB and Sam into the Senior Hunter Test even though we were unsure if the dogs were prepared.

We also entered the AKC Water Test, which is a requirement for the Senior Hunter title for the Spinone Italiano and German Wirehaired Pointer, but not the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon (even though it should be).  As I had all three children there, I did not anticipate being able to see anything worth taking pictures of, but as it was a hike to the pond, the organizers had me assist in handling the two dogs while our fellow testers kept an eye on the kids back at camp.  I wish I’d had my video camera, because Sam and BB both did fantastic.  It is a basic water retrieve, where the handler stands 6 feet from the bank, holding the collar of the dog.  A thrower pitches a dead duck into the water and a blank shot is fired by a gunner.  Once the duck hits the water, you release the dog and they swim to retrieve.  It does not have to be retrieved to hand, but can be dropped within two  steps of the handler.

AKC Water Test Ribbons

Sam and BB’s AKC Water Test Ribbons

As avid hunters, one would think that Senior Hunter would be easy for us, but hunt testing and hunting are not the same thing.  Similar to Junior Hunter, you are running in a brace with an unfamiliar dog, but unlike Junior Hunter that is only testing search and point, Senior Hunter has to be 100% steady to wing and shot (no creeping allowed at all, not a single step) and also back the other dog’s point.  At the Junior Hunter level, the handler is firing a blank pistol at the flush, whereas at Senior Hunter there are gunners firing live ammunition and the dogs should retrieve.  At the Senior Hunter level, you are allowed to use the “whoa” command for steadiness (which won’t be allowed at the Master Hunter level, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there).

As soon as you “fail” a step in the process, the dog and handler are pulled from the test.  The first day, BB couldn’t help herself and busted a covey of quail.  Both days, Sam creeped a couple of steps on his points.  The second day, BB almost made it through the test, but of all things, she didn’t find a bird!  This is the same dog that found 6 birds in 8 minutes during her first Junior Hunter run.  Even though we didn’t take home any SH ribbons on the weekend, it was good for us to see what is required to pass the test and what we need to work on.

As Charles is the trainer for the big dogs (I’m puppy trainer and kennel tech [sanitation, exercise and nutrition]), he’ll be working on making the dogs absolutely staunch on “whoa”, regardless of the situation.  We work on “whoa” in the yard, but they are kennelmates and they aren’t working birds.  We should take advantage of some training days with the Heartland NAVHDA Chapter or the local AKC German Wirehaired Pointer Club of Nebraska so that we can attempt to replicate the testing environment with dogs from outside of our kennel.  As he can use “whoa” in Senior Hunter, we are going to take advantage of that and work them towards the automatic response without command that is expected at the Master Hunter level.

We’re still bouncing around some training ideas and absorbing the suggestions we got from other handlers and the judges.  Charles got up the next morning and flew out on business (non-dog, the one that pays the bills), so we haven’t had much of a chance to talk it through.  We’ll keep you posted as to what direction we go with our training and how it is working.  I think the absolute soonest we could get back into the SH field is at the August test in Sioux Falls, but we might decide to wait until Spring of 2013.

Our favorite part of the hunt testing environment is that it is fun and family friendly.  It gives us something to do with our dogs in the off-hunting season other than having puppies and keeping up with exercise.  I can see that this is a hobby that we will enjoy for a good portion of the rest of our lives.  We are hooked!