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Elf’s First Few Weeks

Just before Christmas, Elf joined our family.  She was somewhat unplanned, but I had been considering a field bred Golden for quite a while.  I love my hounds and PBGVs will always be my breed, but I also love competitive dogs sports and want the opportunity to be a little more, well, competitive, than the hounds are necessarily up for.  I grew up with Goldens and have worked with sporting dogs throughout my professional career, so a high drive Golden just seemed like the right choice.  When I learned about a litter nearby, I decided to take a look.

When I first met her, Elf was twelve weeks old.  She had been handled a lot and was well on the way to being house trained, but she hadn’t been away from her litter mates.  She quickly showed me that she was brave enough to try everything I asked her to do (like play tug and walk on some new surfaces), and not worried by novelty (like noise and an opening umbrella).  More importantly, she was happy to engage with me and stayed interested the whole time.

The first few days were spent mostly working on housebreaking, which went very easily, integrating into the pack, and learning the household routine.  I also wanted to start leash training and socialization right away, since Elf was already 12 weeks old.  Since coming home on the evening of December 20, Elf has been to Camping World, Petco twice, Godfreys Welcome to Dogdom, my mom’s very crowded Christmas dinner party, Blue Marsh lake, the fairgrounds, 3 agility trials, a barn hunt, Lowe’s twice, and puppy class.  The fact that the weather has been horrifically awful has made this a challenge, but a puppy’s socialization window doesn’t stay open long.  Elf was pretty confident from the beginning, but she’s gotten progressively more comfortable and is able to follow cues and happily work for food and toys in all of these places. Did I mention that Elf works for toys?  This is very exciting and novel for me and 25 years of having to meticulously shape tugging and retrieval that may or may not hold up to distraction in my hounds.

Elf’s training so far has been mostly house manners and the start of Susan Garrett’s Recallers program.  She’s been introduced to both tracking and scent work and has been exposed to some body awareness exercises.  She’s growing fast and her rear end awareness varies from day to day.  She is fitting in well with the other dogs and has good sense about who will play with her and who would like her go away.  I think this will be the start of an exciting journey, but for now I’m taking things slowly and building a strong foundation.

If you would like to follow some of Elf’s early training, I’m posting video regularly on The Clever Hound Facebook page.


A Grand New Year?

On January 1, the Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen officially entered the AKC Hound Group.  I’m supposed to say that this is a wonderful thing and I’m so happy for all of the show grands out there, but it’s no secret that I didn’t drink the Kool-aid (or inhale the hairspray fumes) and I have some thoughts on what should be in place before a breed is considered for full recognition.

  1. A method of demonstrating that the breed can still perform the task for which it was originally developed.  There are a small percentage of breeds whose original purpose isn’t viable anymore and there is a non-sporting group for those breeds.  In the case of a breed still used for it’s original purpose in its country of origin, there’s no excuse for breeding just for the look of a breed without considering a dog’s ability to work.
  2. An honest concern for the health issues that impact a breed and science based dialog about those issues.  Testing is only helpful if the results impact breeding decisions, regardless of how pretty a dog may be.  When a disease, like hip dysplasia, is known to have a basis in genetics, pretending that it will go away if everyone feeds a certain brand of dog food and refrains from teaching their dog to sit is not going to result in genetic improvement for the breed.
  3. A community of pet fanciers.  Not every dog will have a long show career, especially in a breed where litters can be huge.  Breeders need to support and encourage interest in a breed from outside the show ring.  Often pet dogs are the first dogs of a breed that people meet and in many breeds it is the pet owning community who does a great deal of public education.  Which brings me to:
  4. Honest public education about breed characteristics and behavior.  A Grand is not a taller Petit.  The temperament difference between the breeds is significant and the breeds are not interchangeable.  Puppy buyers who are expect a sociable, vivacious PBGV should not be talked into a laid back, aloof GBGV. Which brings me to:
  5. A safety net for dogs whose original home doesn’t work out.  Ideally every dog should come from a responsible breeder who will give that dog a home for life if needed.  If this isn’t the case, having a breed rescue in place can literally mean life or death for that dog.
  6. A community of dog sports fanciers and support for those activities from the parent club.  Most dog sports like agility, obedience, scent work, or tracking relate on some level to the original purpose of most breeds.  These sports serve as another way of evaluating a breed’s structural and behavioral soundness.  A dog who cannot physically handle a 45 second agility run probably isn’t going to hold up to a full day of hunting either.
  7. A democratically run parent club with open dialogue, regular meetings, and term limits.

So, I get that my seven requirements are quite different that AKC’s criteria for full acceptance.  I also get that GBGVs are about to become very successful in the show ring if for no other reason than the copious amount of money and power that exists in the breed.  I hope for the sake of GBGVs in the US beyond the next few years that the small pockets of all of the things I list above that exist now will grow and become stronger.

Polygor Clancy Eighth Wonder VCD2 GN BN RAE MXP MJP2 NFP T2BP SCN TKP CGCA

Invitational and a New Addition

The last few weeks have been pretty exciting, including a trip to Florida, a new puppy, a new RV, and the holidays.

Chili, Salsa, Wally, and Juno were all invited to represent their breeds at the AKC Agility Invitational in Florida.  This is my favorite agility event.  The top 5 dogs of each breed are invited to compete, which makes for an exciting weekend and a chance to see really great agility dogs in some very untraditional breeds.  This is the first time I’ve had 4 dogs invited and it was a little bittersweet, since it’s likely to be the last trip to this event with two of my girls.

Chili had qualified for the Invitational from the regular classes, but has been running at her preferred height since July.  I knew it would be a lot to ask for her to jump 12 inches again and to make time on challenging courses, but she held up really well.  She only had one bar down all weekend but I know she’ll be glad to return to 8 inch preferred.  This was my awesome Chili-dog’s ninth time at the Invitational, but at age 13 I realize it was probably her last.

Salsa has a really hard time with big events.  She had some really nice runs and some others where she was clearly worried.  I experimented with a snuffle mat outside the ring to keep her from being as aware of the environment, which did seem to help.  I’m starting to realize that Salsa handles bigger events better when we take theRV, which is like home to her as opposed to staying in hotels.

Juno had qualified for the Invitational based on a single jumpers run in August of 2016 and hasn’t done agility since the Westminster trial in February.  This event was her last agility trial, because her hip dysplasia has made the physical aspects of the sport too hard for her.  We had fun representing GBGVs one last time and got to take home the breed medallion, which the GBGV club sponsored this year.  Juno’s jumping still looks good at preferred height, but even in still photos I can see that she is doing everything from her front end.  Staying in the weave poles at speed was a big struggle all weekend and she had some trouble getting her balance on the dog walk.  Juno had a clear round on the last run of the weekend, which was a nice way to end our Grand agility adventure.

Wally was the dog who surprised me the most on this trip.  It was his first big event and he doesn’t run nearly as reliably as the girls at regular trials.  He is a really different dog than they are though and was totally unphased by the noise and chaos.  Wally had some nice runs and really showed me how much I’ve been going out of my way to accommodate Chili and Salsa’s sensitivities over the past 10+ years.  It was a big relief not to have to worry about whether I got him out at the perfect time, protected him appropriately from the public, maintained the perfect temperature and a zen-like atmosphere in the crating area (complete with calming essential oils and soothing classical music)…….  Wally is just Wally no matter what and that made him a pleasure to run.

She’ll be the focus of my next post, but while we were in Florida I learned about a litter of field trial Golden Retriever puppies in my area.  Goldens were my first breed and I’ve been considering a high drive Golden for a while, so we went to see the litter when we got home.  Elf came home with us that night and has been a lot of fun.





Handling 360 Video

Our entry in this year’s Handling 360 video contest can be seen here. Handling 360 is an agility handling system developed by Susan Garrett, a very successful agility handler and amazing dog trainer. H360has worked very well for me and the Clever Hounds- check out the video for some fun PBGV agility action.

The Clever Hounds on Television!

Last month Maya and I had the opportunity to appear on the Dog is Family Television Show, hosted by Barb Emmett of Godfrey’s Welcome to Dogdom.  Also appearing were Cathy and Mark Blimline with their fabulous Golden Retriever, Gideon.  (a breed very near to my heart) ❤️.

The show was a nice opportunity to share information about PBGVs and positive training for dog sports.  Thanks Barb for this great experience!


Fall Classes at The Clever Hound LLC!

Group Classes are now offered at The Clever Hound LLC!  See class descriptions for locations. The cost for all classes is $110 for 6 weeks.  Discounts are available for multiple dogs or classes.

Wednesday Evening Indoor Classes at 501 Darby Ave, Temple, PA (formerly Muhlenberg Swim Association). All classes begin October 25

5:30 pm: Introduction to Scent Work is for dogs eight weeks and older.  We will introduce the dogs to the odors and searches that will be used in the AKC Scent Work program.  No previous training is required.   There is a $10 materials fee for an optional but highly recommended odor kit for practicing at home.

6:30 pm: Star Puppy/ Clever Dog 1 is for puppies between eight weeks and twelve months and adult dogs with no previous training.  We will introduce basic obedience cues like sit, down, come, and leash walking as well as introducing the puppies and dogs to new socialization and body awareness experience.  This class will give a great start to your dog’s training, whether he is destined to be a dog sports star or a great family companion.  Graduates under 12 months will earn the AKC Star Puppy Award.

7:30 pm: Clever Dog 2 is for graduates of Star Puppy, Clever Dog 1 or dogs with some previous training.  We will expand upon the skills introduced in earlier classes, with the goal of Graduates earning their Canine Good Citizen and Novice Trick Dog titles.

Clever Dog 3 is for graduates of Clever Dog 2 or dogs with equivalent training. We will begin to prepare dogs for formal obedience and rally competition, with the goal of Graduates earning their AKC Community Canine and Intermediate Trick Dog titles. (combined class)

Monday Afternoon Classes at Godfreys Welcome to Dogdom, 4267 New Holland Rd, Mohnton, PA beginning October 30.

4:00 pm: AKC Rally Novice is for dogs 6 months and older who can reliably sit, lie down, and walk on a loose leash.  We will focus on training the behaviors and handling skills required for AKC Rally Novice, with course work included each week.  The foundation behaviors required for Rally Advanced and Excellent will be introduced as well.

5:00 pm: Clever Dog 2 is for graduates of Star Puppy, Clever Dog 1 or dogs with some previous training.  We will expand upon the skills introduced in earlier classes, with the goal of Graduates earning their Canine Good Citizen and Novice Trick Dog titles.

Clever Dog 3 is for graduates of Clever Dog 2 or dogs with equivalent training. We will begin to prepare dogs for formal obedience and rally competition, with the goal of Graduates earning their AKC Community Canine and Intermediate Trick Dog titles. (combined class)

Outdoor Classes at The Clever Hound LLC, 769 White Oak Lane, Leesport, PA

Wednesday 4:00 pm: Progressing Your Agility Skills is for dog preparing to compete in Novice. We will focus on sequencing and solid obstacle performance to prepare teams for competition.  Class will begin on November 1.

Thursday 10:00 am: Clever Dog 4 is for graduates of Clever Dog 3 or well socialized dogs with equivalent training. This class will include field trips to dog friendly locations in the community to help students to generalize their dog’s skills. Graduates will have the goals of earning their AKC Urban Canine Good Citizen and Advanced Trick Dog titles. Class begins October 26.

The Clever Hound Tracking group meets on Wednesday morning at 9 am, weather permitting, at various locations. This is a drop-in program only. Cost is $25 per session. No previous tracking experience is needed, but please email if you plan to attend.

Please email for more information or to sign up for classes.  Class sizes are limited so that you and your dog will receive individualized attention.  All classes are taught by Megan Esherick CPDT-KA CTDI using positive reinforcement.

If space is available, drop-in spots are permitted for most classes. Drop in spots are $25. Please email for availability if you would like to do this.

Group classes are intended for dogs who are comfortable learning and working in the presence of other dogs.  If you feel that this would be a challenge for your dog, private lessons are always available.

If you are interested in a class but have scheduling challenges, please contact us to see if an additional class can be added for you.


Eukanuba Performance Games

Last weekend we attended the very first AKC Scent Work Competition, which was held in conjunction with the Eukanuba Performance Games at Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio.  This is a fabulous dog show venue, with an attached hotel and restaurant along with brand new RV hookups, which were a pleasant surprise when we checked in.  This facility would be a terrific venue for a national specialty, as many events could easily be held on site.

The Performance Games, which were held for the first time, included Scent Work, Agility, FAST CAT lure coursing, dock diving, disc dog, and barn hunt.  Each activity also had a “try it” option if you wanted to introduce your dog to it to see if the sport seemed like a good fit.  We took advantage of this opportunity to let Spice and Silk try the FAST CAT, which both of them would like to do again sometime soon.

I was excited to learn that Maya had made the draw for the Scent Work trial, but also a but nervous.  We’ve been training scent work for about 3 years now, but because of the extreme difficulty in getting into NACSW trials, had only competed twice.  Maya just turned 11 and while she still makes frequent therapy dog visits, she was been mainly retired from competition for quite a while, so I also worried about her having the endurance for 5 searches daily on 4 consecutive days.  As it turns out, we were fairly well prepared and had a good success rate, qualifying on 15 out of 20 searches and earning titles in exterior, containers, and handler discrimination.  Maya’s experience in other sports and good physical condition allowed her to take the long days and chaotic environment in stride.  In fact she had her only placement of the weekend in the large Novice B class (44 dogs), with a 3.61 second container run on Sunday afternoon.  If anything, she got faster and more confident with each search.

I did find a few areas to work on/ consider.  I had only ever trained buried hides outdoors and with sand.  Mulch was used in the containers, which worked ok, but 2 of the buried searches were held indoors and Maya struggled with those.  She did well on the 2 outdoor buried searches, so I think I need to drag the buried hide containers into the house for a while and hope we don’t make too much mess.  Interiors were also a challenge for her.  We had 2 NQs were she was close to the hide and clearly in odor, but not close enough.  The odor concentration in AKC is very high compared to NACSW and I’ll admit to sometimes not refreshing my odor kit often enough- guess this was a motivation to be more careful about this.  Handler discrimination went really well for us, despite boxes that sealed pretty tightly.  This was exciting, since this was a brand new skill that Maya recently learned.  Exteriors went well for Maya all four days, but there were many peeing incidents in the grassy search areas.  One of the days we ran last on this element and all I could smell in the search area was Nature’s Miracle so I was glad that Maya could sort through that to find the birch.  This made me wonder what it will be like to trial my intact boys.  I don’t think they would pee first, but getting them to not over-mark will be tough.

As I hoped, it seems like AKC Scent Work will bring more trial opportunities.  Maya and I are looking forward to testing her skills in Advanced at Wine Country and Juno is entered in Novice a few weeks later.  Here are links to my head mount Go Pro videos from all of Maya’s searches this weekend:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

In addition to Scent Work, the hounds had a great time running agility on Saturday and Sunday. It was a lot of fun attending an event with so many opportunities to compete in different events and to see the great dogs of so many different breeds competing.  It was fun t be among the first dogs to title in AKC Scent Work.  With her “new letters”, Maya is now GCH CH TDCH Gebeba Clancy Poetic Justice VCD1 RAE OA MXP AXJ MJP T2BP TKP PCMH SEN SCN SHDN NW1 L1C RHX2 CGCA


Senior PBGVs

PBGVs have often been described as a long lived breed that ages gracefully.  This has certainly been my experience, having had many hounds live active lives well into their teens.  In the past, many national specialty winners in our breed have come from the veteran class and it’s been a common occurrence for the top obedience and agility PBGVs to be well over the age where they would be considered veterans as well.

In my own household, I don’t feel that this has changed at all.  I currently have two “double digit” PBGVs, 12 year old Chili who recently completed MACH6 and 10 year old Maya who is a very active therapy dog in addition to competing in scent work.  Chili’s 9 year old daughter Salsa is in her prime, running better and faster than ever in agility.  Recently, though I’ve heard comments from others in the breed about longevity and what should be expected in a PBGV’s senior years that troubled me.  I understand that a dog’s show and breeding career is likely to be concluded at a relatively young age, but the idea that a 7 or even 10 year old PBGV is a senior citizen who shouldn’t be expected to have an active life is a concerning attitude, especially for those in a position to make breeding decisions.  It was recently widely accepted a major breed event that a dog who was clearly lame should win a major award because he was a veteran, even though others in the veteran class were still sound and in excellent condition.  To (probably slightly mis-) quote Temple Grandin, “when bad becomes normal”, it doesn’t look promising for the breed going forward.  If the show ring is really an evaluation of breeding stock ( which it’s no secret that I seriously doubt), shouldn’t the veteran class be a showcase for a breed’s longevity?  For that matter, shouldn’t longevity be a factor that is given serious consideration when selecting breeding stock?

Ranting aside, here are some things that I think are worth considering to give your PBGV, or any other breed, as long and happy a life as possible:

  • First and probably most important- do things!  Your older dogs deserve to be maintained in as good physical condition as your young superstar.  This means the chance to run and exercise, not just life in a fenced yard.
  • Second and probably just as important- mental stimulation!  Walks and hikes (dare I say off lead?) allow a scent hound to sniff and explore, which is a huge source of information and excitement for them.  Dinner in a puzzle toy or hidden throughout the house is much more interesting than a bowl.  If your dog’s life and routine are exactly the same day in and day out, he doesn’t have much to look forward to or get excited about.
  • Training never ends.  There are many sports out there that are totally appropriate for older dogs, but teaching new skills or tricks around the house are just as valuable.  My older dogs are often the guinea pigs for new training ideas or techniques because I don’t have the pressure of potentially causing confusion or stress in the younger dogs who are just learning or of “breaking” a behavior right before a competition.
  • Common sense health care and lifestyle.  Not just following vaccine and parasite control advice blindly, but doing research and being honest with yourself and your vet about your dog’s lifestyle.  Feeding a really high quality food.  Minimizing exposure to substances like lawn treatments and (yes, I am going to say this) chemical styling products.

Why are you still reading?  Go take your older dog for a walk!  Take some treats and do some training while you are out.




Recallers Video

The most important thing to do when training any dog is to build a strong foundation, establishing a relationship, and teaching the dog how to learn.  The foundation training I use with my dogs, both my own and my clients’ dogs, comes from Susan Garrett’s Recallers Program.  Every year, there is a video contest to show when the online program opens for registration.  Here  is our video for this year.  Enjoy, feel free to share, and consider the Recallers Program if you would like to build a stronger working relationship with your dog.

Welcome Home Winston!

Every responsible breeder places puppies with the understanding that if a home doesn’t work out at any time for any reason, they can always come back.  Last week, I had an adult dog returned to me for the first time.

Winston is a young male, out of Muse’s 2015 litter with Skycastle Yuengling.  He had been placed with a family in North Carolina who had a PBGV in the past and were excited to have another.  Over the past year, Winston’s family found that having a young dog in their lives wasn’t the right fit for their family so they recently contacted me to return him.  I was sad to hear this, but so glad that they reached out to me first when they realized that it would be best for Winston to find a new home.

Last Tuesday, I picked Winston up at Philadelphia airport.  Luckily, the weather was cool enough to allow him to fly up from North Carolina safely.  Like a typical PBGV, he came out of the crate wagging and happy to see me, although he hadn’t seen me since he was 10 weeks old.  We’ve spent the last week getting reacquainted and helping him adjust to his new surroundings, which included a weekend in the RV.  Winston most likely won’t stay with us forever, but I want to get to know him well enough to ensure that we find the best possible home for him.

We’ve learned quite a bit about Winston so far:

  • He isn’t that excited by food, although he really should gain some weight.  He seems to prefer to eat in the evening rather than the morning.
  • He really doesn’t enjoy grooming.  He came needing quite a bit of work, but this is happening in 5-10 minute sessions daily to keep his stress level down.  This means he is still a bit more unkempt than I would prefer, but he’s not matted and is more comfortable.  Luckily, Winston has nice coat texture, which makes things easier.
  • He is a really good boy in a crate and to walk on leash.
  • He comes when called in the house and in the fenced yard, although he really loves to run in the yard.
  • He enjoys the company of other dogs.  We currently have girls in season, so we are doing a lot of rotating of dogs, but Winston is good with the spayed girls and likes to play with his half brother Gromit, even though they are both intact boys.  (Once Winston puts on a few pounds he will be able to be neutered).
  • He likes to beat up stuffed toys, shaking and barking them pretty roughly.
  • He likes to steal dish towels and hide them in dog beds.
  • He is reliably house trained.  I expected some marking given the raging hormones that are currently circulating in our house, but have seen none.
  • He drools some in the car, but Bonine helps.

Overall, a really sweet young PBGV who needs a bit of training.  Hopefully Winston will find the perfect place where he can reach his full potential, but I’m glad that he found his way home in the meantime.