Monthly Archives: October 2013

Is that really a GBGV or does it just look like one?

Many of you know that Juno is the lone GBGV in my pack, but most probably don’t know how she came to join us. In 2008, the AKC changed its policy to allow FSS breeds like the GBGV to compete in companion events like rally, obedience, agility, and tracking. At the time no other AKC titles were available to these breeds, as open shows and the certificate of merit were still in the future. Suddenly getting GBGVs into performance homes became a big priority as a way of getting the AKC and other exhibitors to be more aware of the breed. Juno came to me later that year as a puppy, not because I had been looking for a grand but because I was asked to take one to help promote the breed. In fact, at that time I was offered so many GBGVs that I could have filled my house with them, but that’s another story.

Juno quickly showed me that the stories I had heard about grands being easier than petits might apply if the grand is simply a pet or show dog, but did not apply if the goal is a motivated, biddable performance dog. Building enough drive to get Juno to work for me at all took many months of having her work for every bit of food she got. Transitioning to off lead took close to 4 years. Juno still does things on her own terms, but has managed to earn 13 AKC titles with some placements and good scores along the way. Since the GBGVCA initially expressed such an interest in having the breed earn performance titles I used to send photos and updates for the club newsletter, but stopped after being “bumped” for news of conformation matches and fluff pieces about pet grands.

5 years later, open shows are a common occurrence and grands will soon move into the miscellaneous class. The Certificate of Merit title is available and was recently earned by a grand for the first time. The club is understandably excited about this development, but continues to ignore the performance dogs who were out there earning AKC titles already. At this point I am feeling hurt and more than a little bit used by the parent club representing the breed that I have put so much time and effort into promoting.

To be clear, I am not anti-conformation. I started in the dog world in Junior Showmanship in the 1980s and worked for a professional handler throughout high school and college. Since then I have finished many of my own PBGVs, often from the bred by class. However, the show ring can only evaluate a dog’s appearance and a parent club has a responsibility to protect the original temperament and working ability of the breed as well as physical appearance.

Grands were originally used to hunt hare and wild boar, both of which are hard to come by in the US. There are limited opportunities for rabbit hunting with them here which is as close and most of us will come to be breed’s intended use. However, I would argue that each of the companion event activities has a direct application to hunting and should be taken seriously by the GBGVCA.

Obedience and rally are about establishing control and cooperation between handler and dog. If you don’t believe this is important, consider the fact that a hound who runs away when the leash is removed is completely useless in a hunting pack. If I had been relying on Juno to find my dinner for me I would have been awfully hungry in the 4 years it took to be able to work her off lead.

The application of tracking to hunting with a scent hound is a no- brainer. This sport is about teaching a dog to locate and stick to a scent, which is exactly what hounds do in the field.

Agility demonstrates a dogs athleticism and ability to take direction from a handler when highly aroused. These are also skills needed on the hunt field. If you don’t believe me, check out how many Master Hunter PBGVs have high level agility titles.

Since I have found that petits are really my breed of choice , part of me is tempted to let this go and just end my involvement with the GBGVCA. However, I don’t know if I would ever have had the nerve to enter the obedience ring with my first PBGV if I didn’t know what had been accomplished with the breed by trainers like Donna Duford and the late Lyn Crownsberry. Even if grands aren’t the breed for me, they are fabulous dogs and deserve a parent club that will look out for the breed as a whole , not just as a pretty show dog.

Wally’s Fall Training Plan

Like C.C., Wally turned 2 this summer, but his “career path” will be a bit different than hers. This year I have been showing him a little, mostly going to the shows that didn’t conflict with agility and work rather than selecting the best places to go based on judges. Because there is a Top 20 at next year’s national, there have consistently been a lot of specials at every show, but we have picked up some Grand Champion points. Next year I will try to show Wally a bit more seriously with the goal of finishing this title. As an owner handler who doesn’t show all the time and can’t afford advertising, there will be limits to how far we go in the specials ring, but I think the GCh is something we can reasonably try for.

Of the 3 young dogs, Wally is the most natural at tracking. Even before I was able to build enough food drive to get him to eat in public, he has tracked reliably and fast- pretty much I just have to hold the line and try not to fall. We could probably certify now, but I’ll wait until I have a test in mind to enter.

Wally got his Rally novice title this summer, but needs a lot of work before going off leash in the ring. His stationary exercises in obedience are getting better, but his heeling isn’t there yet. He does eat treats at class now if I have the good stuff, so things are progressing more quickly. I plan to take CGC class with him later this fall and maybe agility foundation class in January. I need to get an official measurement to see which height class he falls into for agility. I know he’s close to the 14″ cutoff and if he measures over I may do foundation class with Muse instead since it’s only offered once a year. Eventually Wally will do agility, but if he has to go in preferred I may prioritize getting the girls ready to trial first.

Hunting is Wally’s favorite activity. He is getting more confident on the hunt field and his accurate nose is a big help there. This fall he’ll need to do some brace and solo runs, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that.

C.C.’s Fall Training Plan

C.C. turned 2 in June, so she is just reaching the age when I feel like we can start training more seriously. I know there are a lot of people who compete in agility with dogs much younger than she is, but I have really found that the hounds aren’t ready for serious training and competition until they are closer to 3.

At this time of year, it gets hard to practice agility much. We have the equipment, but it’s dark when I get home from work. Our club practices are outside, so we don’t have those in the fall and winter. In my small basement training area I have 6 weave poles with wires, so getting C.C. doing those independently is a goal for this winter. I would love to have her ready for novice agility at the PBGV national in May, but it will depend on how often I can work her on the teeter this winter. I’ll try to go to as many run throughs as possible, but our weekends are mostly booked. Maybe she will at least be able to do jumpers.

C.C. has her rally advanced title, but the newer excellent signs are pretty tricky, so she needs a bit more training and confidence before we try that. Her stays have gotten much better, she is even joining the older dogs when they do sit or down stays while I make their breakfast in the morning. I think she is ready to show in Beginner Novice obedience, but will probably hold off until the specialty in May.

Tracking is going pretty well when I can get out in daylight. This week was frustrating because I had a day off and headed over to my usual tracking grounds only to discover 2 unattended loose dogs there. I wasn’t about to let the kids get pounced on while they were tracking, so we headed home without working.

We have some hunt tests coming up in November, so I’m hoping that C.C. will time her heat cycle around those. She’s the only one in the pack who doesn’t have her junior hunter, so maybe we can get that done this fall. I plan to breed her to Wally this winter so she can have a litter before we start getting serious about competing in agility.