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.