Monthly Archives: January 2018

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