Structure

The three paramount factors to consider when you begin to search for your Griffon partner are conformation, proven hunting instinct and genetic health (Allen, 2005). You may not plan to show your Griffon in conformation, nor to hunt with the dog, but all three of these factors are equally important in breeding, working, and partnering with your dog. If too much emphasis is put on any one factor (e.g., coat, head, nose), others may be ignored. The result can be dogs that fail to stay sound, are not interested in hunting or other activities, may have undesirable temperament, etc.

Structure (bone, muscle, and dentition), must be expertly evaluated when breeding or acquiring a Griffon. There is enough information on the internet and in bookstores to read continuously through a gestation period, so we will narrow it down to the basics. The question to continue asking yourself is if the dog is going to be able to do the job you give it, and will it stay sound and enjoy it. A recent publication (Hastings, et. al) is a comprehensive book that will give you what you need to get started. Read until you feel confident with a working knowledge of structure. King, 2009, is an excellent paper that packs the basics into several pages. Realize that there is no perfect dog, and you still need to consider hunting instincts and overall health. There is a list of “dog jobs” in Hastings, 2011, from agility to water dog, that may act as a guide for the important points to look for in your dog. The “couch potato” job will not work for your Griffon. They are active dogs that will not thrive if destined to a sedentary life. One book will never be enough to make anyone an expert. Take the time to find somebody that has proven skills to evaluate a puppy, the pedigree, and if possible the dam and sire. You might enlist your veterinarian, and be certain that the purchase is contingent on a vet check. Be careful here, because you probably have bonded with the puppy on the drive home, and won’t want to take it back.

Have you found something that should be included here? Questions? Comments? Join the Forum, and talk about it.

Further Reading - Wirehaired Pointing Griffon - October 2005

Breed Balance - The Three Legged Stool

Recently a fellow AWPGA member and I gave a presentation to a group of Griffon owners in the upper Midwest entitled, "Unraveling the Mysteries of a Dog Show". The topic was not likely to appeal to this group of avid hunters. Our goal was to show that the breed standard, the key evaluation tool of the dog show, was also the key to a stronger breeding program since it evaluates the structure and movement that are an integral part of performance in the field. While working on the presentation a simple analogy emerged: the three legged stool. The three legs are conformation, proven hunting instinct and genetic health. If any of these legs is missing, the breed gets out of balance. All three legs can be professionally assessed and should make up the foundation upon which to build a strong breeding program. Without this balance, we risk the deterioration of both form and function.

A breeding program that focuses on form alone becomes exaggerated in its type, particularly in coat. When we see conformation judges continually put up dogs with excessive, soft, fluffy coats, they do the breed a disservice, for some breeders will continue to breed to what wins in the ring. A length of two to three inches with a harsh texture is correct for this breed's ability to hunt in heavy cover.

Conversely, the hunt-only breeder whose focus is entirely on function loses sight of what correct conformation is for a Griffon. Extremes in type for this breeder often result in oversize dogs with extremely harsh, short coats and minimal furnishings. These dogs often don’t look much like a Griffon but they sure can hunt!

Of concern to both breeding focuses should be genetic health. There are comparatively minor genetic issues among Griffons. I reported in my last column that just over 7% of Griffons evaluated by OFA are dysplastic. In addition, we are fortunate to have well over 80% of our breed fall into the Excellent and Good categories. And yet, we sometimes see Fair dogs or dogs with no health clearances being bred. Are these the best breeding decisions we can make?

We have all seen a dramatic split in type in many sporting breeds where the divergent field and show types do not resemble each other in the least in either form or function. Among Griffons this split is not nearly so dramatic and many breeders work very hard to maintain one type that has both form and function intact. It is not uncommon to see highly prized, hunt-titled Griffons also have a conformation championship.

All Griffon breeders must work together to ensure that we do not have a split in type. If we keep our focus on balancing the three legs of the stool- conformation, hunting instinct and genetic health- we can keep this breed intact and avoid the sad divergence in type we see in so many of the other sporting breeds. When the focus becomes too much on form or function alone, or we ignore health clearances, we risk a complete deterioration of the breed's integrity. With a relatively rare breed like the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, we can't afford to lose this balance.

Ann Allen
1000 E. Fox Lane
Fox Point, WI 53217
Ams2allen@aol.com
414.352.1426

Helen King on Structure Evaluation. Posted 10/30/09 on Susan Garrett link below. Allen, Ann, Breed Balance-The Three legged Stool. AKC Gazette, 2005

Useful Links:
www.clickerdogs.com (newsletter)
www.susangarrettdogagility.com (blog)

Additional Reading:
Hastings, Pat, Wendy E. Wallace. Structure in Action - The makings of a Durable Dog.
Dogfolk Enterprises, 2011. Available at www.dogwise.com.
King, Helen, Picking Your Performance Puppy. April 8, 2012. Available at: www.recipetowin.com.

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