Used with permission from "Today's Breeder"
Ralston Purina Company - Summer 1992 / Issue 9
The first time we encountered Barbara
Young-Smith was backstage at Madison Square Garden. There, among
the sea of dogs competing in the 1991 Westminster Dog Show was
a quizzical looking breed of pointer.
"It's a wire-haired pointing griffon," said
a woman with a slightly amused look. The same look, actually,
that distinguished the WPG from most other dogs at this massive
benched show. We started to ask her about the breed but she cut
us off... "You really should talk to Barbara."
personality is exuberant and infectious...
is nothing distant or aloof about this dog."
A year later we were standing in the field behind the home
of Barbara Young-Smith. It was a good clear day in Western Oregon.
A photographer was trying to determine how on Earth he was going
to get the "Griff" circling us to sit still for a moment. "I
have a knack for doing the impossible," Barbara chuckled
as she worked to corral the youngster, our cover dog, International
Ch. Drummer Von Herrenhausen.
"There were eight dogs that day
at Westminster," said Barbara as she worked to pose the dog. "One
from Canada, two from Montana, three from Oregon and two from
Philadelphia. We met in Philly, rented a tour bus, took out a
bunch of seats in the front for the dog cages and drove in that
morning to Madison Square Garden."
Their appearance at this country's most
prestigious show dog event was both the culmination and the beginning
of the life's work. The American (wire-haired) Pointing Griffon
Association, newly recognized by the AKC as the parent club for
the breed was opening a new chapter in the history of this versatile
dog. Through Barbara's and her fellow WPG breeders' efforts,
the breed is being saved for enthusiasts on this side of the
Atlantic. In the ten years before their appearance at Westminster,
Barbara and other griffonniers had championed the breed at a
time when others were looking to change it irreparably by crossbreeding.
"There was some dissatisfaction with
the current breeding stock in North America back then," explains
Barbara, "but really, I thought the problem was more one of keeping
track of the good breeding lines. There were more good griffs
out there than anyone thought."
So, what is it about the wire-haired
pointing griffon that inspired such devotion and effort on the
part of Barbara and her follow breeders? Two words. Personality
Its personality is exuberant and infectious. The moment you
meet a WPG, you've met a buddy for life. A pal. A completely
open, honest face. With it's distinctive furnishings--the beard,
mustache and eyebrows--comes the cocked head, the quizzical look.
There is nothing distant or aloof about the dog.
And while the same can be said of several
other breeds, how many of them have the versatility to participate
in field tests one day, a show ring the next, an obedience trial
the same afternoon then out into the field or the marsh the next
weekend pointing and retrieving wild game?
No wonder the griff is such a happy dog.
It never gets a chance to get bored.
Barbara describes the breed as a "small
to medium sized close working, versatile hunting dog." To her
the word versatile has two meanings. The first is defined by
the tests she and other griff breeders participate in sponsored
by NAVHDA, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association.
The first stage of the NAVHDA test, called
the Natural Ability Test, gauges the young dog's natural talent.
The second stage is the Utility Test, measuring the dog's usefulness
in all phases of hunting. Barbara describes these tests as being
of the "European style" where the dog is rated against a standard
instead of competing against other dogs. Three judges rate the
dogs on such things as nose quality, search pattern, response
to the handler, retrieve from water, pointing ability and tracking
The second definition of "versatility" goes
back to where we first met Barbara and her cohorts. The show
ring is, for her, just as natural a place to be as the field.
Here, however, is where the greatest challenge for the future
of the wire-haired pointing griffon rests. The challenges are
the same faced by any of the lesser known AKC recognized breeds--limited
breeding stock, judge's familiarity with the breed and the lack
of specialty shows. Barbara is fast at work addressing all these