Purina's "Today's Breeder" Article | Titles | German Shorthaired Pointers | Upcoming Litters | Stud Service Information

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." 

"Its personality is exuberant and infectious...
There 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 and versatility.  

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 ability.  

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 issues.


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