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"This year we have two regional specialties planned, one in Pennsylvania and another in Montana.In 1993 we're planning a national specialty where we will be filming a breed video." She is currently a provisional judge in the German Shorthair, another breed she has been involved with for many years, with plans for certification in that and other sporting breeds. And, oh yes, she's working on a book chronicling the last 100 years of the breed, roughly the period of time griff breed clubs have been around.  

Another challenge facing her is the fate of the breed. In her mind, the current battle is just for survival here in the States. "Right now there are perhaps only five or six major breeders in the United States with active programs." On the good side, it means that every puppy has a home. "They are so rare and sought after by hunters that even those dogs that may not have the excellent conformation still have a place next to a hunter in the field."  

On the downside though, finding good breeding stock takes a lot of effort and a through knowledge of genetics. "Until the last few years there's been no breeder information exchange," explains Barbara. "Our clubs started that." So, to keep a viable breeding program going, she must do a lot of in-breeding and line breeding. As reflection of her interest in the subject, the newsletter she publishes, The Griffonnier, often contains reprints of articles discussing the technical aspects of genetics.  

For Barbara Young-Smith, conformation and hunting skills are inextricably linked. She cites what she calls the "European method of breeding, where conformation is just as important to the dog working in the field as their hunting ability. In Germany, dogs must pass a conformation rating before they're able to go into the field. In order for the dog to move correctly and last all day in the field, they have to be built correctly." As she notes, "this tradition serves us very well in the show ring."  

She recommends the griff for just about any test, trial or show. Schutzhund?  "Sure. They're very protective of their family. They're natural trackers, they have exceptional noses. However, I wouldn't recommend them for field trials where the large running dogs compete. They're a close working dog."  

In fact, Barbara cites the emergence of the field trials in the early part of this century as one reason the wire-haired pointing griffon and other close working dogs never caught on. "When they were first introduced into the United States from France and Germany, they enjoyed quick recognition as an outstanding dog. But then, shortly after, the American Field Trials began, that was the downfall for the griffon." As she reasons, back then hunting grounds were more plentiful and spacious, more suited to the larger, farther ranging breeds.  

The same logic, though, bodes well for the future of the WPG. "Hunting grounds are shrinking every year," she notes, "so the demand for this style of dog continues to rise."  

"There's an upswing in breeding," Barbara points out, "the challenges ahead is to grow the breed without sacrificing its distinctive characteristics." She points to the German Wirehaired Pointer, a dog linked somewhere in the murky past with the WPG, as a good example of a versatile dog that has maintained it's popularity in the ring without sacrificing its desirable field traits.  

What keeps a breed healthy? People like Barbara Young-Smith. As she tells it, you need several things: "A strong parent club with a well rounded administration for show and field; open communications and exchange of information to help breeders make sound breeding decisions; and knowledgeable people to turn to for help."  

"the challenge ahead is to grow the breed 
without sacrificing its distinctive characteristics"

We were in the grooming room, surrounded by ribbons and trophies. The photographer was up to leave as Barbara's husband Denny came home from work. Immediately you sensed another reason the breed has survived and why it's future looked bright. These people. As good natured as their dogs. As attached to each other as they are to the breed.  

They joked about who was the better handler in the ring. Denny talked about the time Ch Duke Von Herrenhausen lost a tooth and how their veterinarian left a softball game with the second baseman (a dentist) to put it back in. "Duke's still got that tooth" said Denny. The photographer took his equipment back out to get some shots of Denny.  

"Our greatest pride isn't in the ribbons and trophies, it's in the good dogs and good puppies we're producing. You'll see it tomorrow, "said Denny referring to the training session we'd watch the next day. "Watching the lights come on these young dogs, seeing the wheels turning. "Oh, Okay! I know what to do here." The instincts kick in. Even if they mess up a little, they go home and think about it during the week. Then they come back and pow! They've got it."  

Twenty years from now?  They'll have a lot more stories to tell. They'll have a lot more names with perfect test scores in the stud book. They will, no doubt, have some Best in Show. A Group Best or B.I.S. at Westminster, perhaps?  Hey, why not. They've come this far.   


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