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Wirehaired Pointing Griffons (WPG), commonly called "Griffs", were developed by Dutch sportsman Edward Korthals in the late 1800's as a versatile gundog. "Korthals Griffons" were first imported to the United States in 1887.
Griffs are a medium size, athletic dog with a low maintenance, wiry outercoat. Griffs have an intense desire to please, thriving on human contact, with very expressive faces and biddable personalities. Griffs are wonderful family dogs. They are not good watchdogs. (Ours will bark to alert us of something out of ordinary, but are not aggressive or protective). Griffs are smart, fast learners with great retention of things they have learned. Great with kids and older people, our Griffs seem to sense who they need to be gentler with and who is up for some playtime. Their docked tails are much less destructive to your wife’s treasures on the coffee table in the house than many other breeds. We live in the heart of livestock country and ours have never chased the neighboring livestock.
Griffs are truly versatile hunting dogs, systematically covering ground in search mode in front of the foot hunter, solidly pointing birds and retrieving after the hunter flushes and shoots the bird. In the waterfowl blind, our Griffs sit calmly waiting for the ducks or geese to come to decoys, (or sneaking along at heel to jump shoot ducks), and enthusiastically retrieving the shot birds. Griffs require little formal training, instead learning from positive exposures in the field. They are ideal dogs for both the beginning trainer or seasoned dog handler.
As a former lab owner, I was initially amazed at the difference hunting behind Griffs, no rushing to keep up, or yelling/whistle blowing to try and slow the dog down... Just follow and wait for the dog to go on point, walk in, flush the bird and shoot it, and wait for the dog to retrieve the bird to hand... Wonderful for newer hunters and kids just starting to hunt because of the opportunity to choose position and direction and set up shot opportunities safely while the dog holds on point, as opposed to the rushed shots often presented with flushing breeds. And it is a pretty gentlemanly way to hunt for the rest of us.
I have also noticed that the quiet approach I can bring to the field with Griffs results in more birds being surprised and holding tighter, as opposed to the running roosters and wild flushes that are common with the noisy approach with flushing breeds and their owners trying to maintain control of them.
Unlike many other breeds which hunt for themselves and are trained (hopefully) to hunt for their owners, Griffs naturally hunt for the gunner. Our Griffs naturally reposition themselves in front of the hunter after a change in direction by the hunter.
Griff coats are easy maintenance, with burrs combing out of the wiry outer coat easily. The hair on the head is softer and collects burrs a little more. A wide toothed comb from the Dollar Store cleans our Griffs up quickly in a few minutes after a hunt in the nastiest cover. Griffs are extremely light shedders compared to most other hunting breeds. A ‘stripping’ by hand of the outer coat each spring is all the maintenance our Griffs require. I have read some materials claiming that Griffs are one of the few breeds that people with pet allergies are able to be around. I don’t have personal experience to back up that claim, but would welcome you to come visit our Griffs and find out for yourself if that is an issue for you.
Griffs are a relatively healthy breed, with fewer frequency of hereditary issues than many sporting dogs. Griffs are not a common breed and as such, had not, until recently, been subjected to the back yard, “I got a male, you got a female, let’s make some puppies” breeding of some other more popular breeds. The majority of legitimate Griff breeders I know, are cautious and thoughtful in their breeding programs, evaluating temperament, and health of their breeding dogs. Most serious breeders are conscious of hip dysplasia as the main significant health issue with Griffs and are screening their dogs through OFA or PennHip. It is interesting that some recent studies are finding correlation between hip dysplasia and overfeeding of puppies while their developing bones are still soft, putting too much weight on their joints too soon. More recent studies are finding a connection between hip dysplasia and early spay/neuter, changing hormone levels before the growth plates in bones have hardened. Frequent use of stairs while puppy's bones are still soft is another factor with further studies being done. But clearly genetics are in the equation as well. (In 2015 OFA ranked WPG's at 121 out of 164 AKC recognized breeds, in ranking breeds with frequency of hip dysplasia. Golden Retrievers rank at 41 and German Shepherds at 39. Clearly the incidence of hip dysplasia in WPG's is much lower.) While different breeders may have different goals (hunting, family/companion or show dogs) the breed has, until recently, been relatively well guarded by careful selection and responsible breeding, compared to many other sporting breeds. This is rapidly changing due to the increasing popularity of griffs. Popularity increases demand. And wherever there is demand, there will be someone willing to breed average or substandard dogs for a profit. We believe that the downfall of many popular sporting breeds has been their popularity as household pets and companions. One only has to look at the Labrador Retriever to see a once solid sporting breed that has been bred for so long as a family pet, that the majority of the Labs available today are no longer the solid hunters they used to be.
The WPG is rapidly gaining in popularity as a family pet and show dog. (AKC popularity rankings show that WPG's have moved from 112th in 2000, to 66th in 2015 out of 184 breeds.) Their goofy good looks and engaging personality make them attractive to people looking for 'something different'. Some of the WPG show dogs now sport fluffy coats unlike the harsh field coats that Korthals intended. Responsible breeders need to keep this breed in the hands of hunters. I have had increasing numbers of phone calls from people searching for a 'hunting' griff, who tell stories of their contacts with other breeders who are obviously not hunters, but are marketing their griffs as family dogs who also are great hunters. (If you don't really hunt, how can you know your dogs are great hunters?)The WPG is a hunting breed and belongs in the hands of hunters. (And they still make great family dogs too.) Our target market is hunters.
There are increasing numbers of backyard breeders now selling Wal Mart quality griffs on web forums, flyers on bulletin boards, classified ads and websites, often for the same price as quality griffs. I have talked with numerous folks who bought a cheap griff from a backyard breeder who were frustrated and disappointed. The reality is that you will probably have to get on a waiting list for a real quality bred griff pup. In the recent past I have seen more and more of these Wal Mart griffs at club training days and in the fields, and they are sadly, a poor representation of the breed. Responsible breeding is expensive, time consuming and year round work. It's much more than just putting a male and female purebred dog together. We try to improve the breed with every litter. Do your homework, ask for references. Call those references. Use the NAVHDA search feature on their website. Don't get in a hurry and think the local classified ad pup will be as good as the real deal, just because it's available now. There's a reason that litter is available now. If these sound like legitimate considerations to you, you are probably the kind of home we want for our pups. If you just want any griff puppy available right now, please go somewhere else.
Griffs are extremely personable dogs. They thrive on human companionship and contact. While ours spend some time in the kennels when we are away, they are happiest and calmest when they are close to people. Griffs are high energy dogs and require daily exercise. We have found that physical exercise and mental exercise keeps them happiest. Griffs, like horses, mules and (most) people, “need a job”. Don’t just take them for a walk; Stop and do some light obedience training, swimming, or retrieving training along the way. Better yet, plant some bumpers with bird wings attached (or live birds if you have access to them) along the route you plan to take ahead of time. Let your pup ‘discover’ the bird scent. Praise him and reward him with a retrieve of the bumper he found. Use every opportunity to reinforce something the pup already knows or show him something new.
Our Griffs seem to have an On/ Off switch that changes as they go from outdoors to indoors. They are exuberant and playful outside, calm and attentive inside.
A long time trainer and breeder told me once, “If you hit a Griff, it will take him a week to get over it.” I have found that Griffs respond very well to calm verbal correction. If you are prone to losing your temper, yelling, or physically correcting your dog, Griffs are not the breed for you. They are sensitive and eager to please. Show them what you want and expect, praise them when they get it right, and they will gladly do it. As long as a pup's tail is wagging, he is having fun. As long as he is having fun, he is learning.
In THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BIRD DOG TRAINING, by John Falk he wrote, “By and large the griff is so eager to please that he will practically knock himself out for a few words of praise, a pat on the head, and a bit of affectionate encouragement. Finding a hunting breed that seeks a closer relationship with master and family would be difficult, indeed.”