Having been a hunter in my youth in Tennessee and, more recently, on Blackwater Creek Ranch in Vero Beach, FL where I’m a shareholder, hunting with dogs was always interesting to me. At Blackwater, we start hunting both pen-raised and wild quail towards the end of October, and our season runs through early March. We have kennels on site housing big-running English pointers to find birds and a mix of Labradors and Boykins for flushing and retrieving.
Last year I began researching the versatile hunting dog breeds. The idea of being able to go walk for a couple of hours through our quail fields and jump a few coveys with my own dog who could both point and retrieve held great appeal to me. My own research “pointed” me towards the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Its temperament seemed to be such that it would gel with our family’s aggressive, fourteen-pound, lap dog we rescued in 2010.
In addition to their amiable temperament, I found several sources that called the griffon the perfect breed for the walking hunter. Finally, with consideration given to the family members in my house with allergies, the griffon seemed to shed less than any of the other versatile breeds. And so it was settled; the griffon was the dog for me. I found Pageska’s Griffon Town Kennel after a little digging on the web, and shortly thereafter found myself on an airplane to Canada to meet the newest member of our family; an eight-week- old female we would name Zoe.
Paige Pettis and Gaby Giroux, who own Pageska, make it a requirement to test their puppies through NAVHDA in the Natural Ability test. Being that I had not ever trained my own dog, I was going to need some help. When I reached out to my local NAVHDA chapter, the Palmetto Club, their response was both quick and enthusiastic. Zoe and I were at the next club training session, and haven’t missed one since.
The president, Bill Snyder, begins the training sessions by talking about a specific skill and how to train for it. His Drathaar, Otto, is sure proof that he knows what he’s talking about. Following Bill’s opening talk, attendants are able to break into smaller groups to work their dogs on specific skills from the most basic to advanced skills such as backing and blind retrieves.
Zoe and I have learned so much from Bill and the other members at the Palmetto Chapter trainings. While I read the green NAVHDA training book and watched the DVD multiple times, there are nuggets of wisdom I’ve garnered while training with the Palmetto Chapter that can only come from practical experience. Planting birds, which was discussed at last month’s training, is a perfect example of this. Even simply being observant while others work their dogs is an incredible tool available to Zoe and me that we wouldn’t have without club training. Currently, Zoe and I are working on pointing while I continue to reinforce the basic commands she already knows. It’s only May, but I can’t wait to get her in the field this fall.