The ideal BWPGCA griffon is a dog with strong desire for game, a dog with steady temperament that is naturally cooperative and a dog that hunts with and for his handler. Coat, size and structure are important insofar as they promote performance as a versatile hunting griffon. It has been said that “coat doesn’t hunt,” but a coat that becomes matted with burs or that leaves a dog shivering in the cold degrades the dog’s capacity to perform in the field. A stiff, flat-lying outer coat with a dense, protective undercoat enhances hunting capacity. So we consider all of these factors, but we do not breed show dogs, we breed hunters. To achieve our goal we use primarily Bohemian Wirehaired Pointing Griffons (Cesky Fouseks). Because the Club has a good working relationship and a co-operative agreement with Klub chovatelu českých fousků in the Czech Republic to work together in improving the Cesky Fousek, we have an adequate selection of dogs to choose from, both here and abroad, to maintain genetic diversity and maintain a healthy gene pool.
Watch our dogs hunt and you’ll see what we mean by the “hunter’s griffon.” Our dogs are driven yet cooperative hunters that exhibit a strong handler bond. Seldom will you see a shock collar on one of our griffons, and you won’t hear a lot of yelling either. Our griffons have plenty of hunting desire, but they also want to please you. They range out in open country and hunt close in when cover thickens. Make a turn in the field and watch the griffon come running to quarter in front of you. We test and breed for that.
We emphasize transparency in our breeding program. Every breeding that we complete including the pedigrees of sire and dam, owners of each puppy where pups are placed, performance test scores, conformation data and PennHip results on every WPGCA pup are published in our newsletter, The Gun Dog Supreme. The successes and problems of our breeding program are open for anyone to examine. There are four pillars to our breeding strategy: breeding committee management; breeder support; performance evaluation, and health and genetics monitoring.
Breeding Committee Management
The WPGCA relies on a small group of versatile hunting dog breeding experts to manage our breeding program. These individuals are entrusted with making breeding decisions for the WPGCA. They choose which dogs to breed from our available stock. In addition to current dogs, the WPGCDA maintains a frozen semen bank supply from proven stud dogs. They manage the breeding program by working with dog owners, scheduling breedings and consulting on breeding techniques. The WPGCA maintains its own breed registry book. The committee also works with breeders of Cesky Fousek contacts in the Czech Republic to arrange breedings with dogs from outside the BWPGCA. This organization design assures that dog-breeding experts who can be detached and professional are making selection decisions.
Breeder Support & Guidance
While Breeding Committee control is the most prominent feature of our breeding program, an often overlooked feature is the support and guidance that the BWPGCA provides to our members who participate in breeding our dogs. Breeding top quality dogs today is both highly technological and expensive and therefore beyond the capacity of many dog owners to undertake on their own. The upfront costs of raising a litter of BWPGCA pups has increased dramatically in the last decade. Some reasons are:
- The cost of shipping semen, either frozen or chilled, has more than doubled.
- Frozen semen storage has increased on average 40%.
- Veterinary costs have increased for artificial insemination. For example in a 2013 BWPGCA breeding, before the bitch was even inseminated, the owner had costs exceeding $2000. The cost for a natural breeding when the male and female live within driving distance is less, but air transportation costs often make natural breedings unfeasible.
Great strides have been made in artificial insemination either by trans-cervical insemination or surgical. These advances in the science of breeding canines have given us better options that offset the loss of the option of shipping a female to the male. The availability of vets qualified to use these advanced techniques has also increased. The downside is that these advances have also increased the costs. As with much advancement in medical science, the use of advanced equipment and better trained technicians is expensive.
A goal of the BWPGCA breeding program is to both produce quality hunting griffons for owners and also to reduce risk for breeders. The BWPGCA covers breeding costs so that owners who agree to have their dogs bred do not lose money by participating.
In addition to the technical and financial issues of completing a breeding, the BWPGCA also supports the breeder through the process of raising the litter and placing the puppies. The Breeding Committee screens potential owners and maintains a waiting list for the placement of puppies. The BWPGCA also assists with transporting pups to their new homes. A 2013 litter raised in Washington State is a good example. Several club members assisted the breeder during the ten weeks that the pups where with the breeder. One BWPGCA member traveled from Pennsylvania to Washington, stayed for a couple weeks and transported six of the ten pups back east to their new homes. Every litter is a club-wide enterprise. A consequence of our strong breeder support network is that owners of a quality dog that would otherwise not have the expertise or resources to raise a litter can have a successful breeding experience. Our puppies are raised by doting families with lots of social contact. These pups not only have quality genetics but the very best early socialization that a breeder can provide. A goal of the foundation is to develop and promote a model breeding program that can be emulated by other breed groups as well.
The BWPGCA requires that puppies only be placed with owners who agree to hunt their dog and maintain it as a family dog. We require that every puppy that we place will be evaluated in our testing program at both the Natural Ability and Intermediate Hunting Dog Test levels. The data from these tests is used by the breeding committee to guide breeding decisions—whether or not to use sire and dam in further breedings and to select pups for future breedings. Having performance data on entire litters is crucial to making sound breeding decisions. An individual dog that conforms to standards and that tests well on its own might be a good breeding prospect, but a great dog that comes from a breeding where every littermate also performed well is a much stronger prospect. Tracking down and eliminating undesirable recessive traits requires data on multiple generations and on complete litters.
Just as we require performance testing data on all our pups, we seek to secure health data on every pup as well. For example, the buyers agreement requires that each pup undergo a PennHip evaluation. This procedure provides an assessment for hip dsyplasia potential. Hip dysplasia is a devastating orthopedic disorder that is present in most medium and large breeds. Many breeders reserve getting a PennHip assessment for dogs that they are considering breeding because of the expense involved. We expect it on every puppy because assessing entire litters is the best way to prevent the condition of hip dysplasia. Our policy is to only breed males in the top 90% for the breed and females in the top 50%. Since instituting this policy, we have seen significant improvement in preventing this condition with no dysplastic dogs in the past ten years.
Each pup is evaluated for coat and conformation when it participates in a BWPGCA field test. We assess teeth, bite, gait, size and structure. We also assess temperament—not only gun sensitivity but general disposition, friendliness with people and behavior toward other dogs. We request that each owner regularly complete a health survey so that we can monitor for hereditary disorders.
The BWPGCA breeding committee works to incorporate advances in breeding technology, canine nutrition and puppy development into our program. We provide an annual seminar related to breeding at hunting dog evaluation to our judges and membership.
For the prospective owner who is seeking a great hunting dog and a fine companion for the home, our breeding program offers assurance that the very best practices have been followed to produce a versatile gun dog with the capability to perform on game in the field and be a cooperative companion in the home and community. The E&R Foundation seeks to refine this breeding model, not only for the Cesky Fousek breed, but to demonstrate a breed management strategy that can work for other bsmall=population breeds as well.