What to Expect from a WC GSP
The search for perfection…or not?
Perfection may be arbitrary and unattainable. Over the years we have washed out a lot of great dogs because they weren’t perfect and they didn’t have everything we defined as “perfect.” Some of those dogs we’d like to have back, but we moved them out for one flaw or another. The dog world has people who focus on the negative side of things, seeing flaws in each dog. We have fostered our own negative judgement in the past, without realizing it, but it becomes hard to live with an animal and continue to pick him apart.
Some of our best dogs have flaws, and we breed them to dogs that do not have that flaw. Over time we’ve started looking at dogs from the overall picture to evaluate them. Our foremost concern is getting the job done and finding birds. Our dogs are working dogs and need to find birds in all conditions. They need to retrieve and do it well. Our hunts at Greystone in Texas are a great opportunity to evaluate our breeding animals. We shoot a lot of birds while hunting and you can’t get the job done with mediocre dogs. We are very fortunate to guide at Greystone each year and we need to make sure our dogs perform.
Looking for Big Noses for Scenting
Willow Creek started guiding at Greystone Castle in Mingus, Texas in 2010. Our dogs did well in Texas, but the weather is tough, hot and dry. Imagine 85 degrees, a 30 mile an hour wind and dryness due to no rain for three months. Those are some tough hunting conditions! More ideal hunting conditions include warming temperatures and high in moisture. When temps are cooling scent is pushed down on the ground. When it warms, water is evaporating and carrying scent particles with it.The drier something is, the harder it is to smell anything on it. There’s also Kline grass in Texas, which swallows up the birds’ scent. It takes a big nose and a lot of retrieving desire to be successful. Honker is Chad’s number one pick dog and he runs Honker on hot, full days. When Honker goes out to retrieve, he has a versatile design that can track and smell and dig a bird out of that stuff. This ability is something we see more in German dogs and NAVDHA dogs. But, the NAVDHA dogs don’t seem to be as heat tolerant so we are bringing in some more heat tolerant dogs, utilizing some field trial lines.
Why do we want a high head?
Dogs have different types of noses and each breed smells differently. Tracking noses can smell on the ground amazingly well, like bloodhounds. GSPs were originally crossed with a bloodhound and a Spanish pointer. Hunters wanted a dog that could track hogs, deer and small game. In Germany, it is illegal to hunt deer unless you have a dog lined up to track the scent. They don’t want to lose animals without recovery. In most U.S. states it is illegal to use a dog hunting deer.
A dog that runs with a high head is air scenting. If a dog has a big nose and can smell good they will usually keep their head up. A beagle will have its head up when it’s there’s good scent and will have its head down when its poor scenting conditions so they can find any scent particle. English pointers have a fine nose and have been tested as the best nose in the business. If you watch a pointer they run with their head up and they drink in the scent. They can pick up small amounts of scent 100 yards off and track it. A lot of our dogs will track a bird through the air and will be able to track a flown bird and bring the hunter to the bird.
Why do we want a high tail?
If you look at any field English pointer they almost all have 12 o’clock tails. If you had two dogs in the same race or test and one had a 12 o’clock tail and the other had a 10 o’clock tail, the 12 o’clock would win with more style. There are plenty of shorthairs with 12 o’clock tails and we tend to prefer that look so we select breeding animals with higher tails.
What are we looking for in a dog’s conformation?
We don’t have a strong opinion on conformation, but we look to the AKC breed standard for most of our practices. Within GSP clubs there is a lot of controversy about how the shorthair should be put together. Field trial dogs don’t focus on following the guidelines for the AKC as much because they are looking more for ability. They look for a dog that can run with a lot of stamina and one that has fluid movement (maximizes efficiency). Field trial dogs have to run hard, long and big. Some of these dogs will “float,” because you can’t really see their feet touch the ground, and they look effortless when doing so. When everything is moving in unison the animal has been bred for generations for stamina and running for longer periods of time. We’ve bred to some field trial dogs to get more stamina in our hunting.
There are some dual type of dogs, which are field dogs and show dogs. You can’t really win an AKC show with a field dog, according to the breed standard, but these dogs are specialized to be bird machines. If you take show dogs that were bred only for conformation and you go to a field trial with them they will likely not do well. They will get tired faster because they weren’t designed for stamina. GSPs bred for conformation are typically bigger, have heavier bone, bigger heads and “hound-ier” heads.
We want our dogs to have a well-rounded conformational background with sound structure, but also built to hunt for long periods. Flaws in conformation are selected out of the breeding program.
What is your puppy doing before they get to you?
Week 1: Your puppy is eating, sleeping, pooping, and exposed to human social interaction. We pick them up, hold them, put them in our jackets and shirts, giving them plenty of skin-to-skin contact. Their eyes are closed, tails are docked and dew claws removed. We start “Super Dog Training,” which is used in military dogs and helps develop the senses and improve cardiac health. This is performed on days 3-16.
Week 2: The puppies eyes are open around days 10 – 14. They start moving around and have more social interaction. They eat, sleep and poo a lot. We continue to perform Super Dog training with each puppy.
Week 3: The puppies start climbing out of the box, looking for environmental enrichment. We give them more and more human contact and stimulate their sensory growth.
Week 4: The puppies are moving around pretty good. We start clicker training and make loud noises before feeding them. They come into the house with us and we take them in different buildings.
Week 5: We continue retriever and clicker training and increase socialization. The puppies are given moistened kibble with a higher protein puppy formula and are allowed to self-feed. The dam is periodically removed based on how well the puppy has been eating dry food. Puppies should have milk as long as possible for proper nutrients and proper development. Similar to humans, mothers milk is always best, as long as she will provide it for them.
Week 6: We continue to monitor the puppies’ nutrition. The puppies are not seeing their dam as much and we continue human interaction. We start seeing a pecking order and the dominant and submissive nature of dogs become more apparent. Most puppies are somewhere in the middle (not too dominant and not too submissive). Puppies may wake 1 – 2 times per night for potty and eating. We start identifying personality traits that make each puppy unique. Puppies are vaccinated with their first dose of DHPP and Parvo.
Week 7: We continue to monitor nutrition and offer lots of socialization. Clicker training is more serious and we do retrieving play with various objects. All experiences and environmental enrichment are important. The puppies are mostly off of the dam’s milk, but we experiment with leaving pups on the milk longer to foster natural healthy growth and development.
Week 8: Basically a continuation of week 7. This is when puppies are available to leave for their new home.
What do you do when your puppy is ready for pick up?
- Puppies have already been reserved by making a $100 deposit
- Puppy Pick Out Day – Many people bring their family to pick up its newest member
- The puppies get to start their bond in an environment where they are comfortable
- Typically there is discussion and demonstration consisting of basic obedience training (clicker training, sit, here, kennel, whoa), retriever training, and potty training. Sometimes it is difficult to keep the puppy’s concentration during pick out day so we also encourage new owners to view our training videos to help them get started.
- On pickup you will get the puppy, vaccination records and pedigree
- There is a 24 month health guarantee on hips, eyes, elbows, cardiac
- We are always just a text, email or phone call away if you have any questions. We are a support group
How do you transition your puppy from the kennel to your home?
Puppies are like infants. For the first few nights you can’t leave them unattended and they need constant supervision. You should puppy proof your house by putting away items and closing doors and blocking areas where the puppy shouldn’t go. You can also buy mousetraps and set them over cords or by the garbage can to deter the puppy from those areas. The puppy may whine at night because they don’t want to be alone. You will need to find a solution that works for your pup and build on it. Find a location where the dog succeeds (if the location is in your bed with you, that’s okay). Eventually you can transition the puppy to any room by taking small steps to their final location. Putting the puppy somewhere like the garage where it will be alone will mentally stress them out.
Puppies are highly susceptible to disease. Keep them out of areas where there are other dogs and keep them in clean areas. Don’t take your puppy to petsmart until they have had their 3rd set of vaccinations.
When the puppy is weaned he isn’t getting antibodies from his dam any more. He might get sick right away, usually with intestinal issues. Some diseases that your puppy could get easily are coxi, giardia, other protozoa, parasites, roundworms. If your puppy has blood or mucous in their stool chances are they have giardia. This disease is huge in hunting dogs and is often found in many ponds, lakes or even puddles.
At 10-12 weeks we suggest you feed a diet with less protein than the puppy formulas. Large breed dogs shouldn’t grow too fast and a diet that is too high in protein can cause joint health issues. Don’t exercise them too intensely.
- DHPP, Parvo, 6 wks, 9 wks, 12 wks
- Bordatella is done at 9 weeks
- Rabies done at 16 weeks