Choosing Your Pup


People ask me "Why pick a Griffon?" Obviously, be forewarned that my answers will be favorable to the breed I have chosen. But let me explain WHY in ways I have not done elsewhere.

For the sake of clarity, let me use resources already addressing the question, and then share why I see Griffs as I do. There is a book, The Perfect Match, a Dog Buyer's Guide written by Chris Walkowicz, that describes the different types of dogs (sporting, hounds, working breeds, terriers, toys, non-sporting, herding and other, rare breeds) much as they are grouped by AKC. Her depiction of each breed gives a good checklist for prospective buyers to sort among many breeds to find the perfect dog. I have encapsulated her information, and included much of my own research elsewhere, as well. (while she made no preferential comments about which breed to choose, my extraction of the information provided lends credence to my argument, as I see it)

It is probably obvious why hunters of all kinds would choose a sporting dog. But nearly half my buyers do not hunt. And they choose Griffs because they have some of the most likeable characteristics of any dog breed. They are smart, relaxed at home, energetic, but not crazy while out and about, they travel well and they blend with families, people and other animals almost seamlessly.

And among the Sporting Dog group, they stand out, I believe, and as I have extracted from the information Ms Walkowicz provided, for the following reasons:

1) Size: They are medium sized. Most griffs are between 45 and 70 pounds, with males averaging about two inches taller and perhaps 10 or 15 pounds heavier (sexual dimorphism, the Veterinarian would call it). While most of the sporting dogs are medium sized, the Setters, some Retrievers and the Pointers tend to be bigger and the German Shorthairs and Wirehairs are similar to Griffs but are usually a couple inches taller. If you want a medium sized dog, Griffs fit the bill.

2) Energy: Griffs have a balanced energy. At home and inside they tend to relax, and outside they are much more exuberant, but still easily manageable. Setters, German Shorthairs and Wirehairs, Brittanies, Pointers, Chessies, Curly-Coateds, Setters, Vislas and Weimaraners are all high energy and spaniels tend to be that way until they mature. Of all the hunting breeds, the Griffs have a more balanced - Inside/Outside behavior than most other breeds, hunters or not. And it does not take years or tons of training to establish their settled approach to life.

3) Life Expectancy: I have personally known of Griffs that have lived well past 15. But according to Ms Walkowicz, and from other sources, Griff’s average life expectancy equals or exceeds all but perhaps the Shorthairs in the Sporting Dog group and nearly all dogs in other categories. Buying a dog is a long term commitment. Training one is another commitment. Why buy a dog that lives many fewer years, on average, than do other breeds?

4) Children and other animals: Griffs assimilate well into families with younger kids and other dogs. They tend to accept a natural pecking order and operate accordingly. I have placed pups with families that have three or more kids under 5 years of age, other dogs and farm animals, all to successful results (an occasional chicken takes a powder until the Griff is taught otherwise). While some breeders might not want to talk about it, those high energy breeds, and some of the spaniels, can be tough on kids and other dogs.

5) Shedding: Griffs really do not compare to poodles as a shed-free breed. But they do not really shed, either, and compared to virtually all the sporting dogs, Griffs shed less and take less grooming and care than virtually any of the other breeds.

6) Allergies: A companion discussion to shedding is allergies. As one who has severe cat allergies and who is reactive to some breeds of dogs, it is lovely to have animals at home that do not cause me to react. I have had numerous buyers test my dogs against their own allergic reactions, with almost universally positive results. One thing that may be missed is that the water retrievers, Chessies and Labs, have an oil on their hair which sheds water, but petting them can bring an allergic reaction.

7) Health Issues: All breeds have some incidence of medical issues. And any pup buyer wants to know about hips, eyes and general health of parents of any prospective pup. Griffs are among the lowest with hip and eye problems and have fewer listed likely defects than almost any breed, sporting or not.

Credit the WPG breeders, who have actively policed and conscientiously guarded this breed for the past half century.

Let me source you to: "Guide to Hereditary and Congenital Diseases in Dogs," by W. Jean Dodds DVM, which can be found at: http://www.dogbiz.com/dogbiz-genetic-disease-guide.html

And in that study, Griffs had three listed diseases, tied for the least of any Sporting Dog breed, and among the lowest for all purebred dogs. The diseases listed with Griffs are only: 1) Hip Dysplasia, 2) Narcolepsy (sleeping sickness) and 3) Otitis Externa (an infection of the external portion of the ear). Frankly, I have never heard of a WPG having either of the latter two afflictions.

Most responsible WPG breeders will tell you there is some incidence of hip dysplasia, as well as entropion, a few cases of diabetes, thyroid deficiency and occasional bite problems. All of these potentials are fairly predictable, most of the time, and are relatively rare occurrences. Ask your breeder prospect about them before buying.

There is another issue some WPG breeders would like to lump into the “health” area. It is a KB Ky color factor which is a recessive trait that, when present in BOTH parents, will likely show up as a tan color presentation with about 1/4th of the pups. This “tan” factor is not unlike the tan coloring on a rottweiler (tan eyebrows, chest, forelegs and under the tail), but it shows up on a WPG ONLY when both parents have the "tan" factor and only when both parents pass the recessive trait to the pup. To date, there have been NO associations of this recessive color factor with ANY known health issue. And don’t let breeders slander others with the claim that having KB Ky present is evidence of “out-crossing” with other breeds. There is simply NO evidence to that effect. If you ever plan to breed the pup you buy, ask about the “tan color factor.” If you do not plan to breed your pup in the future, unless the breeder is a twit who bred two recessive Ky carriers, there is no indication anywhere that you will have any health issues with the pup you will buy.

Trainable Nature: What I like as much as anything about Griffs is that you can easily teach them almost anything. They are smart, learn quickly, retain well and need little discipline. Conversely, if you are one of those heavy-handed oafs who thinks he must harshly discipline, yell and scream and carry on to teach a dog, leave the Griffs alone. They don’t like harsh treatment. If you are not capable of being smarter than the dog, a Griff will know that, and will respond to you accordingly. Beating up on the dog will not serve to train it, nor will it make you appear any smarter.

So, there you have my first installment on the “reasons” to buy a Griff. And if that does not persuade you, just take a look about this website. The pictures should win you over. And when you have one of these gentle, playful beasts, you’ll never go to back to any other breed......... I’m convinced of it.

Thanks for your interest!


Greg Curtis
PO Box 808
Choteau, MT 59422
(406) 466-2644
email: earmtngriffons@gmail.com