Showsight Presents The Brussels Griffon

Brussels Gri ff on Q& A

Anne Catterson continued

Although the breed is a tremendously hard-working dog with great power and stamina, they’re highly valued as a companion. What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? I think that this would be better answered by our Wirehaired Point- ing Griffon friend Karen Spies; our Griffs are rugrats. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? They are great lap dogs, and when they have a companion will enter- tain themselves (most folks who have one of our Griffs have at least one other). Are there any misconceptions about the breed I’d like to dispel? I’m going to pass on this one, but I will note that they can be hard to housebreak. What special challenges do Brussels Griffon breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Look at the cost of getting a litter of three (our average litter size) to an age where they can leave home (12 weeks by our Code of Ethics). It easily tops $5,000. Few buyers are in the market at the point where cost recovery is possible. From the show side, there are large regions where majors just are not available, so extended travel is needed if you want to finish Champions. At what age doI start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Some stand out from the time they are whelped. Others will get into the ring, even get points, before washing out (though that’s usually attitude, not conformation). Eight weeks is a good age to evaluate; six months is not (many go through what we call a “spider monkey” phase where they are all legs and little body—not a good look when the Standard calls for “thickset”). They are usually not fully them- selves until they are three. There are many choices equally valid under the Standard: rough, smooth, red, belge, black and tan, black. Do I have a prefer- ence? Since we bred and finished the first Black Smooth Champion (a multiple Group winner at that), that combination is very close to our hearts. Still, most of our Specials have been Rough. We’ve tried really hard to get Black and Tan, but to date have produced only one Champion in each coat type. Our current Specials are a Belge Rough dog and a Red Smooth bitch. As a judge, neither coat nor any color has any preference. As I once said in response to a similar question at a forum held by the Griffon Bruxellois Breeders Association (UK), that’s just the frosting. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Attitude is type. A Griffon with a tail not carried up is not correct. A thickset body is important (it’s a sig- nificant differentiation from the Affenpinscher), as is parallel move- ment coming and going (narrow fronts and rears are a bit of a drag on the breed. Look for a large nose, with wide-open nostrils (small and pinched is another drag). Then consider that the head is large in proportion to the body (yet another drag), though their heads often continue improving through their third year. The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? These are quite separate questions. Griffs are not a breed for new- comers to the sport (too hard to obtain a good one unless you have some serious show experience, too few to compete against). There is one group for which having Griffs as a first breed makes sense— those who were raised with the breed, like ABGA’s current Trea- surer, Heather Stants, who is a third-generation breeder. As to the second part, get them involved in the other AKC titling activities (Agility, Rally, Obedience, Scent Work, Fast-CAT, even Dock Diving), get to know them, get them to know our dogs, wait for them to want another dog, then offer them one which can compete successfully. My ultimate goal for the breed? Without putting too fine a point on it, the breed’s survival.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I take a good look at eight weeks, at conformation but also attitude. By 12 weeks, which is when pups can go to a new home, I have an idea. If I’m undecided, they stay a few more months. There are many choices equally valid under the Standard: rough, smooth, red, belge, black and tan, black. Do I have a pref- erence? Not really. I think we all like to have a nice black and tan at least once, just because it is the most recessive gene and hard to come by—especially a good one, but I don’t actually prefer it over the other colors. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? It is a “thumb breed”. Mouths are examined by rubbing the thumb across the lower lip and jaw to determine if they are undershot as desired. However, if there is any concern about the mouth or bite, they certainly can explore further, pref- erable by having the handler show the bite. And concerning that lower jaw, it should be wide with a big, fat protruding lower lip. The pout is a hallmark of the breed. Judges question what to do when presented with a Brussels Griffon with a natural tail, since our standard say “....the tail is docked....”. There are three choices: judge the dog on it’s merit con- sidering that the tail does not meet the standard (a fault), put the dog at the end of the line, or excuse it for lack of merit. The best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? Within the breed we can encourage our children and grandchil- dren to carry on. At my all-breed club we have events that focus on children, including no entry fee for Jr Showmanship, Pee-Wee, and a children’s art contest focusing on dogs. This year the theme was “Work Dogs Do.” While these are not specific to Brussels Griffons, they do encourage kids into the sport. My ultimate goal for the breed? I have no ultimate goal, as there will never be a perfect dog. We can only strive, through health test- ing and carefully planned breedings to improve with every litter. As more DNA information becomes available the potential for doing away with genetic issues increases. My favorite dog show memory? I have two: winning BOB at our Roving National Specialty with my first Griff, JoJo, and judging the ABGA National Specialty in Louisville. I’d also like to share about the breed that they need to be social- ized early and often. Breeders need to make a concerted effort to expose them to as many different situations as possible. MARK & KARIN JAEGER Starting with Miniature Schnauzers in 1974, Mark has shown English Cockers, Cairn Terriers, Pugs, Brussels Griffons, and English Toy Spaniels. With the late Terry Smith, he bred the first modern black smooth Brussels Griffon champion, Ch Wisselwood Karma Disk Jockey, in 1989. He is currently President of the Ing- ham County Kennel Club in Lansing, Michigan and AKC Del- egate from the American Brussels Griffon Association. We’re located in Mid-Michigan, where we are Life Members of the Ingham County Kennel Club. Karin is Secretary and Mark is President there. Karin is an Independent Insurance Agent; Mark is Web Admin- istrator for the Michigan Department of Treasury, and teaches computer programming and information system security at Baker College. Do we hope the breed’s popularity will change or are we com- fortable with their placement? Ranking is not as important as the decline in litter registrations. Except for a slight upward blip in 2017, the breed has been on a steady decline since 2008. Sev- eral prominent breeders have retired from the whelping box, which increases the concern.

308 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2020

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