Tuesday night, a gorgeous and flawless GSP named GCH VJK-Myst Garbonita’s California Journey “CJ” won Westminster, the nation’s most watched and notorious dog show. Past history has often shown a spike in popularity of the winning breed following Westminster, as has often happened with certain movies, such as 101 Dalmatians. Not every movie or every Westminster win, but it’s a real possibility. What typically comes with this spike is a correlating increase in rescues because people have not done their research and can’t handle the dog that is not what they envisioned off of the small sliver they’ve seen in the winning dog or a fictional dog character in a movie. As an experienced GSP owner, the win by CJ is cause for some concern because these wonderful, incredibly athletic and active dogs are certainly not for everyone. Here’s my realistic perspective on a breed that has my heart forever.
The pros are many! First, these dogs are BEAUTIFUL. They are my ideal. I don’t want to hunt behind or look at something that I don’t love every day, and I never tire of looking at these guys. I love a sleek, short coated, athletic, chiseled dog, and GSP’s are that to a tee. Their movement is poetry to watch, and seeing a dog go from a full ground eating gallop slammed into an intense, statuesque point can induce goosebumps. Their lovely chiseled heads are art, and touching their velvety ears relaxes both human and dogs alike. And the variety of colors—from solid to roan to light ticking and in liver or black—we all have our own preferences but there is a whole rainbow to choose from.
These dogs are also very smart. They might act like dopey derps and dorks but they really are intelligent. They tend to be silly and goofy which is where the derp and dork side comes through but I find it endearing and often entertaining. Personality abounds in this breed. I don’t find that they have the conniving intelligence that I have experienced with Weims, which in my opinion makes them more trainable. They are incredibly biddable dogs and when worked with properly, can shine in just about any sport.
Happiest when working, and with their biddable personalities, versatility of these dogs is another pro. They are not only the quintessential versatile hunting dog, the breed that dominates in NAVHDA, but versatile across the board. They excel in just about everything they try—from hunting venues to agility to dock jumping. Mine have personally done well in everything I have asked of them beyond hunting: conformation, frisbee, weight pull, skijoring, and dock jumping. Which ties into another pro that helps them be so successful at everything—athleticism. A finely bred GSP is as well oiled a machine as a Thoroughbred horse. HEART is another contributing factor to their success, and another big pro. I have found in all of my GSP’s that they not only have such heart in trying everything 100%, but it also makes them very adept at reading their humans and offering emotional support when you need it.
Most of the pros can also be considered cons. Yes, they are beautiful dogs which is what might attract potential owners who are only drawn in by looks and disregard all other factors. Many of us experienced GSP owners are concerned that people will be sucked in by first the gorgeous looks of the adults and then the puppies—beyond irresistible.
Their intelligence and drive could most definitely be a con for an unprepared pet owner or inexperienced dog owner. A GSP not engaged or stimulated enough is a GSP that will become frustrated, destructive, and unhappy. They will find their own activities to engage in, and an owner in over their head might not be able to handle a dog that gets to that point. These are working dogs that need a job to do on a regular basis.
The biggest con to potential new owners is this breed’s energy level. It’s pretty extreme, and one of the highest amongst all dog breeds. Most of these dogs, particularly those with any working dogs in their pedigrees, are not going to be satisfied with a casual stroll around the block. They need to RUN. And run. And run. And run! For example, I took my 20 month old GSP for a 4 mile skijor run the other day, where he was not just running but in a harness actually pulling me on skis for 4 miles. I then took him for a 30 minute hike where he was loose and ran the entire time. When we got home he wanted to play fetch—he was not done. While my older GSP finally has a nice off switch at 7 years old, some GSP’s are basically impossible to wear out. I’m a runner and I take mine running with me—where I will be exhausted at the end of a 5 mile run, it’s just a warm up for the GSP’s. I’m a crazy dog lady who is a glutton for punishment and actually want a high energy dog, but it’s even too much for me at times. I consider myself an amateur trainer and I’m super active with my dogs—I cannot imagine my younger GSP in the hands of an inexperienced new owner. He would likely end up at a shelter. My parents are dog people but they think my young GSP is insane and are glad they don’t have one.
People became very concerned about pet owners wanting Belgian Malinois after the movie Max last spring. While people might want them, as is the case here with GSP’s, I would hope that breeders are the guardians that they should be of these breeds and not just sell them to anyone who wants one. Just as potential buyers need to do their research when looking to buy a purebred dog, so too must the breeders on their puppy buyers.There are always bad breeders out there, but unless there is a huge incredible spike in popularity and demand, there will not be an instant rise in unscrupulous breeders out to make a buck. Any decent breeder will vet out their buyers and do their best to ensure their puppies they have put their heart and soul into creating end up in good hands.
I absolutely adore GSP’s, and will always have one in my life. I love helping new GSP owners and getting people involved in the breed. All I ask is that potential owners do their research, meet some real life GSP’s, and learn all they can before they take the plunge and get hooked for life!