Our Breeding Philosophy
We have bred to the most complete hunting lines we could find for 30 years.
The genetics that continually produce sound, great hunters move forward.
We look 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.
That being said, we also breed our animals to make great family companions. We look for calm, affectionate personalities, making it easy for them to fit right in with a family “pack” that may include small children. We place a lot of our dogs with active families that love the outdoors. Just like any other dog, but especially true for dogs with high prey drive, our dogs do well with strong, consistent pack leadership obedience.
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 or even further. 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.
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 role does environment and experience play in developing a family pet?
Willow Creek breeds dogs that can get the job done in the field as well as fit in with the family when they are not hunting. With that said, the traits that most families look for in a dog need to be developed by each family member. A puppy will not know that they aren’t supposed to bite your pants or jump on the kids unless you show them pack leadership and teach them right from wrong. A family with children should practice consistent discipline and obedience to ensure the calm house dog manners are developed.