Whiskeytown Brandewyn is the latest of a trinity of dogs from Shingle Springs breeders, Kristi and Graham Rogney, to take Best of Breed at the prestigious Westminster Dog Show in New York.
Brandy, a 3 1/2 year old wire-haired pointing griffon follows her mother, Boo, the 2012 Best of Breed winner, and Higgins, the 2013 Best of Breed winner.
At the Rogney home, Boo and Brandy are enthusiastic greeters who happily absorb attention and affection. Higgins is out on the show ring road. Four griffons, Boo,6; Brandy, 3 1/2; Higgins, 5; Gigi, 4; and one enormous English mastiff, Arthur, 8, live with the Rogneys in their home. They also co-own other griffons.
Griffons are part of the Sporting Class at the Westminster. They were bred to hunt and are adept as hunters, pointers and retrievers both in the field and in water. They make good family dogs and work closely and cooperatively with their human companions. Their long, wavy coats don’t shed very much and are double layered — a soft, dense undercoat and a wiry coat on top.
Whiskeytown Kennels has been breeding griffons for seven years, starting because the Rogneys both love to hunt.
“My husband is a duck hunter and I grew up with upland hunting with English setters, so we looked for a dog that could do both,” said Kristi.
They found Boo, the first in a line-up of beautiful griffons.
“We had no plans to show her, just to hunt with her,” said Kristi. ” I took her to a hunt club in Lincoln and someone said she was really pretty and we should show her. Then I found out that dog shows are really fun and in some great places like Carmel. We’ve met a great group of people and we have a lot of fun together.”
It was at a dog show in Carmel that a photographer suggested taking Boo to Westminster.
“Two years later, there we were and Boo made the final cut for the Sporting Dog group. Boo owns the ring. She’s got tons of attitude and thinks she’s the queen bee,” said Kristi. “Brandy is actually easier to show and always has the ‘head and tail up’ attitude.”
Whiskeytown’s griffons are both show dogs and hunting dogs. It’s become a tradition for the dogs to go pheasant hunting the weekend before the Westminster.
“They love to hunt and after the Westminster, they are showing almost every week until the end of the year,” said Kristi.
The dogs alternate between hunting and showing. This year, Brandy and Higgins are showing, but Gigi is training for an intensive utility test and Boo will have her final litter later in the year.
“We hunt with each of them,” said Kristi. “In fact, I want them to have their Senior Hunter title before showing them.”
In the show ring, the Rogneys use Amy Rutherford to handle their dogs.
“We had no idea how to go about showing, so we asked our breeder and they recommended Amy. She’s one of the top all breed handlers in the country and she lives in Elverta which is nice because it’s close,” said Kristi. “I like going to dog shows and I run the dogs in field tests but I don’t want to do the showing.”
Puppies and training
Whiskeytown Kennel puppies are in high demand all over the nation and the Rogneys are Breeders of Merit.
“About 70 percent of our puppies go out of state but the demand for them in California is increasing,” said Rogney.
Puppies are raised in the Rogney home and in the homes of puppy families who work with the Rogneys.
“We don’t raise them out in a garage,” said Kristi. ” It’s important that they have plenty of contact with people and we provide a lot of support to our puppy families.”
The sale of the puppies helps to off-set the cost of the show ring which includes entry fees, travel costs and advertising.
“All of the money from our puppies goes back into the kennel, along with some of my own money,” said Kristi. “My husband says it’s expensive but I joke that it’s cheaper than sending children to college.”
Choosing which puppies to show starts at the beginning. At about four weeks of age, the puppies are put on a grooming table and photographed.
“We look for good conformation to breed standards and I post the pictures on Facebook to get feedback from my fellow breeders,” said Kristi.
At 8 weeks of age, the puppies are given a final evaluation which includes 11 different tests such as a temperament test and a hunt ability test.
“We start hunt training them after they’ve had all their shots, at about 12-weeks old, on birds,” said Kristi. “At first it’s just letting them have fun and then we start teaching them to study the birds, follow them on the wing, point, stand still while someone is shooting and retrieve.”
At 10 to 16 months, the dogs are already taking field tests to become Senior Hunters.
A beautifully carved chest with engravings of Boo, Brandy, Higgins, Gigi and Carly — a co-owned griffon — holds the plunder of ribbons and awards the champion dogs have brought home. Magazines with photographs of Whiskeytown griffons at the Westminster, Eukanuba and other important dog shows are in a basket in the Rogney living room.
All the dogs are nationally top ranked AKC dogs, have won Best of Breed at Westminster Kennel Club and the Eukanuba National Championships, and multiple awards at the National Specialty including Best of Opposite, First Award of Merits and Select Dog/Bitch. They are Sporting Group Winners as well. Boo and Gigi are also mothers of championship dogs.
Not just pretty faces and high quality dogs, the griffons are good companions and they want to be with their humans. After Boo and Brandy are ejected outdoors for being overly friendly, they peer into the house for a few seconds and then, together, they open the door and let themselves back in.
Kristi shrugs. “All of my girls can open doors.”
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.