The GSA Irish Sieger Show
The Motivation - The Method - The Plan

by  Bobby Behan

Sieger - Champion, a term defined in the Oxford dictionary as “a person or animal who has defeated all others in competition – to be the best”. This was the mission – to put in place the procedures and circumstances which would ensure “our” Sieger would in fact, be the “best”.

So before we examine the methodology we need first to examine the motivation. Why bother – was it important- and was there not already a method in place of determining who was in fact, the best?

GSA Ireland is a breed specialist German Shepherd organisation. We have no expertise and no opinion on any matter pertaining to any other breed. Our function and rationale for existence, the determination which drove us to become a fully affiliated WUSV organisation can be defined under the following headings.

  • Promotion of the correct German Shepherd dog as defined by the Internationally accepted WUSV breed standard.

  • Provision of opportunities and facilities for our members consistent with best practice worldwide.

  • Representation of the views and opinions of or members consistent with the mandate bestowed upon us.

GSA are of the view that the IKC system does little or nothing to achieve the realisation of these objectives. We had in fact witnessed the decline in our breed. We can accept and accredit the numerical decline to many of the reasons consistent with the decline of almost all outdoor activities. Lack of interest by the younger generation in outdoor pursuits, numerous alternatives with regard to leisure activities and financial difficulties brought about by escalating travel expense.

However the rapid decline in quality cannot be as easily explained away – there is no depth of quality yet the registration numbers areas high as ever. Our mission – our responsibility – must be to at least try to put this right.

In all sports as in most walks of life where excellence is the goal, it is competition that raises the standards. This competition must make demands, it must challenge and it must stretch us – otherwise there will be no improvement.

As a breed organisation charged with the responsibilities mentioned above we could not ignore this stagnation and decline.

 We had attempted to rectify matters within the system on offer but this was to no avail. Yes a system existed –and  we could take it or leave it, it mattered little that this system had nothing to do with what we wanted to achieve and even less that what we were asking was at least worthy of consideration – worthy of the courtesy of a reply – let alone a logical and reasoned reply. It was assumed that there was no alternative – not so.

So in order to comply with the commitments and obligations we had as a breed specialist organisation it was necessary to instigate a procedure ourselves – determine for ourselves who would be our Champion, our Sieger, who was in fact “the best”, or more correctly, the best in this phase of examination.

A very good model already existed. Annually we visit and are impressed by the Sieger show in Germany. We witness the depth of quality on show, the obvious consistency in type on show. We accept that the system, regardless of the flaws and negativity of the knockers (who offer no better alternative), is in fact the best system available to determine who will be Sieger.

Our philosophy of not reinventing the wheel, not fixing what is not broken, dictated the course of our plan.

Obviously our model had some dimensions that we were not yet ready for and so we needed to decide our priorities and be clear that this was a process that would develop as it progressed. Any projections could and would be adjusted as necessary – any new failing that came to light would be amended.

The simple things were by definition, easy.

Age Classes: We would have age classes. Puppy, youth, young and adult classes. Although the German Sieger show did not schedule puppy classes we felt there was value in this for us and for the exhibitors.

Winners are winners:  New to us was to be the very important concept of class winners being winners. Each would go home undefeated, each with a title to value. If there is a logical counter argument against this decision, a logical reasoned argument in favour of the kennel club system of a free for all, we have not yet heard it. How this process of “winner takes all” progresses or assists our breed we fail to see, particularly if the taker does not have or cannot have the requirements that any responsible breeder demands from his/her breeding stock. Did we not just recently see a classic example as to the wrong and nonsense this system can impose? Each age class is at it’s own particular stage of development and each sex has its value to offer breed progress in it’s own right. We are of the opinion that only the adult, the finished product, healthy and trainable, with good character is worthy of the title Champion – our system ensures this will be the case.

I.D & DNA:  It was also necessary and required that all exhibits were positively identifiable. If we were in the business of promoting breeding stock then it goes without saying that we must be sure that each exhibit is exactly who it is claimed it is and that the resulting progeny have similar undisputable credibility. Initially we did not demand positive ID in the puppy class, but at this stage it is now a requirement – there is no valid reason for it not to be.

Without the compulsory addition of DNA testing we know and accept that there is still a gap in the I.D requirement, but this gap will be filled. We at least now have on record and tagged to every animal exhibited a positive I.D. number, this is for ever, there is no way to change it. We opted for microchip and tattoo. We believe that microchip is the preferred method. It is less stressful for the animal, easy to read and likely to be a demand for domestic animal ID in the EU in the future. We have no difficulty with tattoo, providing it is on a registered system and it is clear and legible. Compulsory DNA will be required in the near future.

Health: Our next demand was that in order to receive the V (excellent) grade all adults must have a hip score that was acceptable from a breeding point of view. We agreed on a total of 25 with a maximum of 15 on one side. Bearing in mind that in order to achieve a V and make a high place, the animal must have many attributes that are considered excellent, this score is perfectly acceptable- we are breeding German Shepherds not hips. We may reduce this score in the future and as we have begun the process of introducing a hip grade system and a breed worth valuation procedure, change in some form in the future is almost inevitable. We have found that adults with a score in excess of this requirement do not enter our show – we believe this in itself is a worthwhile QC check.

We had initially planned to include haemophilia testing as a requirement for excellent grades. However when we examined the facts and looked at other systems in other countries it became clear to us that although this is a most serious health failing, the number of instances of it did not justify it’s mandatory inclusion. Further, the lines that are currently considered high risk are well known and well documented. We will continue to monitor this and keep an open mind – we will as always listen to any reasoned argument or expert opinion and we will list dogs tested in our catalogue if the owners wish it to be so, provided they include the necessary supporting documentation.

As we develop we may also introduce an elbow and spine health requirement – this will of course be easier to regulate once we have established our hip-grading programme.  The possibilities are almost limitless and whatever it takes to ensure we are promoting healthy working stock – will be demanded.

Pedigree Presentation: This year we progressed to the presentation of the pedigree of the exhibits to the judge. It was just the introduction of the process and little or no cogence of the breeding was taken by our judge is his decisions. This will change as we progress. Pedigree is a cornerstone of purebred breeding stock – it is a vital consideration. We are hosting a breed show – not a conformation show. Of course there will be dissent on this issue. It will and has been argued that dogs of Irish or British breeding lines will not get due consideration when compared to German or Continental stock. We ask you to consider carefully your case. We ask you to consider that given the chance to judge our Sieger show, our working dog show, that you, assuming you have two structurally equal animals would seriously consider putting a dog with no working qualifications (and possibly his immediate ancestors also) in front of a dog who has generations of proven working stock behind him. That you would seriously consider promoting a dog from a system with no established breeding lines, no health requirement, no breed survey. Is there breed progress in this argument – we think not?   It is only when Irish and British bred dogs present the same credentials that this argument can be examined with any real credibility. We are giving the breeders a chance to prove themselves – we are giving them a level playing field. We will have pedigrees, backed up by positive I.D, health requirements we can stand over, working qualifications, breed surveyed stock and promotion of the lines that produce the best – anatomically, and every other way. Given time, there will be no question of international preference, there will be international excellence, regardless of nationality and these will be the dogs that will be promoted. The “poor us” argument assumes we have no way forward and assumes our breed future lies in the hands of visitors who know nothing of our particular breeding – it is our function to put this right.

We are proud of this single development and are grateful to those who supported it. There was however a glaring failing that came to light. The quality of the paperwork presented fell well short of what can be accepted in the future. We must standardise. The documentation must include, in a consistent manner, all the information relevant to the dog presented It must include his/her pedigree, DNA record number, hip score, ID and working qualification. GSA has excellent documentation to fulfil this requirement and the process’s and procedures to update these as required. This is the next step and it will be a requirement to have, and to present our paperwork or the International equivalent at the next show. The cost of this will be minimal and will be included in the entry fee.

Gun Testing: required in all but the puppy classes. Basic valuable and necessary.

Working Qualifications: We would hope it goes without saying that in order to promote a working breed it is essential to test his/her workability. We have not yet definitively decided the long-term plan in this regard. We are certain that a minimum BH or equivalent will be required to make a V qualification. It was hoped to have this in place for 2004 but the paperwork problem needs to be addressed and this is the immediate priority. It has been made clear for some time now that a BH will be necessary so there is plenty of time available to go get one. This is a basic trainability/character test. Every German Shepherd that is considered for breeding should have one, this is our view – this will be our requirement.

 In the long term, a Schutzhund/IPO title may be required – currently we see no valid reason why not. We do not accept the argument that we are less capable than our continental neighbours. We do not, simply because, we do not have to. We have heard some amazing arguments as to why a Schutzhund Title should not be required, ranging from it makes the dogs dangerous to we just don’t have the time – none stand up to any serious examination.

We are not in a rush to disadvantage anyone – we would like everyone on board – but they must share in our ideal – the promotion of a healthy trainable working dog. No one will be forced into anything – what we have on offer is there for the taking by anyone who wants it. No compulsion – choice.

Our next objective will be the introduction of a breed survey requirement. This will be a breed survey – not a breed show without the placings. All essential criteria will be examined, documented and classified. This information will then be part of the V requirement for our show. Only survey systems in line with our own will be acceptable.

Progeny Groups: This development is a natural progression and will be in place for 2005. It will or should alleviate some of the concerns regarding the pedigree presentation argument. Who is producing what will be there for all to see. It will be judged and will be part of the decision-making process with regard to the high and Sieger placements. Only dogs producing structurally sound stock, good health and trainable progeny will be promoted. When this has been established we can than introduce the VA/Excellent Select grade to our event.

It is hoped and envisaged that breeders will use these dogs and establish our own desirable and beneficial lines.

Irish Judges: GSA does not believe we are disadvantaged simply by virtue of our birthplace. We do not believe that some mysterious talent or ability is bestowed upon one nation. Judging German Shepherd dogs is a practical skill based on acquired knowledge, experience and a willingness to learn. The best of us are well capable of judging our own and anyone else’s dogs with the same skill and ability as anyone from anywhere. We have introduced an approved judging list and when the time is right we will nominate those on it for Sieger show appointments. Of course it is right and fitting that we should invite top SV judges. It is important that we establish credibility and that we take the guidance that has been offered by those who have been at it the longest.

Our criteria for judge selection must only be dictated by the ability of the individual to contribute positively to the stated aim. In order for our own judges to gain the necessary experience we have introduced a system of grading events that will be judged by Irish judges selected from our list. This experience coupled with training programmes should ensure we have a positive input into the future determination of our breed.

This is the blueprint, the plan. This show in addition to and dovetailed with our other systems will ensure that our dogs can be evaluated with credibility. It will ensure that breeders and prospective purchasers are getting what they are entitled to- choice.

We believe that anything less from a breed organisation, which purports to promote a working breed, is a failure and is short changing its membership.