By Mike Worrall
Why open myself up to criticism? Why try to explain what I have witnessed, experienced and done in this sport in the last 23 years to people, who are obviously not interested in hearing any viewpoint other than their own. I am still unable to answer my own question but after careful consideration I believe I may have something positive to offer.
I think it is important at this stage to introduce myself. I have no titles except for Mister and to be honest that is very rarely used.
My name is Michael Worrall. I arrived in Belgium in the late seventies by way of Ireland and the UK. I went back to Ireland for 2 years but returned to Belgium and eventually started my own business there. I became involved in dog sport in 1979 and made my first visit to the Bundessieger in 1981.
I have personally trained 5 dogs to Schutzhund 3.
From these 5 dogs, one was bred and raised by me, one I bought as a 7 week puppy, two were bought as untitled 2 year olds and one I trained professionally for a third party.
All of my dogs were shown and breed surveyed (korung). I have competed in more than 150 Schutzhund 3 competitions and have achieved 100 points in tracking with 3 different dogs, 99 points in obedience with 3 different dogs and 99 and 100 points in Protection with 2 different dogs.
My wife is Fiona Anderson of Amulree Kennels so I think it is fair to say that I have an excellent view of the working capabilities of the show side of the German Shepherd Dog and the training thereof. Isobel also lives with us.
Now, where shall we start?
Perhaps the best place to start is by dispelling a few of the fallacies that surround the activity of Schutzhund.
One thing that should never be forgotten is the fact that “Schutzhund” did not originate as a sport. It was and is primarily a breed evaluation tool and became a sport as a consequence thereof. The fact that occasionally poor representatives of the breed receive a Schutzhund title does not detract from the original idea or reflect on the dogs who participate.
I have noticed that even the use of the word “Schutzhund” disturbs some people. Why this should be when we are working, training and showing a German breed of dog is incomprehensible for me but I suppose I can accept there is still a level of discomfort to anything German among the older generation. If this is the case then one easy way around this would be to just translate the name to its English equivalent. Lets say “protection dog or defence dog” this could be abbreviated to PD or DD. The Dutch and the Belgians did the same by changing it to VH ( Verdedigings Hond). As long as the program and the work is the same there would not be a problem. The SV could be notified that it is a simple translation. In Europe the FCI working dog program IPO or IWR is regarded and treated as the equivalent of “Schutzhund” and even has its own World Championships for all breed working dogs. It is also a recognised qualification for entry into the working dog classes at the SV Sieger Show.
From 2004 it looks as there is going to be a universal working dog program anyway under the name GHP. This program will be in use from 2003 in Europe in all competitions sanctioned by the FCI and it looks as thought the SV will follow in 2004. Hans Rudenauer the (former) Chief Schutzhund judge of the SV was in the working party that formulated the new program.
Next fallacy: timescales. I was recently asked if it was possible to train a dog that has had no previous training up to Schutzhund 1 in 6 weeks time. I can categorically say that this is IMPOSSIBLE.
Another fallacy is that training a dog in Schutzhund will turn a dog into “a loaded gun” with a “hair trigger”. A very very important fact to remember is that every dog regardless of breed can bite and use its teeth. A dog does not have to be trained how to bite because they all can. What you do in Schutzhund is add control and obedience. I can honestly say that in the 23 years I have been competing I have never seen or heard of an accident or a bite incident involving a trained Shutzhund dog. Schutzhund is not and never has been a method of training “attack dogs” as has been suggested.
As previously stated, it is important to remember here that Schutzhund is primarily a “breed evaluation” divided into 3 disciplines, tracking, obedience and protection. For the majority of people in Europe who buy a German Shepherd and step into Schutzhund they are doing so because they want to show or work with their dog within a system of breed control regulated by the various authorities. Again remember Schutzhund is just one part of this system, it is normal and expected for working dog enthusiasts to participate and essential if they are to have the dogs registered as suitable for breeding by the relevant organisations.
Regardless, a German Shepherd is a working dog and this is a fact. Whether it be agility, flyball, obedience, show, schutzhund or herding the fact that a German Shepherd is a working dog should never be forgotten. Quote from the founder of the breed : “Take this trouble for me : Make sure my shepherd dog remains a working dog, for I have struggled all my life long for that aim.” Rittmeister Captain Max von Stephanitz 1864-1936.
One point that helped me decide to write an article was the fact that in 99% of the articles or comments I have read in the breed magazine, there is reference only to the protection work aspect. This in itself is a testimony to the many misconceptions there are with regards to Schutzhund. For some reason it is the protection work part of Schutzhund that gets all the negative publicity. The main problem here is that it is the protection work that attracts too many of the macho mindless few. The GSD fraternity should realise very quickly that it is these “few” that can cause irreparable damage to the image of our breed, hobby and sport.
The single most important factor in Schutzhund today is CONTROL. The judges demand it, the points at qualification trials and competitions are given for it and without it you will be unable to compete or qualify at any level.
What do I mean by CONTROL? Very simply this, that your dog must at all times be under your control, whether it be on the trial field or off the trial field. There is no place whatsoever for over aggressive dogs in the breed or the sport.
The trial rules dictate that the dog has to be able to be touched by a stranger, usually the judge.
Before the start of a trial there is a character test. The dogs are lined up and the judge comes to each dog, touches the dog and shakes the hand of the handler. The tattoo is checked by a third person which means either he looks at the tattoo as you present the ear or the third person looks himself. Both times with his face in close proximity to the dog. If the dog can not be touched or the tattoo read you cannot participate, hence cannot receive a title or are excused from the competition.
Before any dog can enter into Schutzhund 1 they have to pass there BH (Begleithund, Companion Dog) certificate. If this simple test is judged correctly then any dog with character weaknesses will be found out and eliminated from the programme and the breeding pool, unless of course he can be exported to an owner who has no regard for character or where simple, logical restrictions are not required .
What is the BH Test?
Basically Schutzhund 1 obedience without the retrieves and send away. Added to this a sociability test in traffic, a passing jogger, a passing dog and a passing bicycle.
I recently passed BH with my young dog so I would like to give a short description of what it entailed.
1. All entrants lined up on the field with there dogs and were introduced to the judge and exam leader. They both came to us individually and said good morning and shook our hands. The judge then asked to see the dogs tattoo and asked if he could touch the dog. After this the first 2 participants took to the field and started there exercises. One dog is put on a down and the handler retreats 30 yards away from the dog and stands with his back to the dog. The other participant starts his heel work which is Schutzhund 1 heel work both on and off lead. During the off lead heel work 2 blank gun shots are fired, to which the dog must remain neutral. After the heelwork the exercises sit and down in motion with recall are completed. Once the first dog has finished he then performs the long down whilst the next dog commences his heel work. Out of 10 dogs taking part that day 1 dog was disqualified for not remaining in the down position.
2. After all dogs had completed their work on the field the dogs that had qualified were allowed to continue on to the next stage. We moved to a nearby road with normal Sunday morning traffic i.e., sporadic but not excessive. The first part of this stage was for each dog to be walked up the road and a jogger would pass him and his handler from the opposite direction. The dog is to remain neutral and under no circumstances show insecurity or aggression towards the jogger.
3. This is then repeated with the jogger being replaced by a person on a bicycle. Once again the dog must stay neutral and show no insecurity or aggression towards the biker.
4. Next the handler puts his dog in a sit next to him and a group of people walk towards him, once again the dog must stay neutral and show no insecurity, unsureness or aggression.
5. The final test was when the dog was fastened to a 2 meter leash just off the road. The dog could be left in a sit, down or standing position and is allowed to change position during the exercise. The handler then goes out of sight of the dog and the dog has to remain neutral to another dog that passes on leash with its handler. It is then left for a further 10 minutes and has to remain neutral again to all passing traffic. After 10 minutes the dog is collected by the handler and reports to the judge to finish his exam. The tattoo is once more checked and the judge gives his verdict as to whether or not you are successful.
I am sure that you will agree that if this test is judged correctly then it is an excellent test of a dogs character.
Now a question from me. Why not introduce this test as a pre-requisite for showing and grading any dog above 18 months of age? Set a date when this will be basic criteria requirement as we did in Belgium. From this date on any dog born after a certain date has to gain the BH qualification before showing and making the V grade. You can eventually make it a pre-requisite for breeding. I believe it can only serve to improve the characters of the breed and let us be honest, any dog that can not pass this test is unsuitable for breeding. Additionally there would be in place a test which responsible owners with decent dogs could rely on to protect the integrity of what it is we profess to represent
I would like to finish here Part 1 and genuinely hope that it has given some food for thought. Part 2 will be concerned with working German Shepherds and Schutzhund with regards to show dogs .
Different types of German Shepherds
In Part 2 of this article I would like to go deeper into the two types of GSD we now see in Europe. I would like further to try and explain why the working side (Schutzhund) is important in the preservation of the working qualities of the GSD.
In a previous issue I concluded part one of this article by putting forward a suggestion. I proposed that consideration should be given to introducing the BH test as a standard required working qualification for the GSD in Britain. Given this commitment it would not be unreasonable to require of the BSA, (who are the standard bearers of Schutzhund in Britain) that it should also be compulsory for all dogs who want to represent the BSA in international competition to have at least obtained a “GOOD” qualification at a recognised conformation show under a GSD specialist judge. This is standard practice on the continent.
What we should be considering here is dogs that are used for breeding; minimum standards should be imposed and if a G or a BH cannot be achieved I would argue that the dog is not a worthy representative of our breed, we are of course assuming that the health and other basics are in place. I have all my dogs x-rayed for hips, shoulders, elbows and back problems as a matter of course.
When we look at the modern German shepherd it should be obvious that we now have two distinct anatomical types and in Britain we can even speak of there being three types. The German show type, the “English type and slowly but surely the working type. This may not yet be as evident in Britain as the working type has not yet made the widespread impact it has here in Europe.
Although I am sure that there are thousands of GSD owners who have never been to a Bundessieger or a Siegershow, the fact that the Siegershow gains much more publicity will make the dogs exhibited there more likely to be household names. Because the BSA is still in its infancy the number of GSDs’ with working bloodlines is still small and not so widely seen. Both types are within the requirement of the breed standard, both capable of a Korung (Breed Survey), a basic G conformation grade and hopefully a basic working/training assessment.
Here I would like to show examples of the two types
Troll vom Haus Milinda - Vice World Champion Schutzhund 2000
Handler/Owner Mike Worrall
Whether or not we like it this is the case and there is no way we can deny it. I personally do not have a problem with this and I am a firm believer in “Horses for Courses”. Everyone is entitled to have the dog he or she wishes to have and that fulfils his or her requirements. However, regardless of whether it is a family pet, top show dog or competition working dog, if it is to be part of the breeding pool the basics must be met, otherwise we are going nowhere except backwards.
I have first hand experience in top quality show dogs. My wife Fiona and mother in law Isobel Anderson are very successful in conformation events. We both know and accept that what I require in a top working German Shepherd to compete in Schutzhund competition at the top level just can not be found in a show line German Shepherd. The same counts for Fiona and Isobel they can not find a German shepherd from working lines to compete at a high level in conformation shows.
This does not however take away from the fact that my dogs can and will be qualified at a breed show and that Fiona will train all her dogs to achieve a Schutzhund qualification. It is a requirement; it is accepted as the norm.
I am satisfied to show my dog the compulsory one time and achieve a minimum of a good (G) or if possible a very good (SG) qualification. This gives me my entry into the breed survey (korung) that says the dog is suitable for breeding.
Fiona on the other hand is happy with a good (G) qualification for her Schutzhund, also a requirement for her to go to the Korung.
The difference comes when we enter our respective competitions. I would not be happy with a good (G) qualification in a Schutzhund trial and Fiona would not be happy with a good (G) qualification at a show.
So where the has the difference come from and why is a show line GSD not suitable for Schutzhund competition and vice versa, why is a working line GSD not suitable for showing?
The first thing to say really is that the above statement is incorrect. How incorrect I hear you say?
Well that depends on what you are happy with. As long as you are not wanting to finish in front of the show and you do not have the ambition to win a Schutzhund world championships then there is no reason why you can not compete at Schutzhund with a show dog and there is no reason why you can not show your working dog every week at breed shows.
There are show line GSD’s competing every week at Schutzhund in Belgium and in Germany and no doubt in the rest of Europe. Many also achieve good scores, perhaps not 290 + but there are not too many working line dogs that do that. (There have also been 2 notable exceptions at the WUSV World championships in recent years)
At the 1999 WUSV in Bauantal Sweden were represented by Triumphs Gucci. He qualified with 85-92-84 = 261. In the same year he placed V7 at the German Sieger Show in the working dog class.
In 2001 and 2002 Russia was represented at the WUSV world championships by Laius Moorbeck who qualified with 96-83-91 = 270 and 88-86-90 = 264 in the respective years. In 2002 he placed V16 at the German Siegershow.
Of the BSA members who have competed at the WUSV only Mark Robson has bettered these scores when last year he finished with a 268 total at the WUSV in Austria.
Where I have seen the main and consistent difference (and I am still waiting to be proved wrong) is at the top end of the scale when the owners, be it working or show are looking to make a high V every time the dog is shown and trialled.
How has this difference in types come about? I would like here to concentrate on the 2 types in Europe and forget about the English type. Apart from seeing them at Crufts I have no knowledge of this type and one thing I learned from my father was never to talk about things you know nothing about.
I believe the major changes have occurred in the last 30 years and the blame has to be placed firmly at the door of the show judges. The use of the term “blame” suggests there is something wrong with how things have developed and this might seem to contradict some of my earlier statements. However, I believe the developments under discussion need attention and possibly rectification. The apparent lack of working ability common to a certain type is by definition a failure if we are breeding working dogs- this is the thesis of this article- hence the use of the word “blame”. It is they, the judges, who decide which type is promoted and will win at the shows. Obviously the breeders follow the trends that the judges promote. So what are the suggested failings that have been promoted, that have caused this decline in working ability. One obvious change is that the dogs have got steadily bigger and heavier. This is a definite detriment to the working capabilities.
Let us look at Frei vd Gugge. Born 22 March 1966.
A dog that was VA8 in 1969, VA7 in 1970 and V4 in 1971.
Frei was a genuine medium sized 63cm dog ( The breed standard ideal is 62.5 cm). Here are some extracts from his Breed Survey (Korung)
Medium sized dog of excellent balance and proportions. Nice croup, very good angulation, broad thighs, very energetic with a faultless character.
Frei produced one VA progeny and the 1974 Bundessieger Enno vom Antreftel. His working progeny is a virtual "who’s who" of some of the most prolific and best working dogs over the past 30 years.
He was “medium size” a genuine 63cm dog. If he was to be shown today he would be classed as small. This was a VA dog that according to the GSD history books was used in the 70’s to improve temperament. What for me is very surprising and almost inexplicable is that Frei who achieved VA8 in 1969 under Dr. Funk and VA7 in 1970 under Dr. Rummel (he judged the Siegershow in 1970 due to the ill health of Dr.Funk) was then made V4 outside the VA class in 1971 by Dr.Rummel (after the death of Dr.Funk) with the comments that he had insufficient male qualities. As I can not explain how a dog can get less of a male as he gets older I can only assume that Dr.Rummel preferred bigger stronger dogs and was starting to put his mark on his judging. Perhaps it was the colour of Frei that Dr.Rummel did not like. Perhaps this was the start of the diversification of the bloodlines.
This would though explain why Frei was used more by the working enthusiasts than he was by the show enthusiasts. Frei produced many excellent characters and his progeny list of working German Shepherds is excellent. If any of the GSD veterans out there who actually saw Frei can shed light I would be very interested. 10 years on in the 1980’s we can still find VA’s in the second and third generation of the first three dogs at the Bundessieger.
All the way through the eighties the VA’s are still present in the second and third generation of the top working dogs. It is not until 1992 that we find that there are no VA’s in the first three generations of the pedigrees of the first three placed dogs at the Bundessieger.
From 1992 the picture gets steadily worse or better depending on which side of the fence you are on. From 1992 there have been only 3 occasions in which a VA is present in the first 3 generations of the top three at the Bundessieger. The last time was in 1998 when Derby Adeloga appears in the pedigree of the third placed dog at the Bundessieger -- Nastor vom Wolfsburger Schloss.
So where and why did the split occur? Once again the “blame” can only be placed at the feet of the conformation show judges in Germany. They dictate the trends that the breeders try to follow.
It should be obvious that 65 cm is now the norm instead of “big or maximum size as it should be”. What we now have and should be plain for all to see are bigger (dare I say some even oversize) heavier dogs where the colours have for the majority got steadily worse ( lighter, brighter with less strength in the pigment) and where it appears the characters and the working ability have been almost totally ignored. This in itself is bad enough but for me what makes matters worse is the attitude of some breeders. When they are faced with the problems of colour and character instead of using dogs that could help solve or improve the problem they choose to go the other way and cheat. Dogs that get “painted”, “coloured” call it what you will, but does not solve the problem of poor colour. This happens all too often in Germany and no doubt in other places.
Someone once told me of a very famous kennel in Germany they had visited to use a stud dog. This breeder kept his dogs in an area with a red brick-dust floor. This gave his dogs a magnificent red colour. It is not for nothing that the SV introduced colour testing at the Sieger Show in 1998. What I think is funny is the fact that this only happened in 1998 and was never done again because too many “big name” dogs were caught out.
Anyone who is truthful will admit that the whole Sieger Show scene is dictated by “big bucks” or as we call it “money”. A “VA” title is a license to print money , and if the guy in Asia likes his dogs big and light coloured then no doubt the breeders will only be too happy to breed this type of dog for him. Cynical? Yes I am, because it is this greed that is the cause of the deterioration of the German Shepherd as a working breed.
At this point I have to add that there are some working breeders who have gone too far the opposite way and are breeding German Shepherds that need a sign around there necks saying “I am a German Shepherd”. Dogs that have none of the anatomical virtues found in the show bred dogs. This I find is also unacceptable. There are weak males that are hardly or even less strongly boned than some females. Too often I have been asked to look at a “high drive” dog that is nothing more than a bag of nerves. This is not working temperament or high drive, this is bad nerves. I do not want to get into drives and nerves at this stage as I will be going into this more deeply in part 3.
Why did Peter Messler try to promote Timo v Berrekasten ? Not only because he was a superb looking dog but also because he knows there is a colour problem and he saw promoting Timo as a way of trying to improve colour. The fact that he had 15 progeny in the Open Class at the Siegershow in 2001 gives hope that Timo will bring back the grey or sable colour into the conformation world. ( I have since been informed that Timo was transmitting problems in the brown on the saddle marked dogs). I am sure (and I know I am not alone in this thinking) that if Timo had not been a sable and Peter Messler had held his nerve Timo would have been Sieger.
Protection Work at the Siegershow.
I would like to conclude Part 2 of this article by looking at the protection work at the Sieger Show.
Is the protection work important? In my opinion a big yes. Although I find the protection work at the Sieger Show stereotyped I still believe it is a valuable part of the show.
Not for the actual protection work but more to see the correctness of presentation and the control over the dogs. Whether or not a dog has a full grip or a half grip is neither here nor there.
What you should think is that most of these dogs will never have seen a Schutzhund trial again once they had passed there Schutzhund 2 or 3 whichever was necessary. All they have to train for all year is the protection work you will see at the Siegershow which is only two parts of a Schutzhund 1 routine.
With this in mind I would say that it should be possible to train these dogs correctly.
But, and this is a big but, each and every dog whether is it male or female should be capable of heeling 10 yards off lead before being confronted by the protection helper. They should out when commanded to do so and should be able to guard the helper in a decent way. The long work should also be able to be presented in a correct fashion.
I see more in the presentation and correctness of the work of the dog than I do in the quality or fullness of his grips.
When Fiona is training her dogs for the Sieger Show I have always tried to instill in her the need to work correctly with the dog at all times. Do your work with the dog and do it correctly. Fiona trains very hard to get her dogs routines correct and can be proud of the work she presents at the Sieger Show.
I have seen the protection work at the Sieger Show in person 3 times. I am also “treated” by Fiona and Isobel to the videos from the Siegershow . These tapes make for fascinating viewing and yet time and time again you see dogs that can not heel 1 yard let alone 10, bad outs and guarding. Add to this some very poor bites and I start to think they would be better off not doing the protection work at all at the Siegershow.
But does this protection work say anything about the quality of the dog. I am convinced it does. This is a minimum that is required of the dogs and yet the quality is very poor. An average performing dog is here the norm. The poorly performing dog is accepted as acceptable and the good performing dog is an exception.
As long as poorly performing dogs are passed and even get to VA status why should anyone try to improve characters or working ability. Of all the VA’s male and female at last years Sieger Show only one was handled correctly. This was the VA5 male Kevin v Muurtal.
If you have the opportunity please take a look at the videos of the VA protection work and see the difference between the presentation of this dog and the others. If one can be correctly presented why can not the others?
When we think that the 10 VA males could be responsible for as many as 5400 !!!!!! . Yes FIVE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED Puppys in a year. I believe that we as lovers of the breed and breeders of the breed are correct in expecting and demanding that the judges be stricter in there evaluation of this “elite” of the breed. We all know the qualities that make a good working dog- these qualities must be demonstrated, otherwise we are no better than Crufts ( that poodle would definitely hunt ducks, if you know what I mean)
Apart from the fact that very few of us get the chance to use these elite as stud dogs, ( due to the availability or cost inhibiting factors) we will be seeking to use the lesser mortals, brothers, same bloodlines, from the same sires etc.It will be still this elite that shapes the future of a great percentage of the GSD.
Once more it comes down to the reasoning as to whether we believe that the protection work at the Sieger Show gives us a good picture of the character of the dog. I am convinced that it does. The “COURAGE” test as it is called is just that. A dog that is unable to perform this basic test of courage (strength of nerve) should in my opinion not be in the breeding pool.
At the beginning of this article I stated that I was a firm believer in “Horse for Courses”. This being so you might be asking yourself why I should worry if this splitting of the breed into two types continues unabated. My main reason for worrying is simply that I really like the German Shepherd as a breed, and it annoys me that a breed of working dog is losing its working abilities.
I would like to finish part 2 with another suggestion for you to ponder. What I would like to see from the SV is one new regulation.
1. That every stud dog, that is used 5 or more times should have to qualify (by this I mean a passing score) at least one ScH3 trial each year he is used at stud. The trial should be on a neutral field, with a neutral judge. By this I mean not being judged by his best friend who has an interest in the dog.
2. You may ask “and what about the females”?
My answer to this is; although the females are also an important part of the breeding pool I believe there influence is much less. A female can only produce roughly 6-8 litters in her lifetime at an average of 6 puppies a litter. This is only a maximum of 50 pups.
A VA male who is allowed 90 studs a year can produce anything up to and more than 600 puppies a year. I think the mathematics tells its own story here. Part 3 will be concerned with the working qualities and the training of the GSD, both work and conformation.