Obedience, Working Trails, Schhutzhund Work; how many people are thinking, what difference does it make to the dog, or how will it help me. There are two questions here, basically:
1. Will it better the breed ?
2. Will I get any satisfaction ?
Categorically the answer to the first is “YES”; But to be more explicit the following may assist.
When a working dog, literally speaking, has to acquit itself in schutzhund, working, or K.C. completion, by the various methods called for in each individual sphere, soundness of mind and body is a prerequisite.
The exercises required from these animals demands skill, endurance and great turn of speed. To break these specific elements down for scrutiny we will firstly look at the Working Dog: ( who works for a
living ). This animal mostly is associated with Police work, necessitating specialised skills. The essential requirement here is soundness of body ( I know the Police will entertain sharp dogs be it from fear or aggression ). The main thing to remember is that the Police dog is not just utilised for criminal work. Tracking, search work and drug sniffing are some of the highly specialised skills to which the German Shepherd Dog acquits itself with merit.
The Second type of working dog is the blind leader, where temperament is the prime concern. These dogs must possess a loveable, sensible temperament, but with the ability to take responsibility. As complex training is involved in both capacities it is essential that the dogs physique must at least promise a decent span of working years ahead of it. So with the year around working dog we find that soundness of mind and body is paramount.
Working Trails: This is an area in which the GSD is loosing fast to the Border Collie. But surely Shepherd owners who insist that their breed is the most intelligent canine species resent this. To train a dog to the top in this field takes years which means that before starting to undertake the training of a young animal one must ensure the physical and mental soundness of the youngster in question. How disheartening it would be to put all your energy and time into a specimen whose physique cannot endure. So here again the prime concern is soundness of mind and body.
Schutzhund: Surely this is the most misconstrued aspect of training. To mention schutzhund seems to imply a horrible, vicious dog who only knows man-work, and ready to attach anything that moves. Yet this facet of schutzhund is only one third of what is required. Tracking is one requirement and indeed a very important one. These dogs have to negotiate very complicated tracks and it is very gratifying when the tracks are successfully completed. Obedience plays a major role and as one moves up through the levels the degree of controlled discipline increases. When it comes to man-work; which is unjustifiably maligned by its critics, from my own personal observations I would without hesitation have no worries about children around these animals. To subject work exercises, as well as intelligent, responsive and full of initiative to entertain the tracking and obedience end. Conclusion-soundness of mind and body are the foremost considerations.
Soundness can be defined as the ability of the dog to do his job properly, with the entire physical support of his body as well as of his mind, as such it is really the most important aspect of the dog. Unsoundness can be inherited or acquired. Anatomical unsoundness can be seen in skeletal faults such as upright shoulders invariably an inherited defect. Cow-hocks can be inherited too, but they can come about if a dog is badly reared in puppy-hood or kept in some unfavourable environment. Of course, a dog imbued with certain genetic faults may well pass these on to his progeny, and they will do the same to their offspring in turn. On the other hand, an animal with induced or acquired features of soundness will not pass them on. Every part of a dogs body should be able to work soundly and in unison to an effective end, which means perfection in movement and posture. However, both in work and when he is judged for show, a dog is assessed on the way he is affected on the day in question. By this rule alone he must be judged.
Soundness of temperament is even more important. A vicious or untenable dog or one that lacks breed character can be considered unsound.
So to answer the first question if working a dog improves or ensures soundness of mind and body, then it is furthering the breed.
Question 2 is - Will I get any satisfaction ? To win a first and go on possibly to Best Sex with a
Green Star or CC and the coveted Best Of Breed, give immense satisfaction - but much more is derived when man and dog competing together as one unit, achieve success at the working aspect. To win or lose in this field is not the criteria, but rather the performance of the team. Unlike the beauty ring there can be several winners on a day as points are scored in each exercise and a certain percentage is a pass. Satisfaction Yes; there must be satisfaction in knowing that this working dog is a production of your time and energy and in turn the dog has given you devotion, dedication and loyalty.
Funny how they always seem to give us more, isn’t it !