The world of canines and their selection, breeding, raising and training is extremely varied indeed. Many organizations have attempted to harness variables and set standards for canines in multiple facets, all with varying degrees of success. The problem with most large state, country or even world organizations is the immutable fact that they are too malleable, especially over the course of decades. There must be movement made available to organizations, but it must be most cautiously guarded against directions which in time lead it down the path to the detriment of the very said canine it purported to promote and protect. These organizations many times grow into factions that turn into bureaucratic vestiges of their original articles and objectives.
Our focus is the working German Shepherd dog. Work in our definition is simple: “Canine used for locating dangerous substances or persons, and biting.” It is true there do exist other functions of work, but it is not what we are concerned about. It is “High Work” or “Highest Work” where we are distinct from most others. Canines under this definition are without any doubt exposed to the most extreme pressures and stresses in the world.
If any person has ever attempted to procure a German Shepherd pup out of working lines or otherwise, they know that most all parties have the best dogs, best breeding, best lines, best health test, and the list goes on and on. It’s a lot to sift through! I won’t speak bad of individuals or kennels, but what I will do is point out a few glaring problems that do not make better working German Shepherd dogs!
It’s no secret that “selection” is the most important aspect of canines, no matter the end use of the canine to be acquired, as it has been since dogs have been domesticated. If it is for breeding purposes, just imagine the consequences of a poorly selected individual! If it be for a Patrol K9 imagine the possible ill fated outcomes! Even take into consideration the party selling a pet- what type of selection process was followed by them? Do they even know? Almost all do not, and those that do to some extent, may have good intentions, but you know what road is paved with good intentions……
Although robust and well rounded specimen health is important, it cannot be the pinnacle for animal selection. An animal with a high health score or index is not necessarily the best candidate to breed, by any means, although it is definitely a positive to consider. What kind of “Natural” work is that creature excelling in? That is the first consideration in choosing working stock, or you will end up taking a breeding program backwards. Ideal dogs are super in drives and clear in health. He/she has a working title you say? Oh great, we’re good now, right? Wrong. The problem with titles as the “be all-solve all” only shows part of the picture. Nobody talks about what it took to put those titles on the dog. That is one reason most outside titles to us mean nothing. Was the dog very naturally talented or was it a more of a chore to obtain the title? The title alone does not reveal the dogs explicit drives. No one but the owner and a few others may know. We are not interested in producing dogs merely “capable” of work. Our goal is to produce NATURALS! You can create quite the image with training, and you have a lot of parties proposing pure training over genetics. That is bull, bunk and hogwash. It begins and ends with the genetics, that canine will either make it or won’t. Period. The top breeders/trainers show their natural and learned talent by knowing when to release dogs from a program. Those that are heavier proponents of thinking they can “train it in,” end up turning out dogs that find their way into the system, allowing for potentially dangerous circumstances to arise on the street in real life. It’s the low threshold of said genetic traits which allow those trainers to put a work title on a (less than ideal) dog! If you don’t believe it I urge you to put an IGP title on a Redbone Coonhound or a Beagle, or try to train your German Shepherd to compete in Night Hunt sports and bring back plus points in a Grand-Nite Champion class filled with hounds! (Which, by the way is not even allowed). Training is obviously necessary, but having to put too much training on a canine simply indicates poor breeding. That has been, and will always be true. “Too much training” in this context, simply means your dog is having a difficult time displaying it’s genetic drives that should be there, for the type of work that is expected of it. It does not refer to the continued training or conditioning of well bred and adequately talented dogs. It takes very little if any “awakening” of drives in a well-bred “natural” animal. It is sad to say there are dogs who do not have the genetic material to make titles. Our preface here though, is not about the good or bad of titles, it is simply brought up to show how important selection is, and that if an effort to produce stronger dogs is to be undertaken it begins with the selection of Naturals. Then there is the deep rabbit hole of how will those naturals pass on their traits, which falls into the Breeding Program, and a voluminous book would have to be written which just a very limited amount here will be printed.
Breeder is a loaded term. A party may have bred dogs for 50 years. That doesn’t mean they are expert breeders, anymore than age would indicate that a 70 year old must have a higher IQ than a 20 year old. What matters is the totality of the program and parameters one has in place in a breeding program, and then, and only then does age and real life situations lend a more weighted hand into the gravitas of a quality breeding program. Then you have the simple math of the size of the “quality” kennel. A quality kennel with 6 dogs will take a lifetime to catch the credentials (regarding selection, etc) of one with 24 or 36 dogs, and so on and so forth, all else being equal.
A breeder with an outstanding written parameters program in place, that understands the impact of the selection of animals on a breeding program and coupled with experience is the most powerful force and ally of the canine and for the future hands those pups will fall into. There are a terrific amount of variables that take place in breeding, which we cannot get into here. The smart breeder will have as many as possible advantages lined up in their corner before proceeding. One issue that most breeders face is the aspect that they are part-timers. Part timers are more prone to choosing wrong stock, titled or otherwise, through their fault or the fault of others. And here you enter a realm which will try the inner fortitude of the person, the “breeder.” Will they realize the plans they had for breeding should be put off permanently on account of a poor mating specimen? They paid dearly for the animal, and instead of finding a good home for the animal they may opt to enter it into their breeding program. It still may be a poor specimen for breeding even with a suitable health index and with a title! However, they don’t have the time, kennel size, money, patience or plan in place to reject specimens for breeding. This obviously leads to less than ideal breeding match ups. I would like to add that just because a breeder happens to be small, this does not mean they lack integrity or aren’t trying to produce favorable dogs. But again, what are favorable dogs? You do not know unless you carry out an investigation, and standards are so loose, one persons ideal dog is another’s anathema, in many cases this happens within the same “standard!”
Raising and training canines has as many methods as molecules it seems. We raise and train the naturals, which we strive to produce out of our breedings. Naturals beget naturals in higher quantities. It’s a win, win, win situation- for the dog, the breeder and the end handler. Imagine the difference of raising up litter after litter after litter, versus getting rid of one, two or three litters a year at 8 weeks old without raising them up. There is an unbelievable difference in raising up many entire litters and working large groups of dogs versus selling a few pups at 8 weeks of age. It matters not on feedback from outlets or homes where, for instance, small breeders or part-timers have dogs placed at as pups. They have missed the most formative times with those animals. No amount of “updates” or “pictures” from sold pups can hold a candle to the experience and information breeders glean through raising entire litters and seeing how the selection process plays out. By doing it this way, the breeder can control all variables. All pups are on an even platform from birth to their final destiny unless released because of poor performance, whether that is at week 5.5 when we introduce live gunfire or at week 10 or some end up being released later yet. How many breeders do you know who raise all litters like this? Not small ones, I’ll tell you. Maybe some kennels have done it once or twice, but it’s how every litter is handled here. You cannot get more intimate, accurate knowledge on a pup or dog!
Tough, natural born winners can actually be “hard” to ruin relatively speaking. Read that line again. You hear of a lot talk and chatter of “ruining” a pup or young dog. When I hear that it is “easy” to ruin a pup or young adult, it becomes plain to see there is a lack of experience, with either the numbers or quality of animals that party has handled or dealt with, or both. I will say, you most definitely can ruin a young dog, but that dog, again, would likely be carrying what we call “a thread”, that is a genetic pre-disposition of the nerve that only shows under a certain scenario, a pre-cursor if you will, to being nervy, but not close to fully manifested nerviness. A poor decoy exercise here or there is not going to ruin a natural! No chance! And if your dog can’t handle some “incorrect pressure” so to say, you have real problems! Try telling the “bad guy” out on the street he’s not working your dog correctly! “Hey mister, you’re gonna ruin my young adult!” The extent of damage from a less than ideal decoy presentation will be limited to bad habits maybe-but ruination, no. If you are ruining young pups you will always have poor breeding first, poor training second. You don’t let a 10 month old Plott hound with speed and grit get out front and meet a walking bear that likes to kill dogs. The Plott hound will get killed or you possibly could shake him up with that encounter that you create a non-runner or a “me too” dog. Just the same, you don’t send a 10 month old German Shepherd on a real manhunt to face a potentially brutal offender. You maybe end up with a dead dog, or worse, the officer or an injured civilian. You could set the dog back permanently or months. Although I have seen plenty of 10 month olds that meant big business and would definitely bring the real fight to the man, the naturals still have limitations, but the point is you need to be working with naturals! Again, if you are facing the prospect of ruining pups, they are either poor or less than desirable candidates to begin with! Your breeder is very important!
We breed first for traits we find most desirable for work, with particular stress on apprehension/natural protection and strong tracking and hunt instinct. Although that invariably may lead to dogs qualified to do well in sport arenas, we do not breed for sport, so to say, as most of Europe does. Sports are special, and it is very nice watching dogs engaged in sports, however we are focused on what we do in our breeding program and training program, and do not title dogs with outside sport competition. Unfortunately, this makes our pups unsuitable to certain organizations when in fact they should be actively courting breeders like us for return of potential stock, which otherwise is lost forever. We have our own in house breeding certifications and standards, which is issued once and is permanent- the U.D.S. title. These standards are always welcome for perusal by law enforcement or bonafide working kennels along with many other documents we store and provide for posterity. We use a mix of training methods with our pups and dogs to mimic real life and provide scenarios which our dogs will encounter in real life and on the street or field.
So what does a “Natural” look like? It looks like a 90 pound German Shepherd male completing the task(s) he was selected for, tracking down the dangerous suspect, including bringing fight to the man to the point he will lay down his life for his handler if that is what it takes. How could you knowingly accept less? The same goes for the 68 pound Plott hound that lives for the bearhunt, or the Redbone Coonhound that can take that cold track and run it like he’s on a rope and make that 38 pound coon climb or die, or both. Whether your breeder and trainer is after squirrels, coon, bear or man, they all have one thing in common- choose a dog or supplier who knows what a Natural is, not just that they may exist!
This is just a tiny, tiny sample off of the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we select, breed, raise and train German Shepherds for work. There was intentionally fleeting or no mention of environmental factors, socialization, multiple-environment(s) exposure, obedience or direct methods we use in our program. It should, however, give you a brief insight into some main aspects of our kennel, and the all important necessity for “naturals.” Interested parties may inquire for more information about us, our dogs and their availability.