by Fred Lanting

© Copyright October, 2003 - 2008

There has been a political revolution in the metaphoric halls of the SV recently, and many have wondered how it would affect the dog itself. The judging (of adult dogs, especially) at the Sieger Show 2003 was watched carefully for clues to the answer. In this year's “Impressions”, I am emphasizing those Gebrauchshundklasse results, from which I think we can conclude that the changing of the guard has some, but possibly minor effect on the breed. The previous president was thrown out, not for lack of expertise, but for his attitude and “interpersonal skills”, as corporate middle managers and Human Resources flunkies like to phrase it. Peter Messler rubbed many the wrong way and was seen as an arrogant, cold man. No matter how good you are at your job, if you aren't a “people person”, you will encounter opposition from above and rebellion from beneath. Messler also was accused of being too cozy with the Arlett and Bad-Boll forces that have steered the SV boat for several years. He did a lot of good for the breed, and might have stayed in power if he had smiled more in directions other than those power brokers.

The election of the new regime last year was an upset, and to many, is still upsetting. The previous vice-president Herr Henke, a “working-dog guy”, is now president, but since the fancy wants breed judges to officiate over the Sieger Show breed judging, he did not take over that part of Messler's job — instead, the Board chose Erich Orschler to judge the Working Dog (Gebrauchshund, over-24 months, SchH-titled) class. Perhaps I will get around to writing an article on him and how his philosophy (as published in 1998 and `99 Zeitung issues) is reflected in his judging. For 2003, the Working Class bitches were still judged by Leonhard Schweikert, but this is expected to change next year. The membership elected Herr Dr. Raiser, a successful schutzhund competitor, as Chief Breed Warden, which resulted in consternation by those who didn't bother to vote, and an uproar after he foolishly voiced some radical, inflammatory statements such as advocating mixing in some other breeds to boost drives and genetic diversity. That brought a recall move by the powers-that-be, and a subsequent law suit by Raiser to retain his elected position. The Chief Körmeister (Breed Warden) or the Vice-president (sometimes the same person) is traditionally the judge of the adult bitches at the Hauptzuchtschau. Someone espousing such ideas as the one who most influences the choice of bitches given top honors? No wonder the eruption! Right now, at the conclusion of the Sieger Show week as I write this, the matter is in the courts, with an arrangement meanwhile whereby Raiser and Heinz Scheerer will somehow share the duties of Chief Körmeister.

So — now to the show itself, especially the top males and their progeny. Once again it was my honor to be the tour guide for a group of (largely) novices in both GSD shows and overseas travel. It is also a great pleasure to study the GSD world's leading show dogs (Hochzuchtlinie) and cynology (science of the dog) as demonstrated through selective breeding for inherited traits. I got the impression that the breed is on track and the quality of dogs this year is somewhat improved. We see many that are better in anatomy than their sires. While we didn't have the superstars of movement such as Karly Arminius, Timo Berrekasten, and Chipsi Herdersfarm, there were several exciting young dogs that come close to measuring up.

For me, it is vitally important to keep the total dog in mind, so I will include comments on character proofing along with anatomy. I strongly urge my tour group participants to take notes while watching the courage tests that are held on Friday almost from dawn to dark. Fortunately, this year at Ulm they were held in the main stadium, and we could see both the males' and females' performances without losing our seats. When the Schutzdienst judges broke for lunch, we wandered over to the other fields to check on the progress of the “lower” hundreds of young dogs in their four classes (12-18 mo. and 18-24 mo.).

Not all the top conformation winners showed excellence in bitework and obedience training, and not all the best courage-test performers placed high in the breed ring, but there were many who were admirable in both. You can find the rankings of VA and V dogs on scores of websites, so I will not tabulate them in rank order here. Instead, I've picked out notable ones as I reviewed my written comments roughly in catalog order.

The first dog in the book fortuitously was V-6 Henry Dunieschenke, the better-pigmented Esko Dänischen-Hof son. He had an amazing number of beautifully-moving offspring in the 12-18-and 18-24 month classes but even more amazing was the number that did so well in the bitework. Henry had previously produced so many questionable and poor temperaments (though not as bad as Esko) that many were beginning to think it a hopeless idea to keep the Esko line going, despite its great hips and anatomy. The third generation in this father-line bodes well for the breed, as long as attention is kept on weeding out the weaker ones. One Henry daughter, a stunning bitch named Shalome, lived up to her name by turning heads and enchanting everyone. She started the weekend with a great performance in courage/obedience, and both floated and drove her way to VA-9.

Back to the males: Kevin Murrtal slipped back to VA-9 this year. I believe the new judge, more free of ties to some of the old recent lines, intends to move the breed away from the Ulk-Rikkor descent and more to the Hobby-Ursus-Yasko family. Although it may be unintentional on Herr Orschler's part, this should improve hip quality, for one thing. We hope that we don't lose the nice pigment of the Rikkor-line dogs, though. Orschler must have seen something he did not like in the group-of-5 “coming-and-going”, for he moved up Erasmus van Noort and Quantum Arminius over Kevin at that juncture, and later also moved up Quantum's sire Dux. Kevin's progeny included many large, sturdy dogs, generally strong backs, many short croups, and several needing more front angulation (Kevin himself is better in front than his sire Rikkor). One of his very nice but lighter-pigmented sons was Mischaland's Jeltsin.

VA-7 Quantum is one of those “spaghetti-dogs” Italian stallions who look like they've been dipped in or had gene-splicing from, tomato sauce, their pigment is so rich. He is a big, deep-red dog who should be bred to bitches with more black on the head and saddle. This son of the VA-8 Dux della Valcuvia should move up next year, as should his striking son Nex Noriswand. His progeny group was marked mostly by large size and very good movement; his first bite was not impressive but much better on the long attack.

The good-biting Dux had the same problem as last year, when he failed to qualify for going on to breed-ring competition because he would not remain at heel during the approach to the blind. This year the team took barely two or three steps when Dux again left early to tear off toward the blind, but the judge let them get away with it. As you know, obedient heeling should be demonstrated to within 5 paces of the blind or until the helper-attacker comes out. Dux's progeny group was very uniform with several that were slightly more stretched than the average, a few poor croups, and mostly very good movement. I predict Dux will now retire from Sieger Show competition.

VA-6 Erasmus is a Yasko Farbenspiel son with noticeably more masculinity — the kind that makes you sit up straight and say, “Mensch! Das ist ein Hund!” He did very good bitework and had a decent progeny class, although many of his pups were “throwbacks” in respect to the slighter build typical of many Yasko offspring. Many nice bitches, but many progeny needed better front angles. With a larger and more selective progeny class he should move up next year as Sieger Bax (hopefully) retires. A couple of Erasmus pups really caught my eye: Salo Steigerhof (who got a vet excuse after the individual exam in the 12-18-mo. class), for example.

Orbit von Tronje was again in the VA-10 position. An upper-medium size dog who looks smaller compared to the big guys that Orschler apparently prefers. He moves very well with firm back and ground-covering gait, and passes that along to several of his get. There could have been more uniformity in his progeny group.

VA-5 was a dog not everyone knew: the Enzo Buchhorn son (Lasso Neuenberg gr.-son) Nero Nöbachtal. My coterie was surprised when he did what I predicted in the courage test: a silent guard after the “Out”. The odds were with me, because I have seen so many Enzo sons and Enzo himself do the same thing. Nothing wrong with it, as the bark is only required in the blind; it's just that most dogs will bark to establish their dominance until the handler gets there. I like the barking, as it gives a little more intense guarding picture. I think Nero was in this group mostly as a nod to his father-line, and his JHK SG-1 in 2002, although he certainly is a well-built dog.

Just ahead of Nero was Ando Altenberger Land, assuredly the best that Cary Fiemereck ever produced. He was absent from last year's show, but did well during the 2003 season in Landesgruppen and other shows where Orschler could see him. His bitework was very nice, he had a slightly better croup than Nero but didn't reach quite as well or as smoothly, has high withers and very good pigment. Definitely stretched, as were some of his pups, he produced a rather uniform group with several steep croups and noticeable cowhocks. His own croup is normal. Among the best was Gina von Dream Time (vet excuse and thus not placed). Maybe here is a good place to explain what frequently happens: a handler or owner doesn't like the initial ranking into the 4 “rings” (subdivisions) of quality after the individual stand-for-exam, and pulls his dog rather than wind up far back in the pack. Legal, if you get a vet excuse, which is easy to do with a modicum of subterfuge and/or cajoling, but not really good sportsmanship.

VA-11 Quirin Hochmoor, a large dog with very good anatomy, brought some attention to the successful W-Agrigento litter (Wallace is his sire) bred by Leonhard Schweikert. Most of that litter and their offspring are lighter in coloration than desired, but handsome. The V-1 dog right behind Quirin was even a little larger, and perhaps Orschler decided he couldn't push the size any further, while still bringing another bloodline into the VA line-up. V-1 was Indo Bildeiche, a son of Jago Dänischen Hof; he was hard to control in the heeling part of the courage test.

VA-3 Hill Farbenspiel is one of those boy wonders, winning his young dog class and then catapulting the next year into VA recognition. He is anatomically an improvement over his sire Huppy Arlett, to whom I gave V-1 in Beijing China April 2003 (he was sold to Red China after failing his courage test one year, after getting VA-10 in Germany). Very handsome, he is also very hard-hitting in the TSB department; TSB is what we used to refer to as courage, hardness, and fighting drive. Hill is also hard to “Out”, so the owner/trainer had best make sure he gets more training before risking disqualification next year, for he almost lost it in 2003. He has a good progeny class and if he can show a larger one and can push past Larus in gaiting, he has a shot at Sieger title next year. I don't think he can do it, though.

Larus von Batu was probably the most strikingly handsome dog on the field. This young son of former Sieger Yasko is a very richly pigmented large stud with the smoothest outline you can imagine. In stance he presents the ideal picture of the GSD, in motion he is true and efficient, and his TSB was very good. Although VA-2 this year, a bigger progeny class should put him in position for Sieger in 2004. As a worthy representative of the Ursus clan, he will contribute much to the sport for many years. There is a tendency to not have more than two sons of any particular dog in the VA in the same year. Ursus through Yasko and several others was amply represented by Larus, Erasmus, and more in the VA and high-V spots.

Sieger (VA-1) for 2003 is Bax Luisenstrasse, an Odin Hirschel son with not the most pleasing topline and tailset, but many offspring with flashy, attractive structure and gait. He stamps his look on males and females alike, but unfortunately there are also numerous progeny that are extra large, lanky, narrow, excessively angulated in rear, or a combination of some of these characteristics. SV leadership always tries to keep a modicum of diversity in bloodlines represented by the VA classification, but perhaps they should retire Bax and wait for some of his sons to prove themselves a few years hence.

Besides this year's VA dogs, there are several important stars and producers we should take note of, and I'm sorry we don't have room to describe enough of them. V-16 Yello St.MichaelsBerg produces his own great gait, but he took too many re-bites in the Schutzdienst for my liking. Very nice bitework was shown by Hero Spitalfeld (Quartz Templari), Brando Baccara (Igel Wollenhaupt), Fox Bildeiche (Neptun), and sons of Xavier Kahler Heide, Bax, Triumph's Gucci, Hoss (especially Yak Frankengold), Ursus Batu, and others. Ghandi Arlett's Danish son Karat's Ulk did very good bitework, but he was one of those pulled with those possibly phony vet excuses. Ghandi himself failed the courage test; just as well he wasn't shown, as he tends to stab the ground in front, and often appears stuffy in the neck-shoulder area. I doubt he would have made VA under Orschler.

Karo Herdersfarm, V-33 in 2002, was V-43 this year, and he truly deserved to be in the top-20 V class, moving and looking better than a couple dozen who were placed above him. Perhaps the judge just missed putting him in the right place during the individual stand-for-exam. It happens. But when you get the first 70 or so dogs looking like they came out of the same cookie-cutter mold with minor differences (you'll never see that uniformity in a GSDCA-AKC ring!), the placing is not as important as the dog. Karo's sire is the super, hard, Hoss Lärchenhain, and his dam is a litter sister of the tremendous Chipsi.

An interesting incident occurred when the very good producer Quando Sofienwald (Flex Tronje son) was turned over to his trainer or owner for the off-lead fast gaiting. The man drew boos and whistles (in Germany, whistling is an expression of great disapproval) when he bounced a tennis ball in front of them while running. That's a big breach of etiquette, and the judge in turn drew great applause when he moved them back four places. The loudest raucous double-handling is allowed, but bringing food or toys into the ring is a no-no. Interestingly, nothing is said about the 9-inch jute tugs used for schutzhund training that so many free-heeling handlers carry with them while racing around the ring.

In case you are wondering why so much emphasis on males and so little on bitches, you are not alone. It is a valid question many novices ask. The answer is simple: males produce far more offspring than do females, and therefore affect the future of the breed more. I think that future is improving, and invite you to join us next September to see it for yourself. Reach me at mrgsd@hiwaay.net but try to plan ahead so I can get the best rates on accommodations for you.