It was my great pleasure to again lead a successful tour of Bavaria and a little bit of Austria, the occasion being the annual Sieger Show of the SV, the largest specialty show in the world, with typical spectator attendance of around 40,000. The largest was the 100th anniversary in 1989 with 50,000 people and an entry of nearly 3,000 German Shepherd Dogs, each of whom had a minimum age of 12 months.
The 2005 show in Ulm, on the banks of the Danube, featured Heinz Scheerer and Rudiger Mai judging the adult (over 24 mo.) males and females, respectively. The four younger classes, 12-18 and 18-24 months, were judged by well-known German SV judges, as were the HFH (herding-titled) classes.
This year, responding to several requests to arrive a day early so people could start to adjust to the time difference, six of my “gang of ten” landed in Munich on the 31st of August. That afternoon they experienced their first Bavarian “biergarten”, a traditional relaxation there. The following morning, jet-lag eyes were opened a bit wider as we strolled through Munich’s English Garden, which has a large open grassy nudist park with numerous sunbathers; following that, we watched the glockenspiel figures dancing in the tower of the Rathaus in the Marienplatz (center square). That afternoon, we traveled to Ulm and some of us climbed the world’s tallest steeple, in the “Munster” (term for a Protestant church), and in the evening enjoyed one of many delicious, hearty (but heavy) Bavarian meals. More on sightseeing after a discussion of the show and the dogs.
GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE SHOW
The Bundessieger Hauptzuchtschau (BSZS, German main breed show) is better known in the West as “The Sieger Show”, although each country has a sieger show of their own. The word sieger means “winner”. Next-largest shows are in Italy and Argentina. Since the SV is still the guardian of the breed and the overwhelmingly strongest voice in the world union of GSD clubs (WUSV), the annual BSZS event in der Vaterland is the most important, shaping the breed everywhere — except for such lone-wolf divergent types as found in the almost-separate-breed AKC/CKC and to a lesser extent the Australasian and Alsatian dogs. To see the biggest and most influential show in the world, and understand the breed best, you really ought to attend the Sieger Show.
While the courage tests are being carried out on Friday, the individual exams of the younger classes are also going on in other rings on the extensive stadium grounds. Then, on Saturday, they compete in groups called “rings”, separated by age, sex, and relative quality as determined the day before. The classes are so big that they are divided into these “rings”, the judge starts with the lowest fourth (or sometimes third) of the sex/age group, and the top 3 to 5 are moved up to the end of the next-higher “ring” for continued competition. There were many, many Ando offspring in the 12-18-month class, so I’m hoping this valuable producer will have a better progeny class next year. The “rings” comprise about 50 to 70 dogs each, and the final top 20 are presented to the audience in the big stadium on Sunday as a sort of parade of future “champions”.
PHENOTYPE OR GENOTYPE: WHERE IS THE EMPHASIS?
As always, my people ask me about the advantages and weaknesses of specific lines and stud dogs, and I repeat many of my observations to them in follow-up articles, which you can read in the Chronicle or later on a website in another form. They are highly opinionated, but my views are based on a combination of insider information and nearly 60 years in the breed including many as an SV judge who has officiated in about 30 countries. Something I am adding this year is to stimulate the breeder-reader to think about what’s best for the future of the breed in soundness of the joints. To that end, I will put in parentheses or other notation, the Zuchtwert number of influential dogs. Zuchtwert is the German term translatable as “breed worthiness” and is an indication, via a complicated formula, of what the relative risk for HD is. It is not enough to get a (phenotype) picture of a dog’s own hips we really want to have more of a clue as to his genotype, what he is likely to produce. The lower the number, the better your odds of getting a dog with good hips. The offspring of a mating pair will start off with an average of the numbers of the parents, and this will change in accordance with how good/bad its own hips look, plus those of its siblings and half-siblings (what either parent has produced with different partners). Anything in the 90’s or higher is too much of a risk for most of us, and dogs with ZWs in the mid-60s to high 70’s are preferable for those better odds that you’ll want as a breeder and owner of a companion-for-life. Only dogs with a German registration number have the most accurate ZW calculations. It is a shame that relatively poorer hip dogs are still gaining a majority of the top spots in conformation competition. You can look up the current rating of a dog by entering his or her SZ (SV registration) number in: http://www.schaeferhunde.de/10_zucht/ZW1.htm
Peru Siegerin VA5 Anta
Boy Tónsbruck, American-owned superdog
CHARACTER TESTED AT SIEGER SHOWS
The next day, Friday, is always the longest, with the courage tests starting by 7 a.m. and usually continuing past 6 p.m. For me, it is one of the most important events of the year, since the character of the GSD is its primary feature, and you cannot tell from a “passed” notation in statistical records how a particular dog really did in his protection work — his body language, firmness of grip, etc. — you really must see it firsthand to get an idea of the genes being passed down familiar family lines. The successful performance of these two excerpts from the schutzhund routine is a prerequisite for going any further in the show, the next step being the individual exam in another part of the grounds.
If you have no interest in the bloodlines, just skip over the next paragraphs, but most readers will appreciate my comments on the performance of the males (who influence the breed most because they produce more offspring than the females do). Before that, though, I want to mention two females: an American entry (half-sister of Ando Altenbergerland, ZW 74) named Funny (89), owned by Helen Gleason earned a very respectable V-89 despite not having been campaigned throughout the summer as is usually needed for a high placing at this show. I was told she did a very good protection routine. This was of some special interest to me, since I had recently trained and titled an Ando daughter for my friend Andrew Masia in Florida, and have been impressed by his bloodlines for courage as well as other great qualities such as good hips and pigment. The other bitch was the homebred Peruvian Siegerin Anta v. ben Harten (100), who got this year’s VA-5 ranking after a stupendous performance in the courage test. I saw her get her Siegerin title in Lima more than a year earlier, but she endeared herself to my “working dog” heart. Her proud owner, Roque Benavides, is also an SV judge.
Now, to the males that impressed me the most, with special emphasis on character. The reason so much emphasis is put on males is simple: they produce more offspring and therefore are more influential. Let’s first look at the VA (excellent-select) dogs. Sieger Larus (96) did pretty good bitework, although he hesitated just a little on the second bite. His VA-3 half-brother, Erasmus (99), did very good work, but in the conformation gaiting was passed by VA-2 Quantum Arminius (101) because of a slight but noticeable difference in front reach and croup. Quantum had a better gait and more “desire” or perhaps conditioning, but is lighter in color and not quite as strong in the bitework, where he bounced off the sleeve on the long attack instead of taking a firm quick grip. You may remember from my article last year that the Quantum son, Zamp Thermodos (this year VA-5, ZW-76), failed his courage test with very obvious reluctance to engage, but this year he did a good job. Training pays off! But combining the pictures of father and son in one’s mind gives reason to be cautious, as is the case when using Esko Dänischen-Hof (he throws a few soft temperaments) in the breeding program.
The Sieger Bax (83) son, VA-4 Pakros d’Ulmental (80), did very good work in gripping, is a well-pigmented dog with a slightly steep croup (accentuated when gaiting next to a dog like Quantum), and had an impressive progeny group. One of them with a better topline won the 12-18 month class, Vegas du Haut Mansard (French registry, no ZW yet), and he will be a force to reckon with in coming years. A (2004 VA-2) Hill Farbenspiel (94) son, Dux Cuatro Flores (93), came in VA-6, and Quantum’s half-brother Marko della Valcuvia (85) had the Italians cheering wildly when he won VA-7. The VA-8 dog was Quenn Löwer Weg (78), owned by Jani Uday in the UK; he did a nice courage performance as well. The last VA (#9) was the Yello St.-Michaels-Berg son, Nando (90), whose protection work was OK, normal, better than most Yello offspring.
V-1 (the first in the line-up after the VA dogs) was Karat’s Yoker (96), who much of the crowd had hoped would be VA. Last year’s V-1 from the same kennel was Karat’s Ulk (also 96 in ZW), a dog that had very good bitework but could not get VA last year because of a lack of breed survey requirements in his dam; it was discovered this year that the reason had to do with missing dentition, so he was pulled this year after the courage test to avoid the repetition of the embarrassment. However, his progeny group was excellent.
Other dogs impressed me for a variety of reasons. U.S.-resident Boy Tönsbruck, bought by Dr. & Mrs. Zarrilli of Huntington Beach, California after they were on my 2004 tour, again showed a most impressive working-dog character and looked in great shape. Not being in Germany for the regional shows leading up to this big one reduced his chances of placing as highly, so he was pulled after Ando’s progeny presentation. This dog has a fantastic Zuchtwert rating fluctuating between 69 and 71 on his hips, and is an invaluable stud for qualified North American bitches! Ando produces many super dogs in hips, looks, and character, such as the SG-2 Sony Neudenauer Holtzsteige (tentatively 84 ZW) in the 12-18-month class. Randy Brent’s V-73 Ronaldo Zellergrund (ZW-88 and a Larus son) from Virginia did a great job in the bitework, and I had the pleasure of posing him for photos the day before. Another good stud for American breeders is Californian Linda Lundborg’s Urban Gleisenauer-Schloss (77). He was pulled from competition and thus did not get a V rating this year, but was USCA Sieger last year in that smaller show.
In Friday’s courage tests, the superstars are usually the working-lines dogs, almost all of them dark sables, with some years a few blacks or bi-colors. I saw three or four stupendous performances by such as V-139 Danny Lesimo (ZW-65 son of Xato bosen Nachbarschaft), V-149 Feus Geefacker (84), V-150 Uriel Arolser Holz (74), and V-146 Chery Gaja-Nova (ZW-76 son of Qasy bosen Nachbarschaft). While there were very admirable performances by many “hochzuchtlinie” (high-lines) dogs, the fact that the very best workers were at the end of the conformation rankings, while some weak dogs squeak by with high-V or even VA rankings, is an indication of something grossly wrong with the system. Helper work was better this year, with more pressure put on the dogs, but the courage test judges were still too lenient. And this in spite of the fact that they are chosen from the ranks of top Schutzhund judges! I am far from alone in my view that the V-2 dog (and a likely candidate for VA next year) did not earn his ausgeprägt (pronounced) rating in the courage test. He should have been given the same barely vorhanden (present/sufficient) as given the handsome Elan Herderskring (80) now owned by Paul Bradley of the UK.
BREEDING TRENDS AND THE FUTURE OF THE GSD
Both the working and the show types are heavily linebred, but on different near-ancestors. A great need for diversity exists in both camps. I hope Martin and Marcus Göbl come up with a pattern for others to follow, with their recent crossing of these lines. It is an isolated example of trying to do right by von Stephanitz and the other founders of the breed. Where is the breed headed, if this year’s Sieger Show is a signpost? It will be a while before we can free ourselves of the “all roads lead to Yasko/Ursus” dilemma, partly because owners of outcross males (relatively or completely free of that current over-used line) may have become discouraged. The fact that Ando had so few adults in his progeny class is an example. A somewhat similar comment could be made, to a lesser extent, re Orbit Tronje (77), with his beautiful sons, Gonzales Tronje (73) and Zello Arkanum (77), being pulled from competition. These dogs and few others represent badly-needed alternatives to the concentration of Ursus “blood” found almost everywhere. People should be “outcrossing” (to the extent possible with the heavy linebreeding rampant in hochtzuchtlinie) with sons of Esko, Ando, Orbit, Hoss, and other such low-ZW producers, as well as some working lines.
THE NAME OF THE GAME IS PROGENY
Generally, Orbit Tronje’s progeny make him one of the most desirable stud dogs in Europe for anatomy, gait, character, and hips. Besides his excellent Nachgruppen (progeny class), the groups that impressed me most are listed first, and then I’ll have only a word about some of the others presented on Saturday. I think about the best-looking progeny groups were those of Quantum, Pakros (an improvement over his sire Bax, perhaps), Erasmus van Noort, Marko, Yak Frankengold (ZW-89 son of the wonderful ZW-73 Hoss Lärchenhain), with strong-looking offspring), 2003 Sieger Yasko (83), Esko Dänischen-Hof (72), and Orbit Tronje. Ando’s group was quite good but, like Larus, he did not have as many adults in it as I would have liked in a dog his age. Quantum’s V-21 son, Limbo Bad Boll (86), gaited as well as Zamp and has slightly better front-to-rear proportions. Zamp had his own progeny group with uniformly good toplines, so he is valuable despite being somewhat of a two-piece dog himself, as is Yello St.-Michaels-Berg (86). Quantum half-brother Marko had a very uniform group with good substance and reach. Erasmus’ kids were of correct size and uniform type. Several years ago, Hoss reached his “glass ceiling” at V-1 because the first 6 ancestors were not all Körklassed (breed surveyed) — at a late stage it was discovered that his ancestry was not as had been put into official records, and he was ineligible for VA even after the pedigrees had been reissued. Because he had (a newly-discovered fact) “outside lines”, i.e., other than the usual, there was a lot of prejudice against him. But his character, hips, and type have since proved to have a beneficial effect on the breed, and his lines (himself and such sons as Yak) certainly are needed.
The not-very-uniform progeny of Karat’s Yoker (96) may have played a part in his being denied a VA-10 spot this year. Ghandi Arlett (94), who is known for producing better than himself, had good masculinity in his sons, but many were not outstanding in courage, echoing the year that Ghandi failed the test, too. Many were too “busy” in front, and several had steep croups. Of course, there are many good offspring, such as the very well trained 2004 USCA Sieger, Urban mentioned earlier — Urban performed the protection exercises correctly but this year we were not given a chance to see what he would do in the German show ring. Offspring of Quentin Karanberg (ZW-88, a Yasko/Mary Tronje son) showed too many excessively curved toplines reminiscent of the Martin brothers’ years. Larus’ and his sire Yasko’s groups were similar, but Yasko naturally had more mature progeny. The elevation of Larus to VA and Sieger a couple years ago without a progeny class upset many people, so that there is now a proposal to require a progeny class for VA. This would entail a change in SV Constitution, though, so it cannot take effect until 2007. There were other nice groups, but nothing really stood out compared to those I’ve mentioned above.
In the Jugend (12-18 month) male classes, the ones that stood out most prominently for me were the Ando son SG-2 Sony (84 calculated), the Pakros son SG-1 Vegas (French registry), and the Quantum son SG-3 Winner Assaut (tentatively 88). In Junghund (18-24 month) males, the excellent Yak son, Odin Holtkämper Hof (91), was SG-1; the Larus son by VA Betty Hühnegrab, Yenno Hühnegrab (85) was SG-2; and Quantum’s ZW-99 son, Scott Agrigento, (out of last year’s Siegerin) was SG-3. All six should factor very well next year and thereafter. Yenno might have benefited from a little more substance, but still is an excellent choice for high placement. Which of this year’s adults will return next year depends partly on age (Quantum is 6 now and will likely retire to a stud farm), placing (nobody wants to risk a lower ranking the year after doing very well), and residence (many are sold to far-off buyers such as the USA, China, Taiwan, etc.). If you aren’t competing in the summer shows in Europe, judged by the upcoming year’s Sieger Show judge especially, you don’t have much of a chance to rise to the top. Much weight is given to how the dog did during the year, when it comes to selecting the VA class.
Linderhof – home of King Ludwig
THE SIGHTSEEING PORTION OF MY TOUR
My tours always include several days of visiting kennels, training clubs, and historic and natural sights. My 2005 group was again quite “international” with participants from Germany, Jamaica, a Malaysian girl now living in the UK, a man from India currently going to school in the UK, Canada, and the USA, including a Filipino living in Chicago for many years now. The group was fun-loving, agreeable, got along great with each other, and crafted new friendships. A series of serendipitous happenings gave me the opportunity to jokingly claim credit for extraordinarily enjoyable surprises: one night during dinner in a sidewalk restaurant, a marching band came through the little street lined with eating-places. The next day we saw several helicopter drops of parachute troops, and later entered a 12th-Century church devoid of ornamentation where the organist was tuning the instrument, and soon were treated to a terrific private recital performance. Each time one of these things happened, I was asked, “Fred, did you arrange for this?” “All at no extra charge,” I replied.
This year, as in 2004, I was fortunate in being able to line up an extraordinary number of kennel and training facility visits. At one clubhouse near Augsburg and another in Peiting, my group saw the differences in drives between a club emphasizing primarily working lines and one emphasizing more of the show lines (but each having both types). We watched them practice their obedience and biting routines. We also had a private demonstration of Johann Meindl’s show-line dogs doing very well in puppy bite training, north of Augsburg.
In my efforts to provide something for everyone, I try to give a good mix of exposure to working lines, training techniques, show lines, history of Germany and the war, scenery, and cuisine. Following this show on the border of Schwäbische-Wurttemberg and Bavaria, we worked our way south through the latter, to Austria with a stop in one of my favorite liqueur shops and a hug from Heidi the proprietress who always recognizes me, then back northeast to visit several castles, ornate Rococo and Baroque churches, Gothic cathedrals, and beautifully-decorated gabled houses. A couple of days later, we stocked up on the liqueurs made by the Benedictine monks at the Ettal monastery. And of course, every evening we had our own Oktoberfest with a variety of Bavarian brews that make American beers taste like rainwater from a shingle roof, in comparison.
In Ulm, your peripatetic (some say pathetic) leader challenged the younger participants to the climb up the 768 steps of the tallest (161 meters, 543 feet) church steeple in the world in the Munster (word for a Protestant cathedral). A few picked up the gauntlet.
We strolled the beautiful old villages of Mittenwald (famous for violin making), Oberammergau (wood carvers), the 12th-century walled city, Altenstadt, and Alpine towns. We stayed on the edge of the firmly established Roman empire, on the very street that marked the border with the barbarian clans and budding nations, even though the Romans actually controlled patches of most of the rest of Europe as far north as the Baltic Sea and near Scotland. We inspected castles built by the extravagant Ludwig II, emperor of Bavaria in the 1800s, one of which was the inspiration for Disney’s much smaller theme-park castles.
In Augsburg, we saw the fantastic gold room of the Rathaus (seat of government) with a tremendous amount of gilt ornamentation and paintings of all the Roman emperors. Augustus, after whom this former capital of Bavaria was named, as the top general of the army, was stationed here prior to elevation to the post of Caesar. Augsburg is also the headquarters for the SV (Schäferhund Verein), and my friends there gave my group a tour of the facilities and impressed them with the meticulous and accurate records the Germans are famous for.
2005 tour group with people from all over the world
During my guided tour, we visited the famous Wildsteigerland kennels of my friends, Martin and Maria Göbl, and their son, Marcus. Along with their other dogs, they showed us Elfie, a nice daughter of VA Dux Cuarto Flores ex Caren Wildsteigerland, herself a daughter of Larus and Nata W. (sister of their VA Nanda). This 9-month old bitch was extremely bold and friendly, a very, very nice pup with a brilliant future. We followed up the kennel visit by taking the family out to a favorite Bavarian restaurant of ours in
Unterammergau. The Göbls are experimenting with working lines added to their show lines, and introduced us to a young female of half-and-half background who did one of the best jobs in training at their club the night we had “Abend-essen” there (snacks in the evening). They plan to breed her one more generation into working lines, hoping to retain enough of the good looks from the “high lines” and improve drive and character in the area.
Every year following the show, I arrange for such special evenings after the days of sightseeing. Next year, Lord willing, I’ll take a group from Amsterdam through Holland’s fascinating and quaint sights, including club-&-kennel visits, before the show near Duisburg, Germany and return via another route after the show, with different kennels and clubs and sights along that path. Since it will be at least a two-week tour, I’ll pick up and/or drop off people at a convenient rail station for the trip from or to the airport of their choice if they cannot stay for the whole vacation experience. Many can only stay 9 days, and some come for just the 3 or 4 days of the show, and leave early. I’m flexible. The advantages to joining my tours include the best room rates, much lower transportation costs than renting one’s own car, introductions to important people in the breed, a struggling speaker of German (limited to mostly dog language), and a knowledge of what to see for the best dog-related trip of your life. In addition, my experience as an SV judge and knowledge of bloodlines gives you a deeper insight into what is happening. Many people even buy dogs as a result of my introductions. If you are interested, be sure to contact me early. The Dutch have excellent dogs, good training, and wonderful country scenes.
To wrap up this discussion, allow me to invite you to enjoy the wonders and pleasures of western Europe and the Sieger Show. If you want to take advantage of my knowing my way around the countries, the contacts, and the dogs, you might consider joining my non-profit tour. I charge no fee or wage, but pro-rate my expenses up to a guaranteed maximum per person, so my costs are only partially covered by those I lead. If anyone gets a large enough group together, I can also lead tours centered on the BSP or other schutzhund championships, or to Sieger Shows in other countries in Europe or the Americas. People save money and learn more when “going to the dogs” with me. I can be contacted at email@example.com or www.MrGSD.com