Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Before beauty and before movement, temperament should be of the utmost importance in the German Shepherd Dog…….when we’re breeding to them, showing them or judging them. There is no German Shepherd that is worthy of being called a German Shepherd without good temperament. What truly amazes me and I see it time and time again is that breeders who have been in this breed for any length of time are breeding to dogs that are known to have bad temperament. What’s up with that?

These breeders are responsible for helping these stud dogs attain their ROM (register of merit) titles and have now polluted the gene pool with this undesirable temperament. Why is that? Is it because the dog is owned by a “big shot” in the breed and they know they can get help promoting their puppies? So you’re hoping that your bloodlines will go down in breed history as being some of the top producing dogs? The only thing that these types of bloodlines should be remembered for is that they helped destroy the temperament of the breed. Temperament should never be sacrificed for beautiful breed type or movement.

Some are complaining that the temperament test evaluation is not good enough to judge our dogs in the show ring. They argue that you can teach most any dog how to stand in the ring and be approached by a judge and without the dog blinking an eyelash. Now ringside may very well know that that dog standing out in the ring doesn’t have good temperament but is very well trained by some top professionals. But what about the average Joe who has never seen or heard of the dog before and thinks what a great temperament this dog has and he’s beautiful as well? He breeds his bitch to the handsome stud dog and most of the litter ends up being a bunch of spooks…..but pretty! Whose responsibility is this? Certainly not the bitch owner. He believed the stud had good temperament. In this case, the responsibility would most definitely fall on the stud dog owner.

How about an AKC licensed judge that knows of a certain dog’s temperament. He’s seen him outside the ring many times before. What happens if this same dog comes under this judge and the dog doesn’t act out and stands like a rock for his temperament test? He has a full mouth. He is in gorgeous condition. He moves right up there with the best of them. And in fact, he is the best dog in the show. What does a judge do? Well we all know that the judge has to judge the dog on the day that that dog is shown under him. If there is no better dog in the ring must he put up a dog that he knows has bad temperament because he is standing in front of him like nothing bothers him at all? What’s the judge to do? Should he stomp his feet at the dog? Should he have a coughing fit a few inches away from him hoping the dog will show a spooky reaction? What should he do? Well this stinks because unless this dog does something showing he has bad temperament, the judge would have to put him up, right?

So now the dog wins under this judge and the next one and the next one after that. How can they deny him? So the breeders watch this dog winning under some very knowledgeable judges and everyone starts to breed to him, forgetting the true spook or fear biter that he is. Do they really forget or do they look the other way and pray that their bitch’s bloodlines are strong enough to dominate the litter?

So whose fault is this that the dog now is a Champion and top producer? Is it the judge’s fault, the breeders or the stud dog owner? Do they each play a role in the promotion of this unsound dog? Well in this writer’s opinion, it all starts with the owner of the stud dog that has the audacity to put this dog out in the ring to start with. Shame on him! Then shame on the breeders who know the bad temperament of the dog and breed to him anyway. The judge is more in a “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” position. If he’s an honest judge, he wants to do what’s right, but because the dog does nothing wrong under him, he has to judge him as he sees him on this day. For the good judge with a conscience, this must weigh heavily upon him. Does the judge say something to the handler? Does he say something to the owner? Whatever he decides to do is up to him, but to the unsuspecting audience that doesn’t know of this dog’s bad temperament, the judge has just said a ton to them. They think they just watched an outstanding representative of the breed win.

So what do you do? Do you jump on the band wagon and breed to this dog because everyone else in the breed is doing it? Do you figure that this is a good way for you to get on the good side of this influential stud dog owner? Are you thinking this person does all the winning and you want a piece of the action? Alright your puppies are born and there's nothing special in the litter. Do you think said stud dog owner will help you sell the "afraid of life" little darlings? Now you are stuck with trying to find homes for them. Also you can expect all sorts of telephone calls from their anxious new owners when the puppy can't seem to adjust to their home life because they're afraid of everything. Are you willing to take the chance in the hopes of getting the elusive "great one?"

So in this case the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover” would seem appropriate. Things are definitely not always what they may seem. If you are considering using a stud dog for your bitch, try to see the dog “one on one” away the show ring. Ask other breeders who may have bred to him about their litters. Don’t just breed to the big winner of the day or the next day. Their winning record has nothing to do with their ability to produce the ideal German Shepherd temperament that this breed is admired and known for. You owe it to yourself, to your puppies and to the future of this breed!

My rating: ideal temperament: (4), poor temperament: (1)


  1. I think that you are spot on for the most part. There are a few things that I do disagree with.
    First, I believe that anyone with a working knowldege of dogs in general can spot a less than desireable temperament. It is the look in the eye, the carriage of the tail and body. It can't be covered up by a successful passing of the so called "temperament test". A judge has the responsibility to penalize this, irregardless of the popularity of the dog or the opinion of ringside. This poor temperament is often manifested by straining, and frantic attempts, bordering on severe seperation anxiety, to see the person doubling. Only when we call this behavior out will it get back to a more reasonable level.
    Second, breeding to a dog, while not a good thing to do, will not necessarily produce offsrping with poor temperaments. A solid female and good, sensible puppy raising will often change the course of behavior. Is bad temperament genetic? Yes, to a degree....but I think that the majority of the problems that are labeled poor temperment in our breed are more a function of a lack of socialization and proper training as puppies. Not to start a war with fanciers who have kennel dogs, because many do have their heads on straight and know how to raise up a puppy, but lots have dogs who only see the occasional show stacking training and show ring exposure. This is not enough for our breed (or really any breed in my opinion). They must learn to be responsive to their owners and obedient to commands and to accept life in its many forms. Only then will you cease to see the white, wall eyed look of a dog when it is on the verge of losing it. I think that our methods of doubling need to change...especially at the specialty level. I typically see a much more subtle approach at AB shows....by force of the AKC of course.

  2. My comment would be addressing what you said about the Judge in the ring on the day of the event...you queried if the judge should speak to the handler and/or owner? I understand the reality of your question...BUT, the judge is supposed to be judging the "anonomous" dog on it merits on that day (as you stated)...therefore to continue in that vein, how can the judge speak to a handler/owner after the judging and make comments on the dog/bitch in question? I know that in reality, most of the judges know not only who the dogs are in the ring that are well known as well as the bloodlines (and that is too our detriment SOMETIMES as another dog/bitch of equal merit SOMETIMES does not get the same evaluation as the well known one...) So what does one expect a judge to do...if he calls it out...than there is the preception of unfairness because you (the judge) says he knows your dog...what about the ones he does not "know' who are equally well trained...you don't think for a minute that the "unknown" ones are not SOMETIMES well trained also...so it appears that yes indeed, the judge is on the "horns of a dilemna"...It all comes down to the ethics of the breeder/owner and in my opinion that is where the buck stops...if they have a dog of questionable temperament and they want to show him fine...if they allow someone to breed to him (or use her in breeding)then that is where the buck should stop...

  3. It is the responsibility of the owner of a spooky dog to 'turn the page' on that dog/bitch and never breed it much less show it. And, if it is a psycho spook, to put it out of it's misery. It is the responsibility of the Breeder to provide puppies with trustworthy temperament to families that want a German Shepherd Dog. I also believe it is the responsibility of Breeders to provide training for puppies they sell.

    What should judges do if they encounter a spook in their ring? Answer~ D6

    The jaded me looks at the show scene and sometimes actually wonders if the 'mightier than might' cares about anything other than making money on dogs. So the animal disappears off the scene after 2 yrs.. for whatever reason.. it's gone. Ain't that a shame.. oh well.. just start another. The monetary turn-around on these dogs is tremendous... so superior compared to the horse game where a horse doesn't mature until it is 8.