There’s no denying that the German Shepherd dog is one of the most intelligent of all breeds. There’s not too much that this dog can’t do with proper and consistent training. It takes a caring owner to put the time and work necessary into training his dog. But this breed learns quickly. It’s just that the owner must do his part to insure that this dog’s capabilities are realized.
I was looking at the German Shepherd Dog of America’s website this morning at the different obedience awards that one may achieve at the National Specialty show. Upon further observation, I wanted to see how many dogs who achieved their conformation titles (champion) were also awarded obedience titles. Let’s take a look at each one of these titles and how they are earned.
Award of Excellence (AOE) – The parent club describes it as (and I quote): “This title is awarded to the animal who has reached the highest of all goals - to become the Total German Shepherd Dog. The animal must have superior conformation, trainability and be sound in both mind and body.” To achieve this title, the dog has to pass the temperament test. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every German Shepherd could attain this title – to not only be recognized for their beauty but for their brains as well? Many Grand Victors, Victrix’s and Selects have achieved this title showing that you can have it all!
Agility Victor/Victrix _ Agility courses are created with obstacles the dog must perform correctly which includes tunnels, jumps, etc. Records from 1998 until 2008 show that nine dogs have won this most prestigious title. I didn’t notice that any one of them was a champion at the time they were awarded this title.
Obedience Victor/Victrix – As stated on the Parent Club website, and I quote: “This prestigious and difficult to obtain title is awarded to the highest combined score in the Open B and Utility classes. Dogs meeting the following criteria will be awarded the title. The requirements are:
a) A combined score of not less than 380 points.
b) May have no disqualifying faults as described by the AKC standard for the GSD.
This is to be verified by an AKC approved breed judge at the time the award is given.
c) Spayed/neutered dogs who otherwise meet the breed standards are acceptable.”
From 1968 until 2009, 15 champions have been awarded this honor!
Performance Award of Merit (PAM) – As stated on the Parent Club website and I quote: “Given in recognition and appreciation of animals who display the versatility of the breed by performing in a variety of different performance events. To be eligible for this award a dog must have completed titles in three (3) different performance areas including: Obedience & Rally, Tracking, Herding, Agility, Working Dog Sport, or GSDCA-WD.” The requirements for this title is much more advanced so I recommend anyone interested in learning what is required for this class to check it out at: www.gsdca.com for a better description. From 2001 – 2006, I see listed five champions who have received this award.
So yes, a German Shepherd Dog can have it both ways, beauty and brains. Can all German Shepherds earn an obedience title? Yes! Can all German Shepherds win a conformation title? No! For my readers who are not a German Shepherd Dog Club of America member or for those who just own a beloved pet, let me explain to you the difference and why not all German Shepherds can be awarded both these titles. Like all breeds that are recognized by the AKC (American Kennel Club), they all have a breed standard. The breed standard tells you what the proper conformation and temperament for a breed is supposed to be. If your dog has these necessary requirements and is registered with the AKC, then you can enter your dog in conformation classes for him to be judged with other dogs who meet the same requirements.
With obedience dogs, your dog doesn’t have to meet the requirements of conformation as set forth in the breed standard. He does however, need to pass the requirements for each level of obedience titles. So as you can see, all German Shepherds can be appreciated for the attributes of his breed. So although your dog may never hope to realize his championship (because he lacks the breed standard requirements), he can still go on proudly to achieve his obedience titles. Whereas, a dog who has achieved his championship title, he can also be trained and entered in obedience trials to attain his obedience titles.
So all German Shepherds regardless of their conformation attributes can be recognized for what this breed has become known for, their superior intelligence. Some have asked why more champions don’t achieve an obedience title as well. I’ve talked to some breeders about this. Some of them have told me that they are afraid to take away their exuberance in the show ring. They feel if they start teaching them to heal for obedience that they won’t pull out for the show ring. However, some of them are not against putting a conformation title on them first and then doing the obedience later.
Let me tell you what goes into producing winning dogs in the conformation ring. It’s not just about another pretty face. These dogs are trained just like the obedience dogs are, but only with a different goal in mind. From the time the German Shepherd puppy is born until maturity, his dedicated breeder has hopes and dreams for the special puppy of the litter. This puppy learns the basics of show dog training from a very early start. Belonging to many dog show lists, all one has to do is look how many people start stacking their youngsters in a show pose before they barely are weaned from their mothers!
The show dog puppy learns how to stack up for a show pose and hold that stance. He learns to have his teeth looked at just as the judge will do when he's in the show ring. He learns to stand for examination. He learns how to pull out on a lead. This is important for the show dog puppy. He will not be trained as an obedience puppy would who needs to be trained to heal by his owner’s side. This is not acceptable in the conformation ring. The German Shepherd is judged (among other things including his conformation and temperament) on his movement. In order for the judge to evaluate his movement, he needs to see the dog pull out ahead of the handler.
The show dog puppy as he matures is exercised and/or road worked. He is taught the ever “subtle” art of double handling from an early age so he knows to look for his owner when the dog is in the ring. It is important for the show dog to look alert when his handler shows him. A show dog has a certain “presence” in the ring. If he is a special one, all ringside and the judge will know it by the aura that surrounds him.
So like the obedience dog who needs hours and hours of devoted and constant training, so the show dog does as well only in a different way. Some dogs are born to be great. And although they may have all the potential to be so, unless their owner recognizes the need for training and conditioning these dogs, their potential can never hope to be realized.
As we can see every German Shepherd born can serve a purpose. It is up to his owner to bring out the best in his dog. While every German Shepherd isn’t meant to be a conformation show dog, every German Shepherd can and should achieve some degree of obedience training. I applaud and love it when I see conformation champions who also have obedience titles. Their owners have taken the time to bring out the very best in their animals and have recognized that the German Shepherd is not just known for their beauty, but for their intelligence as well. In fact if you were to ask the general public what they thought about our beloved breed, I would dare say that most would comment on this breeds mind and all the services that they provide to man.
My rating: obedience titled dogs: (4), conformation titled dogs: (4), obedience and conformation titled dogs: (4+++++++++++++++)!