[ SHOWGSD-L ] Re: Modifying GSD temperament

  • From: "Kathaleen Strong" <inflight@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <showgsd-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 21 Nov 2009 11:47:55 -0800

I am glad someone brought this topic up.  I think the GSDCA Loose Lead
Temperament Evaluation has not proven itself to benefit our breed's
temperament.  It was incorporated as "the" method sometime around 1999-2000
where it was put into contracts that the judges of futurities and the
National would perform this -- loose lead evaluation; whereupon the handler
must stand back (far back) from the dog and the dog must stand it's ground
and submit to allowing a stranger to "touch" it.  Now, I'm all for doing
anything to keep improving the temperament of our breed; however, I do not
believe this test has done anything in the way of improving the overall
temperament of the breed, if anything, I believe in some cases, we have more
people who are getting "better" at training their unsound dogs to pass this
UNNATURAL test, than an actual improvement in overall temperament.  More
likely the case is, we have more people who are putting working titles on
their dogs than ever before, and this could be a good reason why if there
has been any "significant" improvement.

How many times have you walked your GSD down the road and had Joe Blow walk
up to you and say "Stand back, I want to touch your dog"?  And to further
put insult to injury, how many times has Joe Blow walked up to and say,
"Stand back I want to touch your dog" and then proceed to either put their
hands on your lead and/or proceed to hug/body-thump your GSD?  I think in a
lot of cases the average Joe Blow has more sense and RESPECT for our breed
than the GSDCA and many Judges do.  What the average Joe Blow invariably
does is, respectfully walks up, looks at your dog, then look at you and say,
"What a beautiful dog, would it be okay if I pet it?".  At this point, most
people with animals who are sound will say, "sure", then tell the dog, "it's
okay", and then Joe Blow pets them on the head, and if the dog is more
friendly than aloof, they will proceed further for more attention, after
all, these dogs do love attention.  If the dog is more of an aloof
temperament, they will calmly submit to being petted, all the while sizing
up this stranger.  Now of course, there are the idiots out there who do as
described by our resident blogster, but those people can't be counted as
normal or average.

The loose lead trained temperament evaluation that is currently incorporated
does NOT, IMO benefit the breed.  These are GSD's -- not Golden Retrievers.
They are GSD's with all the GSD instincts that have been bred into them for
the past 100+ years.  When you expect a GSD to be evaluated using a test
such as this "loose lead - stand back" version, and a dog is expected to
stand still and submit without being given the time to access if this person
who is walking up to them is friend or foe, and basically being trained that
everyone is Friend -- it confuses their INSTINCT -- they are GSD's, a
thinking breed, and part of their integral thinking process is to evaluate
their inner intuition/instinct and determine who is friend or foe.  

Now imagine the irreparable damage that is being done to our puppies.  I
think that puppies should be less discriminatory than adults: they don't
have the life experience to be able to fully evaluate situations -- unless
of course, they are in an environment say, where they watch their elders
protecting the property from wild animals, or alerting when people come to
your house, or out watching their elders working at herding or whatever --
puppies are sponges and they absorb what they learn.  But even if they are
in this kind of environment, they still do not have all the finer tuned
equipment necessary to determine who is friend and foe.  Let's say you have
a top puppy, that you're going to go out and train for the ring.  This
"loose lead" evaluation process is something you expose them to and they are
taught that everyone is friend.  In some dogs, the process of learning who
is friend or foe gets short circuited and by demanding them to react that
all who they meet are friend, it confuses to their INSTINCT to be
discriminatory, even if it's not entirely developed, it's still there as is
their other basic gifts of sight, hearing, smell, etc.  

I guess the best way to describe these instincts which have been bred into
our dogs for all these years is to use an analogy -- When I took my first
dogs to my first herding instinct certification -- I was absolutely amazed
that these dogs, with ZERO in the way of working titles in at least 7
generations, walked into the pen with these sheep and "turned on" and did it
what this breed was bred to do so INSTINCTUALLY.  It was amazing.  I studied
the pedigree even more, and for at least 30 years in the pedigree, the
selection process used had NOTHING to do with herding, yet these basic
instincts to return the flock, to work around the edge of the flock was all
there with no training.  It makes me wonder what other "instincts" that make
a GSD a German Shepherd Dog are still in tune to them and if we are harming
the development process by demanding such an evaluation which goes against
the innate qualities of what makes a GSD a breed which has a distinct
personality marked by direct and fearless, but not hostile, expression,
self-confidence and a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to
immediate and indiscriminate friendships. 

Now brings the other reason I believe this test is improper -- When you add
up the COMPLETELY UNNATURAL expectation of the test where "friendly" dogs
are often more appreciated than dogs who do not show "friendly" behavior,
the way it is ROUTINELY done incorrectly (ie body thumping, hugging, taking
of the leash, staring down of dogs, SHHH-SHHH agitation utilization, and
other poor displays) all of which displays an utter lack of respect to the
unique instincts that makes a GSD a GSD, and then the selection used by
breeders based upon what the results (or lack of them due to animals
impeccably trained to "stand or die" - "stand or don't eat") tell them is a
dog they should breed to -- I wonder in the long run if the topic of this
thread is true:

That the utilization of this Unnatural "evaluation" is in the end going to
result in a outward modification of the breed's temperament -- with I
believe, some serious consequences:  Golden retrievers do not act like
GSD's, and a GSD which acts like a Golden Retriever with all its GSD
instincts in play is IMO a confused, unhappy dog and potentially a dangerous

In my opinion, the GSDCA needs to continue to institute methods by which the
conformation judge must address temperament in our breed, but this current
test is not it.  I believe the breed's unique qualities of temperament need
to be respected by all who come in contact with our breed, especially those
who are supposed to be "experts" in it, and thus, I believe a modified
"friendly stranger" approach should be used, perhaps something similar to

1) The dog and handler stand at a specified spot and the lead must be at a
decided "loose" position with significant curve to the lead.  
2) The judge purposefully walks up to the dog and handler, the dog should be
alert and responsive to this approach, exuding confidence as he/she sizes up
the person coming toward them.  No double handling is to be tolerated.  If
the dog is responding to someone other than the judge or the handler, the
judge should stop the evaluation, warn the handler that outside interference
will result negatively for the entrant, and re-approach the dog/handler from
a different direction.  
3) The judge then says something cordial and friendly to the Handler
example, "Hello! what a lovely dog, may I pet him?"
4) The handler then says to the judge, "Sure" and tells the dog in some
form, (example: "it's okay"), thereby telling the dog it's to submit to
being touched and evaluated.
5) The judge then proceeds to introduce their hand to the nose of the dog
and then pet them on the head.  The dog should be neither be recalcitrant,
reluctant, nor nervous with this contact.
6) All through this evaluation the judge should conscientiously evaluate the
dog's demeanor, it should not be anxious and it should be unflinchingly
confident.  The dog should be responsive to judge's presence -- ie it should
make an indication that they are aware of the judge, either with eye contact
or nose sniffing, or anything which shows that they are paying attention to
their immediate surroundings, and after being told it's okay to submit, the
dog should be willing to greet this stranger with no hesitation or
7) Any response which is less than ideal, which includes a lack of
confidence, overly aggressive, overly friendly, and nervous and worried
reactions should be penalized.  Any lack of responsive reaction to the
Judge, either by the dog not recognizing them, because of doubling or lack
of behavior, should be addressed and appropriately faulted.

Most importantly -- No temperament evaluation should be done to puppies
under the age of 12 months.  These animals are still learning who is friend
and who is foe and by demanding that we train our puppies that everyone is
friend is very confusing to them, and I believe results in confused and
INACCURATE evaluations of the animal's true temperament, which is not fully
developed until they are adults.

I realize this is a dramatic step -- but this evaluation could be done as
succinctly as this current "loose lead evaluation" which is, IMO, NOT a
natural method of determining who exhibits correct GSD (not golden
retriever) temperament, and I do not believe it is helping improve
temperament in the breed.

Just some thoughts,


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