ABOUT THE AUTHOR Julie Degen has been showing dogs since she and her husband, E.J., bought a German Shepherd as a wedding gift to themselves in 1987. E.J. & Julie have lived all over the world with their dogs, courtesy of the U.S. Army. Julie actively competes in dog events and has champions in herding, conformation and agility; as well as many other titles in tracking, obedience, rally and fl yball. Th e Degens breed under the kennel name Caisson and are now happily living on a small farm in Virginia with a growing variety of farm animals, several German Shepherds, a token Border Collie and a delightful Papillon that rules the farm.
As a guide dog, the German Shepherd’s job is to constantly assess the environment and how it will a ff ect his charge. FULL OF LIFE. A physically premier working dog is nothing without this. Even if a dog is physi- cally capable of hard labor, they have to have the innate drive and desire to perform. Also important in the breed standard, “ Th e ideal dog is a working animal with an incorruptible character combined with body and gait suitable for the arduous work that constitutes its primary purpose.” As important as movement is in defining the German Shepherd Dog, character and temperament are of the utmost impor- tance. Without proper temperament, there is no German Shepherd. “ Th e breed 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.” As a herding dog, the German Shepherd must be self- confident so the sheep will respect him. If necessary, he must be willing to grip the sheep, but if he exudes confidence and sureness, the sheep are much less likely to challenge him. Th e standard also states, “A German Shepherd is a trotting dog and its structure has been developed to meet the require- ments of its work.” Th e German Shepherd as originally utilized as a tending sheep dog and envisioned by Captain Max von Stephanitz, was that of a trotting dog, capable of tirelessly covering large dis- tances with minimal e ff ort. Th e German Shepherd should be able to accelerate into a long ground covering gait, but then also
slow down into an easy suspended trot. A dog that needs to break into a gallop will disturb the grazing of the sheep and so is less desirable than a dog that maintains a trot and only changes the speed of such. A dog that stops and stares at the sheep can be disturbing to the flock and often sheep will stop eating and stare back at the dog, time wasted when they could be filling their bellies. A dog that continues to move while the flock eats is actually calming to the sheep as the dog is clearly telling them where the boundary is located and the sheep do not see them as a threat. Besides the variety of fields of practical work done by the German Shepherd, there are also many sports of which the German Shepherd is a popular competitor. Th e ver- satility of the German Shepherd breed is where it truly excels. In AKC sports alone, German Shepherds compete in agility, herding, coursing, obedience, rally and tracking. It has been said that the German Shepherd may not be the best at any par- ticular sport, but they are second best at all of them. DISCLAIMER & THANKS German Shepherds are a multi-purpose herding breed and are quite capable of doing many of the chores described in the initial paragraph. Although I sometimes use my GSDs for chore work, my sheep still look upon them as the tending dogs and expect to “go out for lunch” when they see them. Th anks to my friend Susan Sullivan for generously sharing her expertise and knowledge as well as teaching me all I know about tending with German Shepherds.
A tending GSD gently teaching a lamb about the border.
250 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J UNE 2015
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