Gebrauchshund, Deutscher Schäferhund

Gebrauchshund, Deutscher Schäferhund is my personal blog for the working German Shepherd Dog. Here I'll opine on the virtues of the breed and talk about training, competitions, bloodlines, pedigrees, and anything else I want to bullshit about.

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Location: Oregon, United States

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The early days. . . .part I.

Who the hell came up with this crazy shit?

I mean, look at these guys in this photo. Do they look like normal fucking guys? No, and lucky for us they weren't. Thankfully, about a century ago a few knuckleheads decided to use an old world solution to solve a new world problem.

(this is going to be a long story, so settle in)

Lets take a walk back to 1897. Follow me for a few minutes. Imagine yourself walking the cold and wet streets of an old world town in Prussia. It is your job to protect and serve. You happen upon two hoods, easily your size or bigger, who surely think it will be easier to beat you to within an inch of your life and walk away than it will be to spend the night in jail. You're a tough as nails guy, but do you do your duty and give it the old college try? Do you wade into hand to hand combat with Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber just to save some poor father who is about to be jumped for his coin purse while trying to get medicine home to a sick child in the middle of the night? You're a lone police officer walking your nightly beat while working for a department that is severely under staffed. There isn't anyone within earshot to help you. A good number of your fellow officers have been violently attacked by the local hooligans and criminals that are hunting the city streets for victoms to wreak havok upon. You don't have a Glock 23, you don't have a radio, you don't have a squad car, you sure as hell don't have an AR-15 locked in your trunk, nor a bullet proof vest. . . . .not even a damn flashlight! Your wife and children live in constant fear that you won't come home in the morning, especially after that time you were stabbed by a prostitute in the back while you were arresting her pimp of a boyfriend. Do you walk away, or do you face a beating to try and help?

Life for you is difficult, to say the least. Your boss, Prussian police inspector Franz Laufer and his superiors have been begging the municiple authorities to hire more police officers to counter the increasing violence in your district, but to no avail. There is no money to do so. This is a real problem and the safety of the public and the officers who are there to protect them is in serious question.

But often. . .born of necessity. . . a solution is found. Inspector Franz Laufer, a man who had no experience with dogs at all, came up with a unique idea. An old idea that had not been used in "modern" times yet anywhere in the world. Dogs! Dogs were once used as guards for famous knights who went into battle with their faithful mastiffs. They were once used by ancient tribesmen to guard their villages and homes. Hell, they were used now by the local drovers and shepherds to guard their stock AND their money when they came into town. Outside of town vicious dogs were all over the place on private estates and rural homes to guard them from the rogues that wandered the countrysides. Why not use a large and powerful dog to accompany a police officer? A dog who could offer real physical protection! A dog that could intimidate nasty ideas of resisting arrest right out of a criminal's mind. A dog that would make an angry mob think twice about preventing a police officer from removing a well liked drunken ruffian from a local brew hall. Good idea Inspector Laufer!!

This doesn't really seem like an "idea" at all to us now. When I read this story for the first time a few years ago, I thought, "OOooooo what a brilliant idea. . . .you dumbass. Everybody knows you can use a dog to protect someone. . .duuhh!"

But that really was a pretty revolutionary idea for the time. When studying the history and social habits of the urban people during those times, dogs weren't really a part of their lives. In those days dogs really had limited roles in urban society. They were seen as vermin in the cities or as vicious liabilities. Only in the agricultural areas, the rural areas, were dogs necessary and accepted. So Inspector Laufer was really thinking outside of the box, and in normal human fashion was treated as such. LOL The municipal authorities said no fucking way! Due to fears of liability and ugly civil litigation he was shot down. His own officers gave him some guff as well. They just wanted more officers, not some stupid dog that they had to worry about being eaten by.

Anyway, things continued to be bad for officers on the streets and finally after there were so many cases of assaults on officers that the municiple authorities could no longer say no, they said yes to Inspector Laufer. They gave him some money to purchase a few dogs and he did.

Here starts the history of the police service dog, and indirectly the history of working dog training and application for civilians as well. Civilians being the important part. If civilians had not become interested in the training, keeping, and breeding of working dogs in the early 1900s we wouldn't have working dogs today, of that I'm fairly certain. On with the story though. . . .

Laufer had the money to buy some dogs and the go-ahead from the brass. All that remained to get his project off the ground was to figure out how the hell to do it. Laufer studied, but found that there weren't any training books available, nor were there any other police departments in all of Germany that had any experience selecting, training, and deploying dogs. Laufer managed to find a Sergeant who used to be a game warden and had some experience with dogs. Sergeant Lange was his name. Game Wardens used dogs in various ways already at this time. The dogs did detection work, area searches for poachers on restricted lands, blood tracked wounded game, some protection work, and all manner of other useful things. Sergeant Lange, in his absolute and unquestionable wisdom suggested the German Shepherd Dog to Laufer as the animal to use. LOL Laufer didn't agree and after some study of dogs he chose the Deutsche Dogge, or as we know it, the Great Dane.

Laufer believed that the Deutsche Dogge would be an absolutely intimidating dog and at that time they were very useful animals. The Deutsche Dogge was used to track and kill wild boar and other large game, as well as various guarding roles on estates and farms. They were however a bit hard to train, difficult to handle, required a lot of food, and were not as weather proof as they needed to be. Generally they were kept in kennels by rich hunters and in the homes of wealthy agricultural families. Tight skin and close fur allowed for better hunting in the heavy brush of the German forests and lowlands as well as for less purchase for a wild nasty to get ahold of in a scuffle.

(I include this information because this is the one reason why later, the German Shepherd Dog won out in future selections as the police dog of choice. Not because of their better drives or skills, certainly not because they were more intimidating to look at, but because of their weatherproof coats, because they were thrifty feeders, and because they were smaller and had temperaments more suited to working WITH their handlers. They had those traits as well as the ability to track men, bite them, and protect their handlers. The German police wisely gave up some size, strength, and intimidation to gain weatherproof animals who didn't eat 2lbs of meat at a sitting, and who had an uncanny desire to please their handlers.)

Laufer deployed the first police service dog on October 18th, 1901. The Deutsche Dogge's name was Caesar. He was kept muzzled while on patrol and was trained in protection and mantracking by Sergeant Lange. Which was a stroke of brilliance because it was ultimately the police dogs ability to track and find a criminal that was his most valuable trait. That ability helped the police dog program survive even in the face of litigation due to bites and poor public opinion.

Caesar and his fellow police service dogs were a success. Such a success that the K9 officers who were on patrol were involved in roughly 90% fewer assualts while in the presence of their working dog partners. They were a huge success, but Laufer's program wasn't getting any notice or positive press. Nor were other departments listening to his advice in begining their own police dog programs. Laufer decided to hold a police dog demonstration and invited police officers from all over Germany to attend. That was a good idea, and what came of it was not only a LOT of interest in police dogs, but also the first attempt at building an organization for the training, keeping, and deployment of the police service dog.

So how exactly did this rough begining lead us to modern working dogsport, modern service dogs, and the saving of the working breeds? Well. . . . . .

. . . .part II of this post will cover that. LOL

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Deutscher Schäferhund

The German Shepherd Dog is one of the most popular dogs in the world, and for good reason. He has been our constant working companion for well over 100 years. His utility, his serviceability, his courage, and his drive have set him apart from the world's various other dog breeds. Various other dog breeds who have faded into sad obscurity, or worse. Those poor animals who have been transformed into witless docile showpieces. Dogs who are nice to look at, but who's temperaments are utterly lacking in the substance that once made them useful and relevant. The working dog community has managed to maintain the German Shepherd Dog's working ability. The German Shepherd Dog has been an agricultural tool, a utilitarian service animal, a guard dog, and a companion. He still has the innate ability to excel in all of those functions as demanded by his handler. The genetics are still there for work and as long as they are carefully tended by the perverse few of us who want a powerful working dog, the German Shepherd dog will continue to be one of the most popular dogs in the world. That, in a nutshell, is what it's all about. We've got to continue to select strong working dogs for breeding, and expose and eliminate the pretenders from spoiling the gene pool with crap. This will be the focus of this open blog. Be it Schutzhund, SAR, Ring Sport, police K9 work, personal protection training. . . .whatever . . .we need to ensure this breed can continue to do it well.

I'll be posting often with various topics and hope other's will comment as well.