As a breeder, I get the occasional phone call or email from a buyer wishing to purchase a puppy for ‘top sport’ and looking for a guarantee that the puppy I pick for them will put them on the podium.
The German Shepherd is a versatile breed. And while the genetics of carefully selected breeding stock are in place to facilitate the development of the dog toward whatever endeavor their owner may wish to partake in, there are many, many other factors that contribute to the success or failure of an animal in the owner’s predetermined choice of work or sport.
I honestly wish I were able to guarantee that every single one of our pups would be tops at whatever they do! At seven weeks, I can take the puppy that exhibits all the characteristics that make it the ‘pick’ for top sport, and sometimes, a year later the dog will be no closer to ‘top sport’ than a ‘lesser qualified’ puppy. Why? Because of outside influences that shape the dog during its development, many of which have little to do with the dog and more to do with the motivation, determination and commitment of the owner.
If you are a seasoned dog sport veteran and have raised several puppies to top level competition, then your chances of raising a puppy to top sport level again are better, especially if you’ve done your homework and selected your prospective puppy from top breeding stock that demonstrates the ability to compete and gain titles. Yet, even then there are no guarantees that your puppy will achieve high levels as genetics are no guarantee in any animal-related sport, whether it be dogs or horses. However, if you are new to the sport and new to working dogs, picking the puppy is only a very small step (albeit a very important one) in the long, arduous process of training a puppy up to a top-level competition dog.
I could write a book about the factors that influence a dog’s success or failure as a sport/working dog, so I won’t go into a long-winded discussion of those influences here. If you are truly serious about raising a puppy for top sport, you need to do your homework. Think about it. If you wanted to race race cars, you could go spend a bundle on a high-end car, however, you still wouldn’t able to compete at top levels. You have to learn how to drive the car. You have to find a coach willing to teach you every intimate detail necessary to participate in auto racing. There would be lots of rules to learn as well as do's and don'ts. In addition to owning a fast car and having a qualified coach, you need access to a top mechanic able to keep your car running at peak levels and a highly qualified pit crew that can keep both you and the car on the racetrack with quality support. The same car that famous race drivers win with, you'd put in the wall on the second lap, if you didn't do your end of the bargain and work hard after buying the the right car. The world of top notch dogs is no different.
As a puppy buyer and a prospective Schutzhund competitor, here are a few factors to consider that may help guarantee the success of your puppy:
Good nutrition, quality veterinarian care and safe, secure housing.
A good understanding of the drives your pup possesses and the knowledge to work with those drives and shape them into the behaviors and tasks the dog will be asked to perform in competition.
A knowledgeable Schutzhund club or group that participates in your chosen work or sport where you attend sessions on a regular basis to gain knowledge about the sport and the dog’s drives and behaviors and to keep your dog in top physical condition and moving forward in the sport.
An understanding of the puppy’s developmental stages and having the patience to not push it toward doing work it is physically incapable of performing at that level of development.
Time to socialize and introduce the puppy to a variety of people and environments while at the same time gauging the puppy’s confidence levels and controlling their environments in a path toward success.
A reliable, safe and experienced training helper who will develop the dog incrementally through the phases of bitework. If you can’t find such a helper near where you live, and you want to compete at top levels, you must be willing to travel, spending time and money necessary to get your dog worked on such a helper. No handler succeeds without a quality helper, as much as many want to believe otherwise.
Dogs are not robots. Much like people, they are influenced by physical, psychological and environmental influences, all of which can either help to build them up to achieve their potential or prove a detriment in their development, thereby stifling or extinguishing whatever hope of success the new owner had at reaching ‘top sport’.
As a breeder, I am willing to listen to your dreams and desires when it comes to your perfect dog, whether you are seeking a companion to watch over you and your family, or a high-drive performer who can be your working partner while you both enjoy the journey of participating in a rewarding sport. I am willing to try to facilitate whatever dream you may have by providing a genetically sound animal to serve as your canvas. Can I guarantee you will end up on the podium? No. No one can.
Unfortunately, very few people that ask for a top sport prospect go on to do anything with the dog. Situations sometimes change and most see the work level involved and change their plans. If you have never had a top sport dog, or do not have extensive knowledge and support from people that have done well and are willing to greatly help you, the chances of you truly achieving top sport are drastically reduced. Many people who demand a top sport puppy are only repeating an internet catch phrase they've read and do not need a dog of that caliber. Some, if they truly got their wish, would struggle to handle the animal they've wished for. Many could be given the reincarnation of Asko von der Lutter and would still never see a title.
So, take the time to learn and listen to the breeder's advice of what animal best suits your needs, and abilities. And remember, a puppy is a gamble. They are a fraction of the cost of the proven adult outside so many's budgetary reach. Be very wary of promises and guarantees. What can I guarantee? I can guarantee that the rewards you experience with your new companion and the work you choose will be proportional to the effort you put into learning, participating in and enjoying the process. When success does happen, after so much hard work, the smile on your face next to your loyal friend will be worth more to you than the check others write to shortcut the journey there.
"Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." – Arthur Ashe
"Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters." – Harry Callahan
"The man who rears a dog must complete what the breeder began." – Captain Max von Stephanitz
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Are you interested in joining a Schutzhund Club in Indiana? If so, please contact me to arrange a visit to my schutzhund club, OG Landshark !