Working GSD breeding and dog sports
The result of 30 years of work with GSD
Dog sports enthusiasts from Finland
My name is Heidi, I live in Finland, and my days are filled with dogs, interesting studies of Working GSD breeding and dog sports. If you are a dog sport enthusiastics, and follow WUSV- and FCI competitions, you may know, that despite of it’s small size, Finland is a very successful country. Not only in F1- and rally sport, but also in dog sports. Maybe you also recognize Finnish dog handlers. Few of them have in addition to their dog sport career ended up to work with dogs, and offer training services and courses to IGP handlers all over the world. So, in addition to motorsport, we are also inspired by working dogs and dog sports.
Life-long commitment and an ideology
Practically, I have worked with dogs all of my life. That’s over 40 years now – not professionally but as a hobby – starting at the age of 12. At first, my sport was tracking (and Dobermanns), but after having my first GSD in 1988, I began with IGP. My interest turned to working-line GSDs in 1990, and my first Grauenfeld-litter was born in 1994. I have built my own ideology for Working GSD breeding and dog sports, which is quite tight. I also can honestly say that dogs are my life, this is my lifestyle, and I’m not particularly interested in anything else. Some years back, I moved from the countryside to south Finland and took time off from dogs. I still had my oldies, but they were retired. It was obvious that, at some point, I would start looking for a new dog. However, I wouldn’t have guessed how hard that would be!
When I started dog sports in the ’70s, both training and dogs were quite different than they are today. GSD was known worldwide as the “one” breed. No one thought of any difference between dogs, not to mention the “working line,” which wasn’t even a concept yet. There is no question about it that through specialization in the ’70s, the German Shepherd Dog was saved. Today, I don’t feel things quite that way. It’s easy to see faults when facing all that heath troubles that started decades ago. That can be said that, sadly, people tend to make the same mistakes over and over again.
But the truth is that people, who, in those early years, worked with dogs, kept breeding working abilities rather than looks. And that has been the savior of our breed. From a health aspect, only HD was examined in those days. It took a long time before ED was recognized in Germany. Even in Finland, we started to x-ray ED, not to mention back/spine/knees, etc., long before Germany. Undoubtedly, GSD has suffered EDs and spine problems before, but how wide have those other – more severe illnesses been? Like allergies and autoimmune diseases. It would be exciting to know how people, and breeders, evaluated their dog’s health other than HD – that we can only speculate.
My kind of a working dog type
When the Finnish teams started to succeed in WUSV, sports enthusiasts turned their eyes to our dogs. And no wonder. They were pretty different compared to others. And even in dog sports, fashion trends have an influence. There was a time when most of the dogs were silent after “out” command, and during the active fight phase, they didn’t pressure decoys so much. Those were the days of “prey dogs.”
On the other hand, our dogs were strong, they put lots of effort into dominating the decoy, and they had balanced drives, which made them easy to bark oppressively when they guarded the decoy. For me, this kind of dog is still ideal – I simply love strong, determined, and 2-drive dogs, and that is also what drives me – and nowadays many other breeders – to pursue that kind of breeding material. There is, however, a dangerous pitfall… If you’re working hard on a certain thing, something equally necessary may fall into the background.
Working GSD breeding and dog sports
Two essential qualities when breeding working dogs are drive and health. You don’t have a complete package if one is missing. That’s why I imagined people would today be more aware and take GSD’s health risks, including autoimmune diseases and elbow– and back problems, more seriously. But I have to wonder. I see a lot of inbreeding and certain lines combined. I know a lot of breeders all over the world using “world’s favorite top males” – the best of the best – for their bitches – all kinds of bitches. I see so many “pedigree breedings” filled with famous dogs and illnesses that it makes me sick.
Some underestimate others by doing scams
I have worked hard to avoid health issues in my breeding work. And still haven’t succeeded 100%, but I have learned. I know what I should not do if I want to avoid problems in. However, whether I like it or not, I still depend on other breeders and stud owners because working GSD breeding and dog sports isn’t only a single person’s work; as you know, we need each other. And that scares and bothers me because I know all are not honest. Some underestimate others by doing scams.
Hard to understand why?
How many think about health issues rather than famous studs and “top” pedigrees? Working lines have always had favorite lines; why should it be otherwise today? There is still a big difference between the old days and today. Now we have all the tools and knowledge to avoid problems if we want and care. Still, there are two types of breeders – those, who care, and those who don’t. Some breeders choose studs by their commercial value, mainly because they have succeeded in top competitions; BSP, WUSV, or are otherwise well advertised. Nasty thing to say, I know, but some studs sell puppies better than others. In some cases, these dogs do produce great with the right partner. But the fact is that some combinations and inbreeding make me worry because of all their possible or even expected problems.
It's easy to add quantity; quality is another matter.
Sadly there is that fact that breeder thinks and hopes that nothing wrong will happen to their litter. Again, very dangerous fools hope – situation. And for what? Drives you can see and experience in a dog, but health factor depends on open knowledge, common sense, the x-rays, and of course, honesty. But that is where the ethics of the breeder and stud owner comes into the picture. What if the dog’s health data isn’t what the owner says it is? What if a “good breeder” falls into this kind of “scam”? Whose fault is it when the results in the litter aren’t what they expected to be? If breeders’ choices are based on false info – or worse – indifference, who will pay the bill if the dog gets sick? Whose time and money has been wasted? I can answer that – It will be the breeder and the puppy buyer and dog handler who pays that bill.
How will a lack of interest in health affect us in the future?
Even in recent years in WUSV / FCI -competitions, we have seen dogs that have been sick. The reason for presenting such dogs can only be guessed. However, this shows that, in a way, performance has taken precedence over health in working GSD breeding and dog sports. Therefore the world’s head associations of working dogs have noticed this and taken action. Unfortunately, all of this action is not good. It brings up more questions about ethical choices than it gives solutions to them. So I’m not sure if those regulations in this year’s WUSV 2023 are any good for the whole picture. We also know the “working-dog.eu” platform, which has so far let people easily add their dog’s health data to the dog’s profile. Well, not anymore. It’s interesting to see how many stud/females will end up with no health data after those details need to be proven with documents…
What am I looking for?
Who can I trust? Which data is worthy and accurate, and which is false? Where to find a responsible breeder who has done his homework and makes good selections. There is no 100% risk-free breeding, unfortunately. But we can influence things in good ways that it would be foolish not to do so. This issue has become particularly important to me – some kind of a mission – and I want to raise these issues to working dog enthusiasts’ coffee table topics, instead of hiding them.
Obviously, as a dog enthusiast, dog health has always been important to me. However, after my short absence, this matter came up very strongly when I started to seek new dog material for my future breeding program. I found many interesting dogs and, at first glance, many appealing combinations. I had to back off after a deeper look because, in my opinion, there have been too many obvious risks in many combinations. Finally, I found a litter – not perfect – but one I could accept. I imported a black female, and so far, I have been satisfied with her – through complete x-rays and gene health checks, she is proven healthy. Now my challenge is finding a suitable stud for her when that time comes, and I think that will be a very tough task!
A brief look back at my personal history with GSD
I started my dog training career at 12 with a Doberman, thanks to my parents, who were also active, and worked as judges. My first German Shepherd in 1986 was from Show-lines, but since 1990 I have dedicated my life to Working line GSDs. Soon, in 1994, I was in a situation when I felt the best solution for me was to breed my own dogs, and my first working line litter saw its daylight. Complete x-rays (hips, elbows, shoulders, knees, back/spine) have been included in health checks for every single of my dogs and litters since ’90.
After my first German import working line GSD, which I had to euthanize after his spine diagnosis under three years old, I have been obsessed with complete x-rays. As a breeder, I am stubborn and an ideologist. That must be one reason for my being lucky with decisions and breeding choices, which have brought me good litters and quite a few excellent individuals to work with.
My personal achievements in Working GSD breeding and dog sports so far:
16 self trained/titled dogsin protection - 9 dogs titled IGP 3 - 15 Finish Championship trials with 8 different dogs - 2 times 3rd place in Finish Championships - 3 time 4th place in Finish Championships - 2 time 6th place in Finish Championships - 4 times WUSV competitor + 1 time WUSV reserve dog - 1 time 3rd place with Team Finland in WUSV
The results of my breeding work:
Dogs in Finnish Championship and FCI / WUSV WM-competitions:
- Alex Grauenfeld
- Atra Grauenfeld
- Cazan Grauenfeld
- Fram Grauenfeld
- Inox Grauenfeld
- Korgan Grauenfeld
- Khan Grauenfeld
- Meggit Grauenfeldn
- Nick Grauenfeld – Finish Championship Winner 2016, WUSV WM -participant in Germany
- Owax Grauenfeld
- Otis Grauenfeld
- Olekta Grauenfeld
- Prago Grauenfeld – FCI WM -participant in Austria
- Assia Grauenfeld – Military police dog, served in crisis areas
- Berra Grauenfeld – Police service dog
- Dronik Grauenfeld – Police service dog
- Ewum Grauenfeld – Military police dog
- Gerry Grauenfeld – IP1, Military police dog, served as detective dog in Kosovo
- Iras Grauenfeld – Military police dog
- Kwaz Grauenfeld – IP2, Military police dog
- Nardo Grauenfeld – Police service dog, a very tough male
- Nash Grauenfeld – Police service dog, a very tough male, nominated as a “Hero” for saving people in duty
I've trained dogs since 1977:
- Dob. Micella Ingo, born ’75 – tracking, searching, Finish Working Champion, 3 x SM-participant
- Dob. Micella Falconex, born ’77 – Finish Working Champion, 1xSM-participant
- Gsd Roy born ’86 – Tracking, level II
- Gsd Junkertum’s Blaze, born ’88 – searching level 1, Finish Working Champion in tracking and IPO, 2 x Winner of Finish Champion competition (tracking), Winner of the International tracking trial
- Atra Grauenfeld, born ’94 SchH1, Kkl1 (after SchH1 -title she was placed to my friend, who finished her SchH3 and participated in Finish Championships)
- Berra Grauenfeld, born ’96 SchH1 (sold after title, served as a police dog)
- Cazan Grauenfeld born ’98 (chryptorchid, sold ca. 2y old > participant in Finish Championships)
- Dargo Grauenfeld, born ’99 BH (had to end his training after dental injury ’02)
- Fram Grauenfeld, born ’01 SchH3, participant in Finish Championships and WUSV-qualis.
- Gimmi Grauenfeld, born ’02 BH (excellent female, unfortunately passed away ’05) (one of my greatest)
- Koshi Grauenfeld, born ’08 SchH1 (extremely talented, one of my best)
- Kingo Grauenfeld, born ’08 SchH1 (ended training after knee injury 2010) (one of my best)
- Korgan Grauenfeld, born ’08 SchH1, IP3, 2 x Finish Championship participant / WUSV-quali. participant
- Meggit Grauenfeld, born .’09 (sold ca.2y old > IP3, participant in Finish Championships)
- Nash Grauenfeld, born ´09 (sold, served as a police dog)
- Oqtan Grauenfeld, born ’10 BH (extremely talented, euthanised in 2014 after loosing battle against borreliosis, one of my best)
- Prago Grauenfeld, born ’12 (extremely talented > sold ca 7months old > participant in Finish Championships and FCI World Championships )
- Pando Grauenfeld, born ’12 (extremely talented > sold ca 1y old)
My other dogs:
- Junkertum’s Blaze, born ’88 IP3, 3 x Finish Championships -participant., 4th place in Finish Championships (IPO)
- Harro v. Nordpfeil, born ’90 IP1 (dogs problem was his lumbal spine > euthanised)
- Raymondan Natan, born ’92 SchH3, Kkl2, 3 x participant in Finish Championships and WUSV WM, 3rd place in Finish Championships
- Josch v. Schloss Birkenstein, born ’93 SchH3, 2 x Finish Championship partisipant and WUSV-quali. participant (father in C and G -litters) (one of my greatest)
- Lana v. Schwartenzwinger, born ’95 SchH3, 2 x participant in Finish Championships and WUSV-qualifications, 3rd place in Finish Championships, mother to my E-, F- and G-litters
- Ina v. Schwarzen Nister, born ’95 SchH1, mother to my C-litter
- Ultimo Venusina sopka, born ’99, SchH3, 4th place in Finish Championship, WUSV-WM participant
- Zoyja v. Schwartenzwinger, born ’05 BC1 (C97) mother of K- ja N -litters (one of my greatest)
- Jeff Eqidius, born ’01 SchH3 SM´07, WUSV-MM ’07 reserve dog (one of my greatest)
- Tjeff Eqidius, born ’05 SchH3 (one of my best)
- Pussi Eqidius, born ’08 BH, mother of O-, P- ja Q -litters
- Kxidan Haus Klönne was born in ’12. He was a highly talented, demanding dog, but my training circumstances changed, and I no longer didn’t have a proper helper for him.