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Canine Trauma

Helping the Helpers
Notes on Walter Hoffman's Helper Seminar

By Schutzhund Nerd Terri Short, DVM

The Mid East Regional Helper Seminar was held at the "hilly"Greater Cincinnati Schutzhund Club April 25th and 26th. There wereabout 20 helpers of all levels who were carefully evaluated andindividually given attention by Mr. Walter Hoffman. The seminar started with aone hour discussion in the confortable, roomy clubhouse about theelements of Schutzhund helper work. The helper must be (1) in goodphysical condition, (2) able to "read" dogs, and (3) be personally fearless.

Mr. Hoffman also pointed out that the helper must take into considerationthe goals of the handler (i.e. national level competition, handlerexercise and enjoyment, club trial title, non-compulsion training,social opportunity, serious breeder, etc.). It was pointed out that thehelper will have no dogs to work if these people are not having fun andnot making progress toward the person's individual goals with theirdog. After the lecture and discussion helpers took the fieldindividually to be evaluated and instructed in an escape bite withdefensive drive and stick hits.

After lunch, several dogs were brought onto the field and each helper started with dog one (bite escapeand defense drive with stick hits) with each dog in a line down thefield. Some of the higher competition dogs seemed to really enjoydragging and shaking helpers as each attempted to do their best helperwork. Dog 3 ("Amigo" owned by Susie Dycus and shown at the world triallast year) and Dog 4 ("Gauner" owned by Tom Huelsman and shown at lastyears Nationals) both seemed to have smiles on their faces as theyshowed the helpers how excellent dogs grip, drive, and in general abusethe helper!!!!

The day concluded with Mr. Hoffman working some youngdogs and demonstrating correct work depending on the young dog'stemperament and physical develpment. The youngster work was especiallyhelpful because Mr. Hoffman had some very experienced helpers work dogswhile he explained to the participants exactly what was happening.

Thanks to Brian Harvey, Nick Blackford, Brian Koch, Dan Knippenburg, andothers for their work in the experienced arena. After the conclusionfor the day, many stayed and worked dogs in the trial field.

Day 2 started a bit late as some of the helpers seemed to be slowto arrive. I heard asprin and liniment sold for a premium in the localsmall Kentucky town. Again, helpers worked individually with Mr.Hoffman and there seemed to be much improvement. Heavy rigid paddedsticks were dropped in favor of lightly padded and loose sticks. Thehits could be made much quicker and cleaner. Many helpers trieddifferent hard sleeves and were able to find which type and lengthsuited them best. Several helpers advanced to short or long couragetests and were given instruction in that area.

Young dogs were worked again by Mr. Hoffman and the experienced helpers before lunch. Theafternoon began with the Schutzhund helper "Round Robin" for all helpers. The seminar concluded with a Schutzhund 1, 2, and 3 routine by experiencedhelpers which was very informative as each level was contrasted,compared, and evaluated with all the new rules. These routines were dissected and Mr. Hoffman quizzed the group on (1) what was next; (2) where the dog was going; (3) where the helper was going; (4) what thehelper can or cannot do in an actual trial; (5) what the helper can do inthe training up to the trial to help the dog (6); etc.

The entire seminar was very informative no matter the level of the helper and thehelpers got a day's work with individualized attention. Also, just bywatching and listening to the others work, one could pick up a lot ofpointers. For the most part egos were checked at the door and avaluable learning weekend was had by all!!!

Author and Schutzhund Nerd Terri Short, DVM and the good shepherds can be reached at

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