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Canine Trauma

The German Sieger Show and Other
SV-Style Shows - Part 2

Fred Lanting

Continued from Part 1.

Additional Differences

There is more emphasis on cooperation, camaraderie, and ceremony at the SV-style show. The amount of ceremony at the Japan Sieger Show where I was a VIP one year, and at the FCI Asian Show in Tokyo when I judged another time was astounding. Speeches, appearances by government and Imperial family members, acknowledgements, fanfares and anthems, even two long lines of handlers and others with arms raised while they heartily repeated the long pledge of good sportsmanship! Usually at Sieger Shows there is great stress on sportsmanship, and a dog that is "pulled" after the standing exams, or after doing poorly in the courage test at a Sieger Show is supposed to be marked down as having an "Insufficient", a record that goes into his permanent records, along with any SGs or Vs he may have previously earned.

Whether this is enforced or considered the next time the dog is shown or bred is questionable, especially in America. At one Sieger Show in America, some dogs who were supposed to show up for the group gaiting evaluation were absent, and only one had the required veterinarian's excuse. Another owner told an official that his dog has come up sick, and was given a verbal OK without a vet's confirmation. The others had problems with the courage test. Apparently no publicity resulted, and the owners may have decided that their absence (and the absence of notoriety) would be less damaging than their good-looking dogs being placed at the end of their group. Another famous import who had some years earlier done badly at one U.S. Sieger Show courage test and failed to show up for the gaiting, was frequently used for breeding and won many shows afterwards. The regulations are tougher for dogs that fail the courage part of the breed survey. For example, if a bitch fails the bitework at her Körung, she cannot make another attempt for a year. If she is in whelp at the time of failing, the litter can not receive "pink papers", just white ones. If she passes a retest within one year of the pups' birth, their registration papers can be upgraded to pink for a fee. Presumably the same rules apply if the male fails the test.

Classes are by age, and dogs with multiple wins are not separated into a "Specials" class for champions as they are in AKC/CKC/SKC shows. There is no competition between males and females. All dogs continue to compete on an equal footing with others of their age, although it would be almost unthinkable for a dog that had been given a VA in Germany not to get that recognition elsewhere. Thus, it was a given that, unless they fell into a hole and broke their legs, the 1996 VA and V-1 dogs from Germany would get the most serious consideration for top awards at the 1997 USA Sieger Show (barring a "ringer" that hadn't competed with them before). Dogs in top physical condition will outshine those who've not been roadworked or otherwise conditioned, and may be placed above those toward the end of the gaiting. Handlers may change at any time, but that would be embarrassing to handlers who pride themselves on their ability, so they are in good shape as well. Besides having access to the pedigrees and other helpful information, the judge in America may have watched the courage test, a feature found only at the Sieger Shows. In Germany the event is so large that the Working dog class judge will still be doing the Standing Exam (this may take most of the day with over 200 dogs) or busy elsewhere while the dogs are doing the courage test. In Australia the judge also has the progeny record, breed survey, and other information, but in Germany the "pink papers" are probably the only thing the judge will see other than the dog, and only if he asks for them. The important thing is choosing dogs that will contribute most to the breed, not just the prettiest or flashiest ones on a particular day.

The Open Class (Gebrauchshundklasse) at the Sieger Show is something like a combination of the Open plus Specials classes at the American National, but instead of placings only for the top four in each class (plus top ten or so in Intersex competition), all of the dogs in the Sieger Show's classes are ranked, from first place to last place. The Siegerschau does not have dogs and bitches in the same ring, as we do in our Specials Class, but somewhat analogous to our GSDCA "Select" ranking is the naming of the "Auslese" animals. Besides the usual conformation ratings given at smaller shows, there is that extra one, VA (excellent-select), which is only awarded at the Sieger Show. It is given to the top ten or so dogs (and the same for bitches) considered by the SV's top officials to be the most desirable breeding animals. In 1980, for example, there were fourteen VA dogs and ten VA bitches. The VA-1 male is called the Sieger, and the VA-1 female is the Siegerin. Most of the Siegers/Siegerins and VA dogs and bitches are German, but the awards are sometimes given to a dog from another country. The VA dogs must have a Schutzhund-2 title or better the first time and a SachH-3 the second time, and their parents must have working degrees, too. They must be Angekört and have the "a" stamp (since 1963) and the Sieger/Siegerin in addition must be Körklasse-1 and have a SchH-3 title. A dog cannot attain such a high placement as Sieger without having proven himself in his progeny as well, and such details are also known to the judge at the time of decision. Sometimes a dog will not make Sieger because his progeny groups have not been as impressive as should be. This played a part in ther decision to name Lasso instead on Cash Sieger.

After the VA dogs, the V (excellent) dogs are similarly ranked, beginning with V-1 to the end of however many the judge considers to be excellent. In an important show like the Siegerschau, there may be many V dogs, as owners who have consistently placed lower in preliminary shows wouldn't want to take the chance of looking bad in the company of even stiffer competition. A breed survey of Kkl-1 is required if the dog is over 3½ years old. After the V-rated dogs come the SG (sehr gut) dogs, also ranked from SG-1 on, and then any others. The system may be more fair and equitable in the rankings and ratings. For instance, if we had a dozen of the best dogs in the world shown together in one AKC or CKC show's open class, only four would receive ribbons. Rather than simply giving out four ribbons in each of several classes as we do in the US, the dogs are all graded. The Germans have fewer classes than AKC and other organizations do, mainly because they are all categorized by age group. It's unlikely that all dogs in a given class would receive the same rating category, but it is possible. In some shows, only the dogs whose owners are certain they have a chance at winning or placing high are entered, due to the expenses involved, so the lowest ratings are seldom seen in the ring. In German-style shows, all the dogs over one year of age are rated either Sehr Gut (very good), Gut (good), Ausreichend (sufficient), Mangelhaft (defective), or Ungenügend (unsatisfactory). In Working classes for dogs over two years, there is also that vorzüglich (excellent) and for those under a year, other terms are used. When I judge AKC-style shows, whether specialties or major shows, I also include such SV-type ratings in my notes and the written critiques for magazines.

Within each sex, then, at the Sieger Show and other SV-style shows, the three main classes are: the Gebrauchshundklasse (Open, main breed class) for dogs two years or older with training titles; Junghundklasse (young dog class, eighteen to twenty-four months); and Jugendklasse, translatable as "youth" or "teenager" class, twelve to eighteen months old. At the Sieger Show, the Open class also requires V or SG ratings awarded at prior, smaller shows. The winner of the 18- to 24-month-old male class is named Junghundsieger (young dog winner) and the female winner is Junghundinsiegerin. The popular translation as Youth Sieger and Siegerin is confusing to most non-German-speaking people at first, since both Jung and Jugend can be translated as "youth". The Junghundklasse winner is awarded SG-1, since the V rating is not given in other than the Gebrauchshundklasse. The SG rankings are also made in the 12- to 18-month old Jugendklasse, and this is also the case for adults without working titles, a class used in America and some other countries, and in which (USA, WDA separately) a dog can be shown only once. Then it must earn a working title. Canada has no such restriction. At German shows other than the Sieger Show, classes for puppies (Nachwuchsklassen) may be offered, including Baby Puppy classes for dogs as young as three or four months.

Smaller SV-style Sieger Shows in other countries such as the U.S. customarily have those classes for puppies, too. Puppies under six months of age are not permitted on the grounds at an AKC show, but at USA or WDA shows there seems not to be such a concern, and people bring puppies out for ring training and socialization. Compare this with American shows where many puppy entries at specialties would raise the number of points awarded there were it not for the AKC reaction of making the requirements tougher for "majors." In the 9-12, 6-9 month, and younger classes at SV-style shows, the pups can get ratings of "very promising", "promising", or "less promising", with the caveat that the younger the pup the less predictive that day's evaluation will be.

Similar to the AKC Stud Dog/Brood Bitch classes are the Nachkommengruppen, Nachkommen meaning "descendants" or "progeny". Another is the Breeders' Class (Zuchtgruppen) which is judged on excellence and uniformity of each breeder's or kennel's dogs shown in the ring together. I think we would do well to hold such a contest in the US, if we could be assured of truly qualified judges every time and sufficient entries on which to base a good evaluation. There may also be a veterans class called Altersklasse, alters meaning "senior", similar to U.S. Veterans or Senior classes, and an HGH class for dogs with that herding title.

All entrants are given a show card signed by the judge and indicating what the placing, rating, and class were. Usually, on the left top of the Bewertungsausweis (show rating identification) card is the dog's entry number, corresponding to armband number in US shows. Following that is information on parents and their training titles, then the breeder's name. You can see what a difference exists in Germany where a dog's parentage can be taken into account by the judge. In AKC events the catalog must be kept from the judge's eyes and he must pretend not to recognize exhibitors or dogs in the ring. The right side of the card tells where the Sonderschau (specialty show) was held and when, and the class in which the bitch was entered. Below that the judge circles the sehr gut or whatever rating. He then signs it and it becomes the property of the owner after the information was recorded in the SV report. The reverse of this card gives general information such as that there is only one breed club in this breed, with around X thousand members in sixteen regional groups and some 1,500 local groups (we would call them clubs and the British might call them societies). The card says the SV have their own Zeitung (journal, or what we'd call a magazine) and the number of dogs registered in the SV records is well over a million. They have their own specialty shows (Sonderschauen) and their own performance trials (Leistungsprüfungen) as well as sales contracts and purchase agreements. Prices may then be quoted for the publications. Announcements, inquiries, information, and advertisements can only be arranged through the Verein (club) for German Shepherd Dogs, and the address of this SV is given.

The word "Sieger" literally means "Victor" but can be translated liberally as "Winner". Depending on the context, it could be used to refer to the very top dog that won the Gebrauchshundklasse, or it could also refer to the winner of any lower-ranking class. The same competition exists for bitches as described above, with the VA-1 named Siegerin for that year. There have been years when the Sieger title was not used, but dogs were ranked VA-1, VA-2, etc., anyway. This happened during some of the years during and immediately following the war, then again from 1974 through 1977. By the way, I am told by German grammarians that the plural of Sieger and Siegerin is the same as the singular; however, in a nod to Americanization of many foreign words, we have "created" the words "Siegers" and "Siegerins".

Double handling

In the AKC Shepherd specialty show, there is seldom an AKC "rep" around to ride herd on the judge and club, so you will often see a great deal of "double handling" which is against AKC regulations and guidelines. Ostensibly, the AKC prohibits double-handling, and penalizes judges at all-breed events, but does nothing about the practice at the GSD specialties, most likely because those judges are unlikely to be applying for additional breeds. In GSDCA-AKC specialty shows, the scene is frequently that of an owner outside the ring attracting the attention of his dog by running around the perimeter screaming its name while tripping over spectators and bumping into other double-handlers running the other direction. They also ring bells, jingle keys, and use clickers or squeaky-toys, or find other creative means of keeping the dog alert and encouraging it to pull the handler around inside the ring. GSD people are frequently ridiculed or complained about by people with other breeds, but some double handling can be very effective. One problem is that there is frequently so much noise that all dogs are equally excited by all doublers, so the effect is analogous to all merchants giving the same discount coupons and no one individual benefits more than the others. Another problem is that they keep doing it even when it interferes with the judge's getting a good look at their dogs, while he is trying to look at the teeth or see how "true" the dog moves away and back. Double handling in the UK may be more rigidly enforced by The Kennel Club.

German-style shows in the U.S. and Canada as well as in Germany and other countries are also marked by double handling but, as in most things Germanic, it is a very efficient and effective, even reasonable means of getting the most out of the dogs. While double-handling in the German-style ring is more refined, there is no food baiting and very seldom is a toy seen. Even at the Sieger Show, double-handling is really not all that uncontrolled or hectic, and to some it seems almost necessary. It is much more helpful at smaller shows where the doubler can get closer to the dog. It helps keep a dog interested during the long gaiting in a big circle. The art is much better developed than you would see it practiced at the GSDCA National Specialty. At smaller shows, family members and handler's assistants, during certain pauses, run into and out of the gaiting portion of the ring to give the dogs water, etc., and it is not a problem as long as they don't interfere with the judging.

More often, those dogs not currently needed by the judge will step out of the running ring into the double-handlers' outer circle for that refreshment. Many owners rely heavily on "callers" (assistant double-handlers) placed at supposedly strategic places around the ring. Whether this really helps is arguable, but the practitioners swear that it can make the difference iby several places. In the German-style ring, there is a great deal more gaiting than is seen at the GSDCA National. In the German style shows, handlers can be relieved by an assistant, but in AKC shows it is not permitted after the individual exams are done.

Because there is a great deal of gaiting in order to determine the best-moving and structurally sound and strong animals, dogs would get tired were it not for much conditioning before and much double handling during the shows. Dogs are made to use the entire ring, which is much larger than at an AKC show, by the strategic placement of lower rope-and-stanchion corners or a low rope "fence" around the entire field.

Inside this area, the judge, steward, and other officials walk around studying the strength of back, free or restricted reach, drive and extension, ears, and other characteristics. The judge makes his final changes in the line-up, if any, during the time of extensive gaiting. Some judges have said that they make 70% of their final decision on the basis of condition. The dog who is not in peak shape for the gaiting may "break down" just enough in strength of back, drive, or attitude, that the judge will not keep him in the same position, but will move a nearly equal but fresher-appearing dog up ahead of him.

Double-handling is definitely helpful. The dogs are kept alert and the running owners don't bother the spectators. But if done poorly, the practice can also be harmful to your dog's chances of performing at its best. No doubling should occur during the "down and back" because a dog that pulls too hard then is going to look bad in the hocks and, if he is leaning to one side anticipating a left turn, in the elbows, too. When the dog is to walk or trot around the ring, the optimum location for the double-handler is almost always diagonally across the ring from the dog so that he tries, with the right amount of effort, to get to the person calling him. Too close, and the dog will catch up and put on the brakes, or get more excited and break into a gallop. The judge cannot see movement when the dog is acting like a swordfish fighting a fishing line.

Too little tension on the lead allows the dog to loaf while running, and too much makes him lower his head too far, or break his stride, digging in with both hind legs at once. Many clubs provide an outer raceway, roped off from the spectators, for doublers to run in while their dogs are following in the inner course, many yards behind. Of course, since the dogs have a little shorter circle and the professional or other handlers are in better shape than most of the owner-doublers, the dogs can often catch up, so the doublers should duck out of the course before that happens, and hide in the crowd until the dogs pass. Once the faster-moving dog gets close to the first double handler, that person should hide or disappear into the crowd, and another doubler on the far side of the ring take up the action. Double handlers should also find that ideal distance to stand (relatively quietly) in front of the dog when he is posed for the standing exam. Of course, training and practice is necessary to insure a good steady stance.

"Learn to do well; seek judgment."
--Isaiah, circa 700 B.C.


After the judging should come more education, but in the AKC, CKC, and a few other organizations, critiques are discouraged. The AKC wants judges to avoid giving meaningful comments or answers regarding their placings, but the SV judge is required to give an oral critique to the participants and those at ringside, and some breeds and clubs require a written critique on some or all dogs. In the SV, USA, or similar German-style ring, all dogs in the class are ranked all the way to the end of the class, and while the judge might critique publicly only the V and top SG dogs, any handler may ask him for a brief critique before leaving the ring. The dogs are posed in front of the judge and audience during the critique, so this becomes a very valuable learning experience for novice and veteran alike. It also forces the judge to maintain a sharp eye and stay "awake", since he knows that he will have to account for the placings in front of knowledgeable fanciers. This system not only has more educational value, it also makes for more accurate assessment of the dogs' conformation and character.

Fred Lanting is the principal of "All Things Canine" Consulting, behavior analysis, evaluations, seminars, and lectures. He is the author of "The Total GSD" and "Canine Hip Dysplasia."

Be sure to visit the USA Sieger Show '98 web site for information about the national Sieger Show to be held in Washington State in June.

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