2004 National Police Dog Championships

by Fred Lanting

Huntsville Alabama’s police department was the host for the annual police dog championship competition in November of 2004, with contestants coming from all across the U.S. and Canada. It is an event where families renew acquaintances and friendships are strengthened, where skills in the use of dogs for police work are sharpened and encouraged, and where cops’ public relations as well as sports and the dog’s service to man benefit.

There are some similarities to the popular civilian sport of schutzhund (lately renamed by the Germans as VPG for Vielseitigkeitsprüfung which literally translated is “many-faceted test”). This is natural, since the VPG exercises were developed as a stylized and orchestrated expression of most of the work that a police or military dog would have to do for a living. In the police competitions, dogs have to prove their usefulness in such areas of expertise as general obedience, agility with obstacles and jumping, suspect search, evidence search, call-off from attack phase, correction of false starts, criminal apprehension, and more.

In performing the scent work, the challenges would be daunting for the average sports trial trainer-dog team. In one event, there is a 30 X 30-foot section, often in tall grass, in which are tossed two small human-scented articles such as a gun, key on a ring, screwdriver, credit card, book of matches, or other items. The handler is allowed to take his dog around the perimeter, and then sends him in to find the pieces of “evidence”.

Damp drizzly weather made for some slippery surfaces, but even when footing is dry, there are frequently some injuries and accidents in this simulation of real-life work. There were only a couple dog and handler injuries this year. The really bad weather held off until after the final competition events, but rain washed out the public demonstration that was scheduled on Huntsville’s baseball field on the last evening of the week. It would have required several vehicles and activities on the field, and would have damaged it too much.

But the competition already had been completed, and once again, the top scorer was Jeff Ellis from Mauer County, Minnesota. He and his Malinois also won the national title in 2002 and 2003. Also from Minnesota was a team of five officers from the St. Paul Police Department, each with a dog and some also accompanied by a wife. They have 21 service dogs in the city’s department, and there were some 3 or 4 additional teams from outstate Minnesota. There were also many competitors from southern states, where police-dog use has a long and sometimes mottled history.

For a die-hard GSD lover such as I am, there is always a tinge of regret that the police in the U.S. and several other countries have increased the use of Malinois at the expense of the “police dog” that started it all, the German Shepherd Dog. When, after the 2001 BSP, I last took my tour group to the biggest police dog school in Europe (Stuckenbrock, Germany in the NordRhineland-Westfalen region), I was likewise dismayed to find that they were in the end stages of a process of converting from the historical GSD to the Malinois. A very small percentage of the dogs in training now are GSDs, and those only because some of the handlers insist on them. The reasons given were several: the Mals were faster and lighter (more agile), easier to keep and feed and transport, had higher drives (no wonder… they are really Border Collies in Shepherd clothing!), and have a much lower incidence of hip dysplasia.

The SV has been dragging its feet in the realm of HD control, despite it having the best progeny testing system known, called Zuchtwert. But they have ignored the best diagnostic test (PennHIP, which has been enthusiastically adopted by vets in Denmark and Netherlands), and have continued to let noch zugelassen (dysplastic) hips be put back into the gene pool of their registry. This, and the greater difficulty that the police have had in getting donated or reasonably-priced GSDs with both good hips and suitable courage and drive, have been additional reasons why fewer Shepherds are on today’s police forces there.

The same situation, by and large, exists in the U.S. A few departments and the communities that support them, have the funds to purchase quality dogs, but the majority seem to rely on donations. The GSDCAmerica/AKC-lines dogs are almost all temperamentally unsuitable, and the imported GSD is often too expensive for many cities and sheriff’s departments. Still, there were many GSDs at the National Championship, and they did great jobs.

Mansfield Ohio’s Jim Sweat, president of USPCA, the organization that controls the annual event, told me that the 2005 competition will be held in Evansville Indiana, and the 2006 one will be hosted by St. Paul, MN. Cities are chosen by selecting from volunteer departments that offer facilities and local organization. Naturally, the weather plays a role in deciding on the dates, as it would not be feasible to trial in November in Minnesota or in July in Louisiana.

Thirty judges are used, including one chief judge and 9 novice (apprentice) judges. Five are assigned to each performance event and score the dogs in a manner not very dissimilar to the Olympic games. While the assistants tabulate the numbers and the competitors exercise and put their dogs away, other participants and caterers prepare the smorgasbord type supper given on the final evening, and await the results and a few short speeches. Cops have a probably well-deserved image of being overweight consumers of doughnuts, but these dog handlers are in quite good physical shape. I have found through personal training that much excess weight is a handicap to the hard work of conditioning dogs, especially if you do the helper work (play the part of the bad-guy). But I suspect that the more athletic individuals are more drawn to the physical activity of working dogs.

I asked some of the participants if there was anything unusual about this year’s trials, and was told that this was the first time it had been filmed by the Animal Planet channel. It will be broadcast in the Spring of 2005. Be sure to watch for it. And if you live near Evansville or Minneapolis-St.Paul, ask your local K9 officer for details on the public portion of the competition. Ask what you can do to promote the use of dogs in law enforcement, since it is proven that K9 teams reduice the number of officers required to do the same work, and are much more effective than dogless departments in many respects. To paraphrase a popular slogan of the 1960s through 1980s, “Support Your Local Policedog”.

Author Fred Lanting is an international show judge for many registries, presents seminars and consults worldwide on such topics as Structure, Orthopedic Disorders, Training Techniques, and the GSD. Fred lives part of the year in Alabama, actively trains in schutzhund, and breeds for occasional litters (his dogs and kennel in the Netherlands can be seen on ). He leads an annual Sieger Show and sightseeing tour. Most articles can now be found on and Reprint permission of these copyright pieces can be requested and should carry this or a similar notice at the end.

Broward Schutzhund Club Sieger Style Show

by Fred Lanting

It was again a privilege and pleasure to associate with fun-loving fanciers of the German Shepherd Dog and to enjoy the beauty of the breed, when I went to southern Florida to handle dogs in a WDA show sponsored by the Broward SchH Club. The show ran well under the firm hand of Miriam Barcus, although not always “on time”. I did not take part in the trial portion, except to watch and offer encouragement, but I was kept very busy handling one nice dog after another.

Andrew Masia, one of South Florida’s most careful and successful GSD breeders, brought me to his area because he had several dogs he wanted shown, but also arranged for my services to be available to others. With a little help from my four decades’ experience of showing dogs, but mostly because of the quality of dogs I was blessed with here, we won every class except the 3-6-month baby puppy classes. My charges were just barely 3 months, and the bigger ones in these classes were more than a month older and much more developed. The adrenaline that I get from competing and the extra shot from winning kept me hopping. The sportsmanship on the part of all the exhibitors was at its customary high, compared to what you’d find at most AKC shows other than the WDA German-style ones.

It was good to see my old friend Rudiger Mai (the judge) again. He is two years away from facing the mandatory retirement age that SV is still holding to like a prehistoric relic. A stupid limit that has cut my own judging assignments tremendously. If I can run nine GSDs in as many classes in quick succession, I certainly am able to sit and stand with the little bit of movement that judging requires! Maybe I was born too soon, in two respects: age itself, and modern thought about health and strength in maturity. Rudiger remembered my fantastic Timo Berrekasten daughter, having judged and complimented her in New Orleans, then taking her to Europe for me where she lived and sent me pups. I put five SchH titles on her by age 22 months; she was the fastest-learning of all the many dogs I have trained. Rudiger remembered her well, with admiration.

In Baby Puppy Females, two attractive Quai Sebeldsbruck pups from different dams took the first two placings, followed by the Wox Lentulo/Gigi Jagenstadt pup I showed. Her litter brother, owned by Anne Wilson, took 2nd behind one of Martha Hunt’s handsome Quai sons.

I had a short break during Junior Puppies, classes of one each, featuring Danny Spreitler’s youngsters, and then entered the 9-12-month Female class with Martha Hunt’s Jaguar Arkanum/French-dam bitch, a nice-looking youngster who could not get more than a Promising rating in what turned out to be not only her last first place, but also her last show. Perhaps there is some cause for excusing the fact that in previous big shows, her missing lower left P2 premolar was not noticed, but if I had been running or judging those shows, I would not have allowed assistants to be so careless about dentition. It is customary in Sieger Shows to have visiting judges or, in these cases, club members, examine tattoos, teeth, and testicles to save the principal judge’s time. Anything questionable should be brought to his attention so he can make a determination. Obviously, at least two people slipped up. An adult with a missing P2 can get no more than a “G” rating.

In the Youth (12-18mo) female class, I got a blue ribbon for Sara and Ed Blood’s Winner Assaut daughter appropriately named Fayr (pronounced “fire”) but call-named Kiri. A lively but untrained-to-lead-out bitch who should do pretty well based on her anatomy, if not her slightly masculine expression. Owners and dog are lucky to have each other – great temperament in all.

The Youth male class was won by the outstandingly promising Negus Holtkaemper-See son, Champ v. Momax. This aptly-named handsome dog will do a lot for the Buehl family. It was a delight to show him, and once he gets the hang of the ring, he will be a cinch for any handler to win with often. Second was a fit Tor Casa Nobili son, Max Schonen Wippertal owner-handled by Rodrigo Barrientos. Behind him was the Danish import Leri Adriano, owned by the Mangiamele family who may have been giving him too many spaghetti dinners, considering his overweight condition. Fourth was Deborah Schwartz’ Augustus Traumhof, from Kirschental breeding.

The next class, a single-entry Rosi Haus Brezel (by Hassan Schwalmbergtal) gave me a chance to get a drink of water in the shade and look for my next dog, Leri Xerox. Another Danish dog, half-brother of Adriano and sired by VA Chijas Weiko, Xerox is proudly owned by Joe Wirtel. Hopefully, whatever magazine or website carries this report will include the photos I’m supplying (thanks to several photographers), as there were many great-looking dogs at this small show. I got an SG-1 with Xerox, the highest rating possible in his 18-24mo. age group.

In Adult untitled classes, club member Brittany Banus’ single-entry coated bitch got a G-1 (Good) but the judge noted, “no structural faults”. She was indeed very well put together. In Untitled adult (over 24mo.) males, I took SG-1 with Andrew’s handsome high-drive dog who is for sale due to the fact that his importer-owner has another strong male (the sire) and it’s a big job keeping them far enough apart on his small city lot. If I didn’t have a male at home, I’d gobble him up in a New York minute! Leri Gallon is on the verge of getting his SchH-1 and already has a book full of clearances on hips, teeth, and health from A to Z. Behind us in this class were Modesto Echezarrreza’s Fancho Billberg, then Dennis Cardinale’s Lucas Haus Barcus, and Herb Pianin’s very strong Kirschental-lines dog, Quinn Alpenhof.

In the Working Female class, two Leistungs-line bitches owned by Chris Daugaard got G-1 and G-2: Kim Arbeiten Madchen and Enny Moravia Artex. I got the V-1 with Andrew Masia’s Gigi Jagenstadt, the dam of a bitch I trained and titled for him several years earlier, “Ally”, who had been bred to the tough and good-looking Leri Unesco to yield Gigi. Gigi has her mother’s outline and pleasing gait, and likewise her high energy and boldness. She is the mother of the 3-month pups I showed earlier.

In the Working (adult, over 24mo., titled) class, Miriam Barcus’ import son of the well-known Xato Bosen Nachbarschaft was SG-1, and in front of him was another of Miriam’s dogs, V-2 Aik Saalfelder-Hohe, a Vantu Batu son. I handled Leri Unesco to his V-1. He is a son of Volvoro Arminius, and is a very strong-willed, powerful dog with a wonderfully impressive head — massive but not coarse, and harmonious with his body.

Needless to say, I was perspiring in the hot Florida sun, but pumped up with receiving so many blue ribbons and handling such nice dogs. Several people expressed hopes that I would be future national and regional shows to handle. If enough exhibitors get together to comfortably split my expenses (I charge no fee), I’m game. There’s little more that I enjoy than “playing” with dogs. E-mail me.
Fred Lanting,