Schutzhund, dog sport

SCHUTZHUND - Schutzhund Training



Interview with Armin Winkler

 This interview was conducted between Juan and Armin  Thank you Juan 
  1. At what age did you begin in the dog sport, and why did you get interested in doing so ? My parents were active in the sport when I was an infant, so I spent many weekends at the club. I got my own personal dog at age 12, a confirmation present.
  2. What was you favorite breed at that time and why ? did that change over the years ? I liked many dogs, but had a fascination with Great Danes, that is what I got. A very nice and affectionate dog. Worked very nice for a Dane too. But by the time we (myself and the dog) got older, I started doing helper work and got to see many other breeds in a different light. When my Great Dane passed away I wanted a Giant Schnauzer (Riesenschnauzer) for sure. My parents at that time still were in charge of financial matters and decided to get me a Standard Schnauzer instead, as they figured a young boy entering puberty would not stay committed to the work they were wrong though). The Standard Schnauzer was a super dog. Very tough, and hard, super drive. I still had a secret wish for a Giant Schanuzer though. This all happened while I was growing up in Germany, dog sport has a different feel there. I moved to North America on my 18th birthday. Now as an adult, I have Giant Schnauzers.
  3. At the time you decided to devote yourself completely to the dogs sport, did you have an interest in other profession and if so, why did you choose the dogs ? I wanted to be a veterinarian. Went to university to study for that too.But after a few years, the waiting lists were long for the last part of the program.I worked as a patrol dog handler and took other jobs, but started training on the side as there was a demand. After a couple of years of waiting I decided that I would not put my life on hold any longer and bought a kennel and started a school for dogs. And things evolved from there.
  4. When you bought your kennel and started your school for dogs, how was it like in the beginning ?..was that a school for police dogs or something like that ? did you start it in Germany or in the states ? what about the interest of the public in dog training over there ? Actually the kennel was in Canada. I did a limited number of police dogs, very difficult to be involved with police dogs as a civilian in Canada.I did dogs for security companies and private people, pet obedience, sport.It took a while to get people interested in it. And I never felt that the passions ran as deep as in Germany. But maybe it was just because there are so many more people doing it in Germany.
  5. What do you think is the most important atribute a person who wants to become a dog trainer has to have ? A love for dogs, compassion and patience.All the talent in the world is wasted on someone if they have no heart for the dog. The dog always has to be the most important determining factor in how a dog has to be trained and for what purpose. That is often forgotten and people try to "make" dogs into something they are not, because that is what their owners want.
  6. I think one of the most difficult parts of training a dog is the part of the decoy in protection training whether it be p.p or sport work...first, why did you get interested in doing helper work, what attracted you to it, and how did you develop into the master trainer/helper that you are now ? did you have any influence or guidance by other older trainers in your beginning? I started as a kid in Germany, it was exciting and fascinating. In the beginning is was just like playing with the dogs as a boy running with a sack or a tug working young dogs. And as you probably know yourself, there is a thrill that comes from the action. I think I just got the "bug" so to speak. What helped a lot was seeing many different breeds, and really starting at an age when I had no idea how dangerous some of the work can be. So I had a chance to just work with feelings.Of course there were a couple of good helpers in the club to learn mechanics and techniques from. I sort of fell into it you could say.I like to read and study, so of course I read books and attended seminars. And I watched every nature show on TV I could. My education helped with the theoretical knowledge, I was heavily involved in martial arts, that helped with the "combative" aspects of the work. And after moving to Canada I became a very active hunter, which I believe helps me understand the predator - prey relationship better. Apply all that to what I learned from influential seminar instructors, and you can see that I had a lot of help.
  7. You are pretty well known worldwide for your translation of the book of Helmut Raiser "der Schutzhund"... I want to know how did you get involved in such a big work and what do you think is the importance of Helmut Raiser in today's dog training ?  I got involved with the book initially to help a friend. You may have noticed the mention in the book. But then he dropped out and I had invested so much time in it, I decided to finish it up. I still believe that the book especially the theoretical part of the book is timeless and it is one of the best "applied behavior" texts you can find. The research was thorough. I read all the books listed in the bibliography before translating it. It was very helpful to understand where Dr. Raiser was coming from in his theories and thoughts. If you look around, you will see that it was really the first book of its kind that did not start with the expression of opinions, it starts with science from some of the greatest minds of our time. And from this science it goes into how to apply it to dog training. Dr. Raiser opened eyes and doors for many people. He will forever have that place in dog training. I do not have close contact or a relationship with Dr. Raiser. I respect him for his accomplishments and see the book for what it is, a timeless classic.
  8. About the security dogs you trained in your school...did the security company give them to you, or you trained your own dogs for selling them or maybe renting them ? did you start those from the scratch ? or maybe they asked you to select the correct dogs for the work ? The only thing I didn't do was rent dogs. I trained dogs the companies already had, I helped them find dogs, I assessed and selected dogs, and so on. So some dogs were started from scratch, some had some sport background, some were already security dogs who just needed different work. The one thing I do not like to do and didn't do was compound dogs. I don't like the practice of that and is is a liability nightmare anyway.
  9. How would you describe in terms of an assessment of working qualities the best type of dog to do this job ? Hard to say. Finances played a big role for many of the outfits. Donated dogs, pound dogs, sometimes dogs from brokers. The dogs were mainly used as patrol dogs for security guards, they served as deterrents and as protection for the guards. They had to have good temperament to handle some of the environmental difficulties, and had to have the right attitude for the task. And the task depended on the site. Some had to be real protection and body guard type dogs capable of biting, others were good enough to bark and put on a show on command. It really depended on the assignment.
  10. what can you tell me about the training programs for that type of dog, was it intended to make them ready to bite anyone who would trespass a certain area ? what about the breeds you trained for that purpose ? in your opinion what breed had the biggest number of qualified animals for the work ? I want to know because, here in my country they would use any big dog...maybe a shepherd or a rott, but they don't know much about the need for a certain amount and quality of training in order to enable them to perform their work. In terms of numbers the GSD is still the most available dog. They are recognizable and serve as good deterrents. Dobermanns were also common. Other breeds were not used much partly lack of availability, partly because they pose a problem for the multi handler set up of the work. I have to say that unfortunately many companies cut corners many places. Often they were happy with any dog on a leash. I didn't do much business with those. But they are out there.
  11. What can you tell me about the regular people (civilians) who wanted to train their dogs with you ?...what was their main interest...personal protection, obedience or sport ? I had a lot of obedience clients, behavioral modification too. I consulted with the university's behavioral science department on aggressive dogs. I had a SchH club, and played around with other dog sports as well, like French Ring and KNPV. I had some clients for personal protection dogs. Women who were stalked, and people who had threats made against them. In other words, people who had a realistic need for a true personal protection dog. Most other people who wanted such dogs really were not up to accept the responsibility that comes with owning such a dog. And in most cases I talked to them and they decided tha a watch dog was all they needed. A personal protection dog is a responsibility and in a lot of ways a chore to own and have. North America has strict liability laws, and as a trainer you have to be careful to not just put loose cannons into public hands.
  12. In your experience, What do you think about this type of restrictive laws, how do you view them in the different countries you have been involved in the training of protection dogs ? I do not believe laws restricting breeds will greatly affect the problem that led to the law being passed. Which is innocent people getting hurt by dogs. In North America the laws are not very restrictive yet, but more of these laws are coming. Will they prevent the problems? I don't believe so. The breeds of dogs are not really the problem anyway. But the legislators don't see that.
  13. What would you say to a politician who tries to promote a law to ban a certain breed just because this breed is the favorite of the mass media when time to speak about dog bites come ? I would say that they need to look at more than the breed to find the cause of the problem. They need to involve people who actually have experience with dogs in their research. Looking at statistics and breeds is only a part of the picture. And although the laws are designed to help people, they will accomplish little. So a lot of uproar for little results.
  14. What would you say to the general public out there in order to help them understand in a clear way about the real nature and purpose of this type of dogs, their function and usefulness to they (the people) could leave the ignorance-based fear behind and act in a more responsible way towards dogs in general ? This a very difficult question to answer. People are getting hurt by dogs, that is real. Being afraid of getting hurt by a dog is a real fear. Worrying about your children getting hurt by a dog is also very real. The media increase that fear by sensationalizing events. That does not help. But keep in mind, if nobody got hurt, there would be nothing to sensationalize. The public is not responsible to protect themselves from my dog. It is my responsibility to ensure that no harm comes to any member of the public from m dog. That is MY responsibility, not theirs. That is my responsibility as an owner. I ensure that nothing inappropriate happens. I can tell people what to do and what not to do around my dog, and I can limit and prevent interaction between my dog and people. As a trainer, I have to weigh the information I get. Are the clients responsible enough? Will they exercise good common sense and responsible ownership? Do they even need such a dog? If do not get the right feeling from the people I will not train their dog. I will counsel them that they may not have thought things through enough. I will try to be responsible. As a breeder, I have to determine whether the buyers will be responsible to get good training, whether they will act responsibly. I have to figure out if they are getting dogs for the right purpose. Some dogs should not be sold as protection dogs, they are not suitable. And again, people have to be educated. Dog owners have to be educated. All this relates to the people who have dogs and have contact and deal with dogs. After all, it is our responsibility to ensure that no harm comes to anybody else because of our dogs. Additional education is fine and helpful. But I still believe the responsibility should rest on the people who have, train, and sell dogs. If the people closest involved do not act responsibly, law makers and politicians will step in, as they are doing. I don't feel they are going about it correctly, but they are reacting to a problem. And since pointing the finger at people and dog owners is not a very popular stance, it is easier to ban breeds. Dogs are only as responsible as their owners.
  15. Which one is your favorite dog sport and why ? I can't say that. I grew up with SchH, that will always be a big part of my hobby. But I like French Ring and KNPV as well. Different exercises, different challenges. SchH is the most available and it gives me a pretty complete program to work dogs in all areas. I will stay true to that sport forever I think. Not because it is better, but because it is part of doing dogs for me, and I owe this sport a lot. Also, I don't separate the sports. I borrow a little here and a little there to do the best job I can. I think there is stuff we can all learn if we are willing to look at enough different things.
  16. Which dog sport do you think is more realistic in terms of using its techniques to enable real life performance for police or p.p. dogs ? None of the sport programs teach dogs real life. None of them. How real a dog is depends primarily on the dog, not the sport. The KNPV program seems to produce a lot of police dogs. But again it is not the sport itself. The breeding has a lot to do with it. I have seem very good police dogs come out of all sport programs. But if you look, you can see in the dog that the dog had it inside. The sport didn't put it there. Sport has rules and is done for points. That is not real life. Therefore the training won't ever be geared for real life. People should understand that and separate sport from real life.
  17. I would like to know which is your biggest area of activity in dog training today In numbers, I have to say sport protection. That is what I do the most. I like police work a lot, and it is very close to my heart. But I do not see the same numbers as I do in sport. I help people with whatever people ask my help for. A "jack of all trades" as they say. But if add it all up, I do more protection than anything else.
  18. Is there anything you haven't done yet but you'd like to do in dog sport ? I would like to have a good quality helper program set up maybe a helper school. Tracking and obedience has come along way and there are many wonderful masters out there. I would like to think that I am very good at helping people in those areas. But, protection is an endeavour that makes people dependent on others. And I really can't say that I have seen the same degree of change as I have seen in other phases. So if there was something I could do it would be to influence teaching helpers all over. Show them how to read dogs, teach understanding, and help them learn. Helpers are the tools that teach dogs protection work. Making these tools better is something I feel would be a great accomplishment. On a more personal note, I just want to keep having fun doing this. Understand this is my childhood hobby. A passion. I want to continue to do well and enjoy my passion. There can be no greater achievement.
  19. Now we are going to dig a little more into the concepts of protection training for personal protection dogs and its differences from police service dogs and security dogs, as this (p.p) is our biggest area of activity as a training school, and my favorite endeavor. At the same time is one of the areas in which you can find more misconceptions and myths over here. So my first question is...can you briefly explain your concept of what a working dog really is ? That is a pretty hard concept to define. Working dogs have all different purposes. A sheep dog is a worker too, so is a hunting dog or a sled dog. But for our purposes when we say working we are usually talking about the police service breeds. Most of these breeds are bred more for the sport versions of working now than actual police work. But when we look at definition, then police work is still the defining purpose. What does a police dog have to do? They have to be capable of nose work. Be it tracking or specific odor detection. They have to be capable of doing agility and obstacle work. They have to work with a handler and under the handler's direction. And they have to be able to do protection and apprehension work. The organized dog sports allow us to maintain these attributes in some form. But dogs who have to do this work for real. Any of the work. These dogs do have to be the exceptions in the sport world. I am not sure if I am answering your question here. Let me know if I am not.
  20. What are the most important attributes a good helper has to have in terms of knowledge, talent and abilities in order to be considered as a real "help" for the dog's development ? Any helper has to be a relatively good athlete. A lot of the work is physical, so that part has to be there. Helpers should study animal behavior, not just dog behavior, but all kinds of animals. Predators as well as prey. And how animals interact. Not much has been written on this for helpers. But there is so much information available in nature programs, and volumes of wildlife studies. And a helper has to have a feel for dogs. And a feel for himself. A certain intuition for what dogs are feeling. And a feeling for how he as a person can trigger certain feelings in a dog. Every helper is different, and I think every helper should learn how he as an individual affects dogs. Then he can stimulate different drives on purpose. If a helper does not understand how he makes a dog feel as an individual, he will never be a good teaching helper. Knowing what you want to make a dog feel is important, but knowing how to make him feel it is more important.
  21. How would you describe a qualified owner for a trained personal protection dog ? People should have a real need for such a dog. if they don't, then they should do sport with their dog. The few people who do need such a dog need to be level headed, responsible and law abiding. They should understand prevention. The best form of protection is prevention. People who are careless and reckless with their own welfare are usually also careless and reckless with a dog.
  22. What are the most decisive factors when , after evaluating someone who is asking you to train his dog for p.p., you decide not to do so ?  If a person strikes me as irresponsible. If I feel a person's expectations are unrealistic. And people who look for trouble. None of those people should have a trained personal protection dog.
  23. Can you go into more detail about the different functions and training required for the different types of working dogs ?  Those are very deep subjects Juan, can you be a little more specific ?  What I wanted to ask was really about a briefly explanation on the different tasks and functions of police dogs, personal protection dogs and security dogs addressing the different approach in training between them, the way you have been doing it throughout the years. OK, that gives me a bit more to go on. The foundation work for the protection training for all three is very very similar. Basic skills should if possible be taught in prey, like in sport dogs.. Then you have to expand on the fundamentals to prepare each dog for the job they may have to do. One major difference between all three "real life" applications and sport is that the dog have to be capable of biting for real. meaning no equipment. This is actually a lot harder than people think. As even good quality dogs who have a ton of foundation work and preparation still bite somewhat hesitantly when it is real. For a dog to be capable of biting for real, he has to be working in a state of aggression. I have described in my article "Tell me about your dog; Part 2" what motivations lead to aggression in dogs. The personal protection dog has the least degree of responsibility and has to only deal with a threat that comes to him. A strong defensive dog, will be capable of doing this job. A security dog has to along with his handler approach threatening situations. As a security patrol dog the dog has to be able to back up the human security guard in arrest situations, to break up or diffuse violent confrontations, and to protect the handler from assaults and ambushes. So quite a bit more is asked of such a dog. These dogs also have to be able to work in different environments, deal with all kinds of industrial and other unfamiliar surroundings. They also serve as an indication tool that assists the handler in checking for intruders. The police dog aside from his other duties has to be able to do all of the above, but he also has to actively seek out the threat with or without the handler. And he has to do criminal apprehensions, which require a desire to pursue, coupled with the ability to respond with aggression upon catching up with the subject and then the necessary follow through to stop and subdue a suspect. This is a difficult thing to achieve. Much of the training for these different tasks is similar, but the demands on the police service dog are much higher than the others and therefore not only ask more of the dog, but also from the trainer.
  24. What do you think about some people trying to develop new breeds for protection like the bandog ? I feel it is nonsense. It took decades for the police service breeds to be established and to reach a certain level of quality. It would take decades again to be able to achieve the same thing in a new breed.. But nobody is taking that much time. If the people who are doing these breed creations would invest the same effort into fixing what is wrong with the already existing breeds, we would get further faster. I like to see new things. But size and mass is not everything. There is a huge mental aspect to this work. And that takes a long time to establish.
  25. Have you ever trained a Bandog ? if so, what was your experience with it ? I'm interested because a couple of years ago I read an article in Dog Sports Magazine about this bandog breeder, Joe Lucero, who competed in the NAPD trials with excellent performance of his bandog "Jaws". I have worked a few. Can't say i have trained any, because for me that always means having seen the whole training through to a state of completion. I can't say I have done that. I have worked and trained with pits and a few Neos back in Germany. That tells you a little about what is in the dogs too. I have nothing against these dogs Juan. I just don't see the point in re-inventing the wheel. We have dogs who have what they need to do the work. Why try to create a new one? And in the meantime the dogs who should be preserved get lost in the shuffle. Also, the choice of foundation breeds is not what I would use in the first place. Just a personal view.
  26. Don't you think it could be like the beginning of the older police service breeds, when they crossed breeds in order to produce a better, more functional dog, like crossing the bullenbeiser with the old English bulldog as they did to get the modern boxer, intended as the ultimate working dog by his pioneer breeders ? No I don't. Because the people who are doing it are not in that industry and have no way to test their results over generations like the founders of the modern police dog breeds are. And the choice of dogs was different. The founders of police dogs breeds used dogs who were around to create traits in the dogs they were breeding. And very little is documented about that. If you look at all "new" creations, a big deal is made out of all the "superlatives" of the founding breeds. Like the Bandog, a lot is said about the attributes of the foundation breeds to sell the Bandog. What is never talked about is the traits that make either foundation breed completely unsuitable to be a good service dog. And why would people think that these traits would automatically disappear? In the old breeds there are a few of the mastino or molosser breeds added for some traits, size, power for example. But it was always balanced out with other breeds which had for hundreds of years proven themselves in the service of man. When creating a dog which is supposed to work WITH man, we have to use breeds who are willing and capable of doing so. I do not believe that that is taken into consideration by the people who are doing this today. Again, I have no huge problems with any of this Juan. I just have my views on it that is all.
  27. What can you tell me about your experience, as a decoy, with Neos, Pitbulls and Bandogs ? IŽd like to know about their working qualities as well as their drawbacks. Hard question to answer. As I said, I have only seen a few Bandogs. And Neos and Pit Bulls come in a huge variety. For this question I will answer only about the dogs that actually did work. The best pits I have worked were super prey dogs with hard bites and fast hard reckless hits. A lot of fun. Some of them though who act a bit more defensive are really not very solid in the work. Too reactive and busy. Neos are back-breakers either way. Large and powerful. Hard biting. Not really very workable though, lazy and not a lot of prey drive. Very volatile when triggered in defense. Scary in a way. It was always a mess to work them as well. They always bit themselves, blood all over. Too much loose skin around the mouth. Again, having said that, these are the dogs who actually did work. Most of them don't. The few Bandogs I have seen were so so. One I liked was very much like a large high prey pit bull, he was fun. But again, not a very serious dog. But fun.
  28. When you say that this breeds are not properly selected to work with man, how would you explain that in terms of an assessment of their traits (i.e. nerves, hardness, social aggression, dominance, prey drive, active v/s passive defense, etc...) ? What I mean by not selected to work with man. Pit Bulls are dogs who are fighting dogs. There is not requirements to follow orders or directions, show any containment or control. The dogs do what their instincts tell them, that is it. Try to teach a good tracking Bloodhound to do obedience. It is virtually impossible, because the dogs have been bred to follow their nose, and nothing else. Neos have not had any real purpose for a long time.. They were also fighting dogs, then they became ornaments and sometimes deterrent dogs. But nobody has bred them to perform any particular service for humans that requires that they follow any kind of instruction. the specific traits you asked me about are too difficult to answer, because there is such a wide spectrum of what these dogs act like, you can't really sum them up. One thing that is a fact is that all social aggression that a Pit Bull was supposed to have was limited totally to dogs. Any aggressive behavior towards humans was selected against in breeding. Imagine a pit fighting dog that was as relentlessly aggressive against humans as he was against dogs. Who would take him to and from the pit? Please understand Juan, I like these dogs for what they are and who they are. But I would not want a Newfoundland by my side in a violent confrontation, but if I was drowning in cold water somewhere, I would love to see one of those big black teddy bears coming to pull me out of the water. I still work a lot of good dogs, and they are all members of the breeds that are meant to do the work. I do not understand why there is so much discussion about how new creations are superior to the traditional breeds. The reality is, that police dogs save officers lives every day by doing what they were bred and trained to do. All this is documented and reported. If anyone can provide me with equal documentation for the "new age" body guards. Please do so, because I have not seen it. The point again is that we have breeds that can do this work. Lets take care in preserving them and keeping them around for the future. We don't need to slit efforts by going in different directions. Ok. I got your point and I agree with you. It seems that there is no need to develop new breeds because it's more reasonable (and feasible) to better what we already have. I have never seen a Bandog or any other power breed that was as tough or scary as the great Rottweiler for example. And I think it would be easier to fix them, than to create something new. But even with that, bigger and stronger is not always better. Working dogs have to be all around athletes. endurance, agility, speed balanced with power and attitude will always be the best package.
  29. Among traditional breeds, what do you like the most ? I mean in numbers and over the years, what breed have stricken you more ? (in the different tasks, tracking, obedience, patrol work and apprehension, but particularly in protection.)  OK, you know I work Riesenschnauzers myself. So I have a bias of course. I always like a good working Schnauzer. But I can't say i have seen as many of them as I have of other breeds. In numbers, I have to say that over the years I have seen more impressive German Shepherds than any other breed. I have worked awesome Malinois and Malinois crosses. Some unbelievable dogs among them. But I have seen and worked very, very cool dogs in all the working breeds. I am lucky, I get to experience all different breeds in my line of work. And I can enjoy the different traits they all bring. I can't say that one breed is better than the other. They all are unique packages. Matching the right dog with the right handler is important too. Harmony in the team makes a big difference. And in a way we are all lucky that we do have different breeds to chose from to get the package we want to have for ourselves. I accept the good I get from the Schnauzer along with the shortcomings. I like my partner, and I think we make a good team. And like any job that needs doing, the better the team, the better the results.  
  30. Now we are getting to the end of this interview...What can you tell me about the Boxers you have worked with, both in America and in Europe ? When I was growing up, I had opportunities to see and work actually quite a few good strong Boxers who worked very well. What I always liked about them was how physical and intense they were and the reckless way they came to hit you with all of their body on a courage test. I see the single biggest issue that hurt the Boxer is that nobody paid attention to muzzle length and mouth shape. Or maybe they did pay attention and actually tried to breed the shape the way it is now. I am not quite sure. But what definitely happened was that the Boxer became less and less able to actually do the bitework required for sport or service. And as a result only Boxer fanciers still bothered having them and training them. A good friend of mine had a very nice Boxer in Canada. The dog had all the heart and will to work, but could physically really not bite a sleeve properly. A shame. The few American bred Boxers I have seen that would work at all, most had that problem. But the vast majority of the Boxers bred in North America are not made to do the work they were created for. I have seen a few nice imports. And they were fun. The ones with good muzzles were a lot of fun to work. The other ones kind of broke my heart a little, because their bodies kept them from reaching their potential. On a trip to Finland a couple of years ago, I saw and worked several good Boxers. I would say that there are still good ones out there. But care has to be taken in breeding them to ensure that they are here to stay.
  31. Do you think that you could come someday to give a seminar over here ? Tell me again where exactly you are? I have traveled great distances to give seminars, and I never say no. So let's have a look at it. I am really interested in getting the chance of inviting you to spend some days with us and try to educate people by giving them an opportunity of attending a seminar, and maybe doing something for the t.v. or maybe an interview for the radio. If you are able to do it, please let me know about the costs and arrangements required to proceed. We can do all of that. Of course, time has to allow it as well. I have many commitments, so I would say the biggest factor will be can we find a date that works for you and me.. Later, Permission received:7/13/02