When we were working in the Canton of Wallis in the recycling centre, there were a few observers not from REDOG. Our driver Urs told me on the way home that they were very taken with Jochen and one of them said that he was the most handsome German Shepherd Dog by far he had seen in a long time.
The icing on the cake for them was that he worked so well. Not only handsome but also a capable worker!
Gaspard and Jean-Marc took many photos of him during the deployment exercise. I have been promised the photos when we meet at the test. Both guys were so taken with Jochen and had these dopey smiles on their faces every time we turned up to search.
Given the polite scepticism I had to contend with at the start of this journey re Jochen being a German Shepherd, so large etc, his work is now such that the tide is very much turning in his favour. Many people have now seen him working consistently well and performing like any of their top dogs. We were an integral and important part of the equipe and fully contributed to its success. As per usual, the proof is in the pudding...
However, as I have stated previously in this blog, the German Shepherd Dog community does have to rethink its priorities. I so much believe in this breed that is very dear to me, but I cannot ignore the fact that the German Shepherd Dog breed in this country (Switzerland) and especially within the search dog community has a very poor name. This hurts me.
I find myself in the position of not only showcasing Australian German Shepherd Dog breeding, but also being a lone advocate for the German Shepherd dog generally in Switzerland, a somewhat bizarre situation.
Jochen still continues to draw attention to himself because he is both large and handsome. In Arosa a young man charged over and asked if he could have his photo taken with Jochen. He barely touched the top of Jochen's head as his mate took the photo. He was so chuffed, and I am sure the photo will do the rounds with all his mates for months to come. But Jochen should not stand out like this. He should be the norm. I can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of German Shepherds I have seen out and about and so Jochen stands out like a light beacon. This is fine for my ego but not for the general state of affairs regarding this wonderful breed.
SIZE DOES MATTER
It is quite clear to me why USAR people do not want large dogs. The type of terrain they have to work in is such that large, heavy dogs work harder and tire more quickly than lighter, more agile dogs such as Border Collies, the smaller Malinois, Labradors and Goldens. The large, certainly very handsome male show dogs are just too big, too heavy and simply cannot consistently do the work that is required of a serious working dog. The larger and heavier the dog is, the more it is prone to tiring and being subject to injury. The German Shepherd Dog's intelligence to work is not called into question, only size and weight. Some would add temperament but that applies to any dog of any breed.
The German Shepherd Dog was once a sheep herding dog in Europe where they covered up to 70 km a day. A dog that is 66+ at the wither with a corresponding weight is incapable of sustaining such work. Joints, back and ligaments give way. Thank god size is coming down in Australia. A medium size, medium strong, well muscled dog of about 64 - 64.5 cm can work in USAR like any other breed. The German Shepherd community just has to produce them. We can discuss angles, reach and drive all we want. If the dog is too large and therefore too heavy, all the best angles in the world won't create an enduring working dog. I believe in the angles, reach, drive etc, just not in the size and the disadvantages that brings.
In the meantime, German Shepherd people in Australia can rest assured that Jochen is being a super advocate for his breed over in at the moment rainy Switzerland.