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                         INTERVIEW - REINHARDT MEYER

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INTERVIEW WITH THE NEW SV-NATIONAL BREED WARDEN
REINHARDT MEYER

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reproduced here on VIDEX GSD website with written permission from Reinhardt Meyer

“We make constructive criticism about our actions and behaviour without hurting the other”

In December 2006, the federal assembly voted Reinhardt Meyer as the new breeding warden. After his first 100 days in office, he had already presented his ideas and visions at various events. R. Meyer names his objectives as promoting the cynologic design of the breed and team work on all levels, building bridges over ditches and developing the service provided for our members. To be able to dedicate himself completely and utterly to the complex challenges of office, the new club breed warden declared that during his time in office, his “vom Bergmannshof” kennel would be retired, he would not exhibit any dogs, hold any stud dogs or have anyone else hold a stud dog for him.

“All these restrictions bring ne independence and free me from temporal bottlenecks,” R. Meyer told the WUSV aktuall. “We must,” continues Meyer “develop mutual channels and concepts which clearly make us, in Germany, the specialists for breed and training and allow us to possess an outstanding level of knowledge in our club.”

WUSV aktuell: Mr. Meyer, congratulations on your elections as club breed warden. How have the first days been…?

Thank you; please permit me, at this point, to thank all those who supported me during the preparations for 9th December. My very special thanks go to the federal delegates, who voted for me and showed me I had their confidence. The election was barely over when normal everyday life called me back. I promised a huge amount. With the support of the committees and members together, I will keep my promises.

WUSV aktuell: …and your calendar for 2007?

My calendar was already well stocked but now a whole range of appointments have turned up and filled in the holes. Now it is full. There is very little free time left, but I am very excited about me new challenge nevertheless.

WUSV aktuell: You want to be the breed warden for all breeds in the club; what do you mean by that?

If you ask our members today, for which breeder clientele the committees are responsible, the majority would reply as follows:

The club breed warden together with the breed committee is responsible for the breeders from the exhibition sport group and the club training director together with the training committee is responsible for the breeders from the guard dog sports group. We are the largest pedigree dog breeding club in the world and the breed warden of this club has to deal with the issues of all breeders, no matter which breeding interest they belong to within the club.

WUSV aktuell: What do you want to offer performance-focussed breeders?

In the past, we have neglected to draw breed-relevant conclusions, even from major performance events like the National Working Trials, and make them accessible to a wide clientele of breeders. If the National Breed Show is an event, in which the primary importance is the appearance, then the National Working Trials, for example, provide us with the opportunity to assess the mental areas. I am convinced that it would be helpful for many breeders, if they, for example, could find out about how individual blood lines and individual sires perform. We have experts among our ranks who have the knowledge to carry out such an assessment. Something we still need to discuss is how this assessment will finally look and how sophisticated it will be. This requires collaboration between the breed committee and training committee.

In addition, we will make it clear to performance-focussed breeders that we are not just talking about exhibition dogs when we speak of the appearance. We must inform our members sufficiently that there are anatomic characteristics, which are absolutely necessary to keep a performance dog capable of a good performance for many years. As an example: there are many members who believe that distinct withers are only important for exhibition dogs to produce an attractive upper silhouette. It is possible to make a very detailed and vivid description solely on the importance of the withers in a working dog. Likewise with the significance of a short solid back and about the correctness of the front line. With such lectures and publications, we will sensitise members who breed for performance about these subjects, which will improve the appearance and thus physical performance of performance dogs bred for guard dog sport and agility.

WUSV aktuell: You want to provide the work of the breed committee with new stimuli; what ideas do you have to do this?

It is indisputable that this system that we predominantly use, i.e. that every state group has its breed warden on the committee, definitely ensures that every state group is represented in important questions of breed and that, if necessary, enough background can be created, even for decisions. On the other hand, a committee with 19 people and 6 board members will not tend to achieve the desired success in focused specialised work. In this case it is necessary to divide the breed committee into smaller work groups, which are then in a position to work through urgent matters in a targeted way. Members of the management committee and the training committee should also consult these small groups to be able to discuss subjects spanning across all sectors in detail. These small work groups can then communicate with one another via the internet and would also have the possibility, if needed, to hold a conference several times a year so as to limit the costs arising. The results could then be discussed in the annual breed committee conference. This system would mean that any arising specialised subjects would be processed in great depth and illuminated on all sides, which would result in conclusions that could be accepted by the committees and national assembly to a large degree without long-winded discussion.

WUSV aktuell: You are judging the male working dog class in the upcoming National Breed Show in Braunschweig. Will there be innovations for the exhibitors here and how do you intend to set the main focuses?

Together with the National Working Trials, the National Breed Show is the showcase of the current status of our breed. This is where domestic and foreign breeders can get suggestions for their breeding and check whether their own breeding visions meet the breed standard. Last but not least, this breeding event is an effective instrument for steering the breed. The incumbent judges of the individual classes have the task of providing special attention, in accordance with the guidelines of the breed committee, to the current structural characteristics in order to introduce awareness with assessment and placings so that an improvement is achieved in these areas. This particularly applies for the judges of the working dog classes and, to a high degree, for the judges of the male working dog classes, as this class contains the very-frequented stud dogs who characterise the appearance of the breed through their use for breeding. As well as promoting certain characteristics that are appropriate for the breed standard, it is also necessary to curb any possible over-stereotyping. Every pedigree dog breed club runs the risk, now and then, of such an over-stereotyping and should not underestimate those responsible for breeding. The reasons for such a derailment can be varied, for example, the development of a characteristic is not given enough attention, the danger of this development is not realised, no-one feels completely responsible and no-one takes the responsibility of allowing this size development of our breed to occur.

 

Another example can be the increased demand for abroad, whereby possible financial aspects cannot play a completely inconsiderable role. I am thinking of the size development of the heads of our breed. The danger here is that we are dealing genetically with a “pleiotropic heredity,” i.e. genes here are having an influential effect on several characteristics. In the example of the “fat head”, it must be taken into account that the development in size is accompanied with an intense flew formation through to loculation. If this is not curbed, it can lead as far as to set back the eyeballs, which can be seen in the lower choroid membrane. An implied wrinkling on the forehead develops and the dog develops a somewhat drowsy appearance as a result. 

Another example would be loose ankle joints, particularly in connection with an extreme hind leg angling. In South America and Asia, this can frequently be observed. Driven back in the motherland some years ago, now the beginnings of this problem are beginning to emerge once again. Loose ankle joints are a hindrance for the dog; therefore the beginnings of this problem must be resisted. The past has taught us that if such over-stereotyping has a negative effect on the placings in competitions then this acts as a signal among the breeders and means immediate consideration is paid to future plans for couplings. 

This event is a traditional event of our club and is well though-out at heart. We have the good luck that we have highly motivated members in our ranks, who ensure year after year of flawless proceedings of this large-scale event in collaboration with a very well-functioning main branch office. Nevertheless, I think we can do somewhat more for the actual main players of this breed show. I am not thinking about the dogs and their handlers when I say that; they have it relatively easy. I am thinking about those people who make the dog fit for this event; they are the same as those who also guide them in their guarding activities and the same as those who motivate them afterwards from the outside in the competition. They are the members, who influence to a high degree the aesthetics of a class and the same as those who “are locked up” at the front of the stadium and are “supervised” and carry out the “hardest work”. I know all this from my own experience. In this regard, the breed committee is trying, in collaboration with the event management, to find ways to make the work easier. 

WUSV aktuell: Three “keyword questions” to our club breed warden. Keyword: “Size of our dogs?” 

For many years, we have discussed and acted in matters of outsized animals; the result has not been satisfactory. In the recent past, we had a situation, in which the breed judges were directed in writing by the club breed warden to filter the outsized runaways from the breed shows and to then place these dogs in the lower positions.

Some colleagues did not keep this agreement and did not treat this problem of outsized animals with the necessary seriousness. As a result, we remain altogether unsuccessful. However, the breed committee is not slowing down on this matter and will find ways to ensure the standardised handling of the judging corps. This means that here, in this matter as well as already mentioned in other places, the judges of the National Breed Shows as a breed-steering organ can use their placings to make a relevant trend recognisable. 

WUSV aktuell: Keyword: “Breed survey regulations?” 

The new breed survey regulations did not find the necessary majority in the federal assembly. My personal opinion is that the existing breed survey regulations should be modified in certain points. The dogs must be described in more detail and with more meaning in the overall assessment in terms of the anatomical and mental properties. The classification of breed classes should be discontinued,
 

as it is incomprehensible that a dog with the breed judgement of “good” but an outstanding performance disposition can be classified in a lower breed class than a dog with an above-average structure and satisfactory to good performance disposition. Both are equal dogs in our working dog class. The difference is solely in for which use or which sport the dog concerned should be used. 

WUSV aktuell: Keyword: “Breed Assessment?” 

For years, we have practiced a breed assessment in terms of the HD. However, we must sadly realise that this breed assessment, in the form that we practice it, is not successful. This finding has been classified in the meantime by top class geneticists. The breed committee in collaboration with experts form the main branch office are looking, and finding, alternative methods which will promise success. 

WUSV aktuell: You have announced that you will activate the service for breed wardens and members. What plans do you have? 

I am thinking about some situations which really need supplying with regulations. Scientific subjects, e.g. be that as verbal lectures or as publications in our SV newsletter, must be communicated to all our members at a comprehensible level. For many years now, we have had a tolerated dishonesty. What I mean to say is that we are not meeting the fiduciary duty, which we have in face of all our officials. By that, I mean the changes to stud days known to us all. This bad habit brings breeders, local group breed wardens and tattooists into moral conflicts. In this matter, the breed committee together with the main branch office and the stud dog owners will find a regulation conforming to breed guidelines which will offer all those concerned the necessary protection. 

During the year, we have about 150 local group breed shows. 45% have an exhibitor number of less than 50 dogs and 68% have less than 60 dogs being exhibited. These are areas, which are problematic for the organising local group. Among others, there are two fundamental reasons for these low exhibitor figures. One is that, now and again, too many breed shows take place on the same weekend and secondly, breed shows taking place on the same weekend are not sufficiently widely dispersed in terms of area. Regarding this matter, the main branch office is already finding out whether additional reasons need to be taken into account. We will then consider the matter together and develop an appropriate system, which will guarantee to better coordinate the local breed shows. 

We must then think about how we can more favourably influence the cost development in the field of breeding and sport for our members. I am thinking, for example, that it must be possible to negotiate a packet price for HD, ED and DNA procedures with our contracted vets. Or that SV members are ensured a general price reduction. 

I also cannot be satisfied that exhibitors of the National Breed Show, who would like to retire their dogs, have to queue in a humiliating manner in long queues at the event’s vet services, thus missing the actual event, in order to purchase a “sickness attestation” for € 50.00. How the attestation should be assessed is not something I need to remark on further at this point. 

WUSV aktuell: The subject of “promoting the working dog’s characteristics” is being discussed at present. What are paths that you would like to tread? 

I have already outlined this under the keyword of “breed survey regulations” but would like to further expand on this at this point. In the field of “promoting the working dog’s characteristics”, I see a huge step in the right direction, when we offer breeders more information concerning mental issues. They then have the opportunity to recognise, during their coupling plans, who is the more suitable breeding partner for the bitch concerned, with which the breeder can then contribute to bringing about improvements in the field of working dog characteristics and can solidify the existing positive characteristics in the subsequent breeding. They can also ensure, to a high degree, that no setbacks are suffered. My personal considerations to that effect are that the breed survey report and breed survey book should be an absolute foundation for planning couplings. This is provided to a high degree in the field of anatomical characteristics. In the matter of mental properties of our dogs, I believe there are some gaps to close. I am thinking, for example, about the TSB inspection. In this matter, there is a relatively large degree of discretional power for the assessors, which can, for example, lead to the predicate of “TSB pronounced” in the overall result. Later, an observer of the breed survey report cannot recognise for which area of the discretional power, this predicate of “pronounced” is awarded. If we take a closer look at the “TSB pronounced” grade with the three terms concealed behind it of performance consistency, self assurance and ability to work under pressure, then we have to confess that the “TSB pronounced” assessment does not clarify whether the dog concerned is equally highly established in all three of the sub-sections or not. A high level of ability to work under pressure does not automatically suppose a high level of performance consistency or a very self-assured dog is not necessarily a high-performance dog. In addition, the “TSB pronounced” does not say how the dog is positioned in terms of performance. If the dog is more positioned in the defence sector or in the tracking department or is the dog well-balanced? All this is important information for the breeder, which is necessary for the coupling planning that promises success. The breed committee needs to work together with the training committee in this matter. 

Another important aspect to promote the working dog characteristics is that we need to consider as absolutely necessary the fact that the selective framework conditions, with which we assess the performance of our dogs, cannot be avoided. Only through accurate use and responsible handling with the selection possibilities which we have available in our club in abundance, BH, SchH, IP, FH and Körung, will we succeed in breeding, on a wide-scale, a well positioned, trainable working dog for both the normal member and the top-class athlete. 

WUSV aktuell: What are your ideas in the sector of further training for judges?

If you explain to another breed official of another pedigree dog club that the largest pedigree dog breeding club in the world has not carried out any communal comparison or alignment exercises with its 60 or so breed judges for years, no one will believe you. For years, we have had a situation in this respect, which does not justify the importance of this office; if, for example, a young man or young woman of 35 years old is appointed as breed judge, they can both judge for another 35 years how they want and can. For years, this club has offered breed judges no opportunity to adjust to as standardised a direction as possible in the form of further training. These further training sessions are an elementary part of a judging corps in order to ensure quality judging. My idea in this matter to that effect is that I will work out a practical strategy with the longest-serving judges, which does not just take into account breed work. This could be in the form of the longest-serving judges completing an appropriate advanced or further training scheme. Afterwards, they could then serve as multiplicators for smaller groups. During the judges’ conference, which takes place every two years, presentations by external specialists could then be incorporated. There is a whole range of competent cynologists that I could invite to the various judges’ training events at the VDH. 

WUSV aktuell: What course would you, as club breed warden, like to set in publicity work?

I see it as one of my tasks to make the merits of the German Shepherd dog visible to the public. We have this opportunity at many events, which our club holds, especially at the large-scale events. We should not let ourselves be compared and put in a competition with other dog breeds, which seem very positive in the short term in special areas but then frequently disappear again. Despite all the criticism, I think the German Shepherd dog is the best working dog breed in the world. There are no other dog breeds, which have demonstrated this versatility over such a long period of time. Whether as family dog, sports dog, service dog, rescue dog or therapy dog, we encounter German Shepherd dogs all over because of their universal usability. 

It must be my and the tasks of all functioning officials in the club to maintain the status that the German Shepherd dog has created in the world. This means that we must, more than ever, identify with the club’s aims concerning the breeding of working dogs and then act and make them noticeable in the public domain. 

WUSV aktuell: Where do you see your tasks in the WUSV sector? 

First and foremost, I see myself as the club breed warden for the motherland of the breed. This is where I will complete my tasks. This interview alone shows everything that needs to be reviewed here. It goes without saying that I will provide the important WUSV with my utmost support. 

WUSV aktuell: Many thanks for talking to us and we wish you all the best for your time in office.

CURRICULUM VITAE:

I was born on 23rd March 1947 in Kleinenglis, a district of Borken. I joined the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde [German Shepherds’ Association] as early on as April 1961 and had my “vom Bergmannshof” kennel trademarked in October 1962. I have trained many DS dogs through to SchH3 and have managed through to LDA. I still remember, once I was the participant with the highest number of points in the guarding activity. But that was 35 years ago. Often, I have been used as a guard helper in guard dog trials, competitions, Körung Gradings and state group qualifyings. 

In 1976, I was appointed as breed judge and a few years later as Körmeister [breed survey master]. For more than 30 years now, I have been the uninterrupted breed warden of the local group of Hessen Nord, making me the longest serving member in the breed committee. If you ask what my absolute high point in my SV career has been, then I will tell you two highlights; I could not rate one as higher than the other. The first is, when as breeder and owner, I was awarded the winner title 1989 with the male dog “Iso vom Bergmannshof”; the fulfilment of a huge dream that I had dreamed of for many years. The second, as breed judge, the appointment by the SV board in 1993 to judge the working bitch class at the National Breed Show in Dortmund. Dr. Beck as club breed warden and judge of the GHKL bitches had become ill and the president Hermann Martin called me on the Wednesday morning before the event and asked me if I could take over this task. At that time, I felt unbelievably honoured and it was and still is today my biggest and more impressive experience in my breed judge career. In total, I have judged the National Breed Show six times to date.

There have also been less pleasant times in my club membership. If I had to describe one to you, then it would be in 1994, when I was selected as club breed warden for the first time. However, my time in office only lasted 4 months. My ideas and visions did not fit the politics of the club at that time. At which point, I must say that my comments in this interview coincide in many areas with my thoughts at that time. But now the time is ripe that some areas need to be revised. I am not the only one with this opinion. I know from many discussions, that there are many other responsible members in the individual committees of this club, who share my views to a high degree and have promised me their support. Being aware of this, I am convinced that we will be successful as far as implementing the ideas I have described in this interview is concerned.

Reinhardt Meyer

 

 
 
 
 

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