I would like to start this blog with what I believe is the basic necessities to achieve a good service or sport dog. It is my belief that there are two main requirements to achieve this goal. The first is genetics the second is proper development. This is the corner stone belief of Von Rhys Kennels. I will discuss both of these concepts one at a time.
One cannot hope to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear to quote an old saying. The same rings true for a good working dog. If you do not start with the right genetics you end up with a flawed base to start your breeding. An example of this is when I was given a specifically breed police dog from a Service breeding program. Unfortunately the breeding was selected for the wrong reasons. The stud was picked because he had never broken down and not for his working ability. The dam had never been tested, never trained for the job so untested. This pup was given to me as an 8 week pup. I immediately went about socialising and developing the pup. It was not long and the young pup was following a human scent trail and biting down on a bite roll with a full mouth grip. It was not until we started to put the dog under some pressure at about 15 months old that we started to see some cracks in this dogs armour. He recovered and moved on but as we moved on we started to see more and more. We started course and during the course we saw that the dog had trouble working away from the handler. In the handler's presence he would blow up well and bite hard but away he was not so confident. We worked on fixing this problem and got to a point were the dog would do the job (in a training scenario).
The head trainer and myself were reluctant to cut the dog as two years of work had gone into the dog to this point and he could put on a good show in the presence of the handler. We were hoping it was an age thing and hoped he would grow into himself.
On completion of the course and out in the real world the problem became more and more evident. The dog was not indicating on offenders if he thought that the handler did not know the offender was there. This became a serious issue as the dog could track like a train and could track you into danger if he was not going to indicate on the bad guy. This dog was given back to the training cell by me and was later moved on to a better suited environment for him. Good development no genetics in this example, now for an example of good genetics no development resulting in a similar result.
A natural athlete without training will never reach their potential. Same can be said for working dogs. If you have paid good money for a pup that has good breeding behind it but you have put no work into developing the attribute you want while the pup is in it's crucial develop age you cannot expect to get a champion.
To continue my example from above after giving back my other dog I was given a big black dog that was 18 months old had been donated to the Police Service he had been running a backyard on an easement. He had no development no training. He had learnt to run the fence barking at passing dogs and smelling the urine signatures (purv) they left. To make matters worse he was castrated at 6 months old. This opens up a whole lot of other issues that I won't go into know. Unfortunately for me there was nothing else available to me (hard to believe you would think but not that hard if you know how the Service at the time worked). On the positive this dog came from good breeding. He had confidence and nerve. I set about teaching him to track. Hours of work paid off in that he learnt how to track with nose to ground. Unfortunately he preferred to hunt over track. Not always a bad thing but still needs to put his nose down on the old stuff.
The major problem of having learnt to run a yard and perv at a young age is that this dog now prefers the scent of dog over human scent on aged tracks. This lack of work ethic comes back to his lack of proper development for the job he now finds himself. His genetics kicks in and carries him over the line but only just. I have learnt to live with his lack of work ethic for the older track due to the amount of time I have left in the job. His strengths are his natural aggression towards a threat and his natural ability to want to hunt the prey. Unfortunately his lack of development has taught him there is more to life than just the track.
Using another analogy, it would be like taking a young man who has been enjoying the good life working in the Whitsundays on yachts and partying and then saying to him he was going out to the middle of nowhere to work in the mines doing 10 shifts a day. He has learnt there is more to life than working hard and whilst he may not have any say in it he is not going to put his heart into the job. On the other hand if this young bloke was raised out in the middle of nowhere working 10 hours a day he would know no different and put in a better effort.
To sum up my point, you need both genetics and development to maximise your chances of producing the best working/sports dog possible. Even with these two thing there is no guarantee you will end up with the perfect dog but it shortens the odds. This is the belief that I have founded my kennel on.
Wayne ALGIE has been a Police dog handler for over 15 years. He has been involved in training and developing many police dogs in his time. He has also been involved in supervising the training and development of a large unit.