There are a number of things that have been written within this article with which I agree and there are a number of others that I don't. Jim clearly has his bias, this relates to IPO and more to the point Professor Messler's determination to outlaw radio controlled electric training collars, something I agree with. Professor Messler's determination to outlaw radio controlled training collars is obviously what motivated Jim to write his article and to make very unfair and intentionally demeaning remarks in regard to Professor Messler's understanding of training dogs. But that is Jim's perogative and whether you agree with him or not it is his right to express his opinion publicly. Regardless of whether you agree with what he has to say or you don't at least he got out there and said what he thinks on what is a very important matter, the German Shepherd Dog's health and future.
Jim had his say, very few people in the breed every reciprocate to someones article whether they agree with it or not, but just as it was Jims right to write his article it is mine to respond. I do so to show some very needed support of Professor Messler, and to make my own views known publicly.
Putting aside his motivation Jim's article, in the broader context, makes for an interesting read and that is why I have published it here. Open public discussion and encouragement of expression and opinion is critical in times such as this and I have to say in the GSD show dog sport this is sadly lacking. More often than not its lacking because of fear of retribution by people that one might offend and I refer to people in positions of power and influence such as breed judges. Keeping your head down and mouth shut is the favoured option by most enthusiasts in our sport and that includes too many of our purported ''breed guardians''.
What I do know from close observation is for the first time in a long time an SV President is attempting to right the SV boat and re-set its course, in many respects he may be the breeds last chance!
Professor Messler who is an orthopaedic surgeon is an idealist, a highly intelligent well educated man and competent breeder who is determined to do what he can to make things better, to champion the breed and maybe, just maybe make it a healthier breed and in doing so make it great again especially at a general public, and service level! He knows that anyone who puts themselves forward as a president of any organisation has to take good public commentary with the bad, it goes with the territory, you can't please everyone especially in the pedigree dog sport and especially when you are not a populist!
Professor Messler, in my opinion, is attempting to make the necessary corrections within the SV and any improvements he makes there will trickle through to other WUSV countries. He is doing it very publicly and in his enthusiasm to make a real difference he is doing it at a pace that some might say is too fast especially those who are effected by his changes and his attitudes. What I do know is that that Professor Messler is focused on problems that have been created by corruption, disgusting levels of self interest, dog dealers, problems associated with the curvature of the topline, oversize and overangulation of the hindquarter for example. The challenge in achieving his goals is to remain strong, even forceful in his convictions and in doing so maintain his presidency, at least until his work is complete!
Self interest is a far more powerful force than idealism and that applies in spadefuls when it comes to the GSD show dog sport. A sport that in a number of key areas has lost its way and its direction.
Heinrich Messler and the Illusion of Power - Jim Engel
Power indeed corrupts, but it is also fragile. Heinrich Messler is a case in point: as emerging president of the SV and also the WUSV, the linear heir of Max von Stephanitz, on the surface he would seem to be a man of enormous influence in the realm of the German Shepherd Dog. But this is a world in decline in terms of numbers, influence and credibility. SV puppy registrations are only a third of what they were in the middle 1990s, and this trend is worldwide in scope. The Malinois has emerged from obscurity to become more and more predominant in police and military service throughout the world and even in Germany. The Schutzhund trial has been watered down into IPO and it is a long standing open secret that the show breeder dominated SV elite condones and encourages IPO trials so lenient in terms of decoy pressure, procedure and performance standards as to render the title meaningless as a certification of breeding suitability in terms of working character and trainability. The Malinois has achieved parity verging on predominance on high level IPO fields and has long prevailed on more demanding KNPV and ring trial fields. (The Malinois superseded the German Shepherd on French Ring fields in the latter 1970s, a precursor of things to come.)
More ominously the general population is coming to perceive that the SV and American show line German Shepherds are pale imitations of the dogs who established police and military service as the forte of the breed, that those German Shepherds effective in these arenas are increasingly a separate population, rapidly evolving into an entirely different breed.
In the world this controlling generation grew up in those at the top wielded enormous, uncontested practical power. A primary source of this was unquestioned control of the dissemination of information, direct control of club magazines and strong influence over other publications which supported the established system. There was virtually no practical way for those outside of the controlling elite to make their voice heard. The emergence of affordable international travel, routine long distance telephone service and most importantly the internet have in a way unimaginable only a generation ago given the ordinary person the potential for parity in terms of reach. Internet Email discussion groups, and later pervasive social media, created extensive venues of communication and put the potential for real world influence in the hands of the common man. An ordinary person now had the potential to collect—from public sources— thousands of Email addresses of club officers, judges and the rank and file of the working community, and thus obtain a voice with more immediate reach than the president of USCA, the SV or any other office holder. These trends have opened up influence over the election of even the highest officers to the ordinary, unaffiliated commentator, diminished the real power of the establishment elite.
Although Mr. Messler would seem to have minimal grasp of real world dog training, even he should be able to comprehend the principle that to give a command that you cannot or will not enforce serves only to instill the knowledge that obedience is optional and that the trainer can be ignored with impunity. This principle scales up: when Messler grandly pronounced that use of the radio controlled training collar is to be forbidden to all trainers affiliated with WUSV worldwide he was immediately and publicly repudiated by both USCA and the American competitor he chose to hold up to ridicule as an example. The failure of any WUSV action to implement such a restriction, and the fact that the Americans have defiantly announced their intensions of ignoring any such dictates, enormously diminishes Messler in terms of prestige, influence and real power.
In the same letter, Messler sought to reign in the grotesque extremes of the SV show ring, and international shows under this influence. Although I am not intimately knowledgeable of the internals of this grotesque exhibitionist venue, it quickly became apparent that here again Messler was exceeding, and thus diminishing, his real authority, that the evolution of the German Shepherd of von Stephanitz to the Banana Back of the Martin boys would continue unabated.
What we see before us is the ongoing erosion of SV power, prestige and influence, the direct consequence of the abandonment of commitment to working character and potential in favour of show ring fashion on the part of the controlling SV cabal over the past several decades. This is part of the dramatic general decline of worldwide annual registrations, particularly in the AKC and FCI nations.
The canine show world, the purebred brand, is clearly in decline. This will be a tumultuous time of transition, and in order to avoid being taken down as part of the process the working community, also in worldwide decline, needs to grasp this opportunity to reinvent itself in a form sustainable in the remainder of the twenty first century.
It is time, worldwide, to break free of the existing show dog establishment and conduct working dog affairs by and for working dog people.
Jim Engel, Marengo © November, 2016