Interview with Wayne Simanovich

Recorded in St. Louis, Missouri

While in St. Louis For the World Qualifier Trials I took an hour to do something I had been trying to do all year… put North Carolinian Wayne Simanovich in the hot seat. Wayne is a former President of the United States Rottweiler Club. The owner of PROTECTIONDOG.COM in Conover, North Carolina. The owner of National Champion Remus V. Siedlerpfad SchH III IPO 3 and National Champion Dino V. Brukenbrink SchH III, Wayne has more recently been seen on the competition field with German Shepherd Dogs. He won the 1993 North American Championship with Fargo V. Teupelstrasse SchH III and has been competing successfully with Pascha V. Spitzenbubezwinger SchH III. He has been a member of seven teams representing the USA in World competitions. In 1995, Wayne and the Catawba Valley SchH Club hosted the USA Sieger Show. They did an admirable job with this difficult task, particularly from a group primarily associated with the working aspects of the German Shepherd Dog. Wayne and I sought refuge from the cold and wind on Sunday, Dec. 8 to conduct this interview in the conference room of the visitors center at Purina Farms. I heard from Wayne that he will host a seminar at his home in Conover NC in April 1997. Wayne has a world class trial field, ample parking and a gazebo with all the finest brews on tap. His fellow club members are dedicated to showing their guests a good southern time. The seminar is free and will be instructed by Wayne & Dean Calderon. Here are guys that are worth listening to, huh? And so we began:

DKL: Wayne to start us off, You have never been known as a German Shepherd conformation person, but certainly over the last five years have been successful with your shepherds in the SchH Sport. In 1995 the USA Sieger Show was held by your club. Having been, shall we say, thrust into USA conformation, what observations have you made about this portion of our sport?

Simanovich: I think the biggest difference in getting involved with the German Shepherd breeders opposed to my experience with the Rottweiler is that there are two distinct breeds of German Shepherds. Rottweiler have fewer individuals that are top conformation dogs and fewer individuals that are top sport dogs, however, there are V rated Rottweilers that excel in the protection work. The German Shepherds definitely seem to be two different breeds and this was apparent to me for the first time at the 94 Sieger Show. That was my first involvement with a German Shepherd breed show. The appearance, the structure, the temperament of the German Shepherd working lines Shepherd and the Show Shepherd are distinctly different. I think that this has pluses and minuses for both of the breeds.

DKL: Let’s try to define those differences in the dogs you have been around. For example, Ed Miller’s old dog Uran (von Eichendorfschule SchH 3). Your own dogs Pascha and Fargo and the dogs at Caine Manor versus the dogs that we saw there at the Sieger Show. Let’s try to delineate the differences between the two breeds — the German Working Shepherds and the German Conformation Shepherds.

Simanovich: Boy, you are going to get me into trouble with this one. Ummm… it’s not so much the working line dogs that I have been associated with training at our club, but in general I see more problems in the working lines with the straight fronts and the shoulders breaking down as the dog gets older. I think there is a higher rate of Monorchidism and certain other problems, both structural and cosmetic that the working lines have that the show lines don’t have.The show lines all appear to have a brilliant black and red coat, they have, for the most part,nice fronts and are sturdy dogs structurally, however there are huge vast differences in the temperament and the tractability of the show lines dogs compared to the working dogs. How much pressure can the dog take, the dog’s hardness, just how long can you train this dog before you see problems with the nerves and problems with the character. The show lines dogs for the most part have major shortcomings there.

DKL: At the Sieger show we observed quite a few dogs that had SchH III titles and in fact other titles, from these dogs that came to the show already titled. What were your observations, doyou feel that perhaps they were subjected to a different standard of evaluation to gain theirtitles then the dogs we see out here on the field competing strictly in the sport without the conformation.

Simanovich: Just as I think there are two different breeds of German Shepherd, I think that there are two different standards for which the dogs are evaluated. Certainly they are obtaining their titles in a different arena then the top sport dogs are obtaining their titles

DKL: In an interview done in North Carolina, Walter Martin (Deceased, Breeder Weinerau Kennels, Germany) stated that the top conformation dogs would never bite like tigers and conversely, that the top working dogs will never do well in conformation. His candor is unusual, do you agree with his statement.

Simanovich: I think it is somewhat accurate, the conformation game at the top level involves a strict breeding program to produce that dog. Unfortunately, the level of courage and hardness needed to pass the courage test at the show is not that high and that is the only test the dog learns his whole life. The working people, on the other hand, have 300 points in mind and when breeding a dog that has the resiliency and the character to be trained and titled to the top sport level at different locations around the world, one does not take into consideration structural priorities such as the shoulder layback, toplines and movement in their breeding
. DKL: Wayne do you believe that some of the lines are simply genetically predisposed to have low drives and courage.

Simanovich: Without question, different lines possess different traits that would lend the dog to be a top sport dog or lines that would possess the traits that would lend the dog to be a top conformation dog. There are going to be flukes coming from the show lines that can compete at a top sport level. I must say that I have never seen a dog produced from the top working lines that could compete at the Sieger Show level. It’s an old gene pool and a large gene pool. The show lines still produce a large number of Police dogs, protection dogs with a civil nature (note: civil: not requiring training equipment cues) about them and a fluke here and there that can compete at the top sport level. The working lines are producing dogs with stronger nerves and higher fighting drive and dogs that can take a lot of training pressure. However you would rarely see a top show dog come from the working lines.

DKL: At the Sieger Show held at your home, hell, all of the shows that I have attended so far, I have seen dogs shown with titles that it appears that they did not actually earn. Do you feel that perhaps dogs are sold to this country with titles earned under judges that were more inclined to grant them their titles regardless of their level of performance but rather who owned the dog at the time of the test and with the desire to augment the sale? Further, do you think these dogs could pass their titles under USA judges?

Simanovich: Well, I wouldn’t want to speculate what has happened to dogs at trials that I did not witness with my own eyes, however, it is apparent that there are two different standards by which the dogs are judged by in Germany. There are show working judges and there are true working judges, and you mentioned money and anywhere that there is a large sum of money, particularly the show ring in Germany, with those dollars there is going to come a certain amount of corruption. Yes I am certain that there are dogs with Schutzhund Three titles thatdon’t know how to sit, platz (down) and wouldn’t know a dumbbell if it fell from the sky and hit them on the head. You mentioned our judging program here, our judges here are working judges. While I think that there are flaws in our program and changes that need to be made, there is no way that I or anyone else could take a dog under a USA judge and obtain a title if the dog didn’t perform all the exercises. Having show dogs from show lines that meet the minimum requirements for the working titles is legitimate and in the standard. A dog that scores 235 every time out and can take the training pressure it needs to take to score 235, and a dog that can pass the minimum requirements it takes to pass the protection phase is within the standard and certainly allowed. However having dogs that have obtained titles where they have not performed all of the test can be labeled nothing else but corruption and we can be sure that money is passing hands somewhere.

DKL: I discussed this with Paul Meloy a couple of days ago, Wayne. In the USA we have held six Sieger Shows, four of those shows were won by the people that controlled the shows. Washington DC and Conover NC were the two shows that were not won by the people controlling the shows. Did your club take any steps to ensure that the show would be an open and fair show, for example, I did not see any of your club members competing with their own dogs in this show, was this agreed upon by your club members prior to the show.

Simanovich: Well fortunately, there wasn’t a donkey class offered in North Carolina where the dogs from our club could have competed. I don’t think any dog from the Catawba Valley SchH Club is going to compete against the show dogs at what they do best. As far as the home field advantage, in a Schutzhund trial, you have your own tracking conditions that you are used to, you have perhaps trained in the stadium, the jumps and dumbbells are owned by the club and there is a home field advantage. At the shows, and I have only been to a few of the Sieger shows and the home field advantage there might be something I can’t put my finger on.

DKL: I discussed with Doug Alexander at last years Sieger Show the bitework and the use of the term pronounced courage. I like to very precise in my use of the language, In other words, should a dog be rated as pronounced if the dog bites and does not run away. Perhaps a modification to Satisfactory, Pronounced and Excels to give some reward and recognition to the dogs that truly are hard and show high drives and courage?

Simanovich: I think that these are two different games that we are talking about, with the show game and with the working game. I think as long as the show dog meets the minimum requirements for the working test at the Sieger Show, that if he grips the sleeve and outs properly, and stays with the helper, he should be pronounced and it should be consistent. Sufficient should be for the dog that comes away from the stick or shows a nervous reaction to the helper or barely passes the protection test as the judge sets it up. You can’t compare the pronounced on the show card with the pronounced that the working dog has following his protection score. If you did that, there would be fewer dogs pronounced at the Sieger Show. There are two different games and two different ratings, although pronounced; is the same word. I think that it is OK for the working people to go to the Sieger Show and appreciate the beauty of the German Shepherd Dog, his movement and his power, I think it’s great to applaud the Sieger when he performs correctly in the protection phase, I think there is room in the standard for that and I think there is room for both sides. I also think that it is wise and that it is OK for the show people to attend the top working events and appreciate the true character and working abilities of the top working German Shepherds. On paper it is still one breed and the standard is broad enough that there is room for everyone.

DKL: Let’s get into something that I think personally you excel at, the training of dogs, not just discussing them. Let’s apply some of what you have seen and offer some suggestions. When you offered your training fields at the Sieger Show we did not see that many handler take advantage of the experience of the top helpers and trainers that were available. What would you suggest to show dog handlers to improve their performances at the Sieger Shows. How can a handler help, generally, to help build their dogs confidence and improve their chances at the critical moments at the show?

Simanovich: I think that too many of the people train their dog for the specific test, which is the attack out of the blind and the long bite. I saw 80 – 90 % of the dogs and handlers come to our club and do this test over and over in preparation for our test on Sunday. I think that if the show lines people would apply some basic techniques that all of the working people use with the pass by, sleeve carrying, work for a full grip and actually train the dog in his drives as opposed for just preparing for the test then most of them would have no trouble with the test itself. I was pleased to find out that the show people that did make use of the training opportunities that we offered to them were very receptive to our training methods and our thoughts about their training. For the most part, they were a nervous lot, showing up at a working club with their show line dogs. I think they felt that they were going to be slighted because they were not doing the kind of work that our group would be used to. Once we broke the ice I found them to be very receptive of our training and I found them to be very interested in learning more about preparing their dogs for the Sieger Show test. I am really proud that of the show lines people at that attended the show, the Henkel family from Connecticut has actually joined our club and now come to Conover to train with use on a regular basis. I mean, here are people that have been in the show line dogs for a lot of years and they realize that there is more to learn. We welcome anyone from the show lines background to come and train with us at the Catawba Valley Schutzhund Club.

DKL: There have been some changes over the last year in the rules of the sport, I have been watching, for example, the new courage test. What do you think of the new courage test, do you like it, what do you think it shows that is different from what we have been doing prior to this change and how do you feel about other changes?

Simanovich: It’s a changing environment in Europe, rule changes that Make sense should be accepted. Some rule changes, and it seems like every year there is one change or another make very little sense to me. I don’t see how this applies to a changing atmosphere in Europe or to our sport here in the United States. As far as the long bite, I don’t know what the difference is in holding the dog, having the dog sit calmly or pumping him up while holding the collar. I don’t see what effect this rule change has on the sport. What it is; it is an inconvenience for the handlers who just have to train something new. A few years ago they said you couldn’t approach the scent pad and down your dog on the scent pad. This was another rule that I don’t know how it changed evaluating the dog’s ability to work the track. Many rule changes are not necessary and are, at least, an inconvenience to the handler.

DKL: I remember going to my first Schutzhund trial in 1982 and recall that during the critiques the judge was saying for practically every exercise that he would like to see the dog perform more happily, with more spirit. We don’t seem to hear that anymore. What do you feel in the 16 years that you have been in the sport that has changed in the way the dogs perform, in the training methods that we use and in the sport as a whole.

Simanovich: I think too many people put emphasis on training techniques and the attitude of the dog. I think the attitude of the dog in his performance is breeding. I think Schutzhund is breeding, I think the working dog is breeding. The same techniques that make a dog look happy may make another dog depressed. Some dogs can take more training pressure than others, and a handler has to decide if this technique is going to work on every dog. The good handler has to apply the techniques that bring out the most in the dog that he is training at the time. As far as training techniques in the future, I don’t see many changes on the horizon.

DKL: We talked earlier about changes in attitudes in Europe, changes in rules in Europe that don’t make a lot of sense here. You are in Europe a lot, what do you observe in competitions there, what do you observe with the breeders there and what about the general public’s perception of the sport in Europe. What are the Germans and other Europeans doing with the Schutzhund Sport as it relates to the public perception of our sport?

Simanovich: Although I am sure certain animal rights groups are active in stopping working events, for that matter any type of dog training. I don’t see much of that there. It’s present there just like it’s present here, I personally don’t see that much of it. If there is pressure on the organizations to change rules or to stop training in general, and let’s face it, some of the rights groups are against housing dogs, they’re against fences, they feel cattle should run free. I am sure these groups are out there, nut I don’t see it personally either here or in Europe. I don’t know that their pressure requires rule changes on our part. I think what we should do, as the SV is doing a good job in educating the young people on what a quality sound working dog is.

DKL: After competing successfully in Rottweilers for a number of years, In fact, probably being more known for Rottweilers then German Shepherds, we have only seen you competing with German Shepherd dogs over the last five years. Why the change and would you like to get back to Rotts?

Simanovich: Wow, that’s a broad question. There are more individuals to select from in German Shepherds then Rottweilers to compete at a top sport level. The German Shepherd game at the top sport level is a much more organized group, there are more numbers, the World Championship is a very legitimate World Championship. Dogs and Handlers from many countries compete as teams to become the World Championship team. Individuals compete to be the individual World Champion. It is a legitimate event with a large venue and lots of money behind it. The Rottweiler game is still very primitive. I enjoy training dogs and I enjoy the Rottweiler, but at a top sport level there is really no comparison in the organization of the German Shepherd Club and the Rottweiler Club here or in Europe.

DKL: Moving the topic to Rottweilers for a moment and leaving the poor defenseless German Shepherd alone, A couple of years ago you began apprentice judging, first at a regional Sieger Show held at my home with Josef Mravik (FCI Slovak Republic) and most recently at the Ft. Meyer Show in January of 1996. What are your plans and how far are you from getting your Rottweiler conformation license?

Simanovich: I still plan to judge the Rottweiler for the USRC. I need two more shows to complete my apprenticeship. I really enjoy evaluating the Rottweiler as a breed and am looking forward to judging and to meeting new friends here and abroad. Contrary to what many think, I still like Rottweilers.

DKL: On of the things that disturb me the most is that there are so many Rottweilers out there that don’t have a clue that they are Rottweilers, that is to say, they look kinda like a Rott, but have not got a bit of the true Rottweiler temperament. They are nothing like the Rotts of 20 years ago. Wayne, what would you say to a breeder that is planning to bring puppies into the world, how would you advise a breeder to return their dogs to the true Rottweiler temperament, not the dog that wants to give himself to everyone or the sharp and shy dogs we see so many of?

Simanovich: I think it’s all about breeding, I think for the most part that the Rottweiler breeder is dreaming when he thinks that his SchH 3 V-rated male is a top sport dog. And I think that the Rottweiler top sport dogs go unnoticed much more then the German Shepherd top sport dogs. The top sport German Shepherd dogs in Europe get their full slate of breedings, the top show dogs obviously get their full slate of breedings. Here and in Europe, the top show Rottweilerswith the Schutzhund Three titles get the breedings. Dogs that hold major show wins but fail theKoerung still get upwards of 50-60 breedings a year in some cases, and yet the National Schutzhund Champion will get bred four or five times a year. This is a serious imbalance, I think that the top show winner deservedly so, should get his breedings. If he were to be bred 40 times a year and the Schutzhund Champion or top sport dog 20-30 times a year, that’s a better balance. For the most part, the Rottweiler breeder is out there somewhere when he believes that breeding to a dog with a SchH 3 is breeding to a working dog

DKL: Back to German Shepherds and the Sieger Show, probably the thing in which I find the greatest entertainment value is not the dogs, but the double handlers. What I have observed and perhaps the reasons for the double handlers, is if you look at some of these dogs, there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening between their ears. Now God knows, I’m not known as one to compliment German Shepherd Dogs, but let me ask you, have you noticed the Lights are on and no one is home expression?

Simanovich: As I said earlier, I think that the top show people are breeding for topline, side movement, shoulder lay coat and color and when this takes precedent over sound dogs with good character you are going to see many faults with the dogs temperament including as you say, an Air Headed expression. Yes I do see it and I am aware of it and I think if the show enthusiast meets the minimum standards for the work being a legitimate SchH 3 title you will see some of that reduced. If I were put in charge of bringing these two sides together, which I have NO INTEREST in doing, I like the two different breeds and think that there is room for all of us, but if I had to bring the two groups together, it would only come through education inbreedings. Dogs such as Rod Thompkins’ Dog Enzo (Manepo). This is a dog that should be bred a hundred time a year (Boy, would Enzo like that) and in Europe he would get the breedings, this is a dog that is a v dog that is very sound in mind and body that can also score 290 points in a championship trial. There are few dogs like that and these dogs deserve many breedings.

DKL: I want to ask you the same question that I asked Paul (Meloy) two days ago. Based on your years of competition, training, importing and participation in the sport, What do you see for the future of the Schutzhund Sport and the United Schutzhund Clubs of America here and around the world.

Simanovich: The United Schutzhund Clubs of America is the legitimate German Shepherd Club in the United States. I think it has a sound future and has sound leadership. Like any company or club that is growing rapidly there are some growing pains. There are things that I would like to see, I would like more youth programs, I would like to see us have our championship in large open areas, for example, I would like to see our national championship held in downtown Charlotte or downtown New York City. Put together by people that have experience in promoting sport events, I think it is important that these people run our championship trials and not just the dog handlers and our executive board. I think that we will reach more people and get involved in the booming TV markets that are dying for material to put on the air. I think that this is the only way that are numbers are going to grow exponentially.

DKL: Thanks Wayne.