THE HISTORY OF DVG
by: Gary Patterson and Hartmut Beckmann
This article appeared in the JAN - FEB 1988 issue of DVG AMERICA National Schutzhund Magazine
1987 marked a special occasion at the D.H.V. German Championship. Like all Schutzhund championships, it was filled with showmanship, excitement and disappointment. What made this event special was the celebration of the 85th anniversary of the working dog movement which came to be known as D.V.G. This special anniversary chased the canine historians to their books and chaotic records (often incomplete) in an attempt to tell the rest of us how D.V.G. has gotten to this point of being the oldest and largest Schutzhund training organization in the world. What follows, is the result of their efforts to reconstruct a long and tumultuous history of the modern service and sport dog. If there seem to be a few empty spots in the record, remember that Germany went through two major wars during this time and documentation is not always so clear. Our special thanks goes to the staff of D.V.G. and its President, Christa Bremer, for compiling so much of the material.
The history of the modern working and sport dog is most amazing in two simple facts that are often last in the blitz of other dog facts. The first is that modern services and sport dog training is a recent event, only appearing at the turn of the century. The second is that but for a handful of men with divergent backgrounds appearing within a space of a few years, there might not be what we think of as the modern working dog.
Archeologists tell us that man and dog have worked together for twelve thousand years, but that relationship was limited. Outside of herding and guarding property, the dog had very little relationship with modern society and, in fact, was considered a menace in populated, nonagricultural. areas. The factor that changed the working dog's role in our society is as topical as today's news and had little to do with the love or respect of our canine friends.
In 1897, a Prussian police inspector, Franz Laufer, had a serious problem. His officers were suffering from increased attacks during night patrols. These men worked alone and could not defend themselves against violence from criminals and unruly crowds. The policemen needed more help and the authorities would not give them additional police because of tight budgets. While Laufer had no previous experience with the ownership or training of dogs, he thought the answer might lie in having the officers accompanied by dogs, big and strong enough to ward off harm to his men. The idea may have been simple, but it was also revolutionary and most certainly unpopular. Not only did the government worry about civil liability (sound familiar?), but even the police officers complained, as they simply wanted more officers, not the uncertain company of a vicious animal.
Laufer finally found his opportunity in 1900 when the level of attacks on police officers reached a point where the government could no longer ignore the issue. Laufer was given 500 marks to purchase three dogs and train them to accompany police patrols at night. The task was not an easy one. Laufer was left with getting food scraps from the local hospital to feed his dogs. Veterinary care was offered free by a local doctor.
But the greatest problem was that no one really knew what had to be done. It is a mark of Laufer's determination and natural ability that the program ever worked. Having no experience with dogs, he studied books on natural history and breeding in an attempt to understand dog behavior and the breeds most likely to bring success to the idea. There were no books on training and, as he found, no other police departments in Germany were using dogs in any type of police program. He finally found a sergeant in his own department who had previously been a game warden and had some experience with dogs. It is interesting to note that this Sergeant Lange thought the best breed would be the German Shepherd Dog, but Laufer disagreed and felt the Great Dane would create a more imposing picture to any criminal.
In October, 1901, Laufer put his first police dog on the street. This was a Great Dane named Caesar. While Laufer had always envisioned the dog's role to be more than protecting a patrolman. the initial work of these first police dogs was only protection. They were required to wear muzzles and be on lead. Nevertheless, Sergeant Lange did train the dogs to track and perform other duties which would ultimately save Laufer's program and lead to the expanded role of the police working dog. After initial public criticism and threats of law suits when one person was bitten, the police canine program started to pay off. In one case, a dog tracked a suspect two miles from the scene of the crime to a house, an event that was witnessed by many townspeople. This, and similar successes, turned the course of public opinion and the future of Laufer's first canine unit was assured.
In 1902, Laufer felt that his police dog ideas were not being accepted, so he took action to expand the information he had gained. First, he held a demonstration that was attended mostly by police officers and in which the redoubtable Caesar appeared with a reluctant decoy. Not much is known about what this dog did or its level of training, except to say that some of the money Laufer received from the observers went towards paying the decoy's medical bills. Interest from this demonstration prompted Laufer to start an organization to promote the training and working of police dogs. This organization, The Police Dog Club (P.H.V.) was the first in Germany and predecessor to what would become the D.V.G. It !s interesting to note that one of the founding members of the P.H.V. was Captain Max v. Stephanitz, who only three years earlier had co-founded the German Shepherd Dog Club of Germany (S.V.)
As a sidenote, it is also interesting that at this point in time, many talented people were appearing on the scene to establish a standard for the working dog that is still observed today worldwide. Yet, their contributions at that time must have seemed limited. Captain v. Stephanitz was primarily interested in developing the working dog breed. Laufer was primarily interested in the practical problems of police work and training. Even though their paths did cross in 1902, they each went their separate ways to mold the concepts which led to the modern S.V. and D.V.G. By 1903, the S.V. had conducted its first 'efficiency trial' while the P.H.V. was conducting its first police dog trial. The tests of this first trial have not been specified, but by Laufer's comments one can conclude that the results were something less than hoped. This is hardly surprising when one considers that both the S.V. and P.H.V. were traveling in uncharted waters, going where there was no precedent, no experience. While police officers in Ghent, Belgium had started a similar program in 1899, there is no evidence that the German police departments shared any information with them until 1903. They seemed to have been totally independent movements, started for the same reasons with only the historical coincidence in common.
The movement started slowly, but with a purpose. By 1904 the first set of police trial rules was published by the P.H.V., but in 1905 the total membership was only 270 people. In the next seven years, the final events were to occur which would assure the success of the police and Schutzhund dog. In 1912, the P.H.V. had grown to six thousand members, with sixty-four clubs. But a more significant event was also occurring for the future Schutzhund movement.
The P.H.V. from its inception had been designed to answer a critical need of police officers. As it evolved, more private citizens were joining P.H.V. clubs to train their dogs for protection work. While the history is not clear, it seems that the increased demands for this kind of training from the private sector were not being met by this police organization. Therefore, in 1912, The National Police and Schutzhunde Club was founded (R.V.P.H.). There is no evidence that this organization was a protest against the practices of the P.H.V., but rather represented a response to the need for working dog training by the civilian population. In fact, the stated goals of the R.V.P.H. were to work with private individuals, breed clubs and to bring the P.H.V. closer to a working arrangement with the working dog breed organizations. The record shows that these organizations were attempting to achieve some of the same results.
The war set back the dog movement drastically. The membership of the P.H.V. dropped by 50%. But it is also clear from the accounts of v. Stephanitz that dog training became an important part of the military scheme during this period and, no doubt, greatly contributed to the swell in working dog interest during the 1920's. In 1925, another important event occurred which finalized the Schutzhund movement, as we, know it today. The P.H.V., R.V.P.H. and one other South German utility dog organization agreed to standardize their trial rules, trial records and to mutually recognize each organization's trial judges. They further entered into agreements with the major working dog breed administrative body (P.V.Z.) to standardize trial procedures.
These standardized trial rules are the foundation of today's modern Schutzhund rules. While these rules probably dictated somewhat different procedures, a brief explanation shows that the aim of these organizations was to test then what we believe is still valid today. It is also interesting to note that some of the elements of these rules which are now discarded under Schutzhund continue as a part of the various Ring Sport trial rules used in France, Belgium and Holland. The rules presented three levels of testing, similar to our Schutzhund I, II and III, used today. The first level was called the Breed Test. but was not a breed survey or conformation examination. It had tracking, similar to today's Schutzhund I. In obedience, the dog was required to heel on and off lead, down, sit, retrieve on the flat and over the jump. It was also required to work under gunfire, do a send out and long down. As a hold over from the war, messenger work was required, as well as a retrieval from deep water. In protection, the work was somewhat police dog oriented in that the dog would do some attack work with a muzzle, but also defend the attack on handler, escape, out and recall to the handler from the decoy.
The second level was called the Schutzhund Test. While the word 'Schutzhund' had been used previously, namely by the R.V.P.H., the reference was meant only to describe a personal protection dog. This is the first reference to Schutzhund in its broader meaning that we have been able to find. The third level was described as the Police Dog Test. These tests were only extensions of The Breed Test and closely follow the modern Schutzhund II and III rules for tracking, obedience and protection. But there were some differences. The dog was required to retrieve a ten pound dumbbell! It was also required to refuse offered food,. similar to modern Ring Sport. The protection work, again, continued with muzzle attacks combined with more stylized protection work, similar to that in the first level. In The Police Dog Test we start to see some additions that have evolved into the modern Schutzhund protection work. The dog was required to search an area and find the decoy, where it would then bark and hold him until the handler arrived. Stick hits were also introduced.
Then there was the FH test. While similar in concept to our modern rules, the demands at the most advanced level may say something about our current FH requirements. At this level, the track was about two miles long and aged seven hours!
It is interesting to speculate that with this spirit of cooperation and the leadership that was surely more farsighted than this brief article can indicate, the working dog movement might have had a far smoother future than what has in fact happened both in Europe and America. But history intervened in a way that frustrated, even destroyed, these positive early accomplishments.
In 1933, the Nazi controlled German government dictated that all dog organizations must disband and be covered under one organization. This extended to all training and breed organizations then in Germany and continued until the end of World War II. This organization hardly seems worthy of mention except in the fact that it erased the identity of all the working dog organizations, preventing them from achieving their earlier goals. Again, the record is not totally clear, but there is some indication that the government wanted to exercise control over all dog breeding and training. This control went so far as to create special trial rules which could be used for demonstrating German working dog training in conjunction with the 1936 Berlin Olympics. No doubt the need for dog training in law enforcement and military adventures also increased the government's interest in the working dog.
The end of the war found the organized working dog movement in chaos. The former members of the P.H.V. and R.V.P.H. started or continued local club activities but there was no national organization to further the efforts which had found so much success before the war. Additionally, the allied occupying forces in Germany were not enthusiastic about the formation of any national organization, no matter how seemingly innocent its purpose. After many setbacks, former members of the P.H.V. and R.V.P.H. met and formed the D.V.G. in 1947.
Since that time, D.V.G. has grown to an organization approaching 30,000 members, with over 16,000 people participating in 1900 Schutzhund trials each year. With five other non-breed affiliated training organizations, it founded The German Dog Sport Alliance (D.H.V.), which now numbers 83,000 members.
While, only three years old, D.V.G. America has doubled in membership with fifty-five clubs. With the recent addition of Canada, the future of an organization dedicated only to Schutzhund training seems assured in North America.
The history of the working dog movement in Germany has some lessons to teach those of us who have concerns about its future in North America. Think about the adversity that the early founders went through and the word 'determination' has a new meaning. Think about how little these people knew about the working dog and its training, and our training problems seem small. Think about how clearly these people must have seen where they wanted to go and our sometimes myopic view must be trivial. In short, history does teach us that we are dwarves, standing on the shoulders of giants, but we can still lead the way. Franz Laufer and Caesar would be proud.