A Different Kind of Dog Show: The North American Sieger

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How would you like a dog show where the exhibits must qualify in performance, proving they can do what the breed was meant for, before they can compete for awards and placements? Where every single dog is checked for microchip or tattoo identification? Where health testing is compulsory, temperament testing a matter of course, each dog is measured and every feature of its anatomy carefully scrutinized, with a verbal critique of every single exhibit presented by the judge in the ring...

Welcome to the world of German Shepherd Dog conformation competition as presented at the 13th annual North American Sieger Show, held in Los Angeles on Nov. 4-8, 2009. It’s a world miles apart from our usual AKC shows, and regardless of which breed you happen to be involved in you can learn a lot from studying how things are done by this organization.

This is not, of course, the National Specialty of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America — that event took place in Utah three weeks before the Sieger show under regular AKC rules. This event was hosted by the GSDCA Working Dog Association, which means that it had at least some official connection to the parent club — although frankly that was difficult to guess, because the whole show was so totally different from any AKC-sponsored events.

The North American Sieger show is inspired by and based on the granddaddy of all specialty shows, the Schäfer-Verein’s annual event in Germany, which this year attracted over 2,400 German Shepherds and is easily the biggest single-breed event anywhere in the world. The North American version isn’t as big: it can get over 500 dogs in a good year, but in many ways it was like a little bit of Germany plunked down smack on the L.A. County Fairgrounds: the judges were German, a large number of the dogs were German imports, many of the handlers had come over from Germany, and almost all the American breeders have German kennel names: “von Wilhendorf” is in Connecticut, “vom Mittelwest” in, of course, the Midwest, “vom Wüstenberger-Land” in California, just to name a few.

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