was born in 1930. He is a Schäfermieister whose
whole life has been devoted to his dogs and sheep. Refer
to his story: A Visit With Schäfermieister Manfred
The Interview with Schäfermieister Manfred
Q) Schäfermieister Heyne, please describe the
original German Shepherd herding dog, the dog whose
genetics you have devoted your life’s work to
It is the German Shepherd Dog genetically endowed
as a herding dog with innate self-reliance / independence
– an honest grip – endowed with the best
temperament – requiring little water when working
and not bothered by heat [by working in the heat of
the sun]. A dog who can tend the flock on his own, to
whom the presence of the shepherd doesn’t matter
as long as he is allowed to tend the flock!! If the
shepherd leaves the flock either on foot or by car,
it makes absolutely no difference to this herding dog
and he will continue to contain the flock working precisely
on all four borders hour after hour on his own.
Q) Please explain what inspired you to preserve these
genetics. I have been a shepherd for sixty-four years
[as of 2009] and have always done my work with dogs
from this particular male line of German Shepherd herding
dog and have always been very satisfied with them. I
have earned my wages and put food on the table by working
with these dogs!! I have never had to come home from
work in a bad mood – I always had the best co-worker!
Twice in these sixty-four years I tired to use dogs
from “show lines”, the so-called modern
line – Oh God! Health problems and a limited work
ethic, and then, only under constant supervision.
Q) Please give a brief history of the German shepherd
herding dog, including how any why they were developed
and what makes them unique.
They were unique!! In 1899 Rittmeister v. Stephanitz
and 8 or 10 Schäfermieister formed the German Shepherd
Dog Club (SV). The Schäfermieister from southern
and middle Germany had indigenous tending dogs with
upright ears and a variety of coats. The Schäfermieister
were “poor people: and the people whose flocks
they tended were also among the poor in the village.
If something happened to a sheep in the shepherd’s
care during the tending season [if it was injured or
such], the shepherd had to replace it!!! Because grazing
condition were very limited only correct, honest, and
reliable dogs could be used!! Nevertheless if any sort
of [character/working] faults became apparent in the
dog, he would become a chained dog on the farm, or he
would be hung from the nearest tree!!! This is how [breeding]
selections were made one hundred and more years ago.
Q) Please explain why you believe the preservation
of German Shepherd herding genetics like your is important.
1) The shepherds were so poor one hundred years and
more ago that they couldn’t afford to have a second
dog!! Hence, the dog the shepherd acquired had to be
the dog!! For the next eight to ten years this dog would
be the most important living thing to the shepherd for
assisting with the job at hand and for looking after
and tending the flock all day long!! The shepherd’s
job is a very demanding job yet romantics say when they
see a shepherd with his flock in a graze “Oh,
how romantic and pleasing is this image.” But
then there is also the saying that “A shepherd
should be seen, but not heard.” My experience
as dog handler for the past sixty years has brought
me to the point where I can now state “Obedience
is genetic.” I, Manfred Heyne, have always been
able to select my future Bundesleistungshüten champions
from litters of no more than six to ten weeks old!!
2) Obedience is genetic – there is no heritage
more valuable than this … And what has the SV
done with it? – for the past forty years at local
club training fields handlers are heard loudly shouting
commands at their dogs despite the use of electric shock
collars and other training methods. Poor SV to what
depths you have sunk!! The arrogance and ignorance of
the SV leadership is responsible for losing these valuable
genetics of the true working lines in its attempt to
eliminate minor anatomical “faults”.
3) It is also genetics that makes a dog accurately
walk a furrow [the furrow being the border between individual
grazes]. I’ve seen it many times – young
dogs [one year old] were grateful when they had a furrow
to run in – they immediately then felt comfortable
and really started getting into their work. [Just as]
for centuries the same wild animal game paths were always
used [ by deer and other animals to go at night] between
feeding palces!!! This, too, is genetics created by
nature. It comes from the wolf ancestry.
Q) What are your goals for seeing these genetics preserved?
I wish for a miracle that someday soon someone in
the SV leadership might finally come to watch my current
dog work, on his own, alone and independently, for the
entire day! I have known for the past five years that
he is the very last of the original breed!! There was
not a single dog at the 2004 German Championships who
brought these genetic attributes to the table. It is
time for the SV to recognize and acknowledge this by
making this particular dog available for breeding!!
Otherwise, what I predicted thirty years ago will come
to pass that there will always be show champions who
get high ratings but they will only have 30% of the
original genetics! They will be nothing more than command
Q) Do you believe that these genetics are culturally
developed? If so,why?
More than one hundred years ago there were many breeds
[varieties] of herding dog in Germany but the shepherds
were very careful not to allow any crossbreeding. Each
herding breed had its own, unique working characteristics
and traits depending on where in Germany it was being
used. Take for instance the grip which is biting [to
discipline] the sheep when necessary – in the
middle part of Germany upright – earned dogs would
bite the hind leg of a sheep silently whereas in the
southern parts of Germany the same variety of dog would
bite the rib area or the neck either silently or with
a perceptible growl!! I think so, yes [that these dogs
are cultural artifacts]- these dogs were the result
of man’s careful and purposeful breeding over
the centuries and they would then be selected as puppies
by testing [as Manfred does in his puppy test] or they
would be selected during training [as being the best
for this work and therefore for breeding]. That this
is true [that puppies can be accurately selected for
their genetics by puppy testing] is something I’ve
proven with my own breeding – my current dog is
such [selected by puppy testing] – he is also
the product purposeful breeding and not a fluke.
Q) What impact would there be if these genetics were
This is the easiest of the sixteen questions! The
dog would become what it already is and can only get
worse! Such dogs are no longer biddable! They have a
very unbalanced temperament! They have to constantly
be bribed and baited with food [treats] and require
a lot of praise just to be coaxed into working! They
have to be stimulated with sticks or balls! We didn’t
use those magic words called “prey drive’.
It means that the dog is expected to grip the sleeve
and with much praise from his handler carry it far off
the field!! You can imagine a herding dog running all
day long, having the occasion to discipline a sheep
and then dragging it as prey all over the place –
and then [to add insult to injury] you need an electric
shock collar just to make him let go!!! These dogs have
something wrong in the head – they have become
the victims of politics!!!
Q) Are you involved in any cooperative efforts in
preserving the genetics of these dogs?
This is a difficult question to answer. Alas, no I
am not involved. The few shepherds who still use German
Shepherd Dogs all need money just like the rest of us.
These shepherd also want to sell puppies and to do this
they must take their bitch to show dogs for mating,
expecting then that the resulting puppies will be both
“beautiful and hard-working”. These breeding
practices have destroyed the old, good working lines!!
As long as the Schäfermieisters were allowed to
judge the herding competitions, you could still find
the herding genetics!! But as soon as SV policy invented
the “Head Herding Judge” position [this
position is filled by a breed judge], the experts in
the field, i.e. the Schäfermieisters, no longer
had a say in the matter!!* The Schäfermieister
who presently are allowed to judge have never had a
top dog and have absolutely no idea what the basic genetic
make –up of such a dog looks like. One of these
gentlemen took first and second place at the Bundesleistungshüten
some years ago only because the Head Herding judge fell
ill with a heart problem that day and both of the other
judges were more than three-hundred meters away from
the events they were judging! This is NO way to test
for a champion!!! *[The Schäfermieister herding
judges judge under the Head Herding Judge – the
Head Herding Judge has the ultimate power of determining
the final points given at a competition no matter what
the other Schäfermieister judges say.]
Q) What would you like to tell the public about the
importance of preserving man’s agricultural heritage
through the conservation of such animals?
Thirty years ago the Bundesleistungshüten was
still a real attraction. People came from all over the
world wanting to see the whispering Schäfermieister
Heyne win and to take photographs to remember him by!
The whole thing is now very lopsided [meaning: without
any outstanding shepherds competing] – it lacks
excitement [because there are no outstandind dogs or
competitors to attract attention any more]- like a pike
in the fishpond. This year in Kassel the clumsiest handler
I have ever seen had the great good fortune to be given
the gift of 93 points, a rating of ‘excellent’,
during the first run of the day. At that moment I really
regretted having come! Fortunately, a better handler
followed but even his dogs no longer possessed the original
herding genetics. Von Stephanitz said in 1927/28 that
the German Shepherd Dog was over-bred and thereupon
proceeded to take action right away. A new von Stephanitz
is needed as soon as possible to lead the SV in the
right direction – alone I can do absolutely nothing.
Although I have won more Sieger titles by far than any
one else in the hundred year history of the SV, no one
there knows me anymore!!!
Q) What do you recall about the first time you saw
one of these original German Shepherd herding dogs?
This is a wonderful question! I was sixteen years
old. I used to see two young men, trainees from the
place where I would later apprentice, riding their bicycles.
Each one had a dog with him. We soon began to talk and
I quickly befriended both dogs!! I’ve always made
friends with dogs easily. Soon after, I was able to
visit them when they tended sheep and was immediately
filled with enthusiasm. I, too, wanted to be with such
dogs and work with them, as soon as possible. Before
this, I had not known that dogs could work like this
without commands and without the crack of a whip! Two
months later a trainee position opened when one of the
trainees left and I got my wish – I was hired
as an apprentice shepherd.
Q) As a heritage breed conservationist, what has been
your most satisfying experience in preserving this breed?
I have been allowed to participate in the Bundesleistungshüten
for thirty years – although there were two years
when I was not permitted to enter because I protested
[made a formal, written protest to the SV] against judging
irregularities and by doing that had dirtied the SV’s
nest. In my breeding decisions I have always remained
faithful to my line and to the paternal line in my dogs
all other attempts [with show dogs] were unsatisfactory.
Even though I am the only one in the SV to win the National
Herding Championship title thirteen times and ought
to have won it at least five times more – EVERY
DAY when I’m out tending my flock – where
my dog always works on his own – and where my
heart leaps for joy-I have this feeling that von Stephanitz
is looking down on me from Heaven saying “Yes,
my boy, you have done it right!!!”
Q) Why are breeders modifying breed types exclusively
for the fashion of winning?
Because they have no idea what they’re doing!!!
The higher the educational level of the SV leadership,
the more the genetic working ability of the dogs was
neglected. Please keep in mind that it was simple shepherds
who developed this breed, and it was simple shepherds
who together with von Stephanitz founded the SV in 1899.
It would be absolutely unimaginable if these men suddenly
appeared before us again… Oh God…Oh God.
Whatever would they say to us?? And how would the SV
leadership of the past fifty years react – those
men several of whom have demonstrated dictatorial attitudes?
Some time ago I overheard a gentleman at a funeral say
that nowhere are as many lies told as at the cemetery!!
They are buried with the highest SV honors, and, yet,
no one speaks about what become of our breed?
Q) What consequence will this have on breed types?
Where today can you still find the true breed type?
After 1946 I’ve seen this type only a very few
times and then really only in my own dogs. The current
fashionable “ring runners” no longer represent
the German Shepherd Dog for me. All winners in each
class of the so-called German Shepherd World Championships
should be taken up and put in an animal preserve –
in wintertime with snow. The gaiting structure and augulation
so favored by the SV leadership and their supporters
are nothing more than theory and would actually be a
hindrance in the struggle for survival. Just look at
wolves!! The German Shepherd Dog is supposed to be the
most versatile working dog of all, so I must ask myself:
what work would this kind of extreme gaiting be useful
for other than running around the show ring? Theory
and practice really are two different things.
Q) In your own opinion: what do you think our ancestors
would think of such breeding practices?
Our ancestors were professional shepherds not animal
tamers in a circus where the performance lasts only
ten minutes and, then, not even every day! The shepherd
and his dog “perform” for eight hours each
and every day for eight to ten years long!!! I am firmly
of the opinion that our ancestors and especially the
co-founders of the SV could not understand the type
of dog that is being bred today – and this dog
is what is called the German Shepherd Dog!!
Q) What could we learn today from the work that our
ancestors did over the past generations to create these
specific breed types?
These men [shepherds] were aware of their responsibilities
– they didn’t need educated consultants
– in their struggle for survival they did what
was best in their experience and, if possible, cost
nothing. Continual, non-stop breeding really should
be punishable by law!! Certainly it represents breeding
Q) How can the public help to preserve these heritage
The public cannot help! The SV has to divide into
two groups – serious breeders on one side and
the crazy show dog breeders on the other side.
I have never worked with a dog who didn’t
want to work. “(Manfred Heyne)