Paul Howell is a close and dear friend of mine. He imported many great dogs into America and Gento vom haus Larwin was one of them.
Interviewed by – Paul Howell
Von Gottsland Kennels
Gerard van Es is owner of the Kennel vom Haus Antwerp N.V., in Zandhoven, Belgium. He breeds German Shepherds exclusively for top sports (Schutzhund, KNPV, Belgium ring) work. His wife also breeds Malinois that are used for police and sport work. He has successfully been able to produce dogs that compete at the highest levels in these sports, including KNPV, at which very few Shepherds have ever excelled. Dogs from his breedings are consistently seen at all championship trials throughout Europe. Gerrard is a man in his late 30s who has been breeding and training German Shepherds for over 20 years. He has also been a professional horse trainer, training horses in dressage, and Olympic-style riding. Gerrard has some definite beliefs in breeding and training dogs and seems to have been quite successful with them since the last two world champions have come from his club as well as the 1988 and 1989 WUSV champions.
PH: Welcome to America, Gerrard. Since this is your first trip to America, how do you like it?
ES: I like it very well, thank you. I can’t believe how cheap everything is and how slow the people drive. Cars are so inexpensive and gas is very cheap. Also, everybody has so many guns. You would never see this in Europe. It is unheard of. (He had just been to a pistol and gun club shooting that day). Housing and property are so cheap.
PH: You have just seen the Americans compete in Europe at the World Championships. What did you think of our team and our dogs?
ES: First I would like to congratulate your team for doing such a fine job. The handlers did an excellent job. Of course I don’t know how good of trainer they are but the handlers were well schooled. As for the dogs, I do not know. I only know they performed good that day.
PH: Gerrard, you breed many great dogs for many sports, but which is your favourite sport?
ES: KNPV is my favourite sport. It is much more real training than say Schutzhund or IPO. It has many more exercises and it takes much longer to train dogs for this. The training is much more real. It is more suited to police and street work. But it is a sport that is not suited for every dog. The intention of this KNPV is different than that of Schutzhund. Most anybody that has a dog that will work a little can work in the sport of Schutzhund or IPO at some level. Most KNPV dogs are sold to the army or police. Most Malinois are in KNPV. This is not to say that all Malinois are good for KNPV, but certainly more Malinois than German Shepherds.
PH: Why are there not more German Shepherds in KNPV?
ES: In KNPV, you must teach them a few things that are hard sometimes to explain to the dogs. The dog must stay with its handler without any leash. He must work on his own. Some of the exercises are very hard and you cannot teach him these exercises by giving him cookies. Sometimes you must be hard with the dog to teach him this work, but in the end you have this marvellous working animal. The call off is very hard. In German Shepherds, sometimes this is very hard to do because you must bring the drive down and the Shepherd sometimes cannot bring his drives high again like the Malinois.
PH: Gerrard, you have excellent luck with German Shepherds in the KNPV, like your famous dog Gento vom Haus Larwin and many of his prodigy who are working now in KNPV with the highest MET LOF scores. Why is this so?
ES: When I bought “Gento” he had just gotten his IPO 1 and his former owner was having problems with the dog. Gento is a very high, high, high drive dog and he is very for-real and very very hard. I started to work him in IPO, but thought it a waste of a great dog, so I took him to Holland to work in KNPV and in a few months had KNPV 1 with MET LOF scores.
PH: Now that Gento is in America with us I am sure you will miss him. You bred him many, many times with excellent results. I feel we are very fortunate to finally have such an excellent stud dog in the United States. People from all of Europe bred to this dog and it seems he produced good with anything you bred him. What made Gento such a good producing dog?
ES: I guess you can thank God for that because that’s what I think he was born to do. But really, it is because of his pedigree. His father is the famous dog Robby v Glockeneck and his mother is a Sagus v Besecker Schloss daughter, and of course Greif zum Lahntal son. “Robby” is such a top producer of working dogs. And, as you know, Gento is a very real dog. He could be police dog in anywhere in the world, as are almost all of the sons and daughters of Gento. Robby, as you know, is an East German dog and produces much fighting drive in all of his sons and daughters. Also, “Greif” is one of the greatest producers of working dogs ever to have been in Germany. Now, all of the Germans are coming to Belgium to buy their working dogs because we breed dogs for working first and all the rest second.
PH: You once said to me that you thought Robby and Greif were both dogs that were very misused. What did you mean by that?
ES: I think the Germans did not take advantage of these great dogs when they could, and now they come to Belgium where we have used these great dogs for breeding to try to buy this blood back now to put in to their breeding programs. Robby and Greif were never used by the Germans when they were in their prime. Now everyone sees what these great dogs produced and they think they must do anything to get these bloodlines back so they can once again produce great working dogs. It is really a shame that every-one waited until the dogs were dead to appreciate them.
PH: Gerrard, I have known you now for two years and we do a lot of talking and training together and you offer many great working dogs, but never have I seen you with a dog with any West German show blood-lines whatsoever. Why?
ES: I think you should know why. You only have to look at the show shit dogs in the world. They all look alike. They are either black and tan or black and red, extremely large and, for the most part, so soft that it is a joke. As far as I am concerned, the German Shepherd in West Germany is no more, they breed only for money because they can sell these big, pretty dogs in eastern countries and America for many thousand dollars.
Don’t take me wrong. Sometimes you get these show dogs and one in many thousands will work good, but he will never reproduce this when breeding him. They, at best, will produce dogs with high, high prey with little or no fighting drive. These dogs all look like you have a cookie cutting machine and used it to make them, they are so much alike. Maybe these dogs are good for some people but never for the man who wants to train dogs for real working.
As you know many, many people from Germany come to Belgium to buy their dogs for police or for top sport. Many famous trainers and judges have dogs from us. The reason is that they want dogs who can do work with all drives present and high. They want dogs with excellent hips and good conformation and do not worry so much about the colours. I think within two years the Germans will come to America to buy dogs for police. They have sold most of their working bloodlines because all of the money is in breeding the show dogs. To the man who loves the German Shepherd for working, this will bring many tears to his eyes and heaviness to his heart. The German Shepherd dog that started the sport of Schutzhund in Europe is slowly vanishing because it is not profitable to produce them. It is truly tragic what man has done to his best friend.
PH: Gerrard, you certainly said a lot and I have to say that I agree with you. I even had a German police tell me the same thing this year at the Nationals that the Germans will soon be buying police and working dogs from America. You mentioned about East German dogs and sable dogs. What are your ideas on these two dogs?
ES: I have talked and read many things Americans have said about East German dogs. Most are wrong I love to use the DDR dogs in my breeding program. It puts size, bone, drive, and much, much more into your dogs. You don’t have to pick up their tails to tell they are males. You can tell immediately on the DDR dogs. The most important thing, I think, the DDR dogs put in their unbelievable ability to produce enormous fighting drives.
And as far as sable dogs, this has been argued for years in Europe. I personally don’t know but I like them better. It seems I find many more good hard real dogs that are sable than any other colour. And I just bred to the famous East German male, Zorro v Lager wall and believe me, this dog is more than just hard. He is a very scary dog to be near and his puppies are top for the sport of Schutzhund and police. I have never seen anything like this. This dog is amazing and he is handled by a woman. He is getting so many breedings in Europe, you would not believe. Also, the East German dogs are known for producing very excellent hips and as you know, working dogs must have excellent hips.
PH: But you do use some working bloodlines from West German don’t you?
ES: Oh, hell yes! I use many Busecker Schloss dogs, as well as dogs from “Drigon”, a little bit “Enno”, a little bit “Karthago”, but a whole lot of the old West German working lines, I use some Korbelbach, but you must be very careful of teeth and soft ears But really, I use many West German working dogs from former times in my breedings because I produce many litters in one year.
PH: Now that Gento is in America, what type of dog will you replace him with?
ES: I would hope to find a Gento son and buy him back but no one wants to sell them; they all bite so good. My new dog, whatever I get, will be at least one-half East German, and from the other half will be nothing but working bloodlines, and he must be a very real dog for all situations. So, I guess I will try to find a young Gento, but this will be an almost impossible task.
PH: The dogs from Belgium have been winning the world championships for the last few years. Why do you think they are having so much success?
ES: Belgium is a very small country and has less people than Germany and much less dogs but the skill of the handlers from Belgium is very high. Recently when we did not win, we would come in second. This is not because other countries have bad trainers but in Belgium we start with dogs that are bred to work. I guess you are tired of me saying this but we think you must breed excellent working dogs before you can train them. No matter how great the dog, he must have a good handler, too. Everyone that I have talked to thinks that the Belgium dogs bite so much better, but this is not really 100 percent correct. It is more the way we train in Belgium. We do not only train Schutzhund bite work, we train our dogs to bite in the KNPV clubs as well as the Ring clubs, so they get much more for-real situational bitework, and this only goes to help on the Schutzhund field. We, for the most part, like a little more civil, more aggressive dog than some of the other European countries.
PH: Gerrard, you have sent many good dogs to America in the last few years and they are starting to win in this country. The North American Championships in Georgia, the police dog that won was a dog we got for Deputy Greg Mominee, the dog “Orthos” an “Uwe” son. Greg also came in second with the same dog at the USA Nationals. This is a dog that you and I got for Greg. What one thing would you tell people in America about getting dogs from Europe?
ES: The one most important thing that I must tell to all to give your dog some time. I cannot believe how some people know so little about dogs. You send them a dog on an airplane that has been with another owner for some years, and the dog is a little bit strange from the airplane flight. He is in a new world, new sounds, new smells, new everything, and they want to take him out and work him that day or the next. This is very wrong. People who care for a dog and know to train dogs will never do this.
I would not want a dog who could come out of the box and would work immediately. This type of dog is usually only a dog that works from his prey drive. We in my country, call them prostitutes because they care not who they are with. I really think there are some good trainers in America and some excellent dogs, but some people still need to learn some things about the dogs like I have just mentioned. Even if I buy a dog in my club that I know this do every day, I will not work him for at least two weeks until he gets to know me. This for sure is the only thing to do with a new dog.
PH: Gerrard, is there any advice you could give to us in America on our dogs? You have seen most of the dogs advertised in the magazines in America. What do you think of them?
ES: Well, one thing, I think if the Americans want to continue to compete at high levels, they must work together more. I noticed from talking to Americans in the last weeks I have been here, that they are not so helpful to each other in their training. They all want to be the tops in the sport but want to do it alone. There has never been a champion that was made a champion by only his handler. He must have help from his club and his agitators. I talked to American handlers when they were in Germany and most were very excellent handlers, they just need to work together as a team, that is all.
As far as the dogs in your magazines I see, I never knew one country could have so many Rottweiller dogs. They are so expensive in America but this is also true in Europe. The market is just too much for them. But the German Shepherds I saw ads for, were mostly for show dogs and this scares me a little bit. I would hope to see more people in America with working bloodline dogs.
You need many more Schutzhund clubs in America. In a town the size of yours, and it is a very small town, in Germany or Belgium you would have four or five clubs. This way your dogs can work with different helpers and on different grounds.
PH: Well Gerrard, it has been a pleasure training with you and working with you these last weeks. Is there any last thing you would like to say?
ES: Yes, Paul, I would like to thank everyone that I have met in America. If anyone would like to talk to me, I ask that they contact you to get in touch with me as my phone number will be changing in Belgium in January.