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Nickelsberg's Farm

German Shepherd Herding

A Visit With Shäfermeister Manfred Heyne

” I have never worked with a dog who didn’t want to work.”(Manfred Heyne)
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A Visit With Shäfermeister Manfred Heyne

Written by Jürgen Rixen and Ellen Nickelsberg,
Translated by Kerstin Braeckelmann and Astrid Bortoluzzi
Reprinted from “Der Gebrauchshund” Magazine 1/2004
rixen@rixen-videoservice.de


Manfred Heyne is now 74 years old. He has spent most of his lifetime with sheep and German Shepherd dogs. He is the most successful breeder and the most successful instructor in the SV. But hardly anyone knows him. That is the reason why the “Der Gebrauchshund” visited him in his home town of Wartenberg (Hessen) to get to know something about the original work of the German Shepherd dog.

People who compete in the sport of schutzhund and breeders often like to quote the founder of the SV. But which point of view did von Stephanitz have? One can look it up in his book, The German Shepherd Dog In Word and Picture: “The true and most noble job of the German shepherd dog is of course looking after the herds and, as the name says, specifically the sheep herds.”

Manfred Heyne originally comes from Meissen (Sachsen). As a little boy at his grandfather’s house, he got to know goats and sheep and was especially fascinated by the little lambs. He still remembers the wooden toy horse barn he got as a Christmas present when he was six years old. “You know what I did? I took the two horses and carriage and put them under my bed. When Spring came, I took pussy willow buds and put them into the barn. They were my lambs!”

At the age of sixteen Heyne started his education with Schäfermeister Walter Lorenz. He learned from one of the best. Lorenz was 1943 Reichsieger (National Herding Champion), then later two-times DDR Herding Sieger (DDR Herding Champion) and ten-times Landessieger Sachsen (Regional Herding Champion). After his apprenticeship — he had just completed his Journeyman’s examination — Manfred had his first herding competition with his Schäfermeister Lorenz. The result was that the other shepherds were shamed into announcing that they would not come again to this competition. Schäfermeister Lorenz won and Journeyman Heyne came in second! [Both Lorenz and Heyne scored the same points. In the case of a tie the higher placing goes to the senior shepherd — in this case it was Schäfermeister Lorenz.)

After Walter Lorenz won the Reichsieger title in 1943, he was invited to be honored at the Albrechtsburg Castle in Meissen. The whole castle yard was filled with Nazi Party members and members of the SA. As Lorenz was going up to accept his honor one of the GAU (county) leaders yelled into the microphone: “Why aren’t you in the Nazi Party yet?” Lorenz turned red in the face and yelled back: “If this is what it is all about you could have asked me that earlier!” Lorenz turned around and quickly left the castle yard. As a result of his “disobedience” Lorenz almost got thrown into a concentration camp. The very famous SV breeder Willi Hantsche (vom Burg Fasanantal, breeder of many herding dogs) used his influence to prevent this. As an alternative punishment Lorenz was instead required to make his famous herding champion, Clothar von Erlingshofen, available every 4 weeks for breeding to 2 bitches from the police without getting paid. Hitler’s dog, Blondie, is said to have come from of one of these breedings. Clothar von Erlingshofen was nearly killed at the end of World War II. Russian soldiers went to his kennel and shot into it. The dog’s left ear was injured on the inside and [because antibiotics were not available to help the resulting infection] suffered years from this shooting. But Herr Lorenz overcame this problem also.

At the end of his apprenticeship his Schäfermeister Walter Lorenz gave Manfred Heyne a gift — a Clothar von Erlingshofen grandson named Erwin von der Sobigauer Höhe. A few years later in 1952, after the founding of the DDR, Heyne was sent a draft notice by the Volkspolice. At the same time, the state was in the process of confiscating his boss’ property so they both decided to flee from the DDR. Upon leaving Marlow they went to Rügen where his boss had a girlfriend. But Heyne did not want to stay there. “From Rügen there is only one way in and out, over a dam. I did not want to stay there. It was too great a risk in my opinion.” From Rügen they went on to East Berlin. There his boss’ relatives brought them by subway to the refugee camp in Berlin-Reinickendorf. The leader of the camp told them that they would have to give up their DDR passports in two days. This was a big problem for Heyne because he had left his dog, Erwin, behind with friends in Marlow. He took the subway to pick up Erwin. “All this was a spur-of-the-moment decision we made there.” In the refugee camp the people made bets on whether Heyne would make it back — most gave him no chance.

He took the train to Rostock and grabbed a taxi. “It was just good luck that I had a bit of money on me.” Two villages before Marlow, Heyne began to tell the driver why he was going there. “He wanted money from me for not telling anyone and for not bringing me to the police.”  When he arrived at his friend’s in Marlow, Heyne was surprised to find that they had brought his dog to a farm in Ribnitz-Damgarten. And, so, the nighttime taxi drive continued on. “The night seemed to last forever.” Heyne found his dog, put him in the taxi and they went back to Rostock.”  But, now how could Heyne and his dog get back to West Berlin? His friends told him that the police were searching for both him and his boss. “I couldn’t take the train. They were too closely watched. So I decided to take the bus.” But as Heyne opened the door of the bus to Berlin, he was shocked to the core. “The whole bus was full of people from Marlow. They were all going to Berlin shopping.” He ran away from there as fast as he could.

So Heyne did take the train. However, at that time all of the trains were under close surveillance. The trains were escorted by one Volkspolice and one Russian soldier who would escort the trains back and forth between stations. Whole families or anyone with a lot of luggage were assumed to be fleeing the DDR and arrested. Heyne was very smart and thought of a way to get past the control officers. “I went to the conductor and told him that I had to go to the police in East Berlin. That the police had bought the dog he had with him. But this dog was very vicious. Did they have an empty compartment that he could have?” Heyne got an empty compartment and sat down next to the door. He held the dog by the collar and every time a policeman or soldier passed by Heyne pulled the collar and whispered “Pass auf” in the dog’s ear. Then when the soldier opened the door, the dog would bark and growl at him. He would shut the door immediately and Heyne had no problem getting to Berlin.

A very exciting story, isn’t it? But why is it printed in “Der Gebrachtshund”? Well, the answer is clear and simple. It was with this dog, Erwin, the one that Manfred Heyne risked his life to get out of the DDR, that he won the SV’s Bundesleistungshüten (National Herding Championship) in 1954 for the first time. With a son of this dog he won the Bundesleistungshüten a second time in 1959. And, with a grandson he won again in 1963! And so on and so forth — winning the SV-Bundesleistungshüten 13 times with seven dogs:

1954
Erwin vd Sorbigauer Höhe SZ 641855 / born 4/13/47
Sire: Aldo vd Birngrundwiese
Dam: Marka vd Liebchensmühle

1959
Clothar v Dreibrüderhof SZ
914420 / born 1/6/55
** Sire: Erwin vd Sorbigauer Höhe
Dam: Elfe v Himmelfeld

1963
Erlo vd Stammherde Ramholz
SZ 969031 / born 12/16/58
** Sire: Clothar v Dreibrüderhof
Dam: Adelheide vd Stammherde Ramholz

1967, 1969, 1970
Nando vd Stammherde Ramholz
SZ 1039447 / born 9/23/62
** Sire: Erlo vd Stammherde Ramholz
Dam: Billa v Haus Ufrecht

1972, 1973, 1975
Witz vd Stammherde Ramholz
SZ 1107851 / born 6/8/66
** Sire: Erlo vd Stammherde Ramholz
Dam: Gera v Mummelsee

1976
Edo vd Stammherde Ramholz
SZ 1311164 / born 11/19/73
** Sire: Witz vd Stammherde Ramholz
Dam: Ulli v Kirschental

1981, 1984, 1985
Fax (Heyne
) Reg. 317432 / born 9/1/78
Sire: Wotan vd Stammherde Ramholz
Dam: Elfe vd Stammherde Ramholz

There are three million sheep in Germany produced for meat and subsidized by the EU. [The EU pays the shepherd a subsidy of 1.2EU per ewe per year to encourage the grazing of unused cropland and state-owned fields — thereby preventing fallow farmlands from becoming overgrown and saving the state cost of mowing.] Wool production plays only a minor role.
The shepherd uses the shepherd dog to manage large flocks of sheep on unfenced land. What is demanded of these shepherd dogs is that they keep the large flocks together on the road as they move from place to place, keep the flock together inside designated boundaries, and, keep the flock out of valuable crop fields during their daily graze.

Boundary work is the main task of a German shepherd herding dog. The dog has to work independently covering the whole circumference of the flock without disturbing the sheep while they graze. “A German shepherd herding dog must be absolutely ‘honest’. I once had a dog from another shepherd that killed a lamb. We were standing on the opposite side of the flock from the dog and didn’t even notice it. That should not happen!”

Now the question comes up about how the German shepherd herding dog gets to know what to do with the sheep. Manfred Heyne laughed as I was asking him that question. “It is genetic. Most breeders don’t even know that the dog can have this in him.” But also many shepherds nowadays prefer to use the electric fence or some mixed-breed dog. “Many shepherds have absolutely no clue anymore how a genetically gifted herding dog must work. They need two dogs for the simplest work — like even when there are only five sheep. I find this so unbelievable that I can not put it into words. Most of the time it’s like this: They have some kind of dog and this dog runs alongside the sheep barking all the time. Finally the dog gives one sheep a nip and comes back [to the shepherd]. And this is supposed to be a good and reliable herding dog? Look at the regional herding trial in Hessen in 2003. A herding dog cut a sheep out of the flock and chased it away while everybody yelled “Pfui” and the head judge along with the other judge ended up having to go rescue the sheep.”

Heyne raves about a good herding dog. “The herding dog, like the one you will be seeing here for a couple of hours, will demonstrate that he doesn’t need any help, laughs while he works, knows why he is doing his work, and does not need a prong and electric collar to make him perform to a certain level.

There are two drives the German shepherd herding dog must have not only to succeed in practical, everyday sheep herding work, but also to excel in herding competitions which demand independent performance. The two drives are total attraction to the sheep and “genetic obedience”. These drives are genetic, can be selectively bred for and are expressions of the prey instinct. The higher and more balanced these drives are, the higher the level of performance the skilled shepherd can bring out in the dog without compulsion training.

” Total attraction to the sheep” is a specific and focused aspect of the prey instinct. It is an intense, almost obsessive, form of the prey drive, which is expressed by behaviors to possess and control sheep to the exclusion of all other prey objects. An example of a dog with this high drive is one which, when in the presence of sheep, does not care about anyone or anything except “counting the sheep” and one which literally “laughs” with pure pleasure while working the sheep. Expressions of this drive can be seen when observing the behavior of the selectively bred herding dog patrolling the boundary of a graze. The dog moves energetically along the boundary; is totally focused on the sheep in the graze — never taking its eyes off of them even when reversing direction and his tail is always up. “Total attraction to the sheep” is the fuel that keeps the dog working tirelessly all day — the higher this drive, the higher the octane.

” Genetic obedience” is expressed as a strong willingness to please the shepherd and to accept the shepherd as the leader. “Genetic obedience” is the braking and steering mechanism the experienced shepherd uses to “direct” the high drive and natural behaviors the dog brings to herding out of the prey instinct. A dog with “genetic obedience” only needs to be shown by the shepherd what the job is to be done and, once he understands, does the task willingly, reliably and, above all, independently — this is “education”. A dog with this drive not only wants to work, but it wants to work in cooperation with the shepherd. Trainers with a “master/slave” mentality toward the dog are an affront to the genetic make up of this kind of dog. On the other hand, a dog lacking in “genetic obedience” needs to be commanded by the shepherd and often, in the beginning, compelled to obediently perform the same tasks whether it wants to, or not — this is “training”. Both of these dogs will be able to herd sheep, but there will be a significant difference in performance between them. For example, the dog with “genetic obedience” whose instincts are “directed” will learn to work reliably and independently in cooperation with the shepherd; while the dog lacking in “genetic obedience” which is trained to obey will learn to remain reliant on commands from the shepherd.

Heyne makes the point: “The shepherd’s most important tool is the dog. And it is always good when the worker enjoys what he is doing!” Manfred Heyne’s present dog, Luki (he names all his herding dogs Luki) has those genetic characteristics. Heyne and I watched the dog in the distance about 300 meters away when a woman with her dog passed Luki while he was working. Luki greeted the dog and within a few seconds went back to work — independently!  In this situation we could also watch very carefully that the dog used paths and furrows in the field as boundaries. Heyne had driven his car over the field to mark one side of the field as a boundary for the dog.  “You have to find the right dog within a litter — but there are many litters where there is not even one dog that is useful for herding. The papers could be so red for generations, and still there is not one dog in the litter that has the genetics.”

Manfred Heyne always decides by a puppy test if a puppy is the right one or not. Before doing so, he watches all the puppies very carefully and puppies which get scared by loud noises are eliminated immediately.  At the real testing he takes an age-appropriate lamb and puts it and the puppies together in a pen and watches them closely.  “In the first moment, from one second to the next, he will see a lot. You have puppies that are afraid, that tuck their tails whimpering, and puppies that are like young scamps. And, there are puppies whose tails are up when they walk to the lamb just like they want to say: “Hey, you are the one I have been dreaming of!” These young dogs, the ones that laugh and want to bite, are the ones I am looking for. I do this kind of testing for about a week and then I am already pretty sure what I have got there.” Of course it is also very interesting for the shepherd to see how naturally attracted the puppies are to him. Heyne lets the puppies out of the pen and when they get a certain distance away he calls them. “It is the same as working in a kindergarten. It is always the same kids that are out in front with the teacher and the same ones that dawdle behind.”

Another very important test is how the puppy grips the lamb. “Later two puppies are put with the lamb. The lamb then panics and wants to get back to the flock. It jumps up the wall. One puppy goes and just bites everywhere. That is not good. Which grip the puppies demonstrate is also interesting. It is important to know whether they use a neck grip, or a leg grip which is common in Lower Saxony and Middle Germany. It also depends whether the grip is dry, meaning full-mouth, or only with the front teeth. And it also depends whether they shake the lamb. This is all genetic. The same as with hunting dogs. So I have selected the dogs this way for decades.”

The whole test is over in about a minute. To the animal rights activists let me say that these tests are done with age-appropriate and size-appropriate lambs with thick wool. To use too large a lamb would be abusive to the puppies and to use too small a lamb would be abusive to the lamb. Puppies with milk teeth cannot get thru the wool of an age-appropriate and size-appropriate lamb to do any damage to it. The only way a puppy that age could hurt a lamb would be to intentionally bite at the face and ears or to go for the lower legs which are unprotected by wool — if the puppy presents that behavior it is removed from testing anyway because that behavior is unacceptable and must be selected against in a large flock German shepherd herding dog. It is far less risky to test for grips, drive and other prey behavior in a puppy than to try to test for these same qualities later in an older dog when an older dog is capable of doing serious damage to sheep.

Educating these genetically-suited dogs is relatively easy. Manfred Heyne had an easy time of it with his present dog, Luki. He started by putting sheep in a pen and letting Luki go around. Then he put an opening on one side of the fence and later got rid of that whole side of the fence. Later Heyne would stand on one furrow and encourage the dog’s natural behavior to move on this furrow with his voice and — if necessary — use his crook to indicate the right furrow.  Pay attention and you will find that many dogs have the natural behavior of running in a furrow or in a tractor rut.

When Luki was one year old he really impressed Manfred. Luki came too close to a ram and was attacked by it. Luki was knocked over, got back on his feet and gripped the ram from the front on top of its neck — just like he did when he was tested as a puppy.  His grandfather also started a fight with a herd of young cows which ran into Heyne’s sheep. “Those are the real sheep herding dogs. The others can get V-rated ten times at the Hauptzuchtschau or whatever. They cannot fool me any more.”

Generally speaking selection in the past was for a much tougher dog. Manfred Heyne knows a very interesting story which his Schäfermeister Walter Lorenz told him once: Walter Lorenz was a Journeyman (Schäfergehilfe) under Schäfermeister Albert Pohle who had Herold aus der Niederlausitz in 1928 as a protection dog in Strohwalde (Uckermark). SV founder von Stephanitz asked him once if he could come over to test the dog. By all means he was allowed to do so. Albert Pohle had to put the dog into a big pen and had to hide so that the dog couldn’t see him. Then von Stephanitz and his companion rode their horses walking and trotting around in the pen. They started putting pressure on the dog which had been placed in the down/stay position, and, then suddenly they rode hard at the dog from opposite directions. Herold jumped up and gripped von Stephanitz’s horse on the top of the neck. Von Stephanitz hit the dog with his horse whip between the ears whereupon the dog released its grip. The horses were taken away, the dog shook himself and was praised by everyone. “Stephanitz made Herold aus der Niederlausitz SV Sieger in 1930 and again in 1931. Think about doing this now with today’s champions. Herold had courage and knew the difference between war and peace.”

Manfred Heyne was very successful as a breeder. Not only did he breed every single dog that he won the SV-Bundesleistungshüten with (except of course his first dog which was a gift), but he was also known for his great success as a sheep breeder.  For 30 years Heyne was employed as Schäfermeister by Baron von Kühlmann-Stumm. Heyne was in charge of the Baron’s sheep breeding and in 1974 won every breed class at the Deutschen Landwirtschafts-Gesellschaft (DLG) Exposition. [Manfred Heyne is the only breeder ever to have won a clean sweep at the German Agricultural Society (DLG) which is Germany’s largest agricultural exposition held only once every two years in Berlin.]

However his point of view as a dog breeder is often quite different from the SV’s because he only bred when he needed another dog for his sheep herding work. “Twice I was tempted and I made the mistake of breeding to show dogs. Right away I had uterine infections and feet problems. Shoemaker stick to your last! These breedings were of no value to me. They can make all the money they want. I have always been against running around in a circle — I see no sense in it.”

To Manfred, the SV-Bundesleistungshüten currently is conducted more like a show event because, similar to the schutzhund trial, it doesn’t test or assess the genetic attributes of the dog. “The few shepherds who participate [in the Bundesleistungshüten] are just constantly fooling themselves. With each litter, with each breeding, they lie to themselves. They don’t even know any more what a real herding dog is. They are satisfied with command/control robots. I don’t see a future any more.  The “Guidelines For Herding Competitons” [the SV-HGH rules] are acceptable — but the head herding judges appointed by the SV for the past 20 years don’t have the slightest idea about herding genetics. The dogs are not tested thoroughly (heart and soul) any more. Independence is the greatest asset!! All this is happening because the SV HGH head judges do not have anything to do with sheep!”

Heyne is very angry because he has seen by experience that dogs like his Luki which are genetically outstanding herding dogs cannot get a Koer rating because of minor “faults”. Luki, for example, has a slight overbite — so a few millimeters are reason enough to throw away valuable genetic capabilities. This is frustrating for him: “If this wellspring of the GSD had been used more, we still would have a diligent, hard-working dog today. The GSD’s willingness to work has decreased to such an extent — but you can’t tell that to the show breeders.”

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