top of page

SV Herding with Ulf Kintzel

Tending, a Distinct Style of Herding with German Shepherds - in conversation with Ulf Kintzel


Ulf Kintzel is a trained shepherd and one of few dog handlers in North America who competes in tending trials with German Shepherds. The Shepherd Working Dog title, or HGH (Herdengebrauchshund), is a recognized accreditation in the SV Breed Survey (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde)

Mr. Kintzel began training dogs some 40 years ago in Germany where large flocks of sheep graze down areas of land where fencing is not an option. These pastures may include hillsides, preserved lands with rare habitats, dams along rivers, heathlands, ski slopes, and/or hiking areas. As sheep pastures are frequently adjacent to fields with crops, shepherd dogs are used to prevent sheep from grazing outside intended areas. Mr. Kintzel, with his German Shepherds, has tended flocks of sheep ranging up to 1,600 animals.


Tending is a distinct style of herding developed in European countries where grazing pastures and crops flow into each other. A remarkable fact: in the tending style of herding a shepherd trains his/her lead sheep to come when called and follow him/her. The dog’s duty is to independently create a living physical barrier around the freely grazing sheep. The dogs patrol at a distance on either side of the flock, keeping them within the perimeter of the grazing areas established by the shepherd, and out of fields with fresh crops. Tending differs from the popular sheep trials held in the UK. These dogs, predominantly Border Collies, are trained to actively gather sheep into a flock and take them to a new grazing area. In British trials, the dogs (not the sheep!) follow the shepherd’s commands driving a small number of sheep efficiently through various gates and pens. The British objective is fetching and gathering, rather than tending.


Mr. Kintzel currently owns and operates White Clover Sheep Farm in New York State (United States), where he raises purebred White Dorper Sheep. He also has a passion for breeding, training, and assessing German Shepherds for tending.


We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Kintzel who kindly shared his experiences in tending with German Shepherd Dogs.


1. How did you first become interested in herding with German Shepherds Dogs (GSDs)?


I observed GSDs at herding competitions before I became an apprentice as a shepherd in 1984. Initially I tended with Old German Herding Dogs (Altdeutsche Hütehunde) but I always wanted a GSD. There is something about GSDs I considered unique, special, and desirable. In 1987, I had the opportunity to purchase two females from a litter bred by a famous competitor in herding trials, Rudolf Hirch. East Germany was still behind the Iron Curtain. These two dogs became my ticket to success. They came with me on my journey, first to West Germany and later to the US.


2. You breed under “vom Quasliner Moor”. What is your vision as a breeder for German Shepherd Dogs? How do you select breeding pairs to ensure the best herding abilities in the offspring?


I breed for stable temperament with good social skills and for good nerves. Aside from that, I need a biddable dog since herding means almost exclusively working a dog off leash and at a distance. The dogs need to arrive pretty much in the middle of the spectrum. They can neither be like Golden Retrievers, nor too hard and stubborn. Herding is a strong instinct in my working dogs, which allows me the freedom to venture out at times and use stud dogs from Schutzhund lines.


3. What do you find most rewarding about herding?


The ability of a dog to think about the job at hand and perform independently for hours with minimal influence from me is very rewarding to watch. When a dog has a feel for sheep herding and displays these natural skills, that is, in my view, at times breathtaking.



4. What are some common misconceptions or myths about German Shepherds and sheep herding that you’ve encountered?


There are many. Sheep herding is a form of hunting or prey drive. The dog sees the sheep as prey. That means the dog is not protective of the flock and will not defend sheep against intruders. This is the first misconception. The second misconception is that a GSD will certainly not herd the kids of any given family. We do not want the dog to see kids as prey, do we? Another misconception is that dogs retired from Schutzhund training can still become good herding dogs. The nerve strength and stamina a dog needs to tend a large flock is greatly underestimated.


5. Can you share any memorable success stories of your German Shepherds excelling in herding trials?


There have been many since herding competitions were at some point a big part of my life. I remember the ceremony in 1992 at the SV’s National Herding Competition (BLH). I stood next to the three big competitors at the time – Karl Füller, Georg Krieg, and Manfred Voigt – with 95 points (out of 100), only two points behind the winner. I was sure I could make it on that podium in a subsequent year. Well, pride comes before the fall. The next year I stood between the two last competitors during the ceremony with only 75 points. I had made significant mistakes due to my young age and inexperience. Yet, it helped me in my further development. In a way, both experiences are success stories in the long run.


6. Have you noticed any changes or trends in HGH herding over the years, and how have you adapted to them?


Fortunately, the herding competitions, organized by the German Shepherd Association (SV), have escaped the tendency of turning trials into a dog sport. SV style herding trials continue to emphasize competitions as a suitability test for herding. Personally, I think the changes that happened over the course of the last three decades are rather minor and of little significance. That means I still select dogs for training and breeding like I always have: a dog that is suitable for herding without having to distinguish between a dog being able to do a meaningful job and a dog that does well in competitions.


7. How do you envision the future in North America for German Shepherds in the tending style of herding (HGH)?


I wish I had a better outlook, but I do not see new herding clubs on the horizon. Aside from the club I am chairing, there has only been one attempt by a former student of mine to start up a club with an interest in sheep tending competitions. That only lasted a couple of years. No other club has since taken on HGH herding. That is most likely because a rather large flock (200 minimum) is needed for these trials. Such large number of sheep requires a committed sheep farmer who can both raise sheep profitably and be a training instructor. After several decades, I am the only farmer and trainer remaining. And, I too do not do herding training on the scale I used to. Furthermore, it is difficult to find SV herding judges. Many will be retiring in the coming years.


8. What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in SV style herding training with their German Shepherd?


Some herding clubs herd with breeds other than Border Collies. These put on American Kennel Club trials like the C-Course which emulates the tending style of herding (HGH). If someone is fully committed to herding, that might be an option. However, I have steered people in other directions when they wanted to do herding and could not find a place to train. Suitable training places remain rare; many are run by Border Collie people without knowledge or understanding of the different nature of GSDs. Some clubs do not take GSDs. Besides Schutzhund, Tracking and ‘Search and Rescue’ can be very rewarding for handler and dog. These dog sports do not need the “equipment” of a few hundred sheep.



 

What happens at a Sheep Tending Trial organized by the German Shepherd Association (SV)?


A sheep tending trial mimics a shepherd’s day in a miniature. The day starts with the exit from the pen, followed by several events that may occur leading the flock from one pasture to another. One may have to cross a bridge, walk along a road with an upcoming car, pass by other people’s crops and two periods of grazing in different pastures are included. The trial ends with the re-pen.

A handler may compete with one or with two dogs. The main dog is the one being judged. The second dog has a supporting role, working on the opposite side of the flock than the main dog. The minimum size of the flock is 200 sheep for club trials. For the regional trials and for the national trial (Bundesleistungshüten, BLH) about 300 sheep are required.


Each run lasts about an hour. For each element there are a maximum number of points available. Mistakes will lead to point deductions. In addition, the dog’s performance will be judged for obedience, diligence, and independence. Furthermore, the handler’s ability to employ the dog and his/her ability to handle the sheep is being evaluated. The overall maximum number of points available is 100. The minimum qualifying score is 60. Ratings range from Satisfactory (60 to 69 points), Good (70 to 79 points), Very Good (80 to 89 points) and Excellent (90 to 100 points).




 

K9Force (2024, February). SV Herding with Ulf Kintzel. https://publuu.com/flip-book/199364/895853/page/12


© K9Force WDC 2024. For permission to reproduce any article in this blog, contact info@k9force.ca

Images courtesy of Ulf Kintzel



Коментарі


bottom of page