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The Wesensbeurteilung (WB) Test: Six Answers by Harold Hohmann

In his working life, Mr. Hohmann heads the large police K-9 department in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. He has competed in police dog trials, including the prestigious Bundessiegerprüfung. In his spare time, Mr. Hohmann has achieved numerous successes in trials and confirmation shows under the kennel name “von Melanchthon”. His dogs have earned several VA (excellent select)-titles, showcasing the quality of his breeding program.

Mr. Hohmann is a member of the SV (Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde) working group who developed the WB test. He has years of experience in breeding as well as training German Shepherd Dogs. Having joined the SV in 1977, in 2007 Mr. Hohmann accepted the position of chairman of Landesgruppe Baden in Southwest Germany. Adding to these responsibilities, he is also Schutzhund and a show judge. Carrying the title of “Körmeister” (breed survey master) emphasizes his commitment to evaluating performance, conformation, and temperament of German Shepherd Dogs.

The K9Force Working Dog Club is delighted that Mr. Hohmann has agreed to judge their Fall Trial which is scheduled for 27-29 September 2024. At this trial, competitors will be able to sign their dogs up for the Wesensbeurteilung (WB) Character Assessment test. In an exclusive interview, we delved into the WB test with the aim to increase public awareness about the importance of this test for German Shepherd Dogs.

Question 1: What inspired you to become involved in the development of the WB test?

Hohmann: I believe that it is important to collect data about dogs at a young age. Without putting pressure on them, we can observe and assess their natural behavior. By gathering data about young dogs in a pressure-free environment, we can analyze, and compare their development throughout their lifetime. Therefore, I joined the SV working group which aimed to set new standards for dogs being entered into the breeding process. The new standards take assessment beyond traditional IGP trials, for which dogs are primarily trained for competitions. Good training may camouflage any underlying temperament issues. The objective was to create a comprehensive breeding selection process, starting with WB temperament tests, followed by ZAP (Zucht Anlagen Prüfung), and eventually the breed survey. The goal is to record a set of data at each stage, allowing breeders to regularly benchmark a dog’s behavior, development and temperament.

Question 2: When you refer to “data,” are you talking about the qualities of the dogs that you aim to assess and track progress?

Hohmann: Yes, precisely. The essence of our assessment lies in the method we’ve devised.

The first assessment, for puppies aged between 9 and 13 months, needs to be completed before any training has started. We want to observe dogs in their natural, socialized state. At this very young age, we focus on describing behavior and temperament rather than giving a pass or fail rating, common in IGP trials. A dog can only “fail” the WB test when it is seen to be too aggressive, too defensive, displaying anger, or showing aversion to gunfire. After a first-time “fail”, only a single repeat of the test is allowed. The WB test data, alongside ZAP and breed survey information, allows for comparisons over time and aids in recognizing behavioral patterns across bloodlines. It should be noted that the WB test is suitable for both working and show lines. This data-driven understanding of dog behaviour and development facilitates more informed and constructive breeding practices.

Question 3: Have you ever failed a dog for the WB test, and why?

Hohmann: I am pleased to say very few. Of the approximately 300 to 400 dogs I have assessed, perhaps six or seven dogs. The main reasons were reactions of fear to gunshots. Only once I have failed a dog because it exhibited severe aggression toward a child. No matter what, such a behaviour trait must be avoided in breeding programs and I subsequently reported this dog to SV. As mentioned before, the emphasis is not on passing or failing. The WB test is a tool to assess, describe, record and benchmark dog behaviour.

Question 4: We have heard handlers and breeders of working dogs say: “Well, the WB test is superfluous as our dogs are being trained and assessed for IGP. The WB test has been developed for show dogs.” What are your thoughts?

Hohmann: The WB test has nothing to do with either working or show lines. Research has shown that many dogs have a nerve condition which can already be identified at an early age by the WB test. In breed surveys, I have seen and assessed so many dogs which showed signs of agitation, anxiety and tension. Everyone who works with dogs needs to know the nerve disposition of their dog. The WB test is specifically designed to assess such disposition and behavior traits.

Question 5: Do you think the implementation of the WB test worldwide will bring everyone to a higher standard across the board?

Hohmann: Yes, I believe harmonization is essential and worldwide there is a lot of interest in the WB test. Irrespective of where they are, breeders should be encouraged to conduct the WB test within the context of their unique conditions. The goal is to ensure that dogs, regardless of their origin, meet certain behavioral standards before being entered into a breeding program.

Question 6: How do you see the future of the WB test?

Hohmann: I envision that the test will become a standard analytical tool, much like hip and elbow evaluations. The data and analytics are essential for breeders to make informed decisions. While harmonization across different regions is challenging, the key is to ensure that all breeders have easy access to the WB test. The SV webpage provides more detailed information about the WB test itself, and how to arrange for an assessor.

If you are interested in the WB test and like to know more, please come, witness and/or meet Mr. Hohmann at the K9Force Fall Trial scheduled for 27-29 September 2024


K9Force (2023, December). The Wesensbeurteilung (WB) Test: Six Answers by Harold Hohmann

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