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My husband and I had two beagles and when he began working nights. Oakland earned its reputation for crime on the 60s and it only escalated from there, so I wanted a more protective breed. I had always admired German Shepherds and, since my husband was in police work, he had many friends with working K9s. We got a pup from a litter sired by a San Leandro Police Department K9. As a pup, Pepper survived the often-deadly parvovirus. After taking her to obedience classes and meeting some other people with GSDs, I joined the Diablo Valley German Shepherd Dog Club.  Pepper went on to get her TC (Temperament Certified) & Utility Dog (UD) titles.

After going to conformation shows and meeting more people in the German Shepherd world, I decided that I wanted a dog for both conformation and obedience. The mostly conformation club members said it couldn’t be done but my Ch. Banjo (OFA, TC, HIC, UD) proved otherwise. Banjo became the foundation bitch for Showboat Shepherd’s breeding program. Since the beginning, I have focused on breeding dogs that are true to the AKC standard who also excel at performance sports such as obedience, herding and agility.

Since her breeder deemed Banjo to be, “show quality,” I met up with another DVGSDC member, Carol Curry, to take conformation classes. Banjo and I learned how to “stack” (get into that classic German Shepherd pose), move about the ring to best display the dog’s attributes, and I learned to identify all of a dog’s anatomical parts to also present the most favorable appearance to the judge. I handled Banjo at first, winning at shows, and getting half of her champion points and one major. After that a professional handler took over and completed her championship.

The classes at an AKC dog show are based on age and maturity.  The basic classes are as follows: 6- to 9-month-old puppy; 9-12 puppy; 12-18 puppy; Novice; Bred-by (the person showing the dog bred the dog and is a co-owner); American bred (the dog had to be born in the U.S.); and Open.  Open classes are usually filled with the fully mature dogs. Dogs and bitches compete separately. After the judge has judged each class and has placed the dogs first through fourth, the winners of each class go back into the ring to compete for Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. These are the dogs that receive points towards their championship title. Points – 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 – are determined based on the number of dogs shown that day.  Getting its Championship means the dog receives 15 points, including two major wins.  Major wins are those where the dog receives three-, four-, or five-point wins. 

I began hiring professional handlers, as most owners do, the first being Meredith Noreen. I’ve worked with a number of handlers since. I look for handlers that can work with my dog, with whom I have a good rapport, and also who have the instinct to win. Even professional handlers have their awkward moments in the ring, though. My Ch. Daago (TC, CD, and who was selected to be the demonstration dog for the Temperament Test at the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s [GSDCA] national competition) once tripped his handler and wouldn’t let him back up, licking his face over and over again, much to the amusement of the bystanders!

Kay Springer has been a member of the Diablo Valley German Shepherd Dog Club since the mid-80s, serving in many capacities, including president/vice president and newsletter editor. She belongs to the GSDCA, The German Shepherd Fanciers of Northern California, and the Oakland Dog Training Club. She has signed both the GSDCA and DVGSDC Breeder’s Code of Ethics. You can contact Kay at

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