Many have heard of the Bio-Sensor program that was conducted at Aberdeen Proving Grounds by the DOD through the Army.
Many times I have given my insights into the breed and in particular the breeding of German Shepherds. I figured I would give some insight into my experiences with the above mentioned and how it helped to shape some of my opinions on breeding over the years.
From 1973 to 1976 I was stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga. My military occupational specialty,(MOS), was 00C60, which is Army dog trainer. During these three years I worked daily with dogs from the bio-sensor program in Aberdeen Proving Grounds. The first 18 months I worked with these dogs being trained as Scout dogs for the infantry. The last 18 months I worked with them in Law Enforcement as Narcotic Contraband Dogs.
The Bio-Sensor was a military breeding program designed to produce the "super dog". These German shepherds were carefully bred to achieve the top physical dog they could attain through line/inbreeding, culling, socialization, and training. The goal was to produce this exceptional GS that would aid the miltary in all aspects and create a genetically superior dog. One of the dogs that I know that was foundation stock was the Lierberg lines.(Not sure if through Bodo/Bernd).
By the time I started, they were using at Ft. Benning the N through X litters. I remember "Nard" from the N litter that was doing scout training. The last shipment we got in were the U and X litter. I distinctly remeber Xcite, Xcell and Usha, Ursala as they were in the Narcotic contraband program.
The positives of these dogs were as follows, super conformation compared to average miltary German shepherd. You could look at them and see their difference. Super hips, both from radiograph and movement. The program had very strong emphasis on these aspects in their genetic genepool.Very biddable in most cases, though some were hyper and had a hard time settling down. Excellent coloration, usually saddled, with good strong pigmentation.
The negative side....many of these dogs were skittish(sp). The nerves on these dogs were weak compared to most of the other GS. The recovery of these dogs was very slow and in some cases they would get stuck at a point and just didn't have the gumption to proceed further.
Now in the infantry training school, they often made fair tracking dogs, but as the terrain got tougher to navigate these dogs tended to shut down. As for Scout dogs, they could do the scouting part of the equation, but as soon as the patrol got hit with a firefight and bullets,tracers, and grenades were flying around, these dogs were a liability. They never completed the 16 week scout dog course the first time but of course they couldn't be washed out because they had juice from Aberdeen,(through Col. Castleberry,head of the program at that time) to be successful, so we would recycle them.
There was constant conflict between the traing Sgts and the admin. over the danger of sending these dogs over to Nam. These dogs were very typical of many showline dogs of today, and the military needed and had dogs that had good nerve and courage. Lastly, these dogs lacked the courage piece in addition to the nerve piece. Everybody in the Scout dog detachment looked upon these dogs as a "joke" in terms of being useful to the mission.
In early 1975, I got transferred to 139th MP Company to train dogs in the Narcotic Contraband program. The last two litters of bio-sensor that Ft, Benning recieved were sent to the MP unit to be trained as passive alert narcotic dog. We had two types of narcotic dogs, the aggressive alert dogs and the passive alert dogs. We had a mixture of Labs and GS. In this venue of the passive alert training these dogs did much better because training was pretty much all positive with food foundation, and very little stress placed on the dogs in training. During actual application on missions, the effectiveness of these dogs correlated often with the environment. They did very well in sterile environments like baracks searches, and empty buildings, or fields. When it was time for motor vehicle searches, or highly confined areas like c-130 aircraft, or areas where the surface was slippery or high or iron grates,etc....these dogs were highly ineffective.
In summary, when I think back on those dogs I am so reminded of today and what our scientific approach to breeding today has produced. I look at what many responsible breeders have focused on and I see an eerily similar result. Not all responsible breeders, but the " I would never breed to an OFA fair dog" type of breeder. These absolutes, trying to perfect an imperfection, from the start, and ultimately missing the forest for the trees.
I only write this post to give people some insights to what i have experienced firsthand for extensive periods of time to draw some of my opinions and conclusions. Certainly, doesn't make my opinion any more valid or less valid, but I have seen first hand that the direction the breed is going is not only a result of practices, but of well intentioned but misguided practices in my opinion....Cliff