Interview With Helen Franklin




The following is an attempt to improve communication between the judges of our breed, and the people who show under them. 

1.) Are you an active breeder of German Shepherd Dogs? Do you have a kennel name? 

My kennel name was VON SAAR and today, 2008, my last litter is 12 years old. I have retired from breeding and exhibiting due to my aging body.

2.) How long have you been in the breed? When and how did you get started? Are you affiliated with any clubs? 

Way back in the 60's, my husband and I decided to get a "good"german shepherd. We bought and read the books, visited several breeders with litters and one day attended a puppy match. I fell in love with male in the 2-4 class and followed his breeder as she left the ring. I asked if he was for sale and she said "no" but I have his litter mates at home and a bitch that looks just like him. The litter was out of Ch. Ulk Wikingerblut and a strong bitch line. She did go on to win points now and then but never finished. I bred her to Ch Gallant of Arbywood and she produced Von Saar's first Champion and two other pointed dogs. The showing hook was set, but the real forever attachment was the deep adoring respect and admiration for the breed and all the wonderful things that German Shepherds are ... a giftfrom G-d.

I have been a member of the German Shepherd Club of America for 43 years, and Currently a member of the GSDC of Orange County, & GSDC of Reno.

3.) How long have you been judging the breed? 

43 years.

4.) How many times a year do you judge German Shepherds? 

When asked and when available, varies.

5.) Over the last 2 years has the number of shows? 

Don't know.

6.) Have you ever judged the National Specialty? If yes, when and what classes? 


1996 Bitches substituted for Joe Bihairi as 4th in line

1997 Elected to judge Dogs (declined do to 1996 judging)

2000 Bitches

2006 Intersex
(also judged Dogs and Intersex at the Canadian National

7.) Do you judge at both all-breeds and specialties, which do you prefer ? 

a) do you judge at both all breeds and specialties ?

b) would you judged at both all breeds and specialties

c) please elaborate on and explain your answers to 7, 7a and.

d) If you indicated a preference for Specialty assignments, would you consider doing German Shepherd Dogs at an all-breed if you were given a large ring, the entry was supported by a specialty club and the show was on the same weekend as a nearby specialty or specialty circuit? Please elaborate.


8.) Do you have a color preference?  If so what is it?

I have absolutely no color preference. Color is cosmetic and as such, easily changed by breeding.

 a)     Would the color of a dog influence your judgment?


b) Do you find it harder to judge solid blacks ?

No, however, winning solid blacks, generally speaking, are
superior conformation dogs because faults are more difficult todisguise.

9.) What importance do you place on condition of plush versus smooth coat? Please explain. 

Dogs are exhibited both "in" and "out" of coat. I place no importance on plush vs. smooth coat as the dogs are judged on that day. If a smooth coated dog is the superior animal, it will win. A plus coat is desirable
overall though because it adds attractiveness to the dog.

10.) When judging the dog do you also judge the handler? Please elaborate if possible. 

No Ö. I am not licensed to judge people, only dogs. I care less who handles, who the breeder is, or who owns the dog! I believe I have established a good reputation in that area and your invitation to judge so many Nationals is an indication of same. In addition, I judge the ďdogĒ itself and have seen great quality in all ages including youngsters. Some puppies I've chosen are, my 1st 6-9 Puppy Bitch and Reserve Winners Bitch at the U.S. Nationals (over gorgeous older bitches) later went, Grand Victrix Winsomes Fettucini v Cypress. My 1st 9-12 Puppy Bitch at the Nationals and later she went, Grand Victrix Kridler's Ruby of Highland Acres; my BIF Dog who later went, AOE Grand Victor Mar Haven's Color Guard; my BOS Futurity Bitch (to Color Guard) from the Junior Puppy Bitch Class later went, AOE Grand Victrix Inflights Heaven Only Knows; my Nationals Futurity Victor later went, AOE Grand Victor Survival's Tuff Decision. I gave a very young puppy a major, Pinebeach's Stars and Stripes and he later went Winnerís Dog at the Nationals.

11.) What importance do you place on missing teeth? 

We have a standard that dictates what we do with missing teeth. If I have two dogs and one has a missing tooth BUT is superior otherwise, the dog with the missing tooth wins.

12.) How do you see bites today? 

Bites are very good.

13.) How do you see strength of ears? 

Ears can be improved upon. Sometime is it poor puppy management or poor taping of ears and itís hard to know. I do remember having, and have seen litters where ears come up just fine at an early age all by themselves. That is the ideal.

14.) Do you feel the GSD's temperament has improved over the past 5 years? 

Yes. When judging Intersex at the 2006 Nationals, there were almost no problems.

15.) Do you consider temperament today to be? Please explain. 

Temperament today is only good as long as breeders and judges make temperament their number on priority.

16.) Do you prefer a dog to be shown on a loose lead? 

Always, always, always! See the individual examinations at the 2006 U.S. Nationals.

17.) How would you rate the following in sequence of importance? (On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest). 

Coming and going  6
Side Gait  8
Temperament  10
Teeth  4
Coat  3
Pasterns, hocks, feet  5
Pigment  2
Structure  9
Shoulder and reach 
Attitude 1 (A great attitude makes a great show dog but there are great dogs that due to poor training or bad experiences, hate the show ring. Good puppy experiences are so important for future show attitude. Shows for youngsters must always be lots of fun and without corrections. Run out of any ring where the judge is tough on puppies. Puppies should be talked and shown only love by the judge .. always.

18.) Could you briefly describe your ring procedure, and any changes you may incorporate between a small Vs large class 

After marking absentees on the judges sheet, a very large class is divided.

If a division is not necessary, then the class is taken around in catalog order two times and remains in catalog order for the individual examinations. ( As a spectator I always appreciated the dogs remaining in order for ease in following the catalog when it was difficult to read armbands. )

Each dog is called to the center of the ring while I remain many feet away and request the handler to stop. The handler is then directed to drop the lead and make it loose as I approach the dog, as a friendly stranger in the park might. I pet the dog and say hello while the dog is remaining at rest with leash slack. After the dog has passed the temperament test I ask the handler to set up his dog and the individual examination of teeth, testicles, etc. takes place. Then the dog is sent away for an examination of coming and going and following, asked to gait around the ring on a loose lead at a moderate speed. Sometimes this is repeated. I do not like fast gaiting nor the handler holding up the dogs head in order to create a topline or attempt to hide other faults.

19.) Do you think there should be an age limit in placing points on a dog (i.e.dogs and bitches under 12 months of age)? 

No, as I mentioned in question #10, sometimes the best dog that day, is a younger dog. It is however, preferable to award points to the older or more finished looking dog whenever possible.

20.) If a dog is not exactly to the standard in size, would you prefer slightly larger or smaller? 

I would prefer a larger dog and smaller bitch.

21.) Do you think on average German Shepherd Dogs are too extreme? 

No, not at all.

22.) In your opinion should double handling be allowed? 

Yes, as long as it doesnít interfere with the judging or the

23.) Should all select dogs, in your opinion, be OFA (H&E)? 

That is a wonderful dream but should not be imposed on the breeders or owners because hip and elbow ratings are also subjective by the evaluator.

We have the AOE award to incorporate not only good hips and elbows but also temperament, and trainability. This should be everyone goal.

24.) When making the final selection, does the dog with the most front reach usually win the class? 

No. The dog that is the best example of the standard which includes covering the maximum amount of ground with the least amount of effort, wins.

25.) Do you feel more emphasis should be put on the total package, and less on movement? 

The total package incorporates motion, see # 24.

26.) Do you think the German Shepherd Dog standard should be changed? 


27.) Do you think there should be any changes in any of the existing rules concerning dog shows? If so, please elaborate 

Rules should change with the times as they are needed. Example, due to expense, having multiple Specialties on the same weekend.

28.) Is there a dog, whether alive now or not, who to you typifies most closely the "ideal" German Shepherd Dog?  If yes, please explain and give details 

Since the past is past, I will discuss todayís dogs (2008). I like many of them. I like my select dogs in 2006 and each has something wonderful to offer. A dog Iíve been high on since 2006 when I first saw him, is a dog named ďCalvinĒ owned by Woodside Kennels in Canada. In my opinion, he is close to perfection and producing now some of the best males Iíve seen.

Hunter, Pacino, Kalvin, Jericho and many others are now, or about to make their marks. Calvin is a son of the top producing dog of all time, Dallas so no surprises here.

29.) Do you feel that in general the quality of the breed in this country is getting better or worse? Please elaborate 

I strongly believe it is getting better, We have almost eliminated really bad coming and going; we are recognizing the importance of dogs winning in both the all breed and specialty ring and that is exciting. Winning in both rings is what itís all about and we do have dogs that can do that. Calvin had 14 Best in Shows before the age of 3 and is a Select Canadian and American Champion.

30.) Do you have a pet peeve about anything owners or handlers do concerning the showing of dogs? 

I dislike dirty coats on dogs with unclean mouths, ears and long nails. Grooming is important. I dislike handlers that donít follow instructions especially when they attempt to cover-up the dog in front of them. I dislike handlers that place a thumb over a missing tooth. I really dislike handlers that attempt to use ANY kind of intimidation with the judge and I usually spit them out for lunch. (I have a Judge Judy attitude Ö no nonsense but that does notpreclude having fun. Sometimes handlers and I have a good laugh, in the ring.)

31.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should ALWAYS do when showing under you? 

Always be kind to fellow exhibitors and especially be kind to the dog.

32.) Do you have any suggestions for owners or handlers regarding anything they should NEVER do when showing under you? 

Never be nasty to the judge, other exhibitors or the dog

33.) Do you have any advice for people who are relatively new to showing and/or breeding? 

Invest your time before you invest your money. Be sure when evaluating the breeder you purchase a dog from one that has credentials. In other words, donít tell me what you know, show me what youíve done. Learning is a life-long process and very few start at the top. Just love your dog, good or bad, win or lose, thatís the most important thing of all.

34.) Is there anything else you would like to say about judging or about the German Shepherd breed today? If so, please feel free to say it here 

As long as we understand that the IDEAL German Shepherd can and does win in both the All Breed and Specialty ring we are going in the right direction. Aspiring to own and breed an AOE dog or bitch should be everyoneís goal.

35.) Have you ever judged one the of the greats? If so, can you give a rundown of this dog for the people who have not had the privilege to even see it. 

Iíve had the privilege to judge several great dogs and I am so grateful to the owners for this most amazing experience. I prefer to talk about them because writing about them would fill up pages of this questionnaire and since I did this in one continuous sitting, Iím pooped.



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