Performadog Talks With Dr Michael Kern. Life, Dobermann and Training

Q: Good Morning Michael, thank you for this interview.
A: My pleasure.

Q: Tell us about yourself?

A: My wife Susanne and I immigrated to Australia from Germany in 2003. Here, we have raised our two beautiful daughters, Lailani and Keala, and I have been practising as a Neurosurgeon. Susanne and I had to move around often for my Neurosurgical career, so the time was never right to get a dog before we finally settled in Perth Western Australia some years ago.

Q: What made you get a Dobermann?

A: I have always been fascinated by the Dobermann, its sheer beauty, the perfect combination of nobility and power. For me, it is the perfect looking dog with perfect proportions. Combine beautiful looks with stable working temperament, and you have the ideal dog when you get the right one. When I grew up in Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, the Dobermann was the dog that was most respected for its power, fearlessness and beauty. No one would trespass a property that resided by a Dobermann.

On the other hand, the right Dobermann was known to be stable with the family, along with being good with children. As a child, I watched Magnum P.I. And I was both fascinated by the Dobermanns Apollo and Zeus – as well as Magnum’s Ferrari. To use a super car analogy – the Dobermann is the Lamborghini of dog breeds – rare, of uncompromising beauty and power. One day, Susanne, Lailani and Keala coerced me into visiting a local pet shop from which we returned with our Spoodle Roxy – I had been set up! It was immediately clear to me that I would be the one taking Roxy for morning walks, even though there was initially a daily walking roster on which I didn’t have the privilege to appear.

So, here I was walking Roxy, also though I always wanted a Dobermann. I was still hesitant because of the time commitment involved and how I would be able to fit the dog into my busy schedule on top of work and family. I could never have a dog and not be committed – dogs are family! When I found myself walking Roxy, I thought I might as well be walking two dogs and get the dog I had always dreamt about, a Dobermann! After some research, I luckily found Von Forell Kennels. Von Forell stood out as a breeder for many reasons or working Dobermanns in Australia. They had a meticulous methodology to picking the best combination and then which puppy suited us best. Admittedly I wanted a stable family pet, yet Caesar managed to do very well still. Secondly, their attention to detail and service is better than I ever expected.

Q: We understand that you wanted a dog as a family companion and guardian of your home, so what changed?

A: When I got Caesar, I was an absolute novice to dog training. My initial thoughts when I contacted Von Forell were that I would like a dog that gets along well with my family and protects us. I was often working at night-time, and the girls were at home by themselves. So, what changed? Good question! I had no idea how to train a dog; I had problems controlling Caesar’s drives. He was jumping up on people, chasing ball throwers, and I had no reliable recall. The situation was getting out of control, and I was getting concerned that I would eventually become a nuisance to my community.

I went to puppy classes and local dog training clubs without any results. The positive-only training at a large local dog training club yielded little results and was practically a waste of time. Then I was referred to a trainer who was very hard on Caesar. If Caesar didn’t have such a strong character, it would have damaged him and destroyed his drive for life. It became evident that both positive and negative only training did not work and I began looking for a balanced training system.

I found it when I attended a dog training seminar in Perth hosted by Kris Kotsopoulos as he was the breeder of my dog Caesar. Everything I heard made perfect sense – I immediately knew that this training system was the one I had been looking for! I started training with a very talented local trainer, Seth Pywell. By that time, Caesar was 19 months old. He had the worst foundation in training you could imagine, and despite this, he started to thrive. I was looking forward to my weekly training sessions with Seth – as was Caesar! I could feel how happy he was when we began to apply the rules consistently and stuck to the training system. After training with Seth for about six months, we had achieved a reliable recall, and Caesar had mastered some basic behaviours. I started to relax when I took him for walks, and he became a happier and less conflicted dog with more off-leash freedom.

Q: You achieved your IGP 3 with Caesar, which is an excellent result, tell us about your journey?

A. I enjoyed my training with Seth so much that it was clear I wanted to pursue it. When I asked Seth one day: ‘What’s the most difficult dog sport?” He replied: “IPO”. I then told him that this IPO sport was what I wanted to do. Seth might regret this conversation to this day, but he was instrumental in setting us up on our IGP journey. Seth established all the fundamental behaviours that allowed us to pursue our career. Later, I trained online with Tobias Oleynik and Anna Marchi, and we developed more complex behaviours. IGP is a challenging sport, especially as a novice dog handler. It can’t be done without a genetically sound dog of good working temperament and a good training system that has to be applied consistently and systematically. On top of this, you need supportive mentors and trainers, a group of like minded training enthusiasts and access to good helpers. Kris Kotsopoulos has been crucial to our success, and we couldn’t have done it without his help! Starting with a dog with excellent working character, then introducing me to a great training system and mentoring us over the years. Every time I have had the privilege to train with Kris and discuss problems, we have progressed and overcome obstacles. A wonderful friendship has ensued!

By the way, Caesar is the first Dobermann in Australia to achieve IGP 3 since the late 80.s.

Q: What was the most natural part of your journey?

A: Two things. Firstly, Caesar has excellent genetics and working character. He has generally learned fast and handles stress very well despite his foundation. Secondly, I have been able to find, learn from and team up with world-class trainers and have had a vast local and online support network. Kris Kotsopoulos, Seth Pywell, Anna Marchi, Tobias Oleynik, Nino Drowaert, just to name the most important ones for me.

Q: What was the most challenging part of your journey?

A: Tracking! Due to a combination of lack of foundation training and challenging local conditions such as the heat and inner-city living has made it a difficult skill to master. The book (‘How to achieve precision tracking with your dog’) written by Kris and his training advice, Anna Marchi’s and Tobias Oleynik’s support and many early mornings with my wife Susanne filming made us succeed – eventually.

Q: Is there anything that you would you like to tell our readers?

A: If you are serious about the Sport, get a dog that has an excellent working character like the Dobermanns or German Shepherds that Kris and Tonia breed. If you are after a Rottweiler or Malinois, look for a reputable breeder with a history of producing excellent working dogs. IGP is a challenging sport in which you will have to overcome a lot of adversity and obstacles. However, there is nothing more rewarding than when it all comes together. Your dog will be happier. You will need a supportive training group as it is almost impossible to do this on your own. I have made many friendships along our journey, and some will hopefully last forever. It has been a fantastic ride that has enriched mine and Caesar’s life.

Q: IGP is a demanding sport which has an enormous impact on family and work, how did the Sport impact your life?

A: It is difficult, and at times it has been very challenging. I have gotten out of bed a little earlier and have spent less time on the couch. For me, it is most important to spend quality time with my family and my dogs. I am very grateful for the support of my family! They have missed out at times, and I could not have done it without their backing and encouragement.

Q. You have recently started Caesar on Performadog and Purple Boost, how is he taking to it?

A. I have always tried to provide Caesar with the best food I can and have tried all possible feeding regimes. On a recent trip to Melbourne, I had an opportunity to speak directly to Performadog’ s Nutritionist for close to an hour. That conversation flawed me as to how detailed the formulation into producing this food was. As a consequence, Caesar is thriving on this food. The ‘Purple Boost’ product is incredible, and perhaps the best thing to do is go to the website and watch the videos on the ‘Why Purple’ link.

Thank you Michael for this opportunity and we wish you all the best with your next Dobermann Puppy and training adventure.

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