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Manfred Lerner - "A Real Dog Man"

by Lisa Schuller

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

(Part two of a three part series, first published in Dog Sport Magazine in the Nov. '98 issue, part two in the Dec. '98 issue, and part three in the Jan. '99 issue. Reprinted by permission.)

Part 2: The foundation of Manfred Lerner's"v. Bayern" Kennels

The following interview represents part 2 of my discussion with esteemed German Dobermann breeder, Manfred Lerner of v. Bayern Kennels. It covers the topics of why Manfred began breeding Dobermanns, and some of the dogs who constituted his foundation stock.

Included with this article (ed.: not in online version), are some obscure photographs of the famous Yago v. Ellendonk. Manfred has very kindly shared not only his knowledge and expertise, but has also offered for publication, some memorabilia that very few Dobermann fans would ordinarily have access to. This kind of openness and desire to educate others about the breed - this goes for any breed, folks - is the example that must be followed for the continued growth of all our working breeds. Manfred isn't giving up the torch just yet, but, he is more than willing to share the light so that others may find their way.

DSM: When and why did you decide to begin breeding Dobermanns? You seem to put much emphasis on trainability and work ethic - I am thinking of Eiko, Granit here. Is this something that you started with in your breeding stock, or something that you have worked hard to produce by you personally breeding for this quality?

LERNER: In 1973, I decided to breed useful Dobermanns, which are strong enough to correspond to daily needs, as well as to their use as military, police or protection dogs. My goal was to produce good biters and hard dogs which are controllable, and which have a clear mind. I started the breeding with very selfish and contrary dogs, and during the years, I am proud of the result to breed now with a strong drive and a high workability.

DSM: Who was your foundation bitch, or bitches?

LERNER: My first bitch was Czilla vom Wehrwinkel, daughter of Robby Rene vom Weinberg. She was the mother of Branko von Bayern. He had a strong severity, a low threshold (Reizschwelle) and a high readiness to aggression. This dog produced many pups with the same character. In 1974, I bought Dixi vom Kirchbühl as a puppy. Her dam was Zira v. Frankenland, who was a calm bitch with excellent structure. In the 1970s, she placed V3 at the Siegerhauptzuchtschau in Mannheim. Her character was good.

DSM: Who was the breeder of Kirchbühl? I remember a good story....

LERNER: The priest Fritz Fischer was the owner of Kirchbühl Kennel. He was a unique character of a priest. He used to train his own dogs inside the church, running and climbing up into the bell tower. But the Bishop was very angry about that, and imposed a disciplinary transfer on Fischer.

DSM: Dixi was a daughter of the legendary Falk v. Rotbachtal (DZB 80781, WT 9.3.1968, Boss v. Salza, SchH3 x Centa v. Petershügel, SchH3)....... Please tell us about Falk? What did he produce in his pups?

LERNER: Falk was a very hard dog, who never disappointed in the bite work (Schutzdienst). He always caused problems to the helpers because of his enormous drive for "personal prestige." He was 70 cm. tall and had a large, but spare physical structure. Falk produced different kinds of pups in character and structure, always depending on the different bitches he was bred to. It was a striking thing though, that nearly all his pups showed good, hard bite work.

DSM: I have heard that Falk worked as the guard dog of a junk yard, and that his owner took him to the Körung (LR: O. Vogel) where Falk's "abilities" were discovered. When did you first meet Falk? Did you work him as a helper ever?

LERNER: I discovered Falk in 1974 at the German SchH3 Championship. There, I had the opportunity to test Falk's bite work. He was a hard biter by his drive to defend (Wehrtrieb). Falk was one of the hardest and geltungstrieblichsten [personal prestige seeking, egotistical] Dobermanns. Many of his descendants have the same genetic make-up.

DSM: You bred Dixi to Yago v. Ellendonk, SchH1, ANGEKÖRT I (DZB 84475, WT 4.2.1973, Satan v. Ellendonk, SchH2, ANGEKÖRT I x Vesta v. Ellendonk, SchH1) once, after the owner decided not to stud him anymore?

LERNER: Yago v. Ellendonk was a very successful male Dobermann. Envy and resentment came up in Germany concerning this successful dog. I talked and worked together with the owner of Yago, and he realized that our objective was very similar. So, he let me breed Dixi with Yago. Maybe, I am the last one to have bred a bitch to Yago v. Ellendonk.

DSM: Tell us about Yago's pups?

LERNER: His pups were very hard and aggressive. One of them was Enno v. Bayern (Yago x Dixi). He was a very short and compact dog with strong drives, who did his bite work in every situation. He did the ZTP with 1A for character. When Enno was three years old, I sold him to America.

DSM: What breeders/judges have influenced you the most in developing your own breeding ideas?

LERNER: I have been influenced most by Fritz Sauermann, the breeder of the v. Ellendonk kennel. Among the Dobermann judges, the personal attitude of Ottmar Vogel [SV/DV/ADRK Judge] towards the working Dobermann was decisive in developing my program.

DSM: What is your goal as a breeder?

LERNER: My goal is always to select the best character, and most beautiful and healthy working dogs. During the years, a strong, consistent line has been developed - the Bayern kennel. Nowadays, many other breeders are trying to get back to this line.

DSM: Do you have to apply to the DV to do certain breedings that are considered very "inzucht"-- what relations need to get permission?

LERNER: You need permission for very close incest breedings such as mother-son, father-daughter, brother-sister.

DSM: Over the years, you have used some breeding bitches from different kennels such as: Czilla v. Wehrwinkel, Kessy v. Pfaffenberg, SchH3, and currently, Dequina v. H. Weissenberger, SchH3, IPO3 ("Susi"), who is an Uran v. Bayern granddaughter. Tell us about these bitches-- what was/is their specialty in work?

LERNER: Czilla v. Wehrwinkel represented a very robust health together with elegance, toughness and very good fierceness. Kessy v. Pfaffenberg was a bitch who combined a very high workability, with good drives and a very short structure. Dequina v. Haus Weissenberger ("Susi") is a bitch which has been chosen by me, among 13 puppies. She has made her way through all the important working exams. Actually, what I know of her brothers and sisters is that four of them have been put to sleep because they were considered "too aggressive." But of course, this depends on the owner and his ability to handle an animal. Susi is not aggressive in daily life, but she knows what to do if it is necessary. She is stable and able to contain herself. Susi is comfortable wherever she goes, and is nice with children. Also, she is owned by a responsible handler who knows her dog's character well.

DSM: Please tell us what you look for in the character and structure of a brood bitch and a stud dog?

LERNER: The most important criterions are absolute, unconcerned behavior at noisy situations and no fear for any direct and difficult personal contact. The most important fact regarding the structure of a brood bitch or stud dog are a head with parallel nose and forehead lines, strong jaws, a strong, short back as well as perfect and straight legs.

DSM: How can a puppy buyer know if a person is really a "breeder", as opposed to just "reproducing puppies"?

LERNER: Only by very intensive research, by getting in regular touch with the breeder to observe his work and his working results, going to visit the kennel and watching the dogs out of this chosen line.

DSM: What does being a "breeder" mean to you? Do you feel that luck plays any role in a breeding's success?

LERNER: Breeding means to me, the responsibility for the breed. Breeding means to be conscious of what you are doing. Breeding is not to raise the population of a certain animal. For any kind of success, you need a little bit of luck. But the more intelligent work you can combine with this little bit of luck, the more success you have.

DSM: In your opinion, Manfred, what is easier to fix when breeding dogs: temperament flaws or structural flaws?

LERNER: It is easier to fix structural flaws.

DSM: What litter combinations do you consider your greatest successes?

LERNER: During the many years of breeding, I personally consider many of the combinations as very successful. It takes too much time to name all my successful Dobermanns. Just the youngest ones are Cassi, Debby, Elisa (6th at the Deutsche Meisterschaft 1998 in Bonn-Bad Godesberg with 96/97/92), and Eiko. These last dogs represent the combination of Yago v. Bayern bred to Cassi. And, even in beauty DV Jugendsieger 1991: a daughter of Quint v. Bayern (who was the hardest one of them all). Our absolute Dobermann of the future is : Klarissa v. Bayern (daughter of Susi x Anton v. Bayern, SchH2, FH. Anton is full brother to Cassi; Susi's sire was Yago).

DSM: Which specific dogs do you consider your greatest successes? Granit, Kassandra, Puck, Cassi, Eiko etc.?

LERNER: As you are writing most correctly, all these dogs: Granit, Quint, Wora, Kassandra, Puck, Cassi, Eiko, Elisa....... are Dobermanns who were/are able to compete with any other dog, of any other breed, in any situation.

DSM: Were there certain dogs that you've bred over the years that did other work --military, bodyguard-- that you were proud of?

LERNER: I am proud of my dogs - who in many different countries of the world did their job conscientiously, and this was proven. Luzifer stopped three burglars, Fena stopped a car jacker, as well as Kero, who saved the life of his handler against three attackers. The first Granit was involved in military jobs, and was known as a reliable "guy" at the German Air Force.

DSM: I seem to remember that some of your dogs have made newspaper headlines for defending their owners?

LERNER: The dogs such as Kero and Urk just did their job as we would expect - to protect their owner and all their belongings. Dog sport seems only a minor matter in these cases.

DSM: Do you feel that SchH training and trialing is adequate testing for breeding stock, or do you have tests that you feel push the dog, to see more of his real character?

LERNER: The Dobermann breed is very intelligent. You can teach many things to them especially for SchH trials. But, it very often happens that when you provoke situations that the dog did not learn, you can see his real character. This is needed to make breeding decisions.

DSM: At this point, how many litters has v. Bayern had?

LERNER: I have done more than forty litters during many years, with much work. In addition to that, I trained many other dogs of other people.

DSM: Who is your up and coming star? I remember a certain 11 week old male puppy carrying around a SchH3 dumbbell. How is the young Granit doing?

LERNER: Granit is developing to my entire satisfaction, carrying and bringing me bottles of dark Bavarian beer every evening. He is 71 cm. tall now, resembling his mother in character very much. He is destined to be a successful sports Dobermann. He is natural with excellent drives, and is admired by many professional trainers.

Go to Part 3

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