Mr. James E. Moses
Exclusive Interview Conducted by Barbara J. Andrews
German Shepherd Dog Breeder/Handler Extraordinaire! He's Jim, Jimmy, Mr. Moses but above all he is a world famous authority on GSD and all Herding Breeds.
Jim Moses is to Herding Dogs what George Ward is to Terriers. In fact, he and George were nip and tuck for handling the #1 dog, all breeds, all time. George with the incredible Scottie bitch "Shannon" and Jimmy with the legendary "Hatter." It was a contest that the fancy watched with awe and envy. Two incredible dogs, two masters of their craft.
This interview was conducted in 2002 and since them he has judged the most prestigious Jimmy, before we begin, tell me a bit about “Dallas.” (Ch. Kismet’s Sight For Sore Eyes C) I understand this particular dog is really representative of the breed in that “he does it all” including Schutzhund and that he really does herd? “That’s right, he does all phases, and we do herding with him and what we’re seeing is that all his progeny are also very adapted for that. We’ve had half a dozen litters from him and we take the puppies out at five or six months and they immediately take after sheep. They do what they are supposed to do. Strong drive. If you have dogs with really good strong Shepherd character, it’s not a problem, it just comes naturally. And even as friendly as he is, (interviewer stroking dog while he eats) at home he becomes very protective. If you’re not supposed to be on the property, especially at a time when no one should be there, he’s very protective. And yet all these kids that want to come over and hug him, we let every one of them do it, he loves it.”
So it’s not just because he is a show dog and is so well socialized? “No, he has good character. His personality is what was developed by being raised by good dog people and they instilled a lot of the personality that he has. He’s used to being around people and doing a lot of different things. You can have dogs with good temperament and they end up acting like Pluto if you just stick them in a dog run, pick them up on Friday night to go to a dog show and them put them back in their run on Sunday.”
Some people are really pushed for time….. “I think the problem is that we all get too many dogs. My wife’s going through that problem now with this dog because he just happens to be a tremendous sire. Many Shepherd litters you can eliminate as much as 50 to 70% as top show prospects, either for mega esophagus, bad hips or elbows, flat pasterns or such excessive length of upper and lower thigh that the puppies walk on their hock instead of their feet. Fortunately, these are things that you can tell about when they are pretty young. With him (nodding at Dallas who had finished eating and was listening attentively) you could have a litter of eight or nine and still have them at five months because that’s how even they are and you can’t make up your mind.”
I’ve heard that he is already considered a top producer. “The best ever. Ever. By far. Well, he’s the best producer for the simple fact that his strongest producing points are where our breed is the weakest right now. That is excessive length of lower thigh and no follow-thru behind. And the hind-quarter - this dog walks on his feet and his progeny walk on their feet.” I don’t understand what you mean. “A lot of Shepherds today - if you watch them, they walk on their hock and their rear foot, like it’s all one bone. The same with the front feet and the pastern. When they trot, their foot and pastern hit the ground at the same time. These are dogs - if they had to jump over these little ring gates to get in to be shown - they’d never get shown. I think that’s why our breed has lost a lot of popularity. This dog’s strongest features are he’s a real sound-legged dog, with good character and good color.”
And he’s passing on those qualities? “Oh yes, his incidence of good hips and good elbows is just phenomenal. I think out of the seventy-some puppies my wife has bred from this dog we had only one that wouldn’t get an OFA number. He’s been bred to a dozen bitches that wouldn’t get a number. That’s the reason I bred to him to begin with; character and good hips. I had a beautiful bitch that was the top-scoring champion at our national in the herding trial but she wouldn’t get a number on one side and we almost weren’t gonna breed her and we decided to try this dog (smiling proudly down at his dog, Jimmy reached out and stroked Dallas on the cheek) and we got six OFA champions from the breeding. That was 3 Group winners, 4 Specialty winners and we’re not finished because I have another dog that just needs a few points to finish and it will be the seventh one - out of a litter of eight. The eighth one could have been the best one but we had sold a dog to people years ago and when they lost her, they came to us, crying, and my wife let them have one of those ten-week-old puppies. For all I know it could have been the best one in the litter.”
So which is better, him being an incredible show dog or a great sire? "This is more gratifying to me I think, because you know Mystique never had any babies, Hatter became a Register Of Merit but was not really a dominant dog in the stud force y’know? Hatter made his Register Of Merit title but this dog did it in six months! I would imagine he’s got twelve or fifteen champions already this year and another dozen with points out of the puppy class. I got Best Of Winner’s with a seven month old son of his today that’s all out of coat and you just don’t win with Shepherds as puppies much.”
It seems to me any judge has to appreciate his movement and strength. “Oh they have but the biggest problem this dog has had is that he gets faulted for one of his very best features. That’s his head. If you stand back and look at him.” (He motioned towards the dog and instantly, even on the grooming table, Dallas made expectant eye contact.) “I mean, this dog has the proper muzzle, and the proper back skull. They are so used to … well, what we’ve done in this breed is we spend all of our time wanting the fleetest movers and for years I was a proponent of it. I caused a lot of it because I was younger and aggressive and I wanted the fanciest side gaiters I could get. And what we did was got a lot of fluffy coated Shepherds with feet like a fifty-cent piece. When you put them in the tub and put the hose on you had nothing left! It narrowed their head, their back-skull, and their muzzle. This dog is strong; this is what they’re supposed to be. Our standard calls for a medium size breed with excellent secondary sex characteristics. We’re getting better and better but that’s another reason why a lot of breeders use him. So many all-breed judges have been used to seeing such narrow back skulls, roman noses, and weak under-jaws that they fault his head!
“Mike Billings told a judge (I’m not going to say his name - he’s a real gentleman) but he beat him in the breed it was the first time I was ever beat with him because of his head. The judge went and asked Mike Billings and Don Jones, and he said ‘ah, that dog’s head really disturbed me’ and Mrs. Billings said to him, ‘It’s a shame that the dog that is right gets faulted because you’re not used to seeing it.’ And the guy came and apologized to me even though I never said anything, when he lost, I just got out of the ring. But I mean, that’s why so many people think he’s European or could be German. See? (he cupped the dog’s face) it’s supposed to be a wedge-shaped head. We tried to get our standard amended even before this dog but people that were against it made it an adversarial thing , like we were going full German. And American’s being what they are, they wouldn’t have any part of it. We were going to be much more descriptive.”
I understand, his head isn’t snipey. It is clean and defined yet, it looks like he could pick up a lamb and carry it. “Right. (laughing) But if you would go and look a big class of male Shepherds, half of them, you don’t know if you’re looking at a bitch or a dog. And yet it’s important in our standard. You ought to be able to tell.”
Don’t you find that a very masculine dog is more likely to produce well? “Yes, the thing is, he’s a 25 ¾ inches dog. He looks medium-to-small in a big special’s ring. The standard says ideal is 25 inches; he’s ¾ inches over it. And yet for any of the other dogs to get a headpiece like this they have to be 28 ½ to 29 inches. This is a medium sized breed or they can’t do everything they’re supposed to do - they have to climb walls, they have to do all kinds of jumping, and you know yourself, big clumsy dogs can’t do that. Not with big round bone. This is an oval-boned breed.
“It started as a herding dog, that was the origination, but in a very short time, the founder of the breed is the one that made it a police dog, a firedog, a Seeing Eye dog. He realized with the character he got, that this was a very versatile breed. As far as that goes, a lot of our purists want to say the very first original idea was herding. Well, that’s so but in the same ten-year period this breed was being developed, they were already doing police work and all sorts of other things. Now they also do Search and Rescue. The majority of dogs at the World Trade Center were German Shepherd Dogs.”
So actually, even back then they were developed for many different purposes? “Oh yeah. We had the choice, we could have gone into the Working Group or Herding Group when it split, but once again, because the original thing was herding .. but you’re talking about a breed that’s over a hundred ears old but within the first ten years it was used for all these different things - I can’t believe its sole purpose is herding. On top of that, their herding type of work is tending only. That’s what the breed was. They were tending dogs so when you took a big flock of sheep from one city to another, they kept them together."
What do you mean "tending dogs?" "These dogs are great border animals, they work the boundary of the flock to keep it together and move it in the right direction. That's why they have to be able to trot so efficiently. And they have a different eye. If you wanted to cut stuff and drive it, I mean, Border Collies and other breeds are a little more suitable for that stuff.”
Do they protect the flock like other flock guardians? "Oh yeah, sure. That’s why the trotting was so important - they kept the flock together when you moved them. The breed has a lot of purposes and uses. It’s like any other breed, the majority of people are in it a very short time, they are not knowledgeable, and so they get impressed by the crazy legs. We have a lot of winning Shepherds today that look like they could be acrobats. Front feet 18 inches off the ground, higher than the nose. Our standard is very explicit. Feet are supposed to be close to the ground at all times…”
What about his ears? You know in Akitas, we’re ear freaks. “See here? I got beat for a Best In Show because of these little tufts in his ears. I think it’s cute on him. I could make his ears so much larger y’know, if I clipped ‘em out, but I don’t care. If his ears could be a fraction longer, that’s okay but they are the proper shape and at the correct angle. (he tickled the little tufts in the base of the ear) See here, if I took this off, the ears would look a half inch longer. But I ain’t gonna. It just happens to be like a birthmark on this dog. You don’t see that in Shepherds much. (smiling) It just wouldn’t be him, so it stays. One time a judge beat me in the Group and he said to me “I know it’s stupid but I had to make a decision, I love both of these dogs.” And the very next night gave me Best In Show. That was something special. Yep, the hair stays.”
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