For Valerie Schuter, doing a good deed for a dog turned into her downsizing Pinschers.
The 30-year Doberman Pinscher breeder and rescue volunteer helped another breeder and ended up transitioning to the smaller German Pinschers—notably Bentley—GCH Diamond Bay A Chevelle Bentley Tribute. This conformation Grand Champion has a passion for people and racked up 13 performance titles after his name.
Here’s how Schuter of Orange, California, went from living with 24- to 28-inch Doberman Pinschers to the 17- to 20-inch German Pinschers.
Rescuer Turned Admirer
In 2006, Schuter answered a frantic call from Robin Pierce, a German Pinscher breeder in Oklahoma. Pierce was looking for a Southern California breeder to rehome Maggie, a 7-year-old German Pinscher. A few years ago, the breeder had sold the dog to a California owner who was now dying from cancer.
“I’d never seen a German Pinscher before, but I agreed to help another breeder and a dog who needed a new owner,” says Schuter. “Everyone fell in love with Maggie’s outgoing, happy personality, and it was easy to place her.”
The dog’s stellar temperament set Schuter off on a sleek, no-frills adventure with the smaller Working breed.
“I wanted a German Pinscher from Pierce and preferably one related to Maggie because she had such a stable temperament,” remembers Schuter. “In addition to conformation, I wanted a dog to participate in performance sports.”
Three years later, Pierce repeated the breeding that produced Maggie and offered Schuter one of the puppies—a female that Schuter named Chevelle.
Chevelle earned her championship in grand style. The intelligent, vivacious, and athletic dog won Best of Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Chevelle—the first German Pinscher therapy dog, also scored the number one Versatility spot at several German Pinscher specialties.
In 2013, Schuter whelped her first German Pinscher litter and named all five puppies after cars. Two of those pups—Bentley and Bugatti—quickly earned their championship titles, with each demonstrating a solid work ethic.
“In the beginning, Bentley was a funny-looking puppy,” remembers Schuter. “For a German Pinscher, he was big and looked like a walrus, but he turned out to be the best pup.”
How did Bentley go from an odd-looking marine mammal to a stylish champion with a penchant for therapy visits and dog sports? Schuter credits Pierce for breeding a line of stable German Pinschers that helped establish Bentley’s dedication to a task and his willingness to please.
The German Pinscher breed standard describes an “energetic, determined, intelligent, and loyal” dog.
“This breed loves to work and keep busy, which accounts for why I engage him in so many activities,” says Pierce. “German Pinschers don’t like being left alone in a backyard all day.”
Swiss Army Knife of Breeds
When most people think about breeds earning more than a dozen performance titles, a German Pinscher isn’t the first breed that comes to mind.
“It’s usually the other Working breeds that grab the attention, but I’m always encouraging other German Pinscher show exhibitors to try dog sports,” says Schuter. “Bentley is just as comfortable doing a variety of events.”
His titles include PCD (Preferred Novice Obedience), BN (Beginner Novice Obedience), RI (Rally Intermediate), CAA (Coursing Ability Advanced), SBN (Scent Work Buried Novice), ORT (Odor Recognition Test), TT Temperament Test), THD (Therapy Dog Title), RATM (Barn Hunt Association title of Master Barn Hunt), CGCA (AKC Community Canine: Canine Good Citizen Advanced), CGCU (Canine Good Citizen Urban), TKI (Intermediate Trick Dog), and FDC (Farm Dog Certified).
For Schuter and Bentley, these accomplishments meant attending three classes a week with hours of determination, practice, and skill. But his job as a therapy dog came naturally.
Before COVID-19 prevented social gatherings, Bentley and Schuter regularly visited the Orange County Ronald McDonald House and read with children at the library.
“Of all the activities we participated in, hanging around children was his favorite,” she recalls. “He adores kids. At the Ronald McDonald House, families always requested Bentley to visit with their children before surgeries.”
To help relieve stress during finals, Bentley greeted students at the Hope International University in Fullerton and the University of California, Irvine. “The dog loves being in the limelight and laps up the attention going from one person to another,” says Schuter. “Bentley never seems to get tired.”
The duo also joined the Independent Service Dogs of Orange County to help console children after a student committed suicide. “At lunchtime, the kids had a choice whether to have free time or hang out with the dogs and they would come and hug Bentley and the other dogs,” remembers Schuter. “I don’t know how my dog knows who needs him the most, but, in a crowd, Bentley would pick out a child on the autism spectrum and nudge his hand.”