Ajay Singh, GSD Ambassador

January 01, 2021  •  9 Comments

This blog post is about Ajay Singh, a GSD breed expert and IGP competitor.  He is also someone who was instrumental in introducing me to dog sport.

20181104_BrianAghajani_01134-220181104_BrianAghajani_01134-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography


 
I met Ajay in 2000.  I had a young German Shepherd Dog named Otto that I had found in the local newspaper.  I was inexperienced as a handler having only owned house dogs before.  When Otto was a little over a year old he began to show dominance. I had my hands full with his antics which soon spiraled into outright aggression towards people.  After a three unprovoked bites on unsuspecting victims, each one becoming more serious, the situation had escalated into a genuine crisis.  After some research I found a ‘problem dog’ trainer who gave me the impression that she understood the seriousness of my predicament. 

Our training would involve using a slip line and setting up training opportunities (getting the dog to trigger to a stimulus) then apply significant correction input. Otto would respond by redirecting towards me and try to climb the leash.  The whole mess was incredibly stressful for everyone and not in any way fun. But I followed the program because I was desperate to save my dog from himself and myself from a lawsuit.  These private training sessions were held at a field also used by the Menlo Park Schutzhund Club.  This club would meet ton Saturday mornings right after my private lessons.  I remember seeing my first Schutzhund training session one morning.  I was awestruck when I saw Terry Macias with his dog Ike doing the coolest heeling I had ever seen. (As a side note, years later I would travel with Terry to compete at a few national championships with my next dog Bella, just another example of how dog sport lives intertwine.)  The delta between what I was doing in my training with a slip collar on Otto and what I saw these teams doing on the obedience field was almost incomprehensible to me.  While I was impressed with their obedience performances, it was protection training that set the hook in me. This level of advanced training seemed out of reach. It was like watching a Circ du Soliel performance, it was more of a dream than a reality from where I stood.

As I walked back to my truck after watching the club members practice, Ajay came over and started up conversation.  He had not seen me at the field before and asked if I trained.  I was embarrassed to say I trained. I don’t know what you would call what we were doing with my trainer.   Honestly, I was just trying to survive with my dog on the sidewalk without him wanting to eat someone.  He asked to see my dog.  I matter-of-factly replied, “I can’t, he’s dangerous.” I was unaware how sad this sounded because I was so exhausted with the situation. He replied with a booming laugh “It’s ok, let me see him.”  I still don’t know why, but for some reason I let Otto out of his crate for Ajay.  Understand that at this point in time, Otto had literally bit people immediately after coming out of his crate. To my surprise Ajay made friends with Otto and with wagging tail and all.  He said “let’s take him out on the field and see how he works.”  I had very little confidence handling this angry dog and particularly after watching all the flashy dogs but I reluctantly I agreed. We did some basic focus work and played with a ball. It was fun, not at all stressful and Otto seemed to enjoy it.  I wanted so much to find harmony with Otto and this moment was like a tall cool glass of water on a hot day.   In that instant everything about dogs changed for me.  

After Otto’s brief obedience session, I remember being so pleased with Otto as I put him up in the truck. I rushed back the field to thank Ajay and was just gushing with enthusiasm.  Then Ajay said “Let’s see if he bites.”  There was quiet as I was starting to think this dude is crazy.  I had already told him this dog will eat people, of course he bites, THAT’s our problem!  But Ajay used the calm reasoning he is so well known for and convinced me it would be ok.  I went back and got Otto out while my every instinct was screaming that this would not end well.  Ajay brought out a piece of leather on a rope and started to toss it from side to side.  Seeing this, and not understanding what Ajay was doing I expected Otto to go straight over the rag and bite him on the chest.  But nothing happened. Instead, Otto just sat there and sniffed the ground.  This was so confusing. I had just built this dog up as a wild beast and now he looking like a sweet pet which he was certainly not. Whilst I may have lacked confidence in my handling before, it was now compounded with embarrassment as I sheepishly said “I’m sorry, this is wasting your time.” Ajay snapped back, “I will tell you if you are wasting our time!”  And just then Otto bit the rag.  I must have looked like an inexperienced fisherman catching his first big fish because I had no idea what to do.  A small group of club members had gathered to watch and they all yelled “Run him in a big circle then take him to the truck!  Let him carry!”  And just like that, I was introduced to Schutzhund as it was called then, the sport we now call IGP.  

20180909.DSC_5340_20180909.DSC_5340_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala reporting out for obedience to SV Judge Thomas Lapp at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 

 

Later in our training Ajay took Otto and I for our first tracking session. All three of the Schutzhund phases were first experienced with Ajay’s guidance.  Ajay and I formed a lasting friendship. That nervous first dog made it all the way to a SchH3 title. He even entered the Northwestern Regionals and passed.  Life was never easy with Otto but it was a lot easier when we developed our relationship around training.   It would have been laughable to imagine entering a Regional Schutzhund Championship with Otto only a year prior but this actually happened.  

 

20180909.535_2932_20180909.535_2932_2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Terry Macias, Dave Deleissegues and Ajay Singh at the legendary South County Schutzhund Club which has produced many world championship competitors.  There is over 100 years of Schuzhund experience between them.

 

Twenty years on I still remember that day like it was yesterday.  Dog sport is now a major part of my life, from living with working dogs, to training dogs and photography focused on dog sport.  This lifestyle has provided me the opportunity to travel almost every month to a state or country to photograph the best dogs in the world.  In a split second I went from spectator to a participant and dog sport has had a profound effect on my life and choices I would make going forward. Ajay and I have had our paths intersect many times over the last two decades and I am honored to call him my friend. I contacted Ajay and asked if he would do an interview.  This is his story.

Ajay grew up in India in a home that had multiple dogs including some GSDs that had pedigrees with Schutzhund backgrounds.  Awareness of dog sport and working dogs was part of Ajay’s family upbringing.

In 1985 he moved with his family to America.  At age twenty three earned his Masters in Civil Engineering at UC Berkley before returning to India to make look for work and start a family.  However, his return to India was short lived as he started to become aware of the corruption that is part of life there and determined it would not where he wanted to raise a family.  He and his wife Bunty decided that America provided the best environment to raise a family and they moved to Northern California.   A few years after settling in he got a show/working line GSD and joined the Contra Costa Schutzhund club.

20181104_BrianAghajani_01201-220181104_BrianAghajani_01201-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

His first IGP training influence was Mike Simmons, a WUSV competitor who Ajay felt was ahead of his time with his concepts of how to train dogs in drive.  Later Ajay started training with Ivan Balabanov who had just moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with his female Malinois female -named Lia.  Ajay recalls being amazed by Ivan’s talent and also his confidence.  Ivan's program was perfect for Ajay at this time.  Ivan’s training built Ajay’s confidence, and as training progressed, Ajay the began to think about competing himself.   

Next Dean Calderon came into the picture. He was considered to be a top trainer in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Dean taught Ajay to focus on handling and a to develop a feel for the dog.  Mark Eric James was another mentor for Ajay.  With the help of these people Ajay was able realize his dream of competing and culminated in a showing at the WUSV World Championship with Arek vom Bodenthal.  He became the helper for Menlo Park Schutzhund Club which at the time was predominantly comprised of show dogs.  During Ajay’s time as the helper he helped influence a transition into an even split between working and show lines.  Ajay has always emphasized the importance of balancing the appearance and structure of a GSD with the stable temperament and working ability. He was the first one to introduce me to the concept of “Golden Middle.”

While Ajay had a number of working dogs before Arek, it was with this dog that his performance level of training started to receive recognition.  Arek would become the male that he used to launch his kennel named vom Patiala. Arek’s joy for work was obvious to anyone who watched them perform and he was a handsome dog with V2 at the Regional Conformation Show.  He had had good hips and elbows, a multiple National Championship competitor and a member of USA Team for the 1998 WUSV World Championship.  He was a stout and healthy dog with good pedigree (a Troll von der Bosen Nachbarschaft son).  Five of Arek’s progeny competed at the National Championships including Chief and Count vom Patiala.  

20180909.DSC_6090_20180909.DSC_6090_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala front-half transport with Willie Ortner Jr. at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 
 

While training and competing was Ajay’s first love, it was followed by a new found love to study the GSD breed, pedigrees and the ideas behind how to not only preserve the best attributes of the breed but to improve on them. Anyone who has met Ajay will affirm his obvious intelligence, but also his rational thought and quest for truth.  These attributes when applied to anybody are a virtue but particularly to a breeder.  His vom Patiala Kennel started with a breeding of Arek to Mitzi von der Edermunde (daughter of Anker Vom Ursania owned and bred by Helmut Raiser).  So far, they have whelped 25 litters spanning 30 years.  Vom Patiala has progeny have been used for the breeding programs for many respected working line kennels that produce competition dogs including vom Mack-Zwinger, vom Burmeister and Fallamhain Working German Shepherds. These kennels have produced frequent IGP competitors at National and even International IGP competion shown and trained by their own breeder (Breeder-Owner-Handler-Trained).  Ajay's competed himself with a BHOT as recently as the 2018 USCA GSD National IGP Championship.


In Ajay own words:
“We learned a lot of things about the breed as we became breeders. Our breeding program is just me and my wife Bunty.  She has never said no when I asked her for anything related to the dogs. Without her support it would not have been possible and I have not come across a better person to take care of my pups.  I believe her care shows prominently in our pups.  Our breeding principle has always been to keep a pup and treat other people the same way you would like to be treated. As an example of what this means we have never used a stud dog or puppy contract.  We do business on a hand shake.   We always prefer a loving and committed home over a competition home.  Along the way, our circle of friends kept on getting bigger of people who have the same love for the dogs and values.  Doesn’t mean all the dogs we bred were perfect.  Sometimes, despite having done due diligence with research, watching videos and interviewing people you only really learn the truth when you see the pups on the ground, good or bad.  Unfortunately this is part of the learning process, but we learn and move on."

“I aspire to deeper understanding of the German Shepherd Dog breed because it at the end of the day it is all about the breed.  A correct structure allows the dogs to perform the functions with greater ease.  Good joint health, and good lean muscles work hand in hand and keep the animal durable over its working life.  Good desire to perform the functions is the engine that drives the body.  Training means training the natural drives of the dog, so you don’t have to manufacture anything.  The goal of competing should be to present the dog to the breed and other trainers, whether it is the local, regional, or national audience.  I train to do justice to my partner and the dogs I compete with but it is important that the dog I present on the field is a good representatives of the breed.  The goal is to give back to the breed that gives you joy everyday.    The only thing we can give back is representative specimens of the breed.  Every training session should be fun because it allows one to spend time with fellow dog lovers.”

 

20180909.DSC_5107_20180909.DSC_5107_Ajay Singh & Ucon v. Patiala 2018 USCA NW Region IPO Championship. San Jose, CA.

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA North Western Region IGP Championship, Morgan Hill, CA 
 

20181104_BrianAghajani_01146-220181104_BrianAghajani_01146-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 


 

20181104_BrianAghajani_01226-220181104_BrianAghajani_01226-2Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 

 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01091-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01091-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01693-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01693-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala Search for the Helper at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01940-3_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01940-3_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ajay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala guarding Brady Schnowske at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01777-2-Edit_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01777-2-Edit_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ucon vom Patiala handling the highest pressure from front-half helper Jeff Davis at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 
 

181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01845-2_$C Ajay Singh181104_#20181104_BrianAghajani_01845-2_$C Ajay SinghAjay Singh & Ucon vom Patiala, IPO3. 11/4/2018 USCA GSD National IPO Championship. Pittsburgh, PA. Brian Aghajani Photography

Ucon vom Patiala and Ajay finishing front-half protection at the 2018 USCA GSD IGP National Championship, Pittsburgh, PA 

 

In closing, there is no way I would have become an IGP competitor and later a traveling dog sport photographer had Ajay not invited me to bring out my dog that day we met.   As we travel the road of our dog sport journey, we are sometimes perceived justified or not as ‘experts’ to the 99.9% of the population that have only experienced dogs as house pets.  IGP involves protection and stick hits which can easily be misunderstood by the general population, with this the risk of being banned.  All of us that love this sport must share the understanding of the benefits and purpose of the protection phase. We share a responsibility to be ambassadors for the dog sport.  Ajay’s personal example with his actions and words made such an impact on me that 20 years later I am writing this blog. He is a model dog sport ambassador and has made countless other positive impressions in his three decades involved in the GSD community.  I aspire to ‘pay it forward’ with my photography and sharing of dog sport stories.  Each of us has this opportunity when we represent our sport and we owe this to our dogs and our sport.  I am grateful and proud to consider Ajay as a mentor and friend.
 

 

 

 


Comments

Kay Anderson(non-registered)
Really enjoyed reading this! Ajay is a man who lives and truly loves the GSD. He is gen
Diane(non-registered)
Great article! I've only known Ajay for a short time but I can already attest that not only does Ajay generously give his time to help others learn the sport, but he has a talent for teaching and sharing his depth of knowledge and experience. He does this with a genuine kindness while also instilling a greater appreciation for the German Shepherd and for the sport as a whole. There’s a lot of misconceptions about what IGP is, and it can be intimidating for newcomers as well as casual observers. As your article depicts, Ajay has been a great ambassador with an openness and willingness to engage others to bring about a better understanding of the GSD and how the sport can bring out a dog's potential, and ultimately (I hope) a better and more fulfilled relationship with these dogs.
Rita(non-registered)
What an amazing story. I enjoyed reading and learning about other folk’s journey in life with the special breed. I’ve been drawn to the breed for well over thirty years. It amazes me how intelligent a dog is with the proper training and schooling. I’m interested in learning more about the sport. Ajay Singh brought out the best in Otto. The friendship will last forever.
Timothy Earle(non-registered)
This was and amazing article and so true to life. I am no one special in this sport. I simply love training,learning, and having fun in this sport. I was blessed to get my new team mate Uno Jr. V Bora. A Uno vom Patiala pup.I am still surprised and honored by the motivational call from Ajay Singh whom I have never met; but his call was right on time. This sport needs more people like him. Thank you for sharing.
Kobby(non-registered)
Very well articulated tribute. Kudos
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