Stefan Hildebrand, IGP world level helper & DMC Team Captain
Stephan Hildebrand is a 38-year-old world championship-level helper, father, and policeman from Maulbronn, Germany. I met Stephan at the 2022 FMBB IGP World Championship in Karpenisi, Greece. He was the German National Team Captain. Stephan is charismatic and outgoing, the type that you immediately feel as though you have been long-time friends. I found him to be an interesting mix of qualities. On the one hand, he is genuine, open, and good-natured. On the other, he has understated confidence and a no-bullshit aura. Hi is the type of person that is fun to be around but the guy you would want covering your back if you found yourself in a predicament.
A few months after the FMBB World Championship, I met Stefan again in Florida, where he was the front-half helper for the AWMA (American Working Malinois Championship). Jessica and I were accredited photographers for this event. As photographers, we interact with the helpers throughout an IGP championship. Many helpers are highly focused and don't say much, which is understandable. Others have temperaments like working dogs on the field, switching from 'Beast Mode' to engaging and friendly off the field. I found Stefan this way, often making jokes and conversing with us as he walked off the field after each dog. I asked if he would mind sitting for an interview after the event. We met up in our blue Sprinter van and chatted. Our conversations continued at the 2023 FMBB World Championship in Romania. Following is some of what I would come to learn about Stefan
This is a brief overview of Stefan's accomplishments:
Police K9 Handler 2010-2020 in Göppingen, Germany
Police K9 Trainer 2021- in Göppingen, Germany
Team Captain for DMC (the German national Malinois club)
• 2022 FMBB World Championship, Greece
• 2022 VDH All-Breed German National Championship
• 2023 FMBB World Championship, Romania
• 2022 VDH All-Breed German National Championship
• 2024 FMBB World Championship, Germany
Championship IGP Helper
• 2023 DMC National Championship
• 2022 AWMA National Championship, USA
• 2022 DMC Regio Trial
• 2021 SWHV (South German All-Breed Championship)
• 2021 DMC Region Trial
• 2021 DMC Trial
• 2018 Malinois National Championship, Norway
• 2018 DHV Championship
• 2018 SWHV Championship
• 2017 DHV Championship
• 2017 DMC National Championship
• 2017 FMBB World Championship
• 2017 DMC Trial
• 2016 DHV Championship
• 2016 SWHV Championship
• 2015 DHV Championship
• 2014 SWHV Championship
IGP Competitor with Mystique Lubinov Slovakia
• 2019 DVH Championship 14th Place
• 2019 DMC Championship 31st Place
Stefan had no sport dog involvement before the age of 18 years when he bought his first dog, a Rottweiler. He found a local IGP club to start training but reluctantly came to the understanding that his dog was not suited to IGP. This story could have ended there had it not been for some club members who asked if Stefan would try helper work. He quickly became the club helper. He taught himself most of the skills, learning from experience. This self-development theme has been consistent through his sport dog experience, experimenting and refining his reflective understanding of the craft.
That is not to say there were no critical influences. Oliver Schniz, his best friend and godfather to his son, helped him throughout his helper career, traveling with him to selection trials and supporting Stefan's passion. Markus Neutz helped teach many of the correct fundamental techniques essential to advance to championship-level helper work.
In 2016 Stefan's helper skills had developed so much that he was now regularly selected as a regional-level championship helper. The next logical step was to try out for the DMC National Championship. He went to the DMC National Championship selection event but was not selected. Instead of dwelling on being passed over, he focused on some insightful feedback he received during the event. Bjorne Giesen was impressed with Stefan's work and gave him detailed instructions on what he needed to improve. A common trait among many great athletes is the willingness to take a coach. Stefan went home and began working on these suggestions daily, often alone in front of a mirror. One year later, he returned and was not only selected for the 2017 DMC National Championship but also for the DHV National Championships, the Dutch Shepherd World Championship, and the FMBB World Championship!
Ivan Balabanov is one of the God Fathers of IGP in the USA. His influence in IGP, particularly with Malinois, is profound. Ivan was part of the organization for the 2022 AWMA Nationals and was determined to make it a world-class event. He invited two of the most prestigious world championship judges, Alfons Van den Bosh and Josef Adamuščin, and then set about selecting world-level helpers. The chose Atilla Takács and Stefan. I asked Ivan why they chose Stefan. Ivan said he follows all the championships around the world. He said Stefan's strengths are consistency and fairness while providing world-class pressure and technique. He also thinks that Stefan is a cool guy. That is one heck of a reference from a x2 world champion.
In 2019 Stefan paused his competition IGP helper work to focus on training and competing with his dog, Mystique Lubinov Slovakia. He competed in three championships, making him part of a select few in the dog sport world who have accomplished helper work at world championship levels and trained/shown a dog at a national championship level.
Dog sport was Stefan's first love, but it also inspired him to work with dogs as his profession. In 2010 he became a Police K9 Handler with a dog of his breeding. His dog was a patrol dog and a blood/cadaver search dog. After ten years as a K9 handler, Stefan advances to K9 handler trainer for his police department, a role that he presently holds.
Stefan is a Malinois breeder with his kennel RagnarsBreed. RagnarsBreed Malinois has seen success in dog sports and police work. His current sport dog is Apachie RagnarsBreed, with whom he plans to compete next year.
At only 38 years of age, Stefan has already achieved a lifetime of experience to which few can compare. As impressive as the list of achievements may be, my impression is of a person who is present in the moment and follows his passion without hesitation. He has a positive influence on those he is around. He makes eye contact and is sincerely interested in people. He is massively competent in his craft but genuinely modest. Stefan is a genuinely good person, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him. Dog sport is lucky to have such a person in our midst.
Recent PostsKatka Müller, FMBB IGP World Champion Dave Kroyer, Working Dog Professional, National BMX Racer & Classically Trained Musician Erin O'Shea, Scientist & IGP Champion Stefan Hildebrand, IGP world level helper & DMC Team Captain Laurie Schweizer, USA IGP National Champion Jessica Aghajani, Dog Sport Photographer Mike Diehl & Gazze - A Tribute Ajay Singh, GSD Breeder Frank Phillips, USA IGP National Champion Lee Hendricks, IGP Competitor