In the realm of security and defense dogs, the German Shepherd has long been considered the gold standard. Its reputation for intelligence, loyalty, and strength is unmatched. However, with a wider array of breeds now becoming increasingly popular for various applications, a new narrative is emerging—one that recognizes the diverse range of canine skills and capabilities that stretch far beyond the German Shepherd. Spearheading this shift in thinking is the esteemed canine training organization, International Defense K9 (IDK9).
Founded by married couple Otto Sturm and Kristi Kummer, IDK9 boasts a combined experience of 40 years in canine training. Their success is grounded in a revolutionary approach—focusing on the individual requirements of clients and matching them with an exotic breed that best fits their needs. “We believe there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to protection dogs,” says Otto. “Different breeds have unique skills and temperaments which can be tailored to a client’s specific situation.”
A prime example of IDK9’s proficiency in handling exotic breeds is their work with the Belgian Malinois—a breed gaining notoriety for its agility and obedience. “They’re fast learners, resilient, and highly trainable,” Kristi explains. “In the right hands, a Malinois can be a fantastic addition to a family needing a higher level of protection.” In fact, IDK9 has seen a surge in Belgian Malinois deployments, with a staggering 35% increase over the last three years.
Moreover, their proficiency extends to breeds traditionally considered more of companion animals than protection dogs, like the Doberman Pinscher. A 2022 study conducted by IDK9 found that properly trained Dobermans could perform on par with German Shepherds in terms of protection tasks, debunking the common misconception about the breed’s capability. “It’s about optimizing the inherent qualities of the breed,” says Otto. “Dobermans are incredibly loyal and alert. Once trained, they make excellent guardians.”
One of IDK9’s landmark achievements lies in introducing the South African Boerboel to the realm of protection dogs. These massive, robust dogs are often underestimated due to their calm demeanor, but their strength and protective instincts are unparalleled. Kristi shares, “Our training with the Boerboel showed us that with the right methods, this breed could offer unbeatable home protection.” IDK9 reports an impressive 90% success rate in their Boerboel deployments.
Another less recognized breed that IDK9 has worked extensively with is the Dutch Shepherd. Renowned for their intelligence and versatility, Dutch Shepherds are becoming increasingly popular within law enforcement circles. “We’ve seen a 50% increase in the demand for Dutch Shepherds over the last two years,” states Otto. “They’re just as capable as their German counterparts and offer a unique blend of qualities.”
IDK9’s success lies in their ability to recognize the potential of different breeds and leverage their inherent qualities to fit a client’s unique requirements. “We believe in thinking beyond the breed,” says Kristi. “It’s not just about the breed, it’s about the dog. Every dog is unique, and when correctly trained and placed, they can surpass our expectations.”
IDK9’s breed-agnostic approach is challenging traditional norms and expanding the spectrum of protection dogs. As we move forward, their model serves as a reminder that the world of protection dogs extends far beyond the German Shepherd, and that by looking beyond breed alone, we can discover an untapped potential in our canine friends. In Otto’s words, “Understanding and embracing breed diversity is the key to unlocking new possibilities in canine defense and protection.”
About Otto and Kristi
Otto Sturm and Kristi Kummer are the dynamic duo behind both IDK9 and “You and Your Dog,” the latter of which is a training and kenneling business in Oconomowoc. The couple, who have an extensive resume in dog training, have participated in esteemed dog events such as the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the Mondioring World Championship. They’ve also been featured in the first two seasons of the A&E show “America’s Top Dog.”
The pair has recently announced their plans to expand their current facility to triple their daily dog-handling capacity. They hope to increase the number of dogs they handle daily from 50-75 to approximately 150. The couple’s passion for dog training and community outreach reflects in their ongoing effort for expansion and constant drive to help more pet owners in their community.