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.... of Vom Schloss Hexental Working Rottweilers in Belgium and author of
"30 Years of European Rottweiler Breeding
(1970-2000)".


Guy doing Helperwork at a seminar in the UK (2004)

TRC: How did you come to be involved with Rottweilers?

 GV: When I was about 15 years we had two Dobermans at my parents. They were kept as guard dogs and pets. At that time I was competing in Tae Kwon Do (Korean Karate) and I was 100 % focused on that. However my parents bred one litter with Mirza vd Westkant (the black Dobe bitch, the other Dobe was a brown bitch) and sold a male puppy to a friend of mine. This friend started in the dog sport and attracted my attention to train dogs. First I've looked to buy a strong Doberman to start with but by coincidence my eye fell on the guard dog from a local woodshop, you can guess: a Rottweiler. Igor d'Havilland was a medium sized, dry but a PHENOMENAL, tough guard dog coming from old Austrian bloodlines. As I'm obsessed in all my doing I started to collect all info on Rottweilers (who at that time, in the 1980's were a "rare breed" over here in Belgium), visited all Rottweiler owners in the neighborhood, and visited kennels, etc. We became friends with some older people who had the first Rottweiler in our province, East Flanders, a Benno v Algauer Tor-daughter.

TRC: That�s very interesting. So, your family was Doberman owners and you got hooked on the Rottweiler?

GV: We always had dogs at my parents, first some small mix-breeds and later Dobes. I bought my first Rottweiler in 1986 shortly before we (my girlfriend and I) bought the house where we still live now.

TRC: At what point did you decide to compete with Rottweilers in work and show trials?

 GV: Our first bitch had hip dysplasia. This made us become more careful and look for something better. We bought, after a long search, a male in Holland, however from full ADRK working lines (sire was Ambassador v Freienfels, dam was a Brenta v Bakkes daughter) and started in Obedience, as my girlfriend (who is now my wife) was against "bitework". Nero vd Markenrichter was a dog with more working drives as the local gene pool than and soon after obtaining my Obedience Brevet I was able to convince my girlfriend that there was no danger in training Schutzhund. He was 2 years by than and 5 months later he received his Schutzhund (SchH) 1 title, 5 months later his SchH 2 and, with some problems, a year later his SchH 3. He also competed very well in show. He was not very good looking but because we all most had no concurrence in the working class he won several times. The race was started...

TRC: Who was your foundation bitch was it Sheba v Riaflo?

 GV: No, Sheba was the dysplastic bitch; she lived as our house pet till she became 11 years. Our first breeding bitch was a Dutch import Anka vh Boyapark (a Chris v Obergrombacher Schloss daughter), she is the grandmother of Champions Tron, Tyson, Xplosiv and Umbro vh Polderbos. Our real foundation bitch was Froni vd Siegbrucke (Danjo v Schwaiger Wappen x Dixi vd Siegbrucke), a German import, as our bloodlines all go back to her.

TRC: Is there any mentor or mentors who have played a great role in your Rottie knowledge, success, etc?

GV: Several people! In my early start in the breed I learned a lot from Solveig Doderer (the breeder of Ambassador v Freienfels) and Andreas Oberst (her Helper and Helper-teacher with the SV). Later when I was more involved in breeding I learned much from Jos Geerts (vd Runderkraal) who is a real specialist in bloodlines and from Eddy Ten Grootenhuyzen (Secretary of the BRK in that time and working and Conformation Rottweiler Judge). Also Ton Emmers (v't Straotje) gave me lots of good advice and was always an example for me. As for working I've learned a lot from top German Shepherd (GSD) people such as working Judge Luc De Clercq, Helper Eddy De Roeck, GSD breeder Eugene Van Dooren and one of the best Belgian trainers that time Francois Muylaert. Also Diane Van Damme (working GSD's Akbar) was like the working dog bible for me.

TRC: Why do you breed Rottweilers and what is your goal or goals?

GV: I became in love with the breed like any other Rottweiler-owner and by owning them I was dragged into the breed completely. Most of the people who have once had a Rottweiler never change breeds again, or if they do they come back again later. I started in SchH with 90% GSDs competing (we with our Rottweiler were no competition for them) and the mentality of the clubs were very "racist" towards Rottweilers. I think they (the GSD-people) made me stronger and more motivated by always pecking on the "Rotten-weiler". My first dog in the sport, Nero vd Markenrichter, HD/A, IPO3, Obedience Brevet, B.Koerung, BOB, was a fast Rottie but he was afraid of the stick. The scores he made were not enough to compete against the working GSDs and this made me decide to breed the competitive Rottweiler, as there were no working lines in Belgium in that time. I decided to breed the ultimate working Rottweiler and this aim was very clear, it became an obsession. What made us think different than other Rottie-breeders or owners was the fact that I was taught by pure working-GSD people and following the highest GSD norms. The few working Rottweilers we had in Belgium were training in RW (Rottweiler)-or Boxer clubs. To learn more on the working drives and character I decided to become SchH-Helper in 1989.


TRC: I was speaking recently to Loren Chiever, the owner of Gawan vom Zimmerplatz, who last year finished his AKC championship in the United States. Loren says that so many people in the AKC are surprised to find out Gawan is a SchH 3 dog because he is very stable and sociable. Also, you mentioned your wife having reservations about bite work, what would you say to someone today is not that knowledgeable and says that Rottweilers should not do bite work because it makes them dangerous?

GV: My wife was completely unaware of dogsports and this was also more than 15 years ago. SchH is a sport. You need a very stable dog. Nervous, coward or aggressive dogs are not usefull in this sport. The "bitework" in the sleeve is a further developement of the retrieve �exercise. It is nothing more than a game for the dog. If he pulls long enough on the sleeve he gets it as a reward. I have even known dogs that became MORE sociable by doing bitework! Some frustrated dogs or dogs with very high working drives that don�t do any work can become "overheated". The SchH-sport is the ideal sport to "let the steam off" and get the dog more stable. After all we SchH-hunders are mostly also ordinary family-men and not frustrated matcho�s. In my opinion the Rottweiler is a working-dog and he must keep his guard and working instincts, he was bred for that and only by training and testing him in SchH will he be able to keep these instincts.

TRC: Some people ask, should individuals do bite work with a Rottweiler if they are not going to be used for police work?

GV: Sure, it's fun for owner and dog. The tracking in the nature, the obedience full of rewards with his toy and the defense-work are the total package. Dogs love it! People who do it they know. I assure everybody that a dog trained/titled in SchH is a stable, friendly dog. He will not become more aggressive. Police work is different. The bitework is not done in prey-drive (retrieve drive) but out of defense. The full biting suit used in the Ringsport is more civil, the dog can�t be rewarded by being given the suit. Police work is only for people with knowledge and who use their dog only for those purposes.

TRC: So, again (and I am asking this so you can address it to the person with little or no knowledge of schutzhund), Does schutzhund and the bite work involved change the character or temperment of a dog?

 GV: Before you can train/compete in SchH everybody must pass the BH (Begleithundprufung- traffic secure dog). BH is a sociability-obedience test and NO aggressive dog can pass. Normally the character doesn�t change, sometimes it will bring the dog more peaceful by getting his steam off. Look to the biting incidents worldwide, how many involved dogs do SchH? Yes, practically none! People who train this sport have much more obedience and discipline on their dog than other people.

TRC: Regarding the working aspect, I heard you mention recently that you have felt a need to begin using more show oriented, German lines in your program. Why is that? Are you trying to bring particular things into your line or is it more to follow the direction the breed is going in around the world (less focus on work)?

GV: In the beginning as a breeder (1991) I have selected purely on working drives. I always tried to use a serious working dog that was still decent looking and preferably had some Austrian blood in him. I've bred to dogs like Arri v Hertener Wappen, Carlo v Hamburger Michel, Muck v Gruntenblick, Hero v Hohegeiss, Lesko v Heltorfer Forst, my own studs Magnus v Glucksstern and Igor v Muthmannsdorf, Janko v Herrenholz, Icare vd Traisenwiese and several others. All these studs were tough working dogs and some of them were very good looking. However, from about 2000 I felt that I was missing some show quality compared to my competitors who were breeding full show lines. The head-type became "over typical" and dogs like Akino vd Lauterbrucke, Endy vd Kurpfalz, Balou v Silberblick and Mambo vd Crossener Ranch were considered as the norm for a "good" headpiece. This made me decide to get some "safe" show-blood. By this I mean stud dogs who could increase conformation, yet still produced enough working drives, like Mambo vd Teufelsbrucke to name one. At the moment I feel that I have enough of these lines because many of our dogs are winning in the show ring and in the nearest future I will go back to the working lines.

TRC: You have been studying the Austrian program for many years. The German program, as the founding country of the breed, is the best known and followed system and is known to be a very strict system with breed tests, breed wardens, etc. How do the programs differ? And what makes the Austrian system unique?

 GV: Germany has the strictest breeding program in the world, no doubt about that. As for Austria there are two different breeding programs: the Army breeding program and the civil breeding program. The OERK has always followed the ADRK system. In fact they were even stricter on hip dysplasia than Germany. All Austrian lines have Army-blood in them. It is this "vd Karl-Adolf Ranch" blood that I really love. They are even in the roots of most ADRK lines! The Austrian state started their breeding program back in 1963 and they are the strictest working selection worldwide. I have written an interesting article on these dogs which people can read on my website. http://users.skynet.be/hexental


TRC: Would you consider their dogs superior to other countries as far as working Rottweilers are concerned?

 GV: No, not anymore but there was a time that they were more healthy and faster than any other population worldwide. Most of the recent bloodlines are 75-100% German. Only the Army has some of the old lines preserved. Our kennel has probably more old Austrian bloodlines than any civil breeder in Austria.

TRC: Have there been or are there currently Austrian dogs competing internationally in working trials (ring, schutzhund, etc)? And if so, how did they perform?

 GV: The Austrian breeders were always kind of non-commercial, in begin of the 90's when I phoned or wrote them they didn�t answer my letters or they said they would send all of the info I needed but nothing came. The international working IFR trials were invented a little too late for the real old tough lines and only some of the last good competing dogs were Herzog v Bischof-Sitz, Brando v Haus Pronebner, Dack v Haus Probebner, and in Germany Karo v Schwaiger Wappen. In France offspring from Bora v Pfaffengraben and in Belgium offspring from our stud Igor v Muthmannsdorf do very good in both SchH and Ringsport.

TRC: To refer to one of the online German Working Rottweilers discussion forums, I have seen you involved with some discussions regarding the Eastern block countries (of the former Soviet Union), just to clarify, is your position that these countries are mostly show lines and not focusing on the working aspects? What are your thoughts about the lines in these countries?

 GV: The Eastern-Block countries� kennels are pure commercial breeders. Most of these people breed dogs to survive in the weak economical situation of their country. For that they do many things. Commercial lines are show-lines. Almost none of the breeders work their dogs and they don�t select on working dogs. They are breeding dogs that are fashionable for show people. Maybe it's better not to go deeper into this subject.

TRC: I am tempted to probe to get you to go deeper but I will avoid the controversial for now, so we can cover some other topics. I have your curriculum vitae (which is also posted on the Vom Schloss Hexental web-site) and can see many of your great accomplishments. From your perspective/opinion, what are some of your greatest achievements in Rottweilers?

GV: I'm proud of the fact that everything what my wife and I or my dogs accomplished was without politics! This way is slower, harder but it lasts longer. I'm proud I did it (to quote Frank Sinatra) "my way". I�m known as being a strange duck. In the beginning we had lots of "wind in the front" from some powerful people, we didn�t follow the normal paths and this is seen to be wrong in a small country as Belgium. We used different dogs, selected on different aspects and did things that no other Belgian did before us. Our aim was to build our own, unique, respected working-bloodline and to have dogs in every continent worldwide. At the moment I think we have succeeded in all these traits. I leave it up to the people to admit or not. Some of our greatest achievements are to be at the base of the best working Rottweilers ever in Belgium and many other parts of the world. The import of Igor v Muthmannsdorf was also an important fact in our career. He was different than all the dogs I knew at that time.

I'm also proud to be the founder of one of the biggest SCHH-Policedog clubs in Belgium, the VLPV. I developed my own way of training mostly Rottweilers for SCHH and POL.DH and I�m able to give working seminars worldwide. My book about the Rottweiler-population of the last 30 years in Western Europe is also not to forget as I only received positive reactions from all over the world. One must know that I�m Author, Publisher and Distributor all by myself, I had no help, nor sponsoring from abroad. Anyway, I think our biggest accomplishments are still to come.

TRC: Talk about some of the great working Rottweilers that you have seen? Who is the greatest (if it can even answered)?

GV: This is a difficult question as what is a great working? Is it high scoring or being impressive in his/her drives? For the high scores I must mention Arri v Hertener Wappen, Rocco v Horster Dreieck, Pascha v Hegestrauch, Dack v Haus Pronebner, Benno v Florian, Asko v Wildfang, Xari v Schloss Hexental, Tyson vh Polderbos, Yanos v Heimat Dior, Etzel vd Silbergrube, etc.

As for being impressive workers I must mention Ken v Sternbogen, Lars v Alt Mengenich, Uber & Uschi v Schloss Hexental, Castor v Hause Swiatecky, Maik v Oberhausener Norden, Igor v Muthmannsdorf, Basko v Hertener Wappen, Langshoffens Fax, Askija v Shambala, Clif v Hammerbachtal, Vasco v Heyverhaus, Baco vd Tripelallianz, Kai v Haus Pronebner, Fax v Tengen, etc.

I am sure I have forgotten several others too. My apologies.


TRC: Do you think the breed has changed much since it was first developed and if so, how so?

GV: Myself I'm into Rottweilers from beginning of the 80's. All dogs from before I have only seen on pictures or video or from hearing about. Here in Belgium the overall type was a medium-sized heavy dog, very stubborn character and low working drives. Iwan v Fusse der Eifel was an extremely popular stud at the end of the 80�s here in Holland and Belgium. He had most of the offspring on the ground than any other stud and therefore he put his stamp on that population. The Iwan sons and daughters were to slow and had mostly a nervous and not full grip to compete at a serious level in SchH. This was one of the main reasons for me to start my own kennel and breed the competive, fast, agile and full grip-Rottweiler. The recent Rottie definitely has more working drives, is faster, is not so stubborn anymore and is friendlier. The last is maybe from a different training mentality as we correct immediately any kind of sharpness.

As for looks the coat is shorter, the muzzle is fuller, the eyes are overall darker, the brown markings are darker, the rear angulations are better and the back is shorter.


TRC: Unfortunately, and unfairly, Rottweilers still have a very negative image across the world and there are still active efforts to limit or even eliminate the right to own one. What does the future of the breed look like? Is it promising?

GV: The media is responsible for the biggest part of the bad name. The Rottweiler was and is always shown as synonymous with evil or bad in the movies. Ironically, because of this negative "publicity" he became fashionable. Everybody started to breed and sold puppies to everybody who wanted one. As we know the Rottweiler is not a dog for everyone and one incident after another became hot news. This breed will never be a fashion-dog, it is a too strong dog and he's bred to be a guard and defense dog. He must be used as such. The future is very unsure but I think (and hope) we have the worst part already behind us.


TRC: About tails, was Belgium one of the later countries to institute the ban on docking tails?

GV: Yes, it all started in Scandinavia, came over to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Holland and Belgium. From 1 January 2006 we Belgians cannot dock anymore, however I must say that at the moment most of the Belgian breeders don�t dock anymore out of free will.

TRC: Did you make the decision to not dock? Or will you wait until the ban is in effect?

GV: In the beginning of those bans in 1998 we wanted to dock till the last minute. Now 6 years later we have 3 dogs with tail and my family and I like them more with tail as without. At the moment we still dock on request but we try to convince the people not to.

TRC: How was it for you in the beginning, was it a tough adjustment?

GV: Not at all, after a while a Rottweiler with tail became "exotic" as the thought was he must have been coming from the home country Germany.

TRC: Before we close I want to ask a few questions to help the person who is new to dogsports. Where does the person who is looking for a puppy to work (schutzhund) begin? Is it enough to get a puppy from schutzhund parents?

GV: No! Countries like Germany have a long SchH tradition and almost every dog is titled there. For me there is a very big difference between a "dog who's working" and a "working talent". We need a "working talent" to compete at a decent level. If you just want to title your dog no matter how much training, effort or time you can do that with almost every dog.

TRC: Where do they go from that point? Do you do a lot of imprinting on young puppies or the old method of letting them be free until 12-18 months or so?

GV: One must start with a good working-line pedigree and the working qualities of the dam must be ideal, no matter what the scores are on paper. Then we must wait and hope�

 

The first 7-8 months of a puppy's life must be nothing else as imprinting and build up the contact with the trainer and do some tracking. To build up the contact I use food and ball or biting roll. All my dogs are built up partly over the "positive learning method" but without a clicker as I make an individual voice with my mouth. After 8 months I start the beginning of obedience and some bite work. My youngest male Conan v Schloss Hexental is almost at this point right now, his dam is one of our best working females: Askija v Shambala and his sire is one of the best working Austrian-Army dogs: Eliott v Kaisersteinbruch. We are extremely proud on our future stud dog, as Conan is better than our best expectations.

 

TRC: Well, I certainly hope that the reader is as excited about this interview as I am and has learned as much as I did. Thanks for your time, Guy.

GV: My pleasure, thank you for choosing to interview me, Karim. I hope that there is a lot here for the reader to learn about our great breed. Don�t give up! Warm regards.

Interview by Karim Camara

 

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