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  Interview with Steve Wolfson

TRC: Can you begin by telling the reader about yourself (background)?
SW: I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, New York and graduated Long Island University in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Both of my parents had dogs all their lives, so it was natural for me to be involved with the canine. I have been active with pure breed dogs for over 50 years. First, I became involved with the Cocker Spaniel in the early sixties, followed by the Doberman, then to my passion, the Rottweiler, from 1977 to the present.

TRC: When and how did you become involved with Rottweilers? (I believe you told me once that you started in Giant Schnauzers)
SW: While walking home one day, I saw a man with a dog that I did not recognize. I approached him to ask what kind of dog he was walking? He replied that it was a Rottweiler. His dog greatly impressed me with its masculinity and aloof temperament; I was intrigued to learn more. Yes, I owned a Champion Giant Schnauzer that I specialed for a while, but that was years after I had been active in Rottweilers.

TRC: What are your current Rottweiler activities?
SW: Presently, I am on the board of the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) and I am actively judging, lecturing and writing articles on Rottweilers.

TRC: Who are the current dogs that you own?
SW: Currently, I own four dogs of my own breeding. The one I am most proud of is my V rated- Dux von Wolf SchH 1, Ztp AD, BH.

TRC: What are some of your achievements in the breed?
SW: Being instrumental in protecting and defending the good name of
the Rottweiler, here on Long Island by appearing on local radio, TV and the Pet Expo, a board member of the ARC, an American Kennel Club Rottweiler Breeder judge, authoring and publishing my book on the Rottweiler, writing many articles on the Rottweiler, which were published here and in Europe, breeding my own Schutzhund titled Rottweiler and judging the IFR conformation show in Bologna, Italy, this past May.

TRC: Many of the people who will come across the Rottweiler Chronicle site and interview are interested in Rottweilers but not experts. What could you tell a person who is considering getting a Rottweiler? I mean, what few things does the person I need to know as they make their final decision?
SW: The Rottweiler is an impressing masculine dog. It is a dog that
requires training, and a firm hand, a breed that has a noble genetic
heritage and a history as a guard and service dog. Many purchase the
Rottweiler and enjoy the legend of this heritage and masculine appearance but are uncomfortable and have great difficulty with the actuality of these characteristics when they surface. One must always learn, study, read the standard thoroughly, and obtain hands on knowledge before one makes any purchase; fantasy is always better than reality.

TRC: How would you assess the state of the breed internationally?
SW: Can I assume you refer to the Rottweiler from a morphological and
temperament perspective?

TRC: Yes, why not discuss it from that perspective.
SW: From that international perspective, I would say it is doing
well, both in conformation and in temperament. Our FCI counterparts are very good in type and character. Generally, their dogs and bitches are powerful in type with impressive heads and zygomatic arch, powerful broad short muzzles, bone mass, color of markings and locomotion. They are also keenly sensitive to maintaining the working temperament of the Rottweiler. This aspect is held in high esteem in Europe and all the FCI recognized countries.

TRC: And in the US?
SW: In the US, I believe we have taken a detour both in conformation and in temperament, unlike our FCI counterparts. Instead of improving upon the dogs of the early sixties and seventies, we have detoured and are witnessing an erosion of what once was. Presently, this detour has greatly diminished the Rottweilers masculine breed type and its superb working/service character. Yes, we still have certain specimens that have retained the original type and temperament. However, the masculine heads with powerful zygomatic arch, muzzles, stops, bone mass, and musculature have become too often, frail and spindly. Additionally, few bother to maintain the working/service character.

TRC: So in addition to the lack of focus on the working character, you think there is a physical difference in the Rottweiler here in the US as compared to in Germany?
SW: Let me first state that all the Rottweilers in Germany and our
FCI counterparts are not superb examples of the breed. They have their
mediocre ones as well. Generally, however, there are significant physical
differences. The areas I speak of are apparent in the top skull, the stop,
muzzle, zygomatic arch, and general mass of the head. There are also
differences in bone mass and color of markings. For example, in our FCI counterparts, the heads of the dogs are impressive, exuding masculinity and power. The heads are more substantial with better pronunciation in the stop and zygomatic arch, are more correct in the skull to muzzle ratio, broader in the muzzle at the base with more depth of muzzle in the lower jaw and more bone mass than ours. Additionally, the color of markings is a richer mahogany. These significant differences are strongly evident in their bitches as well.

TRC: What impact if any has the tail-docking ban had on the Rottweiler
SW: From what I have seen, there has been no negative impact. At
first, this dilemma encountered great animosity and was met uncomfortably. Today, however, the tail is now accepted as the rule. There has been no positive impact either. When the tail-docking ban was first introduced, I heard some in the states exclaim that this enabled the Rottweiler to gait better. That statement is absurd. If a Rottweiler has impediments in its gait due to structural incongruities, the addition of a tail will not improve it.

TRC: You mentioned being on the board of the ARC. What can you tell us about ARC as an organization?
SW: First, the ARC is the official representative of the Rottweiler in the US and recognized as such in all FCI countries worldwide. We also have the largest membership of any US Rottweiler organization. The ARC promotes the good name of the Rottweiler via our activities, awards members that have made contributions to the breed, distributes charitable funds, has an official Judges Breed Study program, the ARC Rottweiler measurement survey, and holds a national event rotating each year through out the US to name a few.

TRC: And can you tell us more about your involvement with the club?
SW: My involvement in the ARC is on an executive level, which is that
of a board member. The 9 board members of the ARC, consisting of the President, Vice president, Secretary, Treasurer, and five directors, is tasked by the membership to run the daily business of the club. It also appoints committees, distributes funds, oversees the Judges Breed Study program, maintains the awards program and its statistics etc.

TRC: Have there been discussions within the ARC about Rottweilers with tails and the disqualification from the AKC breed ring?
SW: Yes, this has been a dilemma for us. There have been many pros and cons coming from the membership concerning the tail, but at this time, no specific decision has been made.

TRC: Do you believe there will ever be a time when Rottweilers with tails are not disqualified from the AKC conformation ring (as I believe is the case in Canada)?
SW: Rottweilers with an undocked tail are not prohibited from entering the
AKC show ring. How they are adjudicated is the judge's decision.

TRC: But is it that clear cut? Have you seen Rottweilers with tails in AKC ring? I know that Suzanne Stoops has finished dogs in the CKC ring but I did not know of any dogs being shown in the AKC ring. And what direction, from your opinion, do you see judges going in? I have heard many well-known breeder-judges say they would excuse a Rottweiler with tail from the ring.
SW: You asked several questions. Let me reply to them in the order you asked. I believe it is clear cut: if a judge wants to comply with the current American Rottweiler Club standard that specifies "tail docked short", then they can either excuse the exhibit, or not award it a ribbon if it possesses an undocked tail. If they chose to circumvent the standard, it is their decision. However, it is surely a dilemma. No. I have not yet seen any Rottweilers with an undocked tail, but know of a few that have possessed a tail and have been exhibited in the AKC show-ring. The all-breed judges will have the most trouble dealing with this issue. The Rottweiler breeder judges will not. They will either excuse or award, depending upon their emotional perspective on this matter.


TRC: How familiar are you with the AKC Schutzhund competition? What is the title called again?
SW: Presently, the AKC has not officially presented their position on it, so
it is premature for me to comment about it. It is called the Working Dog

TRC: What is your impression of it?
SW: I am hopeful that they will make a favorable decision.

TRC: So, the Working Dog Sport is not an official AKC event at this point. You're saying that it is still pending with the AKC Board of Governors? I was mistaken. I thought that it was an "up and functioning" event approved by the AKC?
SW: No, nothing to my knowledge has been determined yet.


TRC: If it is made approved, what impact do you think it will have on the Rottweiler here in the United States?
SW: That is hard to answer. I know that Schutzhund is alive and well with Schutzhund USA, the ARV, USRC. The German Shepherd Club, as well as the Doberman Club is hosting a trial this year.


TRC: Will a "schutzhund-type" trial under the auspices of the AKC make the sport more popular here in the United States?
SW: I think so.


TRC: As you look back at how the breed has evolved, what are some of the differences in Rottweilers today from when you first started?
SW: In Europe, I believe the breed has progressed. The dogs and
bitches have become more powerful. For us here in the US, it has not. The Rottweiler's unique masculinity of head type, the power the breed imparts, its aloof temperament and hardness, these traits attracted me, and I believe others to the Rottweiler. Here in the states, from yesterday to the present, the differences can be explained in its type and temperament.

TRC: What specific differences do you see in Rottweiler temperament in the past as compared with today?
SW: In prior years, the topskull possessed stronger pronunciation in
the stop, a broader muzzle at the base, more pronunciation of the zygomatic arch, and substantial bone mass. Its correct breed type was the trait that made it unique and desirable. Sadly, over the years, these traits have greatly eroded for us. Yes, we can still find good examples of correct breed type, but generally, its evolution has been erosion. Today, with great frequency, we see fine spindly legs, snipey muzzles, long in body, shallow stops, shallow zygomatic arch. One must filter through many examples before one finds something impressive. In temperament, the Rottweiler of previous years for us, possessed hardness and a unique trait called aloofness. These traits of temperament are clearly defined in the standard. Today, these qualities are rarely exhibited. Now, we can hear people refer to the Rottweiler as a clown, or a mush! That is not the temperament for a Rottweiler! Again, its evolution in its temperament is that of erosion.

TRC: Who is Dux? Is that your Cassius Lad son?
SW: Yes, Dux is my Cassius Lad son. Dux was V-rated, Sch. 1 BH, AD,

TRC: What was your impression of Cassius Lad?
SW: Cassius Lad was an impressive Rottweiler in both type and temperament. My good friend Gary Ramis imported him from England. Mrs. Hammond of Panevor kennel was the breeder. Gary brought him to show me shortly after he returned home with Cassius Lad from England. At that time, Cassius lad was 16 months; his type was impressive at that young age. Beside his type, Cassius Lad had certain qualities I admired and wanted to infuse into my breeding program. These qualities were his hardness and courage. Dux possessed them as well. These qualities are sadly becoming infrequent.

TRC: Was he an anomaly?
SW: No, I don't think so. I am sure there are other fine dogs of his
type and temperament in England.

TRC: But, he was an English Import from show lines with virtually no working titles in any generations close to him, yet he was a SchH 3 dog.
SW: Yes, that is correct. However, I would like to give you my perspective on Cassius Lad: every so often, a consistently good producing stud dog appears on the scene. Despite his background of not being a product from Schutzhund lines, Cassius Lad produced the qualities we hold in high esteem. Cassius Lad sired many Schutzhund titled progeny, many AKC champions, Siegers and Siegerins. My respect also goes to his owner. Although Gary started with a raw dog possessing promise, with much sweat and hard work, he managed to title Cassius Lad from zero to his Schutzhund lll,Korung, ARV Club Sieger. With Perry Paysons help, Cassius Lad also became an AKC champion. Those accomplishments are to be admired and respected.

TRC: I am a big sports fan and hate when people talk about the "best-player" or "best team ever" because how can you really measure it. Yet, I admit I can't resist asking about "the best Rottweilers" in these interviews. Okay, for the first question I will go easy on you. I won't ask about the "best". Is there a Rottweiler you have seen, who has made a greater impression on you than others?
SW: Yes. That Rottweiler is Ives Eulenspeigel Sch lll, ES-77, Gekort EzA. Although his is long gone, he is still impressive in his type and temperament. Through him, came many of our best Rottweilers worldwide. He was a strong producer, best of which is his son Dingo vom Schwaiger Wappen. In abundant amounts, Dingo was a producer of working dogs and beauty champions combined. One only needs to view his Korzuchtlinien to understand.


TRC: More direct, what dogs out there now would you describe as being in your list of some of the best from a conformational perspective?
SW: I cannot answer this question because I am an active judge. I do not believe it is fair for me to give any names of dogs or bitches that are also active in breeding and showing.


TRC: What things can we do to continue improving the Rottweiler breed? First, in Germany since this is where the breed's foundation was laid? And in the US since this is where you are based?
SW: Worldwide, we are still troubled with health issues such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cancer etc. I believe the Canine Genome holds the secrets to these health issues. Once we can find the markers for these hereditary problems, we will make huge strides. However, some hard choices will need to be made since those dogs that have these markers should be eliminated from the breeding pool. Any improvement to the breed in Germany is the duty of the ADRK. However, here in the states, we can improve the breed in several ways. A great amount of emphasis has been devoted the locomotion of the Rottweiler. Because of this, much time, energy and consideration has been devoted to the gait of the Rottweiler. The construction of our Rottweilers is good. The area we in the states need to improve, or to better state, to re-emphasize, is in type and temperament. The Rottweilers type and temperament is his icon. We must always view what we breed with an open, hard, objective view and never neglect the purpose of the Rottweiler as that of a service-guard dog.

Interview by Karim Camara

Past Interviews

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