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INTERVIEW WITH
JOAN KLEM

OF RODSDEN ROTTWEILERS

Joan Klem

TRC: Joan, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy life to give The Rottweiler Chronicle an interview. Where do we start?

Joan Klem: Most interviews begin with an introduction to those being interviewed so let me make that introduction. As a little girl growing up in Wheaton, a suburb of Chicago, my first introduction to the Sport Of Pure Bred Dogs was napping behind my families Dobe, Franz Of Dawn, on a bench at the International Kennel Club Show which was at that time held at the International Amphitheatre at the Stock Yards in Chicago which as you would expect was not located in a very nice area in Chicago. The buildings and yards have long since been torn down and the IKC has found a permanent home at the handsome McCormick Place on the beautiful lake front of Chicago. Little did I know that the future would hold an assignment as a judge at the IKC.

TRC: So you were acquainted with dog shows at an early age, but your first breed was Dobermans?

Joan Klem: When my brothers, Perrin (Pat) and Dick returned home from WWII, they and my father Henry (Roddy) Rademacher decided to look for a large working breed with not quite such an excitable temperament as the Doberman at that time. They found three grown Rottweilers in Milwaukee and from the breeding of the bitch they kept came the Rodsden ( Roddy�s den, the 10 acre farm in Wheaton) �A� litter. Pat gave me Astrid of Rodsden when I was a senior in the school of Speech at Northwestern Univ. I registered my first litter from her in 1949.

Joan Klem judging specialty in Taiwan
Judging Specialty in Taiwan; My 1st class, 2 to 4 month class. I do not look
too stunned this time as I had judged their Specialty the year before.

TRC: I know when I asked you for this interview, I mentioned that I thought Rodsden�s was possibly the first registered Rottweiler Kennel in the United States.

Joan Klem judging specialty in Australia
Judging Specialty in Australia: By the time I had finished the last class, Best Moving Dog, it was dark. This photo was taken the next day, Best In Show, the bitch and BOS, the dog.

Joan Klem: I am gradually realizing that I may be the �Senior� everything. In most respects it has been a wonderful life in my chosen sport. Rodsden produced the first two all breed Breed Best in Shows and the first VST Rottweiler. Together with my brother, Pat and my niece, International and AKC Judge Susan Rademacher, I have co-authored 5 books on the breed. The first HOW TO RAISE AND TRAIN A ROTTWEILER was published in 1964. The latest, the Rottweiler Handbook, is available from the publisher www.Hoflin.com. I have written, narrated and produced two videos on the breed. 

The first one, LET�S TALK ABOUT ROTTWEILERS, won the Dog Writers Association of America award for BEST VIDEO Education � Entertainment. This is sort of like winning the Pulitzer Prize in the Dog World. I have taken my Projector and Dead Dog Video with me to show and talk about Rottweilers as I judged around the world in 17 different countries�sometimes twice. This has produced some of my �highs� in the breed as you can imagine.

 

TRC: I have your books and have enjoyed learning about our first Rottweilers from them. I do not have the videos. Of course you can�t mention �Dead Dog Video� and not expound on that:

Joan Klem: My �Dead Dog� films were movies shot first in Regular 8 and then in Super 8. I have put some of the footage on my Judge�s Education Video which has recently been put onto a CD. This is then available for use in the ARC Judge�s Ed Seminars. The dogs are very dead as they are of some of the most famous dogs in Germany and the Netherlands some thirty years ago. However, the great thing about our breed was and so far, still remains, is that the Standards which describes the basic Rottweiler in structure, size, build and the character of the breed is very close to the same no matter in which country you are living or judging, for that matter. The interesting thing about these dogs is that I have their official critiques from the Breed Warden�s in Germany that points out their good and not so good points.

 

Kluge
A few of those dogs whose pedigree goes back to the dead dogs: Ch.Rodsden's Kluge v d Harque, CD (RO-50) MRC Hall of  Fame, ARC Gold Producer When you have owned and lived with many dogs, you learn not to make comparisons. But, there is  always one that holds a very special place in the heart. For me that would be Kluge. My three sons were pre-teen and teenagers during his life and when #1 son Gary, wife Lori and baby Chandra lived at Rodsden Oaks before we bought it, it was old Kluge who went as their friend and protector in the oak woods.

BISS Ch. Dux v Hungerbuhl, SchH 1
BISS Ch. Dux v Hungerbuhl, SchH 1, MRC Hall Of Fame, ARC Gold Producer, another of the "dead dogs" in the film imported by Rodsden His proportions and balance fit the grid for the standard of the breed perfectly, all 90 lbs of him.

I tell my wannabe Judges that if they ever had a dog that came close to any one of my Dead Dogs in their ring to go ahead and put him up.

Some of the Dead Dogs got used for breeding in the US or their progeny got imported. What a surge this produced in the quality of the breed in the US. So when I gave my lectures early on using the film, some of those dogs were still on a four generation pedigree of the attendees dogs. They would be off today, of course, but they had produced so many Hall Of Famers and Top Producers with limited breeding, that if you can go back a little further in some of our award winning pedigrees, you would find them.

TRC: Obviously, you are a judge, and the American Rottweiler Club�s Judge�s Education Chair. So can you share your thoughts on the Rottweiler ring today:

Joan Klem: Now, on the subject of Judging ... When judging you always judge under the Standard of the country in which you are judging. That means when judging in AKC licensed shows, you judge according to our present Standard. All Standards have some descriptions that are subject to the experience, interpretation or �eye� for the breed that the judge in the ring has on that day. How ever as a judge and a teacher of Judges as Judges Education Chair of both MRC, Medallion Rottweiler Club and ARC, American Rottweiler Club there are some that do not seem to me to be up to much interpretation. Our job description as AKC Judges is to try our best to find that entry that comes closest as a representative of the Standard of the breed� period. Every Standard of a breed that does not have a docked tail, gives the judge a description of the tail that is desired. The Rottweiler Standard gives the judge this description: �TAIL docked short, close to body, leaving one or two tail vertebrae.� So what is to interpret? Undocked tails do not come close to that description, as I interpret it. The problem is that AKC since the mass importing of breeds from foreign countries which do not necessarily dock tails or crop ears has given us the opportunity as judges to excuse as not in accordance with the breed standard or to or go ahead and leave them in the ring which means you have to or are judging them.� So herein is the dilemma.

TRC: This is a hot topic, of course.

Joan Klem: We can choose to excuse them as not consistent or in accordance with the breed standard or leave them in the ring and judge a dog with an undocked tail that has no description of what is correct. How do you do that? I guess you have to just ignore the tail and pretend it isn�t there which is hard to do with an appendage as large as a Rottweiler tail. Thanks AKC. What a choice!

TRC: Without a description of a correct tail, I see that to be a problem. How does it affect your decision in the ring?

Joan Klem: To judge or not to judge decision in the AKC conformation ring you would think should not have much importance in the over all picture concerning the problems in our breed and our constitutional right to own a breed of our choice. But it does. Animal Rights people start quite often with getting legislation to ban cropping and docking. This is followed by legislation banning breeds or the making up of Dangerous Dog lists as it has in Germany. You open the door to them just a crack at our rights and they open the door very wide. You would not believe that the tail decision that judges have to make would end up with club member division and endless criticism of one side against the other. But it has. You would not believe that it could cause friendships to collide and dissolve. But it has. When it dissolves into personal attacks against you and your family, that makes it a personal low. If I had known that would happen, would I have continued my very visible stand that a good judge judges according to the Standard and that one way AKC Judges can contribute to the fight against the AR organizations is not to award undocked tails by leaving them in the ring? I hope that I would.

The Rodsden Budweiler Wagon
Public Relations, it could start with a Parade. The Rodsden Budweiler Wagon featuring three dogs and three bitches, five were Champions and all had obedience titles including one with a Schutzhund title. They paraded as we gave a thanks that our prayers were answered and none of the bitches came in season..

TRC: I see a link with our rights as animal owners in this issue as well. But of course you know that the biggest issue for all breeds in the �working� class is going to be Anti-Canine or BSL:

Joan Klem: But, the fight against BSL or Anti Canine Legislation, begins with the breeder. We have to breed dogs that can live in today�s society. We have to get them to responsible owners that understand the breed and will do the proper socialization and training that our breed requires. It can begin by requiring that your new owners join a breed club with a COE�s. Get them involved with other owners so that they want to live up to your contracts that require obedience classes. At the very least they should get their dog a CGC.

 It is not the responsible breeders and owners that are the problem, of course, and this message has to be said and demonstrated over and over again. Our clubs are doing their very best to get BSL info out to the public and we do it through our membership. If they are not close enough to attend club meetings, the new members contribute by adding their email addresses and Faxes and phone calls to get the information out from the club where it will do the most good. Tell them that every time they are out in public with their dog that is Public Education so they must present their Rottweilers best paw forward. We have to change the public�s perception of our breed. That is where the fight begins. And will it ever end? Well, maybe if some very wealthy dog owner whose dog gets targeted takes the case to the Supreme Court.

TRC: I know when my husband and I started out we were torn between Schutzhund and AKC venues. We ultimately concentrated on AKC because we thought that the AKC venue showed our dogs in a less worrisome light:

Joan Klem: Which brings up another dilemma. I was President of the MRC Schutzhund Verein for the five years until AKC said no bite work for AKC clubs. Now they have changed their mind and have started the Working Dog Sport Trials. These are in reality Schutzhund Trials which require tracking, obedience and protection or �bite� work. Rottweilers are one of the four breeds that are allowed to compete. I would suggest it is terribly bad timing for our Breed, especially. The public�s perception is that we are teaching our dogs to bite. They do not understand that Schutzhund is a sport requiring utmost control. Just one photo of a Rottweiler attacking the sleeve in other than dog magazines, will do more harm to the perception of the breed than a dozen photos of Rottweilers doing Therapy work.

TRC: Yes there is a misunderstanding because Control is paramount in Schutzhund, but as we have seen with the depictions in WWE, agitated dogs don�t bring up a good image for those fighting BSL in this day and age:

Joan Klem: But, so be it. I do enjoy watching Schutzhund dogs performing. It is the ultimate sport in dogs. We must just be sure NOT to invite any news photographers to the field.

TRC: What is the happiest moment in your life with Rottweilers?

For Joan Klem, the most euphoric happening in her dog career, watching a Rodsden dog win Best In Show?..nope; watching a Rodsden dog go BISS from the Veteran class?...nope; handling her bitch to a tie for High In Trial?...nope; judging at Specialties?...nope; watching her Granddaughter win Best Jr. Handler�nope, but close. Absolutely the most euphoric feeling in the world is when your dog finds that darn glove at the end of the track.... no contest!

Halloween - Joan and Wilma
On Halloween Joan and Rodsden's Wilma, CDX, TDI do their best to set back public relations for a generation of youngsters. No kids six and under ever had enough nerve to put their hand in the bucket for their treat. It did save on candy. Some people in the breed and my family call it "type" casting.

TRC: Thank you so much Joan. I am so happy you took this time to share your thoughts and experience in the breed with us.

Joan Klem: As I said before, it has been a wonderful life for the most part. 

Interview by Lynn Lopez
December 2007

Past Interviews

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