Performadog Interviews Laurie Boutzetis From Seeuferhaus Kennels About Rottweilers, Breeding, Training & Life.

Thank you, Laurie, for this opportunity to find out more about you, your dogs and your current thoughts. 

Q. You are a rottweiler person; how did that happen and what draws you to the Rottweiler

A. As a young child, I used to spend hours looking through reference books on dogs. I was always interested in working type dogs, GSD, Dobermanns, Mastiffs, etc…. but the Rottweiler always stood out! The physical presence of the breed is something that really appealed to me, and then as I researched more on Rottweiler character and temperament, the descriptions of their ability to guard and protect drew me in! Maybe it was driven by my immature outlook on life. I was always impressed by strong and powerful figures; mythology characters such as Hercules, Samson etc., bodybuilders, wrestlers (before MMA). But the more I learnt about the Rottweiler as I grew in the breed it became much more than just their physical prowess. They had the type of character which I liked – strong, typically aloof, one person or family-type dogs and the ability to guard and work is second to none; just my biased view!!!

Q. What made you choose the path of breeding?

A. Breeding was never really something I had thought about. I bought my first working Rottweiler from Ms Joy Belles in 1995 – when I visited her breeding establishment the very first time I felt like a kid in a candy store! Rottweilers everywhere on her 10-acre property. All of these excellent examples of the breed were physical powerhouses; jumping, running, ball playing they exuded strength and power! I was in awe! 

What a setup – what a place to live….. wow! There were many visits to Joy’s over the next decade, and I think this inspired and encouraged my interests in breeding. I never really was serious about it though until I moved into our current 20-acre property and had the room for this type of venture. This timing was interesting. As the Rottweiler breed was undergoing significant change in terms of what was popular within the breed – this was the time where looks and conformation were given far more importance than character and working ability, and I liked the idea of trying to influence things somewhat even if only at a local level and try to produce the type of Rottweiler which I love – a robust working type.

Q. What are your thoughts on breeding in general and the global direction?

A. An interesting question. One must temper their individual preferences and flavour when answering this question. Breeding in general and on a global level is not where my preference is. This personal thought is echoed by many other rottweiler breeders and enthusiasts across the world, albeit a minority in terms of population. The trends in the last 15 -20 years have been to breed and produce a more amiable type of dog, with a more pronounced focus on conformation rather than working ability. If we review what has occurred in this period in Australia; the mid-’90s saw the population of the working dog (Schutzhund) fraternity be occupied almost evenly by German Shepherd Dog and Rottweiler, with a few Dobermanns thrown in for good measure. Malinois were unheard of in Australia. I don’t recall a single one actively campaigned in the mid 90’s – fast forward to the present day; the majority are Malinois with German Shepherds barely hanging in there, Rottweilers and Dobermanns are almost non-existent. This scenario, to some extent, is replicated all over the world.

Specifically, on your question, I think what one of the strongest trademarks of the Rottweiler (strength in character) was likely also the reason for breeding direction to change over the last couple of decades. The Rottweiler became very popular in the ’80s and ’90s, and this boom saw many people attracted to the look of the Rottweiler but not the character and therefore a leaning towards producing dogs which look like Rottweiler but not necessarily act like one. The old saying of “a Rottweiler is not for everyone” is something that breeders chose to address and have gone about producing a Rottweiler that is in fact “more” for all than once was the case….. the once fearsome guardian is not necessary anymore, at least not in the majority.

There are still some very good working Rottweilers available, but the diversity of bloodline is reducing, and the number of such is also decreasing. So overall, I don’t think the recent trends of the global direction is good – but efforts are being made to correct this. 

The IFR recently introduced the requirement for all dogs competing for champion conformation titles to submit to a character assessment during the same conformation show; paper titles will not be accepted any longer, and there is a definite push to avoid extreme conformation traits like extreme head types, short muzzles etc. All of which affect working ability. 

Is it too little too late, not sure, time will tell? One thing is for sure, though. The Australian Rottweiler owner/breeder population is more “apathetic” towards the working disciplines…. Despite the public rhetoric, very few rottweilers can be seen competing in IGP or other sports throughout the country. Challenging laws in the state of Victoria don’t lend a hand; Victoria used to be the “mecca” of working dogs, and of course Rottweilers, and it seems the country is content to allow this to affect nationally….. hopefully, we can see a shift in attitudes and a renewed focus on the working abilities of the Rottweiler.

Q. We all keep hearing there are two lines as such, the show and working. In your opinion, what are the differences as you see it?

A. Yes, this is definitely the case. The “show” lines are generally more substantial, more mastiff type with exaggerated head types, short muzzles and lacking working drives. On the flip side the “working” Rottweiler can be light (less substance), possess weaker head type and generally lacking what is known as “breed type”. In my opinion, the working type is more closely aligned to the Rottweiler of yesteryear as opposed to the current “show” type, but this is what occurs when people interpret the breed standard to their liking – the only fix is a ZTP or breed survey. Still, it must be one that addresses all aspects of conformation and working ability.

A prominent Rottweiler breeder recently said “The influence of the show lines nowadays has ruined the breed forever…. Sad…” I see the context in which he speaks and also acknowledge he has merit – however, I am an optimist and have hope we can recover. This, however, can only be achieved if every breeder seeks to produce a Rottweiler with correct working drives and not hide behind the wording of the breed standard which is misinterpreted to suit individual preference.

Since the early 1900’s when the ADRK (German Rottweiler Klub) was formed, the test for breed suitability was and is still based on the ZTP, which consists of conformation evaluation, sociability tests and character assessment utilising the IGP/IPOI routine – the majority of the show line dogs, (not just Australia., globally) do not have the required working drives to complete this test. We even have people espousing the Rottweiler as the drover dog and that IGP/IPO Is not relevant in assessing temperament – this is bizarre as the Rottweiler has not been utilised as a drover dog for more than a century and for the same amount of time, the ADRK does not recognise any breed suitability test other than an IGP/IPO/Schutzhund based version as one that is applicable…… as I indicated earlier though, the working lines also lack the conformation quality, and we must work toward a middle ground, my preference is for what I refer to as “functional conformation” as opposed to beauty shows however the emphasis must always be on working… it’s a working breed! 

My comment is not intended to be disrespectful to the activity of herding or droving; I admire any working discipline and equally admire the effort put forth by the owners to train and compete. Additionally, herding requires dogs sound in mind and body, but it does not apply the necessary “stress” to evaluate the dogs character as does the IGP/IPO routine, and this is why the ADRK has chosen this as the breed suitability test of choice! In the coming months, I will write an article discussing this test and why it is the best mode of evaluation.

Q. Do you train your dogs / What type of training do you do / We see that you also train your dogs and recently achieved an FH tracking title, tell us more about that.

A. The short answer is yes, but not as much as I should or would like to I am a member of Melbourne Sport Dog Club (MSDC), and we participate in IGP/IPO. My focus in the last few years has been to learn to appreciate the beauty of the A & B phase – “A” being Tracking & “B” being Obedience. Both of these are phases which I did not have a liking for years ago. I enjoy these now, and I guess achieving the tracking titles of TR1 – 3 and an FH with my female Bluelady vom Checkpoint Charlie (Imp GMY) (aka Chilli) is a testament to this. 

Chilli and I are the first Rottweiler team in over two decades to achieve this title in Australia. In fact, as a percentage of dog sport participation, not many teams at all go on to accomplish the FH. It is demanding as an individual exercise but is it also demanding to complete the necessary training to be in a position to achieve this. I’ve been fortunate to have the time to do this, and I have also been very fortunate to have the support of MSDC, my coach Kris Kotsopoulos and my tracking partner Jo Plochacki who have helped enormously. A testament to the quality of Chilli is also the fact that we completed the four tracking titles in less than five months!!

The talk around the club is that the only reason that Chilli was able to accomplish this tracking feat is that we use Performadog as our food of choice for the tracking training! Who knows, it may be true…. In the last few years I have always fed a raw diet to my dogs, but I find that kibble is a more convenient alternative for training; less mess and easier to handle – Chilli responds very well to it so it must be quite palatable and there are no adverse effects to her health / constitution – other than SUPER TRACKING!!!

So… it must be true – get on the PERFORMADOG!

We have other Rottweiler teams at MSDC (and also the broader sporting community) that are also doing their bit to highlight the fact that Rottweilers are a viable option for sport; if carefully selected from the correct working lines.

Q. As a breeder, you have made enormous inroads in developing in your breeding – how did this happen.

A. Firstly, thank you for the compliment, I appreciate this, and it means a lot. From the outset, I intended to breed good working rottweilers. Years before I started to breed, I had one of my most essential lessons in genetics and developing a “strain”. The lesson came from an unlikely source, a breeder of canaries; this breeder was a good friend of mine. 

He became involved in canary breeding as a form of managing work stress and went from zero to one of the best breeders/exhibitors in the state in about three years!!! His recipe for success was quite simple in its logic but complex to bring to fruition. He had access to the same breeding stock which all other breeders had, but he did something very different. He established a facility that allowed him to breed on a much larger scale than his fellow breeders; most breeders were producing approx. 50 or 60 birds a season, he very quickly achieved breeding quantities in excess of 300 birds per season – logically, he had access to 5 or 6 times the gene pool for selection! He also paid close attention to diet, environment and the characteristics he strove to achieve and improve. His record-keeping was meticulous, both in terms of pedigrees and what each of them produced. 

His ascension was incredible!

There is significant logistics consideration that would prevent a similar scale in canines however this taught me that “selection” is of utmost importance and to “select”, you must have something to select from – a large pool of specimens!! So I set about creating a smaller-scale version of this, in addition to this, when I had decided I was going to become a breeder but was not yet in a position to do so logistically, I set about developing my vision of what I wanted to achieve. Then I spent the next 4-5 years researching bloodlines and results of ZTP’s, Korungs, Championships etc. To determine which of the lines produced the best working Rottweiler. My research was based predominantly on the ADRK results and other significant events throughout Europe, such as IFR etc. This work had an enormous impact on my planning and selection of future breeding stock, and which bloodline(s) would form part of my breeding program. An example of this type of research is an article I published recently on my website which reviews the last decades of ADRK national Working Championships – you can see this here http://www.seeuferhauserottweilers.com.au/2019/05/03/adrk-dm-review-of-the-last-decade-2008-2018/

Q. What would you consider are the pro’s and con’s in your breeding, and what would you like to improve?

A. Great question! – and one that I pose to myself many times, daily, weekly, monthly etc. – if we don’t dissect, analyse, review and learn we cannot progress – for any breeder to claim they are absolutely happy with their progeny and there is nothing to improve; well, that breeder is just kidding themselves and trying to do same to their audience!

My intention when I set out to establish Seeuferhause was to produce Rottweilers that could be considered a viable option in terms of a “working dog”. Rottweilers that were physically strong, sound and robust, and with a mentality which is driven, high aptitude for work and resilient to stress. To a certain extent, we have achieved this, but I am still not satisfied. Our early breeding practices were focused on producing what I termed “old school” rottweilers with an edge, the one-person/person/family type dogs; strong and assertive. We have achieved this and continue to have this, but my focus has shifted somewhat. As individuals, our mentors influence us; there have been three which have influenced my thinking since my beginnings, and more recently in the last few years. Since the beginning Joy Belles (Rotvel Rottweilers) has had a significant influence on Seeuferhause and me – Seeuferhause is built on Rotvel Rottweilers; this is something I will always acknowledge and pay due credit! In addition to building Seeuferhause on the back of Rotvel Rottweilers, Joy has provided never-ending input and insights to my, and the kennel’s development – if not the longest-serving Rottweiler person alive in Australia today; Joy is one of the longest and most experienced (breeding Rottweilers for more than 50 years). Her insights for all things Rottweiler remains the most in-depth in Australia – many of the people in the breed today and on the social media pages have no clue who Joy is and what her contribution to the Rottweiler breed has been over the many decades – she has had active involvement in this breed for over 50 years!!! 

An early pioneer in breeding and showing, Joy also had an aptitude for the working specimens of the breed. While geography may have impacted her continuous involvement in a dog sport, her understanding of the requirements for the activity is second to none. Joy has very specific views of what makes a great working Rottweiler. In my younger days; I didn’t necessarily agree with her, but age, maturity, more in-depth understanding and knowledge lead me to say that Joy was and continues to be right all along!!!

My second mentor is Kris Kotsopoulos! A great friend, hugely successful breeder of working German Shepherds and Dobermans, and a world-renowned authority on training working and sport dogs. I have been fortunate to spend most of my training time over the last 15 years with Kris. This time along with his views and insights gained from his activities, has influenced my work tremendously.

The third person to influence my views in the last five or so years is Anu Veihvilainen from Finland. Anu is a very successful competitor in dog sport, having won Finnish National titles with her Rottweilers and also represented Finland at the prestigious IFR championship. Anu is methodical and a deep thinker when it comes to training and even her approach to breeding. Although Anu is only just getting involved in breeding in a practical sense, much as I did in the early days Anu has spent many years studying to achieve success in this segment of the dog world; her success in breeding is only a matter of time!

Interestingly, all three of these mentors come to me from different parts of the world, without knowing each other before my introductions and yet they bring consistent and consensual input that allows me to arrive at my current view of what constitutes an excellent working rottweiler. This view has changed somewhat compared to my original goals and vision, so I guess this forms the basis of what I am seeking to improve. 

If I can sum it up in simple terms, it would be that we need to improve our dog’s INTENSITY and their ability to carry this intensity. When I speak of intensity, this covers all of the drive structure required for working applications. When I talk about the ability to carry this, I talk about an ability to carry and display these drives in an open and uninhibited manner – if we can achieve this it would result in producing Rottweilers which are powerful, driven, open, social and with tremendous confidence! 

This is our new goal! And, I’m sure my mentors will keep me on track for this because history will show they are not backwards in coming forward with critique, feedback and reality checks! 

For this, I say thank you, thank you, Joy, Kris and Anu!

Q. What do you see in the short and long term with your breeding.

My answer to the previous question regarding pro’s and con’s shed a lot of light on both the short and long term objectives for Seeuferhause breeding. I will continue to strive to produce super family companions/guardians, and I also have a renewed and focused intent on producing working rottweilers which can compete at a high level in dog sport. This is not a popular position to take up. Working Rottweilers are not for everyone – they can be challenging to manage, and their owners must put in work to manage these beautiful animals. The challenge of finding the appropriate owners for our dogs is not one we shy away from.

One of my goals is to continue to influence and increase the number of handler/canine teams participating in dog sport with Rottweilers. The last few years have seen an increase in this, and hopefully, this will continue to occur. My wish is that more “breeders” of supposed working rottweilers become active in the many segments of “work” available to them and that they inspire and motivate their “puppy people” to do the same. 

Dog sport or IGP/IPO is not the only segment which is available; there are many others, including obedience clubs, tracking, agility etc. It all helps to increase the awareness of the Rottweiler as a working breed and not a couch potato! Active involvement in working disciplines will also assist their breeding practices no end! If there were couch potato championships, social media content currently proves that Rottweilers would give it a red hot go! This is not something to be proud of, and for this, the breeders are responsible! Breeders must be involved and actively participating and promoting working activities and disciplines and preferably ones which are closely aligned to those supported by the ADRK! 

To simply speak of work and working lines is not enough unless the dogs are being worked, nothing can be seen – it’s all just theory and fantasy! It is also essential that breeders publicly promote the work they do with their dogs – show the public how great it is to do some / any work with a Rottweiler!!

My long term goal is to see the Rottweiler as a competitive breed at a national level in IGP and other working disciplines, and with some luck maybe even have some input to sending a team to the IFR for the first time – that would be awesome! These are big goals, and it would be awesome to achieve them, but I will be happy just to see more people out there working their dogs and competing!!

Q. Dr Raiser will be in Melbourne late march 2020 how did that happen?

A. I’ve been involved in organising several events for MSDC and privately, related to working dogs and dog sport. Still, I have to admit that I am very excited about this event featuring Dr Raiser. The credit for this event must go firstly to MSDC Training Director Kris Kotsopoulos and secondly to MSDC for taking the risk to organise an event like this!

Let’s think about this for a minute. I turned 50 last year….. Dr Raiser has been involved, actively breeding, working and training dogs for the same period… WOW! 

I’m really not sure I can comprehend the significance and depth which comes with that! Literally, he has seen and worked more dogs than I have had hot dinners!!!!

I have read Dr Raiser’s book Der Schutzhund; a couple of times in the last ten years and what impresses me is the way he conveys his message, clearly, succinctly and in simple language for all to understand. The first time I read this book, the theory did not interest me as I was looking for the practical information on how to work and train dogs, but most recently when I re-read the book the theory and philosophical discussion was of great interest. It hit the mark for me.

To be able to attend this event, watch and listen to a master and veteran in training dogs, put all of his knowledge on exhibition, is a huge privilege. Most importantly, to be able to do so without travelling overseas and incur the expense is an awesome opportunity. 

Consider what it would cost to visit Dr Raiser in Germany. 

  • Phone calls
  • Airline tickets return times two.
  • Hotel
  • Vehicle Hire
  • Fuel
  • Food

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Kris and the Melbourne Sport Dog Club for making this possible. I can’t wait and look forward to the 27th of March 2020. 

Bring it on!!!

Thank you, Laurie, for this interview. We certainly wish all your dreams come true and we may look at following you up in the future. 

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