THE ROTTWEILER, HERE AND ABROAD
by Fred Lanting
International Schutzhund and All Breed Conformation Judge
Excerpts from an interview with Mr. Lanting by The Rottweiler Chronicle in mid-2004 but which are equally applicable to the Rottweiler today.
TRC asked: Please tell us about your involvement with the Rottweiler (as handler, judge, etc) and your overall impression of the Rottweiler breed?
FL: I have had much experience with Rottweilers in handling them, training with them in schutzhund, competing against them and judging them. I have judged many important Rottweiler events prior to my fatal run-in with a treacherous loser in the Rottie ring and the American Kennel Club (AKC) staff in 2000. I know the Rottweiler very well and have given top awards to Rottweilers in countries from Pakistan to the U.S., from Malaysia to the Caribbean.
The Rottweiler is unspoiled when compared with the GSD of "American" lines. It is basically the same, regardless of what country I find them in. Whereas the GSD has drifted... nay, jumped... from the "country-of-origin" breed type since the late 1960s, the Rottie is almost identical whether found in the German, UK, Trinidad, Chinese, or U.S. show rings.
TRC: You mentioned that the Rottweiler is “unspoiled” as compared with the German Shepherd Dog…. The GSD has been in this country longer than the Rottweiler … are there things that the Rottweiler hobbyist can learn from any trends that you observe?
FL: The best lesson you can learn is this: stick to the "country-of-origin" ideals. Ignoring that advice and letting poor judges make poor decisions is what led to the downfall of the typical "AKC Shepherd", starting in the late 1960s. Put as much emphasis on training and working titles as you do on AKC championships, and you will do right by the Rottweiler breed. Do everything possible to bring together the "working" and the "show" arms of the fancy, and squelch nasty comments by either about the other. Make a special, high-profile award for the Rottweilers that excel in both fields, if there is none such already.
So far, the Rottie's style and true-to-the-Standard look has been preserved, but there is a danger in drifting into the American GSD club's errors. Obviously, there are some rather “coarse” Rotts in the sports field (schutzhund, etc.) as well as a few in the German conformation ring, but the extent of the dichotomy does not yet exist such as is present in the GSD in North America.
TRC: What can the conscientious breeder do to preserve the complete dog?
FL: Insist that the judges you and your puppy customers show under truly understand the breed. Don't just go to a show because it's in your neighborhood. Train your dogs in schutzhund, even if all you get is a single SchH-1. Make them work for the privilege of being called a true Rottweiler. Work toward harmony with the "working Rottweiler" clubs, the one that is a member of AWDF, for example. Attend each other's events. Make sure that you continuously make improvements in the status of elbows and hips in your lines. Bad elbows in Rottweilers are notorious. But take a lesson from the Bernese Mountain Dog people who have made great progress in that area, the Bernese has much similarities in ancestry and type when you look at the overall world of dogdom.
TRC: What organizations are you involved with?
FL: I am an all-breed judge for the UKC here, and for many foreign countries. Not everybody in the world is impressed with the AKC. Of course, there are some that are so tied to the FCI and AKC that they fear rocking the boat, but I have recently judged in mainland China, Taiwan & other SE Asia, South America, and European countries. I am a member of the biggest dog club in China, for example, as well as an SV judge (The parent club for GSDs worldwide), and have honored credentials in many countries.
TRC: What are some of the major Rottweiler shows that you have done?
FL: I’ve done some big Rottie specialties in a number of countries... I did the Mile-High Club and the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) shows several years ago with very big entries. I was the featured speaker at the ARC National one year in Stone Mtn., Georgia. I have judged independent Rottie specialties and some connected with all-breed events in England, Scotland, Trinidad, and New Zealand.
TRC: Who are some of the memorable dogs that you've judged?
FL: I think probably my favorite Rottweiler in the U.S. was Nelson Brabantpark, whom I awarded Best of Breed (BOB) to in San Diego. Another stand-out dog was from Northern Ireland when I judged near Dublin: he was one of the top winners in the UK for several years. And the dogs of Eddie & Isabel Nicol of Glasgow, Scotland were about the best I've ever seen, too. I found an outstanding Rottie in Auckland, NZ and in fact, I’ve judged many Rottweilers that I would have been proud to own.
TRC: You are known as one of the foremost experts on HD, how did your involvement with this important health issue begin?
FL: I have been a "GSD guy" since 1947, and this breed is closely identified with HD for two reasons. One, the population of German Shepherd Dogs is the largest of any breed in the world even though it is only about 6th or 7th in AKC registrations, thanks in part to the departure from the international type, a sin the Rottie world has not yet committed. Two, GSDs are unique in having a greater response to joint looseness than other breeds. This means they are more likely to develop greater amount of degenerative joint disease at a given laxity, and probably have a lower pain threshold than many breeds like the Rottweiler, American Pit Bull Terrier, etc. Therefore, German Shepherd Dogs will let you know more or earlier than most breeds.
In the 1960s I discovered that I had developed an "eye" for the most likely cases of moderate to severe hip dysplasia. Wanting to reduce or eliminate HD in my own kennel, I also began bringing clients' dogs to Detroit for the Bardens-technique puppy palpations as well as my own. I followed up with radiography on as many as feasible. In that way, I saw more hip X-ray films over the years than any other dog fancier, and more than most vets. I worked with Drs. Huff, Bardens, Riser, and many others. When my first book on hip dysplasia came out, the then director of the OFA called me the world's "foremost non-veterinary authority" on canine hip dysplasia. I believe I retain that laurel, thanks to an extensive seminar and study regime for well over 40 years in the field of canine hip dysplasia. I have lectured at many veterinary schools around the world, and have presented several seminars every year for decades.
I was given much encouragement and guidance by experts such as Wayne Riser (first director of OFA), Scandinavians Sten-Erik Olsson (who contributed some passages to my HD book), the Grondalens, and other specialists abroad and in the U.S. I was schooled in the sciences; I had been admitted to the University of Pennsylvania vet school in the 1950s but had no money to attend, so I continued working in the fields of organic chemistry, physics, and in science education. All the while I kept up my intense interest in dogs.
TRC: Have you seen an improvement in large breeds (GSDs and/or Rotts) as testing has become more popular?
FL: Some clubs with very strong codes of ethics and peer pressure have made more progress among their members than others. Unfortunately, dog breeders come and go. Different Rottweiler clubs in the U.S. have different amounts of this peer pressure and members drift in and out of their spheres of influence, but the tragedy is that having abrogated their rights to the AKC, none of them has the power to enforce breeding practices that would substantially reduce the incidence of orthopedic disease in their breed. The Bernese Mtn. Dog people here have done better, but they have a smaller, tighter-knit membership. In Europe, where the breed club nearly reigns supreme, and they don't have an AKC telling them they can't control their breed, they are free to put such requirements on breeders as not allowing registration of offspring from dysplastic dogs.
When I was chairman of the Orthopedics Committee of the GSDCA, we almost put through a regulation that the annual "National" top ten or so (called "Select") would be required to have a minimum of an OFA clearance. We failed because of an unintentional joint scuttling of our efforts by two groups: one that wanted to protect their stud fees they were getting from their dysplastic champions, and the other who wanted to amend the motion to add everything including the kitchen sink: eye certification, normal elbows, and more. No, the only real progress is being made (and will always be, under the current AKC domination) by individual breeders, those who use all the tools at their disposal to produce the very best hips and elbows. A breeder does not have to sacrifice trainability, character, anatomy, or anything else in order to produce orthopedically superior dogs. You can see that in my own dogs on my website (http://home.zonnet.nl/Brejo37/Index.asp) managed by my daughter in Europe for proof of that... magnificent hips in a stupendously beautiful bitch, and I put five Schutzhund titles on her by the time she was 22 months old.
TRC: In Rottweilers we have the American Rottweiler Club, which is an AKC member club and two main German-style breed clubs, the American Rottweiler Verein (ARV) and the United States Rottweiler Club (USRC), both of whom are developing registries. Can they have a strong, widespread influence on the breed, being a “house divided” as with the USA and WDA?
FL: Well, politics and personality will likely continue to keep them separate as long as both exist. And progress is infinitely more difficult if people are not united.
TRC: Is this detrimental to the breed?
FL: Not necessarily; it does have a detrimental impact on sportsmanship, but not necessarily on the breed. Both clubs can make contributions.
TRC: There also seems to be a growing split in the AKC Rottweiler people and the "German-style" people. (Editor’s note: remember this Rottweiler interview was 2004)
FL: The working factions of MANY breeds, not just the Rotts, are putting on German-style shows and trials, and demanding world-class standards. A dog is not just a picture or a movie... Character and ability are just as much a part of the canine, if not more. The total dog is what people want, for the most part. In spite of the popularity of gowns and tuxedos and spiffy grooming in the Westminster or AKC-type ring scene, the majority of dog owners are not looking to be a part of that relatively small segment. Most want a temperamentally stable dog to befriend the kids and protect the property (or at least alert the owners).
FL: I would strongly suggest that they go to some shows and trials, and look for the type of dog that appeals to them. Some want a working dog, others just want a big-teddy bear. Also, do some research as to how much the breeder knows about the hips and elbows in the dogs background. Especially, elbows. Elbows are a big problem in Rottweilers.
TRC: You mentioned this earlier. You’re saying elbows are a larger problem in Rottweiler than in other large breeds, working breeds?
FL: That applies to any heavy-fronted breed where so much weight and power is supported by the front legs. And even if the parents are normal, I would still check back two to three generations because even a normal Rottweiler can produce 20-30% bad elbows.
TRC: That high a number? A normal dog might produce that high a number?
FL: Yes! A great resource for the breed is a woman I have done a lot of work with, Dr. Jorunn Grondalen, of Norway. She and her husband are two of the top orthopedic experts in the world, especially in regard to the Rottweiler. They have done a great deal of study on the orthopedics of Rottweilers. She estimates that “70% of Rottweilers that don’t limp still have elbow problems”.
TRC: Do you have any final words of advice for the reader?
FL: I hope all will check out my website articles and do more reading and research on the Rottweiler. And remember that you and the American Rottweiler Club have been entrusted with the welfare of a magnificent creature, and that carries much responsibility. Do the best you can for your dog, your sport, and your Rottweiler
TRC: Many people are thinking about acquiring their first Rottweiler. As a knowledgeable dog person, what advice would you give to them?