But first a little background on the Kennels. They are located not far from Vienna in a small, yet absolutely stunningly beautiful town. German influence, with immense character brought out by the colourfully painted buildings.
It is here all the dogs for the Austrian Military are bred and trained. They have Shepherds and Malinois amongst others for explosive detection and search and rescue. But what sets them apart from most other services is their choice of Rottweilers as their guardians for all military bases. As a military kennel it has it’s mystique about it, but it is not as closed as people may think. The handlers and their dogs compete in civilian competitions for fun with their dogs to keep up their vitality. Looking forward to travelling again and seeing them compete at the IFR in a few years time.
So, back to meeting Stefan. What we were expecting and what we experienced are so far apart they aren’t on the same continent. We expected to meet Stefan, his dog, take some pictures and maybe get a little play with the dog. Perhaps an hours worth of annoying Stefan about his dog and then it would be business as usual and back in the campervan for us to return to Germany.
What we got was as soon as we arrived so did another car with a man by the name of Martin. Turns out he is the training director for all the Austrian Military Working Dogs. Wow. Just wow.
Introductions were made and I lit up inside like a christmas tree. Here was one of the most important men in the world who was responsible for getting rottweilers back into working roles. He was extremely humble and only in his 30’s. Turns out he has been training and competing with dogs in schutzhunde since he was 9 years old, his father being a long time breeder if working dobermans.
Before we knew it we were told to jump back in our van and follow them onto the Military Base. I couldn’t believe this, we were being taken straight onto the base to see one of the training areas. A short drive and we were introduced to alll the other handlers from the base. This was getting ridiculous.
But it got better as the handlers set up the field and before we knew were giving us introductions to their dogs and running demos to show their dogs abilities. In between the demo’s Martin was talking to us about the dogs sport training as a way have the handlers keep the dogs entertained, upskill the handlers and as a way to excercise the dogs brains. I beleive this is what keeps the dogs looking so young, there were dogs there almost ten years old who looked no older than four years old.
We were permitted to take some photos and videos of the dogs performing and the highlight of my trip was being allowed to take part in one of the demos.
The setup was a picnic table scenario with an angry man (c’est moi) amongst the helpers and the lovely rotti Jan to the rescue. Jan had on a muzzle, so no protective equipment for me. It was going to be me and and the dog and the only thing saving my limbs from being afternoon tea for Jan was a bit of steal mesh around his mouth.
So there I was, standing on one side of the table, the handlers sitting down and Jan being held by his handler, sitting calmly. My job was to be the angry man yelling at the handlers and the dog.
So now it’s Jan’s job to take me out of the equation. Which he does with all the gusto of a fat chef being let lose in a Danish bakery. He took off and got to speed within a few steps, launched and was on the table and flying into my face within seconds. I put my arms up in front of my face to deflect to dog down into my chest.
He hit hard and took me to the ground growling and snapping. Real world scenario of a rottweiler protecting his family. The helper clipped his lead back on as I stood up and I gave him a little challenge again, the helper slipped the lead and Jan jumped straight back into my body knocking me back before being hauled off.
What an awe inspiring moment to experience the power, in a controlled scenario, of these beasts.
There were more demo’s we were permitted to watch but asked not to discuss. And each came with an explaination in training and how the trainers work with the dogs genetics to get the best out of their dogs.
Martin’s experience and understanding of Rottweilers showed in the dogs performance and it was awesome to see the finished product. The dogs all performed consistantly from sports routines to man trailing through the forest all while under stress from grenades and gunfire. Not knowing the dogs ine would think they were all 3 years old, yet they ranged from 14 months to 10 years.
When we asked why they chose Rottweilers (not that we are complaining) compared to everyone elses choice of GSD’s or Malinois he explained the criteria for their work. Strong, working ability, imposing, confident and intelligent. Additionally a further criteria was the ability to work, get exhausted, recover and work again, which is a rare unknown ability of rottweilers. I had already come to know this through Seeuferhause Varus, aka Viper, the father of my Layla, a Police dog for the Northern Territory Police who’s handler was amazed and recounted that after training sessions the shepherds would be done for the day but Viper would be 100% after a little rest. He was a beast of a machine for them.
Observing the clarity, openness and drive with which the dogs proactively attacked their tasks was a real credit to Martins training equally with his breeding program that beought in the strongest working line rottweilers in the world.
You would think after a couple of hours of this that we would be sent home, but no. It was time for a drive to their breeding kennels. A place very few outsiders have been allowed. We met the Commandant of the base, an avid hunter and working dog enthusiast himself and were taken through the kennels, whelping rooms and further training grounds.
The most amazing thing was the openess with which Martin and Stefan answered all of our questions without any hesitation.
Having been through and experienced training and seen the final results of different styles, methods and philosophies I know that I will be bringing back a new polished training regime and an even higher enthusiasm.
We were taken to their kennels and shown the collection of breeding bitches and young dogs waiting for their new handlers. The complex was impressive and larger than I could have imagined. The dogs had a chef who prepared a daily raw diet for all the dogs and puppies, more training grounds and the pleasure of meeting the Commandant who was an avid working dog enthusiast himself outside of his work.
It was an absolute pleasure to be honoured with this presentation by the handlers and trainers of Kaisersteinbruche. I look forward to seeing them competing on the world stage with their dogs, which I will travel to see no matter where.