We asked the following questions to various experts involved with the breeding & showing of the Beauceron. Below are their responses, which are taken from the March 2020 issue of ShowSight.
*Above photo: Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault
- Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
- In popularity, the Beauceron is currently ranked #124 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do you hope this will change or are you comfortable with his placement?
- Do these numbers help or hurt the breed?
- Does the average person on the street recognize him for what he is?
- Are there any misconceptions about the breed you’d like to dispel?
- What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate?
- At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
- What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind?
- What’s the best way to attract newcomers to your breed and to the sport?
- What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
- What is your favorite dog show memory?
- Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault
Eric has been a dog lover all his life. Both his parents and grand-parents owned Beaucerons. From 1995 to 2000, he was a military officer and K9 handler in the French army. He then worked as a dog instructor in several clubs for 15 years. Two years ago, he was the captain of the French team for the World Championship for search and rescue dogs. Since 1997, Eric has bred more than 45 litters of Beaucerons under “des Monts du Lac” affix. His dogs have won the highest awards for Beaucerons both in the United States of America and Europe.
Joanne has also been a dog lover all her life. She acquired her first Whippet in 1989. The next two years she worked for a professional all-breed handler. She had her first Whippet litter in 1997. Today her Whippets are found all over the world in some of the most reputable Whippet kennels. In 2019, Joanne has being invited to judge the Swedish Whippet Club National Specialty Show, confirming her reputation worldwide. Joanne has always admired Beaucerons as far as she remembers. She acquired her first one in 2008 and her second one (Jaguar) in 2014. This second acquisition has allowed Eric and Joanne to meet.
Beaucerons des Monts du Lac and its breeders reside in Queen Anne, MD. Its founding breeder, Eric Vavassori, is originally from France. He and all his dogs immigrated to the USA in 2018. He has been breeding and showing Beaucerons over there since 1997. His wife Joanne Boudreault is originally from Canada. She has been showing dogs since 1990 and breeding Whippets since 1997. She acquired her first Beauceron in 2008.
What we do outside of dogs is always one way or the other related to the dogs.
In popularity, The Beauceron is currently ranked #124 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do we hope this will change? We are comfortable with these numbers, we have no problems selling our puppies and that is the most important. When a breed is too popular, this is when you see the wrong hands getting into breeding Beaucerons. This is how popularity ranking can destroy a breed more than helping it. So we are very happy with this #124 rank.
Do these numbers help or hurt our breed? These ranking numbers reassure us as most of Beauceron breeders today have more or less good intentions for the breed. They will go to Europe to get new blood and they will do health tests. On the other hand, when the desire to breed dogs is profit only, then this is when we observe so-called “breeders” cutting all costs to maximize profits: For example, they acquire “breeding pairs” of poor, cheap lineage. They skip the health tests, they mass produce litters, they do not not socializing puppies, etc.
As a rule of thumb, as long as these ill-intended “breeders” do not set their eyes on the Beauceron, the breed is in good hands with the current breeders found in the USA.
Does the average person recognize our breed? I would say 19 people out of 20 will ask if this is a Shepherd and Doberman mix. We then always explain the same thing: No this is a very ancient breed of 500 years of age, they actually came before the Rottweilers and Dobermans. Historians say they used the Beauceron breed to create those breeds, so you are correct in saying they look like them, and this is because the Beauceron came first.
Are there any misconceptions about our breed? In France, where Beaucerons are an extremely popular breed, almost as much as Golden Retrievers, many people own a Beauceron, such as families, retired, young couples, etc.
However, strangely in the USA, we find the Beauceron is often portrayed to be the equivalent of a breed as the Malinois: such as high strong, high drive, and not for everyone! But we would like to dispute that and in defense of the Beauceron, give you a different version, our version of this wonderful breed.
Like for many breeds, there are working lines and there are show lines. The former will produce high energy, intense and not recommended for first dog owners or family with young kids. We agree with that. However there are also a majority of show lines Beaucerons out there. These Beaucerons are selected for beauty and brain. They are calm, confident, stoic, easily trainable and can be trusted in any family with young kids or even retired individuals. In the USA we always hear about Beaucerons being a high energy, hard to control dog (the living fence type). But many lines including ours strive on producing calm and confident dogs, that will confidently guard your family, while loyally and peacefully standing at your feet. This is the Beauceron we love and strive to breed. They are guardian angels, always keeping an eye on you, observing you and sometimes they make you realize you feel certain emotions even before you know it yourself. The Beauceron is a “brain” breed, we cannot live without them.
What special challenges do breeders face? Breeding Beaucerons or any other breed, we all do face the same challenges. As long as we have our dogs we have no challenges.
What age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We usually have a good indication around three to four weeks of age. Our sorting of show potential vs family pet gets firmed up until eight weeks of age. At eight weeks we sell everyone except the show potential ones.
Most important thing about our breed for a new judge to keep in mind? We highly recommend all new, but also seasoned judges, to be participants at judges eduction seminars on Beaucerons. We are always available on behalf of the American Beauceron Club to present our seminar to any judges wanting to learn more about the breed. Eric being originally from France, his Beauceron experience is deep.
A few highlights to keep in mind about the Beauceron breed standard: Head must be lupoid in type and chiseled, neck must be carried proudly when standing, chest should be deeper than 50% of the dog’s height, feet are compact and large with, of course, the double dewclaws in the back, the back is strong and straight, tail base carried not above backline. Finally, the Beauceron is a shepherd: so it must have powerful efficient movement! Please read the standard for more details on the breed standard.
The best way to attract newcomers to our breed? Having bench shows or “Meet-the-Breed”, to showcase the best temperament dogs standing on a table for the public to see, admire and ask questions about the breed.
Ultimate goal for our breed? Promote that Beaucerons are incredibly majestic looking dogs, oozing in breed type, with stoic poise and of great presence, that can calmly guard your family using its judgement and highly intelligent brain. This is what our dog Jaguar is for us (CHB Jaguar Noir des Monts du Lac). Wherever she is, all eyes are attracted to her beauty. She stoically stands and waits for people to admire her. However, if someone attacks one of us, she becomes another dog in fiercely defending us.
Our favorite dog show memory? We actually have a few. The kennel produced four World Winners, five French Champions (in France only two champions are awarded every year per breed). The kennel also produced the first Beauceron ever to win an AKC All-Breed BIS and the first and only (until this year) Beauceron to win Herding Group 3rd at Westminster Kennel Club in 2013, and this year this highly prestigious performance got repeated by the niece of this dog, placing herself at the 3rd position of the Herding Group at Westminster!
Anything else we’d like to share about our breed? In France, at All-Breed and especially Specialty Shows, Beaucerons are persistently selected for head and breed type only. Breeders select based on breed type and judges reward breed type. Very little, if any, emphasis is placed on dog structure. To say the least, not many breeders over there understand dog structure. When Eric immigrated to the USA in 2018, it had been a bit of a culture shock for him. In the USA, in general, dogs are selected for and judged based on structure first. The understanding of Beauceron breed type in the USA is not quite known yet. All this knowledge has allowed Eric to merge two broad visions of an ideal Beauceron, one based on breed type and one based on structure. This has allowed him to truly grow as a breeder and breed even better dogs. We are both very excited about the future of our breeding program now that we are located in the USA.
My 1st love is Rottweilers which I have owned since 1974 and have bred five litters between 1999 and 2018.
I got into herding with my Rottweilers and have been lucky to put AKC, AHBA and ASCA herding championships on a number of the Rottweilers that I have bred. Herding is what led me to the Beauceron. After all the years of herding with my Rottweilers, I decided to try a “herding” breed and I fell in love with the Beauceron.
My first Beauceron was Luc du Chateau Rocher, born 2/15/2015, who I acquired from Karla Davis, well-known and respected Beauceron breeder. Luc is an awesome dog, finishing his AKC CH at 11 months old. He went on to earn is GCHS last year and made the trip to Westminster in 2019 as the #1 male Beauceron in the US. For 2018, Luc has also earned an HSAs in AKC herding. He has a natural tending style of herding.
I did also acquire Magie Noire du Mont des Croisettes from French breeder, Agathe Leurs, in 2016. She is a GCH and also has earned an HSAs in AKC herding. Magie Noire also shows much talent at tending herding.
Luc and Magie Noire have had two litters of puppies in 2018 and 2019. One male, Mordu, earned his AKC CH at ten months old. These young dogs still have a lot of growing and training to go in order to assess the success of this pairing.
I live in Southwest Washington state (about 45 minutes North of the Portland, Oregon airport). Outside of dogs? Surely you jest! I retired from life as a programmer and database manager about 20 years ago. Since then I spend my time on our 40 acre farm managing Dorper sheep, Irish Dexter cattle, Nigerian Dwarf goats and various poultry. The farm and livestock were acquired for the dogs to facilitate herding training.
Do I hope the breed’s popularity will change or am I comfortable with the placement? I would be happy if the Beauceron does not become too popular. Unfortunately, being popular has proven to not be in the best interests of any breed of dog for a number of reasons. People (like myself) find the Beauceron very attractive, but I think that many of the people that I see with Beaucerons are not always very mindful of keeping their dogs under control. Realize that I am, at heart, a Rottweiler owner, and we are typically very careful and mindful always of our dogs and how they interact with other people and dogs since we are fighting breed prejudice from many people.
Does the average person on the street recognize the breed? I would say that the average person typically still has no idea what breed of dog a Beauceron is. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me what sort of mixed breed it is.
What special challenges do breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Producing Beaucerons with substance.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Puppies are typically assessed first at eight weeks of age. Between eight weeks and ten months, as the puppy grows up and out and up and out, there are glimpses that will suggest future show worthiness. By the time the puppy is a year old, you should have a very good idea. However, we must remember that the Beauceron will still grow (not as fast) for as long a up to four years old with most fully mature by three years old.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The Beauceron breed standard. Too often it appears that judges will rely on familiar professional handlers to bring them a “good” dog when, in fact, that dog may not live up to the breed standard. The Beauceron is meant to be a dog with substance—the standard says, “Dogs lacking substance shall be severely penalized.”
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? Involvement in any number of existing dog events has the potential of increasing awareness of the breed. The AKC “Meet the Breeds” program is a great opportunity to show off the Beauceron at an AKC dog show. Just about any time I take my Beaucerons out—to the local farm store, Home Depot, Petco, the local park—people find the Beauceron very attractive and want to meet my dogs.
My ultimate goal for the breed? Have a healthy, sound dog physically and temperamentally that can still do what it was bred to do—herd.
My favorite dog show memory? GCHS Luc du Chateau Rocher HSAs CS CGC TT winning Group 1.
I live in Brooksville, Florida. I am a practicing attorney and head up a legal department for a public company. This keeps me pretty busy.
In popularity, The Beauceron is currently ranked #124 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do I hope this placement will change? Do these numbers help or hurt my breed? I am very comfortable with the placement and would prefer it not move up in the popularity rankings. When I started, the breed was ranked in the 160s. moving up in popularity encourages changing breeders to breed in order to meet the demand rather than carefully and thoughtfully breeding to the standard
Does the average person recognize my breed? Some do, some don’t.
Are there any misconceptions about my breed? Yes. The Beauceron is not really a French Shepherd, bigger is better and any dog from Europe must be good. In the United States we have health standards and a standard of perfection for the breed. Meeting those standards means something important and committing to maintaining the breed to do what it has been bred to do for centuries is most important.
What special challenges do breeders face? The challenges any breeder faces is maintaining a breeding program to meet the standard of perfection and not maintaining one’s program to meet the economics of the day. My biggest concern are people becoming commercial breeders that are not committed to the preservation of a very special breed. As far as the social climate, bullying of respectable breeders must end. Humans entering into a “pack” mentality on social media is simply not acceptable.
At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Most dogs can complete championships around one and a half to two years old. I see the vision of “show-worthiness” in females around 18 months and in males two and a half to three years old. I have learned to be patient, possibly finishing championships, but waiting and watching for the mature dog to have the “it” factor.
What is the most important thing about my breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Movement, type (being a true shepherd), balance and topline. The total package is often lost. I am an AKC approved mentor and I ringside mentor judges all of the time. My question always is, “What do you see?”
What’s the best way to attract newcomers to my breed and to the sport? Be pleasant, nice and willing to teach and mentor.
My ultimate goal for the breed? Maintaining the breed that was a War dog in WWI, creating and maintaining dogs that are true shepherds no matter what is winning in the show ring and working to create healthy dogs for future generations.
Favorite dog show memory? I have been in the sport for a long time. It is hard to choose just one memory with one breed. My family and I had many breeds and many dogs over the years. My favorite memory of all time was my family’s foundation Australian Cattle Dog winning the breed’s first Best in Show in 1980. As for Beaucerons, winning Winner’s Dog at the National Specialty (and I didn’t expect it). I did not have someone set up to take him back in while I showed the special I brought with me. That year we (Dr. Bitz and I) brought five dogs, won 1st and 2nd in puppy bitch, WD, BOS and AoM. That was nice.
Anything else I’d like to share about the breed? The breed is high energy and generally a happy dog. They love to run and jump and play.