Interview with Herding Group Breeders Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault
Eric: I have been a dog lover all my life. I handled my first dog in a tracking trial at 8 years of age, and I’ve continued with this passion along my life.
From 1995 to 2003, I was a military officer and K9 handler in the French army. I then worked as a dog instructor in several clubs for 15 years. I was the captain of the French team for the World Championship for Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs from 2015 to 2018. Since 1997, I have bred more than 52 litters of Beaucerons under the “des Monts du Lac” affix, focusing my attention on excellent temperament and conformation. My dogs have won the highest awards for Beaucerons both in the United States of America, Europe, and France. I moved my kennel from France to the US in 2018. My wife and I are now established in Queen Anne, Maryland.
Joanne: Despite being a Whippet and Sighthound person, I always had an interest in the Beauceron breed for as long as I can remember. I purchased my first Beauceron female in 2006. Eric Vavassori and I met in 2015 when I purchased a second Beauceron from him (NBIS CH Jaguar Noir des Monts du Lac) and today we are married and breed Beaucerons together! I am recognized in the world for my Whippets that I’ve bred since 1997. I am currently a CKC permit judge for half of the Hound Group.
Where do we live? How many years in dogs? How many years as a breeder?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: My wife and I live in Queen Anne, Maryland. I have been in dogs my entire life, and my wife has been in dogs for more than 30 years. We have, combined, more than 50 years of breeding and showing pedigreed dogs.
What is our kennel name? How many dogs do we currently keep?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: We breed Beaucerons under the “des Monts du Lac” kennel name. We keep an average of 6-8 adult Beaucerons.
Which show dogs from the past have been our noteworthy winners?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: The Beauceron breed has been AKC recognized since 2007. Our kennel was moved from France to the US in 2018. Even while being located in France, our kennel still managed to breed the first Beauceron to ever win an AKC all-breed Best in Show, in 2012. We also bred the only two Beaucerons to ever place in the Herding Group at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (2013 and 2020). We’ve bred four World Dog Show champions and five French Champions. (Of the hundreds of Beaucerons shown every year in France, only two champion titles are given per year, so a French championship is quite an achievement.) We have also bred one US National BOB winner, one French National BOS Winner, and countless show and work champions all over the world.
Which have been our most influential sires and dams?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: In males, “Beowolf” had the most influence in our breeding program. Beowolf was BIS GCH Beowolf Rime des Monts du Lac. In females, “Jaguar” had, and continues to have, a huge influence, with several of her grandkids as our future show contenders. Jaguar is NBIS GCH Jaguar Noir des Monts du Lac.
Can we talk a bit about our facilities? Where are our puppies whelped? How are they raised?
All of our puppies are born in the house with us. In the weeks and months that follow, we spend A LOT of time and energy socializing all of our puppies to make sure they are well-adjusted and comfortable in any situations. We walk them in street crowds, tourist spots, cities, airports, shopping mall parking lots, Lowes, PetSmart, and also with endless car rides, etc.
What is our “process” for selecting show puppies? At what age do we make our decisions?
After a few weeks of observations, we select our potential show puppies at eight weeks of age.
How do we prepare our pups for the show ring? Does our breed require any special preparation?
Besides an intense socialization program as listed above, our puppies require no special show preparation except a bath, cutting nails, and cleaning teeth and ears.
Is our breed hand-stacked or free-stacked in the show ring? Why is it presented in this manner?
A mix of both, but we like free-stacked Beaucerons, as this breed is supposed to have a proud and somewhat upright head and neck carriage. Free-stacking allows this to be showcased to the judge, if the dogs have this correct carriage.
Are Performance and Companion titles important to us as breeders? Are parent club titles?
They are extremely important. Beaucerons are versatile, intelligent dogs, and any Beauceron owner should include various activities to keep this breed’s intelligent mind busy.
Beaucerons are versatile, intelligent dogs, and any Beauceron owner should include various activities to keep this breed’s intelligent mind busy.
In our opinion, is our breed in good condition overall? Any trends that warrant concern?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: As per the judging seminar we gave a few times already, the Beauceron breed has some points that breeders should be careful about, to ensure the breed is not heading in the wrong direction. We, and select French judges, see these trends here and abroad: (1) The first one being temperament. The standard says no trace of timidity, easily approached without signs of fear. (2) Lack of substance, leggy, and lack of depth of chest. The standard says impression of depth and solidity, chest is wide, deep, long. (3) Unbalanced angulations front and rear. (4) Hocks turned in. The standard says hocks are parallel to each other but toes are slightly turned out. And lastly, (5) inefficient balanced gait.
The standard says movement is fluid, supple and effortless, covering ground in long reaching strides.
Is our breed well-suited to be a family dog? Who are the best candidates to own our breed?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: With your question, if family means “family with young children,” the answer is “yes” IF the prospective buyer makes adequate research to find a Beauceron breeder who is passionate about socialization and extremely selective with the temperament of their bloodline. Many of our puppies go to homes with young children.
The ideal candidate would be, of course, someone active who is impressed by the utter intelligence of this breed and just wants to see how far this intelligence will go.
Do we feel that our breed is supported by a sufficient number of preservation breeders?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: The Beauceron is a 500-year-old breed in France and very popular over there. It was only recognized in the US in 2007, however, so the number of preservation breeders in the US is still small—but growing.
For a bit of fun, what’s the most amusing thing we’ve ever experienced with a Herding Dog?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: Every time we walk in public with our Beaucerons, 19 out of 20 times people ask if our dogs are a Shepherd/Doberman mix. We always answer back the same way, “No, this is a Beauceron. It’s a type of French shepherd that is very ancient. It’s a 500-year-old breed and is actually the ancestor of the Doberman.” They always reply, “Oh, how do you spell the name?” Eric now always wears a Beauceron T-shirt when we walk our dogs… it’s easier to show them the spelling. It’s kind of funny.
Anything else we would like to share about ourselves? Any special message we have for all of us in the fancy?
Eric Vavassori & Joanne Boudreault: We urge all breeders to set themselves a target for mentoring newcomers (new owner-handlers, new breeders, juniors, etc.). If all of us mentored one newcomer every two years, the dog show world would see the number of entries increase—and not slowly decreasing as we see today. At the last Orlando show, we were so impressed by one breeder in particular (not Beauceron) who was mentoring a large group of brand-new newcomers that had set up with her all week. There were at least 12 of them! Some of them told me they never intended to show dogs when they got a puppy from her, but she convinced them to!! This breeder hosts regular handling practices for them at her home. They told me these practices were a lot of fun. And this breeder brings them all along to shows! This may be too much for some breeders, but if each of us could set a manageable number of newcomers to mentor on a regular basis, it would definitely make a difference in our declining dog show world.
My wife and I, combined, have mentored at least a dozen newcomers over the past 25 years, of which three became successful breeders in their own way… the power of the domino effect.