Rottie Interview with Bernardina Gerretsen

27 March 2014

Friend of the Rottweiler sat down with the feisty Bernardina Gerretsen who may have last been seen driving her doggie van with a sign "Lost boyfriend and dog – reward for the dog". Bernardina Gerretsen has become the "go-to-person" when there is a problem from health to diets, rehoming and behaviour issues. Her advice is always brilliant and realistic and she will always find a way to help you – without it costing you a fortune! Here is our very first interview with this lovely lady...

FRRR: Bernardina , if you had to guess, estimate or guesstimate, how many Rottweilers have "owned you" in your life time what would the number be?

BG: Well I have been breeding Rottweilers since 1987 – if I dug out all my records I would be able to give you an exact number – but conservatively guessing – the number of adult dogs must be pretty close to 50

FRRR: When did you get your first Rottweiler?

BG: 1987

FRRR: Have you owned any other breed?

BG: I have had Pyrenean Mountain dogs – a female called Sasha and I kept her beautiful puppy Oscar – after he died I got a stunning St Bernard male – his name was George – also a very cute wire haired Daschund called Bubbles – not counting all the cross breed dogs that I have homed and rescued over the years.

FRRR: What are the best characteristics or personality traits of our beloved black and tans that stand out for you the most?

BG: I must say that I love all dogs – Rottweilers ended up being the dog of choice largely due to security concerns living on a dairy farm and so it grew from there. I think that every breed does have its unique traits and quirks that endears them to their owner, but all dogs are basically exactly the same – they all want love and attention and they all give unconditional love – this is why they are man's best friend after all.

Rottweilers are exceptionally loyal, incredibly intelligent and very brave – I love that they always get between you and whatever else is happening – they instinctively protect you. I have had many dogs that have had a sense of humour – no really – when something strange happens you can sometimes get a look that speaks volumes and I always laugh when that happens.

Some are haughty and don't consider themselves bound to the same rules as the other "normal dogs" – for instance when it is time for everyone to get out of the house one of my bitches will wait for everyone to leave and then make herself comfortable, heave a big sigh and go to sleep – as though to say, "Well thank goodness, some peace and quiet at last!" I love the working ability of the Rottweiler – unfortunately we don't appreciate it nearly enough in SA with far too much emphasis (I feel) being put on the show ring dogs.

FRRR: Rumour has it that you are not a puppy fan and you have a soft spot for an older dog or one that has matured? Why do you prefer older dogs?

BG: Haha – I am a fan of puppies – big time – until they are 8 weeks old and then they must please go and chew somebody else's shoes!! Given the choice, I will always choose the older dog to take home with me – maybe just because I know that they puppy is still extra cute and somebody will choose him eventually.

FRRR: On that note, do you think it's possible and achievable to integrate an older dog into a household? What advice would you give to anyone trying to get an older dog to adapt in a new environment?

BG: It is definitely possible and I have done it many, many times. However, every dog is an individual so it is not to say that every dog will fit in everywhere – owners are also all different and different people will get different reactions out of the same dog. I have found that older dogs adapt very easily, one or two days and they are at home and at ease – they need lots of time in the beginning – the same as a puppy – but they adapt to where they are and as long as they get attention from the people in the house they will be fine. Of course one can't compare a huge adult rottie male that has been locked up his whole life to one that has been socialised and grew up on the couch!

FRRR: How many times do you feed your dogs a day and why?

BG: I feed everybody twice a day – I think it is possible to get away with feeding once a day – but that is exactly what it is – getting away with it because maybe we don't always feel like it. I wouldn't want to eat only once a day – would you?

FRRR: Please explain your obsession / strict compulsion and belief in the simple "name tag" and reasoning why you think EVERY dog should have one?

BG: I try to ensure that every puppy that I sell has a name tag – I send one through to everybody in any case – and I always try hard to explain to new owners that the dog should wear it for the rest of his life. I also send tags for the other dogs in the household that may not have one. Anything can happen – any time – you could be involved in an accident while you are taking your dog to the vet – the dog could end up in the street because somebody left the gate open – it happens – no matter how hard we try – only registered dogs have microchips and most members of the public don't know how they work – most vets don't even possess a scanner to check the chip number and a lot of SPCA and rescue centres also don't have scanners – so a simple name tag with a telephone number on goes a long way to reuniting dogs with their owners.

Also, people who see a dog with a tag on will be more inclined to try to catch the dog because it looks like it might be easier to reunite him due to the fact that he has a tag – if the dog has no tag then the prospect of dealing with the SPCA or whatever might just be too daunting and they drive on. The other thing is that, some people might catch the dog and steal him because they just decide they want to keep him – nothing will prevent that I suppose – but the dog has an excellent chance of finding his way home if he has a tag – a simple inexpensive tool that is invaluable as far as I am concerned.

FRRR: What should every dog owner have in the medicine cupboards for dogs?

BG: Tick and flea remedies goes without saying – for the rest, everybody is on a different level with what they can and are prepared to do for their dogs – I do most things myself, but I also have a lot of dogs and access to medicines etc which most people do not have, so I think it varies from person to person and household to household. Obviously showing and breeding people will have more stuff on hand than someone who has a one dog household.

FRRR: Are there any products you can't live without or swear by?

BG: I am a huge fan of plain yogurt – not always easy to find – the Woolies plain yogurt is not going to cut it – I mean the "real" stuff – with the good bacteria – we make it at the farm – I give it to my puppies and if there are any big dogs with a complaint of sorts they also get it. The bottle of olive oil is also always handy – I am not sure if it really does make the coats shiny and all of that – I just know that a spoon and pouring olive oil in and letting the dogs lick it up is a big hit at De Liemers Rottweilers – so are raw carrots by the way – discovered quite by chance a few months ago that my dogs all love raw carrots – so now I buy extra large bags at the market and everybody gets a carrot every day – healthy snacks that don't become smelly and attract flies etc – even puppies of six weeks eat them!! The other thing that keeps my dogs amused for hours on end is the KONG Wobbler – it is a funny shaped heavy thing that has a hole in it – you put dogfood inside and the dogs "wobble" it around and get the pellets of food as they fall out – puppies especially are kept busy for hours with the thing!!

FRRR: What has been your biggest life lesson relating to your dogs?

BG: I have been lucky enough to have lived on a farm where I could keep more dogs than I would have if I lived in town for instance – I always did my own thing and was not involved in anything competitive like showing or working for most of those years – I have made a conscious decision to going back to doing my dogs on my own and to stay away from competition of any sort! I learnt a lot about dogs and about Rottweilers as a breed in the time that I dabbled in the ring – but I learnt more about how not to do things and how not to treat people than I did about dogs to be honest. If you want a guarantee – get a toaster!! I have lost two very expensive and exceptional dogs that I imported – love your dog and your friend and your partner today and right now – tomorrow is guaranteed to nobody and life is for the living and is what happens while we are making other plans! They are clichés for a reason – because they are true!

FRRR: If you had one golden nugget of advice to give a Rottie owner what would it be?

BG: Keep him by your side as much as you can – allow him to be with you, even if he is just lying on the kitchen floor while you make dinner – that is where he wants to be – anywhere is good enough as long as you are there too!

Be sure to visit: for excellent up to date information regarding our beloved black and tan breed!