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The Doberman – Versatility

Louis Dobermann needed an animal that was versatile – he created an intelligent, fearless, smart dog with a great nose. Today’s Doberman is as versatile as the original. Dobermans are successful in search and rescue, agility, barn hunt, dock diving, fly ball, free style dance, herding, lure coursing, nose work, obedience/rally, conformation, tracking, working dog sport, Schutzhund, guide dogs for the blind, and therapy dogs.

Are you a DPCA member with a Versatile Doberman?  Your dog may qualify for a DPCA Versatility Award!  Click here to learn more.

Agility Barn Hunt Carting Conformation Dance Dock Diving Flyball Herding Lure Coursing Military Nosework Obedience Police SAR Service Tracking WDS


Bred for speed, power and athleticism, Dobermans excel at agility. Dogs and handlers race against the clock to negotiate difficult obstacle courses in cities around the U.S. virtually every weekend.  The sport requires concentration, and countless hours of training and conditioning.  But the most successful competitors have mastered the art of teamwork.


First Pair of GCh RATCHS in Breed History – Ricky Bobby and Bristol – RATCHX3 URO2 U-GRCH / Intl CH / UDC CH / AKC GCH Catawba’s Power Play CD RE CGC BH IPO1 ROM ATT VCX FO P1 RATI ASCA RN BSA E2A “Ricky Bobby” and AKC GCH, UKC/IABCA CH, RATCH ADAMAS Fuji Mountain CAA, WAC, CGC “Bristol”

Barn Hunt is a competitive sport that demonstrates a dog’s ability to hunt vermin, especially rats. Events are held either indoors or outdoors, in a barn-like setting or on any piece of level ground, using an approximately 20 x 30 feet gated and secured area. Dogs hunt for a rat or rats safely confined in an aerated PVC rat tube hidden in hay. The dog is required to climb over and tunnel through hay obstacles, which are placed in the dog’s path and complete the task within an established timeframe. The dog must also be able to differentiate between a live rat, an empty PVC tube and a tube holding rat bedding. At all times, the safety of the dogs, handlers, and rats is a paramount concern. Rats are humanely handled; Barn Hunt is not intended to harm or kill rats.

ARCH, URO2, USJ BJF O’er The Hills N’ Far Away, RE, OA, NAJ, RATN, WAC, TT, “Cala”

Barn Hunt is for any breed or mix of dog who loves to hunt and who can fit through an 18” by approximately 22 “ tall wide tunnel made of hay bales. It tests speed, agility, surefootedness and the ability to distinguish between intensity of odors. Barn Hunt is all inclusive and fun for any dog and human who want to play the game. Dobermans function well in the role of barn hunters. The breed is known for their agility, territorial protection, and sense of smell. The breed can easily tunnel, climb and search for vermin. Barn Hunt can be used to test the hunting instinct of the Doberman and obedience since they must work in partnership with the handler while in hunt/prey drive. Teamwork of the handler and dog is an important component of the sport. The handler must be able to read the dog’s alert on the rat and the dog must be able to communicate the “find.” The Judge does not tell the team where the rat(s) are located, it is up to the handler to understand their dog’s communication signals and inform the Judge when the rat(s) are found.

ARCH, URO2, USJ BJF O’er The Hills N’ Far Away, RE, OA, NAJ, RATN, WAC, TT, “Cala”

Barn Hunt is a competitive dog sporting event that includes different levels of difficulty, titles, placements and championships, which can challenge the Doberman personality. Barn Hunt is an independent organization but titles of Novice (RATN) and above are recognized by the American Kennel Club, and for a small fee can be listed on the Doberman’s AKC pedigree. For more information, go to:

ARCH, URO2, USJ BJF O'er The Hills N' Far Away, RE, OA, NAJ, RATN, WAC, TT, "Cala", owned by Robin Nuttall. Photos of Cala are copyrighted by Debbie Christoff, Pawsitive Impressions Ricky Bobby owned by Whitney Newman Bristol owned by Kellie Valencia and Elizabeth Barrett


When we think of a dog drafting or carting, we normally think of traditional carting breeds such as the Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, Newfoundland, Saint Bernards, etc.

Carting requires a dog that is muscular, obedient and has physical stamina; things that can come natural to the Doberman breed. In carting a dog must be physically fit, conditioned for endurance, understand directional commands, able to tolerate wearing a harness and traces and able to pull the weight of a cart. This requires time, training and physical conditioning.

The dog must be sound in structure, free of arthritis, hip, elbow, shoulder and/or joint disorders. When a dog hauls, the forward push from the forequarters is transferred directly into the harness; this force from the rear quarters travels through the spinal vertebral towards their neck and chest. If the dog does not have a strong top line, the back may tend to bow and there will be less support when hauling, the dog then uses more muscles to keep the top line straight – therefore tiring easier and being more at risk for injury. Similarly if the legs are bowed, the legs will tend to bend more with added pressure putting the legs at higher risk of injury.

The dog must have an understanding of some basic obedience commands before carting is attempted, the dog will need to learn commands associated with the movement of the cart to move it forward, to follow the handler, to turn left or right, to stop, backup, make gait changes, as well as stand and stay. Training requires patience and lots of practice.

Once the dog is trained in the use of a cart, there are carting competitions. The purpose of competitions is to give the dog owner/handler and their Doberman/carting dog a chance to exhibit their skills and abilities. Competitions are either on lead, off-lead, or with driving (handler seated in cart). The completion may include a single dog or a team of two dogs. The dogs follow a determined course and may use a two wheeled wagon or cart. The vehicle must be easily handled by the dog and maneuvered over all elements on the course. Talking to the dog and verbal praise are allowed during the exercises. Physical praise such as petting or pats may be given between exercises and are limited to touching with the hands only. No other part of the handler’s body should touch the dog. Emphasis is on precision, not speed. A carting dog should move the cart with pride and eagerness yet listen to direction from the handler.

Content contributions by Linda K Grskovich


Dog shows, or “conformation” events concentrate on the distinctive features of purebred dogs and help to preserve these characteristics by providing a forum for evaluating breeding stock.

Dobermans are bred and judged against a blueprint established by the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. This blueprint or breed standard captures the ideal vision for everything the Doberman should be – inside and out.

You can read the Doberman breed standard here.

You can learn more about our National specialty and previous winners here.

Dock Diving

Am Ch, UDC Ch, UGrCh, Int’l/Nat’l Ch, UAGI, URO1, CA, USJCh Fayek Pitch Black V Firefly RN, BN, CA, MX, MXJ, NF, DJ, RATI, RATN, CGC, RL1, RL2, ROM, “Kyra”

Dock Diving or Dock Jumping is a sport where dogs compete by jumping off a dock into a body of water (pool or pond). They have different types of competitions including distance jumping (most popular), height jumping and retrieval based on time. All include some kind of floating toy that the dog retrieves, although in distance jumping, retrieval of the toy is not required. Toys range from tennis balls to Wubbas and Frisbees to bumpers and bird decoys. Any floating toy that your dog loves will work!

Dock Jumping first appeared in 1997 at the Incredible Dog Challenge, sponsored and produced by Purina. Then in 2000 it was seen again at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games. The event was a huge hit and the sport has grown over the past several years to become one of the most exciting new dog sports in the world.

11 year old youth handler, Ashleigh Bradley and her Doberman Pinscher Maven are the only Doberman team in the United States that will be competing in the 2013 DockDogs World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa Nov 13th-17th. Maven, CH Touchstone’s Lady Liberty StS CAA WAC competes in Iron Dog, Big Air and Extreme Vertical at the 2013 DockDogs World Championships.

There are 3 different venues that host Dock Diving events: Dock Dogs ( is a world wide venue that has Big Air, Extreme Vertical, and Speed Retrieve. Splash Dogs ( is concentrated on the West Coast. Ultimate Air Dogs ( has events East of the Mississippi and has Ultimate Air, Fetch it! and Catch it! Splash Dogs and Ultimate Air Dogs have teamed up with the United Kennel Club (UKC) and registered dogs can now receive UKC recognized Dock Jumping titles through these venues. Rules and regulations vary slightly between Dock Dogs and the 2 UKC recognized venues. Please visit their websites for rules and regulations (

Dock Jumping clubs can be found all over the country. These clubs are a great way to get your dog into the sport. They host fun jumps and practice jumps where experienced club members help the newcomers get their dogs “wet” and ready for competition. It is a fun, friendly, atmosphere that still has that competitive feel. Spectators are encouraged to clap and holler for the dogs to get them pumped up for their jumps and everyone loves to see the dogs fly! The sport is dominated by Sporting dogs such as Labradors and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers but it is open to any and all dogs, pure bred or mixed, big or small. While the majority of the dogs will be Sporting breeds, you can see a wide variety of dogs from Chihuahuas to Newfoundlands to mixed breeds of all shapes and sizes.

Scudmore Acres TI Nite Hawk AX AXJ, “Lucas”

While Dobermans are not generally known for their love of water like many of the Sporting dogs, they can be good swimmers and great jumpers! If they aren’t good swimmers, all venues allow life jackets. Their athleticism, drive, and fearless nature enable them to excel at this sport.

CH Briarwood Backstreet Girl, CD RN OA OAJ WAC ROM, “Alley”, gets airborne!

There are a handful of Dock Jumping Dobermans in the US today and the number seems to be growing as more and more people become interested in the sport.

Can your Doberman fly?

Allure Alisaton Azure Rojan, NA NAJ WAC, “Ayla”, showing great form in her jump!

Content & photo contributions by Meejin Pike, Tracy Daugherty, Holly Haynes-Clark, Robin Nuttall, Joshua Bradley, and Natalie Donnelly


Flyball is a team sport for dogs and their handlers. Teams of 4 dogs each compete in a relay race in which each dog runs a course over 4 jumps to retrieve a ball. The dogs jump the hurdles and steps on a spring loaded box that shoots out a tennis ball. The dog catches the tennis ball and then runs back over the 4 hurdles. When the dog crosses the starting line the next dog goes. The first team to have all 4 dogs run without errors wins the heat. Electronic Judging System, which uses lights and infrared timing sensors, record the teams’ starts, passes, finishes, and individual dogs’ times to the thousandth of a second. The record time for 4 dogs to run the course is currently 15.22 seconds. More common are times in the low to mid 20’s. The competition is two-fold; the team races against another team for tournament placement and also against the clock for points toward titles. Dog teams run against other teams with similar average times. Teams that run faster than their average time can be disqualified from a tournament. The handlers are responsible for motivating their dogs to increase their speed to make the overall team time as fast as possible, yet staying within their average timeframe.

The ideal dog for flyball is one that is obedient, non-people and non-dog aggressive and who is not a resource guarder. Flyball dogs must be obedient. A solid recall is a necessary part of the game. Dogs must also be able to follow the sport’s sequencing of starting, running up the lane, over hurdles to the box and back to their handler. Flyball dogs must be great with people and other dogs. Flyball requires working in close proximity to running/yelling handlers and barking/running dogs. Flyball dogs must be focused on only their own ball and not the balls, tug toys or treats of the other dogs around them. The competition lanes can be tense and noisy places, dogs must be able to be focused on their jobs, which is one reason why Dobermans can make a great flyball dogs. Dobermans love having a job. Once a Doberman learns what is expected, what the rules are, the Doberman can be counted on to work well and give an excellent game performance. The breed loves competition, running fast, getting to the box quickly and back to their handler for their reward and praise.

One of the best Dobermans in flyball was a dog named Onyx owned by Clyde Moore (shown at left). Onyx has the distinction of having the 20,000 point North American Flyball Association (NAFA) title named after her. “The Onyx Award” is given to any NAFA flyball dog that has reached 20,000 points. The NAFA Onyx pin has a Doberman profile on it. Onyx started her racing career before the point system was administered by NAFA and would have probably been well over 50,000 if she had gotten points during her entire flyball career.

The two national organizations for flyball are the North American Flyball Association (NAFA) and the United Flyball League International, Inc (U-FLI).

Content contributions by Linda K Grskovich

Freestyle Dance

Canine Freestyle is a choreographed musical program performed by handlers and their dogs. The object of freestyle is to display the dog and handler in a creative, innovative and original performance, using music and movements to showcase teamwork, artistry, attire, athleticism and style in interpreting the theme of the music..   Heelwork-to-Music incorporates traditional dog obedience and the art of dressage with the inclusion of musical interpretation, dance elements, with an emphasis on non-standard obedience movements. Both Canine Freestyle and Heelwork-To-Music routines should create a visually exciting displays which are enjoyable to watch and equally enjoyable to dogs and handlers executing the programs. Freestyle enhances the positive bond and joy of the canine and human relationship through the artistry of music and choreography

There are many freestyle organizations for your Doberman to showcase in such as the: World Canine Freestyle Organization, Canine Freestyle Federation, and Musical Dog Sports Association.


Content contributions by Linda K Grskovich


Kaiser’s mom, Jeri, tells us: “People tell me my boy is a bit unusual. He has a great herding instinct and is actually herding sheep. Every time someone hears he herds, I get the response “Doberman’s aren’t natural herders are they?” Don’t tell Kaiser that, he is a natural.”

Here’s a few pictures of Kaiser herding. Yes, Dobermans can herd!


Gwen Lucoff shares this about “Fortune”: “Fortune and I began herding sheep about 3 yrs ago, and she was a natural. The first time we showed up to do herding, the other dog owners thought my Doberman would hurt the sheep, well it turned out that Fortune was very gentle and loved to herd them. Unfortunately Fortune is unable to earn any of the AKC herding titles, so we discontinued our herding.”

Lure Coursing

ARCH, URO1, UCh, CA, Int’l Ch Firefly’s More Than Meets The Eye CA CGC, RATI, RL1X, RL2

Lure Coursing is an ancient dog sport created for sight hounds to mimic live game coursing. White “bunnies”, generally white bags, are attached to a line on a pulley system and are controlled by the lure operator. The speed of the “bunnies” can be adjusted by the lure operator to keep the dog on the lure. There are 2 kinds of coursing machines; drag lure and continuous loop. Both drag or pull the lure in the pattern of the pulley system which is mapped to imitate live game and stimulate prey drive. Lure Coursing has recently been opened up to all breeds and mixed breeds in both AKC and UKC. All non-sight hound breeds and mixed breeds are now eligible to run a CAT (AKC Coursing Ability Test and UKC Coursing Aptitude Test) and receive a CA title (AKC Coursing Ability and UKC Coursing Aptitude) after successfully passing 3 CATs. Additional passes can be used towards higher titles such as CAA (AKC Coursing Ability Advanced) and CAX (AKC Coursing Ability Excellent and UKC Coursing Aptitude Excellent). CAT courses are generally 600 yards long and include several turns, none of which exceed 90 degrees. Shorter courses are available in AKC for smaller dogs and brachycephalic breeds. Dogs must be at least 1yr of age and registered with the AKC/UKC (including Canine Partners and Limited Privilege dogs). Like all other performances events, females in season are not eligible to run. See full rules and regulations for AKC ( and UKC ( for more information. Lure Coursing is very physically demanding and dogs should be properly warmed up, cooled down and hydrated to avoid
injuries and muscle cramps.

Lure Coursing and Dobermans


With the speculation that the Doberman’s ancestry includes the English Greyhound and the Weimaraner, it is not hard to believe that most Dobermans have a natural aptitude for Lure Coursing. If your Doberman has natural hunting instinct and prey drive, they will most likely LOVE this sport! Dobermans that have high prey drives do not usually require any training (other than proper conditioning). Their natural agility and athletic ability enable them to run the course with intensity and grace. It is an amazing sight to see a Doberman in a full double suspension gallop!

There are more and more trials that are now offering CATs all across the country and Dobermans everywhere are trying out this new fun, FAST sport. Take your Doberman out and join the CHASE!


Content & photo contributions by Meejin Pike, Gail Sterlen, Janet Crumpton, Richard Hunter and Sara Ali


The Doberman has given no greater gift to man than his dedication to the Marines in World War II.

When United States Marines landed war dogs on Bougainville in the South Pacific, 01 November, 1943, it marked the first use of trained military dogs in combat by the United States. Dobermans, the official U.S. Marine Corps War Dogs, served throughout the South Pacific, courageously leading patrols in the steaming jungles, giving timely warning of the enemy waiting in ambush or hiding in caves, saving untold lives. They guarded exhausted sleeping troops in foxholes by night, preventing infiltration by the foe.

After the war, many of the dogs returned to civilian homes, where, despite their training, not one of them was ever known to have bitten anyone. Attractive targets of an enemy anxious to go undetected, not all the dogs made it home. Some of the dogs made the supreme sacrifice. They lie buried in The War Dog Cemetery on the island of Guam. Their graves are marked with small headstones and a plaque. Source:

The photo shown above was taken by DPCA members Kathy and Jerry Drake who said “My wife and I took this photo at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The resort was used as a military hospital at the end of World War II, and the attached photo shows the commander of that hospital with his Doberman. The photo was on a wall with a plastic cover, which required taking the photo at an angle due to the flash.”


Wittrock’s Jozzzzzelle, BN, CA, CGC, NW1, NW2, NW3, TDI owned by Elizabeth Manning

All dogs have an amazing sense of smell; their olfactory process is a thousand times more sensitive than that of their handlers. In fact, a dog’s nose has more than 220 million smell receptors in comparison to humans who have only 5 million. Many of our Dobermans love to hunt, be it for a morsel of food or a favorite toy. Because of their keen sense of smell, dogs are able to locate many different things in their environment much faster than we can. This olfactory effect helps increase their natural hunting desire and drive. This desire to work, drive and love for a challenge is why Dobermans can excel in the sport of K9 Nose Work®

K9 Nose Work® is designed to develop a dog’s natural scenting ability and desire to hunt by using their love of toys, and/or food. This sport, created and sanctioned by the National Association of Canine Scent Work, LLC® (NACSW TM) , was built around the training methods of canine detection work for the purpose of fun and for competition. It is all about the dog locating an odor and the dog telling the handler that he has found “it”. The “it” or odor in this case would be birch, anise and/or clove oil.

Wittrock’s Jozzzzzelle, BN, CA, CGC, NW1, NW2, NW3, TDI owned by Elizabeth Manning

The great thing about K9 Nose Work® is that it is dog driven and fun for the dog. The dog is independent of the handler; he focuses on what his nose is telling him. In fact, the less the handler is involved, the better for the dog. This sport challenges the dog’s senses and his mind. One thing often said about Dobermans is that” they need a job to do”; this is one reason why this sport is so right for our breed. The dog uses his brain independent of the handler to search out the scent and find it on his own and tells the handler that he has located the odor to obtain a reward. The sport is also low impact, which makes it right for dogs of all ages. The dog walks to find the source and uses the air to target the highest intensity of the scent and pinpoint the source’s location.

Dark Cloud’s Blithe Spirit, WAE OA AXJ, owned by Christy Waehner

In K9 Nose Work®, there are four elements to each level of competition and there are three levels of competition. Before competing in a Trial, dogs must pass an Odor Recognition Test (ORT). An ORT verifies that the dog knows their competition target odor. The competition elements include: a container search, an interior/room search, an exterior/outdoor search and vehicle/car search. The level of complexity of the element searches increase based on the competition level. This may include the addition of different odors or odor combinations, the containers may include luggage and not just boxes or there are more boxes in complex layouts, rooms may not include odor at all (blank room), cars searches may include more in number or larger vehicles like trucks, odors are hid in higher locations, and distractions like food and toys are added into the search areas. Titles that are awarded are Nosework I (NW1), Nosework II (NW2), Nosework III (NW3), NW3 Container Search Title (NW3-C), NW3 Vehicle Search Title (NW3-V), NW3 Interior Search Title (NW3-I), NW3 Exterior Search Title (NW3-E), and NW3 Elite.

Dare’s Going For Broke RE CD NW1 TDIA owned by Donald Grskovich

K9 Nose Work® is a great sport for Dobermans in that it challenges them to think, allows independence of thought and is FUN! And as we know in our breed, if you are not challenging them and they are not having fun, well, they will make up their own games and sometimes that is not a good thing. LOL.

Content and photos by Linda K Grskovich CNWITM
Photo and video contributions by Christy Waehner


The Doberman is at its finest when working as a team with his human partner. In competition accuracy and precisionare essential, but the beauty of the handler working in concert with a willing, eager, intelligent canine partner makes the sport come alive.


Meet Cara’s Black Scorpion, “Stinger”, the newest member of Kingston police.

He’s a quick, strong and potentially mean Doberman trained to sniff out illegal drugs and track down suspects.

Stinger is the replacement for Kingston’s former patrol/drug dog, Macso, a German shepherd who died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest in July.

After Macso died, K-9 officer Sgt. Sam Blaski wasn’t sure how long it would take before he was ready to have another dog. But he visited a breeder in Orange County, N.Y., and found Stinger.

“There’s not one ounce of fright in this dog. He’s not afraid of anything,” Blaski said.

That’s important in a partner.

“When Macso was gone, it was tough. They told me to keep driving the same (K-9) car until I made up my mind. I remember looking back and him not being there. You don’t know how much of a partner you have until he’s gone,” Blaski said.

People who have encountered Blaski and Stinger on the streets have had a similar reaction — a Doberman like Stinger appears to be more intimidating than a German shepherd. That might just be because Dobermans trained as police dogs are not common, he said.

There was no particular reason why Blaski chose a Doberman, and he’s not sure if there will be many differences between the two dogs in terms of abilities. He’d only venture to say Stinger is “probably” faster than his previous dog.

Blaski trains Stinger at the Church Street Park using some obstacles built for the K-9 unit years ago.

“Training is fun right now. It’s a new breed. We’re trying to make a name for him,” Blaski said. “He’s a very well-rounded dog. He’s above average on everything.”

Blaski has been a K-9 officer since 2005. As a K-9 officer, his dog lives in his home. He is side by side with his dog at least 16 hours a day, Blaski said.

“The only way you could do it is if you have the right mind-set to be a K-9 handler,” he said.

The loss of Macso was tough on Blaski’s family, especially his children, 8 and 7, Blaski said. Stinger has been welcomed by the family and is growing accustomed to living with them. “Now the family loves him. The dog fits right in,” he said.

Search & Rescue

Search and Rescue (SAR) dogs assist in saving human lives during disasters, find missing persons and are also used for evidence and cadaver searches. The Doberman’s strength, agility, intelligence, alertness and determination make the breed superior Search and Rescue (SAR) partners. The Doberman’s high energy level and determination enable it to work tirelessly in the field – covering rough terrain under punishing conditions – until the job is finished.


Because Dobermans are intelligent and eager to help, they make excellent service dogs.  In that role, they help mentally and/or physically disabled people in a variety of ways. Some of the types of work Doberman service dogs are asked to perform include:

Guide Dogs:

Probably the most familiar type of service dog is the guide dog that is trained to help blind or visually impaired people. These dogs serve as the eyes for their owner, navigating them through traffic, stairs and sidewalks while avoiding all obstacles that could cause injury.  Joanna Walker’s Pilot Dogs program trains Dobermans to guide the visually impaired.

Hearing Dogs:

“Hearing” or “signal” dogs are specially trained to assist deaf people. They alert their owner to sounds, usually by approaching their owner and then by going back to the source of the sound. They signal such noises as doorbells, phones, smoke alarms, crying babies, microwave bells and even tea kettles whistling.

Mobility Assist Dog:

Mobility dogs pull wheelchairs, carry and pick-up their owners possessions, open/close doors, help the handler dress and undress.

Walker Dog:

Helps the handler walk by balancing or acting as a counter balance.

Seizure Alert/Response Dog:

This dog is trained to respond to a person’s seizures and either stay with the person, or go get help. Some dogs are trained to hit a button on a console to automatically dial 911. When the dog hears the voice over the speaker, the dog starts barking.

Psychiatric Service Dog:

A person with a mental disability may need a dog to be able to go out in public (agraphobic), or may be autistic and need the dog to keep them focused. These dogs are trained NEVER to leave their handler’s side.

SSigDog (Social Signal Dog):

A dog trained to assist a person with autism. The dog alerts the partner to distracting repetitive movements common among those with autism, allowing the person to stop the movement (e.g., hand flapping). A person with autism may have problems with sensory input and need the same support services from a dog that a dog might give to a person who is blind or deaf.

Combo Dog:

Some programs, Paws With A Cause, for example, have started training dogs for people with multiple disabilities, like a guide/mobility assist dog.

Like guide and hearing dogs, service dogs of any type, are allowed in public when accompanying their disabled handler.

Therapy Dog:

A dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, mental institutions, schools, and stressful situations such as disaster areas are known as therapy dogs.


When travelling to McGregor from Cape Town, one passes through places like Worcester, Rawsonville, the Nuy valley and Robertson, and for those of us who live in the area, these names are part of our interior landscape. But few of us know about a rather unusual local hero, whose greatest feats were performed in these parts…..

In June of 1917, a Dobermann called Sauer was born at the premises of the South African Police Dog School in Irene. Although his breeding was sound, he failed to show much promise initially, and was very nearly written off as being too nervous for police work.

Patient and careful handling improved him, and he formed a strong bond with his trainer, Detective-Sergeant Herbert Kruger. Sauer was loyal and obedient to Kruger; others found him harder to handle.

Early in his career, Sauer gave the first demonstration of his legendary powers by successfully following a trail which was one hundred and thirty two hours old. This is believed to be a world record; but greater achievements would follow.

In 1921, Sauer led his handler thirteen miles from Worcester to Nuy Station, searching for articles stolen from a Worcester shop. At Nuy, he lost the trail; it transpired that the thief had caught the train to Tulbagh, where he was caught.

In another feat, while a minister was preaching his sermon, a thief broke into his home and stole a travel bag with some clothes and three pounds in cash – a small fortune in those days. The bag was found in the veld; Sauer was called to the scene. By the time Kruger and Sauer arrived, more than a day had elapsed. Sauer picked up the trail, followed it to a house not far away and started barking. As soon as the door was opened, Sauer rushed in and went straight up to the guilty party, who was later convicted.

In Paaupan, a thief broke into a house in open country, and left his knife at the scene of the crime. Sauer was given the scent and tracked for several miles along the railway line leading to Houtkraal. Eventually he led Kruger away from the railway, ending up outside a shop in Potfontein, where he appeared particularly interested in a certain spot on the stoep. The shop owner confirmed that a stranger had left his bundle lying on the stoep the previous night, in the spot Sauer had indicated. Sauer followed the trail for a further eight miles into the veld, where he discovered the remains of a fire, and finally led Kruger to the station at Houtkraal, twenty-six miles from the start of the trail. Enquiries were made; it appeared that a stranger had caught the train to De Aar. Kruger and Sauer followed suit and caught the next train, and arrested the thief, who had not gone far, on the station at De Aar.

In 1925, Sauer tracked his way into history. Called in on a case of stock theft, he and Kruger tracked the thief, without stopping, for one hundred hot, gruelling miles across the Great Karoo, and caught their man. To this day, over 80 years later, his feat has not been equalled, and Sauer, the dog once believed inadequate for police work, remains the proud holder of the world tracking record.

Sauer died, aged nine, in June 1926 in De Aar. He was buried in a place of honour on police property. His legacy remains as an inspiration to Dobermann lovers everywhere; Dobermanns excel at canine search and rescue, and it is an honour to be able to count Sauer as the finest of their number.

And to those of us who race through this beautiful, sun-scorched landscape in our cars, travelling to and from Cape Town or Worcester: slow down occasionally and spare a thought for Sauer and Sergeant Kruger. They did it all on foot.

Originally published on McGregor… where time stood still

Working Dog Sport

Schutzhund is a German word meaning “protection dog.” It refers to a sport that focuses on developing and evaluating those traits in dogs that make them more useful and happier companions to their owners.

Schutzhund work concentrates on three parts.  Many familiar with the obedience work of the American Kennel Club’s affiliates will recognize the first two parts, tracking and obedience.  The Schutzhund standards for the third part, protection work, are similar to those for dogs in police work.

Schutzhund is intended to demonstrate the dog’s intelligence and utility.  As a working trial, Schutzhund measures the dog’s mental stability, endurance, structural efficiencies, ability to scent, willingness to work, courage and trainability.