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Dobermans In Detail

The Doberman Pinscher standard is probably one of the most precise and clearly written standards around today.  It leaves very little out, and clearly states that any deviation from it’s description is penalized to the extent of that deviation.  If it is NOT stated in the standard, it IS a deviation- that’s very clear!   To understand Doberman structure, it’s important to know it’s original purpose.  The Doberman was originally bred for its character, but designed to be geometrically and esthetically perfect.  It began with what they wanted the dog to do– watchdog, guard dog, fearless, a short backed galloper, agile, fast, powerful and sturdy; to mention just a few things.  Features for beauty were “built in” to the mathematical outline.

The standard, from beginning to end, demands an orderly and harmonious arrangement of parts to create a statically and kinetically balanced dog.  Thus whether the dog is standing or moving, the parts must be in total harmony.  The impression of the dog should be the same, whether the dog is in motion or stationary.  The key to the Doberman is balance and proportion.  All the parts fit into the other parts smoothly with no distractions.  If any part stands out, whether good or bad, it takes away from the total picture and the balance and proportion is disrupted.  As you go through the standard, you will see just how specific the description of the Doberman Pinscher is.  Some points are so important, they are referred to in more than one section of the standard.  To ignore the standard is an injustice to the breed and will change the Doberman forever.


The appearance is that of a dog that is of medium size, with a body that is square.  Compactly built, muscular and powerful, for great endurance and speed.  Elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament.  Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.

This is the single most important paragraph in the standard.

In evaluating the Doberman, the first directive under general conformation and appearance is a dog of medium size (which is specified in more detail later in the standard).  The reference to size includes a combination of height, bone, and substance (or bulk).  The ideal bone and substance needed for correct balance is always in relation to a dog’s height.  The taller dog  requires more bone and substance for correct balance than a dog at the lower height limit of the standard.  Since there is a diversity in the top and bottom limits of height, the dog must be considered as an individual and not compared to others when evaluating this.  Height can be deceiving depending upon the amount of bone and/or substance a dog has.  Size is a fundamental breed characteristic so it is very important that the Doberman has the appearance of a medium sized dog.  The standard requires a combination of endurance and speed that could only be achieved in a medium sized dog.  Size is very important!  A medium sized Doberman is more agile and has good endurance, but still has enough size to generate the power needed to function successfully as a working dog.  A dog larger than the specified proportions is approaching a giant breed, not a Doberman!

In the very beginning and throughout the standard, balance (or proportion) is probably stressed more than any other single point.  By stating that the body is square, we have the first reference to balance- a dog of balanced proportions, balance being essential to soundness.  Square means that the dog’s body is in horizontal and vertical balance, which also means the angles at both ends must match.  Keep in mind that the standard states that it is the BODY that appears square, not the entire outline of the dog!  In fact, a dog that looks square is probably too short!!   Angles affect the appearance of square, with the straight, upright dog appearing more square than the dog of the same proportions with more angulation, who will appear longer in length.

Compactly built indicates that the dog should have a short, solid physique.  Muscular and powerful indicates that the dog is in good condition with hard muscle, thus capable of performing effectively.  The Doberman is an athlete.  To have speed also, the dog must be in correction proportion of bone to substance and not so heavily boned or muscular so as to become too cumbersome.  Thus the other extreme of fine boned or spindly is equally unacceptable.

Elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament-
Elegant does not mean fine boned, weak or delicate.  The dog should look “poured” into it’s skeleton, all one piece.  The naturally arched neck flows into smooth shoulders which continue to the strong, level topline, with no lumps, bumps or dips; continuing on to the tail, which appears to be a continuation of the spine.  The coat is short, hard, shiny, and fits so smoothly over the body that the dog looks poured into it.  Elegance is tasteful beauty of manner, form or style.  Some other words for elegant are aristocratic, balanced, beautiful, dignified, graceful, harmonious, sleek, stately, stylish.  To achieve this look, the dog must also be able to stand regally on its own without the benefit of being molded by its handler.

Proud carriagereflects how the dog feels about himself, indicating a high opinion of himself, a feeling of confidence, a spirited manner; all which relate to temperament.  A dog that exudes confidence will naturally have a proud carriage and should have a sound, steady temperament.

Energetic means possessing, exerting or displaying vitality and intensity of expression; lively, powerful, and spirited.  This breed characteristic is often displayed by a dog that appears to be filled with controlled energy.  A dog that hangs its head, is listless or plods along behind the handler is not displaying much `energy’.

Watchful means vigilant, closely observant, being alert and aware of the surroundings and reacting to them.  The dog shouldn’t be wary or cautious unless the situation calls for these reactions.  A dog that remains aware of the judge’s approach by moving his head to glance at the judge or flicking the ears after the examination is being watchful.  The dog that only responds to bait is not demonstrating this characteristic.  Some dogs take a little longer to focus on bait when asked to freebait after gaiting because they may be more aware of what’s going on around them than the immediate interest in bait.

Determinedincludes firmness of purpose, resolve, and fixed intention.  An example of this could be the dog that takes notice of something on the ground while gaiting and the next time around takes the opportunity to get a closer look (or taste).  The dog may refuse to face a certain direction
or refuse to walk in a certain area.  It is a strong- minded breed.

Alert refers to being vigilantly attentive, aware, mentally responsive and perceptive, quick.  To be alert, the dog should be ready to react to anything they consider unusual.  It doesn’t mean staring at bait, ignoring what goes on around him.  In this case, staring at bait may be trained!

Fearless, the absence of fear, also includes brave, courageous (which implies consciously rising to a specific test by drawing on a reserve of inner strength), intrepid (invulnerability to fear), and bold (which stresses not only the readiness to meet danger or difficulty, but often also a tendency to seek it out).  The fearless dog’s reaction to something new or unusual is to stand ready.  The judge should be able to approach the dog when standing on a loose leash.

Loyal refers to being faithful to a person or duty. This trait may not be possible to evaluate in the show ring, but is demonstrated to the person who cares for the dog.

Obedience is demonstrated in the dog’s behavior and response to the person handling the dog, the judge, and his surroundings.  While some of these qualities are not immediately evident in the conformation ring, they are observed in varying degrees depending on the situation.  Dobermans should not be robots, paying attention to only the bait, standing perfectly like a statue.  They should respond to everything going on around them which does include the bait, other dogs, people, sounds, etc.

Assessing temperament begins with `reading’ the dog’s eyes.  Look for an interested, confident, curious dog, that is ready for anything and sure that he can handle anything that comes his way.  The characteristics of behavior are very important to the total picture of the Doberman, just as the physical attributes that follow are.

As previously stated, the statements in this section make up the single most important paragraph in the standard- if you remember what it is telling you about the breed, the other parts of the standard fall into place.

Outline of dog

Outline of bitch

Click the following links to read more articles in  the “Dobermans in Detail” series:

Size, proportion &substance


Neck Topline and Body






Conclusion: test yourself

by Linka Krukar submitted by Marj Brooks