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Educate Yourself

by R. L. Vandiver, Mistel Dobermans, USA

Many exhibitors bemoan the fact that they can´t attend the National and can´t avail themselves of the educational resources offered there.  I think it’s important that we not think of the National as the only way to be educated on our breed. Yes, the National is a great opportunity for more reasons than just having the seminars, but everyone can’t go.  If you’re really interested in becoming educated about Dobermans and dogs in general, here are some ideas:

  1. Read a book entitled K9 Structure and Terminology by Edward Gilbert, Jr. and Thelma R. Brown. This is based on work done by Curtis Brown. It is an in-depth discussion of structure and musculature of all breeds. It covers gait, overall structure, fronts, rears, and how the parts work to make the dog move.  It’s not specific to Dobermans, but all the discussions apply to Dobermans.  An interesting aspect is that after reading it, you will understand why some dog standards call for 30-degree pelvis, and some ask for a much steeper angle. You’ll know why hock length is important. Some breeds call for moderate angulation … not for aesthetics, but for function and what the dog was used for.  It’s very good book.  Somewhat technical, but still readable for most dog people. I’ve read it cover to cover twice, and will probably do so again in the future.
  2. Read The New Dog Steps by Rachel Page Elliott. It will give you a good understanding of gait in the   dog.  This book has lots of illustrations.  Her work was based on studies of live dogs in controlled gaits using a combination of photography and fluoroscopy … a process called cineradiography. It will further your understanding of structure as well as gait.
  3. Buy the video from AKC entitled The New Dog Steps by Rachel Page Elliott.  This is a great visualization of the book mentioned above.  It´s about an hour in length and is well worth the viewing.  Maybe your chapter club could buy this video and use it as a meeting program once a year.  It certainly bears watching more than once.
  4. Subscribe to the Doberman Breed Magazines.  Both of the major magazines (Doberman Quarterly and Doberman Digest) have good articles.  The articles cover a range of topics.  The photographs of the dogs give you a good opportunity to “train your eye” by evaluating every dog in the magazine.  Measure the dogs in the photos.  Are they square?  Is leg length equal to body depth?  Does the head fit the body?  Is there adequate substance?  What are the angles in the front and in the rear? Is the dog balanced?  Etc. etc.  Study, study, study.
  5. Go to local Doberman judges seminars.  The DPCA provides approved seminars from time to time in  different sections of the country.  You can find out where these seminars are by visiting the judge´s education web site at the DPCA.  The seminars listed are given by DPCA approved presenters and will help you learn about structure, heads, movement, temperament, and history.
  6. Speaking of web sites, study the information on the judge´s education web site and the breeder´s education web site.
  7. Hang out with dog people. Talk with breeders, handlers, and judges to further your education. Learn from others, but make sure the ones you´re learning from have credentials in the sport.  They don´t have to be Doberman people, but they should have a good amount of experience and success in their own breed.
  8. Go to other rings.  Watch Boxers, Great Danes, and other breeds that are similar to ours and are competitive in numbers. You will find that much of what you learn about Doberman structure and movement can be directly transferred to other breeds. There you will also watch more and different handlers. See different techniques.
  9. Get a mentor. Learn from their years of experience. Better yet, get several mentors. No one has all the answers and one person’s opinion is the absolute end.  Seek opinions of many. There will be a common thread that they all agree on. You can probably accept this.  There will be opinions in conflict, but that’s where you have the opportunity to choose what YOU think is right.  Form your own opinions.
  10. Join a chapter club of DPCA.  If you are already in one, ask the program chairman if the club could host a series of programs to discuss and study the standard using live dogs and expert presenters from within the club.  It can be a collaborative learning experience.
  11. Join an all-breed club.  Exposure to other people with other breeds can be enlightening and enriching.   It also gives you the opportunity to volunteer, so that you can contribute something back to the sport.   The sport depends on volunteers.   Be a giver and a taker, not just a taker from our sport.
  12. Take every opportunity to learn about dogs (Animal Planet, AKC Gazette, all breed magazines, etc.).  Some of it will enhance your knowledge of Dobermans, even if it comes from other breeds.
  13. Go to the National.  Although I started this out by stating that the National isn´t the only place to learn, I must admit that it is probably the best.  It´s your chance to take advantage of educational offerings such as the breeder´s seminar, exhibitor´s seminar, health seminars and training seminars.  You will see a huge representation of the breed.  Most of our best dogs are exhibited at the National.  The ringside is ripe with experienced and knowledgeable people to help you.  What a great opportunity.

I hope this helps some of you find more resources to educate yourself.  You can only learn through hard work and dedication.  It´s all their for the taking.

submitted by Michelle Santana
Foxfire Dobermans