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How The Standard Works

written & submitted by Bill Garnett

Since the response to “Type, hype or personal preference . . . choose your poison” was so gratifying and in a sense overwhelming, I thought some of you would be interested in how, balance, symmetry and soundness comes about and plays such a huge role in establishing  “proper breed type”.  So many of you wrote such excellent comments and made so many very astute observations I felt there was an audience out there that would appreciate taking a look at the standard to see what it has to say about the subject and how “proper breed type” evolves.

Like so many of you stated, soundness comes in many forms:

  • static soundness,
  • kinetic soundness,
  • soundness of mind,
  • soundness of body,
  • soundness of limb,
  • soundness of joints,
  • soundness of muscle and
  • the overall soundness that comes about when the balance of all these aspects comes into play creating true “breed type. 

They all are a part of the Doberman standard and they are all contribute to “proper breed type.”  It is in understanding what the blueprint (standard) is saying and to that conclusion I hope I can be of help by explaining just how the blueprint (standard) works and why it calls for certain parts and their specific arrangements and the benefits derived.  It really not that difficult.  It’s like learning to ride a bike. It may seem hopeless at first but all at once . . .  away we go.  Learning to read the blueprint (standard) and recognizing “proper breed type” is the same.  All we need to be is objective, have a open mind and a desire to learn and it will all fall into place.

GENERAL CONFORMATION AND APPEARANCE: The standard’s first reference to soundness is immediate and profound for in it’s opening paragraph it calls for a square dog of vertical and horizontal balance; requiring the measurement from ground to withers (vertically) to be equal to the measurement from fore chest to the rear projection of the upper thigh (horizontally) to be the same.  This sets the mood for a dog of balanced proportions, balance being the very essence of soundness.  Without horizontal and vertical balance you can not have “proper breed type”. ” Listen to me . . . read my lips”.  Without horizontal and vertical balance you can not have “proper breed type”.  Let me say it again in this manner.  Horizontal and vertical balance is one of the most important requirements for “proper breed type”.  Long,  low and over-angulated in the rear does in no way fit into the equation.  It can’t get any clearer than that.

Moving to the HEIGHT paragraph.  We are instructed to breed Dobermans of medium size, with specific dimensions (26″ to 28″ with 27 and a ½” being ideal for dogs and 24″ to 26″ with 25 and ½” being ideal for bitches).  These dimensions weren’t just arbitrarily plucked from the sky.  Some very astute people knew exactly what they were doing. It’s really simple, medium sized dogs are more agile than larger dogs and have good endurance but still have enough size to generate the power to successfully function as a working dog. The problem with Dobermans that get beyond the 28″ area is the difficulty that nature encounters keeping them in static and kinetic balance. (We will go into that in detail later on).  By being specific in it’s demands for a medium sized dog the standard is laying the requirements for another of it’s important aspect that contributes to  “proper breed type” . . . SIZE!  Those very astute people, who wrote our standard, knew enough to lay down exacting perimeters . . . 27 and a ½” for dogs and 25 and  a ½” for bitches.  God only knows how many times I have heard people say  “I like my dogs big with a lot of bone and substance.”  I have no problem with that as long as you are talking about Danes or Mastiffs.  What gives those  people the right to impose their “personal preferences” or “hype” on our breed?  If they insist on big dogs with a lot of bone and substance over 28″ than they should go to another breed for that is not the “proper breed type” of  the Doberman Pinscher.  It’s just that simple.

SHY OR VICIOUS DOGS:  The standard states that judges should dismiss from the ring shy or vicious dogs. What the standard is alluding to here is that a Doberman must be mentally “sound”, with keen and stable intent, allowing it to comfortably co-exist in today’s complex society. A keen and stable intent.”

That’s the soundness of mind that is reflected in the  “proper breed type” of a Doberman Pinscher.  Mental soundness is an important part of “proper breed type” and should never be compromised.

HEAD: “Long and dry resembling a blunt wedge from both frontal and profile views.  When seen from the front, the head widens gradually towards the base of the ear in practically an unbroken line; the top of the skull flat, turning with a slight top to bridge of muzzle, with muzzle line extending parallel to top of skull, cheeks flat and muscular, lips lying close to jaws, jaws full and powerful, well filled under the eye.”  So you say  “okay wise guy where’s the reference to soundness here?”  Follow me. For a Doberman to have a sound mouth, the jaws must be full and powerful, capable of accommodating 42 strongly developed and correctly placed teeth. The standard adamantly underscores the importance of a sound mouth. By calling for a scissor bite, any deviation one way are the other is considered a serious fault. Overshot by more than 3/16 of an inch or undershot 1/8 of an inch carries a disqualification penalty as well as four or more missing teeth. There are no ands, ifs or buts about it our Dobermans are suppose to have sound mouths. Well filled under the eye is not a random off the wall request but one that is specific in need and functional in design. It provides a solid foundation for the cutting molar that fall right under the eye. Nature doesn’t miss a trick.  And neither did the authors of the standard. A sound head piece is quite significant in its contribution to “proper breed type” but it is only a contributing factor and should never be the sole reason for pinning a dog as a few judges have been so inclined.

EAR CROPPING: It is said by some that ear cropping serves no useful function or purpose.  While I personally don’t have a problem with natural ears it is a proven fact that cropped ears do serve some functional and useful purpose. Cropped ears, carried erect lessen the chance for infection by providing better air circulation and improves the dogs audio capabilities by trapping more sound decibels.  Cropped ears also lessens or reduces the volume of leather that can be scratched, cut or torn while the Doberman is at work or play. So you see it’s not just a cosmetic thing as some would have you think.  Properly cropped ears contribute to the overall look and balance of the head and they enhance “proper breed type”. . . alert, proud, elegant in appearance, reflecting great nobility and temperament  . . . if you will.

NECK: “Proudly carried, well muscled and dry, well arched with nape of neck widening gradually towards the body. Length of neck is in proportion to body and head.”  You say. “What on earth refers to soundness here?”  If you did indeed say that, you missed the two key words “muscled” and “proportion.” Go back and pick these words out. What do they mean and how do they relate to soundness? First of all, well muscled depicts good condition.  Good condition reflects strong bodies and sound limbs; prerequisites for a sound dog.  But, being more specific, the benefits of a well muscled dry neck means that the muscle that runs from behind the ear, down the neck, down the front attaching itself around the upper arm, helps pull the upper arm forward while the dog it gaiting. Thus that muscle assist in the forward reach of the dog.  This strong well conditioned dry muscle clearly contributes to the kinetic effort and soundness of the Doberman.  How many of us even knew the muscle existed. The writers of our standard did and they realized it’s importance.  “Neck must be in balance with the head and body.”  You say. “So what? What’s that got to do with soundness or “proper breed type”? Simple, if the neck is too short we reduce the length of that muscle.  Thus reducing it’s strength by reducing the leverage, which can result in and contribute to a stilted and restrictive gait in front.  If the neck is too long it throws the dog out of balance, causing an inefficient gait and a lose of energy as the dog battles the forces to maintain its center of gravity and to overcome lateral displacement in front. “In proportion (balance) to body and head,” balance is always at the core of standard instructions.  Too long is a problem . . . too short is a problem . . . it’s balanced proportions that we looking for.  So once again we are instructed as to the benefits of a neck of proper length not only does it contribute to the soundness of the front but it is one of the focal points of “proper breed type.”

BODY: “Back short and firm, of sufficient width and muscled at the loin, extending in a straight line to slightly rounded croup.”  Boy! Does the aforementioned sentence set “proper breed type.” “Body short and firm, of sufficient width and muscled at the loin, extending in a straight line to a slightly rounded croup” . . . firm . . . of sufficient width … and muscled . . . all derivatives of soundness and good condition.  It doesn’t get any plainer than that.  Realizing the Doberman to be a “galloping breed” our standard writers felt the short, firm back was the best set up.  Any arguments to the contrary would be somewhat weak.  However, at this point other concerns do come into play.  I can accept the short firm back as called for in the standard.  And have no problem combining it with a square dog as called for in the general description paragraph.  However here’s where it gets sticky.  Later on we will be ask to accept not only a square dog with a short back, but also one of fore and aft angles of ninety degrees and a shoulder that slopes forty-five degrees.  Arguably, these angles are somewhat difficult to impose on a square, short backed dog and maintain the balance necessary for efficient and effortless ground covering movement.  However the method of the standard writers’  madness, I feel, is answered in the section on shoulders. So I will wait until then to discuss this further. Back to the short firm back.  This insertion does cause some problems.  To begin with a lot folks don’t know where the back is.  I can remember when I didn’t.  But be that as it may, there are some people who still think the top line is the back.  There are those that don’t know the top line is composed of the neck, withers, back, loin and the croup.  This is not an attempt to put anyone down. . . it’s just fact. I didn’t know it when I first started out. 

Another error that we all made at one time or another is not knowing the difference between the back and the loin.  To a lot of people they’re one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Anyway, In an effort to follow the standard and keep the back short or if you will shorten the back we sometimes shorten the loin instead.  And in some cases we almost take the entire loin out of the dog which reduces the over-all balance of the dog.  So here we are.  We’ve got a 28 inch dog that is 27 inches long on which we’re trying to force ninety degree angles fore and aft.  When asked to move . . . the dog can hardly get out of its way.  By shortening or in some cases almost eliminating the loin all together we moved the rear too far forward almost against the rib cage.  Now we have a dog that is out of balance.  If the dog has decent rear angulation or is over angulated he will probably have a difficult time not running over his front. Usually a dog will compensate this condition by side winding.  Single tracking goes out the window, ground coverage is reduced, and an earlier breakdown of pastern joints and front assemblies can occur. What a disaster! All because we didn’t understand what the blueprint (standard) was saying. Balance, symmetry and soundness are all welded together in a constant effort to produce “proper breed type”.

CROUP:  We will discuss this in the section relating to hindquarters.

WITHERS:  We will discuss this in the section related to forequarters.

BRISKET: “Reaching deep to the elbow.” 

CHEST: “Broad with fore chest well defined.” 

RIBS: “Well sprung from the spine, but flatter in lower end to allow elbow clearance.”  Brisket reaching deep to the elbow, chest broad and well defined and ribs well sprung all go together to make up the proper body cavity shape needed to provide the heart and lungs ample room to function; providing the Doberman with good blood circulation and oxygen distribution so vital to a dog as active and as energetic as a Doberman.  Lets focus on the rib cage again so as not to miss something of paramount importance. “Ribs well sprung from spine but flatten in lower end to permit elbow clearance.” It’s hard to believe that there are those that say the standard doesn’t require a Doberman to be sound.  “To permit elbow clearance.”  How subtle this insertion . . . how masterful this stroke . . . how complete their understanding.  Not only does this section inform us of why the brisket is deep, why the chest is broad and well defined and why the ribs are well sprung but it also helps to create the proper outline of the Doberman which in turn contributes to “proper breed type.”

BELLY: “Well tucked up.”  Why?  Because it’s pretty?  No! Because it forms a pocket that allows the hindquarters to comfortably reach under the body while the dog is gaiting.  And also as in the preceding statement it adds to the overall “proper breed type” outline or if you will picture. So that you don’t misunderstand.  “Well tucked up” does not mean Huron gutted. Example: the tuck up of a greyhound.  Some people think that’s right.  You know the old adage, “more is bette
r.”  That just doesn’t work in dogs.  And then you have the other extreme.  No tuck up at all.  You know how they spin that one . . . “boy what a nice deep body.”

HIPS: “Broad and in proportion to the body.  Breadth of hips is approximately equal to the breadth of body at rib cage and shoulders.”  The standard is continuously trying to keep the Doberman in balance through the use of correct proportions.  Balance minimizes the drain of energy by increasing efficiency of effort.  Again “proper breed type” is outlined when you look down over the dog.

TAIL: Will discuss this in section relating to hindquarters.

SHOULDERS: This is probably the most discussed part of a Doberman’s anatomy and the least understood.  Most people can recite the 45 degree slope of shoulder and the 90 degree upper arm to shoulder angle. (By the way, have you ever seen this set up on a Doberman?)  I have.  Do any of you remember the red dog that won winners dog under me at the Toledo Nationals?  He was a Brierpatch dog bred by a girl named Tonya Childs.  Well he had a black litter brother that had as close to a 45 degree slope of shoulder and a 90 degree upper to shoulder set up that I had ever seen on a Doberman.  I can go to my grave now saying a saw the front set up that the standard calls for.  Anyway understanding how important this set up is; it is my belief our forefathers felt obliged to overstate this requirement in a desperate attempt to keep us away from the alternative . . . an alternative that they knew to be devastating to the breed.  Unfortunately a lot of people have not heeded nor understood their warning and have fallen prey to the easy way out.  Shoulders sloping up to 65 – 75 degree and shoulder to upper arm angles measuring 110 – 150 degrees are not uncommon.  This is the “improper breed type” that is so prevalent today.  Some say, so what?  I like it . . . it wins!  What’s the big deal?   I’ll tell you what the big deal is.  How can we assume that we have the right to deny the Doberman its heritage by taking away its rights to a sound body and good joints?  Let’s examine just what happened when we, under the guise of personal preference, created this monster by going for the high station, elegant “painted” look.  First, by allowing the shoulder to go so straight we reduced its size.  A properly sloping shoulder has a larger area of space to fit into.  This larger space allows the shoulder blade to increase its length and broaden in breadth.  The advantages resulting from a longer, wider scapula (shoulder blade) is reflected in its larger surface area.  Lets take a look at why this is true.  The scapula (shoulder blade) is held in place by four muscles, two from above and two from below.  They cover the shoulder blade’s area completely.  Now it follows that the larger the area that the muscles have to cover, the larger the muscles (themselves) will be.  Consequently, the logic would follow, the larger the muscles the stronger the set up that’s holding the shoulders in place.  Of course all of this is out the window if the dog isn’t conditioned properly.  Now let’s continue along the path of straightening the shoulder slope, best seen in the high station . . . “improper breed type” look.  The reverse of what we just discussed happens.  Instead of a larger housing area the blade must now fit into a smaller area.  This reduces its size and consequently the size of the four muscles holding it.  This results in smaller and weaker muscles that are unable to hold the front (shoulder) as well as their larger counterparts.  This condition in one of the more serious contributing factors to loose front that we see so often.  In an attempt to strengthen this weak front mother nature kicks in and moves the upper arm out from it’s laid back position aligning it more up and down with the shoulder blade.  This increases the angle (upper arm to shoulder blade) and in order to maintain the dog at a certain height the upper arm has to be shortened for now it (upper arm) also must fit into a smaller area . . . thus the short, straight upper arm.  With this development comes another problem.  A properly balanced front will have a shoulder and upper arm on a one to one relationship.  What we have now is an upper arm that is shorter than the shoulder blade, a very common problem in our breed today.  Now let review what we’ve got.  Small muscles supporting a small shoulder blade attached to a short straight upper arm . . . the beginning ingredients for front end disaster.  To this we hang a lower leg.  With balance gone out the window and  not much support from above the lower leg goes all over the place.  It gets worse.  Now we’ve got steep shoulders attached to a short straight upper arm, hooked to an out of control lower leg and to that we add the “pretty” straight pastern.   Instead of helping to absorb some of the concussion of gait that the “slightly bent pastern” was designed to do, the pastern now becomes part of the problem.  The pounding and jarring takes it’s toll, break down is inevitable.  All because we have decided that the “type” of Doberman we want is reflected in the “straight fronted high station look.”  That’s not the “look of eagles”  that’s the  formula for disaster.  Pretty expensive can of trade off from “proper breed type” . . . wouldn’t you say.   

LEGS: “Straight and parallel to one another when standing still”.  Why?  Because this helps to bring the front into static balance.  “Well muscled,” again a reference to good conditioning.  “With heavy bone.”  Some have interpreted this to mean big bone.  Not so.  What the standard wants us to do is to get away from narrow, oblong bone that robs the Doberman of critical bone marrow volume, bone marrow that is so vital to a Doberman’s well being and health. Round bone is what is called for here for it has more density and area to house more bone marrow.  Thus round bone becomes another factor in the outline of  “proper breed type.”   

FEET: “Well arched and compact.” One can not stress enough the importance of good feet. Almost always a poor gaiting Doberman will have poor feet.  By the same token, a good gaiting Doberman will usually have well arched and thickly padded feet this aides the stability of the front by helping to absorb some of the shock of concussion of the gait.  But as important as well arched feet are in absorbing the concussion of gait there is nothing as pretty, at least in my eyes, then to see a Doberman standing up on well arched feet.  You talk about adding to “proper breed type” . . . now that’s “proper breed type.”   

HINDQUARTERS: What the standard calls for right off the bat is balance between the hind and forequarters. “Balance fore and aft.” even though there is a separation of the two they still must stay in balance.  This balance, that the standard calls for, is such an important part of the Doberman’s overall “proper breed type” it can’t be stressed enough.  “Hips fall away from the spinal column at an angle of about 30 degrees, producing a slightly rounded “we
ll filled croup.”  This is another of the maligned and misunderstood of the standard’s requirements.  First of all it is specific. The standard stipulates that the hip bone falls away at an angle of almost 30 degrees, not almost 20, not almost 10 and not almost 40 but at almost 30 degrees.  And then the upper shank set at right angles (90 degrees) to the hip bone, with lower shank of equal length to maintain fore and aft balance.  The hinge that is created will influence the action of the rear assembly dramatically. To understand just what has happened we must be aware of the two arcs that are created when the rear is set in motion.  To facilitate this discussion they are described as the forward and rear arcs.  To recognize these two arcs we must mentally plumb from the tip of the hip to the spot on the ground just on or just in front of the rear toes. That spot is the starting point for both arcs. From that spot backward is the rear arc or as some may call it “the rear push.”  From that spot forward is the forward arc or as some might call it “the rear reach.”  With the hips set at 30 degrees the resulting arcs, if the rear is in balance, will be of equal length and duration.  This makes for an efficiently working rear assembly and has a strong influence on “proper breed type” because as in other arrangements and assemblies it contributes to the body outline of the Doberman, in both its static and kinetic positions, and how those positions reflect over-all balance particularly to the front assembly.   

Now, lets look at what happens if we move the hip bone up, decreasing the angle, we’ve created the higher croup. The results would be . . . less reach and more push.  The opposite would occur if we lowered the croup, increasing the angle, more reach under and less push behind.  Dogs with the latter are more agile and can turn very quickly.  Much like the cutting horses with steep croups; this set up gives them the ability to turn quickly while working cattle in tight places.  The 30 degree set-up is considered the best balanced, most rhythmic and is abundantly more efficient than the alternatives.  However, the higher sets do have their admires.  Usually they are the same people that like the “high station straight front” look.  They think these higher sets are prettier and go better with their straight fronts. And in a sense they do. By eliminating the forward reach in the rear the Doberman can avoid running over their stilted and restrictive fronts.  How’s that for trading off balance and soundness for the wrong can of “breed type”?  Do two faults make it right? I think not. The 30 degree set up reflects the “proper breed type” as reflected in the outline of the Doberman.  So, in summery, the set of the croup can signify balance or the lack of in the rear.  High set . . . more push less reach.  Low set . . . more reach less push.  And the set with the tail just breaking the horizontal plane . . . equal reach and equal push.  One more thing.  Getting back to balance fore and aft.  The angle that the upper thigh makes when it joins the pelvis should be the same as the angle formed when the upper arm of the front joins the shoulder blade.  That’s called balance fore and aft.  If they are both of 90 degrees that’s called utopia.  It is that  “balance” that has such a tremendous influence on the outline of the Doberman that, in turn, has such an impact on and how it reflects  “proper breed type.”  It takes a good eye to see it.  But like riding that bike.  The longer you work at it the better you get.   

GAIT: “Free, balanced and vigorous, with good reach in the forequarters and good push in the hindquarters.  When trotting there is a strong rear action drive. Each leg is moving in line with the foreleg of the same side.  Rear and front legs are thrown neither in nor out.  Back remains strong and firm when moving at a fast trot.  A properly built Doberman will single track.” God!  If we can’t see the references to soundness in this section and it’s correlation to “proper breed type” we had better start building model airplanes or planting gardens.  If you still believe the standard says little about soundness and “its” contribution to  “proper breed type”  please reread the paragraph on gait, carefully and sense what the words impart.  “Free . . . balance . . .  vigorous . . . good reach . . . good driving power . . . trotting . . . strong rear action . . . legs thrown neither in nor out . . . back strong and firm . . . a properly built Doberman will single track.”  These are the keys to how well we did our job in building the Doberman with proper breed type”.  If these keys are present and functioning properly than we have done our job well for they check every joint, every assembly and every muscle.  They double check every standard instruction.  They leave no room for shallow interpretation or personal preference.  They are the safe guards of our breed for they are the keys to a standard conforming Doberman and in turn . . . contribute to and influence “proper breed type.”   

At this point if you are still with me . . . we have to have learned something.  If what we have learned makes sense and makes us a better Doberman person . . . wonderful.  But don’t let it stop here.  Get a convert, and get that convert to get a convert and that convert to get still another convert and on and on. Ignorance shrouded in personal preference can no longer be accepted.  For those that disagree . . . and their numbers will be substantial . . . they are beyond help.  They will continue to circumvent our standard and reduce our wonderful breed to no more than dark eyes, erect ears, five degree croups and a mentality whose field of focus is reduced to a piece of liver while the whole damn world blows up around them.

Reflecting back to my college days, I remember the problem I was having “seeing” all the metaphors and analogies that went along with the Greek tragedies.  One day when I was particularly exasperated, I said to my professor, “I give up.  I read this stuff but I don’t see any of what you say is there.” I’ll never forget what he said to me. “Bill, you’re just skimming over the words because of an assignment to read so many pages each night.  You’re not seeing, you’re not listening because you’re not interested.  You have to want to learn . . . you have to want to hear the music. When you do . . . it all becomes a beautiful symphony.” In the sport of pure bred dogs the same analogy can be applied.  You have to listen . . . you have to feel . . . you have to want to learn.  Once you do, a standard conforming dog becomes a work of art and the symphony is truly beautiful.

To all of you who took the time to read and study this, I hope in some way you’ll hear the music . . . see the beauty . . . and feel the glow.  “The DOBERMAN PINSCHER is a square, compact, medium size dog of balanced proportions, noble in it’s intent, courageous by nature and SOUND of mind, body and joints. If you should be so fortunate as to find two dogs possessing these nine traits then by all means break the tie with any of your personal preferences”