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Home 9 Breeder Education Home 9 Judging The Doberman

Judging The Doberman

submitted by Marj Brooks & written by Linda C. Krukar, Dabney Dobermans

The Doberman Pinscher is a popular and ‘high profile’ breed at the shows. The quantity of dogs does not necessarily indicate the quality of the dogs. It’s important to know and understand the standard so it can be applied instead of judging to personal taste. The dog that best meets the standard may not be the dog you would want to take home with you. The dog that best meets the standard may be the one that looks different from the other dogs. Compare the dog against the standard and not against the other dogs in the ring.

Be comfortable enough with the standard to judge the dogs and not be influenced by such factors as the number of dogs a handler brings to you, the body language they may use, the faces they may make, the quality of the handling, or advertising. You can find a good dog if it’s there and usually when it’s left on it’s own — while moving or free
standing, something that any good Doberman can do by itself!

The Doberman is NOT a robot! While it is beautiful to watch a perfectly trained dog stand motionless at the end of the lead with ears up, neck arched and rear stretched to the max, staring at a piece of bait, this is an artificial image of the breed. A better picture of the same dog would be to see him standing at the end of the lead full of energy, in intense observation of something happening around him — he may not be focused on the handler or the judge, but be alert to his surroundings, and be well aware of the handler and the judge.

Doberman handlers are some of the best at the shows. Presentations vary from casual to very intense. Many are experts at stacking, showing teeth, and gaiting, while some are excellent at racing dogs around the ring and stringing them up to try to cover faults. You are in control of your own ring. Have the dog presented the way you want it, not the way the handler wants you to see it.

You should get the same impression of the dog standing and moving. Do justice to the Doberman and move him nice and easy on a loose lead.

1 Start by standing at a distance from the dog, looking at the impression the dog gives you as a whole from a profile view.

  • Is it a medium sized dog, one piece? Does everything flow together? Do you get the impression of a powerful, muscular dog?

  • Is the dog balanced? Is the weight evenly distributed? Does it look like you could push him from any direction and you couldn’t push him off balance?

  • Does any part catch your eye? Does any part stand out, or make you stop and look at it (good or bad)?

  • Are all the parts in proportion to each other, is the dog smooth, is the outline pleasing, is the brisket to the elbow, is the tail set correct, is the neck length in proportion to the body, legs, head, does
    everything fit?

2 Always approach the dog from the front and look at him asking yourself the same questions you did while viewing the outline from a distance.


  • Do you have the same impression of the dog up close as you did from a distance?

  • Are the legs straight, feet tight and catlike, is there sufficient bone, is there correct width between the legs, is there sufficient depth of brisket, check the shape of the head– is the head a blunt wedge, is there fill under the eye (do you have a muzzle in your hands or air), do you see underjaw, are ears set high, eyes correct (to be sure, have the dog lift his head and look up — a confident dog will look you in the eye) is the dog alert, ask yourself again, do all the parts fit?

  • Many handlers like to hold the ears up. How can you tell where the ears are set?

  • Do NOT bend down in front to check teeth or measure angles. Dobermans are trained to tolerate most anything, but they are inherently watchful and alert. Respect the Doberman. If the dog turns his head towards you on the exam, he is just being curious, not shy.

3 It’s not necessary to have a conversation with a Doberman, a greeting is sufficient — they do not need reassurance. In fact, they may become leery with too much talking.

4 Be firm and definite (not rough) in your approach — if you are leery or approach in a timid manner, they will be suspicious and not want you to get behind them or out of their view.

5 Check the teeth. There are three disqualifications in the mouth, so it is important to know how to check the number of teeth and occlusion. Be sure to check the occlusion from the front and side. First check the mouth with jaws closed, lift the lips and count teeth in the front and each side, then open the mouth a small amount, angle the head up and look at the very back teeth. (a good handler will put fingers in the spaces where teeth should be if they are missing, or let the lips cover the spaces). DON’T COUNT SPACES, COUNT TEETH!!!! Teeth should be large (and clean). Be aware that extra teeth can fill in spaces where teeth are missing, in which case, 42 teeth can still lead to a
disqualification. Remember that the standard states, “42 CORRECTLY PLACED teeth”.

6 Put your hands on the side of the muzzle — if there is good fill, you will have no space between the muzzle and your hands. Continue up the muzzle to the feel the top of the skull where the ears join the head, feel the base of the ears (if you are going to feel strings, it will be here) — continue up the ear.

7 Run your hand down the neck and feel the shoulders, the chest (or lack thereof), down the back, to the tail, feeling the croup. While still maintaining contact with the dog, check for testicles. Feel the coat texture and observe the color.

8 Walk around to the rear of the dog and look down at him from behind. See the width of shoulder, rib and hips (they should be the same). Is there an hour glass shape, does the dog have a barrel shape, or is it flat like a piece of cardboard? Does the neck flow into the shoulder smoothly (wrinkles over the neck?), do the elbows fit tight into the
ribs, again, does it all flow together?

9 Squeeze the thigh to feel for muscle. The Doberman is an athlete and should look and feel like one, with hard muscle and tight skin.

Gaiting —

1 Ask the handler to gait the dog in the pattern you request, but ask the handler to move the dog easy on a loose lead. Tell every handler, every time.

2 Watch the dog move up and back — slowly on a loose lead. Some handlers will string up the dog and move fast to hide poor movement.

3 The legs should tend towards the middle. This is a breed that single tracks, but each dog will do it at a different speed, so they should not move wide.

4 As the dog gaits away, look through the rear and watch the front. As the dog comes towards you, look through the front and watch the rear.

5 While the dog is gaiting, observe the reach and drive (front leg extends as far as the plane of the tip of the nose), is the dog light on his feet, is there any wasted motion? Is the dog balanced while moving? Do the parts fit together? This is the one time you can truly see how the dog is built, handlers can’t lengthen the neck, put the tail where it belongs, fix a bad topline, or underline, and add or subtract to make the parts fit. Observe more than the feet and legs, watch the entire body, how the dog carries himself, keeping in mind that the head should be carried just above the shoulder, not too high. Efficient gait comes from a correctly built dog.

6 When the Doberman gaits, the side gait should look like two scissors
moving in unison. Gaiting is powerful, it should be balanced, with both ends moving in unison. There should be no overreaching/overstriding (when the legs cross in the middle). They should NOT move like a German Shepherd — with extreme, exaggerated reach and drive, which is not typical Doberman movement. The Doberman has moderate angles and therefore should not have an extreme gait. The Doberman should have a moderate, yet powerful gait.

7 The rear should look like it’s moving the dog forward, not just following the front. The hocks should extend, not stay firm (sickle hocks). Sickle hocks and over angulated rears creating extreme (GSD — like) side gait are not typical Doberman gait characteristics and should not be rewarded.

8 One of the most important ways to observe the “General Appearance”, is to see the dog standing on it’s own — without handler contact. Ask the handler to bring the dog to a location in the ring so that you can walk around it and observe it from all directions. . Let the dog stand on his own — don’t allow the handler to hand stack the dog. Observe how the dog puts himself together and not the skills of the handler.


  • Walk up and look into the dog’s eyes, at the expression. If the handler tosses bait do you see expression? Do you see the sparkle in the eye?

  • How does the dog feel about himself?

  • The dog should stop 4 square — this doesn’t mean all the feet have to be perfect — it means the weight should be evenly distributed in the center of the dog. If you pushed him from any direction, he wouldn’t lose his balance.

  • A Doberman being watchful, determined and alert, may not immediately focus on the handler — give them enough time to focus, then finish your exam.

Things to observe while the dog is in motion —

  • Is the dog over reaching? (legs crossing in the middle?)

  • Is the tail carried just above the horizontal or is it straight up?

  • Is the topline level, not lumpy. How does the neck fit into the

  • Is the head carried high or just above the level of the shoulder for efficiency?

  • Does the dog put himself together without the aid of the handler?

  • Do all the parts fit together in one piece or do you notice individual parts of the dog?

  • Did you get the same impression of the dog standing and moving?

  • Does the dog look like an athlete, poured into his skin, one piece, elegant, moderate (not extreme), does the dog feel good about himself?

  • Most of the evaluation should be when the dog is on the move — not basing it only on reach, drive and soundness, but how the parts fit together into a whole package, creating the look of the well balanced,
    one piece, Doberman Pinscher.

The dog that best meets the standard may be the one that looks different from the other dogs…

In the end, take all the parts together and select the Doberman that overall best meets the description of the standard.