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Standard Size: The Whys

Article written and submitted by Colby Homer, Homer Hill Dobermans
Illustrations by Jeanne Flora, Argostar Dobermans 


© Jeanne 2001


When I became involved with Dobermans in the 1970’s I was taught by my mentors that measuring your own dogs was a necessary part of their assessment. It was interesting and enjoyable to track their growth as puppies and it revealed that some of my dogs added a bit to their growth rather late in their maturing process. Since I knew my dogs’ height I casually compared them to others at show, just as all of us trend to do.While showing what would become my first owner-handled champion, under Peggy Adamson, a comment she made to me as she handed me the ribbon changed my attitude in regard to size from an observer to a student. Peggy put her hand on my arm, smiled and simply said “You know, your dog is really lovely … but just a little too tall for me”. She was correct, of course, as he was 28-3/4-inches and since I respected her so much, that simple comment made me want to find out why it mattered to her.
As years went by there were other dogs and a few (very few!) litters and I was pleased to manage to stay with standard-sized animals. It was particularly satisfying to finish a 25-inch bitch, in twenty shows from first point to last, myself and to have a 25-3/4-inch bitch that I bred and co-owned, achieve an Award Of Merit at our National in her only outing as a Special.
I bring this anecdotal history to paper so the reader can understand that I have owned over-sized animals and animals well within the Standard and finished both and felt them both worthy of finishing. I can well appreciate the commitment of a breeder and owner bringing a quality Doberman Pinscher to the point where he is evaluated in the ring as show and breeding stock. I have written this article solely with a desire to sharpen awareness and stimulate a discussion of our breeders, owners and judges, regarding the element of proper size in the Doberman and how to assess it from several perspectives.
With that said, I also must comment that at this time I am observing a larger percentage of bitches being exhibited that are well over standard size. With most of our male dogs over standard or at the top of our Standard, the trend of larger bitches could possibly defeat our natural system of checks and balances within our breed for size when breeding. When one breeds an oversize dog to an oversize bitch, after all, what size will the majority of the puppies be at maturity and what are the consequences of those breeding decisions be on the future gene pool?
I have drawn on the expertise of those known to us, as well as some experts outside our breed, for this article. I was encouraged by the consensus of opinion generally being with my own.
With all of this in mind, here are some of the ‘Whys Of Standard Size’.
From the Standard for the Doberman Pinscher:
Size, Proportion, Substance – Height at withers: Dogs 26 to 28 inches, ideal about 27-1/2 inches; Bitches 24 to 26 inches, ideal about 25-1/2 inches The height measured vertically from the ground to the highest point of the withers, equalling the length measured horizontally from the forechest to the rear projection of the upper thigh. Length of head, neck and legs in proportion to length and depth of body.’

© Jeanne 2001

As we all know, several important and highly detailed books cover the origin and early history of the Doberman (check Bibliography). Some of these books are ancient history but still remain a ‘must read’ for anyone that is truly serious about our chosen breed. History makes today’s progress discernable and yesterday’s concerns are highly relevant to today’s concerns. Although ours is a young breed compared to others, researching one aspect over a hundred years was a project that could have been easily expanded to a chapter in a book. This is a brief overview of just one part of Doberman structure…size…but it is certainly one of the most essential aspects of the Standard. 
To better understand the present we must review the past. For brevity, some highlights follow in a ‘time machine’!
On August 27, 1899, the National Doberman Pinscher Club was organized in Apolda, Germany and the first Standard of the breed was issued. In 1900 the Doberman was recognized as a breed in Germany. In 1908, the first Doberman was registered in the United States. The first American Champion was Ch. Doberman Hertha in 1912. By 1920 there was a Doberman entry at Westminster and by 1923 the Westminster Doberman entry was 46. Early Doberman people in the U.S. spared no expense and important dogs and bitches were imported from Germany and Holland. Further proof of their dedication was that they brought German experts over to judge as well. Philipp Gruenig, one of the greatest historians of our breed, judged Dobermans at the March, 1927 show of the Long Island Kennel Club and in a statement in the AKC Gazette said “The correct size of the male is 25-1/2 to 27 inches. The bitches may be smaller. Statements in some American dog magazines that the maximum height of a Doberman is 25-1/2 inches, I think they may be wrong. The tendency for some years has been toward the larger dog. On the other hand, this should not be carried to excess”. (2) To step back in time just a bit, we see Gruenig’s critiques were prefaced by the 1925 Standard which finally mentioned ideal size and included under faults ‘Especially faulty…too low standing or distinct high-legged’, the first cautionary comment regarding size. With the breed in such rapid evolution, type was stabilizing, so size was the next concern … or was it the beginning of a controversy? as we can see by the photos (and note the dates) the Doberman changed and grew larger at an amazing rate! By examining the chart ‘Size Limitations In The Dobe Standards Throughout The History Of The Breed’ (3) one can easily see the drama unfolding. The only material change that took place between the years of 1899 and 1925 (in the Standards), was an increased shoulder height for dogs from a minimum of 21.6 inches to a maximum of 23.6 inches, corresponding with a maximum of 18.8 inches to 21.6 inches for bitches. The breed grew taller which necessitated a concession as to shoulder height. Controversies over the maximum shoulder heights extended over a number of years. The conservatives felt that inasmuch as the Doberman Pinscher belonged to the medium-sized breeds, it would be dangerous to permit such heights as 27 inches for dogs and 25 inches for bitches respectively, because it might easily happen over the course of time that the breed would not cease growing — by continuous use of tall animals — and consequently the Doberman would lose the main essentials of a medium-sized dog.


compiled by Thomas Tyler Skrentny, MD

Year Where Adopted Males Females Males Females
1899 Germany & America 21.6″ – 23.6″* 18.8″ – 21.6″ none given
1920 Germany & America 22.8″ – 25.6″ 21.6″ – 23.6″ none given
1925 Germany & America 23.8″ – 26.2″ 22.3″ – 24.2+” 25″ 23.1″
1935 Germany & America 24″ – 27″ 23″ – 25″ 25.6″ 24.4″
1948 America 26″ – 28″ 24″ – 26″ 27″ 25.5″
1958 America 26″ – 28″ 24″ – 2″ 27.5″ 25.5″

*This is also given as (21.6″ to 25.6″) in the Doberman Pinscher in America by Schmidt. In the third edition of the Doberman Pinscher by Schmidt (21.6″ to 23.6″) is given and is probably correct since both maximum and minimum were changed with each new standard on all other occasions. 25.6″ in 1899 would have been unchanged in 1920, which is unlikely.

© Jeanne 2001

The radicals took the opposite stand. They claimed that so long as the Doberman developed into a larger dog, it would be unfair to exclude otherwise outstanding specimens on account of narrow height limitations. The latter group won its argument! William Sidney Schmidt – 1926 (4)
So it became clear that two of our earliest experts, both of whom were a great influence on America’s earliest Doberman owners and breeders, were sharply divided on the issue of size! There are some comments in both Gruenig’s and Schmidt’s books that some of the earliest imports to the United States, although of high quality, were available only because of their being oversized! This is further substantiated by the article ‘What Is Inherited’ by Eleanor Carpenter (Jerry Run – breeder of Demetrius’ dam) (5) who provided a specific example of Cherloc v Rauhfelsen, sire of Ch. Jessy v.d. Sonnenhoehe (1934), being sold specifically because he was 28″. Jessy was surely the most important dam of her time with tremendous influence on the Dobermans of the United States. At a DPCA National sometime during the 1940’s the membership was polled at the annual meeting and 80% had dogs related to Jessy. She produced Ch. Ferry v Raulfelsen , the first Doberman to go Best In Show at Westminster (1939), just three weeks after his arrival from Germany. While making her home in America, Jessy produced Ch. Favoriet v Franzhof and Ch. Alcor v Milsdod, two of the seven sires researched by Peggy Adamson to be the basis of nearly all significant breeding in American Dobermans. World War II solidified this base of important stud dogs since no more imports were possible.
The earliest if these sires, Ch Westphalia’s Rameses, was whelped in 1938. Ch. Domossi of Marienland and Ch. Westphalia’s Uranus in 1939. In 1941, Ch. Emporer of Marienland, Ch. Favoriet v Franzhof, Ch. Alcor v Milsdod and lastly Ch. Dictator v Glenhugel, were whelped. An interesting point made by Peggy in her article ‘Illena And The Seven Sires’ (6) (Illena being the notable dam Ch. Dow’s Illena of Marienland) is that Illena and the youngest four of the Seven Sires were sired by the older three, except for Dictator who was Domossi’s younger full brother. To quote from the article; ‘Five of the Seven Sires were between 27-1/2″ and 28″ in height, Rameses being slightly over 28″ and Domossi slightly under 27″.’ Peggy goes on to say; ‘During the ten years prior to August, 1951, a total of 416 Dobermans completed their championships in the United States. One half of these were descendants in the first, second or third generation of the Seven Sires. One third of the total number were their own sons and daughters (139), 62 were grandchildren and 7 were great-grandchildren. (6)
So, history class is over and we now understand that by looking at the earliest history of the breed we see that the Doberman Pinscher has the innate ability to get taller rapidly unless held in check by selective breeding. We also see that some of the early Dobermans that were imported into America were oversized and most of the Seven Sires, a major part of our early gene pool, were near or at the top of the Standard. By communicating with some of the most respected elders in our breed I learned that there were drastically oversized dogs finished and oversized Dobermans were often winning over properly sized ones in every era.
Sometimes this really caused an uproar; I’ve included a couple of letters below, one of which was very controversial in its day. In the last twenty-five years or so size discussions have become fewer and with the influx of many new judges (more every month) and many new people owning, exhibiting and breeding Dobermans without the benefit of mentors, size is not the issue it should be.



From the various reports we have received the Detroit Show seems to have been a huge success . . . I quote a letter from one of the spectators . . .
“The outstanding thing about the Detroit Show this year was the general quality of the Dobermans exhibited. It was said by many people present at both shows that the quality in the Specials class at the Doberman’s Sportsman’s Club Show far excelled that of Westminster. Much comment at the ringside was that the average height of the dogs was at least an inch less than at Westminster and it still approached the top of the Standard. Lack of quality is not necessarily the consequence of breeding large dogs. The difficulty lies in the fact that some breeders prefer size to quality.”
“Open bitches was one of outstanding quality throughout. The class was one of the best four bitches I have seen at any one show (exclusive of Specials Class) in two years.
Specials Class showed true fighting spirit. Every dog, without exception, required lots of room. Mr. Arthur O. Tischer did a very fine job of judging.”
This last sentence the editor can subscribe to for I have seen Arthur Tischer judge quite a few shows and turn in a good job each time. He has and deserves a reputation for ‘placing them as he sees them’.
April 1949
Dobe News
Bill McNerney, Editor



There has recently been a controversy over the question of size. There are those who believe that the standard was written to be a guide to judges when judging Dobes. There are those who think the Standard was written to be a guide to breeders in selecting an ideal of perfection. There are those who believe the Standard was written to satisfy the requirements of the American Kennel Club. Some believe that 28 inches can be stretched to 31. Some imagine that a 95 pound Dobe is capable of running!! Everyone, however, is in agreement on one point. That is, that a bitch 23 inches high, never shall, never could, win Best of Breed at a five point show. Some think perhaps she should win, but everyone who is not kidding himself knows that no such thing will happen.

K. E. Smith

from Dobe News – June 1949
Bill McNerney, Editor

I had this article in mind for quite a long time when I read the following which certainly expresses why one would question the importance of size: “It boils down to a question that has been around for many years — do you breed in order to produce a better, more nearly perfect dog according to the Breed Standard and history and function of the breed — or to produce dogs that will win at dog shows? Everyone says they want to breed ‘better’ dogs — ‘better’ for what purpose? Is winning a lot of colorful ribbons really proof that the exhibit is, truly, closest to the ideal of the breed? Too often I have heard people state that they would forgive faults in construction as long as the dog had the ‘attitude’ that would make it a winner. This includes breeders, exhibitors and judges — including some breeder judges. (7)
So why are we still struggling with size? Or are we bothering? One theory that may be worth considering is that from the time of the Seven Sires there were several influential and astute breeders who created carefully crafted pedigrees that resulted in animals that ‘bred true’ to various attributes predictably. With these ‘gold standard’ breeders one could bring an animal to their line to improve certain virtues.
Although it is possible that size will always be considered a ‘renegade factor’ and genetically unpredictable, size was certainly more predictable by breeding to or from the animals of these accomplished breeders. Today, very few bloodlines remain tightly line bred for generations and many breeders do not have the background information to choose for proper size when evaluating a litter. By the time a promising puppy is ready for the ring size is no longer relevant to the owner exhibiting the dog. There is no disqualification for size in Dobermans, promoted as a good idea in the past and nearly made mandatory; in fact, size discussions outside of seminars, are rare. With no disqualification, dogs and bitches, with heights at the top of the Standard and over, are the norm for Dobermans of today, with many well over. The lower half of the standard height in Dobermans are not commonly seen in the ring. With this complacency firmly in place many judges today do not see the additional virtue of a correctly sized Doberman and are often confused by them. The unfortunate part is that so many of the wrong kind of examples are in the ring and winning, that judges (and exhibitors) begin to see those as being correct — and begin to look for them and reward them. This has a devastating effect on the breed as a whole (at least to ‘purists’ — many others probably accept it as ‘progress’). I expect that this is true in many other breeds as well. Popularity in the show ring seems to have that effect. (8) 
It may be interesting to contemplate that without careful attention to size, primary breeding motivation today may just be to perpetuate characteristics necessary for success in the conformation ring, irregardless of what they were historically created to do. Size is a functional attribute; think of the visual contrast in the ability of the Great Dane and the Doberman to reach a gallop quickly and corner efficiently and the necessity of this ability to be in an agile, medium-sized dog used for agility, fly ball, advanced obedience and other working sports, including service dogs. All of us are just as pleased if a Dobe that carries our name gains an agility title or an obedience title, so by making size an important consideration when making those lengthy pre-breeding evaluations, we could theoretically improve our chances of our dogs being in easier reach of multiple titles … a Dobe for all reasons!
The form versus function adage should still ring true in the mindset of the serious Doberman breeder, owner and our most learned of judges; the type versus soundness checklist debate is studied and discussed in every judging seminar; but do judges and breeders recognize breed evolution (a positive and necessary process) versus breed exaggeration? The all too human desire to be accepted can be especially prevalent in judging and we know it is easy for judges to follow the winning dogs today by simply opening their mailbox at home and viewing the masses of dog magazines automatically sent to them. It can be difficult to stick to the ideology of proportion and size standards if a judge is not sure they are any longer in ‘vogue’ and everyone knows a ‘renegade’ judge doesn’t judge often! Does a typical, dare I say ‘average’ judge, go into a ring today determined to find, in 2-1/2 minutes, the most correct animal according to our Standard? Or does he ‘go with the flow’, so to speak, and judge amongst the most prevalent type brought before him, ignoring those that may appear ‘out of type’? A scenario frequently witnessed is that of a correctly sized dog with good parts and kinetic soundness standing in a sea of oversized Dobermans who doesn’t get recognized for his additional virtues. I think few would argue that this scenario is now even more frequent in bitches.
Yet we do continue to produce dogs that amass amazing records and provide a strong impact on the awareness of the conformation community at large; it is wonderful and gratifying, that in the Top 20 Working Dogs, year after year, multiple Dobermans are listed and the top Working Dog of all was a Doberman, etc., etc. I sincerely congratulate each and every one … in some aspects you set the bar for achievement! I would be remiss if I did not also say, with emphasis, that some of our most famous were the most correct!
But, as I said earlier, how do we recognize the difference between breed evolution and breed exaggeration? Being the quintessential American show dog (or at least near the top) we are, in general, amongst the best handled, conditioned and promoted breed anywhere. Ambitious owners and ambitious handlers are making such an impact … but are our Dobermans ‘morphing’ into a beautiful ‘Generic Show Dog’? Did you know Dobermans are always named as one of the prototypes of the outline invading many breeds? To paraphrase a general description of the ‘Generic American Show Dog’; oversized animals with the generic outline that wins today … upright animals with sweeping side gait (and handlers going faster to match it), too short bodies (yes, its possible in a square breed), unbalanced angulation front to rear with the resultant sloping topline and too much length hip to hock completing the profile, and of course with a lot of daylight underneath. Extreme example? Certainly. Possible? Definitely!
But I digress to make a point … how do we keep progressive yet remain cognizant of our breed’s purpose and origin? Surely a topic for discussion, but part of the answer is to strive to keep the Doberman Pinscher a medium-sized dog through the only means available that has any influence … good breeding decisions and good judging decisions.
The purpose of this article was to encourage self education and discussion of the various aspects that influence size. I bring to this writing twenty-six years of serious study and observation … in and out of the ring and the whelping box. During these years I was privileged to have the opportunity to question some of our past and present Doberman experts and the one thing I constantly remind myself of is that one can never learn enough! With that in mind, I compiled a questionnaire that I sent to expert judges of our great breed that are particularly cognizant of proper size. The following are the questions and their replies and I want to express my appreciation to George Rood, Anthony DiNardo, Bill Garnett and Frank Grover for their kind participation.

1. Do you feel there are sufficient educational materials available to educate new judges on correct size and how to evaluate it?

George Rood
I believe that sufficient information is available to the new judge provided he/she is interested enough to procure it. The illustrated Doberman Standard would be a good start.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
There are not presently sufficient adequate educational materials available to educate new judges on correct size and how to evaluate it. I hope that we can get the DPCA to produce an Illustrated Commentary on the Doberman Pinscher. This would help to educate the new judges and Doberman Pinscher enthusiasts.
Bill Garnett
Lack of educational material is not the problem. All one needs to do is read the standard just once. It is explicit in its instruction … males 26 to 28 inches, 27-1/2 being the ideal. Bitches 24 to 26, with 25-1/2 being ideal. You can’t be any more clearer than that. So why should there be a problem? You know the answer as well as I. Some judges just don’t seem to take the standards seriously enough or they’re poorly schooled, easily intimidated or playing games.
Frank Grover
No, such materials are not readily available. Reasons oversize in our breed is a serious problem have been published many times in the last sixty odd years but the judging techniques have not been pulled together and explained in communication instruments aimed at helping new judges.
The basis of judges education is the Standard for the breed. Its role in the AKC dog show structure is to guide or govern the judge in the ring in much the same way laws govern or guide the judge in civil or criminal courts. In AKC organizational design, the preparation and safeguarding of the Standard is the primary responsibility of the parent club … in our case, the DPCA. The Constitution of the parent club requires each member of the DPCA to support the breed Standard as the only valid expression of the breed ideal. Judges should know it and know how to apply it. In fact, any serious exhibitor should know it. Height specifications in the Standard are clearly stated and how variations in height should be handled in evaluation is set. (1) Ideal height for a Doberman Pinscher is: if a dog, 27-1/2 inches; if a bitch, 25-1/2 inches. The Standard also states the height range within which all mature Dobermans should stand. It is 26-28 inches for dogs; 24 – 26 inches for bitches. Any dog or bitch not within this height range is to be penalized doubly … for deviation from the ideal and for not being within the normal or acceptable height for the breed … thus the penalty for a dog that is 28-1/2 inches is greater than the penalty for a 26-1/2 inch dog, though each is the same numerical distance from the ideal. That extra half an inch over 28 is more seriously a deviation from the ideal than an inch or even an inch and a half under the ideal.
To apply this, a judge must learn to identify heights of Doberman Pinschers accurately and to have a well set sense of how much to penalize each deviation. A pamphlet with an accompanying video could explain the key concepts and demonstrate the skills a judge needs to be able to estimate and evaluate each Doberman’s height by the Standard. A simple device to add to a yardstick could make practicing measuring easy and reasonable. Such a device could be available.

2. Do you have techniques or helpful tips on how to assess size while judging?

George Rood
Standing erect measure the distance from the floor to your hand. Some women have placed a safety pin on their clothing at the proper height.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
I believe all judges must develop an eye for heights. I have instilled in my mind’s eye what I believe to be 25″ and 28″. Practice, Practice and Practice. I believe we all tend to perceive a dog’s height to be slightly taller than their true height.
Bill Garnett
Well, first of all, at the risk of sounding immodest, I’m blessed with an eye. Most of the time I can tell right off the bat if a dog exceeds the Standard … height wise. However, on the close calls, I have a way collaborating my suspicion. If I stand up straight with my right arm extended down my side, the measurement from the tip of my index finger to the ground is exactly 27-1/2 inches. With that to fall back on I usually know exactly what I’m dealing with. I do find I double check bitches more than dogs. Borderline cases in dogs are really no factor and anyone that can stay away from being run over by a bus should be able to recognize a 29 inch dog … I think?
Frank Grover
The most essential tip is prepare. To judge by eye, a person must recognize a 27-1/2 inch male Doberman Pinscher and a 25-1/2 inch bitch … and recognize which males are over 28 inches and which bitches are over 26 inches. A judge must also establish a penalty system for deviation from the ideal and for dogs and bitches that exceed the normal height limits for the breed. These two skills should be practiced in advance.
The second tip is that a judge check estimates while in the ring. (Official measurements are not made because there is no disqualification) Though the judge should practice to recognize ideal height and excessive height, verification in the ring can be useful. Years ago most Specialty Judges of Dobermans employed marks (pins, thread or other marks on their clothing) to check estimates in the ring. This can still be done. Measuring points on your leg or with your fingers when they touch the withers as you stand upright can also become quite useful checks.
Another way to establish height checks in the ring is to look for objects when planning ring patterns. Table legs, ring markers, even chairs can be used. Establish marks for the key heights (24, 25-1/2, 26, 27-1/2 and 28) on the selected object. In examination, have each Doberman stand next to the object in such a way as to be able to note height.

3. Do you find that regional type exists in respect to size?

George Rood
Size differs in certain parts of the country, usually due to increased usage of a popular stud.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
Heights of Doberman Pinschers does vary in different regions. This may be due to the predominance of get from a certain line or stud dog. In general our breed tends to have more dogs that are above the desired height rather than dogs that are on the low end of the Standard.
Bill Garnett
I used to but not anymore. In the past several years I have judged all over the country and have found Dobermans to be overall standard conforming when it comes to the issue of size/. Now that condition might be brought on by the fact that people do their homework and know that I’m looking for standard conforming dogs, not only as they relate to size but how they relate to the overall standard as well. By now, people that know the Standard and have a standard conforming dog, know or should know, to show under me.
Frank Grover
Yes. However, the Standard of the breed applies in all AKC shows.

4. Overall, do you observe that there are more oversized dogs or bitches being exhibited? Is oversize more prevalent now?

George Rood
A gradual increase in size seems to be occurring. When asked to choose between a small dog and a large one most choose the large. I have heard judges say they will never put up a dog under the Standard but will take one over the Standard.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
From my experience I have found that I more females that are above the ideal height of 25-1/2″ than males over the ideal height of 27-1/2″. Judges seem to forget that there are sex characteristics and will accept the females as large as the males.
Bill Garnett
Boy that’s a great question! I don’t think there is any doubt about it. As they relate to the Standard’s exacting parameters bitches are exceeding the size requirements more so than the males. Why? As in any debate there are several arguments. In this case, the first one is somewhat long in its explanation, but harbours some reality. I’ll try to cut to the chafe and make the explanation as short as possible. Although both are over the Standard’s parameters, a 27″ bitch will probably be in better balance than a 29″ male. Now follow me closely. It gets a little technical and you have to have an understanding of balance. Let’s take a 29″ male and a 27″ bitch and study the comparison. A male that is 29″ has to distribute balance over a framework (or square) that is 2″ larger than the 27″ bitch and in most cases nature doesn’t distribute that 2″ evenly. This will usually result in throwing the 29″ male out of static and/or kinetic balance. So, in terms of overall balance, the 27″ bitch will appear more standard conforming. Even though she may be oversized, that balance enables her to slip under the radar screen at times undetected.
The other explanation or contributing factor for explaining why bitches, for the most part, seem to exceed the standard more so than dogs completely enrages me. There are those that have taken it upon themselves to perpetuate the notion that if you are going to campaign a bitch special … better she be big than standard. Their explanation is that she’ll stand out in the group ring if she’s bigger. If this is true, then group judges that fall prey to this kind of logic should have their group licenses revoked. They are supposed to evaluate each breed as to how closely it conforms to it’s standard and award placements based on that evaluation. An oversized Doberman bitch is not conforming to one of the most important aspects of the breed standard and it is my opinion she should not be considered for group placements.
Frank Grover
Thinking back, in the fifties and sixties many huge males won in shows. Thirty-two inch males were shown as Specials at the Nationals. In the 70’s a commercial kennel advertised at stud a 34-inch champion. Today, males of such extreme size are not seen in our shows or if they are, they aren’t apt to win. However, most of our mature males that are shown are over the ideal and far too many exceed the height limits for the breed.

Some of the beautiful bitches being shown and winning exceed 26 inches by from one to two inches and more. Twenty-eight inch bitches win in major competitions and sometimes Best In Shows. This writer is under the impression that we are showing and winning with more over-height bitches than males.
5. Which do you consider more serious, an oversize dog or bitch? Why?

George Rood
An oversize dog is less desirable than an oversize bitch in my opinion.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
Both the oversized dog and bitch are equally improper. However, a judge must remember that an oversized dog portrays itself as being a ‘LARGE’ breed whereas an oversize bitch may still be within the realm of the ‘MEDIUM’ size breed.
Bill Garnett
In terms of the Standard both are considered to be faulty in that area and therefore both are discredited proportionately by the degree of that fault. An oversized bitch should not be any more acceptable than an oversized male and vice versa.
Frank Grover
When judging, the seriousness of oversize is not determined by the sex but by the amount of the oversize in the individual animal. Each should be evaluated for the degree of variation from the ideal.

As far as the breeder is concerned, having a beautiful bitch that is substantially oversized is more serious for it is hard to locate correct sized males to use with such bitches.
As far as the genetic influence is concerned, it is hard to say. The traditional size control from the German breeders was to keep the bitches within the height limits. Breeders in other European countries bred larger bitches but never to large males. Geneticists with whom I have made inquiries have indicated that height and size are very complex studies but given little guidance. One very influential man in the breed objected to stress on size. It was his assertion that it would take care of itself. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.
6. Please discuss the importance of a judge rewarding standard size.

George Rood
The obligation of the judge is to award the class to the entry most nearly fitting the standard. This decision is of the utmost importance.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
The importance of judges rewarding the Standard Size Doberman Pinscher is one of the most significant statements that they could make for the breed. With the increase of height the breed does not have the corresponding increase in bone so as not to appear more refined. As the breed approaches the size of a large breed, in the majority of instances, the breed loses the attributes which attracted many to this medium sized breed (stamina, bone, substance, angles, endurance, square, energetic, agility, etc.).
Bill Garnett
The Doberman is a medium size companion dog. The very first sentence of the Doberman Standard calls for a medium size dog. Its not somewhere down the line buried in some meaningless paragraph of minutes. The very first sentence mind you! The Standard is steadfast in it’s declaration. The Doberman is not a BIG dog … it’s not a LITTLE dog … it’s a MEDIUM size dog. And the Standard later sets exacting parameters in terms of both dogs and bitches by instructing us using language of exact measurements. How important is it? It may arguably be the single most important statement in the whole Standard. The DOBERMAN PINSCHER is a medium size dog. To answer your question as to how important size is  … let me put it to you this way. To think that a judge would enter the ring to evaluate Dobermans and not have the size requirement as one of his or her more important breed characteristics that he or she is looking for … is unconscionable.
Frank Grover
If by standard size you mean a dog that is of ideal size, any dog with a part as described in the Standard as ideal should be recognized … and that should include ideal height. Of course it is the whole dog that the judge evaluates and places; in the evaluation, the perfect parts are recognized and admired while the deviations from perfection or the ideal are noted and penalized.

If by standard size you mean a dog within the size the Standard states for the breed but not the ideal, such a dog should be preferred in the evaluation system over one that is not ideal and outside the Standard’s limits.

Judges who are able to estimate heights in this breed accurately never put up a Doberman because it is oversize nor penalize one excessively that is under the ideal but within the height range.

7. In many All Breed magazines there are discussions about the ‘Generic American Show Dog’; the Doberman is often mentioned in these articles. Do oversize Dobermans contribute to this image and if so, are more oversize Dobermans successful because this image is becoming acceptable?

George Rood
Magazines do have an effect on the size of the Doberman. Large stud dogs that are big winners are more often bred and contribute to the increase in overall size.
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
We live in a time where we have available improved nutrition, which may have some effect on the size of all animals. However, I believe the real problem is the loss of the breeding kennels. In the past, the development of the breed was directed by large kennels (i.e. – Kay Hill, Vom Ahrtal, Marienburg, etc.). These breeders understood the Standard and bred to produce offspring that represented it. For the most part this is gone. Most new breeders know the Doberman Pinscher as it is and not how it was in the past. Therefore, to many, only the Doberman Pinscher of today is what they have to emulate. If the Doberman Pinscher enthusiasts would learn the Standard, accept it without reservation and try to breed to emulate the medium-sized, compact, square-angulated Doberman Pinscher there would be no size problem.
Bill Garnett
I don’t think the magazines or their articles have anything to do with the acceptance of over sized Dobermans. There is only one contributing factor to why people breed and show over sized Dobermans … they win! There is only one contributing factor to why these over sized Dobermans win … the judges! Judges are the single most contributing factor to why we have this problem. They are the last line of defence when it comes to safeguarding the Standard. The buck stops with the judge. But you know what? To get along they go along whether it be intentional, arbitrarily or through ignorance. If judges started tomorrow putting up nothing but standard conforming Dobermans … as they relate to size … within two years the problem would be resolved.
Frank Grover
My impression is that the reputation of the Doberman Pinscher as the classic show dog crystallized after Rancho Dobes Storm. He was not an overly tall specimen. The bitch that won the most Best In Shows and the one that won Best In Show at Westminster were both of ideal height. These are evidences that judges recognize correct sized Doberman Pinschers and give them high awards when they are shown. My impression is that owners and to a considerable extent handlers feel self conscious about oversized. My suspicion is that most judges try to ignore size. If correct sized Dobermans are not shown, the judge can only seek the best of the oversized entries. We should remember that a judge can only judge what is in the ring. While a smaller Dobe may need to show well and move well and behave well and be a well balanced dog to win, they can win and the exhibitor that shows them and works to present them at their best will serve the interests of the breed even when not winning.

8. Any comments you would like to make?

George Rood
I highly recommend the ‘Illustrated Standard’. These comments are strictly my own!
Dr. Anthony DiNardo
I have a personal problem when I witness a judge giving the advantage to a Doberman Pinscher for a reason that derives from a fault. A rectangular dog may have better side gait and a dog with less angles may come and go better. However, what we should be striving to produce is a square, angulated, medium-size Doberman Pinscher with the qualities stated in the Breed Standard. I have only one more personal opinion to state. PLEASE LEARN THE STANDARD. It states what the proper angulation is for the front assembly and the length of the bones. The rear assembly should balance the front assembly. Couple this with the length from the withers to the elbow nearly equal to the length of the elbow to the ground. When you assimilate and learn the material which is the Doberman Pinscher Standard then the ‘straight top line’ becomes in essence a ‘NEARLY LEVEL’ top line.

I wish to thank Colby Homer for allowing me to express my opinions in this article.

Bill Garnett
Boy you just opened Pandora’s box! I could go on and on about the loves of my life but I’ll spare you and the readership the agony of my soap box oratory and just make a couple of observations.

Its no question that size is one of the more important considerations when one evaluates a Doberman. It sets up, if you will, the whole picture, image or outline. It typecasts the Doberman right from the get go. The Doberman is a medium size dog. And for those that say that’s a relative term, the Standard takes care of that argument by later on setting exacting parameters. Males: 26 to 28 inches with 27-1/2 being ideal. Bitches: 24 to 26 inches with 25-1/2 being ideal.
However, there are other factors creeping into the equation that are creating problems that we judges seem to be overlooking. Lack of balance, exaggeration, length, sickle hocks, lack of under jaw, small teeth, soft bodies and lastly … improper attitudes. I’ll leave these observations for discussion another day. But on your own … think about them and try to understand why these attributes are not standard conforming or desirable.
At this point I am going to describe the Doberman in only twenty-seven words. It’s not brain surgery, rocket science or the Battle of Britain. With our shotgun approach to evaluating Dobermans … we’re making mountains out of mole hills. Find me two Dobermans with the following attributes and you can break the tie with any one of your personal preferences.
“The DOBERMAN PINSCHER is a square, medium size companion dog of balanced proportions, noble in its carriage, courageous by nature and SOUND of mind, body and joints”.
Frank Grover
Two major objections to the oversized Doberman Pinschers have been well documented. First, many homes are too small to keep such large sized dogs as house dogs. The Doberman Pinscher began as a small medium. The Standard now recognizes large medium as the correct size. Any larger are difficult for homes with small yards and for most apartments. The role of dogs with the elderly has gained a great deal of favourable attention and the deep devotion that marks Doberman Pinschers cannot be recommended to them if the dogs are too large.
Second, life span in dogs is inversely related to size: the larger the dog, the shorter the life span. By breeding for huge as some did and do, the life expectancy is shortened by three to four years.
Twice the DPCA membership voted to disqualify oversize but the proposals were never formulated into amendments to the Standard.
In recent years in this country much breeding of Dobermans is done by professional handlers who handle Dobermans in the show ring. Most are intelligent, well-meaning and helpful as well as devoted to the breed. Obtaining the cooperation of these handlers in preparing educational materials for new judges could do a great deal to speed the use of the materials by the judges and perhaps speed the application of the Standard in regard to size in breeding programs as well.
From ‘Learning To Judge The American Doberman Pinscher’
‘Size: This is a generalized term referring to a combination of height and bulk. The Standard calls for a medium size and specifies height limitations. To apply this, you need a clear mental picture of the ideal bulk in relation to height. The taller the dog the more bulk is required. Height estimation requires considerable skill. For some reason a Doberman’s height challenges the ability of most persons to estimate accurately. Males at the top of the Standard often appear taller than they are, especially if they carry themselves proudly with head erect. Smaller males often look ‘too small’ though they are well with the Standard’s prescribed limits.
This deceiving appearance applies even more strongly in bitches. You need to practice until you can estimate height of a Doberman within a 1/4 of an inch. You also need to establish devices or ways to check your estimations while in the ring. One check on height estimation is to use your judging table. Bring your dogs near it and use the table to figure withers height. Normally a table is about 29-1/2 or 30 inches. You may wish to check the height of a table in your ring before beginning judging.
You also need a system of penalties for deviations on size. In the show ring almost never do you see a mature Doberman that is not tall enough to be ‘within’ the standard but often we have dogs and bitches that exceed the upper limits of the Standard. You need to work out a system of penalties which fits the Standard and is equitable; then it is necessary to work hard to internalize your system so your eye accepts it as the basis for decisions.
Remember, the best Dobermans must appear to be of medium size and should be within certain height specifications. Size is a fundamental breed characteristic.’ (9)
We have looked at avenues for discussion regarding history of size, judging awareness of proper size, etc., but little has been said of the all important breeder and the thought processes that ultimately produce the animal that is in the ring! It seems like the breeder has taken a backstage role in the Doberman world of today, eclipsed by the glamour of today’s ring and its participants. With this general lack of attention from the fancy, serious, standard-conscious breeders can sometimes be considered conservative when not following current trends in breeding decisions. Conservatism, some say, can lead to stagnation and we want our breed to evolve and improve, structurally and genetically. Others point out that a slow and steady course of improvement over time is the hallmark of a great breeder. So, ideally, we walk the tightrope of working for reed evolution and trying to avoid breed exaggeration while maintaining and awareness and appreciation of the traditional body of knowledge from experienced breeders that brought us to this point along with the historical precepts that stem from our Standard. When a breeder takers these ideals to heart he has breed integrity paramount in his plans because, after all, despite his ‘quieter’ role, the breeder is the conscience and heart of our breed!
With the philosophical role a breeder must take firmly fixed in his mind, the practical evaluations are next; conformation (assemblage) and morphology (form and structure) being our main interests for this article. This evaluation provides the sum of the dogs’ quality and some visual clues for their possible genetic transmission in planning breedings. The morphology of an animal, under which most phenotypic descriptions reside, such as profile, proportion, balance and movement are polygenic traits.
Polygenic traits are quite variable within a breed. With Dobermans historically determined that as a breed they get larger unless held in check by careful and determined breeders, its little wonder that size discussions do not occur with regularity, there is no hard and fast answer on how to maintain it within our breed! But, to once again underline the importance of mentors, the experienced breeder is better able to attempt to maintain consistency with his intuition and prior knowledge. However, Mother Nature always makes her presence known! The polygenic nature of size is why there might be one bigger bitch in a litter or why breeding an oversize animal to a standard-sized one can produce a mix of sizes but the size those individuals will produce is unsure. The only way to control size is to pay attention and set goals over generations to reduce the numbers of variables of size within a given pedigree so that more consistency is available. The importance of staying near our standards of size is not just tradition (although it is of course); by staying medium we lessen our other struggles with even more difficult aspects of ideal structure. Consider our shoulder angle. Everyone is quick to covet the elusive 90-degree shoulder angle but are we handicapping our goal of 90-degrees by not paying enough attention to proper size? In researching this article I found a theory promoted in several breeds regarding shoulder angle in relation to height. This may be an aspect that has not been considered enough in Dobermans and one article in particular bears repeating. The illustrations emphasize that the Standard is not arbitrary at all, and in fact, is what can keep us from exaggeration. Look with new eyes at photos and at ringside and I am certain you will see examples of this in great numbers!
“At both ends, the over-standard and the under-standard dog, the Doberman loses power and the athletic equipment designed to enable him to function in the capacity for which he was designed and bred. So, when we are talking about a breed with only a 3-inch variation, we are still getting plenty of play and depending upon how much angulation and bone we place on our animals, we find that there is quite a difference between a heavy-boned, long-bodied 28-inch male with no wither compared to the light-boned, very short-bodied, high-stationed 28-inch dog. The first dog is incredibly huge compared to the second dog. Are either of them incorrect? Of course not! Therefore, who is to say which is the more correct dog: they are well within our standards.
However, in the matter of angulation, if we take the so-called 90-degree front end and we shorten the shoulder blade and upper arm; take that 90-degree angle and open it out so that it forms at 140-degrees, we now have the very classic straight front. We have taken an inch off each bone and opened the angle out so that what we have lost by decreasing the length of the arm is compensated for by opening the angle. We end up with a dog that, even though he is two inches shorter in actual length of bone in his front assembly, is probably going to be close to an inch, possibly even two inches, taller with the 140-degree front angulation than our original fellow with a 90-degree front end, but this is one area that offers an explanation of fronts as they relate to height”. (10)
One aspect not mentioned may well be a valid one to discuss and explore: the possibility of larger size affecting longevity as it does in other breeds.
Within this article I have tried to be as comprehensive as is possible in a discussion of the ‘Whys Of Standard Size’ . I thank all who contributed. All the best to you and your Dobermans!


(Most of us will have at least one of the following dogs in today’s pedigrees. Stud Dogs of today should also advertise height!)

Int. Ch. Borong The Warlock, CD 27-3/4″
Ch. Brown’s Eric 28-1/2″
Ch. Steb’s Top Skipper 28-1/2″
Ch. Damasyn The Solitaire, CD 27-3/4″
Ch Singenwald’s Prince Kuhio 27-3/4″
Ch. Gra-Lemor Demetrius v.d. Victor 29″
Ch. Dictator von Glenhugel 27-1/2″
Ch. Alnwick’s Black Fury Bismarck, CD 28-1/2″
Ch. Tarrado’s Flair 27-1/2″
Ch. Edelhall Gigolo Of Amulet 27-1/2″
Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm 28″
Ch. Brunswig’s Cryptonite 28″

Bibliography and Recommended Reading
# 1 Walker, Joanna The New Doberman Pinscher Howell Books 1977
# 2 Flashback Doberman Pinscher News & Views July 1962
# 3 (Chart) Doberman Pinscher News & Views – Size Limitations In The Dobe Standards Throughout The History Of The Breed Screntney, MD, Thomas Dec. 1958
# 4 Schmidt, William Sidney The Doberman Pinscher Judy Publishing Co 3rd Edition – 1939
# 5 Carpenter, Eleanor (article) What Is Inherited DPCA Educational Set & DPC of Chicagoland catalogue 1957
# 6 Walker, Joanna Adamson, Peggy (article) – Illena & The Seven Sires from The New Doberman Pinscher Howell Books 1977
# 7 Beauchamp, Richard G. (column) Success In Show Dogs – Dogs In Review (magazine) Bo Bengtson, Editor Feb. 2000
# 8 Beauchamp, Richard G. (column) Success In Show Dogs – Dogs In Review (magazine) Bo Bengtson, Editor Feb. 2000
# 9 Adamson, Peggy, Doniere, Pat, Grover, Frank et al Learning To Judge The American Doberman Pinscher – Doberman Quarterly (booklet) Published by Ann Lanier, Used with permission of Frank Grover 1994
#10 Youngblood, Jaima (article) Function Of The Doberman Pinscher – Top Dobe (magazine) Ray Carlisle, Editor Jan-Feb 1976
#11 (Photos) Schmidt, William Sidney The Doberman Pinscher Judy Publishing Co. 1935 (Plate #1)