Judges Education Articles

Below are articles written specifically for judging the Doberman Pinscher. The top section will link to PDFs while the bottom section are text articles organized into tabs.

Doberman History

Finding Breed Type

Judging the Doberman

Doberman on the Move

Judging the Head

Judging the Mouth

Doberman Structure

Let's Square Off

For a laminated copy of this Judging Guide, visit our store the DPCA shop

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In addition, the following two letters accompanied this mailing

Letter 1

Doberman Pinscher Club of America
Judges Education  Committee
April, 2015

Dear Judge,

In 2008, we developed a “Doberman at a Glace” summary. We sent it for all judges of Dobermans and Best In Show and published it in all our breed publications for our breeders, exhibitors and handlers to read. It was very effective and judges and breeders alike noted the problems addressed.  Therefore, it is time for another version of this Judges guide.

Enclosed please find the new Doberman Breed Summary.

Also included is the official DPCA policy on judging uncropped and undocked exhibits. We would like you to understand our perspective in judging this cropped and docked breed.

The JEC is always available to help you in your quest to be a great Doberman judge. Feel free to contact us.


Faye Strauss, chair
Committee members: R. L. Vandiver, Pat Hastings, George Marquis, Pam DeHetre
Executive assistant: Vickie Harris

Letter 2

To All Doberman Judges,

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America’s official position is that the Doberman is a cropped and docked breed.

Our standard reads “Tail- docked at approximately second joint, appears to be a continuation of the spine, and is carried only slightly above the horizontal when the dog is alert.”  Tails that are not docked vary from the standard substantially and detract from true breed type.

Regarding ears, the standard reads “Ears- normally cropped and carried erect.”  This wording is unfortunate as it leaves an interpretation that was not intended.     A more appropriate wording may have been “Ears – cropped normally and carried erect.”

When the standard was written with this phrase, the authors intended it to mean that the ears are cropped in a normal manner … not long, short, wide, narrow, etc.     The word “normally” before the word “cropped”  has been interpreted by some to mean that the ears are “typically”  or “usually” cropped.  This is an incorrect interpretation.

A  dog with uncropped ears deviates from the standard in two specific instances  1) it is not cropped and 2) the ears are not carried erect.  Further,  in the general description the standard states that the Doberman look is  “determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.”  Natural ears have a much softer and less daunting look than the erect ears of a cropped Doberman.  A soft look is counter to the appearance desired in our breed.

Given these issues, natural ears should be considered to have three deviations from the standard.

The pure-bred dog sport has long held that the origin of a breed and its breed type is sacrosanct.  The Doberman’s origin is that of a personal protection dog.  The ears were cropped and the tail was docked for a purpose, that being to limit the number of “handles” that an attacker could use.

The originator of the breed felt that cropping and docking was essential for the breed.  The Doberman has been a cropped and docked breed since its inception.  Over 120 years of being cropped and docked has created an appearance that is now set as part of breed type.

It is often said that one should be able to identify a breed by seeing only the head.   As a corollary to this,  one should be able to identify a breed solely by its silhouette.  The Doberman silhouette cannot be identified as correct breed type if it has natural ears and an undocked tail.

Please consider these thoughts when judging our breed.

By Faye Strauss

(Learning is a process, not an event. An effective teaching experience combines the written and the interactive, refined by live observation.

As chairman of the DPCA Judges Education Committee I have a responsibility to inform the fancy of, in lay terms, how a judge interprets the Standard to select a winning Dobe.

I think it is important each fancier take the time to read the official Standard for the Doberman Pinscher. The Standard is available on the AKC and DPCA web sites.)

The judge’s first impression is the overall dog. Our Doberman handlers are some of the best in the world. They can make almost any dog look perfect in a stack, even to an experienced judge. The judge has only two and a half minutes to look at each dog so the well-presented dog has the advantage. Look for a square dog of medium size who is balanced. Does he have as much leg as depth of body? Is he deep to the elbows? Do his front angles match his rear angles? Is the length of the neck in proportion to the body and the head? Does his head look long but is it in proportion to the rest of the dog? Does he have heavy bone? Is he powerful, elegant, alert, determined, muscular, noble and is he compactly built? Many dogs have longer underlines than toplines. This can be caused by a straight upper arm which may cause a dog to look longer in length (more rectangular) than he actually is.

Having finished the initial observation the dogs are moved as a group. Is anyone limping? Search for a fluid, powerful efficient gait that is balanced. Balance is very important and means that the gait generated by the rear drive is compatible with an equally angulated front to produce enough reach so the rear foot lands in the same spot as the front foot of the opposite side. Is the topline straight and smooth and does it hold while gaiting. Does the dog appear square or is it long in back or short in leg? Does it lack body? Is the tail carried only slightly above the horizontal? Is the gaiting carriage proud? At this point observe the dogs standing and moving from the side.

Next is the individual examination. Condition, attitude and show training come into play. Now is the time to reconfirm your initial side view impression with the overall dog. Approach the front, look at the head, breadth and depth of chest, and size and color of markings. Are the legs muscular and sinewy with heavy bone? Are the feet cat like? Place the head between your hands and look at expression. Is he stable, alert and confident? Feel the underjaw. Is the line from the skull to the muzzle unbroken and is it wedge shaped? Note the eyes for correct placement, shape, color and size. Are the ears set high? Is the skull too wide or too narrow, or just right? Looking from the side, view parallel planes and check for a slight stop, and depth of muzzle. Is the muzzle strong? Common deviations are snippy, pointy muzzles lacking underjaw, narrow heads that are not wedge shaped and round and/or light eyes.

The hands on examination is next. Check for muscle tone, placement and width of shoulders, snuggness of elbows to body, and coat texture. Then, look at the rear, checking turn of stifle, equal length of upper and lower thigh, slightly rounded muscular croup, perpendicular hocks, and tailset. Look for a muscular rear, both on the inside and the outside of the legs, with parallel hocks set wide enough so the front feet can be seen just inside the rear feet. Is the rear cow hocked or bowed? Is the width of the hips equal to the width of the rib cage and shoulders? Is the dog slab sided (lack of rib spring) or barrel ribbed (too wide)? Are pasterns firm and almost perpendicular to the ground? Common deviations would be: shoulders that are set too far forward, straight shoulders, short upper arms, straight upper arms, lack of angulation – front or rear, long lower thigh, flat croup, high tail set, long loin, and lack of muscle in the upper thigh either on the inside or outside, as well as lack of muscle on the lower thigh.

The handler shows the mouth, or, if necessary, it may be checked by the judge. Count the teeth in groups, noting 42 correctly placed, strongly developed, white, teeth. The first group is the 6 incisors, the next group is the four premolars on the bottom and top of each side, and the final group is the three top molars and two molars on the bottom of each side. Four or more missing teeth is a disqualification. The bite is checked. It should be a true scissors bite. Is it level, over or undershot? Overshot more than 3/16 inch and undershot more than 1/8 inch are disqualifications. Deviations are level bites, extra premolars, missing incisors, premolars and/or back molars, and poor occlusion.

The handler is asked to move the dog down and back on a loose lead, at a moderate pace. A good handler can lessen faults. A cow-hocked dog is moved quickly going away. Conversely a dog close in rear is walked away at a slower pace. Front deviations can also be obscured. Crossovers are minimized moving quickly at the judge and not in a straight line. These are nuances of handling and require years of experience. Some judges require a triangle but the down and back seems more efficient. Watch the dog going around to assess side movement. Coming and going check for legs moving in a straight line. In the sound mover the front legs are an extension of the shoulder and gradually converge towards the center as speed increases. Common deviations are moving too wide in front, too close in rear, side-winding, paddling, high stepping, loose elbows, flipping pasterns, and other inefficient gaits that prevent the dog from tireless, ground covering movement. Many times dogs do not move as well as they could because they are not in condition or are poorly trained. It is also difficult to evaluate a dog who is looking up at his handler or sniffing the ground. The well-conditioned and trained dog moves in a straight line down and back, with drive and determination. Many handlers cause their dogs to move inefficiently by using a tight lead. The dog on a loose lead moves best.

The dog is returned and free stacked. Here is where the temperament and attitude meet with the judge’s toughest evaluation. In the free stack look for a dog who stands his ground confidently. As the judge moves around him he may flick an ear or turn his head to see who is there, but he remains calm and composed. The dog should be aware of the judge moving around him and not just fixed on the liver. At this point it can readily be seen where he naturally puts his feet. The true topline, tailset, head and neck carriage are apparent. Put a lot of stock in dogs that exude energy, are alert and show fearlessness.

Upon completion of individual examinations the final group is determined. If the class is eight or more, place the dogs in their tentative order. Then the class is moved once or twice around and watch them stop. At this point another down and back may be done with the top contenders, watching carefully how they stop. Then the class is placed. Many times exhibitors ask why the last down and back didn’t result in a change of placement. The reason is, in the final analysis, he moves well enough to confirm his win.

Many times a beautiful dog doesn’t win. This can be due to deviations. As an exhibitor or spectator you may not be seeing the dog toeing in or out, or flat feet in the grass. You definitely won’t see missing teeth or an incorrect bite. In Europe judges must dictate critiques that are posted so everyone knows why the judge did what he did. American judges are spared this exercise.

This is what a judge does in two and a half minutes in front of a partisan audience. No one ever said it was easy. Common sense indicates all judges have a specialty breed. All knowledge of other breeds is acquired knowledge, sometimes in the face of angry exhibitors.

What does this say about exhibiting purebred dogs? There is no perfect dog. The one picked at a particular show is the dog closest to the standard the judge has pictured in his mind of the ideal Doberman. A judge can only judge what is presented to him. The exhibitor must be patient. If he has a good dog his time will come.

By Arnold and May Jacobson

There are more than 140 different breeds of dogs, and many of these breeds have specialized functions. A border collie was, designed to herd sheep. Some of the sporting dogs were developed to hunt, and some to retrieve. Many of these dogs have sub specialties, such as Foxhounds which specifically hunt only foxes. Some of these functions such as dog fighting are now illegal, so today some of these functions are no longer practical or possible. Breeders want to maintain both the physical and mental character which defines their breed, and we are fortunate as Doberman fanciers that we have a breed that was meant to serve man as a guardian and companion.

The original purpose of the Doberman was to serve as a loyal companion, personal protector and a guard dog. In today’s society, many people will not tolerate biting dogs. In a situation of a human being in danger and the companion dog bites the assailant, and even in instances where the Doberman has exhibited heroic character in defending his master, the expense of mounting a defense in court is very costly. Many home insurance companies will not write insurance if one has a Doberman. Two children were killed so far this summer by Rottweilers; others were injured in a number of other dog attacks. In all cases these were untrained untested dogs owned by the unknowledgeable. All dogs should have the basic instinct to bite because they are carnivores. In an ideal world, all dogs would be character evaluated, and owners would have to be educated in minimal training. A well trained Doberman with a courteous responsible owner, is a delightful companion and a responsible member of the society he shares with mankind.

Schutzhund is a sport whose purpose was to evaluate the character of the dog under stress and in controlled situations. It is a team sport of a handler working with the dog, who must perform at a far distance from the handler and still be under control. The character of the dog participating in the sport can easily be observed and evaluated. With experience, one can determine a large number of genetic character traits and the impact of these traits on the behavior and performance capability of any dog. One can actually anticipate certain behaviors from certain dogs-positively and negatively. We will call this activity dog sport. As in other sports the aim is not to hurt, but to test the limits of performance and refinements of competence under predetermined rules. 

Sport dog activity is not protection training. The performance of an animal in the sport, provides the breeder with feedback which can indicate soundness of character. It reveals, as well, unstable dogs and dogs which will not respond to good training … those dogs which can turn out to be dangerous dogs. Low energy dogs, those dogs which lack focus and drive, nervous dogs, dogs which are regarded as overly sensitive, fearful dogs, or animals which are insecure or soft canines can be classified. Dogs that bite indiscriminately never make good sport dogs or any other kind of companion. In this sport, they are not tolerated and are dismissed early for improper character. All these character flaws lead to problem dogs which haunt the breed like cancer or other well known genetic defects. Many people who are breeding do not know what character flaws their dogs possess, nor do they have the knowledge base or information to correctly evaluate temperament. This void of evaluation more often than not leads to poor breeding decisions. The lack of stability leads to problems that are sometimes breed related. Gareth Jones states from a 94 Canine Chronicle article “The preservation of breed integrity and type is one of those human endeavors that requires understanding, commitment, and above all knowledge. Knowledge of a breed’s history, its function, its past and its present.”

Many of us started out as conformation enthusiasts and in order to be winners, we began to examine how the function of dogs should determine the conformation of our breed. “What is the dog supposed to do?” One might prudently ask. This is a basic problem of engineering – What are the expectations of this particular entity”? The dog must jump over a one meter wall carrying a dumbbell. He must also climb over a 1.8 meter inclined wall with the dumbbell. In order to perform well he must be agile and strong. Medium size with muscle mass is most desirable. A taller dog needs more bone and muscle mass to go along with his height, and becomes less agile, or he becomes more refined. If the dog is too small or refined he doesn’t have the strength to grip and hold the man firmly. How the dog is structured in the forequarters or, as breeders say, “the front assembly,” becomes critical since the forequarters have to absorb the impact of striking the ground. Straight forequarters is somewhat like a car without springs. The shock of landing takes its toll after a period of time causing avoidance due to pain or injury. The pasterns that are too straight also are a problem since straight pasterns do not absorb enough energy when the dog strikes the ground. A dog with better angles, strong bones, good muscles, and strong ligaments in the pasterns and elbows can more easily absorb the impact. The toes should be a cat like foot of good size to spread the pressure of the landing impact over a larger area. Tiny little ball feet, or flat hare-like feet are not functional and could lead to injury over time. A proper layback of the upper arm can mean smooth action, greater ability to cover ground with less effort, and less wear and tear on the animal. It can most definitely prolong the working fife of the dog.

In the first exercise of SchIII or man work, the dog must search an area the size of a football field with energy and speed to find the hidden bad man. Thus the dog must have good angles – relationship of bone to bone, in both the front and rear in order to have maximum drive in the rear quarters, and reach (extension) in the front quarters. This means he must have a strong top line or back for the task at hand, as the energy is transmitted from the rear to the front by way of a solid topline. The topline that bounces up and down is an energy waster. A back which is too stiff or reached restricts full extension and rear drive while in the gallop. The croup should be slightly rounded, for too high a tail set flattens the croup, changes the angle of the pelvis, and causes the rear legs to waste energy by lifting too high in its rear motion. The upper and lower thigh bone should be of equal lengths. Too long a lower thigh especially if weakly muscled causes instability in the rear. The point of the toe should be under the hip. The rear end should be as wide as the front to maintain balance and power in rear drive. The front elbows and pasterns should not flip in or out as this can be a big energy waster, and cause instability. For endurance, he must have a deep chest with ample room for heart and lungs. The dog must not waste a lot of energy by running inefficiently in the search to get ready for his confrontation with the bad man.

When he finds the man in a hidden blind he must hold him in position by sitting close to the bad man and barking to alert his handler. He must epitomize what those in football refer to as the ‘iles”: Agile, Hostile, and Mobile. This is a position of not biting, but controlling while the handler is about fifty yards away. In the next situation the dog is in a down position and the helper/bad man tries to escape with a fast run. Our hero must have great acceleration, catch the man, grip and hold him. Medium size is important: too big and clumsy, he may not catch him. Too small and he can’t hold him. This requires substantial strength and a strong powerful neck that is not too refined or long. The dog must have a broad wedge head with a full jaw which brings strength for a full hard grip, because dogs with narrow heads and/or lack of underjaw cannot hold the man or he can be shaken and lose his hold.

In the next exercise, the man is walking about 5 paces in front when he suddenly turns to attack the dog and handler, and man and dog have close hand to hand combat. This is where a strong neck flowing into powerful shoulders becomes critical. The man charges into the dog and the neck and shoulders of the dog must absorb the collision with the man. Dogs can get their necks jammed in this exercise. The long elegant neck going into straight shoulders could lead to cervical injury problems due to the man-dog impact. When the neck flows into a well laid back shoulder there is less chance of vertebral injury, because the impact is spread over a larger area rather than being concentrated in one small area. Heavy bone is necessary to withstand the contact of the charge between man and dog. If we use a football game as an analogy , our dog would be a linebacker, and the man would be a fullback charging through the line to be tackled by the forward moving linebacker and bring him down. The Rottweiler, who is slower and stronger, in this analogy would be equivalent to our lineman. We certainly don’t want our Dobe to be built like an elegant and refined long distance runner, as he would be easily struck down by the charging fullback running into him.

In the final part of the test, the dog must pursue the helper/bad man who is running away. He turns and charges the dog. The dog continues the pursuit and makes contact with the helper; like two moving trains coming head on. The dog must grip the sleeve with his powerful. jaws and hang on while he is spun around. This is the most difficult problem for the dog, because it tests his courage, hardness, fighting drive and will. A Doberman with good strong character and correct temperament will always take the fight to the man. A strong powerful neck, head, and shoulders are required for this physical challenge. Good bone and substance, and powerful musculature are a must to prevent injury. As the Doberman standard states “The appearance is that of a dog of medium size, and a body that is square. ‘i Compactly built, muscular and powerful, . for great endurance and speed. Elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament. Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.”

Conformation breeders select a stud dog by looking at a two dimensional picture, or watching the dog trotting at a show or, looking at a video. The character of our breed has already evolved into a low energy, sensitive somewhat insecure canine. We need more knowledgeable breeder/fanciers to gain knowledge of character and change this degenerating spiral. Conformation fads that are not held in check by functional requirements lead to a slow erosion of breed type. If I we go too far in the evolution of breeds  from their original purpose, both conformation and character, we will have created (although gradually) a different breed; perhaps a generic show dog.

By Ray Carlisle

Life in America is so much different today than before 9/11/01. We now live in a world filled with hate and realize there are many who want to destroy our way of life and take away our freedom. As a result the demand for working dogs and the need for home security is increasing daily. The AKC is changing their position on “Working Dog events” and the DPCA and the GSDA have been given permission at our nationals to demonstrate our dogs working ability to serve the public needs.

In these times we also see ever-increasing anti-dog legislation and public outcry over dog attacks. Now, more than ever before, we as judges must make ourselves accountable, not only to the breed or the AKC, but to the public in general for the proper judging of poor quality temperament presented to us in the ring! Judges must take this responsibility seriously and fully understand what our standard demands of our dog’s temperament and character at least as much as they do about their structure. If not, the politicians, sick and tired of having dog-attack complaints thrown in their laps, will make executive decisions more discriminatory and far reaching than we could even begin to contemplate regarding the nature of their severity. A small sampling is American Airlines recent ban to fly Dobermans.

The breed standard describes the desirable characteristic hallmarks of an ideal temperament. Namely it is PROUD, NOBLE, ENERGETIC, WATCHFUL, DETERMINED, ALERT, FEARLESS, LOYAL AND OBEDIENT. Descriptive words that should give anyone a pretty clear picture of how our Dobermans should look and behave at any given time. As judges we must appreciate and REWARD sound temperament when found and just as importantly RECOGNIZE and PENALIZE faulty temperament in our rings. A judge that overlooks shyness, fearfulness, unprovoked or inappropriate aggression, avoidance, or cowering in a Doberman fails not only in their responsibility to the breed, but the society we all live in. The more shy and fearful a dog is, the more likely to be easily stressed by things in its environment, and the more unpredictable and dangerous its behavior.

Correct temperament determines the ability of a Doberman to perform the function for which it was bred. If we expect to preserve and protect this breed as a functional entity in this modern world, it’s important to understand and appreciate the purpose of that function. It is function that determines the purebred dog’s most important characteristic-breed type. No function, no Type-no Type, no breed.

To be functional a wheel must look round. However, the terms of its function will dictate its dimensions. A Ferrari wheel is certainly as round as a tractor tire, yet both are built quite different due to their opposing functions. Equally as important is what’s under a Ferrari’s hood and as relevant to its functional type as what its chassis looks like! Different function, different look! If Dobermans lose their ability to function as protectors, we really must ask ourselves “what breed ARE we judging when we are out there?

To properly judge and breed better Dobermans, understanding Doberman function is central to an ability to evaluate the breed properly. Because a dog stands for the examination and puts up its ears is not an indicator of correct temperament. A Doberman must be able to meet your eyes without nervousness or inhibition. To act as a companion, family guardian, and personal protector the characteristics displayed in the ring MUST be an image of boldness and firmness!

We all know that temperament is not black or white. To competently evaluate the whole dog, in context to single elements of its behavior, requires some knowledge and experience. The dog that leans on its handler or owner may be insecure or it may be pushing for a dominant position to gain strength or the upper hand in the situation. The dog that jumps up on you may be giving you a happy, excited greeting or it can be a dominant show of force. We must understand the whole dog and never take out of context any single element of its behavior. What is a dominant behavior in one dog may be submissive in another. When decisions are to be made within a few short minutes, it is neither possible nor wise for judges to speculate how much influence nature or nurture might have played in forming the behavior of the dog before him. We can only judge what we see in the ring on that day and compare that behavior to the ideal described in the standard!

Demanding strict adherence to the breed standard’s practical requirements is necessary when breeding for or judging sound temperament. Reinforcing these in all competitive venues is a responsibility, a cornerstone to protecting the purpose, and thus the viability of the breed’s future. For that reason, adherence to typical breed temperament and character traits, as described in our standard, must be considered the overriding guideline we measure our dogs against.

Temperament can be described as both the physical and mental reaction to any stimulus. It includes the attitude of the dog and what that attitude expresses. We normally think of behavior as temperament and for purposes of this discussion we need not debate the scientific definition. When we train or condition our dogs to stimuli we are modifying its natural behavior. What you see is not the natural temperament of the dog but a learned behavior. Temperament is both instinctive and learned behavior combined. One extreme is a dog afraid, nervous, worried, always showing panic behavior and will continue to show fear of the same stimuli after repeated exposure to the same stimuli. The other extreme is the very stable “bombproof” dog, with a strong nervous system and not afraid of the devil himself. This could be described as the “fearless dog.”

Hallmarks of typical breed temperament can show considerably different from breed to breed, which is a factor directly related to the function of that breed. Dobermans are first and foremost “protection” dogs and should not be penalized for behaving in accordance to the purposes for which they were bred. Having the courage and determination to protect does not mean to “attack.” On the other hand, a docile, laid back, lethargic, non-interested Doberman might be a good family pet, but does not meet the benchmark standards for ideal Doberman temperament. Just as we expect a Doberman behaving with erratic nervousness or with unprovoked aggression is not a desirable breed representative either.

As judges, we only have a few minutes to evaluate the qualities of each dog. This requires judges to “read or interpret” the reactions of the dog to external and internal stimuli. In relation to character and temperament, it is to our advantage that dogs cannot pretend. Signals such as darting eyes, nervous licking of the lips, trembling, hair raised, cowering, avoidance on approach, snappishness, a need of handler support or restraint, anxious or worried expressions and similar signs are all symptoms of nervousness that require further attention. When judges suspect a dog is unsure they should not let these concerns pass on face value. If necessary we can apply subtle pressures that will enable us to proof our suspicions. We must also keep in mind to properly evaluate temperament the dog must be an adult, as puppies and young dogs lack the necessary maturity to make a definitive evaluation of their temperament. However we must assume a normal, well-socialized puppy should not behave fearfully or aggressively towards a stranger. Puppies that lack proper socialization have no place in a breed ring, as the ring should never be a place for a bad experience!

The AKC Doberman standard uses words to define or describe key elements of temperament.

  • Energetic – the drive to be active.
  • Watchful – on the lookout, observant or attentive to its surroundings. A Doberman should be conscious of what is going on around him. It may be the flick of an ear or a quick glance but few things go unnoticed.
  • Determined – being resolved in a decision and maintaining an intense, steady focus on the task at hand.
  • Alert – aware of the surroundings and ready to respond.
  • Fearless – to confront the unknown with a confident stable attitude. To be free of fear. Aloofness is not fear. Panic and flight is fear. In most cases when a dog raises its hackles, it is a sign of fear and the body language says, “keep away”.
  • Loyal – faithful allegiance to its master. The desire to give 100% without question and remain steadfast in defense and support of its masters needs.

In the ring obedience is a positive attitude towards the handler with a willingness to please.

There are many elements of temperament not mentioned in our standard. Stability, confidence, courage, sharpness, hardness, sociability, sensitivity and combativeness to name a few. Don’t confuse or interchange temperament with character. They are not the same. Character is the overall blueprint of behavior, the total dog. What and how a dog thinks of itself; it’s self-esteem, reflecting that undeniable arrogance of a proud and noble Doberman. Temperament is part of a dog’s character.

A discussion of temperament must include “drives” whether instinctive or acquired and developed through training. The most important drive is Social Drive because it is most necessary for survival. The desire to be with the pack, both human and canine, means isolation creates behavior problems. They include destructive or overly dependent actions. Prey drive-the desire to chase the cat or ball. The stronger the drive the harder the chase. Defense Drive-the dog’s desire to protect and defend itself. Quick to react to a threat or a challenge. Dominance Drive-the desire to control the action and be the leader of the pack. Poor imprinting can cause improper development of this drive. It is important in the young dog to establish the proper pack order. Territorial Drive, Fighting Drive, Protection Drive, Submission Drive are all drives that are components of temperament. Temperament is a total concept requiring an understanding of the dog’s relation to its environment and what it has learned through its experiences.

So much can be seen when looking in the eyes of a Doberman. The eyes must be clear and have a confident determined look. A friendly judge will receive a friendly response with a sparkle of intelligence. A hard stare may get the sort of response that tells the judge not to push his luck! Watch the body language and see if the dog holds it ground boldly seems aware of things around it (not focused on one object to mask a fear of awareness of its surroundings). Be aware of the dog’s reaction to the crowd when entering the ring – is it confident or nervous? Does clapping or other loud noises bother it? How does it react to flapping loose clothes or signs, large hats, etc? When being examined does it cringe and need the support of the handler? When standing alone does it stand its ground, hold its head high and obey the handlers command to stand or does it sidle away to avoid the judge’s approach?

Dogs with good temperament have stable, confident attitudes. Dobermans by nature are not everyone’s best friend. The aloof dog with a degree of suspicion does not reflect a faulty temperament.

Good temperament is not an accident. It requires breeders to do their homework. Research the lines of the dogs being bred to insure they have been tested for stability, confidence, strong drives, body and sound sensitivity, hardness, and good health. Health also has an effect on temperament. Good health as well as temperament must be tested. If you don’t test you don’t know, your guessing!

Learned behavior is extremely important in a well-adjusted dog. It begins with that portion which is imprinted at a very young age and nurtured through life. What you imprint in the first 8-20 weeks of your dogs life will have a lasting effect on the temperament. In the show ring Judges expect our dogs to accept normal, everyday life experiences without showing fear, aggression, or anxiety over such things as eye contact, walking directly up to the dog, or the hands on exam during judging. Poor temperament is self-evident and a judge doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to recognize unwanted behavior when he sees it. The real question is, what does he do about it? We MUST do as the standard demands and insist the dog is in compliance with the elements described in the standard. No mater how beautiful the structure, a Doberman with a poor temperament is a poor Doberman and MUST BE immediately eliminated from consideration. Rewarding dogs with poor or questionable temperament sends the wrong message to breeders who will come back with more dogs of the same or even worst quality.

If we really want to preserve and protect the Doberman, we must continually safeguard the characteristics essential in a family companion and protector. This is the joint responsibility of all who love the Doberman and what the breed stands for.


The Background of the Doberman

With its uncluttered look and symmetrical outline, the Doberman is uniquely a product of the 20th Century. Its short shiny coat, clipped ears and tail, superb structure and iron musculature, give the Doberman a trim appearance modern as tomorrow.

Outwardly simple, but inwardly complex, it is a mixture of many breeds, combining the fire and lightning reactions of the terrier with the power and intelligence of the guard and herding breeds. The Doberman was tailored for use in police and military work, and, to be a medium sized protector-companion in the home.

Originating in late 19th Century Germany of somewhat uncertain ancestry, its reputation for courage, loyalty and intelligence coupled with its aristocratic beauty, quickly made it popular in other lands, particularly the United States, where its growth had been fostered by careful selective breeding.

Dobermans, regardless of basic coat color, have a characteristic pattern of markings which ideally are a rust-red color. Its coat may be black, reddish brown, bluish gray or silvery beige. Its weight ranges from about 55 to 90 pounds and its height at the withers from 24 to 28 inches, males being larger than females.

The Doberman Pinscher derived its name from Louis Dobermann of Apolda, Thuringia, whose breeding experiments were reputedly involved in its early development. After his death in 1894, the Germans named the breed Dobermann-pinscher in his honor, but a half century later dropped the pinscher on the grounds that this German word for terrier was no longer appropriate. The British did the same thing a few years later. The Miniature Pinscher is not a miniature Doberman and the two breeds are not related.

There are no records, only speculation, as to the dogs which went into the creation of the original Doberman, but it is documented that crosses were made to two of the English breeds around the turn of the century, using the Black and Tan Manchester Terrier and the black English Greyhound, in order to improve the Doberman’s appearance. It is generally accepted as fact that the two German breeds, which played a major role in the Doberman’s ancestry were: the old German Shepherd, now extinct: and the German Pinscher – the ancestors of the Rottweiler and the Weimaraner.

The old German Shepherd contributed ruggedness, intelligence and physical and mental soundness, with the Pinscher adding the terrier fire and quick reaction time. The Weimaraner gave to the Doberman its hunting, retrieving and scenting capabilities, for the Weimar Pointer, as it was called, was an all purpose hunting dog. However, it was to the Rottweiler which the early Doberman strongly resembled, that the breed owes so much of its substance, bravery and reliable guarding ability.

The Doberman’s Early Character And Color

Unlike breeds which have evolved over centuries of natural selection, the Doberman is a brilliant example of breeding expertise by man.

During the latter part of the 19th Century, the Germans were primarily concerned with function, rather than appearance. Their goal was to develop a super dog, capable of the ultimate in protection and companionship. Selection for breeding was based on the bravest, the keenest, the quickest and the toughest, and -if these requirements were met -the most loyal. These headstrong rowdies were variously known as “Dobermann’s dogs,” or “Thuringia Pinschers,” and were sharp, aggressive with other dogs and distrustful of strangers.

But they were also brave, bold and bright. They learned fast, were resourceful, adapted to almost any situation, and as one chronicler stated, “were robust, had no trace of fear – not of the devil himself -and it required a good deal of courage to own one of them.” The type of dog emerging from these beginnings was a far cry from the handsome poised creature that would be known throughout the world less than 25 years later.

The man who received the credit for shaping this raw material so rapidly was Otto Goeller; and in 1899, the German Kennel Club recognized the breed officially. Since most of the breeds behind the Doberman were black with tan markings, it was logical, in drawing up the Breed Standard to call for a black color .

This was soon changed, however, when it became evident that black did not necessarily beget black. From black parents, there might be reddish browns, bluish grays, and even sometimes, another light color, which was named “fawn” or “Isabella,” though few people had ever seen them.

In 1900, there were some remarkably good Dobermans of both the brown and the blue color; and, they had many staunch admirers. While conceding that black might provide a more spectacular contrast with the tan markings, the Germans decided that function was the most important consideration in advancing the Doberman; and, in 1901, included brown and blue.

At the time, they were unaware that fawn was the natural result of permitting the other three. They could have chosen to confine the breed to one color, or to two colors; but, it was impossible genetically to breed all three colors without also breeding a fourth.

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