In the late 1800s around 1880, in the town of Apolda which is in the region of Thuringia in Germany, there was a man, Louis Doberman. He was the town dog catcher, and he was also the town tax collector. He wanted a dog to take with him on his rounds and protect him from any would-be robbers. He had plenty of dogs to choose from since he also ran the dog pound. He did not keep records, but people surmise from the dogs that were popular in the area since people didn’t travel a lot, different regions had different dogs that developed into breeds. In this area, there was the butcher’s dog which would be the ancestor to the Rottweiler. It was a black and tan dog.
There was also the old German Shepherd, not the modern variety we see now. There was a German Pinscher, which pinscher means terrier in German. Black and tan terrier, and they’re very feisty, and not afraid of anything. So they figure he probably was in the mix. Then people say there could be a little Weimaraner which was also in the area. At a later date, it’s known that they introduced the Greyhound into the mix. So it’s a Heinz 57 in the beginning. However, with selective breeding, in a very short time, they were breeding true to type. Yeah, the standard of the breed is very specific. The Doberman bred as a personal protection dog. Other working breeds, the Rottweiler was a drover dog with cattle, or pulling carts. The Shepherd started as a herding breed. Any of your working breeds have always been working with people, so they’re very good at taking direction, you know, training, things like that because they’ve always had a close association working with humans.
Well, the white Doberman is an aberration; it’s a genetic mistake. Back in, I believe the early 70s or thereabouts, back in the Midwest, there were two normal colored Dobermans. I believe they were black and rust. They had a mutated gene, and when they bred, and that gene combined, there were a couple of white puppies produced. Well, these people thought wow, what a neat thing, a rare dog unheard of before. We’re going to do a bunch of tight inbreeding and reproduce the phenomenon. So it’s a genetic aberration caused by an albino gene and just like in the human population, albino isn’t something we want to reproduce and make real popular.
The Doberman bred as a personal protection dog, and he feels his job in life is to stick like glue to you, and no one’s going to be out to get you. When you get up to go to the bathroom, he follows you right in there, and he won’t leave you alone. If you have a working dog with the protection instincts, they are fine. They’re stable, and they’re a good family dog.
However, you do have to understand how the dog thinks. For example, Uncle Joe who hasn’t seen you in five years comes to visit, and he sneaks up behind you and grabs you in a bear hug, and your dog is there, probably not a good idea. The dog sees someone attacking his master. He’s going to come to your defense. Alternatively, coming up and slapping someone on the back. So you have to understand if you have a dog that’s very protective of you, you have to understand how he thinks, and not put him in a situation that’s going to get him in trouble because it’s not his fault that he’s trying to protect you.
So your American dogs are a little more docile. They have some of that courage and hardness, and protective instinct bred down to a lower level.
If you look in some of the books, the original Doberman dog looks like a kind of a poor cousin. It’s a lot rougher, and it’s not as smooth and elegant. They cropped and docked them though from the beginning. So they’ve always had the cropped ears and the docked tail. It was a little smaller, just not as elegant as they are now because there would still be, from these different breeds that went into the makeup, there’d still be a little bit of a throwback occasionally. So there would be a little of this and a little of that. However, in a very short time, they got them going. Well I know there’s much stink from some people you shouldn’t crop and dock, and it’s wrong. They talk about oh, the dogs should have natural ears.
What I say is in nature a natural ear is an erect ear. You will never see a fox, a coyote, a wolf, a dingo with floppy ears. So the floppy ears are a humanmade aberration in the first place. Certain breeds with floppy ears like Cockers, etc., are notorious for getting ear infections because they don’t have the circulation. It’s also much easier to read the intentions of an erect ear dog because the ears are very; dogs use a lot of body language. That ear set forward laid back, you know, that tells you what the dog is thinking. So when you have a cute little dog with floppy ears, he doesn’t telegraph his intentions quite as easily. So I will always have cropped ears.
Now in certain areas, especially in the EU, they’ve forbidden cropping and docking. The animal rights people have gotten involved. The biggest problem, as far as the Doberman, is that some of your other breeds that don’t dock, for instance, a Rottweiler. They have a very heavy tail, and it’s a lower set tail. The Doberman pinscher has a high set tail, and it’s very thin and whip-like, like a Greyhound. When you have this high that’s sticking out in the air, and wagging furiously, and it’s a house dog, there’s a lot more chance of injury to the tail. Also, the chances are, you gonna hear the vet saying, “We’re gonna have to amputate.” Well amputating a tail at a year and a half, it’s part of the spine, there are nerve endings, there’s phantom pain.
When you do a puppy, like you normally do when you dock them, it’s done at three to five days old before the dog has the full nerve costume and the feeling. So they don’t even need to use anesthesia. However, if you do it after about ten days of old, then the nerves are fully developed, and then you would need anesthesia. So to me, it’s much easier to take it off when they’re a few days old and avoid any chance of injury because of that high tail set, that thin tail set, than to have problems later on.
They describe the ideal Doberman, male, as between 26 and 28 inches at the withers, and usually weigh around 80 to 90, 95 pounds. A female is 24 to 26 inches, usually, weigh around 60 to 70 pounds. Little variances but it seem lately that like with a lot of things, bigger is better, more is better, and some people try to push the standard. However, the Doberman pinscher is supposed to be a quick, agile, medium-sized breed.
So, American bred Doberman pinschers, in general, have a lot of the protective instincts, the courage, and the hardness, bred out of them. So they’re going to be a lot mellower and, I don’t know, maybe easier to handle, kind of like a Labrador in a Doberman suit kind of thing.
Now, Western European bred Doberman pinscher dogs, part of the breeding program is to keep the essence of the breed. In other words, the reason for the Doberman being is a personal protection dog. So when they breed dogs, for instance, in Germany, they must follow a certain standard as far as beauty goes. They must do a temperament test which includes social things, being around people, crowds, but also having a simulated attack and the dog must defend you. If the dog fails any of these tests, you’re not allowed to breed them. So they kept a more well-rounded dog rather than just the pretty dog which was the main focus of the American breeders. For instance, the American Dobermans in the show ring, they’re selected, it’s a beauty contest, and so they’re selected for their potential to win in the show ring.
The European dogs, you can’t lump it all in one basket because Europe is a bunch of countries and each country can have its regulations. In general, the countries in Western Europe, the EU countries, for years, have had rules and regulations on breeding. They have certain breed tests that your dog must pass before it’s allowed to bred. As I was saying earlier, they must pass for confirmation. For beauty, they must be graded very well or excellent. For the temperament, again, very good or excellent, and certain health tests done.
Now the former East Bloc countries have no rules and regulations. Countries like Serbia, Croatia, places like that. They have no rules and regulations, and in fact, they have some rather large puppy mills in some of these countries that send thousands of dogs to the US and other countries. People say, “Oh, they’re European.” But you have to differentiate what country in Europe are they from. Do they have rules and regulations, or is it puppy mills? The Eastern Bloc countries are doing a pretty good business, especially now, because the EU passed rules a few years ago which outlawed cropping and docking.
So that means if you want to import a puppy from Germany when it arrives here it’s going to have long ears and long tail. Unfortunately, the new USDA regulations prohibit importers from importing a dog under four months old because they want it to have the rabies shot. So at four months old, it’s too old when it gets here for you to crop and dock it. So it’s going to remain sort of a black and tan Coonhound, long ears and long tail.
However, Eastern Bloc countries like Serbia, they’re still allowed to crop. So they’re capitalizing on that. To produce type, in the past, there has been some line breeding and inbreeding. So every breed has certain things you want to look out for. A reputable breeder of Dobermans should test eyes, hips, thyroid, Von Willebrands, and cardio. Now we’re lucking out on the Von Willebrands because they found the gene responsible. So you can do this little cheek swab in your dog and find out if it’s affected, a carrier, or clear. By having that knowledge, in a couple of generations, you can breed the dogs clear. Von Willebrands is a type of bleeding disorder, not as serious as hemophilia, but there’s a clotting problem. So you don’t want to have a dog with a bleeding disorder. However, the genetic testing we can do now is going to alleviate that problem.
They’re currently doing a lot of research and trying to find genes that cause cardio. So far, they found two, but it doesn’t seem to be the answer yet, because clear dogs are still having a problem. So it has to be multifaceted and maybe even an environmental influence, but they don’t know. So what breeders do now is they test their breeding stock with echocardiograms or Holters which is like an EKG machine which finds if they’re throwing any extra ventricular beats or whatever. They’re testing these two gens, and hopefully one day they’ll have a handle on that. There is a sport, and it is called Schutzhund, it’s like a triathlon.
Schutzhund started as a temperament test, and it’s involved in a sport. It’s now called IPO, but it tests all the major drives of the dog. The dog has to track a human. And IPO tests his concentration, sense of smell, sense of obedience to follow the track, and just going on, and sticking with the job. The obedience portion tests his agility, his ability to follow the command, his rapport with the owner, retrieving dumbbells, working from a distance under command, et cetera.
The protection aspect tests the dog’s courage, and hardness, willingness to take on the bad guy even if it means putting himself in harm’s way to protect his owner. Also, he’s under control of the owner and willing to follow the command. Even when he wants to get that bad guy, and you tell him, “Out,” he must out because he’s gotta be under command. So it tests all the major drives of the dog.
Breeders, way back when in the early 1900s figured this was a really good test to find good breeding partners again. Of course, with all this work, they got little competitions going. The interesting fact about it is that if you talk to a German Shepherd dog person, they will say that Schutzhund developed as a breeding test for the German Shepherd dog. However, what they don’t know, and it was, the German Shepherd Club was the first club that said, “Wow, this is great, “let’s incorporate this into our breeding program.” However, Schutzhund was developed by a German gentleman called Konrad Most, and he was a Doberman breeder.
The Doberman pinscher is a very active dog, and he has a very active mind, and he loves training. It would be best if you did this with your dog. Just like a young child, you can’t just let them run amok, and then when they’re 16, try to instill some sense of right and wrong. You have to teach them when they’re young, and they love it. They love the physical activity, and they love, again, being with you, and working with you, and getting that good dog, good boy.
As a trainer, what I like doing is by working your dog, you understand the parts that were harder for them to learn, and pick up, and the things you have to work harder on, and what came easy for them. And this is part of their temperament. Just like you would, if your dog had flat feet, you wouldn’t breed to another dog with flat feet. You’d breed to a dog with nice tight feet because that’s one of the characteristics of the Doberman. You want to improve your dog. So by the same token, you wanna improve the temperament. You want strength where your dog has a weakness to produce the perfect dog eventually.
There are skin problems because of no pigment, skin cancers, things like that. They have generally light blue eyes, so they’re very photosensitive to bright light. Yeah, some people think it’s wonderful because they’re rare. But it is a genetic mutation, and I’m trying to breed healthy dogs, not mutated dogs.