Tammy Kaplan

My take on functional Doberman physicality and temperament:

The creators wanted a companion dog with a highly developed instinct to guard and protect � these attributes were acquired by the Rottweiler who gave the breed �substance, bravery and reliable guarding ability.� If we look at the Doberman�s origins, which are a combination of fact and speculation, we find that the �Black and Tan Manchester Terrier and the black English Greyhound improved the breed�s appearance; the old German Pinscher contributed ruggedness, intelligence and physical and mental soundness; the German Pinscher added the �terrier fire and quick reaction time,� and the Weimaraner gave the Doberman its hunting, retrieving and scenting capabilities.�

Physically, the �appearance is that of a dog of medium size, with a body that is square - compactly built, muscular and powerful, for great endurance and speed.� Ruth McCourt said: �He is a composite of speed and endurance, loving companion and faithful protector.� He is �able to turn or move quickly in one piece, capable of short bursts of speed but not called upon for ranging hour after hour at great distances as is the herd dog.� �If the dog is built in reasonable conformity to the requirements of the Standard, his gait should be �free, balanced and vigorous, with good reach in the forequarters and good driving power in the hindquarters�.�

As to temperament, we have these descriptives as our guide: energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.

The Doberman was given many attributes that bless the breed with versatility and to focus on one to the exclusion of others does the breed a disservice.

We often hear that Dobermans used in law enforcement is a rarity; however, most breeds no longer perform the �job� they were originally created to do. German Shepherds no longer herd sheep. The Jack Russell Terrier no longer hunts fox. St. Bernard dogs are no longer called upon to save lives in the Alps. Being �out of work� does not make these breeds somehow insufficient or unworthy � it merely means that our lifestyles have changed dramatically since they were created and we have learned to provide them with other outlets that satisfy their drives.

Dobermans were not created to be dogs of war but their attributes made them a natural selection for that job. Yet, even after 25 brave and heroic Dobermans lost their lives during the liberation of Guam, I have read that the U.S. Marine Corps made the German Shepherd their dog of choice. Clearly, this move was not due to a lack of functional temperament as in the 1940�s the Doberman was considered to have a much sharper temperament than they now possess.

Versatility is the strength of the Doberman breed and they are not just suited to police/protection work. They are competitive in performance sports such as obedience, rally, agility, tracking, dock diving and barn hunt. They have been used in search and rescue work, as therapy dogs and as service dogs. They have been employed as guide dogs for the blind. And, their high trainability made them an excellent choice for use in two drill teams.

Schutzhund enthusiasts would have you believe that Doberman temperament can only be accurately assessed through bite work. I think that Ray Carlisle and Vic Monteleon, the creators of the Working Aptitude Evaluation, would disagree. I also disagree for two reasons: (1) ALL Dobermans would have to be evaluated in order to come to any accurate consensus on temperament; and (2) �tests� never take into account the character of the Doberman and how they may react in real-life situations to protect their families. Two recent stories come to mind.

The first was reported in Australia where a Doberman picked a 17-month old toddler by her diaper and threw her out of the way of a poisonous snake that was about to bite her. The dog took the bite instead, was treated and has resumed its place as family protector.

The second happened here in the U.S. and is an absolutely heartbreaking story that happened to one of our own. It is the story of Taylor Lane, a young handler, and her boyfriend who lost their lives in a home invasion. Taylor�s female Doberman tried to protect her, was shot, but survived. I continue to say prayers to Taylor�s family as they are left to deal with the unsolved crime that took their daughter�s life.

The Doberman Pinscher is a breed of extreme intelligence. Indeed, Otto Goeller, one of the breed�s creators, named them �the breed with a human mind.� Most are quite capable of assessing situations, determining danger and taking appropriate action. It was Frank Grover who wrote the following about the Doberman�s character: �It is upon this foundation of character that the Doberman was built. It is based on this description that a breed�s physical aspects were born. And yet, as important and clear as these words may seem to the historian, to a breeder their meaning may be just as confusing. How does one breed for something you cannot hold a measuring stick to?� So, yes, the creators wanted a companion dog with a highly developed instinct to guard and protect but what they ended up with is so much more.

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