Written by Doris Donnerman (last updated April 6, 2009)
The Story of the Doberman Pinscher begins about 1890, during that period when sportsmen the world over were beginning to show an intense interest in the development of pure-bred dogs. In the years between 1880 and 1910, many breeds, such as the German Shepherd, Boxer, Giant Schnauzer, and others, were developed and brought to perfection. Among these, and not the least of them, is the Doberman Pinscher.
The breed owes its name to Louis Dobermann. Apparently, Dobermann began experimenting in the breeding of dogs as early as 1870, using as assistants "a grave digger and a bell ringer."
By 1890, Dobermann had decided exactly what he wanted in the way of a dog. His ideal was a giant Terrier. That is, a dog built upon Terrier lines and owning a Terrier's grace and agility, but one with the strength of a typical German working shepherd, or draft dog. The dog he visioned would look much like a five pound Miniature Pinscher but would be some fifteen times heavier.
Dobermann also wanted a dog which would be unusually "sharp," which is a euphonious German way of saying that the dog should be willing to attack man or beast, or even the devil himself. And whatever else they might have been, "Dobermann's Dogs" were "sharp."
In 1890, Louis Dobermann produced the matriarch of the Doberman Pinscher breed, a female dog. When the Dobermann Pinscher Club of Germany was organized in 1912, the dog was given number one place in the Stud Book. Of and her and her puppies, it was said they were deplorable to look at, and very ferocious. But they caught the German fancy immediately.
Very little is known about the early dogs which Louis Dobermann and his two assistants used in manufacturing the breed, and there have been various theories concerning this. One belief is that he used the old black and tan German Pinscher extensively. A possible reason to this is that the breed was first called "Dobermann's Dogs," and only later, Dobermann Pinscher. However, it cannot be forgotten that Dobermann had the conception of a giant Pinscher, or Terrier, so that he may have been inclined to call the dog a Pinscher, whether or not he used any German Pinscher blood.
There can be no question that Dobermann used some of the native Shepherd strains for which Thueringia was so famous. Even though he used short-haired Shepherds in the main, some of the early Dobermanns had rather long hair. Moreover, many of the early litters contained bob-tailed dogs in them. These bob-tailed dogs were highly esteemed by early breeders, and at that time, the long-tailed dogs were bobbed, rather than totally docked. The Rottweiler also served as a pillar of the breed.
This dog had remained in a localized area of Germany from the days of the Roman invasions, being a guardian of the army supply dumps. He had survived as a useful draft dog. The resemblance between the two is plain, but the Rottweiler is heavier, and lacks the extraordinary agility which is a hallmark of the modern Doberman Pinscher. The barrel chests of the Rottweiler sometimes showed up in earlier Doberman Pinschers, and were considered a fault.
The influence of both the Shepherds and the Rottweilers remains in the modern Doberman, chiefly in certain instincts and hereditary aptitudes. Thus, the Doberman shows, to a remarkable degree, guarding and property instincts and herding and driving aptitudes. The Rottweiler, however, gives the Doberman his great power.
Whether or not Louis Dobermann used crosses of the English Manchester Terrier is not known, but later breeders did. The Manchester Terrier was itself a cross between the Manchester Ratter and the Whippet. From this cross the Doberman gained alertness, refined strength, and great ability.
Importations to the United States were sporadic before World War I, and hardly figure in the modern breed. When the great Dobermans began to come, it is ironical that much of the foundation stock came from Holland rather than from Germany.
It should be said that the modern Doberman Pinscher, as he is bred in the United States, is temperamentally a far distant dog from the ferocious "Doberman's Dogs." They made top war dogs, but many of them have been exceptional guides for the blind. They still are not afraid of the devil himself, but most of them mind their own business and do not pick fights.
The general appearance of the Doberman Pinscher is that of a dog of good middle size, with a body that is square. With a height from twenty-six to twenty-eight inches for the males, while the females range from twenty-four to twenty-six inches. They are elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflection nobility and temperament. They are energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient. The coat is smooth haired, short, hard, thick and close-lying.
Additional information on the Doberman Pinscher can be found at the website for the American Kennel Club.
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