American & European

Dobermann

DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHIES  IN GERMANY & USA

Alpoda Germany is the origin of the Doberman(n). It was produce to be a tenacious defender and protector.  However, after the death of Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, successors such as Otto Goeller (1852-1922) of Thueringen Kennel, Goswin Tischler (1859-1939) of Groenland Kennel, Gustav Krumbholz of the Ilm-Athen Kennel, and others, sought to continue refinement of the breed in conformation(form) and temperament.  After the death of Mr. Dobermann, breeders and breed organizers saw the dog's mass appeal potential, but not everyone was willing or able to deal with its hard character. In that time, it took much courage to own a Doberman(n).  Thus, some commercial breeders saw more opportunity in breeding softer temperaments, while other breeders remained committed to breeding the traditional sharp Doberman(n)n that only its owner could approach.  Those that chose to continue in the way of Mr. Dobermann chose the more aggressive and hardy dogs as ideal breeding stock, while simultaneously rejecting dogs that displayed softer temperaments. The opposite was true with other breed organizers who sought slightly less sharp dogs. This created division within the European Doberman(n) community on many levels.  Not only was their disagreement with what direction the breed should continue in, but also confusion on their basis for their selections. 

 

Similar to today, breeders in those days mistakenly focused more on the expressed behavior without understanding the cause of the behavior nor if it was genetically based. Thus, a dog that expressed fear aggression could very easily be mistaken for a dog displaying courage and fight drive.  A shy insecure dog could very easily be mistaken for a calm "softer" temperament.  A Doberman(n) that allowed strangers to approach and pet it could be mistaken for a dog of low fight who may not engage a threat.  However, the same confidence that allows for a dog to engage a threat allows for it to remain calm.  The same fear that can cause a dog to aggressively lash out prematurely can also cause flight. In addition, a dog could have a high expression of a trait due to environmental experiences, but have a low genetic predisposition to that trait.  In others words, a dog could be born with low fight drive yet have a life experience that cause it to be highly expressed.  In a situation such as this, a dog would be selected based on its expression, but not likely to pass such traits to its offspring because the trait is genetically low in the dog. Basing decisions on certain behaviors without knowing what caused the behavior made consistent selection of sires and dams impossible. They simply mated dogs that appeared to have the outward physical qualities and expressed behaviors they sought.  Those who wanted dogs of courage unknowingly could have mated fear aggressive dogs. Those who wanted gentler dogs that would be less willing to attack, could have unknowingly selected quiet confident dogs that would have no problem attacking at all.  Low courage can be displayed through submission or aggression.  High courage can be displayed through aggression or calm.

 

As with most things, philosophies are based on personal agendas and goals.  Some breeders envisioned refining and modifying the Doberman(n) so that more people would find ownership more appealing. On the other hand, Mr. Dobermann's purpose for creating the breed was first and foremost the assurance of his own safety.  Collecting money as a tax collector, his life depended on his dogs inherit ability to defend.  When one's life is on the line, better to have too much dog than not enough. Thus, there were two completely different motivating factors for breeding.  Some people wanted easier traits that would have mass appeal, others wanted specific protection traits that subsequently made the breed harder to handle.  As a result of this conflict in philosophies, contradictions was unknowingly bred into the Doberman(n).  These contradictions led to a degree of unpredictability in the breed.  You could get a Doberman(n) that was inherently gentle and easy to handle, or you could get a Doberman(n) that was inherently a brute and a nightmare to handle. Worst yet, you could get a Doberman(n) who unknowingly had both traits bred into it.  This is when many of the horror stories from breeders, owners, and the general public began circulating. In the beginning, the reputation of the Doberman(n) was well-known and certain. It was a no nonsense militant dog.  However, as breeders reworked the temperament of the breed after Mr. Dobermann's death, it developed a stigma of deception and insidious character.  Some said that the Doberman(n) was untrustworthy, and cunning.  Rumors said that as a Doberman(n) aged, the more disobedient and aggressive it became, even towards its owner.  Many stories were untrue and exaggerated.  However, some stories were true due to inconsistent breeding goals and behavior misinterpretations.

 

At this same time, breeders were discovering the great financial possibilities through exporting the breed to different countries.  The primary benefactors of exporting were the breeders who sought more refinement and softening of the temperament.  More people could handle less sharp dogs, thus they were more popular in exporting.  America took particular interest in the breed and soon became one of the Doberman(n)'s largest importers.  Today, dog shows as well as importing animals are now common place among average pet owners.  However, at this time in history, only those who had higher social economic status went to dog shows and had the financial means to import dogs.  The Doberman(n) became a reflection not of the common man in America, but of the man of wealth and prestige because these were the only people who were able to import the dog.  The wealthy and the privileged became the authority of the breed in America.  They were positioned to dictate what type of Doberman(n) would be introduced to the general American public .  Like Germany, American breeders who imported the Doberman(n) sought even further refinement of conformation and temperament.  They believed that it would give the breed a larger appeal and more profitability.  They were correct in their assessment.  In 1920, there were only 45 registered Doberman(n)s in America.  Merely fourteen years later, more than 1,000 Doberman(n)s were being registered every year.  In 1941 there were 1,637 Doberman(n)s registered with the AKC, and they were 15th in popularity amongst purebred dogs in the United States.  Importing the breed from Germany had slowed as Americans began focusing on their own interpretation and production of the Doberman(n).  

Meanwhile, Germany continued to deal with their fragmented vision of the Doberman(n).  However, in 1969 a partial consensus was formed through the Korung Test by Ottmar Vogel.  Though a divide still persisted, general standards were now universally accepted.  Breeders that were interested in pursuing a more gentler Doberman(n) could do so but it still had to pass the restructured ZTP test.  The ZTP and Korung test made sure that Doberman(n)s used in breeding had a suitable amount of nerves, courage, and working traits.  Although separate philosophies persisted, a unified path was now established.  As a result, two different interpretations of the Doberman(n) became available in Europe.  Show lines and Working lines were now offered.  Doberman(n)s who were bred primarily for conformation and a gentler temperament were (and still are) considered Show Lines.  Even though Show Doberman(n)s in Europe are still required to pass working character tests, they are not considered "serious workers".  Working line breeders focused on preserving and enhancing working qualities and physical strength of the breed.  Many years later after the split of the Show and Working line, the Sport Doberman(n) was created for those individuals who wanted a Dobermann with more drive and working ability than that of a Show Doberman(n)n, but not as serious in character as a Working line Doberman(n).