Judging the DOBERMAN by BoB VandiVer
A s a member of the Dober- man Judges Educa- tion Committee, I have received a number of calls in the last few months from handlers and breeders who I respect. They are the mature individuals who know what they are showing. Their complaints aren’t that they aren’t winning, but sometimes they are winning (or losing) for the wrong reasons. When they speak with a judge after the breed is finished, they find that the judges chose a certain dog because “it was so square.” Never mind that it was stick straight front and rear, or had the topline of a terrier. Recently I attended a dog show and observed a permit judge in action in the Doberman ring. This person is a well- known and well respected judge. In one class of bitches he had three representatives. Two were very good examples of the breed. One was consid- erably less so. To my surprise, the less- er bitch won the class and went on to Winner’s Bitch. The permit judge saw me watching at ringside and came to me later to discuss the breed. The discussion went quickly to that bitch class because he heard that his Winner’s Bitch was third in the class on the on the prior day under a breeder judge. In our discussion, he justified his choice because “I made my first cut on square.” I didn’t have an immediate answer and the judge needed to leave to start judging another breed, so we weren’t able to continue the discussion. On the way home I started to think about his statement. Have we oversold the concept that square is the most important characteristic of the breed? Maybe so. I know that when asked to describe a Doberman, a typical breed person starts with ‘it’s a square breed,” and then goes on from there.
Yes, square is important. It’s one of the defining characteristics of the breed. But to immediately exclude other exhibits based on that one fac- tor can’t be right. There has to be some consideration of all the major virtues and deviations, not just one.
It seems complicated, but it’s no more difficult than finding a particular car or flower. If you have the right pic- ture, you can find the right one... just as a picture of a Porsche or a rose will help you identify the right car on the lot or the right flower in the nursery.
“it seems complicated, But it’s no more difficult than finding a particular car or flower. if you haVe the right picture, YOU CAN FIND THE RIGHT ONE...”
So what should that judge have con- sidered on his “first cut?” That depends on the judge’s priorities, but selecting any one attribute may leave the best dog out of the running. There are some “must haves” and many “wants” in judging. The first “must have” is to find breed type. When the class enters the ring, the first decision should be “which dog most resembles the ideal Doberman?” The overall picture (the profile) is the confluence of the desired attributes from the breed standard. This is a visual comparison of what stands before you, relative to the mental picture you have of the ideal. The overall profile of the dog should include the head as well as the body proportions (square, body depth equal to leg length, prosternum, heavy bone), angulation (90 degree front placed well back, rear balancing front), a correct neck and tail placement/carriage, and planes (topline, head).
Here’s a photo of the ideal Doberman dog and bitch that you are looking for:
The next priority is how they hold themselves when they go around. They should look very much like the ideal profile, but with legs moving correctly and head slightly dropped as illustrated in the photo below:
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