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Progress in Head Type and Size in Doberman Pinscher between 1899-1970

THE FIRST THIRTY-FIVE YEARS. The first Standard ever written was by Germans in 1899, which read as follows: “General Appearance: The Doberman Pinscher should be built muscular and powerful, but not clumsy and massy, neither should he be greyhound-like. His appearance must indicate swiftness, power and endurance. Temperament should be lively and ardent.---Height at the shoulder: Males 21.6 to 25.6 inches; Females, 18.9 to 21.6 inches.—Length from occiput to first joint of tail about 27.5 inches.—Tail: cropped, not longer that 5.9 inches.”

“Head: Top of the head must be flat or may be slightly arched, but the forehead must be broad; stretched long, the head must go over into a not too pointy muzzle. Cheeks must be flat but very muscular. A dog of about 19.7 inches, height at the shoulder should measure about 16 inches around the forehead. The length of the head, from occiput to the tip of the nose should be 9.9 to 10 inches. Bite must be very powerful, well developed and closing right. Lips, lying close to the jaw, not drooping. The eye must be dark brown, medium sized, with an intelligent, gentle but energetic expression.---Ears cropped, not too short not too pointy.”

The above gives us a mental picture of the Doberman as presented by the German Standards of 1899, 1920 and 1925 which were in use up until the first American Standard in 1935.

In 1906 the Germans inaugurated comparative head measurements and the Doberman which then a short headed breed began its progress toward a long headed breed. The skull index in 1906 was .58 and was reduced in twenty five years to .42. It was during this period that the Manchester Terrier cross was made which contributed to better head type. The original infusions of Rottweiler and sporting dogs blood had contributed to a heavy head. The Doberman which influenced head type in this era were Leporello vd Nidda; Strumfried v Ilm-Athn: Feodor v Aprath; Leuthold v Hornegg; Waldo vd Strengbach; Sybille v Langen; Modern v Ilm-Athn; Lux vd Blankenburg: Favorit vd Konigstad and Lotte v Roeneckenstein. The goal of head type has been that of Favorit vd Konigstad which had a plainly marked stop; full muzzle, long, wedge-shaped head, correctly set eyes, thin, dry lips.

The first thirty five years after the adoption of the Standard saw really only two major changes. The dog increased about three inches in height—became a high legged animal; and by the lengthening of the head about an inch, became a long headed breed. At this early time statements were made that a domed head and triangular frontal bone were not desired.

THE SECOND THIRTY-FIVE YEARS. The first American Standard of 1935 added much detail and refinement of statement, also a list of faults. Relative statements were “The appearance is that of a dog of good middle size, with a body that is square--. Height at shoulder, males 24 to 27 inches, bitches 23 to 25 inches. Head: Long and dry, resembling a blunt wedge. Top of head flat, slightly depressed to ridge of nose, with nose extending as nearly parallel as possible to the forehead. Cheeks flat. Jaws full and powerful. Well filled under the eyes. Lips lying close to jaw. Eyes: Dark and of medium size, almond-shaped, with vigorous energetic expression.—Teeth strongly developed and snow white.—Ears: well trimmed and carried erect.”

There were no disqualifications at this time, under major faults were Missing Teeth, Undershot or Overshot exceeding one-quarter of an inch (imagine!), Shyness. Visciousness was just a fault. As the head was lengthened it became necessary to be on the alert for these conditions. Notice that we now recognize a taller dog and ask that be square. Along with more leg and longer head naturally came a longer neck with a slight arch.

In 1948 the Standard was revised again. “Height at the withers now 26 to 28 inches in dogs, ideal being 27; 24 to 26 inches in bitches, ideal being 25 ½. – Fearless, loyal and obedient” instead of loyal, obedient, fearless and aggressive. Asks for a head long and dry, resembling a blunt wedge with the words “both frontal and profile view” added. More detail on the head and then “scissors bite” and “22 teeth in the lower jaw and 20 in the upper”. The neck now specified as “upright, well muscled, well arched and length in proportion to body”. The word “upright” seems to have been somewhat misleading, as it brings the vision of “deer neck” or “ewe neck”, which is the result of poor front quarter angulation. For the first time now there are disqualifications: “Shyness, viciousness. Overshot more than 3/16 of an inch. Undershot more than 1/8 of an inch”. This Standard included a scale of points. Basic changes have been an acknowledgement of increase in size, stress of smooth lines and elegance and continued caution as to correct bites.

This era was the heyday of large kennels such as White Gate, Westphalia, Marienland and Ponchartrain which all did considerable importing of stock from Germany and Holland. From the combination of these various lines came a number of great dogs still familiar to us today, such as Uranus, Muck, Kurt vd Reinperle-Reingold, Jesse vd Sonnenhoehe and the later descendants such as Alcor, Dictator and Delegate—all of which have made their mark on today’s stock.

After a passage of twenty years, in 1969 the Standard was again revised and is in effect today. This Standard dropped the scale of points and the listing of faults. Statements remain approximately the same in regard to head, eyes, ears, but under teeth it now asks for “42 correctly placed teeth, 22 in the lower jaw, 20 in the upper” with a disqualification for four or more missing teeth. Viciousnes and shyness are no longer disqualifications, but dogs displaying these qualities are to be dismissed from the ring by the judge. Added details are given in the description of the body and gait and a 45 degree layback of shoulder is asked for.

From the above it becomes evident that fanciers feel that the progress within the last twenty years has been successful in regard to the overall balance, the station, the refinement and elegance of the Doberman, transforming him form a rather heavy appearing dog to one of great style and artistry: that some retrogression has taken place in teeth and mouths; that it is advisable to discourage further over-all size; that emphasis should now be on conformation for utility. The pendulum has swung a little too far in one direction, as usual, and in the search for beauty some factors necessary for working ability have been given minimum consideration.

One authority says that the shape of the head of a Doberman determines the dog’s type. Heads ARE important. The head is the dog’s weapon for use after arriving at the point of contact. The complete structure of the skull, muzzle and teeth enter into the picture for without the proper skull and jaw bones for the fastening of muscles, the catching, holding, lifting and crushing power is inadequate. As we ask for a longer head we must allow for a more prominent occipital bone for muscle anchorage. The depth and width of the attachment of the jaw bone and of the jaw bone itself must be in proportion to the over-all size of the dog. The plates forming the upper jaw bone and the fill under the eyes must be of sufficient width and length to be strong. Heads without sufficient depth from top of skull to bottom of jaw are weak; those which are too deep usually fall off in abrupt angles to pointy jaws. These have small teeth, narrow jaws, which are unserviceable.

Expression in an animal depends upon the shape of the head, the set and expression of the eyes, the carriage of the ears and this expression not only is unique to the breed but enables the knowledgeable beholder to know his character and disposition. Calmness, intelligence, gentleness and alertness show, as well as timidity, uncertainty and sharpness. If the head is too narrow the eyes are set too close together; if too wide, they are too round and face forward. The proper width and length of head with proper fill under the eyes gives the characteristic Doberman expression.

The Standard asks for a dog of medium size with a rear angulation to match a 90 degree front angulation. He must be compact, quick, agile -- characteristics which are not synonymous with great size. Take a look at the Standards of the really large breeds such as Mastiffs, Saints, Komondor,. Watch in the ring such breeds as Great Danes and Pyrenees and some of the diffiuculties of the extremely large breeds become evident. The Doberman Standard today is rightly trying to maintain the present size – to discourage any further advance in height.

We now have a dog “elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament.” This came about through breeders understanding that “Heredity is the transmission to the progeny of a trait which parents in their turn acquired from their ancestral genotype’, and in the application of the truth. They learned, among other things, that inbreeding produced slender, wiry, and larger body structure, thinner skins and finer hair. This progress was implemented by changing style which led to evolutionary improvements as “Inner hereditary traits and tendencies are called forth by external (environmental) influences and become fixed.” The present day Doberman is a dog of gentle curves, one into another, dry head and smooth dry body. At no point is he exaggerated. The good Doberman attracts attention over-all and in the discerning, grow in attraction. If any one point catches and holds the eye, it is probably overdone.

Gruenig says two things which would be well for all to remember; “No Doberman can possess “Adel” if its physical structure departs from utilitarian.”; and “Endow your litters with the priceless gifts of beauty and utility by a scientific selection of your breeding mate.”

If our best specimens today seem to be almost ideal, then it is up to the breeders to hold the ground gained and look forward to the wonders of the next thirty-five years.

Philpp Gruenig (1947)
Wm.Sidney Schmidt (1935)\
Wm. Sidney Schmidt (1940)
The Complete Dog Book (AKC) (1972)

Ruth McCourt (1974)