On top of the War Dog Memorial at the U.S. Naval Base Guam sits a life-size bronze sculpture of a Doberman Pinscher named Kurt, by California artist Susan Bahary. Titled “Always Faithful,” the memorial is a tribute to the dogs that served in the Battle of Guam during World War II. The inscription on its granite base is a testament to the breed’s legendary prowess and reads in part: “Twenty-five Marine War Dogs gave their lives liberating Guam in 1944. They served as sentries, messengers, scouts. They explored caves, detected mines and booby traps. – Semper Fidelis.”

The always faithful Doberman Pinscher is a breed manufactured for service. In the late 19th century, a German tax collector and dogcatcher named Karl Freidrich Louis Dobermann crossed several existing breeds in an effort to create the ultimate protector and companion. No records exist of those early matings, but according to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America’s, “The Background of the Doberman”, the likeliest mix incorporated the old German Shepherd, the German Pinscher, the Rottweiler and the Weimaraner. Some authorities also point to the Beauceron as one of the breed’s early progenitors.

“Selection for breeding was based on the bravest, the keenest, the quickest and the toughest,” according to the parent club’s breed history, “and – if these requirements were met – the most loyal.” Loyalty is a quality always highly regarded in the Doberman Pinscher, however those early hybrids were also very likely to be “sharp, aggressive with other dogs and distrustful of strangers.”

After Dobermann’s death in 1891, two English breeds were introduced to improve the dogs’ appearance and perhaps their temperament as well. Records show that the black Greyhound and Manchester Terrier lent their form while preserving the emerging breed’s original coloration.

Otto Goeller and Goswin Tischler were two German breeders who continued on with Dobermann’s initial experiment. According to the AKC parent club, Goeller receives credit for “shaping this raw material so rapidly.” By 1899, the National Dobermann Pinscher Club was formed in Germany, and the breed was granted recognition the following year.

The Doberman, as the breed is often called, was recognized in the U.S. in 1908. According to the DPCA’s breed history, it was not until 1922 that more than 100 individual dogs were registered annually with the American Kennel Club. Twelve years on, more than a thousand were registered, and by 1941, the “new” breed had become the 15th most popular in terms of registrations.

During World War II, the Doberman was given the nickname “Devil Dog” as tribute to its fearless service as the official combat dog of the U.S. Marines. Kurt, the dog immortalized in metal on the island of Guam, perhaps best exemplified the breed’s determination, fearlessness and loyalty when he alerted to the presence of enemy soldiers, thereby saving the lives of 250 marines.

In 1949, “Pinscher” (meaning Terrier) was dropped from the breed’s name in its homeland, and the Kennel Club (England) followed suit. Both the Canadian and American Kennel Clubs continue to maintain the breed’s original two-word appellation.

The Doberman Pinscher is not limited in its abilities and has a commendable record of wins at major conformation shows in the U.S. The first of the breed to win Best in Show at Westminster was Ferry V. Rauhfelsen of Giralda in 1939. The German import was owned by Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge, and was the grandsire of Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, the show’s winner in 1952 and 1953.

The last Doberman to win Best in Show at Westminster was a red bitch, Ch. Royal Tudor Wild As The Win CD, in 1989.

Smart, strong and resilient, the amalgamated Doberman remains a confident dog today, totally in control and completely aware of its place in the world. Registrations in 2011 confirmed the breed’s popularity, placing it 18th of the 173 AKC-recognized breeds.

The Doberman Pinscher is a personal companion and protection dog with a square profile and great nobility. Photo © Liuying Lu/Dreamstime

A Real Square

The Doberman Pinscher’s requisite strength and style depend greatly on correct size, proportion and substance. The General Appearance section of the AKC breed standard describes “a dog of medium size, with a body that is square.” Ideal size is indicated as 27-1/2 inches for dogs and 25-1/2 inches for bitches, as measured vertically “from the ground to the highest point of the withers.”

Length in the breed is equal to height, as measured horizontally “from the forechest to the rear projection of the upper thigh. The picture created is that of a perfectly square animal, compact, muscular and powerful, with balanced angles that enable “great endurance and speed.”

The parent club’s Illustrated Standard emphasizes the importance of “a balance of bone density, substance and body size in relation to height.” Oversized dogs are not considered correct in a “medium-sized” breed, nor are dogs lacking in bone and substance.

Correct Doberman proportion also depends on length of head, neck and legs. These must be proportionate to the body’s length and depth, enhancing an absolutely square symmetry.

A Great Nobility

“Elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament,” is partly how the breed standard describes the Doberman’s general appearance. The Illustrated Standard goes on to state, “The heavy bone, Doberman temperament and elegant appearance create a generally imposing presence.”

This imposing presence – or nobility – defines a big aspect of Doberman type. “Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient” are the words used to define both the breed’s noble appearance as well as its temperament.

According to the illustrated standard, “energetic” describes a dog that is “ready for action.” “Watchful” means “keenly vigilant,” and “determined” characterizes a dog “undeterred by distractions.” “Alert” distinguishes a dog that is “quick and on guard, with an expression and posture that exemplify intensity.” “Fearless” epitomizes a dog that is always “notably sure of himself and his purpose,” and “loyal” is a breed hallmark that should be “apparent in his attitude, expression and behavior.” “Obedient” indicates that the Doberman Pinscher is “trainable and should respond immediately to any command.”

Shy or vicious behavior is anathema to correct type, and the breed standard instructs judges to dismiss from the conformation show ring “any shy or vicious Doberman.” Temperament, as underscored by the illustrated standard, is “fundamental for the Doberman’s reason for being.”

Black and Blue, Red and ‘Isabella’

Short, hard and thick hairs that lie close to the body characterize the Doberman’s smooth coat. It presents a sheen that accentuates the breed’s impressive form and gives the impression the dog was poured into its skin.

Only four colors are permitted in the breed: black, blue, red and fawn, and each is accented by “sharply defined” markings. These markings are rust-colored and appear “above each eye and on muzzle, throat and forechest, on all legs and feet, and below tail,” as directed by the standard. These tan “points” should be “deep rust red” in color, although the value can vary somewhat from dog to dog.

The illustrated standard states, “Sharply defined markings are preferable, as they enhance the characteristic look of the Doberman. The markings on the chest should be two small triangles, as opposed to a large unbroken banner.”

Black is the color of the earliest Dobermans, and in Germany the red and blue are also acceptable in this Working breed. The AKC breed standard also allows a recessive color known as “fawn” or “Isabella.” This diluted red is described by the illustrated standard as “silvery beige” and, according to a parent club article on the breed’s history, it is “impossible genetically to breed all three colors without also breeding a fourth.”

An “invisible” gray undercoat is allowed on the neck, as is a white patch on the chest “not exceeding one-half square inch.” Any color not specified by the breed standard is to be disqualified.

The smart and capable Doberman Pinscher is a 19th-century invention that served admirably as both war dog and show dog in the 20th century. As its supporters look toward the next 100 years, they need only be reminded of the words of German breeder Phillip Gruenig who said of the breed, “he is in the process of becoming.”