Should the Doberman Pinscher Club Of America consider breeding for Homeland Security? Or should Doberman Breeders preserve the breed and the Breed Standard?
DOBERMAN AT THE CROSSROADS
Modify Standards, Mandate Health Tests or Maintain History?
by CinDee Byer, Breed Clubs Editor
The DPCA seems to be struggling with various ways to increase the popularity of the Doberman breed. Currently they are promoting a plan to encourage breeding for HOMELAND SECURITY.
However, this type of program is contrary to time honored breeding practices. In order to redirect the marketing of the Doberman Pinscher to fit this criteria breeders are at a crossroads. What is the vision for the future of the breed?
In the "Homeland Security" market, large scale vendors are already established. As I understand, to compete with, OR to sell to, the large scale vendors, breeders would be asked to abandon breeding to the standard. Current vendors market European dogs for military, police and service work. They are not interested in breed standards as much they are interested in what appeals to and fits the "clients" needs. One procurement officer stated, "A breed club preserves the breed and its standard, our breeders are in the business of modifying breeds to meet the needs of our clients."
Originally the main purpose of the Doberman Pinscher Club Of America was to preserve and protect the breed. It was the first statement in its Constitution and Bylaws. With a changing of the guard however, tax exemption became more important than the breed itself. We are told our 501(c)(3) status made it necessary to change the direction of the club. Now the DPCA is promoting homeland security which asks breeders to alter programs to fit the needs of "clients" rather than adhere to the demands of a standard and the needs of a good home. Litters in these types of programs are raised until a maturity of 12 to 18 months. A client may find one or two acceptable candidates while leaving the breeder with the responsibility of finding homes for the rest.
In the attempt to gain favor with vendors and their clients it has been suggested by some DPCA officers that the parent club mandate health testing. It is believed this will make the breed more popular. Many vendors I spoke with concerning health tests did not rely on breeders but instead had their own veterinarians conduct physical exams and x-rays of the dogs at their facilities. It is not a battery of tests that procurement officers see as a top priority, it is "the needs of their clients".
It is admirable that the club seeks to renew interest in the Doberman breed. However the breed's participation in past war efforts did not revolve around breeders altering breeding programs, modifying standards or increased health testing. It centered around a unique breed and a strongly educated parent club who promoted that uniqueness.
In the early stages of the war dog program almost any dog or breed was considered. Back then other than a physical exam and parasite check there was no real health testing. Dogs at the training facilities either made it into the program or they did not. Luckily, the "one man, one dog" training program suited the Doberman temperament and it excelled.
With the creation of the new AKC obedience trials Dobermans became popular as performance dogs. The trials, at that time, were basic and straight forward; all you needed to do was demonstrate a dog's obedience and earn a title. The Doberman excelled and by the 1970's they became one of the top breeds in obedience. At that time the Doberman soared to over 70,000 registrations a year and few, if any, were ever tested for anything. It was the Doberman's beauty, loyalty and dedication to ONE MAN, ONE FAMILY which made it so desirable.
As competition grew and obedience trials evolved in to a "repetitive" contest of tricks the Doberman began to lose favor. Breeds that thrived on repetition became the rage and the Doberman fell from grace. The main reason that the Doberman became unpopular in this event is that it had "insight". Frank Grover (pictured left) wrote, "Insights are difficult to explain but once seen they are difficult to ignore".
Insight causes two things to happen in training... First, a Doberman with insight, forced to repeat an exercise over and over, in a short period of time, begins to reshape his reactions to what he believes the handler wants, resulting in "disobedience" of the actual command. Secondly, "Insight" creates anticipation. Willy Necker. one of the first real trainers to arrive in the states from Germany, parted ways with AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB obedience when they made anticipation of an exercise a disqualification. Willy felt that during training a Doberman gained "insight" as to what its handler wanted. Willy did not want to correct a Doberman for guessing right.
Today, with the high volume training facilities, "the one man, one dog application" of training for military programs is obsolete. Assembly line programs are more productive. According to trainers at Lackland Air Force Base, difficulty in responding to a periodic change of handlers as well as a lack of adaptability to weather conditions are the reasons they have eliminated procurement of Doberman Pinschers. I am told that a Doberman, can be, with time, behavior modified to accept each new handler, however this is costly and time consuming. Other breeds are better suited for this type of training. Due to this fact, the Doberman, as we know it today, will probably NEVER gain favor with the large scale training community.
Several American vendors I contacted voiced the same concerns with the Doberman as did Lackland AFB. German vendor, Marco Van Hoof of D.A.C.H. Police Dogs and Services who stated "We can not sell them because they do not have the qualities that a police dog must have". Jay Grey from Pilot Dogs said in 2005 he was phasing out Dobermans from their programs for various training reasons and, also, due to the fact that other breeds are more acceptable to the public.
Some officers in the DPCA feel more health testing will enhance the breed’s image and create a demand for homeland security. The problem here is not the Doberman's health, it is that the trainers and vendors have no interest in the breed itself.
With all the data available to us concerning the health testing of dogs, one fact is true, health tests have never made any breed more popular. HEALTH TESTS ARE A GOOD TOOL FOR THOSE BREEDERS WHO KNOW HOW TO USE THEM PROPERLY; USED AS A MARKETING SCHEME THEY PUT THE BREED IN JEOPARDY. With the elimination of many good specimens from our gene pool, we have less than 12,000 Dobermans registered annually. You cannot breed away from a defect when there is nothing left to breed with.
We cannot save the breed by finding fault with it or its breeders. We save it by promoting the breed's uniqueness. There is something quite beautiful and special about the true Doberman Pinscher. The standard gives us the beauty. The gift of this beauty gives us the Doberman "insight". This is not something a large volume breeding kennel or training facility wants or needs.
To an individual that "insight" defines the breed. It is priceless to have a dog which has the ability of knowing what you want or need before you even realize it. The question is, do we want to preserve it, modify it or mandate a test on it? Regardless of the path we choose, we must remember that without a standard and the insight it produces, the Doberman is just another dog.
For more compelling information on the threat to Doberman type and purpose, don't miss Breed Clubs Under Attack in which the AKC seeks to change the Doberman Pinscher Breed Standard.
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