As a member of the Doberman Judges Education
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
In one class of bitches he had three
Two were very good examples of the breed.
One was considerably less so.
To my surprise, the lesser 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
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
On the way home I started to think about his
Have we oversold the concept that square is
the most important characteristic of the breed?
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
But to immediately exclude other exhibits
based on that one factor can't be right.
There has to be some consideration of all the
major virtues and deviations, not just one.
So what should that judge have considered 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
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).
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
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.
Here's a photo of the ideal Doberman dog and bitch
that you are looking for:
next priority is how they hold themselves when they
They should look very much like the ideal
profile, but with legs moving correctly and head
slightly dropped as illustrated in the photo below:
amazing to me how many times a class enters the ring
and my first thought is "Wow, this is a good class"
only to find when they move they are lacking reach
and/or drive, going off in the topline or tailset,
bouncing, or any of several other problems.
The search for the best Doberman just got a
lot more difficult.
So, in the first few minutes when they have entered
the ring and then gone around, you have made some
major decisions. and it wasn't on one attribute like
You have decided which ones have the best
profile and can move while keeping that profile.
Fortunately, many times there are several dogs that
rise out of those first two decision... profile and
They have passed the first two "must haves."
A full body evaluation is next on the priority list.
Now is the time that you start setting priorities.
This is when "I made my first cut on square "
is appropriate. This is the point at
which head, bone, feet, muscle tone, conditioning,
down and back movement, and many other essentials
It's also the point where judge's opinions
diverge substantially, and that's OK.
The head is a breed defining characteristic and it
must be given due consideration and must be high on
the priority list.
As in the first priorities in judging
(profile and movement), head must be of correct
No matter how well a dog matches the profile
and movement, if it does not have an acceptable
head, then it is not a correct Doberman.
being said, will you give a little on the head to be
Or will you give a little length for a better head?
Below are the images of a correct head that you must
have in your mental picture to complete the three
most important priorities in judging.
Breeders and judges all place emphasis on the areas
that they feel are most important.
Some judges cannot accommodate a dog with a
less than superior head. I've often heard it said
that " the head is the first thing you see, and I
want it right."
OK, that's a major priority for you and you
can weigh it more heavily than other
Others may consider
proper front angles to be a major priority,
as the correct front is noticeably absent in many
It's hard to successfully breed and easy to
Still others may consider the rear to be the most
important characteristic, as that's what furnishes
most of the power in forward motion.
With so many options and so many individual
"druthers," you can see why judging seems to be
Good judges aren't inconsistent, they just
have different priorities from one another.
If judges select a Doberman that most closely
matches his mental picture for profile, movement,
and head, then he should not be expected to choose
the dog that you or another judge would select.
Judges can put up different dogs for
different reasons, and as long as they can
articulate why they chose a certain dog, then it is
the right dog for them.
I know that we Doberman people emphasize square to
every judge and anyone who asks about the breed.
Apparently, many judges are making their
first cut based on square. It's important, but it's
only one attribute.
The point here is to make your first cut based on
the most important points, and not one or two
specific characteristics .