Thu, 01/21/2021 - 5:07pm

Dobermans, Then and Now

From the 1930s to the 2000s

In my attempt to find out how much dogs have changed since the past I have received help from several breed specialists. In a previous article published in Dog News on November 6, 2020, several Pekingese experts commented on a number of old photos.

For this second feature, I’ve chosen a breed that's about as different from Pekingese as possible — the Doberman Pinscher. I plan to continue with other breeds in the same vein.

My method: I sent a number of photos of top winners from the past (1930s to the early 2000s) to a few breed specialists, at least a couple of AKC judges among them. For obvious reasons, no photographs of dogs still living were used. I asked: "Do you think the breed is changing, and if so in what specific respects. Would any of the old dogs have ANYTHING to contribute today? Would they even get looked at at a current AKC show?"


Early Doberman Pinscher in Germany.


I am well aware that asking breed specialists to comment on photos is not ideal. Photographs are notoriously unreliable, and for practical reasons I have to limit them to just one per dog.  They are also one dimensional, often black and white (at least until the 1960s), and not necessarily indicative of a dog's real quality. (Doberman breeder-judge Linda Krukar notes that win shots up until the late 1970s were typically done at a slight angle, depicting fronts in a less-than-flattering light.) I have done my best to select good photographs, but of course they may not always do the dog justice. (A really unflattering portrait wouldn't have been available to me to begin with, however, since the photos I have access to were usually used for advertising purposes.)

The Pekingese experts felt their breed had changed surprisingly little over the decades, but the Doberman fanciers did not feel the same was true about their breed.

"It seems to me that the majority of the early Dobermans, including the 'greats' of the day, might have a difficult time competing with the Dobermans of today,” says Andy Linton, Doberman handler extraordinaire. “Angulation fore and aft, heads, feet, tail sets and general overall make and shape, are far superior on today’s best Dobermans."

Linda Krukar adds that because of the breed’s inherent showmanship, presentation is often overemphasized.

“This breed has changed drastically over the years, as you can see, and as much as I hate to say it, there’s always a 'trend' going, so the breed looks one way for a while, and then ebbs in another direction, even though the standard stays the same,” she says. “The early dogs up to 1973 were more moderate than today’s. Overall, the breed has changed a great deal over the years.”

Of all the breed’s traits, she thinks heads have remained the most consistent. “The standard has gone through some minor tweaks over time, including a very slight increase in size, but still emphasizing medium size, moderate, compactly built and square. As the years progress, there is a very gradual change in the outline from very moderate to more angulated, and in 2000, from a square to a longer-bodied dog, which we see a lot of in today’s Dobermans.

"The Doberman standard is clear and specific, but the interpretation seems to elude many,” Linda concludes. “From the pictures, it apparent that it’s a breed that is still evolving and going though various trends."

The breed standard for Doberman Pinschers has been revised several times. The German standard was in use in 1925; the first standard approved by AKC came in 1935, with revisions in 1942, 1948, 1969 and 1982, and a reformatting (but no changes) in 1990.

The first Doberman Pinscher in the U.S. was registered by AKC in 1908. The breed took a while to catch on, but Dobermans were one of the most consistent winners of Best in Show as soon as AKC started having a regular competition for this award in the 1920s.

The first Doberman Pinscher to win BIS in the U.S. was Edo von Stresow, who won at the Detroit Kennel Club in March 1924; it is not know if he became a champion. The following year a bitch named Ch. Westphalia Prinsessin Ilsa v. d. Köningstadt won the Working Group at Westminster. Another bitch named Ch. Freya vom Siegelberg won BIS four times at AKC all-breed shows the same year, and in 1927 Ch. Claus von Signalsburg won six BIS. This doesn't necessarily sound like a lot, but there were fewer than 200 AKC all-breed shows per year then — not 1,500, like these days — so just a few wins automatically made a dog one of the top winners for that year.

When Ch. Jockel von Burgund won Best in Show at 14 of the 181 all-breed dog shows held in 1936, it was more than any other dog achieved that year — and probably a higher percentage of the total than most modern contenders can hope to achieve. (There was no official ranking of the top dogs in all-breed competition at the time, which didn't stop some exhibitors from claiming that their dog was "the most successful," "the all-time top-winning" this or that, etc.)


Ch. Jockel v. Burgund in Kennel Review, December 1938. The caption read: “Presentjng the World’s Outstanding Doberman Pinscher Int. Ch. Jockel v. Burgund, who won his thirty-fifth best in show all breeds at San Mateo Kennel Club show, November 13, 1938. Not only a great show dog but a wonderful sire. […] Int. Ch Jockel v. Burgund with his very lovely owner Mrs. L. R. Randle of San Francisco.”


Doberman Pinschers have figured among the top dogs in the country more often than most breeds, winning hundreds of Bests in Show. Nine different Dobermans have been #1 or #2 of All Breeds since 1965. They were declared Best in Show at Westminster four times and won 13 Working Groups there. However, no Doberman has been Top Working Dog in the country since GCh. Protocol's Veni Vidi Fici ("Fifi") in 2012, and none has been Top Dog of All Breeds since Ch. Royal Tudor's Wild As The Wind ("Indy") in 1988. For most breeds that would hardly be cause for concern. Are Doberman Pinschers losing out in competition with other breeds? I doubt it, but the future will tell.

One question that none of the specialists I consulted picked up on was why the Doberman in Europe is so different compared to the U.S. It is in fact one of the most popular questions on the Internet: "European vs. American Doberman?" (Google that question and you get 811,000 results in 0.40 seconds!) Since the 1940s or '50s, we in this country have consistently preferred a Doberman that's a little more elegant (or less substantial?) than the one in Europe, and the difference of course is further enhanced by the fact that you can't crop ears nor dock tails in Europe these days. Even the breed names are somewhat different: AKC lists the breed as Doberman Pinscher, FCI as simply Dobermann — with two Ns. (Since Herr Dobermann, for whom the breed is named, spelled his name that way, one wonders who started misspelling his name in the U.S. …)

 “The early dogs were different from today’s high-styled look,” says breeder-judge Faye Strauss, stressing that photos don’t do justice to the quality of the dogs depicted here. Nor do they reveal one of the most important aspects of Doberman type: temperament.

“Historically, even when they didn’t look like a Doberman, they acted like one,” she reminds. “Dobermans win at the shows because they are the consummate show dogs. They are self-confident, possessing great temperament and nobility, watchful, fearless, loyal, determined and alert. These are breed-defining characteristics. Any dog that can’t hold it together in the ring for the two and a half minutes the judge is watching should never win on that day, even if they are the best in every other way. All other faults should be taken to the extent of the deviation. Never compromise on temperament in our breed. It is the reason we love our breed.

"The Doberman is a square, medium-sized dog with heavy bone, muscular and powerful, looking poured into his skin. He is well angled in front and rear. This is a one-piece dog, smooth and balanced.

“Annie Clark said, ‘Make your first cut on type, then pick the soundest from that group.’ We add, ‘Then pick the dog with the best temperament.’"


Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm winning his first BIS at Westminster in 1952.


Linda Krukar adds that she has seen these dogs in person starting with Ch. Marienburg's Mary Hartman in the 1970s. Because for this exercise she was looking at photos, she didn’t comment on movement. She says that she made positive statements about all of the dogs, because they all have good points. Nevetheless, she knows that some of her comments may seem too harsh, but these comments are based on the photos, and this is for learning purposes.

It's probably human nature to naturally compare these dogs with the BEST of today, instead of with the dogs that are currently winning, whether you like them or not. I have included only photos of dogs that won a lot in their day, which basically means that many AKC judges pointed to them in Group or BIS competition. Whether that is really indicative of a dog's quality, or if we should have focused on, for example, Specialty winners instead, I'll leave to others to decide.

It may be impossible to accurately compare dogs from the past with those today, but if nothing else I think you will learn a lot from the breed specialists. I certainly did!




The Commentators


Faye Strauss (Sherluck Dobermans) has been approved to judge Doberman Pinschers at AKC shows since 1997 and judged BOB at the DPCA national specialty three times since 2000. She is AKC approved for the Working, Sporting and Non-Sporting groups, a few Hound and Herding breeds, Toy Poodles and Best in Show.


Linda Krukar (Dabney Dobermans) is approved for the whole Working Group and BIS, as well as for a dozen breeds in the Hound, Toy and Non-Sporting groups. She was first approved by AKC to judge Doberman Pinschers in 1998 and has both judged and won the DPCA national specialty.


Michelle Santana (Foxfire Dobermans) is a highly successful owner, breeder and handler who has won the national specialty both as a handler and a breeder. She was selected as Breeder of the Year by the now defunct Dogs in Review in 2013. Michelle judged the DPCA Futurity in 2008.


 Andy Linton needs no introduction to most exhibitors regardless of breed, because although he specializes in Dobermans as a professional handler, he also shows other breeds. Andy has shown countless BIS winners, including both "Indy" and "Sera" above. Andy judged the DPCA Futurity in 2013.



The Dogs              


Ch. Ferry vom Rauhfelsen

Born 1937


The glamorous but ultimately tragic Ch. Ferry vom Rauhfelsen stepped almost right off the boat from Germany to victory at Madison Square Garden in 1939. He had undeniable star quality, but his fiery temperament made him a controversial dog early on. Dobermans then were much sharper than they are today, especially the German imports. One wonders what Ferry's owner, the redoubtable Mrs. Geraldine Hartley Dodge, thought of her dog: He had been imported by her kennel manager, McClure Halley. No doubt she agreed that he was beautiful and was happy to win Westminster again (her first BIS had come in 1932 with a Pointer), but she cannot have been pleased that Ferry frequently "misbehaved" and did not let the judges touch him in the ring.


Ferry with Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge.


Both Ferry's parents and his grandsire had preceded him to the U.S. All had won big at AKC all-breed shows, but Ferry was a bigger star than any of them — at least in the beginning. He won 12 BIS in 1939, as many as his sire the year before, one of them at Westminster, and continued with seven BIS wins in 1940. By then he had been sold to California and the Randahof kennel.


Ch. Jessy v. d. Sonnehöhe, dam of Westminster BIS winner Ferry. Jessy won the grand championship and Best of Breed at the Sieger show in Germany 1937, where Mr. F. F. H. Fleitmann from New York saw and bought her. Shortly after her arrival in the U.S. she won the Working Group at Morris & Essex. Jessy was a Best in Show winner at both all-breed and specialty shows in the U.S. 


Ch. Troll v. d. Engelsburg, sire of Ferry. The photo is from Kennel Review, December 1938, where Troll is advertised as a “Tri-International” Champion: “World Sieger, American Champion, Twice German Sieger, Canadian Champion, Twice Winner of the Wonder Prize …” His photo was the trademark of the Doberman Pinscher Club of Germany. Troll had, according to the ad, 32 sons and daughters that were shown at the “recent" Sieger show in Germany, 14 of which received an Excellent (“Vorzüglich”) rating, including all four Siegers. Troll is advertised as having been imported “about a year ago” and in that time had won 29 BOB, 23 Working Groups and 16 BIS.


Ferry was still winning in 1941, but it was obvious that something was wrong: He kept changing handlers, won much less frequently than in the past, but the end still was sudden. Exactly what happened is still not clear, but the end result was that Ferry was dead. His owners sued the handler, but that didn't bring the dog back, and all the parties involved were out of dogs soon thereafter, leaving a cloud that has remained over this dog's memory.

Marj Brooks, who knows more about Doberman history than most, believes that Ferry was mainly "misunderstood," something that is borne out by the story of the kennel boy who didn't know that Ferry was supposed to be aggressive and became his good friend … and also by the fact that Ferry's genes have been carried on by several later kennels without any known temperament problems.


Faye Strauss: I’ve been told that his intense expression and attitude made him a commanding figure in the ring. He was purchased because he was standing at the end of a leash with such intensity, he looked like he owned the ground upon which he stood. Alert, determined, with nobility and great temperament. In this picture he looks square, poured into his skin, a tight, one-piece dog.

Linda Krukar: While this dog is too moderate to be competitive in today’s ring, he was a step forward from what preceded him. He has a good arch of neck and tail set, but would need to have a stronger head (fuller muzzle, underjaw, parallel planes), more bone, body depth and layback of upper arm to be competitive today, and he is the great-grandsire of the next dog.

Michelle Santana: Ferry was imported to the USA in 1939 after Geraldine Dodge sent her handler, McClure Halley, to Europe to buy the best dog he could find regardless of breed. He arrived just in time to compete at Westminster 1939! From the book “In The Beginning” by J. M. v. d. Zwan, this is the accounting of that day’s BOB competition: “In the show ring at the Westminster KC show in Madison Square, he met his father, Troll v. d. Engelsburg. It was only after great deliberation that the judge gave him the Best of Breed award even though he couldn’t touch him.”

I always find this depiction amusing, because in today’s ring, if your dog can’t be examined, you're excused from any competition! Let alone go BIS at the most prestigious event in our sport!

So Ferry’s BIS in New York in 1939 was a twist of fate.

Eventually Mrs. Dodge sold him to Jim Randle in San Francisco. He was shown extensively on the West Coast and used at stud seven times. 

I think Ferry depicts the typical conformation structure of the dogs of my breed’s early years. They lacked the angle and fill of front/forechest that our standard describes today. When I look at photos of yesteryear's Dobermans I always wonder to myself how the Doberman Pinscher standard of today evolved from looking at the imports that founded our breed and some of the early subsequent progeny, particularly in the front-end assembly measurements.

Look at Ferry’s front legs from the elbow up to his layback of shoulder. Excerpts from the standard — Neck, Topline, Body: “Chest broad with forechest well defined.” … “Brisket reaching deep to the elbow.” Forequarters: “Shoulder Blade—sloping forward and downward at a 45-degree angle to the ground [,] meets the upper arm at an angle of 90 degrees. Length of shoulder blade and upper arm are equal.”
Ferry’s upper arm is straight as a broomstick. Not nearly reaching equal length to his (poorly) laidback shoulder blade. There isn’t really a perceptibly defined forechest, nor does it appear broad. And he’s barely deep to the elbow.

Andy Linton: Ferry was a famous German import that became a Westminster BIS winner. The only person that I ever spoke with about Ferry was the late, great gentleman judge Robert Waters. He told me that the one time he judged Ferry, the dog let him know in no uncertain terms that he was not going to be examined! In those early years of Dobermans in America, the breed had a completely different temperament than the Dobermans of today. They were very tough and many were very scary to strangers, as they were originally bred to be aggressive guard and protection dogs. Dobermans have since adapted to a society in which dogs that bite people aren’t very well received.



Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm

Born 1949


This great-grandson of Ferry won even more than his ancestor. Ch. Rancho Dobe's Storm was bred in a famous California kennel but was owned by a New York advertising executive, Len Carey, who later himself judged BIS at Westminster. Handled by Peter Knoop to an astonishing record of 24 BOB in only 25 shows total. (Once as a puppy, Storm won his class but was "only" Reserve Winners Dog.) He won 22 Working Groups and was BIS 17 times, including at Westminster in both 1952 and 1953, and was retired when still at his peak at only three years of age. If there were any doubts about Storm's quality, the words of F. H. H. Fleitmann of the Westphalia kennels would convince most people. Mr. Fleitmann, who imported Ferry's dam and did more to establish the Doberman in the U.S. than anyone else, stated that "The Germans have not yet produced a dog to beat Storm."


Faye Strauss: This dog was born to be a show dog. There is a picture of him at four months of age; he is standing on a loose leash in an impressive pose. He has a good head that is long and dry with parallel planes, slight stop with intense expression. Good underjaw, which we see little of today. He is a one-piece dog with a tight, poured-into-his-skin look. Good transition from neck into withers and balanced angulation. With his upstanding appearance he would win today.

Linda Krukar: This dog represents the beginning of the Doberman we see today. A good example of a well-balanced, medium-size, square, compact dog, with parts flowing together well. Beautiful head with slight stop, correct parallel planes, strong muzzle, and underjaw, his neck flows smoothly into the shoulders, correct topline and underline, well balanced front/rear, although he would need more upper-arm angle to be competitive today. Based on the photos, he has the most correct head. From videos, he appeared to have quite a presence in the ring. He also has a most impressive, and unbreakable, record: shown 25 times, winning 24 BOB, including two specialties, 22 Group 1st, 19 BIS, including twice at Westminster.

Michelle Santana: Rancho Dobe was such a huge influencer on Dobermans of their time. Many venture to say every contemporary Doberman traces back to one of the famed Rancho Dobe stud dogs. I know our foundation bitch, purchased in 1979, traced back to Stormie.

Storm's breeders, Brint and Vivian Edwards, started breeding in 1941, and in 1971 they were selected as Breeders of the Year by Kennel Review magazine, receiving the coveted “Winkie” award. As the recipient of Outstanding Breeder of the Year by Dogs in Review in 2013, I can attest that there is no higher honor, because it is by a vote of your peers! [Dog News continues this tradition with the Purina® Pro Plan® Show Dogs of the Year Awards, which after an unavoidable pandemic break will resume in 2022. – Ed.]

Storm was sold at three months of age to his forever home in New York. Storm was the only one shown from his litter. He was only shown 25 times before he was retired at three years old. He was never defeated as an adult in the breed and won 22 Group firsts — and, most notably, was Best in Show at Westminster twice! He was viewed as an early “America’s Doberman” by the publicity of winning Best in Show at Westminster.
Also notable is that he was the grandson of the first Doberman to win BIS at Westminster, Ferry.

Today, I doubt he would be very competitive. Again, like Ferry, they are just so different from the dogs you come across in the ring today. You can see his front angles are extremely straight without a well-defined forechest. His tail set is a little low for me, but some might disagree. From the standard — Neck, Topline, Body: “Back short, firm, of sufficient width, and muscular at the loins , extending in a straight line from the withers to the slightly rounded croup.” … “Tail docked at approximately second joint, appears to be a continuation of the spine, and is carried only slightly above the horizontal when the dog is alert.” Storm has a more than “slightly” rounded croup in my opinion, and my mind's eye of “horizontal” is slightly higher than his tail appears in multiple photos.

I do think he has what appears to be a nice wedge-shaped muzzle with a nice chin that so few have today. From the Standard — Head: “Long and dry, resembling a blunt wedge in both frontal and profile views.” … “Eyes almond shaped, moderately deep set, with vigorous, energetic expression.”

Andy Linton: By all accounts, Storm was a great showman, handled by the great and talented Peter Knoop. A two-time winner of the Garden, Storm made it on the covers of some of America’s most glamorous magazines. I heard a story years ago that Peter gave Storm a small ball that Storm always carried proudly around the ring. This supposedly accounted for Storm’s great carriage while he was moving!

The picture in this article is the best picture that there is of Storm, yet I would venture a guess that he would have a difficult time competing with today’s current winners. Again, the standard calls for well-angulated front and rear, “slightly rounded croup” (which means "scarcely perceptible"), as opposed to low tail sets, and the early Dobermans, for the most part, couldn’t compete with today’s dogs mainly for those reasons.



Ch. Ru-Mar’s Tsushima, CD

Born 1962


In 1956 the Top Dog All Breeds ranking was introduced. The first Doberman to win this was Ch. Ru-Mar's Tsushima in 1965. She took far fewer all-breeds BIS during her year at the top than any winner before or since (six in all), but won anyway because the Working Group was then far bigger than any other — and Tsushima had won 25 huge Working Groups that year. (Six of the Top 10 All Breeds dogs that year came from the Working Group!) It took AKC another 18 years before Herding breeds were separated from the Working Group, getting them their own group competition and making the Working Group more manageable in size.


Faye Strauss: I have been told she was known for her showmanship. In the picture she is square. Her head looks dry with parallel planes and good eye shape. Unfortunately, in this photo her brisket isn’t to her elbows, her tail set is low and she does not have the 45-degree angle of shoulder and 90-degree angle of upper arm to shoulder blade our standard asks for.

Linda Krukar: This bitch illustrates a slight change in profile/style from the dog 12 years preceding her. She has more bone and substance, correct head, is square and well balanced. Similar in type to the previous dog, but for today’s standards she would need more body depth, a little higher tail set and more forechest.

Michelle Santana: This gal is also from my old stomping ground of Northern California. When she was Top Dog All Breeds in 1965 I was only two years old! Her owners, Rod and Margaret Carveth, were members of the Doberman Pinscher Club of Northern California, of which I’ve been a member since my mother and I began in Dobermans in 1979.
I do not believe “Tish” would be competitive today. The Dobermans have just modernized too much in style. Again, note how the front assemblies of Dobermans were so straight back in the day! Her head looks pleasing; her topline and tail set appear suspect. From the standard — Neck, Topline, Body: “Back short, firm, of sufficient width, and muscular at the loins, extending in a straight line from withers to the slightly rounded croup." Her topline appears to have a “wheel” to it in the loin, which is undesirable in the Doberman. In my opinion, her croup is more than “slightly” rounded (as many back in the day were).

Andy Linton: Tsushima was handled by the late husband of Pat Hastings, Bob Hastings, who handled so many big winners on the West Coast. Tsushima in my opinion started to represent the modern era of Dobermans. Although she was before my time, I have seen many pictures of her that are far superior to that which is in this article.



Ch. Sultana of Marienburg

Born 1963


Only two years after Tsushima's win, in 1967, Ch. Sultana von Marienburg was No. 2 of All Breeds with considerably more wins in both BIS (26) and Group (58) competition than Tsushima.


Faye Strauss: Good head planes, square, tight skin. She would need more angulation front and rear to be competitive today.

Linda Krukar: This bitch is more similar in type to the previous bitch and is smooth and square, with a correct topline and tail set, but for today’s standards appears a bit long on leg and could use a stronger muzzle and less stop.

Michelle Santana: Sultana had an amazing career, breaking the BIS record by winning 37 BIS and two national specialties!

Interestingly, Mary Rodgers did not breed Sultana; she purchased her (and a littermate) for a purported $125 for both! Mary whelped her first litter in 1963, the year I was born.
Sultana is approaching being more contemporary and capable of competing today. But I still think she would have a hard time of it — too straight in the front and rear. I’ve heard she was a super show dog. So, sometimes, if they wear their faults extremely well and dazzle with showiness, they can overcome great hurdles!

Andy Linton: Sultana was the first big winner of Marienburg Kennels, owned by what was probably the best known and most successful breeder of Dobermans, Mary Rodgers. Rex Vandeventer was her handler at the time, and later he became a well-known judge who gave me tips on how to handle Indy after he judged her. Sultana definitely looks more similar to the Dobermans of today. I’m not saying that she would win as much now as she did then, but the difference in front angle and tail set from earlier-time Dobermans is clear.



Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Maestro

Born 1964


In 1970 Ch. Rancho Dobe's Maestro was also No. 2 of All Breeds, after what seems to have been several years at a contender in the Working Group. (Full records are not available from all years.)


Faye Strauss: He seems to have a strong jaw with underjaw, which is lacking in most Dobermans today. His topline looks quite sloped, which could be due to his overstretched rear. This makes him look straight in rear, which matches his front. Pictures at three-quarter angles are hard to evaluate. I have been told he had desirable heavy bone and was an impressive mover. 

Linda Krukar: Presented by today’s standards, I think this dog could be competitive. He is well balanced, smooth, has bone and substance, correct body depth to length of leg, correct tail set, and a pleasing head. His type is more similar to the previous two bitches.

Michelle Santana: I think this photo depicts a dog that could possibly finish today. He would possibly be out of place, again, because of his steep front angles and severe lack of a defined forechest. But I’ve seen some contemporary dogs of this type obtain their championships.

Specialing to the success level he attained in the early '70s would likely be a different story.

Andy Linton: Maestro was the last dog in this group of famous Dobermans that I never saw live. When I started showing dogs in the '70s, Maestro had ended his career just a few years prior, so he was still being talked about by the Doberman people. Corky Vroom (certainly one of the most successful handlers ever) showed him, and they created a formidable team. The evolution from the earlier-period Dobermans is very evident in this picture of Maestro.



Ch. Galaxy’s Corry Missile Bell

Born 1970


The early '70s were heady years for Dobermans: in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973 either three or four of the Top 10 Working dogs were Dobermans. In 1972 Ch. Galaxy's Corry Missile Bell started collecting BIS, and the following year she was Top Dog All Breeds. While Missile Bell was shown by Corky Vroom in California, her litter sister, Ch. Galaxy's Corry Carina, was campaigned back East to #5 of All Breeds in 1974 — the first, and long the only, occasion that littermates placed so high in the all-breed rankings.


Faye Strauss: I never saw her in person but was told she won Winners Bitch at the 1971 DPCA National, owner-handled by Elaine Herndon. This three-quarter-view picture is also hard to evaluate. This is not a good photo of her. She seems to have tight skin and some underjaw.

Linda Krukar: This bitch fits more the type of the first two dogs illustrated. She is smooth and balanced, with a correct topline and tail set. For today’s standard, she would need more angles front/rear, a stronger head (fuller muzzle, parallel planes), and a deeper brisket.

Michelle Santana: One of Missile Bell’s breeders, Claire McCabe, was still breeding when we began in Dobermans in 1979. This bitch and her owner and breeders were all from my old stomping ground of California.
I think Missile Bell could hold her own and finish today. Front assembly still is glaringly not approaching 90-degree angles of shoulder blade and upper arm, and forechest is not “broad" or "well defined,” but she appears to have had a great topline, and that goes a long way (usually) in our contemporary competition.

Andy Linton: Ch. Galaxy’s Corry Missile Belle was the Doberman that got me excited about Dobermans. Corky Vroom handled her to #1 Dog All Breeds in the early '70s. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, Jane Forsyth handled her sister Ch. Galaxy's Corry Carina to No. #2 in the Working Dog rankings! Can you imagine, the top two Working dogs in the country were littermate sisters! My first Doberman was sired by their brother, so I was a big (mostly ignorant) fan of theirs. As I remember Missile Belle, she was long on style, showmanship and movement.



Ch. Marienburg’s Mary Hartman

Born 1975


Sultana's granddaughter Ch. Marienburg's Mary Hartman was Top Dog of All Breeds in 1978. She was bred in the country's leading Doberman Pinscher kennel, owned Mary Rodgers, AKC's Breeder of the Year in 2003. (She died in December, 2018.)


Faye Strauss: Her head is long and dry with parallel planes and slight stop. She is very stylish, with the high tail that is incorrect but commonplace in the ring today. I think she could win today. Until the '70s, it was common to see low tail sets. Today, they have gone the other way. The standard says the tail should be only slightly above the horizontal when alert.

Linda Krukar: This bitch illustrates another slight change in the profile/style, a "bridge" between the early '70s and the late '80s. She has a correct topline and tail set, a natural arch in her neck, but it doesn’t flow smoothly into the shoulder, her head is small, and she is long in body. I don’t think she’d be competitive by today’s standards.

Michelle Santana: Finally! A Doberman I was around to see! As a matter of fact, at the famed Santa Barbara Kennel Club (back when Dobe entries were 100-plus), my mom and I watched her go BIS. And I had the pleasure of watching her win the national from the Veterans class under Peggy Adamson at my second national ever, which I attended with our first Foxfire litter! 
Mary Hartman was the epitome of “wearing her faults well.” She was so charismatic that you just didn’t see anything else but her grace and style!
I feel she could definitely be competitive today.

And, finally, we are starting to see a tidge better layback of upper arm and the “defined chest.” Although Moe [Miyagawa, the handler of the Marienburg Dobermans] shouldn’t be ramming her tail straight up!

One of the virtues I loved about her was a well-arched neck that she carried so proudly. From the standard — Neck, Topline, Body: "Neck proudly carried, well muscled and dry. Well arched, with nape of neck widening gradually toward body. Length of neck proportioned to body and head.”

Andy Linton: Mary Hartman is a Doberman that I remember like I saw her yesterday. Moe Miyagawa (the only Doberman handler to win the national five times) handled “Miss Bee” to #1 Dog All Breeds in 1978. He had previously handled her famous and prodigious sire Ch. Marienburg Sun Hawk to #1 Doberman in the rankings.

I have a personal story of when I decided that Mary Hartman was a “Great One.” Moe had Mary Hartman out in a big exercise pen in front of his motorhome. She saw me staring at her as I was thinking to myself, "That’s the famous Mary Hartman!" She then leapt out of the ex-pen and ran toward me. I was a bit nervous about this Doberman running toward me, so I acted like I had bait in my hand. Mary Hartman immediately stopped about 10 feet in front of me and nailed the free stack! I still to this day get chills when I think about my interaction with that great dog from more than 40 years ago!



Ch. Royal Tudor’s Wild As The Wind, CD

Born 1984


After Mary Hartman, several others Dobermans placed among the Top 10 All Breeds in the following years, but none was again Top Dog until 1988, when "Indy," Ch. Royal Tudor's Wild As The Wind, CD (she got a Utility Dog title later!), won "everything," including BIS at Westminster.


Faye Strauss: I witnessed her magic many times. She was a very charismatic dog who captivated the audience. She also went on to have a Utility Dog degree and many champion get. Her head was long and dry. She was square in outline with balanced angles that are closer to ideal than the previous dogs. Smooth and one-piece. She would do well today.

Linda Krukar: This bitch could be competitive today. She is an excellent example of the correct Doberman outline. She is moderate, smooth, one piece, square and compact, balanced, has good bone and body, correct topline, underline and tail set. She could have a stronger head (fuller muzzle, underjaw, a little more stop), and smaller, tighter feet.

Michelle Santana: Indy was another one of “America’s Dobermans.” I think Westminster televised coverage (and the ensuing publicity) help with this distinction. They become loved by Joe Q. Public, which is good publicity for the sport of purebred dogs. ("Fifi" was like that as well and had the bonus of social media coming to advent.) [Fifi was officially known as Ch. Protocol's Veni Vidi Vici, Working Group winner at Westminster in 2012 and the winner of 46 BIS that year. - B.B.]

I believe (at least back when she went BIS in New York) that Indy was the first breed with a performance title to win BIS at Westminster. 

She could definitely be competitive today. Notice her nice, heavy, round bone, depth of chest and broad front. Excellent proportions as well. From the standard — Size, Proportion, Substance: “Height at the withers: Dogs 26 to 28 inches, ideal about 27 1/2 inches; Bitches 24 to 26 inches, ideal about 25 1/2 inches. The height, measured vertically from the ground to the highest point of the withers, equaling the length measured horizontally from the forechest to the rear projection of the upper thigh. Length of head, neck and legs in proportion to length and depth of body.”

Occasionally I think judges want bitches bigger than they minimally have to be: It’s 24 inches, folks!

Her feet could have been more “cat-like.”

Andy Linton: It’s been more than 30 years since I was fortunate to handle Indy to #1 Dog All Breeds and BIS at Westminster. Bill Shelton handled Indy to her championship but was committed to the Skansen Giant Schnauzer Kennels in the Working Group at the time. That left Indy for me to handle. Indy was an amazing dog. Her owner did a terrific job of training her in advanced obedience and tracking. At the national one year, Indy won BOB, the Top Twenty and High in Trial!

While Indy was certainly not perfect, she had an aura about herself that allowed her to project as a “Great One.” Like the previously mentioned Mary Hartman, Indy was as good as any dog ever at standing in the middle of the ring without being touched and projecting greatness.



Ch. Brunswig’s Cryptonite

Born 1986


Following “Indy,” Ch. Brunswig's Cryptonite was Top Working Dog for two consecutive years, No. 2 of All Breeds in 1990 and No. 4 in 1991. More importantly, he became the top Working Group sire of champions.


Faye Strauss: Good headpiece with parallel planes, long and dry, with underjaw. Forechest well defined with rear to match. He would win easily today. I remember his retirement party at the national in Toledo, Ohio. It was at the hotel pool and the area was packed. He was off leash, mingling with the crowd. He had a great temperament, very self-assured. He is one of our top producers in the breed today.

Linda Krukar: This dog represents another slight change in the outline. He had the highly sought-after, well-laid-back shoulders and well-developed forechest. He had a correct topline, underline and tail set. He was short in body and a bit longer in leg, had a stronger front than rear. He had a thinner neck that didn't widen gradually toward the body, and his stop could be less pronounced.

As an aside, I showed Cryptonite as a young dog, in fact went with his original owner to look at the litter. I am extremely familiar with the dog (his mother is my dog’s littermate).

Michelle Santana: "Kafka" could definitely still be competitive today. He exhibits a lovely head with the fill of muzzle desired. From the standard — Head: “Long and dry, resembling a blunt wedge in both frontal and profile views.” … “Top of skull flat, turning with slight stop to bridge of muzzle, with muzzle line extending parallel to top line of skull.”
His feet are what is desired: From the standard — Forequarters: “Feet well arched, compact, and catlike, turning neither in nor out.”

Andy Linton: I remember the first time I saw Cryptonite. I had travelled to the Florida circuit with Indy. I was watching class dogs and one dog took my breath away. It was Cryptonite, who was handled then by Perry Phillips. I thought he was outstanding. Later, George Murray took over as his handler and went on to win well over 100 BIS! He was for sure a dog who would still win big today. He is still one of my all-time favorites.



Ch. Toledobe’s Serengetti

Born 1994


The most consistently successful Doberman Pinscher ever in all-breed competition, Ch. Toledobe's Serengetti remained among the top three dogs in the country for three successive years — in 1996, 1997 and 1998. That's an achievement that no other Doberman, and very few dogs of any breed, have succeeded in making.


Faye Strauss: Beautiful headpiece, with parallel planes, slight stop, looking long and dry. Square body, tight skin, good bone and moderate angulation in this picture.

Linda Krukar: This bitch was moderate in relation to what was being shown at the time. She has a correct head, was smooth and balanced front/rear. Her tail is set a little too high, and she was high on leg. To be competitive today, she would need more angles.

Michelle Santana: Definitely could still be competitive today.

Andy Linton: "Sera" was a winner of 99 BIS and 45 Specialties when we retired her at four years of age. She was bred by the famous Doberman icon Judy Doniere and Sue Brown. Sera was a beautiful-headed, smooth, one-piece, wonderful example of the breed, who would without a doubt still be competitive today. While I mentioned in previous comments that low tail sets were a problem in the early Dobermans, Sera’s tail set was too high, which was accentuated by the excessive length of the crop. She was one of the best Dobermans ever in my opinion.



Ch. Marienburg’s Repo Man

Born 1998


The last dog to be included in this survey, Ch. Marienburg's Repo Man placed among the Top 10 Working Dogs for three years and was one of the Top 10 of all breeds in 2002. Like so many top Dobermans before and after him, he was bred by Mary Rodgers and shown by Moe Miyagawa. Repo Man was unique, however, in having a mostly "foreign" pedigree: His sire was imported from Argentina, his dam was mainly of European breeding from the famous Neerlands Stam and Franckenhorst kennels in the Netherlands.


Faye Strauss: He looks muscular and powerful with heavy bone that is asked for in the forequarters section of our standard. His neck widens gradually toward his well laid-back shoulders. He has a good topline and tail set. This is not his best photo, but in this picture, he looks long in loin and over-angulated in the rear. He was a constant companion of his handler, Moe Miyagawa.

Linda Krukar: This dog represents a dramatic change in the outline/style. He is smooth, has good bone, a correct topline/underline, and tail set. He is long in body, has more rear than front, has more depth than leg length, and his muzzle could be shorter and his stop less pronounced.

Michelle Santana: He could definitely still be competitive today. I can’t believe it’s been 20-plus years!

"RP" was a very strong and masculine male. He had true heavy (and desired round) bone. From the standard — Forequarters: “Legs seen from the front and sides, perfectly straight and parallel to each other from elbow to pastern; muscled and sinewy, with heavy bone.”

His topline was exemplary. From the standard— Neck, Topline, Body: “Withers pronounced and forming the highest point of the body. Back short, firm, of sufficient width, and muscular at the loins, extending in a straight line from withers to the slightly rounded croup.”

One could argue that RP was over-angulated in the rear. From the DPCA Illustrated Standard: “The upper shank (1st thigh) and the lower shank (2nd thigh) should be of equal length. The upper shank is the bone between the pelvis and the knee; the lower shank is the bones between the knee and hock. The lengths of the upper and lower shanks should be equal to the lengths of the shoulder blade and upper arm. A common deviation is a long lower shank.”

RP had great muscling of his rear. Also from the DPCA Illustrated Standard: “Muscling on the upper and lower thighs is very important. You should be able to feel the well defined muscling on both the inside and outside of the leg when running your hands over the hindquarters. Inadequate or unbalanced muscling on the upper and lower thighs creates some measure of instability in the hindquarters and therefore is a significant deviation from the Standard.”

Andy Linton: "RP" was another famous dog from the Marienburg Kennels of Mary Rodgers and again handled by Moe Miyagawa. RP won more than 50 BIS. He was in direct contrast to the early Dobermans, as he had tremendous bone and substance along with big angles front and rear.





Doberman Pinschers known to have placed in the Top 10 rankings of all breeds. Not necessarily a complete list, since records for a few years are unavailable.


Ch. Jem’s Amythest v. Warlock, CD, #8 All Breeds 1964

Ch. Ru-Mar's Tsushima, #1 All Breeds 1965

Ch. Haydenhill's Hurrah, #10 All Breeds 1965

Ch. Sultana von Marienburg, #9 All Breeds 1966, #2 All Breeds 1967

Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Maestro, #2 All Breeds 1970

Ch. Dolph v Tannenwald, #3 All Breeds 1971

Ch. Weichardt’s A Go Go, CD, #4 All Breeds 1971

Ch. Galaxys Corry Missile Belle, #7 All Breeds 1972, #1 All Breeds 1973

Ch. Andelanes Indigo Rock, #8 All Breeds 1973

Ch. Galaxy’s Corry Carina, #5 All Breeds 1974

Ch. Marienburg’s Mary Hartman, #1 All Breeds 1978, #3 All Breeds 1979

Ch. Star Dobe's Irish Fantasy, #5 All Breeds 1981, #9 All Breeds 1982

Ch. Eagle's Devil D, #10 All Breeds 1983, #7 All Breeds 1984

Ch. Royal Tudor's Wild As The Wind, CD, #1 All Breeds 1988

Ch. Brunswig's Cruptonite, #4 All Breeds 1990, #2 All Breeds 1991,

Ch. Aquarius Damien v Ravenswood, #7 All Breeds 1993, #8 All Breeds 1994

Ch. Toledobe’s Serenghetti, #2 All Breeds 1996, #3 All Breeds 1997, #3 All Breeds 1998

Ch. Deco’s Hot Fudge V Legend, #3 All Breeds 2001

Ch. Marienburg's Repo-Man, #5 All Breeds 2002

Ch. Blue Chip Purple Reign, #5 All Breeds 2003

Ch. Allure Blazing Star Alisaton, #2 All Breeds 2009

GCh. Protocol's Veni Vidi Vici, #3 All Breeds 2012

GCh. Fidelis Ripcord, #10 All Breeds 2017



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