The Doberman Pinscher – Man’s Most Misunderstood Best Friend

Attack dogs. Evil dogs. Bad dogs. If someone mentions the words “Doberman Pinscher” in casual conversation, these terms sometimes come to mind. Dobermans are the bad guys of Hollywood – they chase the good guy off the bad guy’s property. They take care of seedy residences in back alleys. They seem to be the hitmen of the dog world. It is a commonly recognized fact that Dobermans are somehow meaner or more dangerous than other dogs. Why?

A handler recently had his dog in a park where there were crowds of spectators. A boy came up and asked him to pet the dog. Consent was given and the child proceeded to pet the dog, pull the dog’s ears, ask questions about the dog, and generally make friends. “Do you know what kind of dog it is?” asked the handler. “No,” the boy replied. “A Doberman,” said the handler. The boy, without saying a word, turned and walked away. Must have been fooled by the long ears. Yes, some Dobermans have long, floppy ears. But why was that name the deciding factor for an otherwise enjoyable encounter?

The Doberman is a very old and historical breed of dog. Around 1890, Louis Dobermann, a tax collector, sought to breed a dog suitable for both protection and companionship. His job at the time could be dangerous, as he carried money with him on his rounds. By crossing several breeds, including the Rottweiler, Greyhound, and Manchester Terrier, the Dobermann achieved his goal: a medium-sized, obedient guard dog, powerful build. The dog gained popularity as a protector and companion. After Dobermann’s death in 1894, the Germans named the breed after Louis Dobermann (the second “n” was later dropped); Otto Goeller continued to refine dog breeding to create the dog we see today. The German word for terrier, “pinscher”, was also later removed, as “terrier” no longer described the dog in general.

The main role of the Doberman working dog is that of guardian and protector of the property. In 1945, the breed served in World War II, assisting the US Marines on their patrols in Guam. By the end of the war, 25 Navy Doberman dogs had given their lives to protect American soldiers by detecting landmines, sniffing out enemy forces from cover, carrying information releases to different areas, and providing protection in trenches for the soldiers could rest. Some of these dogs were nicknamed “Devil Dogs” by the Marines for their fierceness in battle. Of course, the pointy, cropped ears helped complete the picture. The dogs’ ears and tails were cut off to minimize the enemy’s ability to grab the dogs if the opportunity arose. Cropped ears are still popular today, but they are no longer necessary for any practical reason other than appearance.

Recent breeding programs and education about the Doberman have improved the breed dramatically. No longer being bred for aggression, Dobermans are loving, family-oriented dogs. Their high intelligence and boundless energy require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation like obedience and agility, but in their minds, they are indeed man’s best friend. Perhaps in the years to come Devil Dog’s personality may fade into history, but never be forgotten.

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