From the time I first saw them in the ring, I liked their look. At first glance, I admit, they appeared to be puppy Dobermans. All legs and bad toplines. Pulling away from the judge or snapping at him as he tried in vain to examine each dog. Still, there was something eye-catching about the sleek, lithe animals. Looking closer, it became clear these were not puppies at all. Their heads and bodies were markedly different from Dobermans. I checked the print out near the ring-gate and found out they were German Pinschers. In 2003 they were brand new to the AKC. From that show weekend on I occasionally watched them in the ring. There were often none entered.
In 2009, we travelled to Roswell, New Mexico, with our very young champion, Danny, looking for an outdoor show for practice before our annual trek to Montgomery County. There was a young woman there with two German Pinschers. They were not what I’d hoped them to be. Nothing seemed to have improved over what I’d seen years before. The breed has tremendous potential. They should be a sound, sturdy breed. Possessing proud bearing and a vigilant expression. It seems like an easy breed to “get it right”. Not like a Bassett Hound with it’s wrap-around front and dwarf proportions, or some of the giant breeds where joint disorders often prove to be their undoing. The German Pinscher is medium-sized and moderate in every way. A square breed, elegant and upstanding. Yet the breed continues to struggle with the basics of dog breeding. Handicapped by a limited gene pool, conscientious breeders had little choice but to import their foundation dogs from Europe, primarily Scandinavia, where presumably the breed was stronger.
Locating a German Pinscher breeder was easy via the Internet and the German Pinscher Club of America’s Website. Breeders are listed along with their websites. We looked for a breeder whose philosophy best matched ours. We found her. Lyn Stuby, Nevar German Pinschers, in Indiana. A no-nonsense woman who has done plenty of winning but seemed more concerned with health and conformation. She was having a litter in a month and she would keep us in mind for a show prospect. We had no idea.
August 17 was the day our puppy arrived. We had seen pictures of the puppies weekly and narrowed our choices to about three of the boys. The breeder picked the green puppy for us and it was just the one that had caught our eye. Funny how puppies are made. Innocent and beguiling, they give no clue about the evil that lurks inside. We picked him up in his puppy crate at the air cargo building. He had flown in the heat of the summer all that way. We cautiously opened the crate and pulled him out. Peyton donated his puppy lead, a thin leather line, for the cause and we had a new Bronco collar for the baby. He came out and was instantly our darling. Incredibly huge feet and big floppy ears made him irresistible. He was smooth and sleek and had a little belly and sweet, puppy breath. His crate was dry and he peed in the weeds outside the building on his leash like a pro. He was a dream.
Right away it started. “What a cute Doberman puppy, ” the little girl chirped when the puppy wandered over to greet her new Golden Retriever baby. We didn’t bother to correct her, after all she was just a child. Our puppy was called Polaris by his breeder so we went with that. A star name for the star we hoped he’d become. On the way home we stopped by the bulk mail center to show Polaris off to our friend who works there. The puppy was an immediate hit. Even a UPS driver held him and was fascinated by the little Doberman. We corrected him and passed on some breed information. We knew it would go over his head, but damn it, this puppy is not a Doberman.
Inevitably, like having a root canal, we took our puppy to conformation class. Several other would be handlers were standing in one corner by the benches with their new puppies. Used to seeing us with terriers they were curious. The AKC has made life miserable for people who pride themselves on knowing every recognized breed. More and more breeds are admitted every year. Many look so similar who can tell if that large white dog is a Cane Corso or the Dogo Argentino. Our conformation classmates stared at our serious puppy and kept glancing at our faces, and then each other, as if something was wrong. They asked his age a couple of times. Finally, it dawned on me. They wondered if we knew our Doberman puppy was hopelessly small for the breed. I tried to sound patient as I informed them he was a German Pinscher. Nobody knew what that was, but they seemed relieved we didn’t think he was a Doberman.
Since that day in August we have taken our puppy, now called Axel, to the German Pinscher National in St. Louis, a UKC show and of course the Kerry Blue National at Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. We could not have been more relieved when nobody at Montgomery called Axel a Doberman. However, more than one person asked me where the Standard Manchester ring was. I guess they didn’t notice our puppy didn’t have a tail.
Seeking refuge in the breed standards of the Doberman and the German Pinscher, there is little to help us out. The descriptions of both breeds are more than just similar. The same words are used in both standards. Amazingly, both breeds are even described as medium-sized. The real difference between the two breeds lies in the temperament. The German Pinscher standard calls for a dog that: has highly developed senses, intelligence, aptitude for training, fearlessness, and endurance. He is alert, vigilant, deliberate and watchful of strangers. He has fearless courage and tenacity if threatened. A very vivacious dog…. The Doberman standard calls for a dog that is: Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient. While admittedly similar, the more reactive, prey driven German Pinscher, bred as a ratter, is a better fit for us than the more push button, traditional working dog temperament of the Doberman Pinscher.
We are looking forward to showing our puppy in February at the cluster of shows in Denver. We hope the judges will be less confused. We will go from the front of the line in the Terrier Group, to the back of the line in the Working Group. Though not a Doberman, I am training him to show like one since that may give us the best chance to be noticed in the ring. And to keep confusion about his breed to a minimum among the uninformed, we are thinking of having a T-shirt made with his picture and the words, “Proud to be a German Pinscher” on the back. We have to do something.