By: CinDee Byer
It is said that, “history is written only by those to whom the present is important”. During World War I a young man named George Howard Earle the III began writing that history. He was the commander of the submarine chaser, U.S.S. Victor and was awarded the Navy Cross by President Wilson for “heroic and inspiring leadership”. Earle stood firm in what he believed. He boldly stood up to Adolf Hitler by stating; I have nothing against the Germans, I just don’t like you!” George Howard Earle would later be hailed as an American hero and become Governor of Pennsylvania. It may surprise some to know that he was a breeder of Dobermans, and the first “spokesman” for the Doberman Pinscher Club of America to the American Kennel Club.
George Earle was passionate about the Doberman Pinscher. In the early 1920’s he fought to keep the Doberman standard as it was translated. However as larger and larger dogs were imported to the United States, size would become an issue. It is said, that the then American Kennel Club “suggested” a change in the Doberman height and the D.P.C.A. made it so. George Earle was so frustrated and yet so devoted to the Doberman that he left the glory of the show world. He continued on his own believing that standards should be written by breeders and not by men who simply compile records.
What has changed for our breed since Earl’s time? Well not much unless you consider that the size of our breed has grown from 21 inches for males at that time, to a current 28 inches now. Have we reached our limit? Probably not, and we can only wonder how long it will be until it is “suggested” that the standard read… The appearance is that of a dog of large size….
However this article is not about size. It is, about the constant changes of all breed standards. Changes to conform the standards to something other than what the breed’s history dictates. Whether these suggested changes are due to an influx of imports, the fad of the day, to conform to what is considered politically correct or just to make all standards uniform. Change in the standard, no matter how minute, will change a breed and it’s legacy forever.
Change, when we tamper with standards, may happen quickly. More than likely however, it will happen over a period of time. Unfortunately as we have witnessed in the U.K. with cropping and now docking, it does change the breed. It will, at first, just change the appearance. Then it will introduce new health concerns due to the new appearance. It will change the abilities of the breed to do the work it was designed for and registrations will fall. Once we begin the process of changing our standards it is difficult if not impossible to stop. What was advertised as choice, soon abolishes the original design and eventually the breed itself.
Peggy Adamson understood this threat and voiced her concerns. Frank Grover became increasingly concerned over standard review in the D.P.C.A. He was well aware how changes were suggested in the past. He strongly felt these continual intrusions “suggestions” to the standard were a real threat to the breed.
Were Peggy and Frank right to be concerned? To answer this question one need only to read the November 2006, American Kennel Club Board meeting minutes. They read (in the December 2006 Gazette) under, “Guidelines for Writing Breed Standards” concerning cropped and docked breeds…
“…the club will be encouraged to include a description of the natural tail if a docked breed.”
These minutes also included for breeds with normally cropped ears …
“…the club will be encouraged to include a description of the natural ear.”
Frank Grover once said, “The standard is not a study in faults, it is an attempt to describe the ideal”. Peggy Adamson said, “Breed type emerges from the whole standard”.
Should we be concerned about the current AKC “suggested” changes? Perhaps not, if the Doberman is only considered a curiosity or a showpiece for titles. However if we believe we are the caretakers of these pieces of history we must be concerned. As concerned as the curator of a museum who finds the restoration committee has decided to paint a mustache on the MONA LISA. After all many do say, that the MONA LISA is really just a cross dressing Michael Angelo!
Maintaining and preserving the history and standards of these breeds is up to all of us.
One must applaud the AMERICAN ROTTWEILER CLUB and their diligent and lengthy fight to preserve the Rottweiler standard and it’s glorious history. In the Gazette, April 2007, Rottweiler breed column, Dorothea Gruenerwald writes, “the current description of the tail will stand: Tail docked short, close to the body leaving one or two tail vertebrae”. She also writes, “It is also important to note here that the A.K.C. would not approve the words, ‘must, disqualify, or excuse’ in the proposed version”.
There can be no denying our breeds are in jeopardy. We are in a constant fight to preserve the breed as it was originally designed. However, we are also fighting another enemy, the animal rights radicals. We find ourselves fighting their constant breed ban proposals, insurance issues, the right to perform medically beneficial procedures and the right to keep our animals intact. In the meantime, mixed breeds without standards, posing as designer dogs, litter the classifieds daily. Dubious registries are starting up everywhere to capitalize on this farce. I suppose the American Kennel Club is struggling to make up lost revenues by seeking other revenue-generating pursuits rather than stand their ground. It may seem easier for the A.K.C., at this time, to compromise with the radical forces concerning cropping and docking procedures. We must remember however, America is considered “the last hope” for these wonderful breeds. If the A.K.C. takes away our standards and denies us our history then we become just another “designer dog”.
Many of our great pioneers who allowed us the honor of this breed are gone now. Others are slowly passing. They fought the good fight to introduce an amazing breed to this world. They worked to promote and preserve it through the decades. Today, we are left as its caretakers. Today, we are the curators of a living museum called, the DOBERMAN PINSCHER and our history starts now.