• Longer, More Delicate, Slender Neck that rises more sharply at the shoulder.
• Long, narrow wedge-like head and slender muzzle
• Cleaner, dramatically tapered throatlatch
• Refined, more delicate bone (leg thickness)
• Longer, leaner, more refined physical structure.
• Lighter (tan) markings contrasting a black coat.
• NOTE: American Doberman Pinschers are photographed with their necks tightly drawn up by the show lead in a position that pulls the dog upward, and the dogs are photographed with their mouths fightly closed. This difference can obscure similarities and differences in dogs' conformation (Euro versus American).
• Thicker, Muscular Neck with less rise from the shoulder
• Thicker, more muscular throatlatch
• Heavier, broader head with a heavier, thicker muzzle & jaw
• Thicker, heavier bone (leg thickness)
• Larger, compact feet
• Heavier, more muscular physical structure.
• Dark (deep rust) markings contrasting a black coat.
• NOTE: European Dobermanns are photographed with the show lead low on their neck/chest with the dog pushing forward against the lead, and the dogs are photographed with their mouths OPEN. This difference can obscure similarities and differences in dogs' conformation (Euro versus American).
• Loving and devoted to its family.
• Couch potato personality. Loves beds and sofas. Shares space well.
• Alert and protective of its family and home.
• When its pack is threatened, likely reaction includes barking and some physical intervention -- sometimes with retreat.
• More sensitive to strong discipline.
• More sensitive to human emotion.
• Gains confidence through tender leadership and training.
• Easy to train. Thinner skinned disposition. Responds best to soft commands and limited physical correction.
• Benefits from reassurance and easy introduction to stressful or chaotic environments.
• Sometimes less pronounced prey (chase) and food drive.
• Less likely to be highly successful in working events (Schutzhund/IPO/Police Work).
• More likely to be successful in AKC Conformation Shows.
• Loving and devoted to its family.
• Couch potato personality. Loves beds and sofas. Can be a space hog.
• Alert and physically protective of its pack (family & home).
• When its pack is threatened, likely reaction includes barking and physical intervention -- rarely with retreat.
• Less sensitive to strong discipline.
• Very tuned into human emotions.
• Maintains confidence in the midst of discipline.
• Confidence escalates through clear leadership & training.
• Easy to train. Thicker skinned disposition. Responds to clear, firm training.
• Confident and outgoing in new and chaotic environments.
• Assume strong prey (chase) and food drive.
• More likely to be highly successful in working events (Schutzhund/IPO/Police Work).
• Unlikely to be successful in AKC Conformation shows.
COMPARE DISPOSITION AND TEMPERMENT: American Doberman versus European Doberman
American doberman pinscher adult male European dobermann adult male dog
The modern American Doberman Pinscher originated in Germany as a personal protector for individuals and families, and for police and military work. Throughout Europe, this is still the case. Here in the United States, Doberman are predominantly used as family dogs, show (conformation) dogs, and obedience dogs. Their former reputation for being aggressive, dangerous dogs has long since passed. The American Doberman Pinscher is now known to be gentle, loving, and sensitive.
In Europe, the Dobermann is viewed in a somewhat different light. The breed is known to be a "sharp" dog used primarily for protection, working sports (e.g., Schutzhund), and law enforcement. Over the years, our family has hosted many foreign exchange students from Europe, and we inevitably get questions from concerned European parents about having Dobermans in our home, with each explaining to us that in Europe, these dogs are not family pets, but are used only for police/guard work and Schutzhund.
Since the Doberman came to the USA about fifty years go, American breeders have bred primarily for the conformation standards we see today at AKC dogs shows. Much of the sharper, working aptitude originally found in the breed has been lost in that process. European breeders breed to a standard that puts working temperment first (in fact a dog must pass a temperment test aka ZTP before the dog may legally be bred) but also embraces a physical standard. In the USA, anyone can breed a litter of puppies and many successful American breeders deem mere conformation wins within the AKC as justification to breed litters of puppies. European breeders believe that breeding litters of puppies for their appearance alone, without rigid testing of the dogs' working ability, is unethical and detrimental to the breed bred primarily for its working (protection) abilities.
Notice that American dogs are called "Doberman Pinschers" (note that Pinscher in German means "terrier), while Europeans have long since dropped the terrier additive ("pinscher") and simply call the breed the Dobermann (two N's as in the originator of the breed, Mr. Dobermann, spelled his name). Some Dobermann admirers claim to see, upon close examination of the American Doberman Pinscher, subtle confirmation changes from the original Dobermann that resemble the terrier, making the name differences appropriately reflective of the changes to the American Doberman Pinscher since's it's arrival in the United States many years ago.
European breeders reject, to some degree, the variety of elegance and refinement seen in modern American dogs and the lack of working aptitude, and as a result, we find international champions that are heavier, and more masculine dogs with exceptionally confident and stable "working dog" dispositions. American breeders often describe the European Dobermann as too coarse, masculine, thick boned, big, heavy, and too assertive. On the other hand, European breeders often describe the American dog as too delicate, finely boned, feminine, timid, sensitive, and lacking the assertive disposition and drive required to produce a top-quality working dog. Both groups tend to think theirs is the better variety of dog, and some argue that the dogs have diverged to such a degree that the breeds should officially become two different breeds (American Doberman Pinscher and the European Dobermann), must as happened with the Cocker Spaniel (American and English).
There is some basis for these divergent viewpoints. It is a fact that before a Dobermann's offspring can be registered in Europe, one of its parents MUST hold a Schutzhund title (ZTP). Schutzhund is German for 'protection dog' and refers to a system for testing dogs of working breeds for workability. It has also grown into a popular sport in Europe and somewhat throughout the United Stated, although the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not allow its affiliates to sanction Schutzhund trials.
An exhaustive review of the literature on the health differences between the American and European dogs reveals a tendency toward the opinion that European Dobermanns are less prone to the genetic defects know to be a problem in the breed here in the USA, although that seems to have changed (and remains open to rigorous debate). Some breeders here in the USA are importing European Dobermanns -- some to reduce the likelihood of the genetic defects common to American Dobermans, some to reinvigorate the working aptitude lost in so many American lines and some for mere profit. Beware of breeders capitalizing on the ability to charge a high price for "European" working Dobermanns. Some are using inferior European stock; some breed quality imported dogs to inferior American stock. Other breeders may be carefully choosing their European stock and breeding ethically. Remain skeptical but open, and do your homework to ensure you are getting the quality of dog you are searching (and paying) for.
Note that we have had extensive conversations with numerous European breeders who readily admit that they export to the USA their least desirable puppies. It is understandable that they wish to keep their top puppies in Europe where they will be campaigned/shown across Europe to promote the kennel's bloodlines. Now that European laws have evolved to prevent dogs that are cropped and docked in countries where it is legally permissible to do so, from showing/competing in the top European shows, it is easier to identify the puppies targeted for export to the USA -- notice that some breeders will have cropped/docked some puppies for exporting. They do not plan to show these dogs, and they crop and dock them to prepare them for export to the USA where the majority of people still strongly prefer Dobermanns with docked tails and cropped ears.
What is important in this discussion of European Dobermanns versus American Doberman Pinschers, is that neither is definitively "better." They are simply different. What matters is that you understand the differences between the two, and choose the dog that is right for you.