Thursday, March 1, 2012

The AKC Dog Registration Statistics: Doberman at #13

The AKC is, for better or worse, only a dog breed registry.

A lot of people take the phrase "AKC registered" to mean that the organization enacts some form of quality control. That is, unfortunately, not the case. AKC championship holds more water, though based on what your opinion of the functionality of a breed is (modern day US showline German Shepherds, I'm looking at you!) even that is suspect.

But, every year, the AKC updates its dog registration statistics, and ranks America's "Top Ten Dog Breeds". You can see a list of the top 50, if you're so inclined. I was. The Doberman, though not in the top 10, is number 13, up from last year's rank of 14. Their rank in 2006 was 21.

So, what does this kind of popularity mean for a breed?

Let's look at the German Shepherd (you knew it was coming, right?) I watched this year's German Shepherd breed judging on the Westminster website, and I was truly shocked. I'd heard some dog people talking about show line German Shepherd toplines, and the way their back legs were. I didn't really investigate, as I wasn't interested in the breed, and I watched an old clip of the Doberman judging (the new one wasn't up yet) before going to the GSD's. People on Twitter (and show GSD people) absolutely loved the dog that won his breed, how he moved, etc. To me, he looked crippled. He looked like he was stumbling over his paws, and like his rear assembly was going to give out on him at any moment. I have a lovely .gif (that I saw first on the Doberman Talk thread that discussed the Westminster GSD breed winner) that demonstrates how German Shepherd toplines have changed over the years, and let's see if it works properly.

Even if you're not a "dog person", and even if you're not a "conformation person" (I don't feel I'm qualified to call myself a "conformation person", that doesn't look right. I'm not sure what function it's even supposed to serve, really. People selected for it and bred it in for a reason. The front angulation seems to go all funny as well (now that I'm watching it over and over again). The breed standard, for your edification, states "The withers are higher than and sloping into the level back. the back is straight, very strongly developed without sag or roach, and relatively short." Again, I'm not really qualified to say, but "level back" and what the .gif shows (in addition to what I saw  at Westminster) doesn't really seem to reflect that.

So, what does such a thing mean for the Doberman?

When a breed gets popular, there are always breeders who will be on that bandwagon. Breeders who crank out as many litters as possible out of the same female, and sometimes the same male/female pairings, without an eye towards health testing, or temperament, or the overall betterment of the breed. Breeders who sell puppies to whoever shows up with a checkbook or cash, without asking about owner experience, or how the puppy will be kept, and sometimes without a contract to protect either party, much less the dog's interests. 

When a breed gets popular, and the puppies get bought, frequently those unprepared owners will end up frustrated and at wits' end, and those puppies, either making it to adulthood in their first homes or half grown, will end up in shelters. If they're lucky, they'll end up in breed rescue, with professionals and volunteers who know about that specific breed's needs, and who are able to appropriately screen homes and match owners to dogs. Even at number 13, there are a lot of Dobermans in rescue. There are a lot of Dobermans getting dumped in shelters, and who are for free on Craigslist (with GOOD HOME ONLY in caps, so the people giving them away knows you know that they really mean it).

I love the Doberman breed. I love what good breeders are trying to do with health and temperament, looking towards stable, intelligent dogs who have every chance the breeder can give them at a long and healthy life in a home that loves them. 

That's why I kind of think of it as "Lucky 13". Enough to know that people love them, far enough down that maybe, just maybe, too many more people won't get in over their heads. Puppies grow up fast. Smart dogs can be very hard to live with. And I like my working breed physically able to still work, thanks.

(Not that Elka is a conformational marvel herself, mind you. But she's good enough for me!)


  1. Truly excellent post! Breed popularity can mean such dangerous things for dogs. And yes, I just knew you were going to talk about the GSD (and glad you did.) Bravo!

    1. Granted, the GSD judging is the only current thing I was able to watch streaming...the Westminster site was not happy with me, for some reason. I would have loved to watch the Doberman judging, and the working group decision, if nothing else.

      Thanks very much!

  2. I noticed they were number 13 too and on the rise. It scares me.
    So, so many people out there could not handle a doberman. I know this for a fact. Plus, the doberman has a few health problems that many "greeders" could easily ignore and not screen for.

    In my area, there is a breeder (ugh, don't like calling them that) that pumps out puppies. They only recently (maybe 2 years ago) started titling their dogs, which is very easy in local shows with few competition.
    They also breed albinos. Which, is a whole other ball game; but I'm digressing.

    The popularity of the doberman in this area is steadily on the rise due to this one breeder alone. The only "good" thing I can say they do, is spay/neuter their pups prior to leaving to their homes. (too young in my opinion, but it at least controlls the population of their dogs)

    There are so, so many doberman in shelters here; I wish I had a farm to rescue them all. =[

    Anyway, I fear more breeders like this will pop up due to their rising popularity.

    Sorry for the rant lol.

    1. While I would rescue an Albino (providing known health or behavioral problems weren't outside of my ability to adequately handle), I cannot condone the breeding of them :(

      I'm not sure about my opinion on early spay/neuter. At home, we had cats from shelters at home that were baby spayed, and seemed fine and healthy and reached normal weights. Also, Elka was spayed at 6-7 months, before her first heat, and I'm not sure of the difference it may or may not have made with her. Sure, she's leggy, but she's still square,and judging from the quality of her most recent forbears (it was before I knew better), she wasn't going to be much better conformationally otherwise.

      Rant away! I do hope that more breeders don't jump on the bandwagon just for the buck. All breeds need responsible stewardship, and responsible ownership.

  3. AKC registration is going down every year and with good reason. They are responsible for puppy mills as much as anything else. I just can't watch the GSD in conformation. I keep thinking of a dog bred with a frog.

    1. It's such a shame, really. The AKC needs to make their money, sure, but people use the AKC label as a badge to hide behind from consumers that don't educate themselves to know better.

      I do feel a registry is important, for the sake of tracking pedigrees and titles, but there's only so much info available from the AKC in the first place. Dobermann Review and Dobequest are so much more useful for me when researching pedigree and such.

  4. omg that .gif is horrifying. just disgusting. wow. the chest cavity comes forward, no doubt influencing awful forward movement, as well. I knew I wasn't crazy when I always thought to myself "that dog looks like he can't walk/is in pain" when I'd see a gsd with that kind of posture. I always thought they looked like that though -- not like actual dogs! gahhh!

    did you watch pedigree dogs exposed? the sequel is up on youtube, called "three years on". They have a part in it that shows working conformation vs show conformation in breeds like the sharpei, the neo mastiff, and even the dachshund and basset. I was stunned at the differences.

    1. I haven't watched Pedigree Dogs Exposed yet! I do keep meaning to, especially because the second one has come out. I did read through the entirety of the PDE blog, however; it's a pity to see what some breeds have become, and are still considered "champions", when to the rest of us they seem to be in pain, or discomfort.

  5. Yes AKC is only a breed registry. People generally do not seem to understand this. The breed clubs are responsible for drafting the breed standard and for educating conformation judges and the public about their breed. You sound so passionate about Dobes that if you are not already a member of your parent breed club, then you should consider becoming a member. We are members of both the Chessie parent club and our local breed club for the reasons I stated. These are the places where you can effect change and/or safeguard the standard.

    In my opinion, Pedigree Dogs Exposed is just a propaganda piece meant to bash purebred dogs.

    1. I've looked at the DPCA membership applications, because I would love to be a member (I think....those things always end up so political and frustrating). Unfortunately, I don't know any other Doberman owners in person, and the application requires 2 of them to vouch for me. I'll have to re-examine!

      It is rather propagandic (that's not really a word, but you know what I mean), but it's also an issue that many of the pedigree dogs being bred are not exactly "viable" creatures. They seem visibly uncomfortable even when in rest, be it from having no face, exponential hair and skin, or a sum of those parts. I haven't watched either video, and I'm not entirely sold on that organization specifically, but I do think that some breeding is a bit more extreme than it needs to be.