Doberman Advancement Held Up

The onset of WWI, in 1914, put a temporary hold on Doberman production. For military dogs, it was time to go to war. Germany had established in 1884 the first organized Military School for training war dogs at Lechernich, near Berlin, and in 1885 wrote the very first training manual for Military War Dogs.

The German army used as many as 30,000 dogs, many of which were likely Doberman or similar dogs. These dogs were mainly centuries, guard dogs, messengers, mercy dogs, and delivery dogs.

The war deteriorated into a long battle of attrition with men living in trenches on either side of "no-man's land", the area between the lines of trenches. The preceding innovations in engineering and manufacturing made available tools of devastation for which there was no precedence. Dogs were ideal in this hostile environment made mostly of mud, fraught with crater holes and barbed wire; where no living thing was safe anywhere from the mortars and bullets.

Dogs are small and fast. They can leap over a crater hole and barbed wire obstacle, and fly across mud that would trap a grown man. Dogs were able to make deliveries of medicine, cigarettes, and most importantly messages. Mercy dogs were trained to find wounded soldiers out in no-man's land, saving countless lives. In addition to lessoning the burden of war on man, war dogs also paid some of the cost. Many were killed. Dogs were a prime target, especially messenger dogs.

The dogs at home in Germany, including Dobermans, fared worse. Woman and children and any men not fit for combat had few resources that did not go unabsorbed by the war. People were either starving or close to it. Doberman breeders were forced to sell their beloved animals to neutral countries at ridiculously low prices in hopes that they would survive. More often though, these fine creatures were euthanized to save them from the slow agonizing death of starvation.

Gruening wrote in his book The Dobermann Pinscher about how all of his dogs, except for two especially fine puppies, were delivered from starvation with strychnine before he left to fight. He explains that he held on to these two Dobermans in a moment of weakness, induced by the hope of saving them. These two puppies starved to death.

The state of war in Germany ended on June 18, 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Miraculously, Doberman breeding resumed vibrantly. By 1920, Germany was producing the now world famous Doberman Pinscher filling a new demand, partly produced by returning soldiers of the occupying allied and American forces.

In 1921, 119 Dobermans of great quality entered the Munich Sieger Dog Show. The quality was even better the following year with 233 Dobermans entering the Berlin Sieger Dog Show. William Sidney Schmidt, an author remarked: “The breed had reached almost perfection. It was at its pinnacle, carrying through on the same level during a number of years to follow.”