The Doberman Drill Team

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as a Doberman Drill Team. The first of many started by Tess Henseler performed at Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 1959 at Madison Square Garden.  Later, Rosalie Alvarez formed her own team that performed at celebrations and sporting events (including a half-time show at a San Francisco 49’ers game) and showed off the breed’s intelligence and agility.

An article in the July 1986 issue of Dog World showcased the team and how dogs were selected (there was one basic
demand: Good, sound temperament). Early on, Rosalie realized that some of the dogs were more handsome than others, a problem solved with capes. Units consisted of 22 marching people who practiced with 18 well trained Doberman Pinschers for approximately eight hours every week, including weekends. It was a wonderful goodwill effort that changed a lot of minds about a breed mischaracterized by a spate of Hollywood movies. Below is a video – poor quality because it was taken from a very old VHS tape, but that gives us an idea of the work that went into a demonstration (especially deeper into the tape).

In 2006, Rosalie Alvarez received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the AKC for reasons beyond the drill team. She trained the first Doberman in the United States to obtain the UDT SchH 3 degree, and ten of her Dobermans earned Utility and Tracking degrees. She had numerous High in Trials, including two at the Doberman Pinscher Club of America’s National Specialty.  She was recognized with a special citation by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department for developing and training their canine unit. She is an AKC Obedience judge, and for all that, she found time to work with the Doberman Drill Team and give demonstrations at hospitals and public events.

To our knowledge, there are still some Doberman Drill teams out there, and if any Doberman folks can shed more light on this, we’d love to give them their “props.”

 “A Doberman Knows” by Kelli Swan is available in many formats here


7 thoughts on “The Doberman Drill Team”

  1. I was a member of the DDT and this video is of a performance at Ontario Place in Toronto, one of three trips the team made to Canada. The article describes the amazing dedication of Pat and Rosalie Alvarez to showing the public what the Doberman is capable of. I miss the dogs and the group of friends that shared these adventures, including my first dobe, Mandy (Merique’s Mirage UD FD) who was also the agility team’s clown mascot.

    • Jan, we’re really honored to hear from a member of the drill team! “Mandy” was wonderful! To your knowledge, is the drill team still going strong?

  2. We (my dog and I) were on Rosalie’s drill team from 1978 to 1982. I have no idea if the team is still going, as Rosalie is 91 now and Pat died two years ago this month.

    • What a thrill that must have been at the time! Might you have pictures?

  3. I have some pictures of my dog practicing some of the barrel jumps alone in the local park. There was also a segment produced by the TV show “You Asked For It” which featured our Doberman Drill Team, if anyone can find that (my dog was in that segment and I’d sell my soul to have a copy of it).

    The Doberman Quarterly printed an article written by Marit Masset Marino (who I believe was the owner of Ch. Teraden’s Romeo UDT) in 1982 on the team’s performance at Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, CA, which has pictures. I think, but I’m not sure, that that article was in the Winter 1982 issue. It was also reproduced with its pictures in “The Third Five Years”, a collection of articles from the magazine over the period 1978 to 1982.

    And I just called my mom who may have a picture I sent her of our drill team in uniform. She’s going out to visit relatives for Christmas in a couple days and won’t be back until after January, but she says she’ll go through her things and if she finds it then, she’ll send it to me.

    Otherwise, that’s all I have. I know there must have been some pictures taken by local newspapers during the years we were performing, but I’d have no idea which ones or how to get them.

    • Stick around, rodentraiser, you never know when we’ll get lucky and stumble across the “You Asked For It” video!

      • If you find that video, please let me know! I’m the only one who never got a copy of it.

        I also (finally!) received some pics of my dog and I marching with the drill team. If I can get them scanned, would you like me add them in a later post?

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