There was a very interesting exchange between Ray Carlisle and Michelle Santana posted on the DPCA website about breeding and the WAE, how to use the WAE for one's breeding program. Some of the above responses have touched on some good points that they do bring up. MaryJo and Dobebug have a really good job delving into some of those aspects. https://dpca.org/BreedEd/interpreting-the-wae/
For one, a dog that has been trained for the WAE will not behave in the same way as a dog that hasn't trained for the WAE. A conditioned or counter-conditioned response will be distinctly different from a natural response to the stimuli.
For another, a sport trained protection dog is not necessarily going to respond well to the aggressive stranger. While MaryJo says all the IGP dogs she has seen passed the aggressive stranger but failed in other areas, of the ones I've seen fail or barely pass, some did quite poorly or failed the aggressive stranger part. Training for sport and training for civil protection are very different things. The decoy/aggressive stranger in the WAE is wearing a hidden sleeve - if an IGP dog is sleeve focused they may not react at all. If an IGP dog is prey/play trained they also may not respond and in some cases be scared. And last but not least the behaviour and the picture is VERY different. Most decoys used at the WAE are not professional/trained helpers. Sometimes it is just a volunteer that hasn't ever done this before - they get briefly instructed by the judge and practice a few minutes before going in. An IGP helper is very "predictable" in terms of their movements and actions. That being said there are some Helpers who can be very intense and bring on the pressure and run dogs off a field - but they're still not the same as a guy behaving weird making zombie sounds, and moving in erratic, unnatural manner with a big hat and raincoat. Ultimately the dog knows what to expect (from both conditioned and contextual cues) and decides if it can handle it. My dog perks up and gets eager when she sees her agitation harness for example because she knows what it means. Her entire demeanour walking to the field is different with the harness and without it. This is not so, with the WAE. And it's part of the reason why the equipment used has to be approved and fit the same criteria for everyone - to ensure it's as fair as possible. If the dog is being taken through without training and for the first time, they have no idea what to expect, no clues/cues as to what they should do and what is going on. And if they've never encountered a hostile stranger, they don't necessarily "know" how they're supposed to respond until instinct kicks in, or the handler removes any inhibitions from said instinct.
Another thing to keep in mind... Dogs, (and particularly dobermans) cue in to their handlers, a lot. While I do believe dobermans have a natural capacity to make discerning evaluations of a situation on their own, generally a dog that is obedient and has a good relationship to the handler will turn to the handler if they are unsure of what to do, particularly if they have been trained/socialised/counter-conditioned to ignore weirdos, and/or have had their instincts and natural responses otherwise extinguished through training whether intentionally or unintentionally. When I ran Nadia through the WAE I think I was the only or maybe one of two handlers to listen to the judge's instructions. The judge specifically stated that in order to recreate a real situation of danger, you had to interact with the decoy.
If you just stand there doing nothing your dog may look at the decoy, look at you and decide this is 'normal' and particularly if your dog trusts your judgment, or is not necessarily an overly assertive dog (let's not pretend like we don't all know a dog that occasionally decides to 'veto' whatever decision the human has made and decides to take matters into their own paws
), or is the type of dog that really wants to please and not do the wrong thing, the dog may not react.
I've even seen this in protection training with young dogs being evaluated for the first time or introduced to it, particularly dogs that are highly obedient, with inexperienced handlers that make the mistake of walking onto the field in obedience heel, or put in a sit/down. The decoy comes out, provokes, tries to be aggressive. The dog gives them a massive side eye and keeps looking between the handler (that remains silent and unmoving) and the decoy and wonders wtf is going on, but the obedience overrides the need to react and the uncertainty/trust towards the handler makes the dog default to 'no reaction, dad doesn't seem to think there's anything wrong here'. I've seen dogs who are very reliant on their handler to the point where they almost look like they are expecting their human to do something/deal with the situation. It isn't necessarily out of fear or lack of confidence either, just an obedient dog deferring to their master.
Another thing too - if you have a happy, friendly, sociable dog that has been very well socialised and has never been in a situation of danger, never seen you fearful of anything... the dog may have a very benign conception of the world. In that dog's head if he's never experienced anything scary with his human, then he may not know that people/strangers can be bad, or that the world can be dangerous. I know that sounds a little silly, but I've seen it! I would say this is a dog that lacks natural suspicion which can be faulty for a doberman, but conditioning can be strong. That suspicion may exist but as I've said, might have been extinguished and could need re-boosting. Or, the dog may simply be young and not fully developed. Though you can take the WAE starting 18 months, this is a slow maturing breed especially with males, I find many of them are not even fully mature until 3... and I've seen some for who the light doesn't 'switch' on until even later than that for the 'seriousness'.
Bringing this back to the WAE. The judge said, if you were approached by an aggressive, hostile or unstable/drunk individual with bad intentions, you wouldn't stand there and just let your dog react would you? You'd likely yell/warn the threat to stay back. If you want a confident, happy, well-socialised dog to take a threat seriously, then the owner/handler/human has to take that threat seriously as well. You need to communicate or confirm to your dog that this is not normal, this is not desirable. You gotta get into the scenario a little and 'act' it out.
So sometimes when a dog fails it is not because they lack the capacity or the instincts. Sometimes the handler is a detriment. (It can also happen in the opposite way - a handler encouraging and praising too much their dog can distract the dog or reinforce the wrong thing, like if the dog is not reacting and you say "good boy!" you might reinforce the lack of reaction).
As others have said, the WAE is not strictly pass/fail. There is a scoring grid for each station, and for the last one (the aggressive stranger) it's even divided in to three separate aspects. Ok the dog has passed, or has failed. But how did he pass? How did he fail? To me a dog that would get +3 on all stations would not be correct either. My personal opinion is that a doberman should NOT be overly friendly or engaging with a neutral stranger. I also do not think a doberman should get naturally excited and eager to meet even a friendly stranger. To my mind, a doberman should be reserved and aloof and the ideal response beyond a cursory sniff or inspection should be to ignore. I also think the natural response to a friendly stranger should be mitigated and somewhat reserved, if perhaps more interested in the friendly than unfriendly. Even though they are friendly, they are still a stranger to you and the dog.
I am not ashamed to say that when Nadia did her WAE, she received plenty of handler help on my part for the friendly stranger. The handler is encouraged to act excited and enthusiastic and as the members who've seen the video can confirm, I behaved towards the friendly stranger as if I were greeting an old friend, greeting them and fussing and still Nadia's first reaction was to jump all over ME and be focused on ME. She was responding to my excitement, not the stranger's. She did go and inspect the stranger, greeted her (with mitigation, gave a bit of a nub wag, then 'parked' in front of her to humour her for petting) but her interest/excitement died down quick when she realised she didn't know who this was. Otherwise when friendly strangers approach us on the street for whatever reason, even when she is off duty from her service dog work, she tends to ignore them. Rarely even deigns a sniff even when they ask if they can pet her (if she decides that she is up to tolerating petting she will 'park' herself in front of the person sideways and allow them to pet her neck or back. No licks, no sniffs.)
Now if on the other hand I invite someone she's never met into the home it's a completely different matter - she will be all over them!
I am also of the perhaps controversial opinion that some dogs are gifted the WAE, some dogs pass that shouldn't in my humble view. Because it does come down to interpretation of the judge. There is a video of a dog who supposedly passed (I haven't checked on the DPCA website or Dobequest to verify) on youtube whom I wouldn't touch with a 30ft flag pole in terms of breeding or ownership. He was a European import and used for IPO, and still in spite of being personally involved with the sport, is not a dog I would have wanted. I didn't like what I saw. I disagree with what the owner of the video relays about the judge's comments. A characteristic of the WAE is that the dog's ability to recover and calm down from stimuli is also important, I do not consider that dog regained calm or control quickly enough on most stations, and on the last he was still wired throughout the judge's comments.
So while the WAE is a good start - much like any other title, simply having it (or failing it) doesn't necessarily tell the whole story or paint a full picture. If I'd be invested in a dog's WAC, I'd want to see the scoresheet, absolutely, and ideally I'd want to see a video to evaluate for myself and determine whether or not I a) agree with the judge and b) like what I see. Unfortunately, temperament is one area where I find there is a lot of misunderstanding, ignorance and ultimately there are many shades of grey that are subject to personal interpretation and opinion. I'm at the point where personally I know what kind of thing I don't want to see and some of the things I would like to see. I've learned a lot in that regards in particular over the last 2-3 years (and I'm still learning! There is so much yet to learn) and not every breeder should be as well versed on temperament as they should be, therefore I don't automatically rely on titles or other people's opinions/evaluations (and this goes for working breeders too! There are show breeders that are way more knowledgeable of temperament than certain working breeders could ever hope to be, even if they may not have the technical terms and the vocabulary to express their concepts they have a thorough enough understanding that they can explain it in their own words... And of course the reverse is also true, show breeders who are clueless to temperament and have working counterparts who talk like a board certified veterinary behaviourist). There are plenty of people who don't understand sharpness and reactivity (the good kind) and misinterpret that as instability and so breed away from it. And some people who see an unstable dog or a dog with poor nerves as being aggressive and confident/reactive.
For example. Hackles, hackles are not a controlled response they are an involuntary response. Hackles are not penalized in the WAE but they are considered a negative and can be penalized in the United Doberman Club's Temperament Test. Many laymen who aren't familiar with the ins and outs of aggression, defensive drives and dog emotion tend to perceive hackles as a 'positive' for a protection dog, because people wrongly assume it is akin to a dog trying to threaten or appear bigger/fierce. I believe the reason why the UDC doesn't view it positively is because while 99% of all aggression is fear based (and here, fear is loosely used. People think fear is the same thing as 'being scared' it is not, or at least not so directly. Fear of losing access to a resource for example, leads to resource guarding. Dominant behaviours are also fear based, a dominant dog is a dog trying to control access to resources because it fears losing access to said resources - mates, territory, food, the couch, their favourite human etc.) which many working dog people don't like to hear, what separates a confident dog from an insecure dog, is how they react and deal with that fear. Hackles the majority of the time represents that the level of fear and stress exceeds the dog's level of confidence. In some cases hackles can represent surprise - like a mini shock to the system. But in those cases the hackles usually go back down very quick after the initial response to the stimuli. In rare cases hackles can indicate overarousal (in the context of play/excitement/anticipation(whether positive or negative, such as a dog being stared down and unsure if there might be a fight breaking out). It is interesting to note that some dogs starting out protection training will show hackles early on, and clearly show other behaviours of discomfort and 'this is more stress than I'd like right now', over time as they gain confidence the hackles disappear entirely and the level of stress signals is reduced or rendered inexistent (even if the dog still experiences stress, no matter how much they enjoy it, protection work IS stressful to the dog, but a happy, confident dog simply handles the stress better and I'm sure some of them are akin to adrenaline junkies). I suppose that the UDC penalizes hackles because they view it as a lack of confidence when compared to what the baseline confidence should be in a doberman. (Also a dog won't necessarily fail but they will have the negative hackles characteristic highlighted on the score ****). In all fairness, the threat in the TT is further away from the threat in the WAE, so a dog that would be unable to handle the pressure in the TT without showing hackles may indeed be too sensitive and lack sufficient confidence. In the WAE the pressure is a lot closer, something to take in consideration especially with dogs going through it without having ever faced pressure before or an aggressive stranger. Therefore manifestation of stress should not automatically be interpreted as to mean the dog lacks sufficient confidence or nerve.
Aside from the WAE, as previously mentioned there is the UDC Temperament Test and the American Temperament Test (society). There is also the UDC Breed Survey and of course the German ZTP as well as the German Körung (although the Körung might be a little bit redundant to some, since you need to already have a ZTP and a Sch1/IPO1/VPG1/IGP1). Other countries have different character/temperament tests and certification as well. There are several breeders out there who voluntarily will not breed without some kind of temperament certification or testing done on their dog, but you shouldn't necessarily stick strictly to WAEs. Another thing to keep in mind... pedigree consistency. Is that dog the only one in its pedigree or siblings to have a WAE? Well, is that dog a fluke or is that dog just the tip of a consistent but untested iceberg? And if the dog doesn't have a temperament certification, is the breeder capable to discuss what kind of temperament their dog has (and be honest about it), if necessarily provide video or invite you to meet the dog and see it work/be tested?
I think Eve Auch/Irongate is a very good place to start with. She is the Secretary of the WAE for the DPCA and she has to the best of my (limited) knowledge good health and longevity in her lines.
Don't think she has a website, her contact info would be on the breeder listing of the DPCA I imagine
I... also apologise for the novel I wrote. Temperament, particularly doberman character and temperament is something I am quite passionate about and fascinated by.