Choking Doberman

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The Choking Doberman is a popular urban legend that originated in the United States.[citation needed] Urban legends are, as Patricia T. O'Conner of The New York Times described, "fictitious narratives that are passed from person to person in the guise of true stories and sometimes persist until they reach the status of folklore."[1] The story of the choking doberman fits into this category of folklore and generally involves a protective pet found by its owner gagging on human fingers lodged in its throat. As the story unfolds, the dog's owner discovers an intruder whose hand is bleeding from the dog bite.[2]

Jan Harold Brunvand, a folklorist and professor emeritus of English at the University of Utah,[3] wrote about this and other urban legends in his book The Choking Doberman and Other "New" Urban Legends[1][4] published in 1984 by W.W. Norton & Company.[1] He provided the reader with several varying accounts of the story. While the basic elements of the story remain the same in each version, the details, such as the number of fingers found, the breed of dog, and the condition of the intruder when discovered change slightly.[2]

Folklorists[who?] believe it is a descendant of a much older (Renaissance era) European folk tale about a clumsy burglar who injures his own hand while breaking into a house. His intrusion is revealed by the discovery of one or more severed fingers.[citation needed]

The story[edit]

A woman goes out for the evening with friends. Upon her return, she is greeted by her pet doberman choking in the hallway. Alarmed, she takes the pet to the veterinarian. The vet announces that he must perform a tracheotomy on the animal and he will call her when he has news. When the woman arrives home, the vet calls and tells her to leave the house at once. The dog was choking on three human fingers. The woman calls the police, who search the house. They discover the burglar, hiding in a closet, passed out from loss of blood.[citation needed]

One variation does contain the burglar killing the woman before she can get away.[citation needed]


  • Encyclopedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand (ABC–CLIO, Inc. 2001) (ISBN 978-1-576-07532-6)
  • The Choking Doberman and Other "New" Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand (W.W. Norton & Company, 1984) (ISBN 978-0-393-30321-6)


  1. ^ a b c O'Conner, Patricia T. (14 December 1986). "New & Noteworthy". The New York Times (Late City – Final Edition). p. 38; Section 7; column 1. 
  2. ^ a b Nicolini, Mary B. (December 1989). "Is There a FOAF in Your Future? Urban Folk Legends in Room 112". The English Journal. National Council of Teachers of English. 78 (8): 81–84. doi:10.2307/819495. JSTOR 819495. 
  3. ^ Helmer, Dona J. (Winter 2001). "Encyclopedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand". Reference and User Services Quarterly. American Library Association. 41 (2): 191, 193. JSTOR 41241093. 
  4. ^ Bethke, Robert D. (April 1985). "The Choking Doberman and Other "New" Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand". Western States Folklore. Western States Folklore Society. 44 (2): 147–149. doi:10.2307/1499565. JSTOR 1499565.