The Doberman was bred to be a tax collector’s dog and lives up to its breeding – making an excellent guard dog. It is alert, intelligent, trains well, and is loyal to its owner.
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Allergies: Not Hypoallergenic
Temperament: Alert, Intelligent, Playful, Loyal, Protective, Courageous
This breed can be aggressive but has been bred to a slightly more gentle temperament over time. However, they still need consistent and firm training and early socialization. Male adults reach a height of 26 to 28 inches, and females are 24 to 26 inches. Males weigh 88 to 99 pounds at maturity, and females 71 to 77 pounds.
Every breed has an origin story; some are quite fascinating and take us back to a different time.
Karl Louis Dobermann was a German tax collector who had a dangerous job. He travelled through bad neighbourhoods and was not well-liked because of his profession. Dobermann also owned the local dog breeding centre. He used the breeding centre to make a dog that would be good protection for him as he travelled. Several different breeds were used to make the Doberman, although he did not document his methods very well. It is thought that the primary breeds in Doberman’s ancestry are the Rottweiler, German Pinscher, Black and Tan Terrier, Old German Shepherd, and herding dogs that had smooth coats.
Germany named the dog “Dobermann Pinscher” when Mr Dobermann died in 1894, but the word Pinscher was dropped later, apart from in the US and Canada – who have also dropped an ‘n’ from the name.
During World War I, there was a severe decline in the population of this breed because of the lack of food in Europe. Survivors were usually either kept by the military, police, or the very wealthy, and not many were bred. Many were brought to the United States at the end of World War I, which helped keep the breed alive.
Dobermans have been widely used in the military and police forces. In particular, one called Cappy, became famous in World War II when he warned Marines of Japanese soldiers and saved 250 lives. He was later killed by a Japanese grenade and was the first dog to be buried in the war dog cemetery. Twenty-five Dobermans died in the battle of Guam.
Find out the personality you can expect from this breed.
The Doberman is intelligent and obedient and trains very well. However, he was bred more for being a guard dog than a family companion, so he is not known for being affectionate even though he is loyal. Some are shy, while others are more outgoing. They can be domineering and make great guard dogs. Generally, they do not aggressively attack people, instead pinning them down until help arrives.
Each dog is certainly unique, but every breed also has certain characteristics encoded into its DNA.
The combination of pointed ears held erect, a wedge-shaped head, and a long neck results in a proud and noble-looking dog that will scare people off just by his looks. They have a naturally long tail, but often it will be docked shortly after birth so that it doesn’t get in the way. Docking of tails is illegal in some countries but part of the breed standard in others. Their ears are often cropped as well to help sound be more localized so that they will make good guard dogs.
Dobermans are sensitive to the cold and should not be kept outside in cold weather. They can adapt to apartment living so long as they are given enough exercise. If they are left alone for too long, they can develop separation anxiety and exhibit destructive behaviour such as chewing and barking.
Bred to be a guard dog, the Doberman will need early socialization, or his natural protective tendencies might go overboard. They were originally born to be aggressive – but only when commanded to be. But this aggressive trait has been gradually changed over years of breeding to have a more gentle temperament. However, they can still be aggressive with dogs that they don’t know. Generally, they are good with children but are not the best dog for a family with kids and should always be supervised when they are with children.
Doberman Pinschers shed all year round, but this should be kept under control with a weekly brushing. They don’t need a whole lot of bathing – just a few times a year is usually enough as they are generally clean dogs. Their ears should be wiped every few days, checked regularly for signs of infection, and teeth should be brushed regularly. Exercise outside may wear their nails down naturally, but if they don’t, they will need their nails trimmed. Their paws should get used to being handled while they are puppies to not mind it when they are older.
This breed is generally easy to train and sensitive to what its owner wants, but some are more stubborn than others. They need firm and consistent leadership, but not harsh discipline, and they do need to be trained and raised well, or they can become domineering. They’re initially aggressive, even though some of this trait has been bred out of them over the years. But as a Doberman owner, you will need to be aware of this potential and that they may bite given the right circumstances.
Doberman Pinschers have a lot of energy and intelligence so they can get bored easily. They need interesting activities and will happily run alongside you as you hike, ride a bike or go for a jog. They like learning new jobs and make great working dogs. Agility competitions are good outlets for them to have an activity to do that keeps them mentally stimulated.
Proper nutrition is key to raising a healthy dog, especially during its early days.
Dobermans are prone to bloat, which can be fatal. If they tend to gulp their food down quickly, you might want to consider getting them a dog bowl that helps them to eat more slowly. Also, avoid exercising them directly before or after a meal, and make sure their food is divided into two meals rather than one.
Lower protein food is often recommended for the first few months when you have puppies, and many will stop feeding them puppy food at four months old. Puppies should be fed three times a day for the first 4-6 months of their life.
Avoid food that is high in grains, such as corn and flour, and look for one that has meat in the first few ingredients. This meat should be high quality, such as chicken, beef, or lamb. Rice and potatoes are good ingredients, but corn, wheat, and meat by-products are usually not good. Fish oil is often recommended as a supplement to give them a source of Omega 3.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 2.5 to 3.5 cups of high-quality dry food every day, divided into two meals.
If your dog is very active or takes part in competitions, he will need more food than if he is at home most of the day. So do be aware of his weight and activity level. If they have been spayed or neutered, then they generally need fewer calories as well.
Common Health Concerns
None of us wants even to imagine the one thing, but it’s important to be informed on the common breed-specific issues.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy affects more Dobermans than any other breed of dog. In this condition, the heart muscle becomes thin, resulting in a weaker heart that struggles to pump blood around the body. There is no cure, but it can be managed to some extent with medication.
They are also prone to a clotting disorder called Von Willebrand’s disease. This can mean that if they are injured or have surgery, the blood doesn’t clot properly, and excessive bleeding will occur. It can be treated with blood transfusions from other dogs, but there is no cure.
Other conditions include Hip Dysplasia, which is less serious but can cause lameness, and Hypothyroidism, which can be managed with medication. Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an eye disease that gradually progresses to blindness.
There is also an inherited condition called Wobbler’s Syndrome, which is known to affect Dobermans. In this condition, spinal compression problems can cause spinal compression, which results in neck pain and can even cause the legs to be paralyzed in extreme cases. Surgery can be attempted but is not always successful.
How to Get One
Rescue Groups: Dobies and Little Paws Rescue, Lone Star Doberman Rescue, Doberman Rescue Unlimited
Breed Organizations: Doberman Pinscher Club of America
Doberman Pinschers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Doberman Pinschers in need of adoption and or fostering. There are several rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a Rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club, and they can point you toward a Doberman Pinscher Rescue.