- Average Height: 24 to 28 inches
- Average Weight: 66 to 88 pounds
Key Personality Traits:
The Doberman Pinscher is a dog of contradictions. Although he has a reputation as a sharp and even sinister dog, his devoted fans consider him the most loving and loyal of companions. And no, “loyal” isn’t an understatement. There is a tremendous bond between dog and human that lies at the heart of the Doberman’s enduring popularity. Believe it or not, a good Doberman is a stable, friendly dog — unless you threaten his family.
But the Doberman’s reputation isn’t entirely undeserved. Health and temperament problems became a serious issue in the breed with its growing popularity, and continue to plague the carelessly bred dogs you’ll find in pet stores, through Internet retailers, and at many big kennels. If you want the steady, protective, intelligent Doberman of your dreams, be prepared to do your due diligence to find him.
A Doberman is right for you if you’re ready to provide loving leadership to your dog, train him consistently and fairly, and give him plenty of exercise and an outlet for his considerable intelligence. And don’t underestimate that intelligence: the Doberman is among the smartest of all dog breeds. If you expect your dog to spend his days in the backyard and his evenings keeping you company while you play video games, you’d better be prepared for a barking, bored, destructive dog instead of the devoted companion you thought you were bringing into your home.
Developed as a guard dog, the Doberman has an innate ability not only to protect his family but also to anticipate danger and threats. Because he’s so smart, he’s not often wrong, but if the Doberman isn’t socialized and trained to behave appropriately around strangers, he may show excessive suspicion of guests in your home – suspicion that can turn into aggression.
Many people want a Doberman for purposes of protection, but almost no one really needs a trained protection dog – most people or families simply need a watchdog and a deterrent. The Doberman’s reputation, intelligence, instinctive ability to evaluate threats, and his loyalty to and innate protectiveness of his human family are all that’s needed to accomplish those goals. It’s not necessary to get a “trained protection dog” that you don’t need and probably can’t handle. A well-bred, well-trained, properly socialized Doberman who lives with his family will protect them as part of his nature.
If you do share your home with a Doberman, you’ll find him to be a fairly easy dog to care for. Just keep his nails trimmed, his body lean and exercised, and brush him weekly to keep shedding to a minimum.
An alert watchdog, the Doberman can be a barker, so help yours develop appropriate barking behavior when young so it doesn’t become a nuisance later on.
While most people are familiar only with the black Doberman with rust markings, Dobermans actually come in a number of colors: black with rust-colored markings; blue (actually gray) with rust markings; various shades of red-brown with rust markings; and a light tan color called “Isabella,” which also has rust markings.
Be aware that white or cream Dobermans are a genetic mutation that is associated with severe health problems. They are not the prized and expensive rarity some people will try to market them as. There is no test for the albino gene, but good breeders do everything they can to avoid producing albino Dobermans. Avoid these dogs and the breeders who produce and sell them.
Other Quick Facts
- The Doberman originated in Germany, created by tax collector Louis Dobermann to keep himself and the taxes he carried safe from thieves.
- In the 1950s, long before the advent of agility and freestyle competitions, the Doberman Drill Team thrilled audiences with their amazing physical feats. Today the breed is highly competitive in obedience and agility trials as well as many other dog sports and activities.
- The Doberman who is raised with children and other pets will love and protect them and be a good companion for kids.
- The first Doberman to win Best in Show at Westminster was Ch. Ferry v Raufelsen of Giralda in 1939. He was followed by his grandson, Ch. Rancho Dobe’s Storm, who had back to back wins in 1952 and 1953 and more recently by Ch. Royal Tudor Wild as the Wind in 1989.
The History of Dobermans
Tax collector Louis Dobermann needed a guard dog to keep the money he carried safe from thieves. To create the intelligent, reliable guard dog that he had in mind, he crossed shorthaired shepherd dogs with Rottweilers, black and tan terriers, and German Pinschers. Sleek dogs such as Greyhounds and Weimaraners may also have been part of his “recipe.”
Before long, he was producing dogs of a distinct type. The first Doberman Pinschers, as they became known, were seen at a dog show in Erfurt, Germany, in 1897. Three years later the breed received official recognition as a German breed.
The American Kennel Club registered its first Doberman in 1908, and the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) was formed in 1921. Throughout their history, Dobermans have made a name for themselves as military and police dogs.
During World War II, the United States Marine Corp used Dobermans in combat as sentries, messengers, and scouts. While liberating Guam, 25 Marine war dogs died. Dobermans are seen in archival footage of the battle on Okinawa, one of the bloodiest conflicts in American history. In 1994 a bronze memorial statue of a Doberman commissioned by the United Doberman Club was erected in Guam. The memorial is called “Always Faithful.” In 2001 when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, search and rescue Dobermans looked for survivors and bodies at Ground Zero.
The Doberman still has a fearsome reputation, but the secret that has made him one of the AKC’s most popular breeds over the years is his devotion to and love for his family. It’s no wonder that the Doberman is 14th in AKC registrations, up from 23rd a decade ago.
The Doberman Temperament and Personality
The Doberman’s qualities of intelligence, trainability and courage have made him capable of performing many different roles, from police or military dog to family protector and friend. The ideal Doberman is energetic, watchful, determined, alert and obedient, never shy or vicious. When the Doberman is loved, socialized and trained, there is no more wonderful companion.
The perfect Doberman doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, counter surfing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained, or unsupervised.
Start training your Doberman puppy the day you bring him home. Even at just 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Once your puppy is up to date on all required vaccines, it’s a good idea to start puppy training courses or puppy kindergarten to help him socialize.
What You Need to Know About Doberman Health
All dogs, including Dobermans, have the potential to develop genetic health problems. Here are a few that are more common in the Doberman breed:
Cardiomyopathy: One of the most serious breed-related health problems in the Doberman is cardiomyopathy, which causes an enlarged heart. An annual heart exam is critical in catching this condition early, and no dog with cardiomyopathy should ever be bred. Nor should any Doberman be bred without a comprehensive heart examination by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist and OFA certification within the past year. The sad reality, however, is that a dog who tests fine one day can develop heart disease the next, and the puppy of two parents without heart disease can still develop it.
Cervical Vertebral Instability (CVI): Another breed-related condition affecting the Doberman is cervical vertebral instability (CVI), commonly called Wobbler’s syndrome. It’s caused by a malformation of the vertebrae within the neck that results in pressure on the spinal cord and leads to weakness and lack of coordination in the hindquarters and sometimes to complete paralysis. Symptoms can be managed to a certain extent in dogs that are not severely affected, and some dogs experience some relief from surgery, but the outcome is far from certain. While CVI is thought to be genetic, there is no screening test for the condition.
Von Willebrand’s Disease: This bleeding disorder is also seen in Dobermans more than some other dog breeds. Dogs with this disease lack a certain protein that helps to stick together and form clots. This disease can be screened for with bloodwork, and screening may be something to consider if your Doberman is scheduled for surgery. Dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease should not be bred.
Addison’s Disease (hypoadrenocorticism): This disease is caused by dysfunction or destruction of the adrenal glands in dogs. Many dogs with Addison’s disease don’t show signs until they are very ill. These symptoms include pale gums, seizures, and collapse. If caught early, Addison’s disease can be managed with medication.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, but some can be screened for by breeders. That’s why it’s important to find a reputable Doberman breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest dogs possible. The breeder should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding.
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Dobermans can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit hip, heart and thyroid evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). PennHip and Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) hip certifications are also accepted. The heart evaluation requires echocardiography and a Holter examination. Other required tests are an OFA or DPCA evaluation for von Willebrand’s disease and a working aptitude test issued by the DPCA.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of absence of disease. However, all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. If the breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been “vet checked,” then you should consider a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Not every Doberman visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Dobermans are one of the deep-chested breeds likely to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become the more serious condition, gastric torsion, if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Gastric torsion, or gastric dilatation volvulus, strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, trying to throw up but without bringing anything up, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery.
The Basics of Doberman Grooming
Grooming a Doberman is a breeze. Brush your dog with a slicker brush or hound glove every week, or even just run a wet towel over him. On the days he needs a bath, use a dog shampoo, not a human product. Rinse thoroughly and let him shake dry or towel-dry him.
The Doberman sheds moderately. Regular brushing will help keep him and your home neat. As with any dog, brushing before a bath helps eliminate more dead hair, which leaves less hair to shed. Your vacuum cleaner will work longer if you brush your Doberman regularly.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush his teeth for good overall health and fresh breath.
Choosing a Doberman Breeder
Finding a good Doberman dog breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what Dobermans are like to live with. They will also ask you questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him.
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America is a good place to start your search for a responsible breeder. Look for a breeder who abides by the club’s code of ethics, which does not permit the sale of puppies through brokers, auctions, or commercial dealers such as pet stores. Breeders should sell puppies with a written contract guaranteeing they’ll take back the dog at any time during his life if you become unable to keep him, and with written documentation that both the puppy’s parents have had their hips, eyes, elbows and hearts examined and certified by the appropriate health organizations.
A breeder whose dogs are part of the DPCA Longevity Program is an even better bet, as is one who has DPCA Working Aptitude certification for his breeding dogs. Proper Doberman temperament is so important that the Doberman Pinscher Club of America has developed a certification program for its member breeders to ensure that their dogs “demonstrate the characteristics required of a dog to be a stable companion and resolute protector.” There’s a bonus: Breeders who go to that extent to prove their dogs are temperamentally sound are going to be among the best and most ethical sources for a puppy.
Don’t work with a Doberman Pinscher breeder who seems eager to offload puppies or always has puppies available. These red flags could mean the breeder isn’t following humane and ethical breeding practices.
If you’re ever in doubt about a breeder’s reputation, don’t forget to ask your veterinarian for recommendations. They can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Doberman Pinscher puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he comes from a line of show dogs. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them the very best start in life.
Adopting a Doberman From a Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a Doberman Pinscher from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started:
Use your local network. Connect with local pet professionals or people you know who might be involved with animal rescue and tell them that you are interested in adopting a Doberman Pinscher dog. Often, pet professionals may get a lead about a dog that is coming up for adoption and those involved in rescue or shelter work can keep an eye out for Dobermans looking for new homes.
Scan adoption websites. Websites like PetFinder and AdoptaPet.com can help you located Doberman dogs within your area or within a short drive. You can save your search and come back to it as many times as you need to find the dog of your dreams. You can also filter by personality traits, age, and size to find the right fit.
Talk to a breed-specific rescue. There are several Doberman-specific rescue groups in the country that focus on saving Dobermans who are given up or abandoned. These groups are a surefire way of finding a Doberman to add to your family. However, keep in mind that adoption fees may be higher than at shelters, since these groups may have higher operation costs and may not receive local or state funding.
Wherever you acquire your Doberman, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides.
Puppy or adult, take your Doberman to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Even if your dog has been evaluated by the shelter or rescue group, it’s important to get them introduced to your vet early. Your veterinarian will be able to set up the best preventive regimen to help your Doberman thrive.
Doberman Pinscher FAQs
Does the Doberman Pinscher shed?
Dobermans are moderate shedders. While they won’t leave tumbleweeds all over your home, it’s a good idea to brush Dobermans once a week with a slicker brush or a hand brush. Brushing before a bath can also help get rid of more dead hair.
How do you train a Doberman Pinscher?
Doberman dogs require early training and socialization to build good behaviors and habits. Without early, positive reinforcement training Dobermans may become aggressive around strangers and new people or display unwanted behaviors like barking frequently and digging. Because Dobermans are intelligent dogs, they require regular mental stimulation and may get bored if left to their own devices. Create a consistent training schedule early in your Doberman’s life and use training sessions as a way to bond with your dog.
How long do Dobermans live?
The average lifespan for Doberman Pinschers is 10 to 13 years. Regular preventative care from your veterinarian can help catch medical problems early and help extend your dog’s life. Feeding a proper diet and keeping your Doberman at a healthy weight can also give your dog the best chance at living longer.
Why do people crop Dobermans ears?
Ear cropping in Dobermans was historically done for practical purposes. Since these dogs were often used as guard dogs, keeping their ears upright helped them to hear better. However, today, the procedure is done purely for cosmetic reasons, since cropped ears is considered part of the breed standard when it comes to a Doberman’s physical appearance. Many veterinarians and animal advocates believe ear cropping is inhumane.
Some countries have outlawed ear cropping procedures, which are typically done when puppies are 8 to 12 weeks old. The healing process is long and can be painful for dogs, and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) opposes the practice. However, the United States and the AKC still allow for ear cropping as part of the breed standard.
How fast can Dobermans run?
Dobermans are athletic dogs who can run up to 32 miles per hour. They are considered one of the fastest dog breeds when it comes to running speed.