Some canine breeds have a reputation that precedes them. Certain ideas based in anecotal evidence color a person's view of the animal on first sight. The sharp-featured Doberman pinscher is one such breed.
Be honest. What image came to your mind just now when you read "Doberman pinscher?" Cute, cuddly, playful? Probably not — but maybe it should have.
Doberman pinschers have a reputation for being aggressive and dangerous dogs. They are often portrayed in movies and television shows as "attack dogs." Although they were initially bred as guard dogs, Dobermans can make excellent family pets if they are properly trained and socialized.
The question is not whether they CAN be a good family pet, but rather if they are the RIGHT dog for you and your family? In fact, maybe the question should be turned around: Is your home RIGHT for a Doberman?
Read more about the standard characteristics of a Doberman pinscher and their personality traits to help you answer that question.
What Is a Doberman Pinscher?
The Doberman pinscher is a medium-sized dog originally bred in Germany in the late 1800s. The breed was named after its creator, Louis Dobermann, who was a tax collector and dog pound owner. Tax collectors of that time were often threatened by angry citizens, so Dobermann decided he needed a dog that would be fearless and protective.
History and Bloodline of Doberman Pinschers
To create the perfect guard dog, Dobermann mixed several breeds from his pound, including the German pinscher, greyhound, Rottweiler, Weimaraner, a variety of short-haired shepherds, and black-and-tan terrier. The result was a dog large enough to be intimidating, agile enough to chase down an intruder, and able to take well to commands.
The breed was once known as the "Tax Collector's Dog," but is now lovingly referred to by its fans as "Dobies."
The Doberman pinscher was first brought to the United States in 1908 and became popular as a family pet and working dog. They were extensively used during both world wars as military, messenger, and attack/guard dogs.
According to Britannica, "the breed was first registered with American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908 […] The Doberman Pinscher Club of America, an organization devoted to promoting the purity of the breed, was founded in Michigan in 1921."
Standard Characteristics of a Doberman Pinscher
Based on the AKC's official Doberman pinscher characteristics guideline, males should be between 26" to 28" from the ground to their withers, while the females are between 24" to 26". The average male weighs between 75 and 100 lbs, and the females weigh 60 to 90 lbs. Their bodies should be squared, compact, muscular, yet elegant.
The Doberman pinscher has a sleek coat in various colors, including black, blue, fawn, and red. The red coats can range from a light golden tan to rich mahogany. The coats should all have rust markings on the eyebrows, muzzle, chest, and legs.
Their eye colors are usually medium to dark brown. Lighter colors, such as hazel, are more common in lighter-coat Dobies. Although blue-eyed Dobermans exist, they are considered a disqualification for show dogs in the United States. A healthy breed gaze should be energetic, fearless, and determined.
Doberman Pinscher's Personality Traits
Contrary to popular belief, Doberman pinschers are intelligent, loyal, and obedient dogs. They are easy to train and make great working dogs. They are also loving and protective of their families. Although they may be wary of strangers, they should not be aggressive or shy.
That being said, Dobies can become aggressive when they react to protect their family members from perceived danger. They can also become aggressive if they are not properly socialized or trained.
It is important to note that aggression is not inherent in the breed. It is a learned behavior that can be prevented through early socialization and training.
Pros of Owning a Doberman Pinscher
Doberman pinschers are often seen as tough, powerful dogs — and they are. However, they are also devoted and protective of their loved ones.
Here are some benefits you can expect if you consider adding a Doberman to your family.
1. They're Incredibly Loyal
One of the best things about owning a Doberman is their loyalty. These dogs are incredibly devoted to their families and will do anything to protect them. A Doberman is an excellent choice if you're looking for a dog that will be your lifelong friend.
2. They're Highly Intelligent
Dobermans are also brilliant dogs. They're quick learners and easily trained. This makes them great candidates for obedience training, agility training, and protection work. Who doesn't love a smart pup?
3. They're Great Watchdogs
Another big plus of owning a Doberman is that they make excellent watchdogs. Thanks to their natural protective instincts, these dogs will bark at strangers and alert you to potential danger. These qualities make them great additions to homes with young children, single people, or elderly family members who need extra security.
4. They Are Protective of Children
Dobermans are often misunderstood dogs. They have a reputation for being aggressive, but are actually gentle, loving, and loyal companions. When they are properly socialized and trained, they make great family dogs. They are exceptionally protective of children and make great playmates for kids of all ages.
The Cons of Owning a Doberman Pinscher
While the Dobies are perfect in their dynamic sleek build, high intelligence, and loving nature, they're not the right breed for everyone. Here are a few of the potential downsides to owning a Doberman pinscher:
1. They Require Early Socialization and Training
One downside of owning a Doberman is that they require early socialization and training. Because these dogs were initially bred for protection work, they are known to be suspicious of strangers.Without early socialization and training to manage their innate instincts, this suspicion can turn into aggression.
It's essential to introduce your Doberman to as many people as possible, including children, so they learn to trust strangers. It would also be a good idea to enroll them in obedience classes so they learn how to behave around other people and animals.
2 They Are Not the Best Choice for First-Time Dog Owners
Because of their need for early socialization and training, Dobermans are not the best choice for first-time dog owners. If you've never owned a dog, but still want a loyal and intelligent pup, you might want to start with a less-demanding breed like a Labrador or golden retriever.
3. They Have High Exercise Needs
Dobermans are high-energy dogs that need a lot of exercise — at least an hour of vigorous exercise per day to ensure they stay healthy and happy.
If you don't have time for daily walks or runs, then a Doberman is not the right breed for you.
4. They Require Large Homes and Yards
Although this breed isn't as big as some other working-class dogs, they still need plenty of space to run and play. With the ability to run up to 32 mph, Dobermans do best in homes with large yards or rural acreage where they can burn off excess energy.
A Doberman pinscher may not be the right breed for you if you live in a small home or apartment without a good-sized yard.
5. They HATE Being Alone
Dobermans are social creatures and don't like being left alone. Extended periods of isolation can lead to behavioral problems such as excessive barking, digging, and chewing. If you must work long hours away from home, enrolling your Dobie at a doggy daycare or hiring daily dog walkers can keep them occupied and dissipate their great abundance of energy.
6. They Can Become Destructive When Bored
As a highly intelligent breed,a Doberman can become destructive if they don't get enough mental stimulation and become bored with their surroundings. This can be prevented if you:
Enroll them in obedience classes or dog sports like agility or flyball. This will give them something to focus on and provide them with a chance to socialize with other dogs.
Take them on long walks or runs to help physically tire them out so they don't have the energy to destroy your home.
Play games with them like fetch or tug-of-war to help stimulate their mind and give them a chance to bond with you.
Get them puzzle toys or food dispensing toys to keep their mind challenged. These games can help prevent boredom and keep their minds sharp.
7. They Are Not Dog-Friendly
Because Dobies are bred to be guard dogs, they are instinctually territorial, and do not like to share space with other dogs. They are also possessive and protective of their owners.
When Dobermans are not socialized or properly trained, this territorial behavior can lead to aggression toward other dogs. To avoid this problem, introduce your Dobie to many different dogs of all sizes at an early age so they understand these other dogs are friends and not threats, rivals, or enemies.
What Grooming Care Do They Need
Dobermans don't require as much grooming care as some other breeds, but they certainly aren't maintenance-free. Grooming is not just for looks. It also helps an animal stay healthy, happy and — frankly — more pleasant to be around.
Brushing and Bathing
Dobermans have short, smooth coats that don't require long sessions of brushing. However, they should be brushed several times a week to remove dead hair and help distribute natural oils throughout their coat.
They can benefit from weekly baths or every eight weeks, depending on how much they play outside and whether they develop an odor. When bathing your Doberman, be sure to use a mild shampoo that won't strip away the coat's natural oils.
Since most Dobermans have cropped ears, they are less susceptible to inner ear infections than breeds with floppy ears. However, it is still important to regularly check their ears for any dirt, debris, or redness. If you notice any of these signs, immediately contact your veterinarian. An ear infection can be painful and lead to hearing loss if left untreated.
Like all dogs, Dobermans need to have their nails trimmed. If their nails get too long, they may make it difficult for your dog to walk and run. Nail trimming should be done every two to three weeks, or as needed.
Is Ear Cropping Necessary for Doberman Pinschers?
One of the most distinctive Doberman features is their cropped ears. Ear cropping is a surgical procedure where the tips of the ears are removed, shaping the remaining cartilage into points. This procedure is purely cosmetic and does not serve any health purpose. Some people believe cropping makes the Doberman look more intimidating, but this is not the main reason it is performed.
The practice of cropping the ears dates back to when the Doberman was first bred. The original purpose was to make the dogs less susceptible to ear injuries in combat or working situations. Today, cropping is no longer necessary for working dogs, but many people still choose to do it for aesthetic reasons.
If you are considering cropping your Doberman's ears, first talk to your veterinarian about the risks and benefits of the procedure. Cropping is a major surgery that requires general anesthesia. It carries the risk of complications, such as infection, blood loss, and nerve damage.
Common Doberman Pinscher Health Problems
The average lifespan of a Doberman pinscher is 10 to 12 years. This is a relatively long lifespan for a medium-sized working-class breed. However, some health problems are common in Dobermans that can shorten their lifespan.
Von Willebrand Disease
One of the most common health problems in Doberman pinschers is von Willebrand Disease (vWD) — a blood-clotting disorder that can cause excessive bleeding during surgery or after an injury. It is similar to hemophilia in humans.
According to research, up to 70 percent of the Dobie population suffers from various degrees of vWD. The disease is hereditary and there is no cure. Symptoms may include bloody gums, nosebleeds, and bloody urine and stool. The condition is rarely fatal and can be easily managed with medication.
DCM is a progressive heart disease that causes the heart muscle to weaken and dilate. This can lead to congestive heart failure and death. There is no cure for DCM, but it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Early symptoms of DCM include exercise intolerance, coughing, difficulty breathing, general weakness, and fainting.
Wobblers Syndrome is a condition that affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis in the hind legs. The condition is caused by a malformation of the vertebrae in the neck and is more common in large-breed dogs. Study studies have shown that about 5.5 percent of Dobermans suffer from various degrees of Wobblers Syndrome as they reach middle age — around six years of age.
Wobblers Syndrome can be treated with surgery, anti-inflammatory medications, and physiotherapy sessions. It is vital to catch the condition early so treatment can be started as soon as possible.
Chronic Active Hepatitis
Chronic Active Hepatitis (CAGH) is a liver disease caused by an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be fatal if it is not treated early and properly.
Due to certain genetic predisposition factors, female Doberman pinschers are most susceptible to CAH. Symptoms of CAH include fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, and jaundice. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, take them to the vet immediately so your fur baby can be diagnosed and treated.
Hypothyroidism isn't just a human health problem. Dogs can suffer from an underactive thyroid gland as well. This condition can cause a wide variety of symptoms, such as weight gain, dry skin, brittle coat, lethargy, depression, muscle weakness, and reproductive problems.
Hypothyroidism is easily treated with hormone replacement treatments and diet changes. Failure to catch this health problem may trigger arthritis, slower brain functioning ability, and kidney damage.
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome)
Bloat is a condition that affects deep-chested dogs and can be life-threatening if not treated immediately. Bloat occurs when the stomach twists on itself, cutting off sections of the esophagus and impeding food passing to the intestines. The buildup of gas, a drastic cut in blood circulation, and trapped food can cause fatal damage to the stomach, intestines, and other organs.
Bloat can occur very quickly and without warning. Symptoms include a distended abdomen, excessive drooling, restless pacing, panting, and weakness. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, take them to the emergency vet right away.
If your Doberman pinscher is prone to bloat, wait at least an hour after a meal before allowing them to exercise. Divide their daily food intake into small meals throughout the day rather than one large daily meal.
Unlike the common Hollywood portrayal of Doberman pinschers as "devil dogs," they are actually loving and loyal companions. Even though they do have territorial instincts, they can become excellent family dogs with the proper socialization and training, and sufficient daily activities to keep their intelligent minds and strong bodies challenged.
Because of their high energy levels, Doberman pinschers are not recommended for first-time dog owners or families with small children. They need an active owner who is willing to provide them with plenty of daily exercise and playtime. Many trainers will tell you that a bored dog is a destructive dog.
If you think a Doberman pinscher is the right breed for you, be sure to do your research prior to making that commitment. Be diligent in taking your dog for regular vet check-ups and preventive care, including vaccinations, routine deworming, tick/flea/heartworm prevention, and annual teeth cleanings. Be alert for the breed-specific health conditions noted in this article.
With proper care, your Doberman pinscher can be your perfect companion for many years to come.