Know the Difference: American vs. European Dobie Pups

Key Points

  • Even though American and European Dobermans come from the same breed, American Doberman breeding practices create a smaller and less powerful build while the European breed maintains the physique and appearance of the original Doberman.

  • American and European Doberman puppies look the same when they are young, but the European breed grows bigger and more powerful.

  • European Dobermans have a much higher risk of suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and should be screened for the condition.

  • European Dobermans require early and consistent training to prevent behavior problems from appearing later in life.

  • Dobermans are intelligent dogs, so providing them with quality mental challenges will keep them mentally engaged and help deepen the bond between you and your pup.

If you browse Doberman pinscher photos, you may notice a significant difference in size and build in these dogs of supposedly the same breed. All of the dogs are Dobermans, but the bigger, bulkier, blockier ones are European Dobermans. The thinner, sharper-featured, smaller ones are American Dobies.

Although both varieties come from the same ancestor, they developed unique traits, characteristics, and temperaments due to the breeding practices in their respective countries. The two branches of this breed vary in size, coat coloration, temperament, and training needs. If you have made the general decision to be a Dobie owner, you must be able to spot a European Doberman puppy during the adoption process.

You must understand the differences between European Dobermans and their American cousins before you adopt a Doberman. After reading this article, you’ll have the information needed to make sure you get the kind of dog you want.

History of European and American Dobermans

German tax collector Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann set out to create an intelligent and loyal breed of dog that could serve as a guard dog. In 1890, after crossing various breeds — including Rottweilers, greyhounds, and German pinschers — he developed what was then known as the “Dobermann pinscher” in Thuringia, Germany.

This new breed had all the traits of an ideal guard dog — intelligence, loyalty, strength — and was soon pressed into service by police agencies and the military. 

The first Doberman in the U.S. was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1908.

American breeders began refining the Doberman’s physical traits to give them a more elegant look. This led to a smaller and more delicate build, and a softer coat in comparison to the original German breed. Over time, these desirable characteristics have continued to be bred and reinforced in American Doberman pinschers, resulting in their distinct difference in appearance from their European counterparts.

Doberman Pinscher dog holds frisbee in mouth

Standard Characteristics of Doberman Pinschers

Doberman pinschers are a beautiful and intelligent dog breed. Because British breeders emphasize performance and keep to the original lineage while American breeders emphasize physical appearance, the European and American Dobermans differ in several ways.

European Doberman Pinscher Standard Characteristics

The European Doberman pinscher is slightly larger, ranging between 27-28″ in height and 80-105 lbs for males, and 25-27″ in height and between 65-85 lbs for females. They tend to show more muscle mass and overall bone structure. In addition, they have wider chests and thicker necks to support their strength and size. When viewed from the side, European Dobermans have a bulkier ribcage and a thicker waist.

The European breed has a more square-shaped head, a broader forehead, and a pronounced stop between the eyes resembling a Rottweiler. Their eyes are usually almond-shaped and dark brown. The muzzle is slightly longer, flatter, and broader than the American breed.

European Dobermans’ standard coat colors are black, blue, red, and fawn. The fawn color is red with a silvery beige undertone. What is called “blue” is actually an off-black color. Although there may be rare white markings, they should not be larger than a square inch in size. Any large markings, colors not mentioned, or albinism are not qualified as a standard European Doberman pinscher.

American Doberman Pinscher Standard Characteristics

The average American Doberman is smaller and weighs slightly less that the European variety. Males typically range between 26-28″ in height and 75-100 lbs. Females range between 24-26″ in height and 65-85 lbs.

The American Doberman has a slimmer ribcage and a slimmer waist than their European counterpart. They have a narrow, wedged-shaped head with a smaller muzzle and jaw. Their eyes are almond-shaped with colors ranging from amber to light brown.

The AKC has more strict standards of marking size and colors. According to the AKC:

“[The] allowed colors are black, red, blue, and fawn (Isabella). Markings should be rust, sharply defined, appearing above each eye and on the muzzle, throat and forechest, on all legs and feet, and below the tail. White patch on chest, not exceeding ½ square inch, [is] permissible.” 

Any colors and patterns are acceptable unless you want to enter your Doberman in AKC competitions.

Temperament Differences

The personality traits of both European and American Dobermans varies from individual to individual. However, there are some general differences in temperament between the two breeds.

European Doberman Temperament

European Dobermans are closer to Dobermann’s original creation. They are more assertive and physically protective of their owners. They are usually confident when exposed to new and unfamiliar surroundings and experiences. When confronted, they very rarely retreat.

They are more protective of their family members and can be excellent guard dogs.

Doberman Pinscher adult dog with collar

American Doberman Temperament

American Dobermans are usually more affectionate and calmer than Europeans. Although they are also very loyal to the people they love, they are less assertive. When confronted, they may retreat instead of standing their ground.

Overall, they are more friendly and are suitable to be around younger children and smaller animals.

Differences in Exercise and Training Needs

Judging from their muscle build differences, you can already tell that the two breeds have different exercise and training needs. As the European breed is still closer to the working breed, they need more exercise and mental stimulation.

European Doberman Exercise and Training Needs

European Doberman pinschers have higher energy levels, making them more active and requiring more exercise. They respond well to obedience and agility training — especially with an experienced handler.

Due to their territorial and protective nature, they may require more extensive socialization training if your home has small children or other pets. As they are bred to be working dogs, they thrive when they have a purpose.

With their acute sense of smell, they excel at search and retrieve jobs, including search/rescue, tracking, and narcotics detection. They also make excellent family guard dogs and livestock guardians as they will never back down from an intruder.

American Doberman Exercise and Training Needs

American Dobermans have slightly lower energy levels and are generally easier to train than European Dobermans. Although they also require high levels of regular activity, they need less intense exercise than their European kinfolk.

With their milder personalities, they can make great family pets and may not require as much socialization training as the European Dobermans. However, they still need lots of socialization, obedience, and agility training to be well-mannered and behave appropriately.

While they take well to obedience training, they may require extra positive reinforcement and patience to complete more complex tasks. Unlike their assertive relatives, the American Dobies are slightly timider and may be fearful of strangers and new environments. Encouragement and threats can often be the main motivations for them.

Adult Doberman Pinscher stands near brick wall

Common Health Problems

American and European Dobermans both suffer from the same common health problems: Von Willebrand Disease, Wobblers Syndrome, bloat, hypothyroidism, and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).

Von Willebrand Disease: 

Von Willebrand Disease is a genetic disorder that results in low levels of a blood clotting factor. This is known as the “von Willebrand Factor,” which helps with the clotting process. It’s more common in Dobermans than in other breeds and causes excessive internal and external bleeding.

Calming Dog Ad

Wobblers Syndrome: 

Wobblers Syndrome is caused by malformation of the cervical spine vertebrae, resulting in impaired nerve function and difficulty walking. Symptoms include unsteady gait, staggering or wobbling while walking, and neck pain due to pressure on the nerves.


Bloat occurs when too much air accumulates inside the stomach, causing it to twist or swell. This condition can be fatal if not treated quickly. Symptoms include restlessness, pacing, and lack of appetite.


Hypothyroidism is a disorder where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. It can cause weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, and infertility in Dobermans.

Hip Dysplasia:

Hip dysplasia is an inherited disorder where the hip joint is malformed and causes pain, lameness, and arthritis in older dogs.

Doberman Pinscher puppy rests head on ground

Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): 

Dilated cardiomyopathy is an abnormal enlargement of the heart’s muscles that interferes with its ability to pump blood efficiently. Common symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, fainting spells, and exhaustion after exercise.

Due to more extended breeding history to maintain the bloodline, European Dobermans have a 58% risk of inheriting DCM. To try to lower the risk of passing DCM to future European Doberman puppies, breeders are working hard to health test their dogs and ensure their bloodlines are healthy.

How to Tell a European Dobie Puppy from an American Dobie Pup

American Dobie puppies cost $1,500 to $2,500 and European breed puppies cost $2,500 to $3,500. Some dishonest sellers mislabel the puppies to get a higher price.

How do you know what kind of Doberman you are getting?

It is difficult to tell the difference between European and American Doberman puppies because they look very much alike — cute fluff balls.

The only way to know for certain is with a DNA test on the puppy or by checking the parents’ documentation to confirm the lineage. If you do this, rest assured your new pup is a European Doberman puppy. The test will also let you know whether the puppy is healthy and free of dilated cardiomyopathy problems.

Finding the Puppy That Fits Your Personality and Lifestyle

One of the most crucial factors many pet owners overlook when they choose their puppies is whether the puppy fits their lifestyle. Although each dog breed has specific general traits, every individual puppy has their own unique personality.

When you are choosing your puppy, take the time to observe their behavior within the litter. Are you looking for a dominant pup or one that’s more submissive? A pup who loves to cuddle and play, or one who tends to go off on its own? Consider whether their personalities will clash with yours, as this will be a crucial part of your relationship.

Adult Doberman Pinscher stands in field of dry wheat

Tips on Training Your European Doberman Puppy

As much as your Dobie puppy looks adorable, remember they will someday be a 100-lb giant. While their assertive behavior seems cute as a pup, it can be a problem when they are older and more independent.

Start as early as possible with direct and consistent training to prevent this problem.

Here is a timeline to help you train your European Doberman puppy:

8 Weeks to 16 Weeks

This is the best time to work on socializing your puppy with people, other animals, and different environments. Many first-time dog owners incorrectly assume dog parks are a good way to introduce their puppies to all these things. That type of activity is dangerous because unvaccinated puppies can easily pick up diseases and illnesses in dog parks. They can also be picked on by adult dogs and learn bad habits from others.

Enrolling your puppy in obedience school is a much better way to socialize them.

Puppyhood is a crucial time to curb your dog’s territorial and jumping tendencies. Invite friends and family members to your home and allow them to give treats to the puppy. This teaches the young Dobie that strangers don’t always pose a threat.

If they try to jump on people, use the opportunity to teach them proper greeting etiquette.

All dogs have the potential to become anxious and destructive when they are left alone at home. To prevent this problem, leave them alone for a few minutes at a time and gradually extend the time until the puppy is comfortable staying alone. This way, you can avoid separation anxiety in the future and come back to your home in one piece.

It is never too soon to teach your puppy simple commands, such as sit, stay, come, and rollover. For big dogs, the command “rollover” is a lifesaver at the veterinarian, as they will be too big to be moved around during an examination.

16 Weeks to 6 Months

Not all puppies are nibblers, but some are. If your puppy is an excessive chewer, you should start teaching them the “leave it” command. This is a great way to teach them impulse control and prevent accidents involving dangerous objects like electrical cords.

The same goes for nibbling your hand. The sooner you can teach him that biting is not okay, the less struggle you will have with your puppy when they become older.

You can start teaching your Dobie puppy more complex commands at this stage or let a professional do it by enrolling the dog in more complex puppy training courses. This type of training can also deepen the bond between you and your puppy, so it is almost as rewarding for you as it is for your pup.

Dobermans are intelligent dogs; the more you challenge them, the happier they become.

If your puppy constantly yanks on the leash, this is the perfect time to stop this behavior. Try using a no-pull harness and be consistent when teaching them to walk on a leash without yanking or pulling.

Taking steps to address this issue early on can be a game-changer for you, leading to far more enjoyable outings with your pup and no more sore shoulders from the relentless tugging!

Doberman Pinscher adult in a field of grass

6 Months to 12 Months

European Dobermans are working dogs and thrive on having a purpose. As they reach adulthood, giving them jobs and tasks to keep their mind engaged and busy is crucial.

Dobermans excel in scenting and tracking activities, agility sports like flyball, and herding. If you want your Dobie involved in these activities, start them at this age.

If you are fond of the great outdoors, then there is no better way to introduce your Doberman to these activities than through slow and gradual exposure. Start in small steps with short hikes before increasing the distance when they become more familiarized with their surroundings. This will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both of you.

It is always important to continue reinforcing basic commands that you taught your puppy at eight weeks. As young puppies, their attention span will be shorter than that of an adult dog, so keep training sessions shorter and more fun for them. With consistent practice, your Dobie will soon master all the commands you teach them.

Bottom Line

Dobermans are strong-willed, active, and intelligent dogs. Although there are some differences between European and American lines of Dobermans, they are both beautiful and loyal companions.

As puppies, these two varieties look very similar. As they age, the European Dobies will grow bigger and more powerful than their American counterparts.

Training and socializing your European Dobie puppy as soon as possible prevents problem behaviors from appearing later. The more time you put into them, the more rewarding your experience will be.

With consistent training and quality mental challenges to keep them preoccupied, your European Doberman puppy will blossom into a beautiful and devoted companion for life.

Was this article helpful?