Doberman Pinscher

Fast Facts

Country of Origin:Germany
AKC Group:Working Group
UKC Group:Guardian
Use today:Police dog, Guardian, Companion
Life Span:10 to 12 years
Color:Black, red, blue or fawn with rust markings on legs, chest, cheeks, eyebrows and muzzle.
Coat:Very short, smooth hair.
Grooming:Brush weekly. Groom as needed.
Size:Large Dog Breed
Height:24 to 28 inches at the shoulder
Weight:Proportionate to height

The Doberman Pinscher was developed in Germany to facilitate tax collection! Louis Doberman, a tax collector, wanted a strong and loyal breed to keep him safe on his rounds. He crossed several breeds, possibly including the German Pinscher, Rottweiler, Manchester Terrier and the Greyhound to create the Doberman we know today. The breed was recognized by the German Kennel Club in 1900 and first imported to the United States in 1908.

Dobermans are bred to work. They're easily trained and excel in security, police, and military work, as well as dog sports, obedience and of course, home protection. Dobermans need significant exercise, so be prepared for long walks if you live in an apartment.

Dobermans may be strong, but they're often soft about their loved ones-- children and animals included. Potential intruders won't see these traits, but Dobermans will be affectionate, loving, and even occasionally silly with their families. Early socialization and long-term training allow the Doberman to develop his protective traits and learn to separate friend from foe in a reliable manner.

The Doberman

Athletic
Versatile
Loyal

Are you and the Doberman a match?

Terrific for a person who:

    Wants to participate in agility, obedience, or tracking.
    Has practiced raising a few easier breeds already.
    Expects protection of their home and family.
Think twice if you're a person who:

    Believes dog training wraps up after one series of puppy classes.
    Loves a laid-back, relaxed dog with minimal exercise needs.
    Lets dogs push you around.

Care and Maintenance of a Doberman

The Doberman's short coat sheds relatively lightly, but regular brushing benefits the skin as well as coat. The breed requires protection from cold weather he may look tough, but he's sensitive to chilly temperatures.

The Standard Look

Ideal height for males is 27.5 inches at the shoulder, females slightly less. A gleaming, close-fitting, short coat in black, red, blue or fawn, all with rust markings, enhances the dog's clean profile. High-set ears are often cropped and the tail docked, but both may be left natural.

Possible Health Concerns

Dilated Cardiomyopathy

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The Dashing Doberman

Audrey Pavia

We've all seen them: Those yellow, diamond-shaped "Beware of Dog" signs. Although some of them bear only the words in bold, black letters, many of them include a drawing of a snarling, sharp-toothed black dog ready to rip you apart if you set foot over the property line. The dog most often featured on this menacing sign? A Doberman Pinscher.

For decades, Doberman Pinschers have suffered from an unfair image. Depicted not only on "Beware of Dog" signs, but in movies, television and elsewhere as vicious beasts that would be happy to tear any human from limb to limb at the slightest provocation, Dobermans have been given an unfair rap, according to breeders, owners and others who love this dog breed.

"A lot of the bad dog image that Dobermans have is what the public has seen on TV," says breeder Brandi Canfield, owner of Amaris Dobermans in Littlerock, Calif. "I have two Dobermans that have done movies: Nitro and Kia. My dogs have a wonderful temperament but can be cued to show teeth, act aggressive and appear vicious. In reality, Dobermans are intelligent and sensitive family dogs, great with children and loyal to their people."

Another reason Doberman Pinschers are perceived to be aggressive is because they have been legitimately bred for guard dog work for decades. In the past, some breeders overemphasized this aspect of the breed's temperament, however, creating Dobermans that were aggressive -- although atypical of this dog breed.

Dobermans were originally bred to be guard dogs. Twenty-five to 30 years ago, and beyond, Dobermans were very sharp (aggressive), says breeder Jim Briley, owner of Dobes of Aquarius in Opelousas, La. Some of these dogs would not allow anyone to touch them, even in the show ring. Peggy Adamson, a Doberman Pinscher judge and arguably one of the most knowledgeable Doberman people worldwide, disqualified a well-known Doberman while judging an extremely prestigious show because the dog displayed viciousness. This was probably the beginning of conscious efforts to breed out sharpness in the breed.

The Real Deal

So if the Doberman's image of viciousness is a false one created by Hollywood and a few aggressive dogs of the past, what is the true Doberman temperament?

"Ideal Doberman Pinscher temperament is steady, confident and outgoing. The Doberman should be reserved with strangers, but willing to accept almost anyone as soon as I do," say breeders Ray and Judy Bohnert, owners of Equinox Permanent Registered Dobermans in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. "Many of our Dobermans have a comical character about them, and a quick wit coupled with a sense of humor," say the Bohnerts.

Breeder Dayna C. Hewitt, owner of Desta Doberman in Gloucester, Va., sees the breed as a dog that is watchful over its human family, but far from the vicious dog depicted in the media. "The ideal Doberman Pinscher should be inquisitive, bright, brave and faithful to its family and property," Hewitt says. "I have never been put off by a Doberman that is watchful of strangers, perhaps sizing them up to see whether it wants to be friendly. A Doberman Pinscher should have the smarts to ascertain the situation and make level-headed judgments about people. Dobermans should be thinkers and trustworthy around children and old people."

Dogs with Character

Those who responsibly breed Dobermans do more than just claim that the breed has a good temperament. They have dogs that exhibit these good dispositions on a regular basis. Caring for children and providing them with companionship is a favorite pastime among Doberman Pinschers, according to breeders.

"Being show dogs, my dogs are very friendly, however, for many years, they hadn't really been exposed to small children," says Hewitt. "When my grandchild came along, we were somewhat worried about it. At first, the Dobermans stood over her looking somewhat confused at her crying and noise making, but after months of being around her, they became her little police dogs. They herded her in the yard when she got too far from the porch and barked whenever she fell or got into some kind of difficulty. It was as if they were warning, 'The baby!' Now, my 90-pound male, Bravo, dotes on her constantly, bringing her toys from his basket and dropping them at her feet to watch her play. He adores her."

Breeders also cite a raucous sense of humor as typical among Dobermans, which are actually quite clown-like despite their sophisticated appearance. "My first show Doberman Pinscher, Ch. Bailes Beau Rikki of Rehbar, was exceptional and helped raise my three children," says Briley. "He was a total clown and a super water dog. 'Beau' certainly never knew that he was a dog - his behavior was always more human-like." Briley laughs, "My Doberman always amazed house guests by backing up next to the couch and sitting next to whomever was visiting. He loved the swimming pool and knew that once he was in, he was not supposed to go in and out. He would amuse himself by sitting on the step with a tennis ball and placing it in the jet of water from the filter, letting it float to the center. He would swim out to get it and start the process all over again. He even learned to dive from the board, and would go underwater for his tennis ball."

Finding Good Temperament

Dobermans were originally bred to be guard dogs, and although properly bred and socialized Doberman Pinschers are not the vicious animals their popular image suggests, they are inclined to be protective of their human family and family's property. If you are looking for a Doberman Pinscher to add to your family, it's important to do your homework beforehand to make sure you get a dog that has the correct Doberman temperament.

If your new Doberman is a puppy, you must properly socialize it to make sure your new companion learns how to behave. This is true of any dog breed, but it is especially important with a breed like the Doberman Pinscher that has an inborn instinct to be protective.
"The Doberman Pinscher Club of America administers a test to adult dogs called a Working Aptitude Certificate (WAC), says Hewitt. Ask the breeder you are considering if any of the dogs in your prospective puppy's pedigree acquired this certificate. Also, obedience-titled dogs or licensed therapy dogs make good parents for a puppy you are considering. If possible, visit the Doberman puppy's parents and check out their temperament.

Hewitt also points out that you should look at how the puppy is handled by the breeder before you buy. "Look at the environment the Doberman is being raised in," she says. "Find out what the pup's exposed to, and what has been done to build its confidence and strength."

Perform a temperament test on any Doberman Pinscher you are considering. This test evaluates the puppy's basic natural disposition and can be done by you or the breeder. Never adopt an overly shy or timid puppy; Doberman puppies should be outgoing, friendly and happy. They should exhibit little sensitivity to different tactile surfaces and noises; they should maintain good eye contact and be willing to explore unknown areas. Puppies are more prone to being scared (fear is often shown by raising their hackles), but they should not show fear in reaction to non-threatening, familiar stimuli.

Once you take your Doberman Pinscher puppy home, it's important to provide it with as much socialization as possible. "One of the most important factors in ensuring and developing good behavior and temperament is proper socialization," says Briley. "Your puppy needs to see, hear, smell and touch as much in its environment as it possibly can so that it can become accustomed to public life.

"Puppies should be handled, cuddled, stroked and loved from day one," continues Briley. As a puppy gets older, it should be placed on different surfaces, such as newspaper, carpet, concrete, gravel and any others you can think of. Dobermans must be taught to walk on a lead in different places. Walk your dog around the block , then to the end of the street. Expose your Doberman Pinscher to the sounds of garbage trucks and school buses. Bring your pup with you in the car to supermarkets and all the other places you visit during your day. Allow other people to touch your puppy so it learns to trust people.

Briley stresses that it's important to always provide your Doberman with companionship to keep it happy and in good spirits. Doberman Pinschers are people dogs and do not do well when they are not with their owners. Every Doberman needs to be shown love every day of its life. No Doberman should be confined as a backyard dog where it experiences little love or attention. This is not what a Doberman Pinscher is all about.

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