Largely due to their origins as highly effective guard dogs, Dobermans are a breed that has developed a reputation for savagery and aggression, which is quite undeserved. Whilst the Doberman does have strong protective instincts, together with an unerring ability to sense the proximity of potential danger, you would be hard-pressed to find a more loving and loyal canine companion. Remarkably intelligent and on constant high alert, the Doberman is rarely content to sit around at home all day and should not be left alone for long periods of time. However, if you’re seeking a faithful pet to welcome into the family and you have the time to devote to its training and socialisation, the Doberman could certainly be the dog for you.
Height: 24-28 inches (60-70 cm)
Weight: 60-100 lbs (27-45 kg)
Average Litter Size: 6-10
Life Expectancy: Up to 13 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Working group
The predominant colours of the Doberman are black, fawn, blue or red, frequently with rust-coloured markings.
Dobermans are short-haired and are moderate shedders, generally only requiring weekly brushing to keep their coats neat and shiny. Their claws tend to grow quite quickly, however, and these should be trimmed regularly to ensure they don’t cause any problems.
The Doberman can be prone to a number of hereditary health conditions. These include Wobbler Syndrome, which is a neurological disease caused by spinal compression that can result in limb paralysis, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, a progressive heart condition that can eventually lead to heart failure, and Von Willebrand’s Disease, a condition that can prevent blood from clotting effectively. All of these conditions can be managed or slowed with medication or surgical intervention, but it is important for owners to be aware of the symptoms associated with each so as to identify them as soon as possible.
Fiercely devoted, extremely intelligent and highly energetic, it is easy to understand why Dobermans have captured the hearts of so many dog lovers over the past century or so. They are very sociable and love to be included as part of the family. As such, they don’t deal well with solitude and can suffer separation anxiety if left alone for too long. Whilst Dobermans are known to be tough, bold and dignified, their true natures are far softer, with threats to their family being one of the only things that might provoke a courageous response.
When it comes to training a Doberman, two of its key characteristics are brought into play. On the one hand, the Doberman’s intelligence and loyalty enable it to pick up and respond to new commands relatively quickly, whilst on the other, its pride and innate protectiveness can cause it to become dominant and stubborn. As such, it is important to be firm and consistent when training your Doberman and to assert yourself as its unquestionable pack leader in order to gain its respect and obedience. In addition to their natural guarding skills, Dobermans have been known to excel in the fields of competitive obedience and tracking.
Whilst Dobermans are very sensitive to the cold and prefer to live indoors, they do require a considerable amount of exercise. One or two walks or runs each day are a must, combined with access to an enclosed back garden or other similar outdoor space to enable your Doberman to roam freely at will. Due to their intelligence, they will need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise to keep happy – a bored Doberman can easily become frustrated and destructive.
The Doberman originated in Germany during the 19th century. It was developed by Herr Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, who was a tax collector and dog warden in a region called Thuringia. Combining his two passions, Herr Dobermann began to cross-breed various dogs in the hopes of creating a breed that would help to protect him and his taxes from attack and theft.
Whilst there is some speculation around the breeds that were used to produce the Doberman we know today, there seems to be little doubt that Shorthaired Shepherds, German Pinschers, Rottweilers and Manchester Terriers all entered into the mix somewhere, with some believing that Greyhounds and Weimaraners also played a part. Originally, the Doberman was known as the “Doberman Pinscher”, with “Pinscher” meaning “Terrier” in German. However, this variation is no longer used in either Germany or the UK. In 1890, an official breed standard for the Doberman was established and accepted by the German Kennel Club.
Due to its particular characteristics, the Doberman could hardly fail to thrive as an excellent guard dog. They have been used by the police force and military from as early as the beginning of the 20th century. During the Second World War, Dobermans were widely used by the US Marine Corps, with their roles varying from scouting and tracking to detecting mines and guarding prisoners, following which the Doberman was named their formal mascot.
Over the years, the Doberman’s original ferocity and aggression has decreased significantly, due to more selective breeding. Whilst their protective instincts remain very strong, their overriding temperament these days is usually one of patient gentleness and exceptional loyalty. As such, they are frequently utilised in search and rescue work, and also as therapy dogs for residents of assisted living facilities.
Thanks to its attractive nature and regal appearance, today the Doberman is more popular than ever. From faithful working dog to trusted member of the family, the Doberman seems all set to remain a firm favourite in the dog world for many years to come.
One of the most famous Dobermans in the film industry is Alpha, who starred as one of the “bad dogs” in the 2009 animated film UP. However, it should be noted that this fictitious Doberman displays all of the common misconceptions about the breed’s temperament.