Is a Doberman the dog for everyone?
While the Doberman is a great breed and those that have them will never want another breed,they are clearly NOT for everyone. Dobermans by their sheer nature need a person who can be their "pack leader". In order to do this a person must have an "alpha" personality. By this I mean, the person must be able to take charge when the need arises. Too many people jump into owning a Doberman without thought as to what that "cute" puppy is going to be like when he reaches adulthood and is a 90 pound male with all that goes with it. Intimidation sets in, and before you know it, the owner is trying to find the dog a new home because he is out of control.
How large is a Doberman? How much do they weigh?
Males can get be anywhere from 26 to 28 inches and weigh from 75- 90 lbs, females 24 to 26 inches and weigh 65-75 lbs. The appearance is that of a dog of medium size, with a body that is square. Compactly built, muscular and powerful, for great endurance and speed. Elegant in appearance, of proud carriage, reflecting great nobility and temperament. Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.
How long do they live?
They generally live healthy lives on an average of around 9 years. They can live longer but in general they are relatively healthy until around age 8 - 10.
What do they eat and about how much?
Because of their high energy level they should be fed a high quality food containing a good balance of protein and fat and with essential fatty acids. Most normally active Dobermans will require a higher level of fat and protein than many other breeds throughout their lives. Adults will eat from 2-5 cups of food a day depending on the individual dogs metabolism and how much activity they are getting. Good quality, balanced food will help to keep the coat healthy and reduce shedding.
Where should they live/sleep?
A Doberman that gets a lot of exercise and interaction with family makes an excellent housedog but he must have a secure area to run and play in or he should be taken on very regular romps to let off some steam. A Doberman that has been cooped up and not allowed to play rambunctiously may be too active to enjoy in the house. Because of their curious nature and high activity level it is best if young dogs sleep in a confined, secure place such as a crate. This assures that the dog does not "accidentally" get into trouble during the night when he wakes up and is unsupervised. Older, mature dogs that have proven themselves trustworthy housedogs can be allowed to sleep loose.
Dobermans cannot be outside dogs and they can not be ignored. An ignored Doberman will become bored very easily. The high intellect and curious nature of the breed will result in some very undesirable behaviours. Barking, digging and general destruction both indoors and outdoors can result.
What are the grooming needs of a Doberman and how often should they be done?
Maintenance of the Doberman is minimal compared to many other breeds but there are still some areas that require attention.
Good dental health is also a must. Teach the dog early to enjoy having his teeth brushed with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs. Also, encourage him to chew on toys that are designed to clean teeth and stimulate gums.
Toenails should be kept short. It is best to do them once a week. Long nails can be hazardous. Also, if they are too long the dog will be walking on the nails, as opposed to walking on pads of the feet as they are supposed to, resulting in sore, splayed feet.
Shedding......YES, their dark hairs do get on clothing and furniture! There are some things that can be done to help minimize this. Baths with a good quality shampoo that is mild on the skin, as well as regular, consistent grooming with a rubber grooming glove will keep the skin stimulated and the hair healthy plus it will remove the dead hairs before they fall off on the furniture. A good way to cleanse them without bathing too frequently is to make a mixture of 1/3 Listerine Mouthwash, 1/3 glycerine and 1/3 water and put it in a spray bottle. Spray the dog daily and wipe down with a soft cloth. This will keep the dandruff and shedding to a minimum and give your dog a sleek, shiny coat year round. A healthy, parasite free, clean Doberman will shed the least possible.
How much exercise do they need; how frequently?
Canines are most secure and content with regular daily routines. A Doberman´s daily routine definitely must include some form of exercise preferably morning and evening. The ideal would be time to run and play in a secure fenced area; at least a half hour in the AM and PM. If you do not have the facilities for that, a brisk morning and evening walk or jog are essential. City dwellers will have to get more creative with providing their high energy, healthy pet a daily opportunity to blow off steam and to stay in condition, maybe a treadmill type dog jogger, or a local basketball court where a ball or frisbee can be safely chased.
What toys and supplies do I need to buy?
Different dogs like different types of toys. Most Dobermans like toys that they can fetch. It is a good idea to teach your dog early on to chew on the proper toys that will result in good dental health. Hard nylon chew toys or sterilized bones are good for helping reduce the tarter on their teeth. Not all dogs like to chew on these types of things and they must be encouraged to do so. Some dog treats such as rawhide bones and rope toys should be given to the dog only when supervised. These types of toys can be dangerous if the dog eats them rather than just chewing them and most Dobermans are inclined to do this. Some dogs savour their treats and simply enjoy chewing them; others simply destroy them and swallow large pieces.
A crate is a must. It should be large enough for the dog to stretch out in, stand up and turn around but not so large that it does not provide the secure 'den' feeling that dogs enjoy. There are various types of crates, usually wire and plastic. Different situations call for different crates. Wire affords good circulation but is not as secure feeling to the dog as a plastic crate. Plastic crates are required by the airlines.
Collars with tags marked clearly with the address and contact numbers should be worn by dogs when they are outside. Even safer is a microchip implanted under the skin registered with the AKC´s Companion Animal Recovery program. Most veterinarians can provide this service. Be careful of loose fitting collars and dangling tags when the dog is confined to his crate as there is the possibility of it becoming tangled in the crate and causing harm to the dog. A "choke style" collar is very dangerous when a dog is crated. Only snug fitting, flat collars with nothing dangling or protruding to catch wires should be used. Use discretion with these items.
Are they good with children?
The breed is usually excellent with children when raised with children. This is due to their high level of intelligence and their innate desire to function with and for people. They seem to understand that infants and very young ones need care and protection and tend to be tolerant of little ones´ play. This is not to say that an exuberant pup will not knock a toddler down in play or accidentally bite to grab a toy.
When visiting a new litter you may find the dam aggressive and protective of her brood and should respect that for what it is. You also may encounter a Doberman alarmed at the antics of small children which should be explainable by asking if the dog has ever been exposed to youngsters. Aggression toward or fear of people of any size or age is not typical Doberman temperament and should be avoided in any dog you may have in your home.
Are they easy to train?
Yes, very, IF you know what you are doing. The Doberman is very intelligent and eager to please. They will work hard for positive reinforcement. They are not generally stubborn or hard-headed. They pick up new exercises very quickly. Due to their high intelligence level, the biggest challenge is to keep them focused, and not let them get away with 'inventing' variations to the exercise being taught. Because of the breed's extreme sensitivity to people the trainer must always be watchful of their own body language and reactions to issues that come up during a training exercise. As a general rule, a calm demeanour providing quick and clear reward for desired behaviour, while ignoring or, if necessary, simple verbal correction for undesired behaviour, will net you an enthusiastic and talented working partner.
Should I crate train my Doberman?
ABSOLUTELY!! The crate was designed with the Doberman in mind!! If introduced properly and in a positive manner, it becomes a safe haven and a secure 'den' for any breed of dog. This way the dog has a place to go when things get too hectic and he needs a break. When he has to travel, his 'home' can come with him and he is not unsettled by the situation. He is protected from himself when there is no one to supervise him. It is very unfair to leave a young, unsupervised Doberman alone in the house and expect him to be good! When you come home and he has done something wrong, nobody is happy! When he is safely in his crate and you come home you know that you can enjoy your dog and he can enjoy you without the trauma of a big, unexpected mess. Last, but certainly not least, if your dog is ever ill and is required to stay in a crate, either at home or at the vet, it will help his recovery if he is comfortable resting in his 'den' rather than feeling like he is trapped in a cage he is not used to.
Is it fair to the dog if I don´t plan to hunt?
Dobermans are most commonly thought of as protection companions. This breed was developed with protection in mind and the Herr Louis Dobermann succeeded admirably at what he set out to do. They are also excellent for companionship, for watching over their territory or for almost anything you set your mind to. What is not fair to this breed is to ignore them and sentence them to a sedentary life with limited human companionship. If you can find activities in your life which afford the dog the opportunity to work with and for you, you will have a happy and well-adjusted animal no matter what that activity may be. The temperament, physical and intelligence qualities of this breed allow the Doberman to excel at just about any activity you are interested in that can include a dog.
How do I find a responsible breeder and what health issues should I ask about?
The DPCA provides Breeder Referral contacts and can furnish you with lists of breeders in your area and guidance through your search for a healthy dog with the characteristics you are looking for. The Doberman unfortunately, like most breeds, has its share of genetic problems so there are many health clearances which breeders can and should provide. At a minimum ALL breeding stock should be tested and/or certified against:
- Cardiomyopathy - to include a Holter monitor EKG and an ultrasound or sonogram done by a veterinary cardiologist. Cardio tests should be conducted annually or 3 months before a planned breeding. This type of testing should be done in Dobermans as it is better than nothing and you can know that at the time of the breeding or the time of the test whether the heart tested normal; that there were no heart murmurs or abnormally skipping heart beats.
- Von Willebrands disease via DNA test (vWD) - a blood clotting disorder
- X-rays for hip and elbow dysplasia, certified by OFA at or after the age of 2 years
- Annual blood panels for thyroid, kidneys, and liver
- Annual eye exam done by a veterinary ophthalmologist (CERF exam)
Ask breeders questions about the health not only of the sire and dam, but of their siblings and parents, if known. How long did they live? What kind of surgeries have they had?
More information about finding the right Doberman for you may be obtained at: