The Dobermann is a medium sized breed, the height of dogs should be 27" to the highest point of the withers, and bitches 25 ½. They are powerful, muscular and compact with a short, smooth coat. They are extraordinarily intelligent, loyal and obedient. Shyness or viciousness in the breed is highly undesirable.
The UK breed standard recognises 4 colours - black, brown, blue or fawn (Isabella) only, with tan/rust red markings. Tan markings should be sharply defined, appearing above each eye, on muzzle, throat and forechest, on all legs and feet and below the tail. White markings of any kind are highly undesirable. The tail is customarily docked and dewclaws should be removed.
Herr Louis Dobermann was a rent collector, taxman and dog warden, and his work especially the tax collection, necessitated him having a dog to protect him on his rounds. As a dog warden, he had an ideal opportunity to breed a dog specific to his own requirements and in the 1880's he began to combine the dogs from the pound with other breeds, to create an intelligent, alert and physically capable guard dog. Sadly, the precise ancestry of the Dobermann is not known as Herr Dobermanns' breeding records were not kept, but it is believed that the German Pinscher, the Beauceron, and later the greyhound, the Manchester Terrier and possibly the Rottweiler, were all used in the ancestry of the Dobermann.
In the 1920's, a number of dogs were exported to America, and the breed type in America, Europe and England now varies quite considerably.
Character and Breed Values
Unfortunately the Dobermann has a reputation for being a vicious and aggressive guard dog. As with some other breeds, the Dobermann has been used as status symbols for people who want to be seen to have a vicious beast by their side, and it is the minority of fools in a breed that give it a bad name. It is also the careless breeder who does not take care in homing their puppies, and the inexperienced owner who fails to train and control his dog, who contribute considerably to the Dobermanns bad reputation.
The Dobermann is not a breed for the weak willed or faint hearted person, but it is because they are such an intelligent breed that they do not suffer fools gladly. They need to respect their owners, and if they suspect the slightest weakening or indecision in their owners, they cannot respect them and problems will occur.
The Dobermann who is respected as a valued member of the pack, and who is able to respect his owner, is a wonderful asset to the pack, and will look after the family with their life. They will naturally start to guard from around 6 months - don't worry if your Dobe doesn't guard at this age, it will come in time. It is also important to maintain control over their natural ability to guard, to prevent it becoming a possible problem as with any unruly behaviour.
The Dobermann may sometimes be perceived as being unfriendly to strangers, however, it is important to remember that they are a guarding breed and are not meant to rush up to strangers and be over-affectionate. They prefer to take time to get to know people, so there is no point in pushing friendship upon them.
The Dobermann is an incredibly loyal, faithful and devoted dog, valued for it's physical and mental ability. The Dobermann needs mental stimulation as much as physical exercise. They thrive on being worked and mentally stimulated, and will not be satisfied being house-bound 23 hours a day with one hours run around the park.
Living with a Dobermann
Despite their tough exterior, they are actually a very sensitive breed, and being over harsh or shouting too loudly will never be forgiven. You do need to let your Dobe know his or her place in the pack, and that is at the bottom of it! If it seems mean to say that, most Dobes will try to take advantage given the slightest opportunity or weakness in their owners. Dogs are happy when they know their place, and they must not be allowed to be higher up the dominance scale than your family.
Because Dobermanns are such an intelligent breed and very much have a mind of their own, they are not a breed for a novice handler. Some people believe that they need to be hard with their Dobe in order to gain the upper hand. However, hard handling can make for a shy, cautious animal which is as much of a danger as an over-confident dog. As with all dogs, a combination of love and discipline is important, and there is a very fine line between being too hard and too soft. It is finding the right balance that determines how successful you would be in owning this breed.
The Dobermann will play by the rules, as long as they know the rules. They cannot take their rightful place in your family home if it is not made clear what their place is. This breed will naturally try and assert their dominance over the rest of the pack - you and your family - and unless you have the strength (of character, not purely physical), to control them, this is not a breed for you. You must be of a secure confident personality to own a Dobe; if you are in any way unsure of how to control or train your Dobe, they will sense it and start to treat you with contempt.
The breed is generally healthy and suffers from few major diseases. The major cause of death in male Dobermanns over 7 years of age is cancer, followed closely by heart failure - see below. The major cause of death in bitches is cancer. Some diseases that may affect Dobermanns are detailed below, however, there are no statistics available to determine how many Dobermanns are affected by any of the below, or how many die from cancer/ cancer related illnesses:
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy - heart failure. Testing is available but not yet definitive.
- Von Willebrands Disease - blood clotting. DNA testing available, showing clear, carrier and affected status.
- Hip Dysplasia - X-Ray testing and KC scoring available on dogs over 12 months old.
- Hypothyroidism - testing available, affected dogs correctly diagnosed are able to live completely normal lives on medication.
Dog or Bitch ?
Males can be much more of a handful than females, especially during adolescence when they may try to assert their authority over other males. They are physically stronger than females, and can be difficult to control by people inexperienced with the breed. Whilst males may not always be the first to instigate a fight with another dog, they are territorial and will not tolerate any aggressive behaviour from other dogs. However, some males are very tolerant of other dogs, whilst some bitches can behave aggressively. Bitches may be quite affected by their hormones during seasons, whilst a dogs' temperament is the same all year 'round.
As a first time Dobe owner, unless you have previously had a guarding breed, it is perhaps wiser to have a bitch. You would enjoy all the characteristics of the breed, without so much of the territorial, aggressive behaviour that is associated with adolescent male Dobermanns. Bitches can be more loving than some dogs, readily accepting cuddles and fussing but every animal is different.
Dobermanns are usually excellent with children and will guard them as part of the pack to which they now belong. Provided your child is old enough and kind with animals, and the dog knows their place in the pack, they will rarely if ever see themselves as dominant over a child. Children and dogs should always be supervised, not necessarily to protect the child, as children can often unwittingly hurt a young puppy. The puppy may not forgive being hurt, and the relationship can break down irreparably. Dobermanns always remember who has hurt them, and rarely forgive. Also remember that as with other breeds, a dog will put up with things from your own children that they will not tolerate from strange children.
Due to its short coat, the Dobe needs relatively little grooming. However, a brush out of dead hair at least once a week should be given. Nails grown quickly and should be kept very short. The nail should not be able to touch the ground when the dog is standing. Cutting nails can be tricky, as Dobes have dark nails and the quick doesn't show through the nail. If you are unsure of how to cut the nail, your breeder should guide you, or ask the nurse at your vets to show you how to do it. Teeth and ears should be cleaned weekly, but take caution in cleaning the ears of any dog, never use a cotton bud or insert your finger into the ear. A wipe over the entrance to the ear should be sufficient and if you find a lot of waxy discharge it may be worth your vet checking it over.
Training and Exercise
This breed love to work, they need mental as well as physical exercise, so if you want a breed to walk around the park for an hour after work, get another breed! When they are fully grown, Dobes require a minimum of 1½ hours hard walking/ free running each day, every day. If you don't think you could manage to exercise your dog this much, get a cat
There are two types of training, positive (reward based) and negative (punitive). Dobe are very easy to train, are incredibly quick learners,and because they are usually very focused on their owners, they want to please. For the owner whose dog pays them no attention, training is useful to encourage the dog to concentrate on them. Dobes thrive on being kept mentally alert, so a good training club (not just one that teaches your dog to heel and sit at the roadside) should be able to help with exercises to keep your dog alert and focused on you.
Due to some bad press and poor public opinion this breed has had, it is now more than ever vital that you train your Dobermann. The breed is headstrong, and as above, needs firm (not hard) control.
It is vital to be consistent with the training of your young and adult Dobe and you must ensure that your family trains the dog the way you do.
As with any breed, this is a vitally important part of training your puppy. Many clubs and Vets now hold puppy parties, to enable young dogs to meet other breeds and learn to develop their social skills. Owning a fully grown Dobe who lunges at every other dog, is not only embarrassing, but dangerous, so it is truly important to introduce your young puppy to other dogs and people to enable them to be confident with as many situations as possible. When our puppies and youngsters are out walking, we ask people we meet - especially those with young children, or children in pushchairs - if they can stop to say hello. Most parents love their children having the opportunity to play with a puppy for a few moments.
Two Together ?
Dobermanns are not pack orientated animals as some other breeds. They were bred to guard and are ideally suited alone or in small groups. That said, many people keep numerous Dobes together very successfully, but you do need to know the temperament of each animal. Even experienced breeders would not recommend keeping two males together. Buying two pups of opposite sexes as puppies, is a lovely thought as they do entertain each other, but training problems will arise unless their training is carried out separately as they will focus on each other instead of you. If you want two for company of each other, it is not always advisable to have two of the same age even of opposite sex. They will focus on each other instead of you, and training is therefore very difficult, as the puppies just want to play continuously. If you did decide to take two puppies of the same age, you need to set aside time to train each puppy separately, or you will end up with a pair of little hooligans whom you can't control.
If you are interested in showing your dog, you should visit some dog shows to get an idea of the type of qualities you admire in the breed. This would also give you an opportunity to talk to some of the exhibitors about the dogs being shown, and they may be able to introduce you to someone expecting a good litter. There are two weekly publications - Dog World and Our Dogs - available on order from newsagents. These carry details of all forthcoming shows, and other news. There are 3 types of shows:
- Local Exemption show with all breeds entered in the same classes where you turn up on the day.
- Open Show with separate breed classes requiring pre-entry.
- Championship show, as the Open Show, but on a bigger scale with Challenge Certificates on offer (3 CC's = Champion).
If you want to show, you would also need to attend a ring-craft class where you would be taught how to present your dog to a judge.
Being such an intelligent breed, Dobermanns are extremely good at Obedience. They have a natural ability to undertake obedience competition work, and very much enjoy agility (not allowed under 18 months of age due to bone development). They can get bored very easily, especially with repetitive tasks, so their work should be varied and challenging. The Kennel Club can provide you with details of accredited trainers in your area, or the APDT (Association Of Pet Dog Trainers) can also provide details.
Obedience work can be very beneficial to both you and your Dobe, particularly if your dog doesn't respect your authority, as it can encourage your Dobe to focus on and respect you.
As above, Dobe's need more exercise than just an hour's run around the park each day, but it is also the quality of the exercise that is important.
Buying a Puppy
TEMPERAMENT: Due to the size and breed history of the Dobe, temperament should be of prime concern when buying a puppy. As with all other breeds, you must be able to see the Mother of the puppies when visiting a litter, but not necessarily the Father, and the Mother's temperament may give you some indication of the likely outcome of the pups. Check there are plenty of toys for the puppies to play with, and that they do not back away from you when you go to greet them. If they do, it is unlikely they have been correctly socialised.
HEALTH: You should not be able to buy a puppy under the age of 8 weeks old. They are not mature enough to leave their Mother and siblings any earlier than that. Puppies should have been given a regular worming programme, and the breeder should advise you when the puppy next needs worming. Dull coats, weepy eyes or runny noses, will be an indication that all is not well with the puppy. The puppy should look plump and well fed; Better to be marginally over than under-weight at this stage of life.
All breeders should at the very least, offer you a puppy feeding guide, and most good breeders will provide you with a guide on looking after your puppy and after-sales support.
How to find a Puppy
A list of breeders with puppies for sale is available from the Kennel Club, alternatively, the Kennel Club also have a list of breed clubs, many of whom run puppy lists or know of breeders with available or upcoming litters. You should expect to pay upwards of £500 for a good Dobermann puppy. When you buy a puppy, the breeder will give you the puppy's pedigree and the Kennel Club registration certificate.
Do not buy a puppy from someone who has other litters of different breeds for sale simultaneously; it is likely this type of breeder is mass breeding for commercial reasons. Similarly, you should not buy from someone unless they are the breeder of the litter. Remember, you should always see the puppies with their Mother.