Developed in 19th century Germany to protect the tax man, the Doberman Pinscher has since become one of the most popular dogs in the United States and around the world. The breed is named after its creator, a German tax collector named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, whose original aim was to create a breed that would be ideal for protecting him during his collections. A protection animal from the start, the early versions of the breed earned a negative reputation for aggression issues, but the modern breed is considerably less hard-tempered. While there is only one variety of Doberman Pinscher, there is a growing recognition among fanciers that American and European lines may exhibit different traits. The Doberman Pinscher is also known as the Dobermann Pinscher, the Doberman, the Dobie, and the Dobe.
Although the Doberman Pinscher is a relatively new breed, there is still a significant amount of mystery surrounding its origin. However, it is certain that this breed was created in the final decade of the 19th Century, and was largely the product of the breeding efforts of Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. During the 1860’s and 1870’s, three major social and political changes occurred that led to the creation of the Doberman Pinscher, the Unification of Germany, the development of dog shows and kennel clubs, and the spread of new scientific theories such as the Theory of Evolution. The Unification of Germany transformed Central Europe from a patchwork of dozens of independent states into the monolithic German Empire. The German Empire brought a new and expanded bureaucracy, of which Dobermann became a part. Dobermann served many different civil functions (including tax collector, night policeman, and dog catcher) in the town of Apolda, located in the state of Thuringia. Dog shows and kennel clubs were first created in England, but quickly spread to the rest of Western Europe. This led to an increased interest in purebred dogs and a desire to standardize existing breeds. Coincidentally, Apolda hosted an annual dog market, where dogs from across Europe would be exhibited and sold. The new scientific theories, especially those involving inheritance and genetics, inspired dog breeders to create “super dogs,” or breeds that were essentially perfect for performing their purpose.
In the late 1800’s, Doberman was employed in several highly dangerous professions, primarily tax collecting and night policing. At that time it was common practice for members of these professions to bring protection dogs along with them to intimidate potential attackers or to defend against them if necessary. For some unknown reason, Doberman was not satisfied with the breeds and mixes which were already in use for this purpose, and decided to create his own; although the exact date that Doberman began to create his own dog is unknown. It is generally accepted that Doberman probably initiated casual breeding efforts in the 1880’s or 1870’s, and that the real birth year of the Doberman Pinscher occurred in 1890 when he purchased a house in Apolda with the intention of becoming a serious breeder. Initially, Dobermann was only interested in working ability and temperament; he only cared for physical conformation when it influenced a dog’s work. The qualities that Doberman most wanted were protection ability, aggression, and trainability. Doberman’s goal was to produce a dog that would be ferocious in combat with strangers but only on the command of its owner. To achieve this goal, he began to mix any dog that he felt would benefit his breeding program. From a very early time, Dobermann was assisted in his breeding effort by two police friends, Herr Rable and Herr Bottger. These two men were not only friends of Dobermann’s, but they also shared his desire to create an ideal protection animal.
Doberman was unconcerned with such things as pedigrees; he didn’t care where a dog came from as long as it suited his purpose. As a result, he did not keep detailed records of his breeding or of his crosses. The only information we have from early on in his breeding program is the individual names of some of his dogs (Schnupp, Pinko, Dietsch, and Bisart) but not what type of dog they were. Since his time, there has been a great deal of debate as to which types of dogs he used. Most of what is suspected came from interviews in the 1930’s with Dobermann’s son and several old breeders who had known him. The mystery surrounding the breeds he used is further complicated by the fact tthat Doberman, Rable, and Bottger were all regular attendees at the Apolda Dog Market, where they not only sold dogs, but also had the opportunity to acquire many different breeds as well. Additionally, in his position as dog catcher, Dobermann not only had access to numerous strays, but also the experience to evaluate a dogs stranger aggression, attack ability, and intelligence. If the three men saw or caught a dog they thought would benefit their lines, they would add it to their breeding program.
The primary debate among modern fanciers is which breed provided the basis for the Dobermann breed. Some claim that it was the German Pinscher, one of most common German breeds at the time and very similar to the Dobermann Pinscher. Others claim that it was the Old German Shepherd (Altdeutscher Schäferhund), the ancestor of the modern German Shepherd dog. Still others have suggested that it was the Beauceron, brought to Germany from France with Napoleon’s armies, and incredibly similar to the Doberman Pinscher in many ways. The truth is probably that Dobermann used so many breeds that no single one predominates, and that most of the dogs that went into early Dobermann lines were likely mixed and/or stray dogs. In addition to the German Pinscher, Old German Shepherd, Beauceron, and mixed breeds, the Rottweiler, Bullenbeiser, and Weimaraner (itself a native of the nearby Thuringian town of Weimar) were almost certainly used. Other possibilities which have been suggested include the Boxer, the English Bulldog, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Standard Schnauzer, the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Vizsla, various types of German scent hound, and the Austrian Pinscher.
Whatever breeds went into the ancestry of the Dobermann Pinscher, the breed standardized very quickly. By the time of Dobermann’s death in 1894, the breed was largely stabilized, although not quite in the modern form. Early Doberman Pinschers were stockier and somewhat more unstable temperamentally than the modern dogs. However, they were excellently suited to police work and guard dog duty. Dobermann and his friends sold their dogs at the Apolda Dog Market which helped to popularize the breed with fanciers across Europe. Local policemen quickly adopted the breed, and soon their fellows across Germany did the same.
In these early years two other breeders would become very influential in Dobermann development, Otto Goeller and Oswin Tischler. Goeller wrote the first breed standard in 1899, the same year that he founded the first breed club. It was Goeller who formally named the breed the Dobermann Pinscher in honor of its creator. Also in 1899, the German Kennel Club granted full recognition to the Dobermann. In the years after Dobermann’s death, breeders would continue to add new breeds to the existing Dobermann Pinscher lines. There are definite records that Manchester Terriers, English Greyhounds, and at least one Gordon Setter was added, likely to stabilize type, improve color, and reduce bulk. Although the Gordon Setter also introduced a long haired gene that would take more than 10 generations to eliminate.
Dobermann and other breeders had also experimented with breeding naturally short-tailed dogs, but these efforts proved unsuccessful and were abandoned with the addition of Greyhound and Manchester Terrier blood. At some point, the second ‘n’ was dropped from the breed name and the dog became known as the Doberman Pinscher. Doberman Pinschers quickly earned a reputation as being some of the finest of all police dogs. They were famed for their intense loyalty, incredible speed and power, natural attack ability, high trainability, and great responsiveness. Around the turn of the century, the German Military began to train these dogs as well.
Although it is not clear exactly when the first Dobermann’s arrived in the United States, among the first of which we have records are Bertel Von Hohenstein, bred by Tischler and imported in 1907, and Annagret II Von Theuringen and Claudius Von Theuringen, descended from Goeller’s dogs and imported in 1908. In 1908, the American Kennel Club (AKC) granted full recognition to the Doberman Pinscher as a member of the Working Group. However, the breed was initially slow to catch on, and remained rare for a number of years. World War I forever changed the fate of the Doberman Pinscher, both in America and abroad. The German Army made extensive use of the Doberman Pinscher in the Great War. These dogs served as prison guards, military police dogs, attack dogs, guard dogs, message carriers, scent detection animals, and beasts of burden. The Doberman Pinscher served with great valor and distinction, and greatly impressed most of the War’s participants, both ally and enemy to Germany.
Although the world’s populace was initially more taken with the German Shepherd, the Doberman Pinscher found many supporters as well, especially in the United States Military. By 1921, interest in the breed had increased to the point that George Earle III founded the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA) to promote and protect the breed in that country. The following year was the first that more than 100 Doberman Pinscher puppies were registered with the AKC. Throughout the 1920’s, interest in the Doberman Pinscher increased dramatically in the United States, likely the result of World War I veterans wanting a guard dog to protect their newly bought properties and increasing military usage of the breed. Word of mouth and personal contact were very positive and the Dobermann gained fanciers rapidly. By 1930, over 1,000 Doberman Pinscher puppies were being registered every year.
In 1939, Ferry of Raufelson of Giralda became the first Doberman to win best in show at Westminster Kennel Club. By the time the United States entered World War II in 1941, registration numbers had increased to the point that over 1,600 Dobermann Pinschers were being registered every year and the breed had risen to the point that it ranked 15th in terms of AKC registrations. It is a true testament to the breeding skill of Dobermann and other early breeders that their dog went from being nonexistent in Germany to one of the most popular breeds in America in less than 50 years. The breed became similarly popular in a number of other nations as well, especially with militaries and police forces. Around this time, the German Kennel Club removed the Pinscher from the breed name as they felt the dog was not a true Pinscher (a specific type of breed such as Retriever or Spaniel). While most canine organizations followed suit, American ones did not.
During World War II, the United States Marine Corps made the Doberman Pinscher its official dog, although that organization did not exclusively use that breed. The Doberman Pinscher became even more famous as footage of loyal war dogs serving besides their masters in combat were played across America. Doberman Pinschers served with success and valor in most of the major battles on the Pacific Front, such as Guam and Okinawa, as well as several in Europe. Although already quite popular, World War II secured the Doberman Pinscher a place in American canine life that it has never fully relinquished. Beginning in the 1940’s, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also granted full recognition to the Doberman Pinscher. However, a few problems began to develop for this breed. Disreputable owners who wanted a supposedly vicious dog began to seek out the Doberman. For many years, this breed was considered one of the premier guard dogs in America, but irresponsible handling and a few well-publicized attacks gave the breed a reputation for viciousness and unpredictability.
The breed also earned a reputation for turning on its owners, which as any Doberman fancier will tell you is completely inaccurate. These problems were intensified by irresponsible breeders who either wanted to create the meanest possible dog or who only cared for profit without any regard to temperament or quality. As a result by the end of the 1970’s, the breed’s popularity had fallen somewhat. In response to the breeds falling popularity and increasingly negative public image, responsible Doberman breeders began to deliberately breed less aggressive and more discerning Doberman Pinschers, while retaining the loyalty, intelligence, trainability, and athletic abilities of the breed. These efforts proved largely successful, not only in improving the quality of the breed (modern Doberman’s are well known for their stable and predictable temperaments), but also once more turning public sentiment in favor of the Doberman Pincher . Additionally greatly aiding the Doberman’s cause was the fact that societal trends had changed and the breed was no longer favored only by those who wanted a powerful, intimidating, and possibly vicious dog. This role was taken by other breeds, many of which have similarly had their good reputations damaged in the process such as Rottweilers, Akitas, American Pit Bull Terriers, and American Bulldogs.
After almost 40 years of careful breeding, the Doberman Pinscher has earned a new reputation, that of a family dog. While some lines of American Dobermans are still bred as working guard dogs, the majority are now bred with either companionship or joint companionship/protection as the primary purpose. Many fanciers now see a clear distinction between American and European Doberman lines. While both lines can freely interbreed to produce purebred offspring and are virtually identical in appearance, there are substantial differences in temperament. American Dobermans are considered to be notably less aggressive towards humans and to some extent other dogs, while European Dobermans are thought to have a much stronger protective instinct. While there does not appear to be any strong sentiment to separate the two lines into new breeds or even formal varieties as has happened with the Akita (Akita Inu vs. American Akita), most Doberman fanciers (especially breeders) are well-aware of the distinction.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Doberman breeders either created or propagated two new Doberman Pinscher varieties, Albino Dobermans and Warlock Dobermans. Albino Dobermans are all descends of one albino female born in 1976, a dog named Padula's Queen Shebah. Oddly enough her parents were two normally-colored dogs, Rasputin VI and Dynamo Humm; although the breeder stated that this pairing had in fact produced an earlier albino male that died shortly after birth. While many fanciers find these dogs beautiful, the truth is that they are highly inbred. Records from 2004 show that this single dog had approximately 11,300 descendants registered with the AKC, and of those roughly 1830 have been albino. In order to track these albino and albino-factored Dobermans, the AKC agreed to provide special registration numbers beginning in November of 1995, thus creating the "z list". As a result all descendants of Queen Shebah and her siblings born since 1996 have carried registration numbers that start with "WZ". Additionally the AKC backtracked and registered every descendant of these dogs in the z list, even those who were born before the institution of "z" registration numbers. The vast majority of modern day responsible Doberman breeders wish this line was no longer be bred. In addition to suffering from a number of health problems related to inbreeding, they also suffer a wide range of problems naturally inherent with albinism. Problems that most often negatively affect sight as well as hearing, not only that but in general Albinism also predisposes animals to skin cancer as well as photosensitivity/photophobia. That being said it becomes quite apparent that albinism is more than just a pigment issue, it is a deleterious mutation that should be removed from modern lines.
Warlock Dobermans also known as "Kings" or "Goliaths", a product of the demand for "big bad Dobes" back in the 1970's earned their name from an especially popular 1950’s show champion. Bred in the mid 1950's by Theodosia and Henry Frampton, the original "Warlock" was a Doberman show dog named "Borong the Warlock." Contrary to popular belief Borong was a normally sized Doberman, as evidenced by his numerous show wins including Best in Breed at three Nationals and wins at Westminster in both 1952 and 1953 under the handling of his owner, a feat that he would not have accomplished if he were an oversized 100+ pound or Warlock sized dog. Properly sized Dobermans should weigh about 70 pounds to be within standard size. The popularity of Borong as a top representative of the breed, along with his unique and somewhat violent sounding name, (a warlock being a male witch, sorcerer, wizard or demon) would unfortunately be used to link him with super-sized Dobes when breeders in Texas began breeding supposed descendants of his for size. While the location of their origin is generally agreed upon (everything is bigger in Texas) exactly how these supersized Dobermans came to be is still somewhat disputed. The two most common theories are that they were either created by cross-breeding Dobermans with a larger dog like a Great Dane(thus accounting for the Warlock's abnormal size) or two that large Dobermans were mated to create pups of abnormal size.
In either case, their creation coincided with the Doberman Pinschers phenomenal rise in popularity during the 1970’s as the watch dog of choice. This was a time when people living in the suburbs actively sought out ‘bigger and badder’ guard dogs as they were forced to accept the reality that they were not safe from crime. The surge in popularity was such that by the 1980’s, the breed which had traditionally ranked around 20th in annual CKC registrations had shot up to 2nd. Demand protective Dobermans was such that it gave birth to an underground market and the name ‘Warlock’ evolved beyond its original meaning of indicating a descendent of Borong, it had instead become synonymous with large aggressive Dobermans. Additionally breeders of the time began to arbitrarily label their dogs as a ‘Warlock’ to increase their desirability and the price at which they could sell them. Over the course of the next twenty years or so, a subculture developed in which any Doberman regardless of actual breeding could be arbitrarily labeled as a ‘Warlock’ based on physical attributes such as large size, or small size combined with great strength and aggressiveness, or an odd lock of hair, a certain facial expression or basically anything that could be construed as making them look tougher; all traits that were supposedly indicative of a true Warlock Doberman.
Author Frank Grover stated in his work American Doberman Pinscher Legends, "When Dobermans were being bred by everyone and sold as ways to get rich quick, hundreds were sold in the underground as Warlocks, each with a secret sign of distinction and value known only to a few." Popular myth about their abilities fed this craving, and "Warlock Dobermans" became a fad, luckily one that has mostly faded out. Although this term is rarely in use now, it is still used occasionally by the unscrupulous or unknowledgeable and the majority of modern breeders strongly disfavor this term, not only because it has no real meaning, but also because most of the dogs labeled as Warlock Dobermans do not meet breed standards and did more damage than good to the overall health and stability of the breed. The early Warlock breeders did a tremendous disservice to the breed as a whole by recklessly deviating away from the agreed upon standard for Doberman size, while at the same time exploiting for profit people's lust for "bigger, tougher, meaner, better" dogs.
Dobermans are now one of the most popular breeds of dogs in the entire world, and are found in many different countries. This breed continues to serve a number of roles as a working dog, primarily military, police, or personal protection. However, this incredibly trainable breed also has served as a seeing eye dog, service dog, therapy animal, and search-and-rescue dog, as well as competing at the highest levels of obedience competitions, agility trials, conformation shows, and many other canine sports. However, in America, the primary (or only) purpose of most Dobermans is either companionship or companionship/protection, tasks at which this breed excels. Unlike many other breeds which retain their working ability, Dobermans adapt very well to life as companion animals, provided that they have their care needs met. The Doberman Pinscher is a breed whose exact popularity ranking fluctuates with time, but this dog has secured a place as one of the most popular dogs in America, a position it will almost certainly keep for the foreseeable future. In 2010, the Doberman Pinscher ranked 14th out of 167 total breeds in terms of AKC registrations, and that number looks like it may go up.
Thanks not only to its great popularity but also to numerous appearances in popular culture, the Doberman Pinscher is one of the most recognizable breeds in America. Often described as, “The Cadillac of Dogs,” the Doberman Pinscher is known for looking very tough and intimidating, even ferocious, although many of these dogs are not. Although initially bred as a medium sized dog, most modern Doberman Pinschers are quite large. Males should stand between 26 and 28 inches tall at the withers (ideal about 27½ inches) and weigh between 70 and 100 pounds while the smaller females typically stand between 24 and 26 inches (ideal about 25½ inches) and weight between 60 and 90 pounds. The Doberman Pinscher is a squarely built dog, and all of its extremities should be proportional to the size of its body. Nothing on a Doberman Pinscher should be overly exaggerated other than its athleticism.
This breed is one of the most athletic looking of all dogs, and most Dobermans are ripping with muscles. This muscular should never make this breed appear thick, but rather lean and fierce. The tail of the Doberman Pinscher is traditionally docked to between one and three inches long, and this procedure is almost universally performed on Doberman Pinschers born in the United States. However, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in a number of countries. The natural tail of the Doberman is quite variable. Most are short and very thin, but while some are rather straight with a slight curl, many completely and tightly curl over the back.
This breed was bred as a personal guardian, and has long been famed for its biting ability. Everything about the head and face of this breed should imply the protection abilities of this breed. The head of the Doberman Pinscher is long and narrow, and forms a wedge shape. The head blends in with the muzzle, which is far less distinct than is the case for most breeds. The muzzle is quite long, at least the length of the skull, and also quite narrow. The lips should be tight fitting and dry, but enough to fully conceal a full and very intimidating set of teeth when the dog is at rest. The color of the Doberman’s nose is determined by the dog’s coat color, and may either be black, dark brown, dark grey, or dark tan. The Doberman has medium-sized, almond shaped eyes, which often so closely blend in with the dog’s coat color that they are difficult to distinguish. The ears of the Doberman Pinscher are traditionally cropped, meaning that part of the ear is removed to make it narrower and the rest is pricked straight up. This practice serves an important purpose because it makes it easier for the breed to locate the source of sounds. However, this practice is falling into even more disfavor than tail docking, even in America. The natural ears of the Doberman are small and triangular in shape. These ears typically drop down close to the sides of the head, but may also fold slightly forwards. The overall expression of this breed is intimidating and intense.
The coat of the Doberman Pinscher is short, hard, and thick. This is a double-coated breed, and the Doberman has a soft, dense undercoat, usually of grey hair. The hair is smooth and close lying as well. The coats of many Doberman Pinschers, especially black ones, often appear glossy although this is not always the case. Doberman Pinschers come in four acceptable colors: black, red, blue, and fawn. The fawn is not the traditional fawn of a breed such as a Boxer but is a very light brownish grey, and is almost identical in color to the Weimaraner. All four colors have rust colored markings on the muzzle, throat, forechest, all four legs, all four feet, below the tail, and above the eyes. A small patch of white (less than ½ inch in diameter) may be found on the Doberman’s chest, although this is not considered desirable. A small number of breeders have been breeding Albino Doberman Pinschers. These dogs are generally devoid of pigment (appearing totally white or a very light blond), but may have slightly darker markings. Because of the large number of health problems experienced by white Dobermans, most breeders are highly against their continued breeding, and these dogs may not be shown in dog shows.
Very few breeds have as negative a reputation in the temperament department as the Doberman Pinscher, but many of these perceptions are very unfair to modern breed members. Perhaps the Doberman’s defining personality characteristic is its intense loyalty. Few if any breeds are as unfailingly loyal as a Doberman, and these dogs will go to absolutely any length for their masters. The Doberman Pinscher is also a very people-oriented breed. Most breed members want to be as close as possible to their families at all times, which can be a problem as this dog is often in between legs and on laps. Doberman Pinschers raised in a single-person household tend to become one person dogs, but those raised in a family will usually form deep attachments with every family member (although most family Doberman Pinschers do have a favorite person). This breed is known to suffer from severe separation anxiety if away from its family for too long. Additionally, Dobermans are extremely sensitive to interfamily stress and shouting and dogs living in volatile homes may become so stressed that they become physically ill or emotionally unstable.
This breed has a reputation for aggression, or even viciousness, but this is largely a result of history and holds little truth to the modern breed. The Doberman Pinscher greatly prefers to be in the company of family or friends it knows well and is typically very aloof and wary of strangers. Though not especially fond of them, most well-trained Doberman Pinschers will be polite with strangers and will only show aggression when commanded or a situation demands it. In fact, many breed members have served with distinction as therapy, search and rescue, and service dogs. Without proper training and socialization, however, some Doberman Pinschers may exhibit a strong tendency to become nervous/fearful of strangers and many develop aggression issues. This breed makes a vigilant watchdog and an incredible guard dog as Doberman Pinschers will not allow an unaccompanied intruder to enter their domain unchallenged, and the vast majority of breed members will go to any length to defend their family. Although potentially aggressive, Dobermans greatly prefer the use intimidation over that of physical force, and aside from a few poorly or maliciously bred lines are rarely vicious. Although controversial, dog bite statistics have consistently shown that this breed is both considerably less likely to bite and to cause life-threatening injury when it does than many other supposedly aggressive breeds such as Rottweilers or Akitas, and even traditional family pets such as Labrador Retriever, Shih Tzus, and Cocker Spaniels.
When socialized with them, Doberman Pinschers are known for being an exceptional dog around children, with whom it forms close friendships. This breed is typically gentle with and tolerant of children (although most do not tolerate teasing or abuse), and very often becomes their dedicated protector. A potential problem may arise if a Doberman mistakes the rough play of children for an attack on its family member, but this can be corrected with training.
Doberman Pinschers are average when it comes to their compatibility with other animals. Most Doberman Pinschers are very accepting of canine housemates with which they know well, especially if it is a male and female pairing. When socialized, most breed members are polite with other dogs, although they may or may not be happy to see them. However, many breed members do develop dog aggression issues. The most common is dominance, especially among males, although territorial, possessiveness, and jealousy issues are far from unheard of. Although even dog aggressive Dobermans tend to have more moderate dog aggression issues than many other breeds (such as Terriers, Boxers, Akitas, and the like), these issues are magnified due to the great size and power of this breed. As is the case with all dogs, Dobermans will pursue and attack non-canine animals with which they have not been socialized. That being said, this breed does not have an exceptional prey drive, and once trained most Dobermans will accept non-canines such as cats, and often protect them just as much as any other member of the family. As is the case with other dogs, animal aggression issues must be carefully controlled in the Doberman due to the power of this dog.
Dobermans are both incredibly intelligent and extraordinarily trainable. Virtually all canine intelligence studies place this breed in the top five (often only behind the Border Collie, German Shepherd, and Standard Poodle), and some studies that focus solely on trainability have named the Doberman Pinscher the most trainable of all dog breeds. With the possible exceptions of a few complex herding behaviors and advanced scent tracking, there is probably nothing that any dog is capable of learning that a Doberman Pinscher is not, and this breed is a regular competitor at the highest level of a number of canine sports. Most Dobermans live to please and absolutely thrive on rewards. With the proper training techniques (those that use rewards and positive reinforcements), most Dobermans will become well-trained, and owners who are willing to take the time and effort are likely to be rewarded with an exceptionally well-trained animal. This breed does respond very poorly to punishments, especially physical ones. Most Dobermans’ first reaction to punishment is defensiveness, which can lead to disobedience, fear, or even aggression. Doberman Pinschers do need consistent and firm handling. Although the Doberman is a natural follower, this dog is more than intelligent enough to figure out that its master is not in command of the situation. Dobermans that do not respect the leadership of their owners can develop a number of behavioral issues, some of which may become severe.
As one would likely suspect from the breed’s appearance, the Doberman Pinscher is a high energy dog. One of the true athletes of the canine world, the Doberman Pinscher is capable of rigorous activity for long periods of time. The average Doberman can and will go for as long as its owners, and usually longer. This breed needs an owner who will make a dedicated effort to provide it with the exercise it requires because Dobermans will find their own energy outlets if one is not provided for them. Dobermans who are not provided the activity that they need are very likely to become destructive, demanding, overly excitable, and fearful. Although the Doberman is capable of intense activity, most do not have extreme exercise requirements (such as those of a Border Collie or Jack Russell Terrier) and will be quite accepting of between 45 minutes and two hours of rigorous physical activity such as a jog or a long walk. Potential owners must be aware that although Dobermans absolutely love to cuddle on the sofa, this breed is never very calm. With extra effort, Doberman Pinschers adapt well to life as a companion dog, but most breed members would greatly prefer to have some activity that stimulates their mind as well as their body. This breed would very much enjoy obedience or shutzhund training, or at least running through an agility course or playing with a Frisbee. The physical abilities of a Doberman make it a very appealing breed for many active families. Provided the weather is not too cold, this breed is more than willing to go on any adventure, and is capable of participating in the most extreme canine activities. Among the many advantages of bringing the Doberman along for outdoor activities are the dog’s short and easily-cleaned coat and it large, but still transportable, size.
The Doberman Pinscher has very low grooming requirements. The short coat of this breed should never require professional grooming; only a regular brushing is required. This breed requires no other care other than that which every dog does, occasional bathing, regular tail trimming, teeth brushing and the like. The Doberman Pinscher does shed and will require owners to clean up dog hair, but the breed is considered an average shedder that will only pose problems for allergy sufferers or the most intensely fastidious.
The Doberman Pinscher is known to suffer from a number of health problems, many of which are quite serious. Doberman Pinschers are susceptible to most diseases common to purebred dogs in general, large dogs in particular, as well as a number of breed specific ailments. Different health surveys and studies have indicated different life expectancies for the breed which may be the result of many different factors. The average life of a Doberman Pinscher is probably between 9 and 10 years, but most breed members pass much earlier than this from health problems or significantly later as those few Dobermans without these health problems tend to be robust and long-lived.
The most serious concern for Doberman Pinscher owners is dilated cardiomyopathy. Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart becomes enlarged and weakened and can no longer effectively pump blood to the bodies systems. Because this condition affects blood flow, it can have significant impacts on all of the body’s symptoms. This disease is far more common in the Doberman Pinscher than any other, and more than 40% of all dilated cardiomyopathy diagnoses are for this breed. While health surveys are never precise, multiple surveys have indicated that more than half of all Dobermans will develop dilated cardiomyopathy at some point in their lives. This disease is easily the leading cause of death for this breed, as it usually leads to fatal heart or other conditions. At least 75% of Dobermans diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy die shortly thereafter, either from unknown causes or congestive heart failure. Doberman Pinschers suffer from at least two forms of cardiomyopathy, one of which is suffered by all breeds and another which is apparently limited to Doberman Pinschers and Boxers. There is no cure or current genetic test for dilated cardiomyopathy, but there are treatments, most of which are expensive.
Dobermans are also especially susceptible to Von Willebrand’s disease, a blood clotting disorder. This disease makes it difficult or impossible for the blood to clot, which leads to excessive bleeding in the case of a cut or puncture. This disease can be fatal in the event of injury or surgery, as it causes the dog to bleed out rapidly. Because this disease usually goes unnoticed prior to such an event, it is often not diagnosed until it is too late. Doberman owners must be sure to let their veterinarians know of the breed’s proclivity for this condition before any surgical procedure. Luckily, genetic tests do exist for Von Willebrand’s disease, and responsible breeders are working towards eliminating this condition from their dogs’ gene pool.
This breed is very insensitive to cold. Although many Dobermans have a double-coat, their fur does not offer them much protection from the elements. This muscular breed also lacks fat stores that would aid it in defense against the cold. Because of this Dobermans freeze to death much quicker and in much warmer temperatures than many dogs, and the same goes for the development of conditions such as frostbite. This cold sensitivity is so severe that police agencies in many areas and nations are unable to use this breed. Doberman owners should never keep their dogs outside in cold temperatures for very long, and should almost certainly put booties and sweaters on them when the temperature drops.
Albino Dobermans are quite controversial. Breeders of these dogs claim that there is no evidence that their dogs are any more likely to suffer from health defects than any other Doberman. Most other Doberman fanciers and many veterinarians disagree. Albino Dobermans are all descended from an albino mother who was mated with her albino son, and these dogs are highly inbred. It is generally thought (although the evidence is apparently unclear) that these dogs suffer from significantly greater incidence of health defects common to all Dobermans at higher levels, as well as being highly likely to suffer from vision and hearing problems, especially deafness.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have it tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
A full list of health problems experienced by Doberman Pinschers would have to include: