While the history of the Doberman is relatively clear, there is uncertainty about the breeds that were used to develop this intelligent and protective dog.
A gentleman by the name of Herr Dobermann spent many years trying to create the ideal personal guard dog. He needed protection for his work as a tax collector; it seems even in those days nobody liked paying taxes. In 1890 he developed the dog that still bears his name. It has been suggested that the Doberman’s ancestry includes the Great Dane, Greyhound, and the Rottweiler, but there are no records to confirm which breeds were used to create the Doberman Pinscher.
Their intelligence, protective nature and strong work ethic has seen the Doberman valued highly as a police dog and a guard dog. They were recognized by the AKC in 1908, and are now a popular family pet and companion.
The Dobie (as it is affectionately known) is a tall, lean athletic dog, standing 28 inches or 72cm at the shoulder. An adult male can weigh as much as 100 pounds (45kg). They give the impression of strength, endurance and courage.
The most familiar color for the Doberman is black and tan, but they are available in red and tan. Should the dog carry the gene for color dilution, black and tan dogs will have a blue coat, and the red and tan dogs will be fawn.
In the United States, Dobermans may have their ears cropped and their tails docked. These procedures were designed to make them better workers – the ears helped with sound localization, and a docked tail prevented an assailant grabbing the dog, and the tail being injured while they were working. These reasons no longer exist, and ear cropping and tail docking are now illegal in many countries. The undocked Doberman tail is long and thin, and arches over their back.
True to their original purpose, the Doberman is an excellent watch dog. While they will instinctively protect their family, studies have suggested that they are no more aggressive than any other breed. However, they can be aggressive towards people they don’t know, and who make them feel threatened. This, coupled with their strength and size mean that they must be treated with respect.
The Dobie ranks amongst the most intelligent of all dog breeds, and they display excellent problem solving skills. This makes them very easy to train. It also means that if they don’t get enough mental stimulation, they can develop behavioral problems. All Dobies should be well socialized from puppy hood with puppy pre-school and ongoing obedience training, to help them grow up into a happy, well adjusted family pet.
This is not a breed that can be left in a kennel in the back yard. They need to be with their family and share in their activities.
The Doberman suffers from several serious health conditions which can have a very big impact on their life, and that of their family
The breed may develop hip dysplasia, a painful orthopedic condition of the hip joints. While surgery and medication can control symptoms, it’s better to try and prevent it in the first place. This can be done by carefully choosing breeding stock after having their hips x-rayed and scored.
Being deep chested, they are also susceptible to bloating of the stomach, which is potentially life threatening. Small frequent meals and avoiding exercise after dinnertime can help to prevent it occurring.
Von Willebrand’s Disease is a genetic disease which causes failure of blood to clot. Affected dogs can be at risk of excessive bleeding after surgery or injury.
Dobies can suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle which causes it to lose strength. The result is heart failure and death.
Some dogs develop Wobbler’s Disease, a fusion of the bones of the neck which compresses the spinal cord and causes weakness and paralysis.
A less significant health issue is that Dobermans with the color dilution gene ie blues and fawns, can have ongoing skin problems, which can be costly to manage.
Before you buy a Doberman, ask the breeder for details of any tests they have performed on their breeding dogs, and the results. Do your research carefully before deciding on a particular pup, and it may save you heartache in the future.
The Doberman’s short coat is very easy to care for. They need bathing only when necessary, and a weekly brushing with a grooming mitt is enough to keep them clean and shining.
Physical and mental exercise is a different kettle of fish. These dogs are natural athletes, and need a good walk or run every day. Their intelligence means they are happier when they have something to think about, such as obedience training or even agility classes.
With the right socialization and training, the Doberman can be a wonderfully loyal and protective family companion. However, they need a strong owner who will be the pack leader in the household. They also need exercise, and plenty of it.
Because of their size and activity level, they may not be a good choice for apartment living, unless their owner is extremely committed to getting their dog out for a good run every day.
The Dobie is not the ideal pet for many people. It’s important that you do your homework and take a realistic look at your lifestyle. If you aren’t able to meet the needs of this intelligent and athletic animal, then don’t bring one into your home. Both you and your dog will be unhappy. In the absence of any major health issues, your Doberman will take care of you and your family for up to 14 years.