The Doberman Pinscher, also sometimes called the “Dobie” is a formidable looking canine. But is he really as mean as the movies make him out to be? Well, that depends on whether you are an intruder or a family friend. Deep down, Dobermans are one of the sweetest dogs in the canine kingdom. And it is for this reason that he makes an awesome family pet!
Like all dogs, this breed isn’t for everyone. This is a larger dog, and because of their reputation as a guardian breed, they sometimes don’t get the positive press they deserve as a family pet. With that being said, they can be stubborn and independent. So you need to be prepared to start training at a young age.
In this breed overview, we will walk you through everything you need to know about the breed and a few fun facts. Our hope is that by the end of this guide, you’ll know if the Doberman Pinscher is the perfect canine companion for your family. Let’s jump in!
It’s believed that the breed came into existence in the late 19th century in a small town called Apolda in central Germany. A man named Louis Dobermann, a tax collector, and was never a welcome visitor. During these unsettled times in Germany, Mr. Dobermann felt that he needed a dependable and protective assistant.
Mr. Dobermann was also the town’s wayward dog catcher. And after years of breeding the best dogs that he found on his rounds, he created the Doberman. It is not officially known what dog breeds make up the Doberman. But it is believed that the Rottweiler, Black and Tan Terrier, and the German Pinscher are part of the mix. The Doberman was much larger and stockier back then. Through meticulous breeding of only the biggest and strongest, the breed at one point became too headstrong and ferocious.
In the early 20th century, a man named Otto Goeller refined the breed to make him more dependable and trainable. The German nation dropped the ‘Pinscher’ from his name, and many other countries followed suit. Americans kept the Pinscher part. The breed came to the States around 1908, and we fell in love with him. American breeders imported and bred so many of them that when the World Wars came and depleted the European stock (almost to extinction!) American breeders saved the day with their Doberman stocks. Learn more about American compared to European Dobermans.
His versatility, protective nature, and love for humans have lent him to employment in the military, search and rescue, therapy work, and competitive dog shows. For a long time, the Dobie has been a consistent top 20 dog breed in America, and it doesn’t look to change anytime soon.
This is an energetic dog. Not only does he need lots of exercise, which we will cover later on. But he also needs lots of stimulation throughout the day to keep him happy and out of trouble. Ideally, he needs lots of interactive playtime with his humans on top of his daily exercise. And he’ll also need solo playtime with his toys. Do not underestimate how much mental energy this breed has.
He also hates to be left alone. Although this breed can tackle the scariest of people in the face of danger, leave him for a few hours alone in the house, and he’ll become very anxious. For this reason, he needs to be placed with a family that can guarantee to be home for most of the day. He’ll spend his entire day stuck to his humans like glue. This breed has an intense canine personality, which is why he is not everyone’s cup of tea.
But his energy and love of human playtime make him an incredibly fun pet to have. If you and your family love to spend hours in the yard playing, you’ll find an awesome partner in the Doberman. He likes to see himself as part of the family pack, not just the family pet. This is fine, just as long as he knows that he is not the top dog.
Despite being sensitive, he can be a dominant dog. And he does much better in a family that is disciplined and where he can see a clear hierarchy. Because if he can’t see the pack order, he will feel uneasy and potentially try for the position himself. For this reason, he should be placed with a family that can handle his boisterous and dominant personality. Experienced dog owners only for this breed, or those who can be fair but firm with him.
Size & Appearance
The Doberman Pinscher is a large-sized dog breed. He weighs between 60 and 100 pounds, and he measures between 24 to 28 inches. Making him big enough to put off most wannabe intruders. He is athletic and muscular. Well proportioned, he is a ‘proper looking dog,’ as some would say. But he also carries himself elegantly, and with his long thick neck, he holds his head proudly.
His head is described as wedge-shaped, and his muzzle is long and slender. Their eyes are almond-shaped and large and always alert in appearance. His ears are long and triangle-shaped. According to his breed standard, his ears are usually cropped and stand erect. But when they are left in their large natural state, they drop down, making his face look similar to a Dachshund.
His breed standard also states that his tail is usually docked, and if so, it should be docked at the second joint. When not docked, his tail is long. It is thick at the base, which tapers at the end. Perfect for whipping your legs!
Coat & Colors
The Doberman has a short single coat. His hair is thick and hard, but it is smooth and silky to the touch. Some Dobies have a thin gray undercoat around the neck, but this is rare. He is a moderate shedder all year round, but thankfully his grooming routine is relatively simple. When it comes to colors, only four are permissible for show. These are black and rust, blue and rust, fawn and rust, red and rust. In the world of dog coats, the color blue is similar to steel gray rather than blue. Black and rust is the most common Doberman color.
White Dobies are rare, and it isn’t a standard color. They are more cream than white and don’t have the usual rust markings. Because they have some pigmentation, they are not true albinos who have no color whatsoever. They are “tyrosinase-positive albinoids,” which means they are on the albino spectrum and are at heightened risk of the health problems associated with albino dogs. This includes cancer, neurological disorders, and hyperactive and aggressive behaviors.
Responsible breeders do not breed for color or looks. Instead, they breed for health. Some breeders list white Dobies as rare and exceptional and increase their puppy prices. And puppies in any other color, such as all-black or merle, are not purebred Dobies. If you want a Doberman with a true Dobie personality, you should stick to puppies with the four standard colors listed above.
Dobermans need at least 60 minutes of intense exercise every day. But he could happily spend hours hiking and adventuring if you are a very active family. His exercise needs to be enthusiastic and not just an hour’s stroll around the block. It needs to be an hour off-leash exploring the forest. Or an hour of playing fetch in the park. Or constant playtime in the doggy park etc.
Don’t think that you can skip a day of exercise either. Because your Doberman will not allow you to. Just one day off will drive him mad. And a bored Dobie will become problematic, anxious, and very destructive. You can say goodbye to your favorite set of boots or whatever else he can get hold of. Come rain or shine, he needs exercise and new surroundings. Please do not underestimate his exercise needs.
On top of that, as we said, he needs regular interactive playtime throughout the day. Invest in interactive toys such as balls and ropes. And encourage the whole family to take time out and play with him to keep him busy. For those days where you haven’t got time for hours of additional playtime, make sure he has solo toys and chew sticks for him to entertain himself.
Be sure to rotate activities and toys throughout the week so that he doesn’t become bored with his routine. Fun training sessions can also double up as exercise and playtime, and agility courses are great fun. He is often ranked as one of the most intelligent dog breeds, so brain games will be needed to stimulate him.
This breed is not suited to apartment living. He is a large dog who needs lots of space, and his long tail (if not docked) will send things flying! He also needs access to a secured yard so that he doesn’t get cabin fever. His yard must be secured. He can be very protective of his estate, so he needs to be kept under control. And it’s also for his protection because it will prevent him from chasing cats blindly across the road.
If socialized adequately as a pup, he will get along well with other family pets. As an anxious dog, he might prefer the canine company for those times when you have to leave him alone. What’s better than a Doberman? Two, of course! He adores children and makes an ideal canine sibling for children of all ages. Of course, you need to supervise him around children. But his protective nature, love of humans, and calmness in the home make him a treasured pet for all.
The Doberman Pinscher is a very intelligent dog, and he is also eager to please his master. This makes for an almost-perfect combination for training. As long as his owners put effort into his training from a very young age, he will be an incredibly obedient pooch. But like all dogs, he needs direction, so don’t expect him to become obedient on his own.
Reputable breeders will begin the socialization process from birth. By allowing them to develop with their mother and litter, they will teach him how to behave with other dogs. But this exposure to other dogs, animals, and unfamiliar humans need to continue. And it will be a lifelong commitment with this protective and dominant dog. Thankfully, meeting other dogs is fun!
Positive reinforcement training is the most effective method when it comes to training. He will be motivated by toys, yummy treats, and plenty of praise from his master. As an anxious dog, it’s also a great idea to crate train him. This will give him his own safe space and reduce his anxiety when you have to leave him. It also ensures that he cannot get up to any mischief in your absence. Just make sure that it’s a heavy-duty crate that can withstand some abuse.
When it comes to how quickly they learn, few dogs match their eagerness do please their masters. There were many Dobermans used for search and rescue on Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. In 2019 a Doberman named Dance was the first American Kennel Club Quadruple Champion for breed conformation, tracking, agility, and obedience. So, as long as you are patient, the Doberman can be trained as easily and effectively.
The Doberman is a relatively healthy dog who is expected to enjoy an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. This is a great age for a large dog breed like the Dobie. Working with a reputable breeder, keeping him fit with exercise, and topped up with high-quality nutrition are the best things that you can do to extend his lifespan.
Like all purebred dogs, they are more likely to suffer from particular health concerns, more so than others. Below we have listed the main conditions you need to be aware of as a Dobie mom or dad. Be aware that this isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a great place to start and learn the associated symptoms.
Cardiac conditions: The breed’s most common concern is dilated cardiomyopathy, which is essentially an enlarged heart that doesn’t work as it should. It can lead to heart failure, or sudden death, if not picked up. It is believed to affect half of all Dobies, so it’s important to work with a reputable breeder and keep up to date with veterinary checkups.
Hip dysplasia: Many large dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia. This is where the hip joint grows at an uneven rate, meaning it is prone to exposed wear and tear. This can be painful and can eventually lead to mobility problems in later life.
Eye conditions: The breed is prone to various eye concerns, with progressive retinal atrophy being the most common. This is a disease of the eye that slowly causes progressive blindness. Others include cherry eye and cataracts.
Von Willebrand’s disease: This is a blood clotting disorder whereby there’s not enough ‘Von Willebrand’ protein or factor in his blood to clot effectively. This could be dangerous if he were to bleed heavily from injury.
A typical Doberman Pinscher will eat approximately four cups of food every day. Your Doberman may eat more food or less, depending on his age, weight, and activity levels. So, it’s important to follow the package instructions to tailor it to his needs. Feed your Doberman a high-quality kibble that is designed for large breed dogs. These will contain the optimum levels of calcium and phosphorus, which help control rapid bone growth and reduce the likelihood of hip dysplasia.
A high-quality kibble will not only provide a well-balanced diet, but it is also a safe and convenient way of feeding him. Ensure that it is life-stage appropriate. This is especially important during puppyhood because puppy kibbles contain a higher protein and fat content. This will ensure that he develops healthily and grows into a strong Dobie.
Dobermans love food, and they can also be greedy pooches. It’s important to ensure that your Doberman doesn’t become overweight because this will put extra strain on his cardiac system. As well as causing a whole host of other health concerns. If you notice that he is putting on more weight than he should, firstly take him for a health check. But then switch him to a weight management kibble.
The Doberman Pinscher’s grooming schedule is relatively simple, thanks to his short and super sleek coat. He will need brushing once or twice a week just to remove the dead hair and manage his shedding throughout the year. This will minimize the amount of hair on your clothes and sofa. A curry brush, or a rubber mitt, will be the best tool to use throughout the year. Thankfully, the Dobie is a clean dog who rarely has a doggy odor compared to other dog breeds. This is a big appeal of his.
Bathe him once every 8 to 12 weeks or so, but never more than this, as you risk damaging his coat oils and irritating his skin. Some Dobie owners only wash him as and when he needs it, maybe four times a year. It’s important to introduce your Dobie to his grooming schedule as a pup. Get him used to you touching his paws and showering him. Because he’ll be a handful at bathtime if he doesn’t want to be bathed.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The Doberman Pinscher is a popular dog breed in America, and there are reputable breeders in every state. You just need to find them! Look for professional websites or those who can prove that they have been breeding Dobies for a long time, with success. Positive reviews and recommendations are also an indicator of a top-quality breeder. A great place to start is with the AKC’s list of Doberman Pinscher breeders.
The average price of a Doberman puppy from a reputable breeder starts from around $1,500. With his popularity, you can also expect there to be put on a waiting list. But don’t worry, this is a good sign too. Reputable breeders will screen their dogs for health concerns, so be sure to see the health certificates. Meet the puppies and breeder in person before making any commitments. Top-quality breeders will do everything they can to produce healthy puppies.
Poor quality breeders will skip the necessary screening and health checks and produce as many pups as possible. Often resulting in sick and unsocialized puppies. Avoid puppy mills and inexperienced breeders, or anyone who gives your gut a bad feeling. For powerful and dominant dogs such as the Dobie, socialization, handling, and love is important in the first weeks of their life. And you can be guaranteed that they will not get this with a poor breeder.
This is a large dog who will need everything large and durable, which usually comes with a higher price tag. Medical insurance and veterinary treatment are also higher than the average medium-sized pooch. Remember to factor all of this into your decision-making process when committing to a Dobie.
Rescues & Shelters
Unfortunately, many families underestimate their intensity, which means they all too often find themselves being surrendered to rescue shelters. But if you are interested in adopting rather than shopping, this is great news for you. Head off to your local rescue shelters, and speak to the staff who can advise you about the adoption process.
There are also breed-dedicated rescue organizations that focus solely on the Doberman and sometimes Doberman mixes. The Doberman Pinscher Club of America has compiled a long list of Doberman Rescue Organizations, state by state. But there are also many others out there, so if you cannot see one suitable on the list, be sure to search online.
As Family Pets
- The Doberman is a formidable and protective dog.
- The breed is one of the best family guard dogs in the world.
- They are aloof and suspicious of strangers at first.
- Once recognized, they will consider regular visitors as part of the pack.
- Dobermans are both sweet and affectionate with their family unit.
- They love cuddling up on the couch in the evening as much as patrolling their territory.
- As a social breed, they shouldn’t be left alone for long periods.
- They will happily live with other dogs and family pets.
- Dobermans need plenty of exercise and playtime in between.
- This means the breed is best suited for active families.
- Dobermans are excellent family companions and great with children.
- He is lots of fun if you can handle his intense character. Find the perfect name for your Doberman.
It’s safe to say that the Doberman Pinscher is what many people refer to as a ‘proper dog.’ He is protective of his family, sweet and caring, great with children and other pets, fun, and loyal to a tee. But it is his unfair reputation as a vicious dog that makes him less popular than other family favorites such as the Lab.
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you can now see through his formidable appearance and understand that he is a big softie! As long as you can meet his needs and be a strong pack leader, both you and the Dobie will be very happy together.