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Labrador Retriever vs. Doberman Pinscher: Breed Differences & Similarities

Can't decide between the Doberman Pinscher or the Labrador Retriever for your next canine companion? While these two dogs may be similar in size and share some appearance traits, that's about where their similarities end. Find out what you can expect before deciding which breed is a better overall fit for your lifestyle.

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: May 16, 2021 | 10 min read

Labrador Retriever vs Doberman Pinscher

The Labrador and Doberman are on completely different ends of the canine appearance and personality spectrum, right? In some ways, yes. But for those who have never spent time with a Doberman might be surprised to learn that they share quite a few similarities.

The Labrador Retriever is the top dog in America, known for his smiley, friendly face and bright, loving personality. The Doberman Pinscher is often portrayed as a formidable, sometimes ferocious pooch who is always loyal and alert. Although some of this is true, he is more sensitive and sweet than people think. Making him very similar to the Lab!

Here in this Labrador vs. Doberman comparison guide, we will go through everything you need to know to compare these breeds. So, let’s get down to all the doggy details!

Breed Comparison

Labrador

  • Height 21.5-24.5 Inches
  • Weight 55-80 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Active, Outgoing
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Doberman Pinscher

  • Height 24-28 Inches
  • Weight 60-100 Pounds
  • Temperament Loyal, Fearless, Alert
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

A dog’s history can give you a great insight into their personality and why they act the way they do. Some dog’s histories are entwined with others, and some dogs might have never crossed paths. Let’s see where these two canines sit in the canine history books.

Labrador

Three Black Puppies With Wood Background
Labs are the most loved breed by Americans.

The Labrador Retriever is a superstar in the canine kingdom. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), he has reigned as the most popular dog breed for 30 years. Making him a big hit with us humans! He is the famous face of the Andrex toilet roll brand, and former President Bill Clinton had two gorgeous Labs, Buddy and Seamus. Labs have also starred in countless films, as well as earning lots of medals in their search and rescue service across the world.

Labradors date back to the 18th century. Originally from Newfoundland (ironically, not Labrador!), he is the traditional waterdog. His love of water, protective coat, and otter-like tail make him a master in the water. Spending all day herding fish and retrieving ducks for his master fisherman or hunter.

As Labrador breeding has continued to evolove, so have the breeding lines. There are now two distinct breeding lines (or purposes) for Labs, which are field and bench. Both are bred for different types of competitions, and some breeders refer to them as the American or English versions of the breed.

Doberman Pinscher

Three Brown Dogs on an Autumn Day
Doberman Pinschers are is often shortened to the nickname “Dobie.”

The Doberman Pinscher dates back to the late 19th century, making him a relatively new breed in the canine world. A tax collector named Louis Dobermann from Germany sought a formidable breed to protect him during dangerous shifts. It is unknown which breeds he used to create the breed, but it is believed the Rottweiler and the Black and Tan Terrier are a part of the mix.

The Doberman first came to America in 1908. When the breed nearly became extinct in Europe after the World Wars, American breeders sent over their best specimens to save the breed. Most other countries in the world dropped the Pinscher part of his name. But Americans still refer to him as the Doberman Pinscher. He is not as popular as the Lab, but he consistently finds himself in the top 20 dog breeds. Meaning he is more popular than most people think!

Appearance

Yellow Dog and Black Dog Standing
These two breeds look almost nothing alike.

These two breeds are entirely different in their appearance. They are both large-sized dogs, but the Doberman is the larger of the two breeds for sure. Labs measure up to 24 ½ inches tall, from paw to shoulder. Compared to the Doberman, who measures up to 28 inches tall. Labs weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, and the Dobie weighs between 60 and 100 pounds.

The Labrador is a stocky and strong-looking dog who often carries more weight on his bones than he should. The Lab is often confused for a Golden Retriever. Dobermans are taller and more athletic in appearance. He is regularly confused for a Rottweiler thanks to their shared coat markings. The Lab has a thick otter-tail, compared to Dobermans, who have a slinky tail that curls at the end. They both have large drop-down ears that frame their lovely faces.

There is no doubt about it, the Labrador looks cute and cuddly. His face is smiley and welcoming, and he is a huge hit with children who always want to cuddle him (who can blame them?!) And in the same vein, Dobermans are a tough-looking dog who scares many people. They are tall, powerful, and alert in appearance, ready to protect their family. But, never judge a book by its cover because Dobermans are also great family pups!

Labradors have a thick, dense double-coat that keeps him warm in the icy Canadian waters. Dobermans also have a thick coat but not as dense as a Labrador, and it is not double-layered. Instead, the Dobies coat is much smoother to the touch.

Labs enjoy three solid colors, yellow, brown, and black. Labs can also have red or silver coats, but these are considered controversial and not always supported by breeders or breed enthusiasts. The Dobie sports either a black, blue, red, and fawn coat. All with rust markings above his eyes, muzzle, chest, and legs.

Temperament

Happy Dogs Looking at the Camera
Both breeds make amazing companions, but the Dobie is more protective of the two.

Here is where these two breeds have both similarities and differences. And it is usually their temperament that is the final (and most important) factor when picking between the two breeds. Let’s start off by saying both dog breeds LOVE humans more than anything. If you want a canine companion that will always be by your side, don’t look any further than these guys.

They also love to cuddle their family. So, if you don’t like dogs on your sofa, you best be able to resist their puppy dog eyes. That’s right! When his family is all safe in the house, you’ll often find the Dobie belly up on the sofa. They are both sweet and loving and always ready to cuddle their favorite humans. The one difference here is that the Dobie tends to have a favorite human (usually his main caregiver). Whereas Labradors are loyal to anyone willing to fuss him best at that time.

When not snuggling time, they are also both up for lots of fun and games. As high-energy dogs, they have got lots of energy to burn. So, if you are looking for a four-legged friend to play with, both of these guys are ideal. Those who lead inactive lifestyles will find living with both of these breeds difficult. Not only will they both destroy your favorite possessions out of boredom, but this will also lead to behavioral problems.

The Lab and the Dobie’s main difference is that Labs are typically quick to make friends with everyone. His house is always open for visitors, and he’ll spoil everyone in doggy kisses. But not the Doberman! The Dobie is naturally protective of his family and property and will guard it. Not only is he aloof, but he’ll also be on constant alert mode with strangers about.

Dobermans were created to be a dominant dog character, and he most certainly is! For this reason, he needs an experienced dog owner who knows how to train and handle dominant dogs. This is opposite compared to Labs, who are not dominant canines. Labs are more laidback and easier to handle, making him the better option for novice dog owners.

Exercise

Two Dogs Playing in a Field
Labs and Dobies need about 60 minutes of daily exercise and play.

Both breeds are active and high-energy. This means they both need a lot of exercise. They both need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day, without fail. But if we had to designate the most active pup, we’d side with the Doberman. He’s got tons of explosive energy and could happily spend a few hours exercising every day. The Lab is happy to kick back and relax after his walks. 

They also need access to a variety of dog toys to keep them mentally challenged and out of trouble throughout the day. Look for robust dog toys that will be able to withstand the tough jaws of these guys. The Dobie is recognized as the fifth most intelligent dog breed on the planet, compared to the Lab, which is ranked seventh. So be sure to include challenging puzzle toys for your Einstein canines.

Training

Two Black Dogs Sitting
The Dobie is harder to train, so if you’re a first-time dog owner, the Lab is a better fit.

As you already know, both breeds are very intelligent dogs that love to please their humans. Meaning they are both easy to train, right? Unfortunately not. At least not the Doberman. It’s worth saying that all dogs need early training to flourish into friendly Fidos. But it’s much easier to train the Lab than the Dobie.

As intelligent as the Dobie is, he has a mind of his own. And a stubborn and dominant one at that! Meaning that to captivate his attention and achieve results, you need to know what you’re doing. With early and consistent training and a master to lead him, the Dobie can make a very obedient and well-behaved dog. After all, that’s why he is regularly selected for his police and military profession. His training is a lifelong commitment too. And this together rules him out for some families.

Both the Lab and the Dobie respond best to positive reinforcement training, so be sure to utilize this training method. The greedy Lab is easily memorized and trained with yummy treats in hand. The Dobie’s motivation varies, so it’s important to find out what motivates your pooch. It’s also essential to get the whole family on board with the training. This is especially true of the Dobie, who needs to learn to respect every human in the pack, not just his master.

Socialization training is crucial for both breeds, but especially the naturally protective Dobie. A reputable breeder will start the process as soon as they are born. But it’s your job to continue the process. The Lab is a naturally friendly pup, so he’ll learn his manners with ease. But the Dobie needs to learn and trust not everyone or everything is a threat. Socialization is the key to proving this to him. Otherwise, he’ll become overprotective.

Health

Mature Dogs Outside
Both breeds have a similar lifespan of up to about 10-12 years.

Both dog breeds are generally healthy. They will both enjoy an expected lifespan of 10 to 12 years, as well as prone to their own set of predisposing conditions. So, if you are about to welcome one of these guys into your life, you must understand what to look out for.

The Labrador is predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia. This is usually caused by gene inheritance and/or rapid skeletal growth. Eventually, this causes reduced mobility and, sometimes, painful arthritis. Eye conditions are also common in the Lab breed, particularly cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Reputable breeders will also test for exercise-induced collapse via DNA tests. This can occur in some young adult Labs and causes them to collapse during or after exercise.

Dobermans are also prone to hip dysplasia, so it’s important that breeders only breed dogs with acceptable hip scores. He is also prone to dilated cardiomyopathy, which is essentially an enlarged heart that does not function correctly. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder that should be tested for too. Hypothyroidism is also found in the breed, where the thyroid does not produce the correct balance of hormones. Like the Lab, cataracts, and PRA are also a risk for the Dobie.

Nutrition

Brown Dogs Snacking
Labs have a propensity to become obese, so keep a watchful eye on their food intake.

Both breeds are large-sized dogs who lead an active lifestyle. Not only do they need good quality food to fuel their energetic day ahead of them. They also need a kibble designed specifically for large breeds. The average Labrador will eat 2.5 to 4 cups of food a day depending on their size and gender. The Dobie tends to consume more food, at about 4 cups per day or more.

The Lab and the Dobie are deep-chested large breeds meaning they are prone to gastric torsion. This is a life-threatening condition that causes their abdomen to twist. Do not feed them immediately before or after exercise, and split their food intake into several meal sittings. Do not free feed these guys. Especially the Lab because he is a greedy pup who will expect nothing less than an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Grooming

Close Up of Two Dogs Faces
The Dobie is slightly easier to groom when it comes to its coat, as the Lab sheds an awful lot.

These two breeds have very different grooming regimes when it comes to his coat, but everything else is almost the same. They’ll both need their ears cleaning once a week to avoid bacterial infections. Their teeth need cleaning twice weekly. And their nails will need clipping once a month or as and when they get too long. They will both need bathing once every two months or so, but never more than once a month.

The Lab has a thick, double-coat that sheds all year round. He’ll also completely blow his coat during the shedding seasons, which essentially means he’ll shed the lot. He’ll need brushing several times a week or daily during the shedding seasons. If you don’t think dog hair completes an outfit, or you haven’t got the time or patience to commit to a grooming schedule, the Lab is not for you. A de-shedding brush is your best bet for the Lab.

The Doberman has a single-layered coat not as thick as the Lab’s coat. The Dobie sheds moderately all year round, and he doesn’t blow his coat in the shedding seasons. He only needs brushing once a week to keep him looking and feeling his best. A basic pin brush is all you’ll need for the Dobie. Overall, the Dobie sheds less and is much lower maintenance in the grooming department.

Puppy Prices

Cute Puppies Sitting Down
The Doberman will cost more than the Lab on average.

Puppy prices for both breeds aren’t all that different. Purebred puppies typically start at around $1,000 for both breeds and can go higher depending on their breeding lineage and purpose. Like all dogs, if you want to work with a popular breeder or one who produces champion bloodlines, you can expect to pay several thousand.

It’s important not to work with poor quality breeders or those part of a puppy mill. They will lure you in with lower puppy prices. But in return, you’ll likely receive a sick pup and one that has had no socialization or love. The ongoing costs of a pooch also need to be considered. As a larger dog who eats more and needs larger pet products, the Dobie will likely cost more across his lifetime than a Lab.

Final Thoughts

Both of these popular dog breeds can make great additions to the right family. As you can see, the Labrador is much more laidback and naturally friendly, meaning he is better suited to the average family home.

The Dobie is a headstrong canine character who needs an experienced dog owner to get the best out of him. But in the right hands, he is a surprisingly sweet and cuddly pooch. Overall, we deem both of these guys fantastic Fidos with a lotta love to give!

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