Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Owning & Training a Doberman

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So you want to own a Dobermann Pinscher?

Doberman PinscherFar too many people purchase a Doberman without sufficient appreciation either of the breed or of what the dog's needs are. This has led to many Dobe’s ending up in rescue shelters usually mislabelled as being "aggressive".

Popularity for the breed as guard dogs has led to an exploitation of the breed for financial gain. Backyard breeding by people whose only interest is the money Doberman pups can bring and who have no knowledge of the breed has led to dogs with severe health problems and unstable characters. Potential Doberman owners must realise that they are entering into a nine to twelve year contract making them responsible for the dog's health, training and well being for that entire period.

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It is no good to just "try" one of these dogs, comfortable in the security of the many rescue shelters to take care of the dog if you should fail in your duty to provide a suitable home later on. You must find out everything you can about them BEFORE getting a Doberman puppy or adult Dobe.

The Doberman's character and appearance

Dobermans are loyal, graceful, athletic, intelligent, loving and protective. This dog has all the qualities of other guarding breeds but also possesses a number of unique features that sets him apart from them.

One thing is for sure, this dog demands attention, kindness, precise and consistent training and masses of love. Do not enter into this partnership thinking that the dog will fit in with your life when the opposite is true.

It is said that you never "own" a Doberman, rather the Doberman owns you! Whilst we at K9 Obedience disagree with this idea on principal, we must admit having owned several Dobes that there is much truth in the phrase.

This is a dog that will demand to be at the centre of family life. They form strong bonds with their owners and cannot be shut away in a kennel or denied access to family relationships.

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Once this magnificent dog has bonded with you he remains glued to you for life. They are aptly nicknamed "the Velcro Dog" due to this instinctive need to be alongside their human master. How this dog responds to his owner is fuelled by what the Doberman receives back. Nothing escapes this dog's attention. They can walk into a room and notice instantly if an object has been moved. Try hiding from the Dobe when out walking and he will be at your side before you have moved. They seem to sense what you are thinking and act accordingly.

Also called "the dog with the human mind" the Dobe is sensitive to your feelings. If you dislike someone then your Dobe will too! Doberman can be very vocal dogs as anyone that has owned one will know. They make a series of sounds that alternates between a high pitched whine (usually when trying to get their own way) to deep groans of contentment. Dobermans are said to be able to hold long "conversations" with their owners. However not everyone appreciates the dog's whining and whistling which can aggravate even the most tolerable of souls!

There are not enough words to describe this dog's appearance. He is the picture of power, grace, elegance and intelligence. A healthy Doberman's coat is short and shines in ripples across its muscular body. His elegant body outline and his proud and noble wedge shaped head merges into a power packed body with long athletic limbs.

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The Doberman has good bones, balance and structural beauty and soundness. One of the most thrilling aspects of this dog is its beauty in movement. This dog moves so effortlessly with great speed yet can change direction with ease. In some countries the Doberman's ears are cropped and his tail docked though the UK has joined many other countries in banning this needless mutilation for cosmetic and fashion-related purposes.

Left as nature intended the dog has a hound-like tail and ears that fold neatly forward, protecting the ear canal and inner ear from the damp, grime and bugs which are such a major cause of nuisance and pain to docked dogs which are not constantly being injected with ear mite drops and the like.

When in Germany recently, I visited the home of a Dobe owner. The Dobe was docked to the hilt, ears and tail. I noted a total of FIVE bottles of Canaural (ear drops) in the kitchen alone! Not to mention the inter-dog communication importance of the tail, and the agility and balancing benefits (having owned BOTH docked and undocked Dobes), suffice to say we are avidly against docking in any form, other than for a specific medical reason.

The benefits of the tail are clearly demonstrated as its use comes to the fore when the dog is jumping or turning at speed. When the Dobe breaks into a full-flowing gallop there cannot be a more beautiful sight.

Their eyes can be cold and hard if they sense danger or soft pools of moist affection as they gaze up at their master. Their eyes are forever watchful. They watch your every move and take direction from your emotions and body language. Should you tense or become startled, the eyes change from watchful to alert as the Dobe readies itself to protect its master at all costs.

Despite this dog being highly trainable they do have a particular exasperating trait of suddenly deciding that today is the day that they will do their own thing! This can happen at any time or in any situation as seen in an obedience show ring. One of the top class Dobes, a male dog that held numerous titles, was being asked to retrieve a certain object. The dog calmly looked at its handler, sauntered across to the "objects", chose one at random then raced across to drop it in a litter bin! The spectators roared with laughter which encouraged the Dobe to roll around acting the fool. For sure, a Doberman at times can be the most adorable of clowns, but this does add an extra dimension to achieving top standards of working dog obedience and general dog training with them. Advanced training is a must to achieve complete reliable obedience.


The working dog

The Doberman is a working dog that has retained all its ancestors guarding and protection traits. The father of all Dobermans, Herr Karl Friedrich Louis Doberman, bred his dog to be the ultimate guard and companion. Starting with the large "butchers" dog he introduced different breeds that matched his vision of the ultimate working dog.

Breeds which went into this formidable mix were:

  • German Pinscher - alertness and quick reactions.
  • Rottweiler - strength and stamina.
  • Black and tan Old German Sheepdog - protective and herding instincts.
  • The Beauceron - fighting ability.

Doberman's dogs were feared by the local community and were known as "Thuringia Pinschers" One chronicler of the time stated that the dogs were:

"Robust, had no trace of fear - not of the devil himself and it required a great deal of courage to own one of them".

When Louis Doberman died he left his dogs to his good friend Otto Goller. This is the man credited for turning his friends "raw material" into the dog we know today. Goller and his friends wanted a dog that was geometrically and aesthetically perfect. Goller introduced further breeds such as:

  • Weimaraner - tracking ability.
  • The Great Dane - physical strength and a steady temperament.
  • The Manchester Terrier - Improved the coat, head shape, colour and the rust markings.
  • The Black Greyhound - gave the intense black colouring, height and of course, speed which is evident as the Doberman breaks effortlessly into a burst of movement.

Later down the lines the Manchester Terrier was bred into the Doberman again. This eliminated the long woolly hair and replaced it with the short shiny coat of today's dog. The head shape changed and became more elongated and the body was more compact. The feet changed to being more cat like. This all improved the appearance of the breed but some people felt that the dog lost it's "hardness" but had gained speed, power and agility. This became a dog truly worthy of the highest regard.

The Doberman is mentally superior to most breeds, with high drives, high energy and excellent working ability. The Doberman's greatest desire is to please and work for humans. First and foremost the Doberman's use is as a guard dog protecting the family home or workplace. No intruder will attempt to enter a Dobe's backyard! The mere presence of the dog is warning enough.

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However the Dobe does have a more gentle side and this has been proved on many occasions as a guide dog for the blind, therapy dog or a hearing dog. As a guide dog for the blind, the Dobe has a good record of being highly trainable, devoted and loyal. The dog senses when a human is in pain or distress and are often used as therapy dogs to comfort the sick and dying. They will remain still for hours letting their human friends stroke and fuss them and seem to bring great comfort to people in need.

Often overlooked is the Doberman as a "field" dog. The Dobe can naturally "point" and can follow a scent as good as most trials dogs. They can be trained to be excellent retrievers. In some countries such as Africa they have been trained to hunt big game. Their speed and stamina enable the Dobe to hunt lion, deer, and antelope to "hold" them until the hunter arrives.

The early Doberman was used first by the Germans then by other armies as a "war dog". The Germans had, by WW1, enlisted the help of thousands of Doberman to act as guards, messengers, pulling carts, pulling the wounded from battlefields and in many other ways to the benefit of their troops.

So successful were these dogs that a training school was set up with the sole purpose of training Doberman to be used in the armed forces and as Police dogs. Other countries realised the benefits of this awesome dog and by WW11 the Doberman was being bred by the hundreds of thousands to meet demands. In later years the dog was replaced by the more adaptable German Shepherd. The Doberman did not do well in severe weather conditions and disliked the hot and humid temperatures of the Middle East.

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The Doberman excels at canine sports such as Agility, Flyball, Obedience trials and Working trials. One usually associates the Border Collie as reigning supreme in Agility competitions but the Doberman is also an incredible agility athlete. The argument against tail docking is supported as the Dobe races around the agility ring. Flying over jumps one can clearly see that the tail is used to aid balance and direction. A female Dobe called Cala won the 2005 National Purina Incredible Dog Challenge by coming first in a 60 weave pole race! Cala went on to successfully win a tracking title in 2006. The Doberman loves to work and they are willing to try anything that is asked of them.

The Doberman is an excellent search and rescue (SAR) dog. SAR dogs are trained to locate people that are lost in the wilderness, trapped under avalanches or disaster areas and many other situations. A Doberman does not have to be trained to use his nose, it only needs to be motivated into using it correctly and follow the air scent to a victim. Because the Doberman has extremely well developed drives as a puppy they are perfect candidates for SAR training. The breed is renowned for their ability to learn and retain experiences needed for handler and dog to work as a team. The Doberman covers ground quickly and effectively. They have a short coat which can be a benefit when searching disaster sites.

A long time Doberman SAR dog handler called Shirley Hammond has observed that the Doberman retain learning and past experiences and can then apply that knowledge in later situations. She says that Doberman have the capacity to focus their attention to the job in hand and are not easily distracted. Shirley has witnessed her SAR Doberman deliberately seek height in situations to get a different scent stream! One of her Dobermans located the exact burial site of a murder victim that had been buried eight feet under the earth! Not only that, the dog had ignored a bag of meat that was buried very near the victim, so focused was he on finding the human.

One cannot discuss the merits of the working Doberman without concentrating on the sport of Schutzhund. Schutzhund is a sport that developed in the early 1900's to test whether German Shepherd dogs could perform in the manner that the breed was bred for. Schutzhund translated means "protection dog".

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Dogs that are required to work with the police, SAR, and other services are tested for their desire to work, courage, intelligence, perseverance and protective instincts. Schutzhund also tests the dog's trainability and the bond between dog and handler. Other traits such as strength, endurance, agility and scenting ability are necessary for the dog to pass a Schutzhund test. People often misinterpret this sport as being one that trains a dog to be aggressive and attack people.

This could not be further from the truth as a Schutzhund dog is at all times 100% under the control of its handler and seen through the dog's eyes this is just another form of "working". The dog must first have completed advanced obedience before learning the three basic areas of Schutzhund which are tracking, obedience and protection. The Doberman has all the criteria needed to master this sport that challenges the dog's character and physical abilities.

This elegant, muscular, powerful, lively dog has an extremely complex character. The Doberman is a body guard capable of handling any situation and works instinctively and independently. For a well adjusted and confident dog, mental stimulation is important.

These dogs have been bred to work for man and although the Doberman of today is far less aggressive than their ancestors they have retained strong working instincts. Their intense character often borders on stubbornness. They have a very strong will which is why they need an owner whose character matches their own, as even with the best of trainers the Dobe will sometimes adopt a certain look which clearly says, "Oh yeah?...Make me!"

Owning A Doberman continued ->

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