Doberman Pinscher

Breed At A Glance


Highly intelligent and loyal

Life Expectancy
8-12 years

Average Height
Males 26-28 inches; Females 24-26 inches

Average Weight
Males 75-100 lbs; Females 60-85 lbs

Coat Color
Black, black and tan, blue-gray, red, fawn and white

Coat Length/Texture
Short, coarse and stiff to touch

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as Dobermann, Dobe

General Temperament

The Doberman Pinscher is a highly intelligent and loyal dog, fearless and assertive but not overly aggressive. Some individuals will bond to a single owner, while others make great family dogs. Some can even be extremely gentle, functioning well as therapy dogs. They are a people-oriented breed and with an inherent need to be physically close to their owners – they should never be forced to live in the backyard away from the family. They are natural guard dogs and do not need additional training to serve this purpose within the home. They can be great with children and other pets, as long as they are socialized with them from puppyhood. Young children should learn to be respectful of their Dobermans.

Although the Doberman Pinscher has a reputation for being a very aggressive dog, this is not the case, as long as the animal is treated with love and respect from the time he is a puppy. They will, however, protect their owners with ferocity if the situation calls for it. The Doberman is an active and energetic breed that needs mental stimulation from it’s owner/handler. This breed is best for an experienced owner who is not afraid to maintain their role as the “top dog.” Dobermans can be pushy if they are allowed to get their own way too often, so it’s important for all family members to learn to handle the dog firmly and fearlessly.

The intelligent and focused Doberman finds work in the fields of search-and-rescue, tracking, guarding, law enforcement, and even in the military. They also excel in agility and obedience competitions.

Breed History

Doberman Pinschers were developed in Germany by a man named Louis Dobermann during the late 1800’s. Dobermann was a tax collector and frequently had to travel through crime-ridden areas during the course of his work, and needed a loyal guarding companion capable of handling a myriad of situations. He set out to created a new breed that, in his opinion, would be the perfect combination of strength, loyalty, intelligence, and ferocity. The breed is believed to have been created from several different breeds of dogs that had the characteristics that Dobermann was looking for, possibly including the Pinscher, the Beauceron, the Rottweiler, the Thuringian Shepherd Dog, the black Greyhound, the Great Dane, the Weimaraner, the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Manchester Terrier and the German Shepherd Dog. (Dobermann also worked a second job as a dog impounder, giving him access to a wide range of dogs with which to breed.)

The Doberman was first presented at a dog show in 1876, where is was an immediate sensation.

Body Structure and Composition

Doberman Pinschers typically have a deep, broad chest, and a powerful, compact, and square muscular body of medium size, although in recent years some breeders have bred a slimmer or more sleek-looking version of the breed. The muzzle is long and lean, the eyes almond-shaped, and the neck thick and powerful. Natural ears lay flat against the head, but in many cases the ears are cropped to make them stand up, which functionally serves the purpose of localizing sound; but this process is painful for the animal, and is unnecessary if the dog does not actively work in guarding, law enforcement or the show ring (ear cropping has even been outlawed in many countries). Additionally, the tail is often docked when the puppy is three days old; again, if the individual is to be a companion as opposed to a working or show dog, docking serves no purpose other than cosmetic. When not docked, the tail is longer than most other hounds, carried high in an arc.

Medical Information

Dobermans are a generally healthy breed, but they are prone to Wobbler’s Syndrome, a condition of the cervical vertebrae that causes spinal cord compression, resulting in an unsteady (wobbly) gait and weakness. Treatment is either medical to control the symptoms, usually with corticosteroids and cage rest, or surgical to correct the spinal cord compression. Either way, there is no real cure for the disease and relapses are likely to occur.

A Doberman can also have an inherited blood clotting condition called von Willebrand’s Disorder (VWD) which causes hemorrhaging from a simple injury or illness. This condition can be identified through a blood test when the dog is a puppy, and reputable breeders will provide this information to you prior to purchase.

Other medical issues the Doberman faces with much less frequency include Hypothyroidism (underactivity of the thyroid gland that can cause lethargy, weight gain, skin infection and hair loss, cold intolerance, chronic ear infections or severe behavioral changes, and is treatable with drug therapy), Hip Dysplasia (when the head of the thigh bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the hip socket, causing loss of mobility and arthritis-like symptoms), and various eye maladies including cataracts and glaucoma. They can also experience Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat/torsion, when excess gas is trapped in the dog’s stomach and the stomach becomes twisted.

Very rarely, Dobermans can exhibit Peripheral Neuropathy, otherwise known as “Dancing Doberman Disease.” This ideas causes damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which may be caused either by diseases of the nerve or from the side-effects of systemic illness. This disease sometimes is overlooked because it mimics symptoms of other more well-known spinal conditions. Most affected dogs have normal findings on other tests, including blood counts, biochemistry, x-ray, and thyroid function. Over several months the condition progresses with a wasting of rear leg muscles, and a more constant shifting of weight on the rear legs to resemble a dog “dancing”, hence the name “Dancing Doberman Disease”. The dogs show no sign of pain and are perfectly capable of running in the yard, chasing a ball or a squirrel, etc., although they will often prefer to sit or lie down as opposed to stand in place.

Dobermans need little grooming due to their short, tight fur, although they are regular shedders. They do not tolerate cold temperatures well, and are therefore best suited for temperate climates.

Anecdotal Information

In 1976, a “white” Doberman Pinscher female was bred to her own son, who was also bred to his litter sisters. This tight inbreeding continued for some time to allow the breeders to solidify the mutation, which has been widely marketed. “White” Doberman Pinschers possess a mutation called Agouti signaling peptide (also known as the “chinchilla” gene) which leaves the coat and eye color pale. Though some potential Doberman Pinscher owners find the color attractive, white Dobermans face increased risk of sun exposure due to pale fur and abnormal development of the retina. The popularity of the “white” Doberman Pinscher has decreased dramatically as these risks have become known, with many people having called for an end to the breeding and marketing of the white Doberman Pinscher because they perceive it as cruelty to the animal. They are also not a correct representation of the breed, with many having unpredictable temperaments, and serious behavioral problems. Beware of breeders selling their white Dobermans as “special” or “unique” for ridiculous prices.

Bingo von Ellendonk was the first Doberman to score 300 points (a perfect score) in Schutzhund, a sport developed in Germany to test whether dogs act and perform in the manner that their specific breed was intended, rather than simply evaluating a dog’s appearance.

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