Doberman Pinschers

Germany’s Guardian Now International Family Dog

Doberman pinschers make quite an impression: The breed’s appearance and graceful, almost stealthy movements can be interpreted as regal or intimidating.

Bred to be a warrior, the “Dobie” may face a negative stereotype that’s hard to shake off; however, many families have come to know this dog as a faithful, affectionate companion looking for some TLC.

The Doberman pinscher can be traced back to the late 19th century, to the German town of Apolda. Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a tax collector and local dog catcher, often took a guard dog with him during financial collections to ward off bandits eager to rob him.

In an effort to create the best guardian possible—he was looking for a dog with the perfect combination of intelligence, strength, speed, loyalty and ferocity, Dobermann began experimenting, cross breeding different dogs. The end result was the Doberman pinscher. Since Dobermann did not document which breeds he used to create the Doberman, it is speculated that several included the greyhound, Rottweiler, German pinscher, Great Dane, Weimaraner and black and tan terrier.

After Dobermann’s death in 1894, his newfound breed was named in his honor. The term “pinscher” was dropped by Germany and England in the 1950s on the grounds that the word—German for “terrier”—no longer applied.

During World War II, the United States Marine Corps acknowledged the breed as its official war dog, trained for combat to scout for ambushes, weapon caches and locate booby traps. 

Perhaps due to their line of “work” as guard dogs, and their modified appearance meant to enhance fear in people, Doberman pinschers are often mistaken to be aggressive attack dogs.

In their role as personal protectors, Doberman pinschers were supposed to intimidate; however, the breed’s high level of intelligence—it has been tested as one of the smartest dogs and is considered one of the most trainable breeds—also means that it is also capable of being trained to turn off the fear factor on command.

The modern-day Doberman pinscher is more of a house pet than a fierce protector. Breeders have worked diligently to breed out aggressive behavior and wean a good-natured temperament.

In fact, the Doberman pinscher has undergone a series of studies over the years to test its temperament and personality factors. One such study, conducted in 2008 by Applied Animal Behaviour Science, found that aggression has a genetic basis and that Doberman pinschers show a distinct pattern of aggression depending on the situation: the breed ranked high on stranger-directed aggression, extremely low on owner-directed aggression, and average on dog-directed aggression. Overall, the study concluded that modern-day Doberman pinschers are not an aggressive breed overall.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports this study with their own facts: the Doberman pinscher has been involved in attacks on humans less frequently than other dog breeds such as pit bull-type dogs, German shepherd dogs, Rottweilers, Alaskan malamutes, husky-type dogs and wolf-dog hybrids. According to the CDC, one of the most important factors contributing to dog bites was directly related to the level of responsibility exercised by the dogs’ owners.

Doberman pinschers enjoy being part of a family, getting along well with children and other household pets, if trained at an early age. This is an active breed that benefits from daily exercise and stimulation. Known to be an excellent companion, Doberman pinschers bond tightly with their families and prefer not to be left alone for long periods of time.

Doberman pinschers are considered medium-large dogs weighing on average 60 to 100 pounds.

The breed has a muscular, compact build, with a long, narrow head and a short, sleek coat. Doberman pinschers are born with long tails and medium-sized, triangular-shaped ears. Although controversial for years, many Doberman pinschers are subjected to tail docking and ear cropping. Tail docking was originally used as a method to prevent the tail from getting in the way of the dog’s work; ear cropping—where the ears are cropped between 7 and 9 weeks of age and rigidly bound to stand straight up—was also done to increase the dog’s sound localization for work as a guard dog.

Today, tail docking and ear cropping are illegal in Europe, but the procedures remain legal in North America, Russia and Japan.

There are a variety of coat colors for the Doberman pinscher: black, red, blue, fawn, black and rust, black and tan (also called black and rust) and blue and tan. “White” Dobermans, also associated with albinism, are rarer, but these Dobermans have a cream coat with white markings and icy blue eyes.

  • Cervical vertebral instability (CVI) is also known as “Wobbler disease,” a condition more commonly affecting large breeds such as Dobermans where the cervical vertebrae develop an instability with subsequent pressure on the spinal cord. Signs include neck pain with an unsteady gait with weakness of the rear legs. The disease is usually progressive, starting with weakness and then dragging in the toes and hind legs, then moving on to the front legs. Treatment includes medication and surgery.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy occurs when the heart muscle becomes dysfunctional over time and can result in complete heart failure. Reports indicate nearly 40% of dogs diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy are Doberman pinschers, a leading cause of death in the breed.
  • Hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joint that is more commonly associated with large breed dogs. It can cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis of the hips. X-rays of the hips when dogs are young (under 2 years) can help identify if this problem is present will allow owners to identify a proper exercise, diet and treatment regimen if their dog is affected.
  • Hypothyroidism is a condition caused by low thyroid hormone production of the thyroid glands. Lack of this hormone causes weight gain, lethargy, poor hair coat, infertility and susceptibility to chronic infections.
  • Prostatic disease such as bacterial prostatitis, prostatic cysts, prostatic adenocarcinoma and benign hyperplasia are prevalent in the Doberman breed. Neutering can help reduce the risks.
  • Skin problems most commonly identified as allergies which cause itchy, red and irritated skin and can also result in sores and skin infections. This usually requires lifetime medical management to keep the dog comfortable.
  • von Willebrand's Disease is a common inherited blood disorder, characterized by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII. The main symptom of vWD is excessive bleeding following injury or surgical procedures. Genetic testing is now available to determine if your dog has this bleeding disorder or is a carrier.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.