The Doberman

History:

Doberman Pinschers were first bred in the town of Apolda, in the German state of Thuringia around 1890 by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann.  Karl Dobermann worked as a local tax collector, a dangerous job hwere his routes took him through bandit-infested areas; he also ran the Apolda dog pound.  The dog pound gave him access to dogs of many breeds and so he thought to create a breed that would be ideal for protecting him during his collections.  In this new breed, he was looking for the dog to be the perfect combination of strength, speed, endurance, loyalty, intelligence, and ferocity.  Karl Dobermann passed in 1894 and so Otto Goeller and Philip Greunig continued the development of the breed.  Many experts believe that the Doberman Pinscher is a combination of several breeds including the Beauceron, German Pinscher, Rottweiler, Weimaraner, and the old German Shepherd. 

After Karl Dobermann's death, the Germans named the breed Dobermann Pinscher in his honor, but a half century later dropped the 'pinscher' on the grounds that this German word for terrier was no longer appropriate.  The British did the same a few years later.

During World War II, the United States Marine Corps adopted the Doberman as its official War Dog.  After the war, the breed was nearly lost; there were no new litters registered in West Germany from 1949 to 1958.  Werner Jung searched for typical Pinschers in Germany and used these along with 4 oversized Miniature Pinschers and a black and red bitch from East Germany. Jung risked his life to smuggle her into West Germany.  Most German Pinschers today are descendants of these dogs. 


Personality:

Although they are considered to be working dogs, Dobermans are often stereotyped as being ferocious and aggressive.  As a personal protection dog, the Doberman was originally bred for these traits: it had to be large and intimidating, fearless, and willing to defend its owner, but sufficiently obedient and restrained to only do so on command.  The Doberman's aggression has been toned down by modern breeders over the years, and today's Dobermans are known for a much more even and good natured temperament, extreme loyalty, high intelligence, and great trainability.  In fact, the Doberman's size, short coat, and intelligence have made it a desirable house dog.  Studies show they rank among the more-likely breeds to show aggressive behavior toward strangers and very unlikely to show aggressive behavior toward their owners.

It is believed American Dobermans have a calmer and more even temperament than the European Dobermans because of the breeding strategies employed by American breeders.  Because of these differences in breeding strategies, different lines of Dobermans have developed different traits.  Although many contemporary Dobermans in North America are gentle and friendly to strangers, some lines are bred more true to the original personality standard.


Size:

  • Male height: 26-28 inches
  • Female height: 24-26 inches
  • Weight: 66-88 pounds

Life Expectancy:

Up to 13 years


Health:

The health conditions marked with asteriks (***) can be identified through testing.  Screening tests are not currently available for the other conditions listed.  It is important to know the status before breeding a dog or bitch - clinically affected dogs, dogs exhibiting symptoms for any of these conditions should NOT be bred.

  • Cardiomyopathy - An echocardiogram of the heart will confirm the disease but WILL not guarantee that the disease will not develop in the future. 
  • *** Hip Dysplasia - is inherited.  It may vary from slightly poor conformation to malformation of the hip joint allowing complete luxation of the femoral head.  Both parents' hips should be Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certified - excellent, good or fair rating. 
  • *** Hypothyroidism - is probably inherited and means that the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormone to adequately maintain the dog's metabolism. It is easily treated with thyroid replacement pills on a daily basis. Thyroid testing (T3, T4, TSH and autoantibodies) should be performed on an annual schedule. Finding autoantibodies to thyroglobulin (T4 autoantibodies) is an indication that the dog has "Hashimoto's Disease". Low thyroid dogs, manifested by a high TSH and a low T4, should be treated and monitored on a regular basis.
  • *** vWd (Von Willerbrand's Disease) - is an autosomally (not sex linked) inherited bleeding disorder with a prolonged bleeding time and a mild to severe factor IX deficiency.  Von Willebrand's factor antigens of 70% 180% are considered to be within the normal range for Dobermans.  When dogs are tested through the Elisa assay blood test for vWD, they are tested for carrier status only NOT the disease.  It is believed that carrier status tests (Elisa assay) are inaccurate if a dog is ill, received any medication or vaccination within 14 days of testing, pregnancy, bitches in heat or lactation.  Stress conditions (infections, parasites, hormonal changes, trauma, surgery, emotional upset, etc.) may have an effect on the outcome of the vWD blood test and might be a contributing factor for bleeding tendencies.  vWD carrier status is quite common in Dobermans.  A DNA test for vWD is now available - genetically: clear, carrier (inherited one disease gene), affected (inherited two disease genes) - results are not effected by stress conditions, etc.
  • Wobbler's Syndrome - is suspected to be an inherited condition in Dobermans.  Dogs suffer from spinal cord compression caused by cervical vertebral instability or from a malformed spinal canal.  Extreme symptoms are paralysis of the limbs (front, hind or all 4).  Neck pain with extension and flexion may or may not be present.
  • *** PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) - is an inherited condition in Dobermans.  Clinically, visual acuity is diminished, first at dusk, later in daylight.  The disease progresses over months or years, to complete blindness.  A screening test is available and can be performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) will certify eyes for 12 months from the date of evaluation.
  • *** Albinism - "white coated" and "white factored" Dobermans should NOT be bred.  These dogs are *TYROSINASE POSITIVE ALBINOS*.  In 1996, the AKC established a tracking system (the letter "Z" will be part of the registration number) allowing breeders to identify the normal colored Dobermans which may carry the albinistic gene.  A list with all dogs tracing back to Shebah's (the first Albino Doberman registered) parents is available here. All breeders should require an AKC certified pedigree with colors to check that "white coated" and "white factored" dogs are not present in the pedigree of the dog or bitch to be bred.

Highlights:

  • Dobermans are natural athletes who need lots of exercise.  For a healthy Doberman, not in their last years, a half-hour walk is a warm-up, not exercise.
  • Dobermans are inside dogs meant to be part of the family. 
  • They need lots of mental stimulation.  If they don't get that, they'll tell you by chewing on your furniture or tearing up something else.
  • Some Dobermans are very sensitive; their feelings are hurt easily.  Your job is to communicate firmly, kindly, clearly, consistently, and above all patiently.
  • The Doberman is called the Velcro dog.  You'll never be alone in the bathroom, closet, laundry room, or anywhere for that matter.  If your Doberman has access to the room, they'll be there with you.  Their greatest pleasure is to be close to you.
  • These days people seem to want to ban certain breeds and Dobermans, sadly, are among those breeds.  So if an incident occurs, your Dobie may be blamed for it whether or not it was your fault.  If there is a bite accusation, they may be quarantined or even euthanized.  Therefore, we are stressing the importance of prevention.