Dobermann – an intelligent and courageous service dog
Today we are talking to Karen, who has two Dobermanns, Finn and Rae. She says “I’ve always loved the big powerful looking guard breeds that are invariably big softies on the inside. I used to have a German Shepherd but I find the Dobermanns are more ‘family orientated’ and with their shorter hair they are cleaner and easy to groom.”
The Kennel Club describe Dobermanns as follows: a squarely built, clean outline with a wedge-shaped head and keen expression. The breed was recognised by the German Kennel Club in 1899. They are a mix of a number of other breeds; a foundation of Pinscher blood, with added Weimaraner, Greyhound, Manchester Terrier, Rottweiler and German Shepherd blood to get a combination of intelligence, speed and toughness of character.
The Dobermann’s intelligence and trainability are described by the Kennel Club as having been harnessed by the armed forces and the police and he has been used as a guard dog, a tracking dog and in various other roles. However, his loyal and obedient nature equips him to be an excellent family dog, a role in which he is equally comfortable.
A bad reputation
Karen says the hardest thing about owning a Dobermann is other people’s reaction to them! She says “I can’t tell you how many times people have crossed the road, made some comment or picked up their dogs when they see us coming, even when the dogs are on lead. This can also be a problem when booking holidays or visiting people who are not familiar with this breed.” This reputation is not completely unfounded, because as Karen says, they are sensitive, which can lead to anxieties. However, most owners of dogs like these learn to manage them perfectly well.
A dog that has been bred to guard will always be protective of its family – that is its job! Karen says they will also tell you if a bird lands in the garden, or a leaf blows. In addition, Karen says they are stubborn and strong-willed. “They need boundaries from the start – don’t give an inch or they will exploit it! They use ‘pester power’ to get what they want.”
Other problems Karen mentions are that they can be very destructive, especially when left alone. This is a problem with many dogs, both big and small, perhaps most notably with the Husky. Dobermanns are pack animals and can be very needy (they will accompany you to the bathroom). There can be same sex aggression.
Worth the effort
A Dobermann is not a ‘beginner dog’ by any means, but Karen says that once you’ve owned one they own your heart. She says “they are funny, goofy clowns, who love to entertain and be entertained! They are extremely loyal, smart dogs who want to please you. Their thought processes can be two steps ahead of yours – there’s no fooling them! Dobermanns are easy to train when you find what motivates them, whether that is food or toys.”
“They love nothing more than to snuggle on the couch with you or even on your lap if allowed…..yes even at 40kgs+ they will try to sit on you. They are the ultimate companion. Dobermanns are good with other animals and children when properly introduced. However some can have a high prey drive, so beware around small animals or excitable screaming children!”
Health and care
Dobermanns’ are easy to groom and keep clean. They have fine hair with no undercoat so feel the cold easily. Dogs with short, fine hair are more susceptible to minor cuts and injuries.
The Kennel Club require Dobermanns to be health tested, including hip scores and eye tests. They also require a DNA test for von Willebrand disease. Karen lists a number of issues common in the breed:
- Dilated cardiomyopathy is a big killer in Dobermanns (50%)
- Hypothyroidism – one of my previous Dobies had this from quite a young age. She lived a full and happy life on medication with regular blood tests.
- Von Willebrand disease (see above link)
- Bloat/bowel obstruction – my current boy unfortunately had two bowel obstructions due to eating foreign bodies, which resulted in surgery both times.
This seems like a long list, but in fact many dogs suffer from far more conditions than these. Please remember that a crossbreed is likely to suffer from ALL the conditions from BOTH breeds of dog? All responsible dog breeders will try to continue to improve the health of their lines. Whereas a puppy farmer only cares about taking your money (the start of a great deal of money you may pay out in health care for your dog).
The best home for a Dobermann?
Karen says “They are hard work at times so need someone with a lot of patience and kindness, who has time to spend with them and invest in their training. If you’re going to work all day leaving them alone then this breed really isn’t for you. The saying ‘you get what you put in’ is very true about Dobermanns.”
Dobermanns are big strong dogs that need space, so a garden is a must really. They need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation, but also need ‘calm time’. Karen says “My dogs get 1-2 hours of exercise per day, mostly off lead. They love daily brain games, hide and seek, snuffle mats and filled Kongs. We mix it up a bit so they don’t get bored. In the nice weather we place objects in the garden and hide treats in them. Currently they are obsessed with a flirt pole!”
“They live to be loved – cuddles on the couch is not optional!”
As all my breed owners have said, Karen says: “Find a reputable breeder that does all the health checks including the heart. Meet the pups mother, both parents if possible. This is important with any puppy purchase. Ask lots of questions! ”
In addition, Karen recommends investing in top insurance. She says it will be worth it in the end. Karen suggests joining an online Dobermann owner group and asking them questions, maybe arrange to join them for a walk.
“Remember they’re hard work but the love they give you is priceless!“
Thank you Karen for such a valuable insight into your fascinating, challenging and rewarding dogs.
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