The Daring and Devoted Doberman Pinscher: Breed information, history and fun facts

For more than a century, Doberman Pinschers have both safeguarded and prized their families. The breed’s strong work ethic complements his appreciation for sports and play. Observant, affectionate and protective, the Doberman makes a steadfast companion for experienced dog owners.

Doberman Pinscher dog breed’s history

Few dog breeds have such a specifically defined “father-of-the-breed” as the Doberman Pinscher. Early Dobes were initially developed in Apolda, Germany in the late 1890’s by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. A local tax collector, Dobermann also served as warden in the Apolda dog pound. Harassed by thieves as he collected taxes, Dobermann decided to develop a practical dog breed for protection, deterrence and companionship. As pound warden, Dobermann had access to many dogs for his breeding program. He mixed both stray dogs and conventional breeds such as the Rottweiler, German Pinscher and Beauceron.

Because Dobermann didn’t keep stud records, the specific percentages of breeds he used aren’t known. Most historians say, however, that the older version of the German Shepherd was a sizeable contributor to the new breed. Dobermann’s program focused on courage, strength, sharpness, endurance, loyalty and protection. While today’s Doberman has developed into a beautiful as well as capable working dog breed, early Doberman Pinschers weren’t bred for glamor.

After Dobermann’s death, fellow Apolda resident Otto Göller continued breeding Dobermans. The breed took on the original developer’s name, although in time the second N in Dobermann’s name was dropped. The Germans also dropped the Pinscher from the breed name. The American Kennel Club, however, has kept Pinscher (German for biter, terrier) in the Doberman’s name.

Doberman Pinschers during WWII

Dobermans continued to be developed in Germany for police and military work, protection and companionship. In WWII, Dobermans served as sentries and messengers for the U.S Marine Corps in the Pacific. The dogs alerted the soldiers to enemy forces approaching. Doberman Pinschers could detect a human scent some half of a mile away. War Dog platoons were therefore well protected from ambush.

Many dogs were killed in action in the Pacific and others died from tropical illness, heatstroke, disease or accidents. A memorial statue in Guam, “Always Faithful,” commemorates the dedicated Doberman Pinschers that served. The statue sign lists some 25 dogs that made the ultimate sacrifice and is “given in the memory [of these dog] and on behalf of the surviving men, many of whom owe their lives to the bravery and sacrifice of these gallant animals.”

The memorial sculpture features Kurt the Doberman, the first military working dog killed in action in the 1944 Battle of Guam. Kurt alerted his men to the presence of approaching Japanese soldiers before tragically dying by an enemy grenade. The heroic dog is estimated to have saved the lives of 250 Marines on Guam before he was killed.

Doberman Pinscher jobs, training and home life

doberman
Doberman ears are typically cropped and carried erect, but some owners choose to keep the ears naturally floppy. ©Catherine Ledner/Getty Images

These days, Doberman Pinschers aren’t used often for military or police work. One reason for this shift is that the Dobe’s short, single coat doesn’t protect him from heat and cold as well as double-coated breeds, such as the German Shepherd Dog. Others speculate that the Dobe thinks slightly too much for himself, or that he’s less trainable and/or less motivated to obey than, for example, the Belgian Malinois or German Shepherd Dog.

The Doberman Pinscher does, however, continue to excel in search and rescue work, as well as service work. In mobility assist work, for example, Dobes may help pull wheelchairs, assist owners by picking things up or help stabilize owners in motion.

Thriving with consistent owner interaction, Dobermans need focused training, regular affection and a hefty dose of exercise. The self-confident Doberman learns quickly. Although he is an obedient breed, he’s also a self-thinker (yes those two traits may conflict!). Dobes shine in both formal and around-the-house obedience. Sports such as agility, rally and Schutzhund keep the Dobe’s mind and body well-exercised. Physically, the Doberman Pinscher requires lengthy exercise sessions. A spirited, motivated and energetic breed, Doberman Pinschers need space to run and play hard. Large, fenced yards are ideal. Apartment living with a Dobe works only if the owners commit to extensive outside activities.

Dobermans usually bond closely with the family’s children and are generally calm around any respectful children. All dogs, however, require supervision with small children.

Do Doberman Pinschers get along with other dogs? While not a classic let’s-hurry-to-the-dog-park type, a highly-socialized Dobe is typically indifferent or well-behaved around new dogs. Some Dobes may show suspicion around new (especially same-sex) dogs. A Doberman Pinscher raised with other pets in the home usually does well with them.

Doberman Pinschers as protectors

An excellent watchdog, the Doberman Pinscher alerts owners to new happenings and often protectively stands between his family and harm’s way. Bred to guard and, in some ways, think for himself, a Dobe sometimes may interpret threats with his own judgment. This is why obedience and socialization are critical in the puppy stages.

To prevent overreaction as adults, Doberman Pinscher pups must be instructed, through many experiences, to discern threatening behavior from non-threatening behavior. The more the family socializes the Doberman puppy to many people, places and behaviors, the sooner he develops the confidence and experience to discern actual threats. And the more obedience the Dobe is taught, the more he’ll likely respond to his owners’ cues in any given situation.

A well-socialized Dobe shows a quiet respect with strangers, enjoys being out and about, and yet saves his most keen enthusiasm for his beloved owners. His reputation as a tough working dog is well-deserved, but his loyalty and affection to family is equally remarkable.

Want to know more about the Doberman Pinscher? Here are some fun Doberman facts:

White Doberman Pinschers

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America and the AKC standard don’t include the color white. The white-coated or white-factored Doberman is deemed a genetic mutation that may correlate with health and/or temperament issues. The AKC uses specialized tracking for albino and albino-factored Dobermans, with special registration numbers (the “z” list). The AKC’s position on white Doberman is contested by some breeders. However the controversy is viewed, potential buyers are rightfully skeptical about any breeders’ higher prices for any “rare” trait.

Doberman Pinschers on drill teams

Along with war-time duty, Dobermans entertained audiences in a touring drill team developed in the 1950’s by Tess Henseler. Rosalie Alvarez next formed Dobe teams that performed in many events, including half-time football shows. For decades, various Dobermans marched in formations and performed agility maneuvers at parades, football games and other public events. The shows exhibited the dogs’ agility, obedience, grace and raw athleticism.

Miniature Doberman

There’s actually no such thing as a miniature Doberman! There is, however, a distinct toy breed that is often mistaken for a small Doberman. The Miniature Pinscher (Pinscher means Terrier in German) was bred centuries ago in Germany to control rats. Now he’s in the Toy Group, although he’s often deemed the King of the Toys. He’s sometimes thought to have been bred down from Doberman Pinschers, but the Miniature Pinscher was actually developed before the Doberman.

Doberman Pinscher ears

Doberman ears are typically cropped and carried erect. Some families who don’t intend to show their dogs choose to keep their pups’ ears naturally floppy. Some countries, such as New Zealand and Australia, have banned cropping for aesthetic reasons. Historically, the thin and floppy ears of the Dobe were cropped to facilitate guard dog work. Short, erect ears were harder, for example, for human or animal foes to grab on to in a conflict.

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