I first encountered this majestic dog on a farm in Wales. He stood with a fixed gaze at the bottom of the path leading up to the farm house. I drove up the rugged path, slowing when I became aware that two other Dobermans had joined him in the run along the side of my car. I remember thinking! WOW what a sight. On arriving I was beckoned out of my car by the farmers wife. The dogs sat still and made no attempt to approach me but I was aware that they were scanning, it was an odd feeling yet I felt safe.
Most people would likely agree that if they were walking on a pavement and a Doberman and its owner were approaching from the other direction, the wise thing to do would be to give them a wide berth. That’s a stereotypical reaction to the Doberman, a dog known as a formidable guard dog. However, casting my mind back to my first encounter and going on my own instinct I believe that the breed is probably misunderstood.
One of the benefits of running a website is you get feedback from people, and one of my readers with whom I have become acquainted in November 2017, Barry shares his home with two Dobermans and several cats. When I asked him what he loved about the Doberman, he wrote: “Their intelligence, their sensitivity, and their sense of humour, and because of their reputation, their sleek, muscular looks are enough to keep the bad guys away.”
In search of a story for my blog, I have been looking for stories about Dobermans and I was finding them. Dobermans who were sentry dogs; those who were war dogs; Dobermans who were used for protection, however these were all the stories that readers would expect. I didn’t want to write the expected story. I wanted to find a special one.
The background of the Doberman
The Doberman was bred for protection. Beginning in 1860 Karl Friedrich Louis Doberman, the tax collector in the town of Apolda in the German area of Thuringia, was looking for a dog to protect him on his travels to collect taxes. A man called Herr Doberman, who oversaw the town’s dog pound, started pairing dogs available to him, in an attempt to develop an animal with eager hearing and eyesight who could be a travel companion and guard dog.
It is important to remember that there are many theories as to the type of dogs Dobermann had available to breed from at the pound. That said, the two documented were a Greyhound and a Manchester Terrier. Although experts believe that the German Shepherd gene pool from the late 1800s is strongly represented.
The first Doberman was brought to the United States by Mr. Theo. F. Jager of Rochester, New York during times of change, hence, American cities were modernised, consequently there was less work for working dogs. Furthermore, dogs were increasingly expected to live in a city environment or to be kept within fenced yards.
This was difficult for a dog breed like a Doberman that was capable of so much. They are intelligent dogs that are very trainable, but the owner must be in charge. A concept that had not yet filtered into American families of the early 1900s.
The first person to expand the horizon for Dobermans was a pharmacy owner in Detroit, Michigan named Glenn Staines, who got his first Doberman in 1920 after his beloved Bull Terrier died. One of the first trainers he hired to work at his Pontchatrain Kennels was a young man named Willy Necker.
After working with Staines’ dogs, Necker put together a dog act using Dobermans and toured with them performing at dog shows and fun fares. In demonstration of the dogs’ trainability, he used children from the audience some as young as age four, to demonstrate the obedience of the dogs. It was the popularity of the Doberman that inspired the idea of “group obedience classes,” which, nowadays exist in every town in America.
It’s a lot more than a guard dog
I have worked with Dobermans exhibiting anxiety or nervous behaviours. A result of poor breeding practices, poor puppy socialisation, training issues or stressful home environments.
They are high maintenance dogs when it comes to exercise. They are also highly intelligent canines that need to be given lots of mental stimulation as well. In short, if you’re thinking about sharing your home with one of these elegant dogs, you need to spend as much time as you can with them. These dogs not only need a lot of exercise, but they thrive on human companionship. If you are not able to give them the amount they need, it could lead to some disastrous behavioural problems.
Be prepared to give copious amounts of mental exercise
Doberman Pinschers need lots of mental exercise which should include obedience, agility and even tracking training, because they are just too intelligent to be left to their own devices. However, some of these proud looking dogs are as soft as butter. That said, the one trait found in most of them is they tend to be quite reserved when around people they don’t know.
Socialisation MUST start from an early age
These highly intelligent canines also need early socialisation which helps prevent them from becoming nervous, shy or too “sharp”. As with many breeds, some Pinschers are more dominant over other dogs they meet and typically it’s towards dogs of the same sex. Some of them just can’t resist chasing a cat or two. Then there are those that relish chasing after small animals. In a nutshell, it’s the luck of the draw when it comes to the sort of character a Doberman Pinscher turns out to be.
Calm, Consistent Leadership is a MUST
Dobermans should to be handled with a consistent, firm yet gentle hand because they need to know who is the “top dog” in a household. They don’t like to be teased which is something you need to bear in mind if you have children.
Clearly, Dobermans are much more than guard dogs and I wanted to sum up what owners themselves have valued about them over the years.
After working with this breed I share the opinion of Theodore Jager quoted in the Country Life in America (1916), by James Watson,“they insist on doing your work, on reading your wishes from your eyes, and if they cannot find such wishes they are apt to turn to something else and make trouble.”
Dobermans are too good for police work.
They do far better as companions and friends.
They are excellent watch dogs and never tire in their efforts to be of service to their master.
The Doberman has more brains and relies on his master’s wink and wish more closely than any other dog.