The decision to own a Doberman should be taken seriously. While we have had two beloved Dobermans, it’s not an easy breed to live with. First of all, many apartments and some rental houses will not permit Dobermans (other commonly banned breeds for residential rentals are German shepherds, rottweilers, chows, pitbulls, and mastiffs, as well as other less common breeds). Because we moved a lot at the time, we didn’t consider bringing Dobermans into our lives until we had purchased our own homes.
Beyond the consideration of housing, here are our top 6 questions to ask yourself before committing to this amazing breed:
1. Do you have time and money to invest in Doberman training?
Dobermans fall into the working dog and guardian breeds. Left to their own devices – think tied up and left alone in the backyard – they can become very good at their jobs – think the vicious junkyard Doberman cliche in Hollywood movies.
To bring order, safety, and sanity to your life, we highly recommend investing some time and money into obedience training. Living the Washington DC area, we were lucky to find PUPS obedience school and the owner/trainer, Karen Decker.
Karen’s philosophy is all about building a strong relationship between you and your dog through verbal and physical cues. It’s about learning when to praise your pooch and when (and how) to make corrections, all based on the temperament and nervous system of your dog. For more on training, visit our Doberman Training article. Dobermans are also extremely intelligent and obedience school gives their brains a job to do and gives them exercise, which will make everyone’s life happier (see below about investing in time for exercise).
Training not only makes owning a Doberman safe and reliable around other people and animals, but training also makes it safer for your Doberman exist in the world. We have had many people tell us stories about how they were chased and/or bitten by Dobermans when they were kids.
Nothing helps break the stereotype like engaging with a well-behaved, calm, and goofy Doberman. Part of the reason we like owning a Doberman is that they are extremely goofy, funny, and intelligent. In any case, for your doggy’s own protection, some obedience training will allow them to exist a little more peacefully in a world where people’s imaginations are stacked against them. So let your dog shine by taking them to obedience school.
2. How do you feel about dog parks?
If the thought of socializing at a dog park factors highly into your desire to bring a dog into your life, we might suggest against owning a Doberman – or really any working breed. Although we did have our Dobermans trained and socialized with other dogs and people (ours have lived in a household with three cats, a miniature pinscher, and a giant mutt puppy from Ghana), we do not take them to dog parks. And in fact, their only dog friends are animals who we know are also well-trained and well-socialized.
The reason for our resistance to dog parks relates back up to the points we made above about reasons to invest in Doberman training – for their own protection. When it comes to safety, in our experience, most dogs at dog parks are unruly. When we had Max, our boxer who was super gentle and kept to himself, we tried dog parks and other dogs would attack him. Max, who barely had teeth and had a severe underbite grew to despise dog parks. But when the Dobermans are attacked, they will fight back savagely! And of course, if anyone or any dog is injured, your Doberman will take the blame – regardless of the facts – because that’s the stereotype.
There are also health concerns about dog parks. Just as you can’t be sure which dogs at a dog park are well socialized and trained, you also can’t be sure which ones have regular vet care and vaccinations. Bordetella, parvovirus, giardia, salmonella, and ringworm are just some of the nasty things dogs can take with them to the dog park if their human guardians aren’t taking adequate care of them. And some of those nasty things are zoonotic (meaning they can transfer to humans), making you sick too. Why chance it with your pooch when there are other venues for socializing your doggies!?
3. Do you have time to commit to exercising your Doberman every day?
Kai’s adoption profile was a specimen of truth in advertising. It said, bluntly, “if you do not exercise him, he will unroll all your toilet paper.” Indeed, he did this to us many times over the years when he did not get exercised (brain and body), among many other naughty things. KC has not been so high maintenance about getting her exercise, but she absolutely loves to run. If you want to see pure joy and have it rub off on you, take your Dobbie out for a hike or run and, if you can, let those babies off the leash and let them fly. Take our word for it – it is really the best medicine and you’ll get some exercise too!
4. Do you have children in your life?
We absolutely trust KC with children. Kai is a little more questionable, mostly because when he was a pup, he tried to pick up his first owners’ infant. We have no doubt that this was because Kai is a super oral dog. He LOVES to have something in his mouth at all times, especially if it is round and squishy (like a small child, unfortunately). He is also huge and plays very rough. If you have kids, you will want to gauge your Doberman’s temperament around them and work very diligently with the dog(s) and child(ren) to coexist peacefully and safely. It is more than a thought to bring a Doberman into a house with children, and worth considering if you have the time and desire to work with everyone to live harmoniously.
5. Do you travel frequently?
One surprising thing we discovered after bringing Kai and KC into our home was that it can be difficult to find good petsitters. It has been a struggle to find pet sitters who can manage two large dogs. After trial and error with several pet sitting companies, we finally ended up paying family to watch our pups.
If you travel frequently, think through who you can find – who is trustworthy and has the requisite experience – to watch your dog(s). Beyond people who come to your house, there are also pet hotels in cities and kennels with more outdoor space in the country. We have a friend who lives alone with her dog and has no family nearby; she sometimes travels for up to three months at a time. She takes her dog to a country doggie kennel and reports that her dog loves it. But it’s worth checking around and visiting different doggie hotel options.
Things to look for include:
- Does the kennel require all dogs (and cats) to be vaccinated?
- Does the kennel insist on “socializing” your dog with other dogs? (If so, see the dog park section above).
- Where will your dog be housed and what kind of bedding will they have?
- And finally, will the doggie hotel give you daily updates on your dog? We used to think that daily updates were a bit over-the-top…until the pet sitter didn’t show up to watch our animals while we were gone for 4 days. Now we demand daily updates.
6. Do you have other dogs or pets in your life?
We have had a 100% success in introducing new animals to our household, but it’s no walk in the park and there’s no magic potion. It’s a matter of hard work, consistency, and patience. Sometimes it has taken just two weeks to introduce a new animal (as in the case of adopting our feral cat Keanu); more often it has taken months to introduce new pets.
When we adopted Kai, he initially got along with our boxer. About a month they got into a huge fight that ended up with Max getting stitches. They grudgingly tolerated each other after that, but only because Kai had been through obedience school and learned that we were the leaders of the pack, not him.
So if you are thinking of another pet, especially another working dog of the same sex as the Doberman, we recommend bringing the new dog in when you have the time and space to keep the animals separated and slowly introduce them over an extended period of time. Crates, baby gates, and tasty treats are essential tools for facilitating the introduction process.