Written by Samary Birkline, © 2020
In the early 1970s, there was a movie about an amazing dog trainer who trained a pack of six Doberman Pinschers to commit a bank robbery. The Doberman Gang was sucessful enough to validate a sequel released the next eyar. Also released in the same few years was a movie called They Only Kill Their Masters, a mystery murder film where the Dobermans-dunit. The movies sensationalized a breed already simmering with public interest and planted seeds to some very difficult weeds to uproot for the breed.
Since then there have been a plethera of lies circulating around about the breed, and below are ten myths, debunked to set the record straight.
1. Dobermans are all brave guard dogs.
Most A lot of Doberman Pinschers are “bomb-proof”, but not every Doberman wears the stereotypical wolf’s clothing. Not all Dobermans are made the same. Similar to people, they have personality traits that are innate, and some that can be acquired as a result of the type of start they are given out of the gate. The Doberman that is given the right start, including the proper type of stimuli will have the opportunity to grow up well-balanced. well-behaved individual.
Puppies that don’t receive the benefit of a solid beginning can be difficult to train, tend to develop unmanageable phobias or succumb to submissive behaviors, such as submissive urination. Such behaviors can be overcome with steady patience and behavior modification training, but the chemistry of a rough start can never be undone. As with any case of emotional damage, the depth to which the dog is affected and for how long he was exposed to the damaging stimuli. For some, rehabilitation is a long and stressful process. Thus, responsible breeders do everything they can do to not only produce well-balanced pups, but also to follow up with each one during the life of the dog.
2. Dobermans need extensive training to protect their person(s).
Dobermans are born with an innate drive to patrol and protect. They do not require extensive training to know intuitively when something is “off” or to be, in most cases, fairly accurate judges of character. Often the Doberman will naturally respond in a protective manner when it perceives that its family is in danger. Once the family bond is formed with a Doberman, many times this means the dog will snap into action, but not with predictability.
In order to have predictability and to work as a team in moments of danger, both owner and dog must undergo a training known as IPO (Internationale Prüfungs-Ordnung). This training teaches a working pair intense obedience training, scent and tracking work, and defense training with a sleeve. Some owners undergo this training simply to have a handle on the dog’s strongest instincts. As working dogs, Dobermans intensely enjoy this kind of work and find it fulfilling.
3. Dobermans outgrow their skull and snap on their owners when they get older.
Over the years, the internet has spread this particularly hilarious form of bad press about the Doberman Pinscher breed. While wildly entertaining, there isn’t a lick of truth to it. Doberman brains do NOT outgrow their skulls; not in old age or any other time in their lives. There have been documented cases of brain tumors altering behaviors, similar to the effect we see in humans, however these cases are not breed specific and can happen to any breed. When raised right and given the proper nutrition and exercise, love and air-conditioning, these dogs have the potential to become lifetime companions and protectors. Doberman fans aren’t certain where the rumor came from, but its just plain falsity. Unless there is a medical condition or psychological disorder, Dobermans just don’t turn on their owners unprovoked.
As a side note, some Dobermans have been known to take the alpha positioning, in which case a Doberman may threaten his or her owner. In cases like these, many inexperienced owners may think the dog has “turned”, but this is a case of a dog who has had enough miscommunication and is just short of throwing a military coup. These dogs ARE savable, and need educated humans who understand who dogs really are, and a consistent approach to taking back the alpha status of the pack.
4. Dobermans aren’t safe with children.
This lie about Dobermans probably surfaced around the time the rumor about unstoppable brain growth. Another complete fabrication, more often than not, when asked, Doberman owners would swear their children are safer with their Dobermans than with any other beings. Dobermans are working dogs, and this is one of the front-running instincts Doberman owners either work with or against. Dobermans have been known to herd children from dangerous situations, physically drag them out of burning buildings, and protect them from harm other animals (including other humans) might inflict on the child(ren).
It’s important to note that certain Dobermans may NOT be safe with children, based solely on their life experiences. These individuals, most likely, did not receive a fair start, adequate socialization, healthcare, or affection, and like any animal, they may become too emotionally scarred to trust around young children. Never trust a dog you do not know around children.
5. Dobermans prey on small animals.
Dobermans DO have a prey drive, but just like any other animal, if properly set up for success, they can live harmoniously with just about anything. If given the right start, almost any Doberman can be taught to accept, after an appropriate amount of investigation, a variety of small (and large) animals. It is best to expose a dog in very early age to a variety of stimuli to prepare the puppy for what might come. Decades of study have shown that exposure to certain scents between the age of three days to sixteen days jump-start the olfactory system, refining the dog’s sense of smell and giving the dog’s brain a leg-up on recognizing and accepting these scents. Among these smells introduced are a few of the most common prey animals, such as cat, rodent, and bird.
6. Dobermans are great pets for anyone.
Dobermans are not the best pet for everyone. They have enormous amounts of untapped energy that can reek havoc on a backyard or living space if left unattended. Under-exercised Dobermans typically find themselves forming bad habits, such as digging or excessive barking. Prospective Doberman owners should be absolutely certain they have enough time (or resources) to provide enough interactive exercise for the breed to prevent destructive behaviors.
They are working dogs, who are dis-satisfied with a life prone to lounging around for hours. Don’t be deceived. Dobermans DO like to lounge, but they prefer to do so in exhaustion after a long run or a highly engaging adventure. Dobermans are happiest when their working nature is utilized, through obedience, agility, IPO, rally, or confirmation showing. Rare is the exception: the Doberman who does not turn to destruction when under-stimulated.
7. Dobermans make great apartment dogs.
Dobermans do NOT make great apartment dogs, though they can be kept in apartments under the right kind of circumstances. Dobermans love to run patrol. They need the space and freedom to do this, hence the reason many breeders think strongly before allowing a pup to go home to a long-termed apartment home. It is possible to keep a happy Doberman in an apartment, but this requires what could be termed excessive walks around the complex, with at least once weekly trips to the dog park, or other dog-friendly enclosure, to allow the dog off-leash stimulation outdoors.
If an apartment dwelling Doberman isn’t given sufficient physical and mental stimulation, the renter should expect a dramatic amount of damage to their home or belongings; especially items that have significant personal value to their favorite person(s). In any location, a Doberman simply has to have the outlets to burn energy.
8. Dobermans don’t like to be social. They prefer the backyard.
While Dobermans love the outdoors, most Doberman owners will testify that the Doberman enjoys time outside with the family; not alone. Most Dobermans like a brief time outside if let out alone, and then will be right back at the door begging to be let inside again. While this is not a hard and fast rule, many Dobermans fit this description. They’re also generally disproportionately un-fond of rainwater and will refuse to relieve themselves outside while it’s raining. Owners of these dogs are wise to have a small covered area of grass to avoid trouble.
Despite this well known and common Doberman trait, some actually love other forms of water, such as a hose or power washer; lake or wading pool, but only on their terms and when it’s most inconvenient. Dobermans are happiest living indoors while spending some time outside with their family. If left alone in a backyard for extended periods of time, Dobermans tend to seek out and play with trouble.
9. Dobermans only like their families.
Doberman Pinschers are the only breed specifically engineered to protect its owner and are very trainable as a breed. This makes them easily cast-able in movies as junkyard dogs, whose sole purpose is to attack anyone other than the owner of the junkyard. In real life, Dobermans are fiercely loyal to their owners, and they CAN be standoffish to strangers at first, but if socialized properly from a young age, any Dobermans can be great with neighbors, friends, and family.
It is important to note that many, but not all, members of the breed prefer the neighbors to believe they are vicious biters that wouldn’t hesitate to attack if a blade of grass is disturbed without their expressed permission. It’s in their instincts to guard, and though they aren’t really those crazy, jaw-snapping individuals they’ll want to portray, they’ll expect outside folk to believe that it’s true. Inside, they’re just playful, affectionate comedians.
10. Good Dobermans are easy to find.
While good Dobermans are not rare, a quality one is getting harder and harder to locate. Years ago, breeding was less complex, but with the development of genetic testing came results, and with that, the startling realization that the true breeders had a lot of work to do. The breed is plagued with heart disease, a blood clotting disorder, and a known set of liver maladies . Because the breeders didn’t know, carriers were bred to carriers, creating affected puppies. Thankfully, many breeders have now adopted genetic testing to minimize and reverse the effects of decades of ignorance. Though expensive, these tests and certifications give breeders the best chances for producing pups likely to live a long, balanced, healthy life. More is being learned every year about canine genetics and soon it will be possible to eliminate genetic disease through careful and selective breeding.
The Kennel Birkline is NOT the only good breeder out there (there are many!), but raising amazing Dobermans is what we do. With genetic testing, personality screening, and early puppy-hood stimuli (such early neurological stimuli, known as the “Super Dog Program” and early scent introduction), good breeders do everything possible to set each puppy up for success. For a good example of how to prepare every puppy for what comes ahead, come see why The Kennel Birkline has been vetted as a Preservationist Breeder!