The Doberman Pinscher (German pronunciation: [ˈdoːbɐman ˈpɪnʃɐ]), or Dobermann, or Doberman, is a medium-large breed of domestic dogoriginally developed around 1890 by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a tax collector from Germany.
The Doberman is a mixture of breeds that include the German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointer, Great Dane, Greyhound, and Weimaraner, but most notably the Beauceron, German Pinscher, and Rottweiler. Powerful in the hindquarters and although may be top-heavy because of their deep chest, the Doberman is a very athletic dog and many excel in agility and obedience trials.
The muzzle is long, and so affords the leverage for an extremely strong bite. The Doberman stands on its toes (not the pads) and is not usually heavy-footed. Ideally, they have an even and graceful gait. Traditionally, the ears are cropped and posted, and the tail is docked. However, in some countries it is illegal to do so. Except in the albino, in which it is extremely difficult to see, each purebred Doberman has markings on the chest, paws/legs, muzzle, above the eyes, and underneath the tail.
Doberman Pinschers are well known as intelligent, alert, and tenaciously loyal companions and guard dogs. Personality varies a great deal between each Doberman, but if taken care of and trained properly they tend to be loving and devoted companions. The Doberman is driven, strong, and sometimes stubborn. Owning one requires commitment and care, but if trained well, they can be wonderful family dogs. Unlike some breeds (such as the German Shepherd), Dobermans are eager to please only after their place is established in their pack and that place is not as an alpha. With a consistent approach they can be easy to train and will learn very quickly. As with all dogs, if properly trained, they can be excellent with children. Dobermans adapt quickly, though they take their cue from their leader and value attention.
Ram club standards describe Doberman Pinschers as dogs of medium-large size with a square build and short coat. They are compactly built and athletic with endurance and swiftness. The Doberman Pinscher should have a proud, watchful, determined, and obedient temperament. The dog was originally intended as a guard dog, so males should have a masculine, muscular, noble appearance. Females are thinner, but should not be spindly.
Size and proportions
The Doberman is a dog of medium large size. Although the breed standards vary among kennel and breed clubs, according to the FCI standard the dog typically stands between 68 to 72 centimetres (27 to 28 in), and The Kennel Club in the UK quote 69 centimetres (27 in) as being ideal; the female is typically somewhere between 63 to 68 centimetres (25 to 27 in), 65 centimetres (26 in) being ideal. The Doberman has a square frame: its length should equal its height to the withers, and the length of its head, neck and legs should be in proportion to its body. European lines, particularly those from the former Yugoslavia and former Soviet Union, tend to be larger than those in North America.
There are no standards for the weight of the Doberman Pinscher except as given in the standard used by the FCI. The ideal dog must have sufficient size for an optimal combination of strength, endurance and agility. The male generally weighs between 40–45 kilograms (88–99 lb) and the female between 32–35 kilograms (71–77 lb).
Two different colour genes exist in the Doberman, one for black (B) and one for colour dilution (D). There are nine possible combinations of these alleles (BBDD, BBDd, BbDD, BbDd, BBdd, Bbdd, bbDD, bbDd, bbdd), which result in four different color phenotypes: black, red, blue, and fawn (Isabella). The traditional and most common colour occurs when both the colour and dilution genes have at least one dominant allele (i.e., BBDD, BBDd, BbDD or BbDd), and is commonly referred to as black or black and rust (also called black and tan). The red, red rust or brown coloration occurs when the black gene has two recessive alleles but the dilution gene has at least one dominant allele (i.e., bbDD, bbDd). "Blue" and "fawn" are controlled by the colour dilution gene. The blue Doberman has the colour gene with at least one dominant allele and the dilution gene with both recessive alleles (i.e., BBdd or Bbdd). The fawn (Isabella) coloration is the least common, occurring only when both the colour and dilution genes have two recessive alleles (i.e., bbdd). Thus, the blue colour is a diluted black, and the fawn colour is a diluted red.
Expression of the colour dilution gene is a disorder called Colour Dilution Alopecia. Although not life-threatening, these dogs can develop skin problems.
In 1976, a "white" Doberman Pinscher was whelped, and was subsequently bred to her son, who was also bred to his litter sisters. This tight inbreeding continued for some time to allow the breeders to "fix" the mutation. White Dobermans are a cream colour with pure white markings and icy blue eyes. Although this is consistent with albinism, the proper characterization of the mutation is currently unknown. The animals are commonly known as tyrosinase-positive albinoids, lacking melanin in oculocutaneous structures. This condition is caused by a partial deletion in gene SLC45A2.
The Doberman Pinscher's natural tail is fairly long, but individual dogs often have a short tail as a result of docking, a procedure in which the majority of the tail is surgically removed shortly after birth.
The practice of docking has been around for centuries, and is older than the Doberman as a breed. The putative reason for docking is to ensure that the tail does not get in the way of the dog's work. Docking has always been controversial. The American Kennel Club standard for Doberman Pinschers includes a tail docked near the 2nd vertebra. Docking is a common practice in the United States, Russia and Japan (as well as a number of other countries with Doberman populations), where it is legal. In many European countries and Australia, docking has been made illegal, and in others it is limited.
Doberman Pinschers often have their ears cropped, as do many other breeds, a procedure that is functionally related to breed type for both the traditional guard duty and effective sound localization. According to the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, ears are "normally cropped and carried erect". Like tail docking, ear cropping is illegal in some countries, and in these pictures Doberman Pinschers have natural ears.
Although they are considered to be working dogs, Doberman Pinschers are often stereotyped as being ferocious and aggressive. As a personal protection dog, the Doberman was originally bred for these traits: it had to be large and intimidating, fearless, and willing to defend its owner, but sufficiently obedient and restrained to only do so on command. These traits served the dog well in its role as a personal defense dog, police dog, or war dog, but were not ideally adapted to a companionship role. The Doberman Pinscher's aggression has been toned down by modern breeders over the years, and today's Dobermans are known for a much more even and good natured temperament, extreme loyalty, high intelligence, and great trainability. In fact, the Doberman Pinscher's size, short coat, and intelligence have made it a desirable house dog. The Doberman Pinscher is known to be energetic, watchful, fearless and obedient.
They can easily learn to 'Respect and Protect' their owners, and are therefore considered to be excellent guard dogs that protect their loved ones. They are generally sociable toward humans and can be with other dogs. However, Dobermans rank among the more-likely breeds to show aggressive behaviour toward strangers and other dogs, but not among the most likely to do so. They are very unlikely to show aggressive behaviour toward their owners.
There is evidence that Doberman Pinschers in North America have a calmer and more even temperament than their European counterparts because of the breeding strategies employed by American breeders. Because of these differences in breeding strategies, different lines of Doberman Pinschers have developed different traits. Although many contemporary Doberman Pinschers in North America are gentle and friendly to strangers, some lines are bred more true to the original personality standard.
Although the aggressiveness stereotype is less true today, the personality of the Doberman Pinscher is unique. There is a great deal of scientific evidence that Doberman Pinschers have a number of stable psychological traits, such as certain personality factors and intelligence. As early as 1965, studies have shown that there are several broad behavioral traits that significantly predict behavior and are genetically determined. Subsequently, there have been numerous scientific attempts to quantify canine personality or temperament by using statistical techniques for assessing personality traits in humans. These studies often vary in terms of the personality factors they focus on, and in terms of ranking breeds differently along these dimensions. One such study found that Doberman Pinschers, compared to other breeds, rank high in playfulness, average in curiosity/fearlessness, low on aggressiveness, and low on sociability. Another such study ranked Doberman Pinschers low on reactivity/surgence, and high on aggression/disagreeableness and openness/trainability.
Canine intelligence is an umbrella term that encompasses the faculties involved in a wide range of mental tasks, such as learning, problem-solving, and communication. The Doberman Pinscher has ranked amongst the most intelligent of dog breeds in experimental studies and expert evaluations. For instance, Psychologist Stanley Corenranks the Doberman as the 5th most intelligent dog in the category of obedience command training, based on the selective surveys he performed of some trainers (as documented in his book The Intelligence of Dogs). Additionally, in two studies, Hart and Hart (1985) ranked the Doberman Pinscher first in this category. and Tortora (1980) gave the Doberman the highest rank in trainability. Although the methods of evaluation differ, these studies consistently show that the Doberman Pinscher, along with the Border Collie, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle and Rottweiler, is one of the most trainable breeds of dog.
In addition to the studies of canine personality, there has been some research to determine whether there are breed differences in aggression. In a study published in 2008, aggression was divided into four categories: aggression directed at strangers, owner, strange dogs and rivalry with other household dogs. This study found that the Doberman Pinscher ranked relatively high on stranger-directed aggression, but extremely low on owner-directed aggression. The Doberman Pinscher ranked as average on dog-directed aggression and dog rivalry. Looking only at bites and attempted bites, Doberman Pinschers rank as far less aggressive towards humans, and show less aggression than many breeds without a reputation (e.g., Cocker Spaniel, Dalmatian, and Great Dane). This study concluded that aggression has a genetic basis, that the Doberman shows a distinctive pattern of aggression depending on the situation, and that contemporary Doberman Pinschers are not an aggressive breed overall. In regards to dobermans attacking owners, it is rare and usually in the case of over discipline. Dobermans accept physical punishment to an extent, however, when they consider it is no longer punishment and is an attack on themselves, they will defend themselves.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 1979 and 1998, the Doberman Pinscher was involved in attacks on humans resulting in fatalities less frequently than several other dog breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Husky-type, Wolf-dog hybrids and Alaskan Malamutes. According to this Center for Disease Control and Prevention study, one of the most important factors contributing to dog bites is the level of responsibility exercised by dog owners.
The Doberman's lifespan is about 10–11 years, on average. They may suffer from a number of health concerns. Common serious health problems include dilated cardiomyopathy, cervical vertebral instability (CVI), von Willebrand's disease (a bleeding disorder for which genetic testing has been available since 2000; the test enables both parents of a prospective litter to be tested for the carrier gene, thus preventing inheritance of the disease ), and prostatic disease. Less serious common health concerns include hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia. Canine compulsive disorder is also common. Studies have shown that the Doberman Pinscher suffers from prostatic diseases, (such as bacterial prostatiti, prostatic cysts, prostatic adenocarcinoma, and benign hyperplasia) more than any other breed. Neutering can significantly reduce these risks.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is a major cause of death in Doberman Pinschers. This disease affects Dobermans more than any other breed. Nearly 40% of DCM diagnoses are for Doberman Pinschers, followed by German Shepherds at 13%. Research has shown that the breed is affected by an attenuated wavy fiber type of DCM that affects many other breeds, as well as an additional, fatty infiltration-degenerative type that appears to be specific to Doberman Pinscher and Boxer breeds. This serious disease is likely to be fatal in most Doberman Pinschers affected.
Across multiple studies, more than half of the Doberman Pinschers studied develop the condition. Roughly a quarter of Doberman Pinschers who developed cardiomyopathy died suddenly from unknown causes, and an additional fifty percent died of congestive heart failure. In addition to being more prevalent, this disease is also more serious in Doberman Pinschers. Following diagnosis, the average non-Doberman has an expected survival time of 8 months; for Doberman Pinschers, the expected survival time is less than 2 months. Although the causes for the disease are largely unknown, there is evidence that it is a familial disease inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Investigation into the genetic causes of canine DCM may lead to therapeutic and breeding practices to limit its impact.
Doberman Pinschers were first bred in the town of Apolda, in the German state of Thuringia around 1890, following the Franco-Prussian War by Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. Dobermann served in the dangerous role of local tax collector, and ran the Apolda dog pound. With access to dogs of many breeds, he aimed to create a breed that would be ideal for protecting him during his collections, which took him through many bandit-infested areas. He set out to breed a new type of dog that, in his opinion, would be the perfect combination of strength, speed, endurance, loyalty, intelligence, and ferocity. Later, Otto Goeller and Philip Greunig continued to develop the breed to become the dog that is seen today.
The breed is believed to have been created from several different breeds of dogs that had the characteristics that Dobermann was looking for, including the German Pinscher, the Beauceron, the Rottweiler, the Thuringian Sylvan Dog, the Greyhound, the Great Dane, the Weimaraner, the German Shorthaired Pointer, the Manchester Terrier, the Old German Shepherd Dog, the Thuringian Shepherd Dog.
The exact ratios of mixing, and even the exact breeds that were used, remain uncertain to this day, although many experts believe that the Doberman Pinscher is a combination of at least four of these breeds. The single exception is the documented crossing with the Greyhound and Manchester Terrier. It is also widely believed that the old German Shepherd gene pool was the single largest contributor to the Doberman breed. Philip Greunig's The Dobermann Pinscher (1939), is considered the foremost study of the development of the breed by one of its most ardent students. Greunig's study describes the breed's early development by Otto Goeller, whose hand allowed the Doberman to become the dog we recognize today. The American Kennel Club believes the breeds utilized to develop the Doberman Pinscher may have included the old shorthaired shepherd, Rottweiler, Black and Tan Terrier and the German Pinscher.
After Dobermann's death in 1894, the Germans named the breed Dobermann-pinscher in his honor, but a half century later dropped the 'pinscher' on the grounds that this German word for terrier was no longer appropriate. The British did the same a few years later.
During World War II, the United States Marine Corps adopted the Doberman Pinscher as its official War Dog, although the Corps did not exclusively use this breed in the role.
In the post war era the breed was nearly lost. There were no new litters registered in West Germany from 1949 to 1958. Werner Jung is credited with single-handedly saving the breed. He searched the farms in Germany for typical Pinschers and used these along with 4 oversized Miniature Pinschers and a black and red bitch from East Germany. Jung risked his life to smuggle her into West Germany. Most German Pinschers today are descendants of these dogs. Some pedigrees in the 1959 PSK Standardbuch show a number of dogs with unknown parentage.
In the United States, the American Kennel Club ranked the Doberman Pinscher as the 12th most popular dog breed in 2012 and 2013.