Information for people interested in the Doberman breed

PERSONALITY:The Doberman, as described in the written standard for the breed, is energetic, watchful and determined.  They are guarded with strangers, but excessive shyness or aggressiveness should not be tolerated.  The Doberman is naturally protective and should never be trained to attack.  A very intelligent breed, they can be a challenge to train as they require quick thinking on the part of their trainer to make progress.  A superb family dog noted for its devotion to the family, the properly bred and trained Doberman has a sound mind and body, and the heart and spirit of a gentleman.

HISTORY:  The Doberman is a German breed and traces its heritage back to some of the old German dogs such as the Rottweiler and the smooth haired German Pinscher, as well as the Black and Tan Terrier of England.  The word pinscher in German actually means terrier.  Herr Louis Dobermann (note the original spelling) of Apolda, Germany developed the breed in the 1890's to use as a guard dog and a watchdog.  At first the Doberman was used almost exclusively for this purpose.  As it developed, its qualities of intelligence and ability to absorb and retain training brought it in demand as a police and war dog.  In this service its agility and courage made it highly prized.  An excellent nose adapted the dog to criminal tracking and also has led to its use as a hunting dog.  The breed was officially recognized in 1900 by the American Kennel Club.  The Doberman has been fortunate with the aid of selective breeding to have absorbed the good qualities of the breeds which have made a contribution to its heritage.  It has been from the beginning, a working dog devoted to the service of mankind.  See also, the DPCA's  History of the Doberman page.

APPEARANCE: The Doberman is a medium sized dog of clean cut appearance with males reaching 26 to 28 inches tall at the withers, and bitches 24 to 26 inches.  Dogs not within this size range would not be considered correct according to the breed standard.  Males usually weigh 70 to 75 pounds; bitches 60 to 65 pounds.  The Doberman has a smooth, muscular body with a short, fine, close laying coat.  Ears can be cropped and erect or natural.  The tail is docked short.  Permissible colors are black, red, blue and fawn (Isabella).  White is not an allowed color although white patches on the chest not exceeding 1/2 inch square are permissible.  All colors have sharply defined rust markings above each eye, on the muzzle, throat, forechest, legs, feet and below the tail.  See also, the written standard for the breed.

CARE AND EXERCISE:The Doberman is an athletic breed and must have regular exercise to maintain its look, condition and agility.  Many behavioral problems can surface due to boredom or lack of exercise.  The Doberman is a "people" dog and does not do well with lengthy stints alone.  The short coat requires little care but does not afford sufficient warmth to allow the dog to thrive housed outside in cold climates.  Obedience training, even just the basics, is very important to make a Doberman a viable member of the family.  It takes time and dedication to train a dog correctly, but the reward is well worth the effort.

HEALTH ISSUES: The Doberman is generally a healthy breed, although as with all breeds, there are some problems which occur more frequently in the breed than in the general dog population.  There are tests to screen for many of the common problems, and the puppy buyer would do well to inquire whether the sire and dam were tested for the various problems, as well as the incidence of the problems in the specific lines.

A bleeding problem known as von Willebrand's disease (vWD) sometimes occurs in the Doberman.  Recently, researchers at Michigan State University successfully isolated the genetic mutation responsible for von Willebrand's disease.  We now have a genetic test (performed by VETGEN) that will identify whether a Doberman is genetically clear, carrier, or affected. It is important to note that many affected Dobermans never experience a bleeding problem, but when it occurs, it can be serious.  When considering some of the other health problems in the breed, this disease is not the most serious problem in the Doberman, but it is listed first because we now have a definitive test to screen for the problem and eliminate it in the offspring.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM or cardio) is a serious heart condition.  It is thought to be inherited, and the genetics of the disease are currently being studied. While we do not yet definitive test for DCM, there are some methods of testing that are recommended.  Responsible breeders use echocardiography and ambulatory electrocardiography (Holter monitoring) prior to breeding.  DCM cannot be diagnosed by simply listening to the heart.  The Holter test is similar to an EKG, but is done by a monitor that is worn by the dog over a period of time.  Echocardiography is an ultrasound of the heart which actually shows the size and motion of the heart as it is beating.

Wobbler's Syndrome, or CVI, also occurs in the Doberman at a higher incidence than the general dog population.  CVI is a painful condition caused by an abnormality in the spine.  There is currently no efficient way to screen for this problem.  The only valid tests are MRI (very expensive and not available in all locations) and myelogram (expensive and not without risks).  Because of the nature of these tests, they are only performed to diagnose a problem once symptoms are present, and are not as a screening device prior to breeding.  Many believe that this problem also has a genetic component, so a puppy buyer is advised to ask the extent of this problem in the pedigree and siblings and offspring of closely related Dobermans.

Hypothyroidism (low thyroid) is also common in the breed.  Every Doberman's thyroid level should be tested (including breeding stock before breeding).  Hypothyroidism is generally very easy to treat once diagnosed.  Ask your veterinarian.  Skin problems are not uncommon and are often linked to hypothyroidism.  Both the blue and the fawn color can also have a problem called Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA).  CDA is almost always just a cosmetic problem resulting in a varying degree of hair loss.  If you are interested in blue or fawn Dobermans, you should learn more about CDA and be prepared to love your dog even if it ends up with a thin coat.

Some breeds are subject to hip dysplasia.  The incidence of hip dysplasia in the Doberman is much lower than in many breeds, and continues to decrease as a result of testing prior to breeding.  Dogs can be certified free of hip dysplasia at two years of age by a veterinarian with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).  To increase the likelihood of a puppy free of hip problems, both parents should be OFA certified prior to breeding.  The Penn Hip test is an alternative test that some breeders use instead of the OFA test.

Some breeders also perform a CERF test to check for eye problems.  It has been reported that photosensitivity is a common problem in the Albino "White" Doberman.  (See links, below, for more information on the albino Doberman.)

In addition to asking the breeder about tests for the above problems and incidence of the problems in the lines, a puppy buyer may wish to ask the breeder the ages of the living dogs in the pedigree.  For deceased dogs in the pedigree, the puppy buyer may want to know causes of death and age at death.  The puppy buyer should also remember that other offspring and siblings of the sire and dam are more closely related to the puppies than dogs far back on the pedigree.  You may want to ask about these dogs, even though they don't show up on the pedigree.  Of course, the puppy buyer is always well advised to have the puppy checked by a veterinarian.

It is important to remember that all breeds have certain problems that tend to occur at a higher incidence than the general population of all dogs.  The Doberman is no exception.  However, you should not conclude that the Doberman is an unhealthy breed.  The Doberman is not an unhealthy dog.  The best breeders use the available tests to increase the odds of producing healthy puppies and to help make the breed healthier as a whole.  It is up to the Doberman buyer to ask about and insist upon the proper testing.  As a result, the Doberman will become an increasingly healthy breed.

See also, the  DPCA's Genetic Disease page.


The following is a list of additional information that you may choose to use when selecting a dog:

A puppy should not be removed from a litter prior to seven weeks of age.  Many breeders keep a puppy until after the ears are cropped and the stitches are removed, which is at about 10 to 12 weeks of age.  Some breeders will sell a puppy uncropped.  Ear cropping is done by a veterinarian and ranges in price from $150 to $200 per puppy and does not always include trips back to the vet for taping and aftercare.

The price you can expect to pay for a dog ranges from approximately $800 and upward, and can vary from breeder to breeder, depending on whether the dog is considered "show quality" or not.  Many breeders sell a puppy as "pet quality" because for one reason or another, the breeder doesn't feel the dog can become an AKC champion.  This wording is not intended to reflect upon the overall health, looks or temperament of the animal.

Look for a breeder who is willing to help you with problems and to provide you with additional information.  A responsible breeder carefully evaluates the homes they place their dogs in and continue their involvement throughout the life of the dog.  Expect the breeder to have many questions for you!

Obedience classes are available in many areas.  A good place to check is the pet section in the classified ads of your local newspaper.  Many organizations advertise classes there, from private individuals to the local parks departments.  Before choosing classes offered by chain pet stores, inquire about the training and experience of the instructors.

For further information on the Doberman Pinscher and general dog care, I recommend the following books:

These books and others can be ordered through: Dogwise.


The DPCA Rescue Committee maintains a list of Doberman Rescues. is a good resource for locating rescue groups.  Individual rescues are encouraged to utilize this helpful resource! For example, here is a list of Dobermans available in the Seattle area.

Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue is a non-profit organization dedicated to placing homeless dogs with loving families in the Puget Sound area.  If you are interested in adopting a Doberman, contact SPDR at (206) 654-1117.  The breed representatives for Dobermans will contact you after you return a completed adoption application form.


So you want a Doberman!  Hopefully, you have researched the breed and have made an informed decision that the Doberman is the right breed for you.  The rewards of pet ownership cannot be measured, but first here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide to get a companion:

If you can honestly answer yes to all the above questions, the next step is finding the right dog for you.   Acquiring a dog, like anything else, takes patience and some leg work.  The information located here is designed as a general guideline.

ADDITIONAL LINKS - Provided for general information.  These are independent sites, and they are solely responsible for their content.

UDC's Puppy Buyer's Guide  READ THIS ONE!

Information about the Doberman Pinscher from the DPCA.

How to Buy a Doberman Puppy

How to Evaluate a Doberman Breeder

The Doberman Pinscher Club of America's Code of Ethics.  All DPCA member breeders must adhere to these minimum standards.

Breeders, Good and Bad

DPCA COPE Rescue Directory.  A directory of Doberman rescue agencies and individuals.

Information about the so-called "white" (albino) Doberman.

Information about blue and fawn Dobermans.

Rescue Dobermans in Seattle

Dylan's Page

Storm's Page

This site is maintained by James W. Anable, Jr.,

1998, 2001, 2012 James W. Anable, Jr. and Elaine Hopper.

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