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The Doberman – Designed to Protect

Named after its creator, the German tax collector Karl Dobermann, this breed was created for the precise purpose to protect its handler. Due to his profession, Mr. Dobermann was in dire need of a reliable personal protection dog – an obedient companion whom he could take along to his house calls. And at the same time, an alert dog whom he could trust to rise to the occasion, should any unruly taxpayer decide to assault Mr. Dobermann.

Around 1890, he crossed Rottweilers, Jagdterriers and German Pinschers with larger breeds like the Great Dane and the English Greyhound. Whilst the Rottweiler, the Terrier and the Pinscher ensured the necessary readiness to strike in his new dog, the Greyhound made it gentler. Mixing in smooth-coated sheepherding dogs will have equipped the new breed with an extra bit of trainability and reliability.

The fruits of the tax collector’s labour were large, athletic dogs who possessed a high natural intimidation factor. At the same time, the Doberman Pinscher he created was closely bonded to its owner and very dependable. In the years and decades that followed, the Doberman quickly gained recognition throughout the world – as superb service dog for police and military, as quick and agile sports dog and as one of the best personal protection dogs in the world.

The Doberman – Hunter or Protector?

The Doberman we have today is an excellent guardian who will protect its loved ones and its territory – without any formal guard dog training. But even though Dobermans were bred as personal protection and guard dogs, they do come with a high prey drive. The desire to go after animals such as rodents, cats or even deer and wild boar, stems from the Dobies’ ancestors, the English Greyhound, the Great Dane, the German Pinscher and the Jagdterrier.

And it is precisely this pesky prey drive that can pose a challenge when introducing an adult Doberman into a household with small children and other pets: If not socialized from an early age onwards with kids and other animals, these dogs’ keen hunting instincts can be triggered by sudden movements. With this breed, it is recommended to introduce a young puppy into the household, instead of an adult dog – especially if you have young children or smaller pets, like toy-sized dogs, rabbits, or guinea pigs.

Socialization and Leadership are Key

Unfortunately, there are Dobermans who attack children, and it would be naïve to ignore these incidents. However, when we look more closely into such cases, we often find that the dog who bit a child was not allowed to live in the house. Instead, the supposedly aggressive Doberman had been confined to life in a kennel or on a chain since it was a young puppy. Which suggests that the dog’s apparent aggression might have been triggered by a sudden movement of the child, evoking a bite-reflex typical for hunting dogs. In any case, most likely, Dobermans who bite children – or other pets, for this matter - have not grown up in the same household with them. And they have not been provided with the firm leadership of an experienced handler.

Avoiding accidents like Dobermans biting kids or other pets requires every (human) member of the household to be the dog’s calm, consistent leader. If this is not possible, because your children are still too small to be calm, let alone to calmly lead a dog - then it is your responsibility as the dog’s handler to ensure their safety. If your Doberman respects your guidance, it is not likely to snap at your child. Of course, it goes without saying that you should never leave a Doberman and a young kid together without supervision.

Now, I know what we said sounds kind of negative, but these are large, fast, and energetic dogs and must be handled accordingly. A Doberman without rules, boundaries and limitations can easily contribute to the breed’s reputation as being potentially dangerous.

However, with the right leadership, Dobermans can absolutely make sweet and gentle family guardians. When growing up as part of the family, they are deeply loyal and accepting of other pets. In fact, Dobies can become so attached to their people that going anywhere in the house without them following is a challenge. This breed forms very strong bonds with their owners and is surprisingly affectionate – to the point where some owners call them “Velcro-dogs”. Despite their high energy levels, they are quiet in the house and love cuddles. Dobermans are best suited for families who lead an active lifestyle, and who want a dog who is up for plenty of outings and adventures.

And this wraps up our discussion of the Doberman’s behaviour towards children and other pets in the household. As we saw, these light-footed guard dogs can be extremely loving, loyal, and deeply affectionate family companions – if educated properly, and if allowed to share the home with their family: Dobermans thrive when given the opportunity to be around their people most of the time.

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