The following information is intended to help a person who has adopted a Doberman Pinscher successfully integrate their new dog into their home. The information and recommendations apply to most dogs, however without evaluating your dog, we cannot be certain it applies to him. Please be careful when working with your dog so as to avoid provoking an aggressive or dangerous response. If you believe your dog may benefit from the attention of a trainer, please seek out a person knowledgeable in Dobermans for help.
Congratulations on adopting a Doberman Pinscher. With a little time, a lot of love, and everything that goes in between, you can look forward to a long and loving relationship with your new Best Friend. In the following pages, you will find some basic information to help both you and your Doberman make a smooth transition from the rescue facility into your home.
We often tell people that the Dobermans we rescue and subsequently adopt out have had their lives turned upside down. By that, we mean that first they were either abandoned or abused or were in some other situation that necessitated that they be picked up by an animal control department or someone else who found them running loose as strays. That was the first upside-down instance they encountered, as the life they had previously known was taken away—for better or worse. Then, when they came from the shelter where they had learned the routine and been around new sounds, sights, and smells along with a lot of new people and new dogs in their runs, they made it to Doberman Rescue where they yet again had to learn a new routine of people, sounds, sights, smells and dog buddies.
All of this can take its toll on even the strongest of dogs, which is why we work very carefully to try to match up the right dogs with the right homes. Even so, when the lucky Doberman finally gets to go home with you, his life is about to be turned upside down yet again. But this time for the better—only the dog doesn't know that yet.
While every Doberman responds uniquely to the stress of having its life turned upside down, there are several characteristics exhibited by many dogs.
While the dog’s underlying temperament is the result of its breeding, how the dog interacts with the world is enormously influenced by how the dog thinks of the world. If the world has seemed scary or threatening, the dog will likely be withdrawn and timid for a time. If the dog was subjected to aggression, attacks by other dogs, or cruelty, it may respond with a display of growling, barking, and aggression.
Even a well housebroken dog may be so confused by life in a shelter and at Doberhof that it will forget the cardinal rules of housebreaking. Fortunately, they are easily and quickly relearned. More about that later.
At the shelter, your dog was probably exposed to a variety of diseases. He may also have been exposed to illness at the Rescue, despite our practice of isolating sick dogs and vaccinating all dogs against rabies, distemper, corona, leptospirosa, parvovirus, parainfluenza, bordatella (kennel cough), and other diseases. The stress of repeated disturbances in your dog's life, heartworm treatment, and of spay or neuter surgery may have reduced your dog's resistance to illness. So while your dog should appear completely healthy as you take him home today, you must be vigilant for any sign of illness.
Feeding Time.Many dogs that we rescue have spent some time with an inadequate food supply. While they are well fed with good quality of food at Doberman Rescue, they may never lose the nagging memory of terrible hunger. This means your dog may bolt his food and try to steal yours. Neither is good for him and will require some care on your part.
Virtually every problem that was caused by your dog’s life being turned upside down will be remedied with your love, training, appropriate care, and time.
From the time you put your new Doberman in the car with you and head home, its personality begins to change and adapt to its new situation. Some Dobermans are quiet and reserved for a few days in their new home while they patiently wait to see what the routine is going to be. Others become boisterous and excitable now that they have a family all to themselves. And then there are those who really change very little and seem to just go with the flow.
If your Doberman seems reserved or shy or uncertain, make sure it has a crate that is in a room or location in your home that is quiet and private. Introduce the dog to its crate by giving it a treat and talking calmly then praising it when it goes inside the crate. For the first few times of introducing it to its crate, you might not bother shutting the door. You want your new dog’s initial exposure to its crate to be a positive one.
If your dog is boisterous and overly excited, do the same thing by introducing it to its crate and have it go in and out several times—each time offering it a treat and moderate praise. And don’t be overly concerned if once in its crate, it lets you know in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t like it there.
Dobermans are nick-named "Velcro-dogs" because they tend to stick to their people. Some Dobermans start to show this tendency within minutes of meeting their new owners, others take several days or weeks. Regardless of how much or how little your dog seems to enjoy your company at first, your dog needs plenty of contact with you to become a happy, well-adjusted member of your family. Take time to play with and train your Doberman, to go for walks, and to sit in quiet companionship. While you may have a hard time imagining that your boisterous new Doberman would enjoy curling up with you to watch a movie and share a bowl of popcorn, a good workout can transform him into a calm companion, at least for a few hours.
Your Doberman needs a place that he can call his own—a place where he can retreat and not be bothered or affected by the hustle and bustle of your household, guests who can’t get enough of your splendid new friend, or children who are enamored with their new best buddy.
Therefore, crate training is in your Doberman’s best interest. You will both benefit from it.
What size crate is best?
Since the Doberman is classified as a medium-sized dog, an extra-large size crate will give him ample room to stand up and turn around without being cramped either width- or height-wise. Extra-large size crates, also known as #500 size, are typically 40 in. long x 27 in. wide x 30 in. high. The exact dimensions vary from one manufacturer to another. If you have a smaller example of the breed, a large size crate, also known as #400 size, may be adequate. Large size crates are typically 36 in. long x 24 in. wide x 26 in. high. If you are unsure what size of crate you should get for your new Doberman, please call Doberman Rescue and ask.
What kind of crate is best?
There are two generic types of crates, plastic and wire. Plastic crates have molded plastic shells that fasten together, with a wire grill door. Wire crates have wire grill sides and tops and a removable solid tray on the bottom. Plastic crates have the advantage of being approved as shipping crates if your dog has to travel by air. Wire crates allow for more ventilation, although in our experience, plastic crates allow for plenty of airflow. When used indoors for crate training, many people place a cloth cover over wire crates to make them more private and secluded for the dog, so the ventilation difference is minimal. At Doberman Rescue we use mostly Vari-Kennel brand plastic crates made by Doskocil.
Crates can be purchased at some local grocery stores. Albertson’s usually offers excellent prices—around $80 for a #400 size plastic crate, $100 for a #500 size plastic crate (Note: We have not seen crates listed on their website, but they are in many of the stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area). You can find more variety if you shop at a pet specialty retailer such as Petsmart or Petco, by mail order from a company like J-B Wholesale (800-526-0388) or Foster & Smith (800-826-7206) or on-line. Expect to pay between $80-$120 for a crate—but trust us: It will be the single best investment you can make for you and your new Doberman.
Where do I put the crate?
This depends on your individual home setup and available area. But first and foremost, the crate should be in a place that is quiet and calm, and away from normal household traffic or activities. If you have children, you should teach them that when the dog is in his crate, it is his or her "quiet time" and they are not to bother him. This way, the dog learns that he has a refuge when needed.
But what if my Doberman doesn't like getting in his crate and barks or cries?
If your Doberman has not already been crate trained he will probably try to train you into thinking that he’s about to roll over and die the minute you shut the crate door. You may get an accusing glare or a pitiful look that says, "I just want to be with you every waking moment, please let me out so I can love you some more!" Or you may get loud barks of protest or howls of discontent.
If you fall for this, your Doberman—being of extraordinary intelligence—is on his way to training you, instead of you training him. Break crate training into two behaviors—entering the crate and staying in the crate.
Entering the Crate.We usually start by tossing a treat into the crate in full view of the dog. We want him to see the tasty treat go in. We then guide him into the crate using his collar and by gently crowding him from behind. Once he is inside and turns around (usually after eating the treat), we praise him. You can then allow your dog to come out of the crate. Do the whole process all over again. Repeat about five times. Then that's it for this training session. If your dog readily enters the crate, then you can move on to staying in the crate. If he resists, repeat the crate entry training sessions several times a day until he becomes comfortable entering the crate.
Staying in the Crate.Have your dog enter the crate. When he turns around, praise him and give him a treat. Then close the crate door and leave the room for a few minutes. Most dogs will generally cease their barking or whining fairly quickly once you’ve left the room. For the dog that hasn’t been crate trained, allow him to continue barking until he stops or gives it a long pause. The re-enter the room, praise the dog, and let him out of the crate for a bit of playtime.
Then put him back in, and repeat the process. Some people will place a favorite toy or chew-bone into the crate before they put the dog inside. The idea is the dog will have something pleasant to do while he is in there, so he won’t mind be confined.
You’re working to achieve two goals here:
Teach the dog to associate the crate with a positive experience such as a treat, praise, and an ultimate return by you to let him out.
Teach the dog that his barking or whining will not result in you coming back to let him out.
Some dogs take to crate training faster than others, so be patient, and above all . . . be consistent!
A Word of Caution!!!
When a dog is in his crate, especially if he has just had an experience that upset him, it is a very poor idea to go into the crate after him, no matter what your intention. If the dog feels threatened he may give you a serious bite since you will be entering head-first.
To many people, this may sound somewhat silly. Nevertheless, over the years, we have had two adopters bitten by normally even-tempered dogs. One of our adopters was brushing his new dog's teeth. The dog was not enjoying it, but the adopter prevailed and then crated the dog. A short while later the adopter leaned his head and shoulders into the crate to comfort the dog and "make friends" with him. He was bitten on the head and arm. He told us that an animal behaviorist recommended he do this. We recommend you DO NOT.
When I encounter a dog that snarls, growls, or acts scared or withdrawn when I am trying to get him out of the crate, I use a stiff nylon loop leash to cast a loop over the dog's head, allowing me to pull him out of the crate without reaching very far in. Under no circumstance do I stick my head into the crate during the procedure. Remember, a dog in a crate is completely cornered, so if he perceives you as a threat, regardless of what you say or think, the only response available to him, other than cowering in fear, is to attack.
Dobermans are generally clean dogs and ever conscious and mindful of their environment, which makes them one of the easier breeds to housetrain. And just as we people have to plan our "pit stops" when traveling by car or sitting in meetings, we need to teach our Dobermans how to "plan" when they can go to do their business.
The single easiest way to do this is with the crate. While in the crate, most dogs will not soil their "house" or sleeping quarters. Thus, you have the ability to control when your dog is to go outside and do his business—whether on leash if you don’t have a fenced yard or live in an apartment, or loose in a fenced yard or dog run.
When you take your dog outside and he does his business, praise him, play just a bit, then bring him back inside the house and praise him again. When he is indoors, always keep an eye on your new Doberman since your house is full of new smells and objects that he or she just might want to "put their name on" to make them feel like they have ownership and really belong. Male dogs are generally worse than females in this area, but don't kid yourself: Females will become every bit as possessive of their new home as males. So keep a close eye on your new Doberman for the first few months that he is in your home. And don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because he hasn’t had an accident in several weeks. Remember: His personality and comfort level are still evolving in his new environment.
If you catch your Doberman in the act or about to be in the act, tell him "NO" and quickly usher him outside to do or finish his business—then praise him for doing so. If your dog soils in the house, DO NOT rub his nose in it, or point to it and read him the riot act—it means nothing to him except that you are angry and he’s not sure why. After all, up to that point, you haven’t fully taught him that he is not supposed to go in the house. How can you correct a dog for disobeying a command or expectation that hasn't been fully taught?
The combination of crate training and close supervision will generally work to make housebreaking much easier and stress free, but accidents are going to happen. It’s just part of owning a dog. If for some reason you’re still having difficulties housetraining your dog, call us at Doberman Rescue and we’ll offer some additional proven techniques for you to try.
Your Doberman needs a high quality dog food to remain healthy and happy. Most of the dogs at Doberman Rescue are fed Members Mark brand dry kibble from Sam's Club. We find our dogs thrive on this food. It is tasty, easily digestible, nutritious, and provides excellent value for money. That said, some Dobermans have health conditions that may require a specialized diet. We will note on your contract if your dog requires specialized feeding.
If you decide to feed a different diet, you must be sure to transition your dog gradually from Pedigree to the new food. We recommend you take six days for the conversion, feeding a mixture of 75% original food with 25% new food for two days, 50% original food with 50% new food for two days, and 25% original food with 75% new food for two days. On the seventh day you should be fine feeding pure new food. If you don't make the transition gradual, your Doberman will probably suffer from diarrhea. It's a Dobe thing.
The amount of food each dog needs varies with the dog, his activity level, and the food. You should start off feeding the quantity recommended on the package of the food you feed, and adjust up or down depending on the way your dog gains or loses weight. Many people overfeed their dogs. This is very unhealthy for the dogs and can shorten their lives. Please be careful to avoid having your dog become obese.
How many meals you give your Doberman each day is largely a matter of your preference. Many people believe that it is healthier for a Doberman to eat two small meals each day rather than one large meal. This is because they believe that "Bloat," a life-threatening condition where the dog’s stomach twists trapping food and gas and obstructing the blood flow in the abdomen, is more likely if the stomach contains a large amount of food. We do not believe there is solid evidence one way or the other on this. We have lost dogs we love to bloat but there are no patterns that we can see in what triggers this dangerous condition. At Doberman Rescue, your dog was fed once each day, in the evening.
Some Dobermans have poor coats. Fawns and Blues are susceptible to a condition called Color Dilution Alopecia, or CDA. If your dog suffers from a thinning coat be sure to have a thyroid check done. If he had a thin coat when you adopted him, check the health record for the results of the thyroid test we had our vet run. Very often a thinning coat is a sign of hypothyroidism. When the coat problem is something other than thyroid, we have found that feeding a richer diet (Pedigree Lamb and Rice for example) helps.
Because we rarely know the background or life history of the Dobermans that come into our rescue program, we encourage you to set the ground rules as soon as you bring your new Doberman home. This will help you to avoid the personality conflicts that may later develop from what were otherwise good intentions.
One conflict that can occur is a struggle for dominance. Because your Doberman has been "on his own" prior to making it to the rescue, and ultimately to his new home, he may feel the need to quickly establish his status or rank in your household—which he instinctively thinks of as his pack. This can lead to dominance issues that make future training more difficult, and can also lead to dominance aggression. Dominance aggression is when your Doberman thinks that he is either equal to you or higher in rank to you or any of your family members or human guests. He is not and should never be. So this needs to be avoided. Here are several proven ways to try to ensure that his experiences in his first few weeks or months in your home firmly, but humanely, establish you as boss.
Do not let your new Doberman on the furniture.
In a dog's mind, height equals status. If he is immediately allowed to get on your furniture, he just might start challenging you for the best seat in the house—then you have problems.
Do not let your new Doberman sleep on the bed with you.
Same as with the furniture. The best place for him to sleep the first few weeks or months that he is with you is in his crate. You may choose to relax this rule later. Many Doberman owners allow their dogs to sleep on their beds. But there is a vast difference between a dog who is invited to jump up onto the bed by a human who he looks up to, and one who decides to be in the bed because he is in charge.
No table scraps.
He has his food. You have yours. Don't let him get that mixed up. By giving him food while you are at the table, you are training him to pester you and your dinner guests. Moreover, most table scraps are not good for him, may cause allergies, and do nothing for healthy weight gain or maintenance. And . . . why purposely make housetraining more difficult?
Keep a training collar and 4 foot leash on him at all times when loose in the house.
This gives you the ability to administer an immediate correction for inappropriate behavior and is a constant reminder that he has to obey and answer to you and the other family members. Note that at least initially, your Doberman should never be left unsupervised in your home. This is to avoid housetraining accidents, counter surfing (stealing food), chewing, or other compulsive behavior. It is important to remember that since your dog is wearing a training collar, you must supervise him for safety reasons. An unsupervised dog can get his training collar caught and strangle.
The quicker your new Doberman understands the rules, the quicker he will learn them, and the quicker he will understand his role in your home. The key to making a positive transition from Doberman Rescue to your home is to eliminate from your dog's mind as much confusion or doubt as possible. Setting the ground rules from day one and enforcing them consistently will work to shape his personality into one that is reliable and predictable. He’ll feel secure as he quickly learns what is expected, and you'll feel good as he becomes reliable and predictable in his behavior.
Sibling rivalry or sibling love—which is it going to be?
If you take time, use some common sense, and exercise patience, you can amaze your friends and astound your neighbors by having a household of multiple animals that live in peace and harmony—most of the time, at least.
While Dobermans are social animals, they are also confident, intelligent animals that prefer to lead rather than follow. But in the hierarchy of dogdom, each animal will fall into a specific place in the pack. Rule number one is to always make sure that your other animals know that you are the head of the pack, and that they have to fall in place under you. So long as everyone involved understands and enforces this rule, you can have a household of multiple animals with only a minimal amount of conflict. We say minimal, because with any such situation, conflicts will occur from time to time. The key here is to keep them to a minimum.
Introducing your new Doberman to your other dog(s).
The best place to do this is on neutral territory such as at Doberhof during Open House when you pick out your new dog. Later, when you pick up your new Doberman and take him home, have someone else bring out your other dog and let them meet on the sidewalk or at a nearby park—somewhere that would be considered neutral territory. Some dogs tend to be aggressive when on leash, so if hackles are being raised and teeth are being bared, don’t despair. This is just their way of communicating where they feel they stand in the order of the pack.
Chances are that they will not be aggressive toward each other so you should be able to just put them in the backyard and let them romp and play, right? Wrong! Remember: Your new Doberman is the "new kid on the block" in this situation and has never seen your home. There is a myriad of sights, sounds and smells he needs to check out.
Start by putting your other dog in his crate away from where your new Doberman will want to check things out. Keep your new dog on a training collar and leash. Remember: We’re teaching him who is in charge from the onset. Let him sniff around the house. Give him a little tour and have a few treats handy. Keep an eye on him lest he suddenly decide to mark some territory. After you and he have explored the house, take him out in the backyard and do the same thing, then take off his leash and let him wander on his own.
While this is happening, chances are good that your other dog will be pitching an absolute fit. When your Doberman has had time to explore and get to know the place, bring him inside on leash and have someone else bring your other dog into the room, also on leash. If they "play bow" with each other after a bit of sniffing, let them play a bit inside. Then usher them outside to continue their closely-supervised playing. Again, keep treats handy. Make sure there are several water bowls out as sometimes your first dog may not be fully willing to share everything in the yard. You’ll see a lot of territory marking during this initial encounter, but it's nothing to be concerned or worried about. If all has gone well up to this point, a great thing to do is to take them both for a very short walk around the block. Let them get used to taking walks together with you in charge.
Should one of the dogs begin posturing or acting aggressively, observe carefully before administering a correction. Whereas a dog's growl to us may sound like imminent destruction is about to happen, what the other dog is hearing is simply a statement of "don’t mess with me, I’m in charge here." More than likely, if any such behavior happens, it will originate with the dog you’ve had longer, however your new Doberman may reciprocate and is simply saying "don’t push it, buddy."
Dogs have a way of working things out quickly and deciding who fits where in the pecking order without fighting to the point of serious injury or bloodshed. But if aggressive behavior persists through the day and into the evening, separate the dogs and give Doberman Rescue a call.
If a fight does break out be very careful how you break it up. Best is to pull the dogs apart with their leashes. This keeps you a long way from their teeth. Next best is to grab them by their hind legs, around their thighs and pull them apart. Note that neither approach works well if you are alone since the dog you are not pulling on will probably continue to attack the one you are holding. That is why we strongly urge you to have a family member or friend with you to help during the introduction process, and to have both dogs on leash.
The worst way to break up a fight is by reaching in to grab the dogs' collars. Not only are you placing your hands and face close to their teeth where they may accidentally be bitten, your actions may be perceived and responded to as a second attack. It has been our experience that a lone person usually gets bitten when they reach into a fight to grab a collar and pull two dogs apart. So don’t do it! Avoid this situation by using leashes on your dogs and having a helper.
Most Dobermans have what's called "prey drive." This is an instinctive drive to give chase to a fleeing object—be it a tennis ball, a kong, a rabbit . . . or a cat.
You probably told us about your cat when you filled in your adoption application. If we knew about your cat, we tried to guide you to a dog we believe will be tolerant of cats. We can’t promise, however, that the dog will never decide your cat is prey. It seems like Dobermans do not necessarily treat all cats the way they used to treat "their" cat. Even a dog who lived amicably with a cat in a former home may behave inappropriately when first introduced to a new cat in a new home. Be very careful!
The best thing to do initially is to give the cat a part of the house and the Doberman another part of the house—baby gates work well for this. Teach your Doberman that he is not to go crashing through a baby gate, nor is he to give wild and sudden chase to your cat. This type of training is not difficult, it just requires a lot of patience on your part. We suggest you set the baby gate up so the bottom is about six inches off the floor. This way, if your dog rushes your cat, kitty can scoot underneath and escape quicker than your dog can jump the gate.
We recommend you use a lot of squirt bottles and a ton of patience. Generally, you will need a squirt bottle in every room of the house for easy and fast access. Teaching your dog "NO CATS" takes some vigilance and a lot of patience on your part. Every time the dog and the cat are loose in the house together you must be aware of where they are at all times so that you are able to catch the dog "in the act." Afterwards, it is too late and your dog won't know what you're talking about. You may find it helps if you limit your dog's free space until you have successfully trained him. This makes it easier for you to keep track of where he is and correct him when needed.
In phase one, you will need to teach your dog a command like, "NO CATS" or "LEAVE IT." Every time the dog chases the cat you must correct him. Correcting him consists of squirting the dog and telling him "NO CATS." At some point your dog will learn to associate the phrase with being squirted. The idea is to eventually be able to just say the words and have the dog understand and comply.
Phase two is where you try to catch your dog before he starts the chase, when he is just "thinking" about it. This is not as hard as it sounds. It is much easier to do this phase of training while having your dog with you in whatever room you're in throughout the day. The key in this stage is to be acutely aware anytime the cat enters the room. Then you watch your dog. The minute your dog pricks his ears or "sets a stare" on the cat you know what he is thinking. This is when you pick up the bottle—but don't squirt yet. Tell him "NO CATS." Repeat this phrase as long as it takes for him to stop alerting on the cat. You then give him lots of praise for not chasing the cat. If your dog begins to chase the cat at any point, squirt him and tell him "NO CATS," but don't praise him if you actually had to squirt him. Some dogs, depending on their age and activity level, will learn more quickly than others. The whole process can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, so don't be discouraged if your dog doesn't learn overnight or in just a few weeks.
Success depends on patience and consistent reinforcement. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and most dogs will eventually learn to peacefully coexist with their feline friend. In the meantime, be prepared to look the other way if kitty does something you normally would not like, such as jumping on the counter when fleeing from a pursuing dog. Cats should be allowed any and all escape routes available to them when running from a dog, even if it means jumping on your kitchen counter now and then.
1. Keep squirt bottles in every room for easy and fast access.
2. Until he is trained, try to keep your dog in the room you're in as much as possible so you can readily correct him.
3. Do your best to notice every time the cat enters the room so you can then watch your dog for reaction and appropriately correct him.
4. Allow the cat access to any and all escape routes when fleeing a dog, even if you're not personally happy with the chosen route.
5. Don't give up. Be consistent and vigilant. It will pay off.
If you truly feel your cat or other small pet is actually IN DANGER please call Doberman Rescue at 972-606-1510 or contact a professional behaviorist. Whatever you do, never leave the dog and cat alone unsupervised until you are absolutely positive that nothing bad will come of it. If you have any doubts at all, crate the dog. Better safe than sorry!
As you and your new Doberman become better acquainted, you may find that he begins to display what we call "leash aggression." Leash aggression is inappropriate aggressive behavior towards other dogs or people while he’s on a leash. This is unacceptable behavior and not to be tolerated. When learning how to deal with leash aggression it is important to first have an idea of when an aggressive response is appropriate, and when it is inappropriate. The Doberman Pinscher was developed to be a personal protection dog, so to some extent, your dog is likely to respond instinctively to situations he perceives as threatening.
Appropriate aggression circumstances:
• A person walks up to you in a threatening or intimidating manner.
• Someone approaches you from the rear in a stealthy/stalking manner.
• A strange dog charges at you with teeth bared and hackles raised.
• Another leashed dog lunges, snarls, or snaps at your leashed dog.
• Any situation in which you feel that the safety or well-being of you or your dog is threatened.
Inappropriate aggression circumstances:
• A friendly stranger or family member meets you on the sidewalk or elsewhere on your walk.
• You encounter a neutral stranger.
• A non-threatening dog, either on a leash or in his yards makes no effort to run up to you and your dog.
• Children run up to see you and your dog.
Obviously there are more examples of circumstances where an aggressive response is appropriate or inappropriate, so you have to use your judgment in determining whether to correct your dog's behavior.
Next you need to learn how to read your dog's body language so you can decide whether your dog is responding with aggression. A non-aggressive Doberman will be alert, step forward toward the stimulus, and may sniff or stare at the stimulus. If the Doberman feels inclined to welcome the person or animal he may wag his tail, play bow, whine, or smile in greeting. An aggressive response to a human may involve straining at the leash toward the person, baring teeth, raising hackles, growling, barking, walking stiff-legged, or standing tall on his toes. An aggressive response to a dog may also include your Doberman lifting his head and arching his neck over the other dog, or staring at the other dog out of the corner of his eye. The differences can be subtle, so you need to learn your dog’s quirks.
In the case of aggression being shown towards friendly strangers or children, you should administer a quick, sharp correction on the collar (see below) while simultaneously telling your dog "NO!" in no uncertain terms. Don’t lecture your dog, as he won’t understand anything you say other than "NO" and it may only serve to incite him more. Immediately after you’ve corrected him, give him a "Heel" command and walk him in a very tight, controlled circle, bringing him back to face the stranger. Then command him to "Sit" and see to it that he does. If he is no longer showing aggression, praise him for it, but don’t let the stranger attempt to pet him. The minute the stranger passes, give your dog the "Heel" command and continue walking.
If this type of scenario happens in your home when you have guests over, do the same thing. If you don’t know how your dog will react to strangers in the house, always keep a leash on him. As he grows to know and trust you and your judgment, the leash in the house will no longer be necessary. But for now, you must maintain control over the dog and his actions.
The key is to correct the behavior the very instant it occurs. If you hesitate, the correction will mean nothing and the dog will have learned nothing.
In the case of inappropriate aggression being shown towards another dog, instantly correct your dog. Walk him in a circle, but then move out of the path of the approaching dog and his owner. Move onto a yard or other area where the approaching dog and owner can walk by unobstructed and out of reach of your dog. If your dog only watches the other dog and does not display any aggression, praise him. If he continues to growl or lunge, correct him again as described above. As soon as the approaching dog has walked past you, continue on your walk.
A word of caution here. Many dog owners will let their dogs go to the end of the leash to "meet" your dog. Unless you positively KNOW your dog has no tendency towards dog aggression, you would be wise to warn off the approaching dog owner by telling him, "My dog doesn't always get along with other dogs, so we're going to wait right here until you pass. Thank you."
The Leash Perimeter—Your Doberman's Version Of A Demilitarized Zone.
When on leash, many dogs establish a perimeter. Any dog approaching or attempting to enter that perimeter is considered a threat. This often happens because the dog has learned that while on a leash, if it comes to "fight or flight," there is no way to flee because of being bound by the leash. Therefore, the fight instinct kicks in. Dogs that have learned this lesson will usually respond with fierce aggression to any dog that enters their perimeter. Yet when the same dog is off leash, no such inappropriately aggressive response is seen.
If your Doberman exhibits this tendency you must be especially vigilant to ensure that dogs approaching you are not injured or engaged in fights. If we observed this behavior while your dog was at Doberman Rescue then we have warned you about it and made a notation to that effect on your contract. However, the fact that we did not see the behavior does not guarantee it will not arise after you adopt the dog. Remember: Your dog's personality will be transformed after you adopt him and both good and bad tendencies can appear. So please be careful.
Basic obedience training that is reinforced builds confidence in dogs. Confident dogs rarely feel the need to fight or flee. So in addition to the corrective approach discussed above, engage your dog in a good obedience training program. You will see a difference.
While you continue to assimilate your new Doberman into your household and daily routines, it pays to always be on the lookout for situations that can trigger aggressive behavior and be ready to correct that behavior before it becomes habit.
In our opinion, the best training collar for a Doberman is a training collar commonly referred to as a "choke chain." This is a misnomer because when used correctly, this collar should never choke the dog. Therefore, we instead call it a training collar.
The quality of the training collar you use is important. The best are manufactured in Germany from Chrome plated stainless steel, but less expensive, rugged alternatives are also made in the USA. For most Dobermans, a 3 mm wide chain, also commonly called Heavy link is appropriate. A narrower collar, called light or medium, is more severe and unnecessary for most Dobermans. A wider collar requires too harsh of a pull on the leash to administer the correction.
For leashes we prefer six foot, 3/4 inch heavy leather leashes as they will virtually never wear out, are very safe, and are heavy enough to always let the dog know that they are on a leash, and thus expected to heed our commands. These are expensive and can be hard to find so if you cannot find or afford a leather leash we recommend a six foot, 1 inch double-ply nylon leash as an alternative.
The single most important step in correctly using a training collar is putting it on correctly. Since most people train their dog to heel on their left, the training collar should be put over the dog's head so that it forms a letter P, when looking at the collar and dog from the front. If you have any questions about how to use your training collar, please ask Doberman Rescue.
The next step is the secret to being able to use a training collar with maximum effectiveness rather than incorrectly using it and thus relegating it to nothing more than a choke/restraining device. Set the training collar up high, directly behind the dog’s ears and under the chin. This is the most sensitive area on a dog's head and neck area, where almost no force is needed—and where the true "correction" can be heard and felt best.
Yes, we said "heard." The correction you want is not to choke the dog or to yank on it. Rather, you want to apply a momentary, sharp tightening of the collar that gets the dog’s immediate attention. As the collar tightens during the correction, the links make a distinctive sound as they run through the end ring. The repetition of this sound followed by the momentary sharp tightening condition the dog to respond to the sound alone, allowing your corrections to involve less force and become simply a signal. This is why you want anywhere from two to four inches of slack in your training collar, depending upon the size of your dog’s head and neck.
When used properly, the dog will quickly associate the sound of the links rasping across the end ring with the sensation of the collar tightening. You use this correction to stop the dog from whatever undesirable behavior he is committing, from pulling on the leash to not sitting, to not downing. After the dog learns the sound and sensation of the links running through the end ring, all it takes is a gentle movement of the leash to create this effect and your dog will obey and respond to your command (if he missed it when you first gave it) or desist in what he is doing.
It is important here to remind you to keep the leash almost vertical as you use it to train your dog. This keeps the training collar in its proper position high on the neck and close to the dog’s ears. It is easy to let the leash begin to slide back down the neck or to get slack so that a more forceful correction has to be administered to achieve the same results. On an untrained dog with an inattentive trainer the training collar can find its way down to the base of the dog's neck where it is practically useless.
Once your dog has learned basic commands using this technique, it is not necessary to constantly leave the training collar high up on the dog's neck. Simply the sound and sensation of the links running through the end ring will serve as all the correction you need.
Pinch collars, sometimes called prong collars, are those collars in which rows of prongs turned inward are fitted with removable links. These collars can work well when training heavy coated breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Bouvier des Flandres and other large breeds with thick, heavy undercoats. The correction comes when the leash is pulled and the prongs squeeze together and effectively pinch the skin around the neck of the dog.
We do not generally endorse these collars for use in training Doberman Pinschers. Dobermans do not have thick coats and no undercoats so the pinch collar is usually unnecessary. Furthermore, pinch collars are only capable of giving one level of correction. As your dog learns a command he will often require only a light "reminding" correction. You cannot deliver such a subtle correction to a Doberman with a pinch collar.
That said, some dogs have learned to pull strongly against the leash—even when wearing a training collar. If your dog has this tendency, we will have discussed this with you as you are getting to know him. A dog that has learned this behavior is neither fun nor safe to walk on a training collar. And while we strongly urge you to use a training collar when training, your dog also needs to be walked for exercise. We therefore endorse the limited use of pinch collars for exercising dogs that have learned to pull against a training collar. As you train your dog with your training collar, he will come to respect it and stop pulling and straining against it.
Proper use of a pinch collar requires it be properly fitted with prongs of appropriate size. We recommend using 3.25 mm prongs, commonly called large size or extra heavy. Be sure to get a collar long enough to fit snugly, but not tightly, around your dog’s neck. Extra links are available for sale if you need to lengthen your collar. Pinch collars come in two styles. With the regular collar you unhook a link to get it on or off. The other style has a snap built into the chain to make removal easier.
When your dog is wearing his pinch collar you must remember it and be careful. A correction administered as if he were wearing a training collar is far too harsh. You must be careful to have gentle hands.
You also need to take precautions lest the collar spring open in a moment of stress. Pinch collars are simply hooked together and can come unhooked. Almost everyone who has used one a lot can tell you a horror story. The collar may spring open when the dog forgets he is wearing it and lunges at a cat, a car, or some other stimulus. Unless you have a second collar on him, he may be killed or injured—or another animal may be harmed. Your therefore need to back up the pinch collar with a second collar also clipped to your leash. If you are unsure about this, ask Doberman Rescue.
Your Doberman is first and foremost a working dog, and working dogs need a job to do. This doesn’t mean that he has to become a guard dog or a Seeing Eye dog or a search & rescue dog. It just means that he needs a boss that makes him do things—things like "sit" and "stay" and "heel" and other commands.
We cannot stress enough the importance of obedience training your Doberman. No Doberman is ever too old to learn and a bored Doberman can be a destructive Doberman. By enrolling you and your Doberman in a quality obedience course, you’ll strengthen your bond with each other and truly become a team. Nothing is more impressive than watching a well-trained, attentive Doberman follow his master’s commands to perfection. And before you think that you may not have time to keep up with his training, all it takes is as little as ten to fifteen minutes twice a day—and you can even work on your training during your daily walks!
Some owners of untrained Dobermans complain about their dogs digging or chewing things up. This is a complaint we rarely hear from owners of trained Dobermans. It would be a shame not to take full advantage of a breed consistently ranked in the top ten (out of over 200 listed breeds) for intelligence.
Most people think that to compete in competitions sponsored by the American Kennel Club you must have a registered dog. That's only partly true. If you want to show a dog in conformation, the dog must be registered. Since your rescue Doberman has been spayed or neutered, he or she is disqualified from conformation shows. However, your Doberman can still compete in AKC sanctioned performance competitions. Many rescue dogs are competing today in a variety of AKC sanctioned Obedience Trials, Tracking Tests, Herding, Lure Coursing, Agility, Earthdog Events, and Hunting Tests—and they’re earning impressive titles doing it. The AKC recognizes that people adopt excellent purebred dogs from rescue and has created the Indefinite Listing Privilege to allow them to compete in AKC events. The Indefinite Listing Privilege is obtained by submitting a simple application to the AKC. When the AKC approves your application, they send you an ILP number for your dog. And with your ILP number your dog will be permitted to compete in performance events, right alongside $2000 show dogs from the finest breeders in the land!
Information about the ILP Program and the AKC’s Application for an Indefinite Listing Privilege form is available online, or we can give you a copy of the application at Doberman Rescue. We can help you fill it out if you wonder about some of the questions.
Here are but a few of the titles from the AKC that you and your new Doberman can earn:
CGC Canine Good Citizen
CD Companion Dog (Obedience title)
CDX Companion Dog Excellent
UD Utility Dog (Obedience title)
UDX Utility Dog Excellent (Obedience title)
TD Tracking Dog
TDX Tracking Dog Excellent
For more comprehensive information on these titles and what your dog and you need to learn to earn them, please visit: www.akc.org
We cannot emphasize strongly enough how important and beneficial it is to have a good relationship with your dog’s veterinarian. One of the best ways to establish this relationship is through regular visits to your vet’s office for something as simple as a toenail trim once a month. It’s inexpensive and gives the vet and the staff regular opportunities to get to know your dog and for your dog to become comfortable in your vet’s office. Should your Doberman ever need serious or emergency medical attention, the familiarity that your vet and the staff have with your dog will only work in everyone's favor.
As part of your adoption agreement you have committed to take your new Doberman to your vet within three weeks of taking him home. Check your contract for the exact date. During this visit you need to purchase heartworm preventive for your dog. We generally recommend Heartguard Plus or Interceptor but you should follow your vet's advice. This initial visit will allow your vet to open a file for your dog and perform an initial examination. In case your vet has any questions about your Doberman's medical history, be sure to take your dog’s folder with you to this exam. It contains your dog's health records from Doberman Rescue as well as the name and address of the vets who have treated your dog and a log where you can record your visits to your vet.
Be sure to visit your vet before the deadline shown in your contract. Failure to do so constitutes neglect and is a serious breach of contract. It entitles Doberman Rescue to retake custody of the dog. Also note that if you did not have a vet at the time you adopted your Doberman, you will need to get one and quickly. You must provide Doberman Rescue with the name and telephone number of your vet before you will be allowed to take your new Doberman home. If you do not already have a vet, you may choose to use one of ours. In addition to already knowing your dog, the vets we use are extremely knowledgeable about the health issues encountered by Doberman Pinschers and their services are reasonably priced.
Part of the fun of Doberman ownership is to meet other Doberman owners and to learn more about our breed with them. The Doberman Pinscher Club of Dallas is a non-profit association dedicated to helping Doberman Pinscher owners be informed about their dogs and discover the versatility of the breed. The DPCD is a chapter club of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America. The DPCD meets on the second Tuesday of the months of January through May and August through November. Each meeting includes a guest speaker or other program of interest to Doberman owners. The January meeting, held in conjunction with Doberman Rescue of North Texas, is the annual Awards banquet where they showcase member's dogs that have achieved AKC titles during the previous year. The DPCD sponsors two specialty dog shows each year, one in March and one in September. The DPCD is a good place to meet people who are active in agility, flyball, tracking, lure coursing, and other activities. For more information contact Lynn Eggers at 817-481-4187.
There are two national-level Doberman clubs that you should consider joining: the Doberman Pinscher Club of America and the United Doberman Club.
The DPCA is the breed parent club and controls the breed standard, the document used by AKC judges when they judge Dobermans in conformation shows. The DPCA engages in many activities to promote and protect the breed including funding Doberman Rescue and holding the annual DPCA National Specialty Show in October each year. For more information go to http://www.dpca.org.
The UDC is a younger organization, dedicated to the working heritage of the Doberman. The UDC funded the Marine War Dog Memorial on Guam, "Always Faithful." The UDC holds its National Specialty in May. For more information go to: http://www.uniteddobermanclub.com/