Common Myths about Dobermanns

I’m looking for a puppy—do you have any miniature Dobermanns? There is no such thing as a miniature Dobermann. Most people inquiring about miniatures are looking for a miniature pinscher (Min Pin), a native German breed that has been known in that country for over 300 years. The miniature pinscher is 10-12½" at the shoulder and was originally used as a barnyard ratter. They are in no way similar or relatedto a Doberman, they are a completely different breed such as a Lab or Pug is.

How old are they when their brain gets too large for their skull and they attack their owner? You can’t imagine how many times I have been asked this question. Of course it is physically impossible for the brain to outgrow the skull, but this myth persists and is believed as gospel by many otherwise-intelligent people. Nor do they need their heads/skulls removed till they are done growing, which I have also been asked. Only reason any dog would even possibly attack it's owner is if the animal is being or has been abused. In any case, a healthy, well-bred Dobermann, properly socialized and trained, doesn't turn on his owner. Period.

How old are they when they turn on their owners? This is pretty much the same question as above but,When properly bred, raised, socialized, and trained; Dobermans are loving, loyal, family oriented dogs who will never think of doing such a thing. The only reason a Dobermann would turn on anyone is due to abusive treatment. This is not something that is unique to a Dobermann. Any animal, humans included, will defend themselves when threatened.

I’ve heard that Dobermans are hard to train. In fact, the opposite is true. Dobermanns are very intelligent dogs and learn quickly. Because they are intelligent, they canbe a challenge for an inexperienced trainer—if you’re not careful, before you know it your Doberman will have trained you! Training should begin with the breeder and must continue as soon as your puppy comes home. A good, correction-free puppy class is a must once the puppy has had two vaccinations. Dobermanns do not respond well to outdated force training commonly associated with the use of choke chains. Correction-free positive reinforcement techniques are the most effective way to train—not just Dobermanns, but all dogs.

My last Dobermann was really hyper—do you have any calm ones? A well-bred Dobermann should not be hyper, but you must remember that Dobermanns are working dogs; they need mental and physical exercise. Many behavioral problems can surface due to boredom and/or lack of exercise. If you don’t give them something to do (i.e. training, games) they will find something to do. But that shouldn’t mean they won't park themselves on the couch with you when you want to watch television. Most Dobes want to be with their owners, no matter what the activity. Also, dogs are like people in that some are more active than others. Part of a breeders responsibility is to match a busy puppy with a busy owner and a quieter puppy with a less active owner. No one knows the puppies better than the breeder who has spent countless hours with them.

I’ve heard that if I breed my female it will help settle her down. Absolutely not. Apart from the fact that we already have far too many backyard breeders who know nothing about the breed and have no concern for health or temperament, consider why she needs to be settled down. What behaviors are causing the concern? Having a litter is no substitute for training your dog to be a well-mannered member of your family. What would you do if it was your out-of-control teenage daughter?

I’ve heard that Dobermanns don’t shed. If only it were true! They do lose hair—sometimes a lot—but they don’t shed undercoat that produces the fluff balls most people associate with shedding such as Siberians..

I’ve heard that cropping makes them mean. Not any more than circumcision makes men mean! Ear cropping is an operation done under anesthetic,in two weeks the stitches are removed and the ears are completely healed, there are no ill effects form ear cropping.

If you want a Dobermann to be protective, you have to make it mean. A Dobermann is naturally protective of his family and home. Nothing needs to be done to enhance that aspect. If you abuse a Dobermann to try to make it mean, the process will backfire and your dog will only protect himself from you. This is one of the ways the Dobermanns turn on their owners myth's got started in the 1st place.

If you want a Dobermann to protect you from strangers and intruders you have to keep it away from people except your family. A Dobermann that is not properly socialized will probably NOT protect you. He will be very scared of strange things and people. Every Doberman MUST be properly socialized. Taking your pup to lots of places, such as the pet store, shopping centers, obedience classes, vet offices, will help him gain confidence in strange surroundings.
You should introduce your pup to as many different people as possible and see that he responds in a friendly manner. Protective instincts are natural and will not be affected by introducing your dog to friends or people he meets on the street. As long as you feel comfortable with a person, by all means, introduce your Dobermann.

So where do these idea's come from? Yes, Dobermann's can bite-just like any other dog. And yes, they are protective of their family and property, But so were Benji and Lassie for that matter! Surely Cinema and Television- more then any actual events- bear the responsibility for promoting and perpetuating an image of the Dobermann as a viscous attack dog. Just have a look:
Thriller: "They Only Kill Their Masters" staring James Garner and Katherine Ross. This did much to thrust ground of the public awareness. In this movie, Garner plays a small town sheriff who must investigate the death ofa young pregnant woman, presumably killed by her Dobermann. Of course the Dobermann is exonerated of any crime, but the message Dobermanns...They Only Kill Their Masters became embedded in society.
Then there was "The Doberman Gang" a nice little family film put out by Disney in 1972. Sequels included "The Daring Dobermans" 1973 and "Those Amazing Dobermans" 1976. In these movies the Dobermans are the good guys, but have a look at the video jacket, containing artwork used to promote one of the film's and you might come to a different conclusion.The flaming red eyes and exposed fangs don't exactly send the message that these dogs are happy go lucky types.
Disney also produced "Escape to Witch Mountain" 1975 a family film that included scary shadow images of barking Dobermans and again in Disney's animated spin of Oliver Twist,"Oliver and Company" 1988 two very shady Doberman-thug characters between Oliver and the other animals. Here we have films made specifically for the child audience. It would be to sinister to conclude that Disney had it out for the Doberman, but really nothing like shaping an opinion from a young age!
Moving on from family films to the horror genre, We have the lovely rotting Doberman zombies of "Resident Evil" 2002 and "Resident Evil 2" 2004 and in "Jack the Bear" 1992 a boozing, grieving Danny DeVito moves to California with his two sonsfollowing the death of his wife. He and his sons are soon at war with a weird , creepy neighbor,who is eventually dispatchedby four very aggressive, snarling, growling Dobermans.
There are also numerous accounts on the small screen as well, We have the tremendously popular Columbo, NBS Mystery Movie of the week and Peter Falk giving us "How to Dial a Murder" 1978 in which a man who murdered his wife, attempts to deflect suspicion from himself and murder his wife's lover by setting up a killing by phone. When the victim-to-be answers the phone, he's prodded into repeating the word "Rosebud" and then he is promptly torn apart by the killer's Doberman's- who have been conditioned to attack upon hearing this verbal clue. The murderer is strategically miles away and cannot be implicatedin the crimes- that is, until Columbo sleuths out who the real killer is. The Dobermans don't come out looking too good, regardless Peter Falk won an emmy for his performance.
Also "Magnum P.I." series of the 1980's where Tom Selleck's character and his frequent nemesis the ill tempered Zeus and Apollo. Today we have the popular series "Alias" boasting that Jennifer Garner performs many of her own stunts, includinga 50 foot free fall off a cliff in order to escape from a herd of charging Dobermans.
Perhaps it really isn't such a surprise that some people jump to crazy conclusions or judgments about his breed, given the images with which we have been bombarded with for years, It's just that in this enlightened age of respect for diversity, and tolerance for individual differences... wouldn't it be nice if our dogs were included in that as well?

Jean A. Clark
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