The quintessential guardian companion, the Doberman Pinscher has been standing watch since the late 1800s. But watch out: he may guard your goods, but he'll steal your heart.


In the late 1800s a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann needed a bodyguard when he went on his tax rounds. He found one in a complex mix of breeds that probably included a shepherd-type dog, German Pinscher, and Rottweiler with later crosses to the Manchester Terrier, Greyhound and Weimaraner. The dog he created bore his name and was an instant success, not just for him but as a police and guard dog, and later, military dog.

But Dobermans weren't just tough guys. They were also loving family dogs. This, combined with their striking good looks, propelled them to become the second most popular breed in America in 1997. They've since fallen in popularity, but are still near the top with people who want a protective intelligent companion.

Dobermans share a playful side with their families, and enjoy both mental and physical challenges. They seem especially fond of amassing large toy collections.

Health and Upkeep

The Dobie is a large dog, although not a giant one. As such, it has a somewhat greater predisposition to hip dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size–just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also important for protecting joint health throughout life, especially in active dogs.

It's also important to prevent your adult Dobe from getting overweight, which can add stress to the joints. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.

One of the Doberman's most serious potential problems is bloat or gastric torsion, a condition in which the gases accumulate in the stomach and can't escape. The stomach may then twist, totally cutting off any ability for anything to leave the stomach. The dog's stomach enlarges as gases continue to accumulate, and the dog is restless and tries unsuccessfully to vomit. This is an extreme emergency that need immediate veterinary attention to save the dog. Nobody knows exactly how to prevent it, but many veterinarians advocate feeding an anti-gas pill with every meal.

Doberman coat care is fairly easy. The coat requires weekly brushing to remove dead hair. Many Dobes seem predisposed to itchy skin that may have small pustules or scabs. These are often caused by bacterial infections that may be helped by antibacterial shampoo. An avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoo can help alleviate the itchiness.

To keep coat colors strong, apply a sun block if your Dobe is going to be outside for long periods. A black or brown color-enhancing shampoo can help restore the natural color of faded coats.

Check your Doberman's ears weekly. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal.

Brush the teeth daily.

Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.

Dobes tend to push through pain, but sometimes age-related arthritic changes make it tough. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.