Doberman Pinscher

Virginia LaMon, DVM
Written by:
Published: September 21, 2022
Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher is thought to have been first bred by Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector, in the late 1800s. He likely crossed Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Weimaraners, and Greyhounds.  

The Doberman Pinscher is a loyal dog known for intelligence and guarding ability. While often kept as a family dog, this breed is also used for security, police work, and guiding, as well as search and rescue. 

The Doberman is considered a large-sized dog. They typically grow to be between 24-28 inches tall and weigh 60 to 100 pounds.  

Caring for a Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers are energetic dogs. They are also curious and intelligent, and so require an active lifestyle that keeps them both mentally and physically stimulated. Without consistent exercise, Dobermans will seek out their own entertainment, which can lead to destructive and unwanted behaviors. Due to their high energy level, they are not always an ideal pet for families with very young children. 

Doberman Pinschers are also known for loyalty and love of family, and this can lead them to be protective of their people. Ideally, pet parents start proper socialization and training early and stay consistent.  

Dobermans have a strong prey drive, so they may not be the ideal pet for families with other small animals in the home, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, or cats.

Doberman Pinscher Health Issues

The Doberman Pinscher is a healthy breed, but there are a few health issues that pet parents should know to look out for.  

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus  

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a condition that comes on suddenly and requires immediate life-saving intervention. It occurs when the stomach fills up with food or gas that causes expansion and increased pressure. The stomach can then rotate, which in turn causes inadequate blood supply to the spleen and stomach. If the condition is not treated quickly, shock, tissue damage, and even death can occur.  

Increased risk of GDV is seen in:  

  • Older dogs with a deep chest, like the Doberman 

  • Dogs that are fed from elevated bowls  

  • Dogs that are fed only once per day 

Symptoms of GDV include:  

  • Distended abdomen 

  • Nonproductive retching 

  • Drooling 

  • Stretching 

  • Anxiety  

These signs can progress to weakness, collapse, elevated heart and breathing rates, and poor blood flow. 

Immediate veterinary intervention is needed to stabilize and treat GDV. The longer a dog has this condition without intervention, the greater the risk of death. Initially, fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, and decompression of the stomach may be performed. Surgery, called a gastropexy, is sometimes required to return the stomach to the right location and secure it in place.  

A prophylactic gastropexy can also be performed before GDV even occurs, to secure the stomach in the right position. These procedures are often done at the same time as the spay/neuter. 

Hypothyroidism 

Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes an underactive thyroid gland, which controls metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the body either attacks its own glands or the gland is replaced with fat. 

Signs of hypothyroidism in a Doberman Pinscher include:  

  • Weight gain 

  • Lethargy 

  • Brittle coat 

  • Skin infections 

  • Increased cholesterol in the blood 

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through blood work. It is treatable with a thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine

Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is degeneration of the heart muscle that causes the muscle of the left ventricle to become very thin and pump weakly.  

Symptoms of the disease may occur suddenly or progress gradually as it worsens over time. Congestive heart failure can occur secondary to DCM. Signs of DCM include: 

  • Exercise intolerance 

  • Weakness  

  • Coughing 

  • Rapid breathing 

  • Increased breathing effort 

  • Restlessness 

  • Collapse  

  • Sudden death 

Your vet may suspect DCM if these symptoms are observed or if a murmur is heard via the stethoscope. X-rays and/or an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) are used to further characterize and diagnose this disease. 

DCM is a very serious condition that requires intensive treatment, and not all dogs will return to normal. Medical treatment for DCM slows the progression and helps control the symptoms, including medications to: 

  • Control arrhythmias (anti-arrhythmics) 

  • Lower vascular pressure and increase muscle strength (pimobendan) 

  • Remove excess fluid from the body (diuretics) 

  • Lower blood pressure and resistance (ACE inhibitors) 

  • Slow the heart rate (cardiac glycosides) 

  • Dilate the blood vessels (vasodilators) 

A correlation between DCM and grain-free diets has been found, but it is not fully understood. Discussion with a veterinarian regarding the risks and benefits of grain-free diets for Doberman Pinschers is recommended. 

Von Willebrand’s Disease 

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a genetic blood disorder that is seen in Doberman Pinschers more than other breeds.  

This disease causes a deficiency in a protein called the von Willebrand factor, which is necessary for platelets to stick together and form a clot. In dogs that are deficient in this protein, the blood may have difficulty clotting, which can lead to bleeding from the nose, vulva, bladder, or gums. Additionally, dogs with this condition may bleed for a long time after trauma or surgery. 

If there is concern about vWD, a screening test, called buccal mucosal bleeding time, may be performed. This test measures how long it takes for a small cut in the mouth to stop bleeding. If this time is longer than usual, additional testing is needed to confirm vWD.  

Since some dogs with vWD do not have notably prolonged bleeding until later in adulthood, blood levels of von Willebrand’s factor can be measured to help with diagnosis. Many vets recommend testing for vWD prior to any planned surgery, including spays, neuters, and dewclaw removals. 

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that causes abnormal conformation of the hip joint. This formation of the joint is also influenced by growth rate, hormones, diet, and exercise.  

Hip dysplasia happens when the hip joint is too loose, so the cartilage and bone begin to wear down. As the body attempts to stabilize the joint, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis may develop; arthritis, in turn, leads to pain, limping, and difficulty rising. 

Maintaining a lean body condition is important for preventing arthritis in Doberman Pinschers. Many vets recommend low-intensity exercise and supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin for dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia. 

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed on x-rays of the hips. The hip joints may also feel loose on manipulation. When pain is present, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain. Other modalities to control the pain include acupuncture and laser therapy. If pain cannot be controlled, surgery may be recommended. 

What to Feed a Doberman Pinscher

Feeding commercial kibble or wet food that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to make sure that your Doberman Pinscher receives a complete and balanced diet. These dogs need easily digestible protein for healthy muscles, including the heart. Inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) in the diet supports healthy skin, coat, kidneys, and heart. 

How to Feed a Doberman Pinscher 

Ask your vet whether your Doberman’s diet should include grains. There is a correlation between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy, to which the Doberman Pinscher is already predisposed.  

Elevated bowls should be avoided, as these can increase the risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) or bloat

How Much to Feed a Doberman Pinscher 

Just as it is for humans, the recommended caloric intake for Doberman Pinschers varies between individuals due to different physical sizes, metabolisms, and activity levels. While usually large in size, Dobermans can vary widely in size and weight, so caloric needs also vary.  

Additionally, different foods have different caloric concentrations. For example, an average neutered adult Doberman Pinscher weighing around 75 pounds requires roughly 3½ cups of a kibble that has 400kcal/cup. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for protecting a Doberman’s joints.  

An individualized feeding plan should be discussed with your veterinarian. 

Nutritional Tips for Doberman Pinschers 

Talk with your veterinarian about adding omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) to your Doberman’s diet. These act as natural anti-inflammatories and help to support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Doberman Pinschers

Doberman Pinscher Personality and Temperament 

The Doberman Pinscher is energetic, alert, fearless, and loyal. These dogs do well in an active home where they can use their intelligence. Exercise and space for free play are necessities. They can be destructive if left alone and/or bored. 

Doberman Pinscher Behavior 

Despite their history as a guard dog breed, Dobermans can be fun and loving family dogs. While children should always be supervised around dogs, Dobermans are usually patient with young children.  

They may also have a strong prey drive, which could lead to chasing small animals, including cats. Not all Dobermans interact well with other dogs, but early socialization can help. 

Doberman Pinschers are not particularly vocal, but given their guard-dog history, training is needed to manage how much they bark.  

Doberman Pinscher Training 

The Doberman Pinscher is extremely intelligent and thrives in obedience and basic dog training. Dobermans love to have an outlet for all their energy, so providing a consistent training and socialization routine early in life is a great way to encourage good behavior and redirect undesired behaviors. Without training, Dobermans can become pushy and unmanageable, as well as reactive to novel stimuli (such as strangers, new sounds, and new objects). 

If you are planning on bringing a Doberman Pinscher into your home, be prepared to put in a lot of training and socialization hours to help your dog grow into a well-adjusted canine citizen. 

Fun Activities for Doberman Pinschers 

  • Agility 

  • Nose work 

  • Tracking 

  • Obedience training 

Doberman Pinscher Grooming Guide

Doberman Pinschers have distinct colors, including black, fawn, blue, and red. The blue fur relates to the dilution of the black coat. Rust-colored markings are present above the eyes, on the muzzle, on all legs, and below the tail. The breed can also be white in rare cases. 

Dobermans have a short, smooth coat and are known to be moderate to heavy shedders. 

Skin Care  

Doberman Pinschers have generally healthy skin that requires minimal upkeep. Monthly or as-needed baths are enough to keep them clean. 

Coat Care 

While the Doberman Pinscher has a short coat, regular brushing (daily or a couple of times a week) is a good idea to help manage shedding.  

Eye Care  

Dobermans have no special eye-care considerations. Just be sure to give them a quick check when you are brushing or bathing to make sure there are no issues.  

Ear Care  

Dobermans generally have very healthy ears, but regular ear checks and cleaning are always recommended. If you notice a lot of debris or redness, make sure to notify your vet to see if you should bring your dog in for an appointment.   

Considerations for Pet Parents 

The Doberman Pinscher is a very active dog breed. Dobermans require routine physical and mental exercise, so they do best in a very active home. These are also dogs that thrive with a lot of training and socialization, and it is important for helping them grow into well-adjusted adult dogs.  

Dobermans do have a strong prey drive, so homes with small animals are not ideal, unless there has been extensive socialization and training. Socialization can also help Dobermans to be more tolerant of other dogs. 

A healthy Doberman should have a physical exam performed by a veterinarian at least once annually. The breed is predisposed to dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease, so special attention should be paid to symptoms like lethargy, exercise intolerance, coughing, or collapse. 

Many vets recommend testing for von Willebrand’s Disease (a blood-clotting disorder) prior to any planned surgery, as it is inherited in Doberman Pinschers. Breeders may elect to have genetic testing performed to look for von Willebrand’s Disease. 

X-rays of the hips can be performed in young dogs to look for evidence of hip dysplasia. If it is present, supplements may be recommended to help prevent degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. 

Doberman Pinscher FAQs

Is a Doberman Pinscher a good family dog?

Dobermans are a patient and loyal breed, so a well-trained and socialized Doberman Pinscher can make a good family dog. Children should always be supervised when interacting with dogs, including the Doberman Pinscher. These dogs may be protective of home and property. 

Are Doberman Pinschers smart dogs?

The Doberman Pinscher is an immensely intelligent breed, making these dogs good candidates for intensive training. 

What are the drawbacks of a Doberman Pinscher?

Doberman Pinschers are predisposed to several health conditions, including heart disease, hip dysplasia, and a blood-clotting disorder called von Willebrand’s Disease. 

If not socialized early, Dobermans may not interact well with other dogs. They may also be protective of home and property. 

Is there a difference between a Doberman and a Doberman Pinscher?

These terms are interchangeable and refer to the same breed. 

What are Doberman Pinschers known for?

Dobermans are known for their security and guarding skills. They may be protective of the home. Their intelligence and loyalty make them exceptional candidates for training. 

References

American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book. CompanionHouse Books; 2017.  

American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Gastric Dilatation-volvulus. https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/gastric-dilatation-volvulus 

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). https://www.vet.cornell.edu/hospitals/companion-animal-hospital/cardiology/canine-dilated-cardiomyopathy-dcm 

American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Canine Hip Dysplasia. https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/canine-hip-dysplasia  

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine von Willebrand Disease. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/animal-health-diagnostic-center/laboratories/comparative-coagulation/clinical-topics/canine-von-willebrand-disease  

Featured Image: iStock.com/JamesBrey


Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Miniature Pinscher
Miniature Pinscher
Connect with a Vet

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.