What does it take to have a Doberman? This page aims to go over typical responsibilities for having a Doberman Pinscher. Sure the basics- all dogs need food, water, shelter, companionship, exercise, and vet care. Within each breed is varying levels of commitment in each need. For example, a Collie is going to require a lot more in grooming than a Dalmatian. A Weimaraner will require far more exercise and physical activity than a Yorkie. And a Border Collie may have far less health conditions than an English Bulldog. Here are the needs and responsibilities for a Doberman.
1. Feed - Feed your Dobe quality nutritious food TWICE a day. This is not a suitable breed to feed once a day or to allow free-feeding all day. They should have their meals portioned two times a day to avoid bloat, a life threatening health emergency. Quality food is particularly important. I have noticed many Dobermans to have sensitivities to chicken or other common ingredients in commercial food, this means you may have to invest more in a specialty food. (see our page on Nutrition and consult with your breeder for the best food choice for your dog)
2. Water - Keep fresh water available at all times. It may be necessary to restrict water intake during puppyhood at evening hours for potty training.
3. Exercise - Note in the breed standard these dogs are expected to be "athletic," -- it does not say or mean hyperactive. They do require regular physical activity. This means a fenced yard or ample free space that is safe off leash. Going for a walk even several times a day will not cut it for a Doberman. People ask me if it would work out to have a Doberman in an apartment. It really doesn't matter much the size or qualities of your home as long as they can be in it with you, but the access you have to free play for exercise and play time that this breed needs is what counts. Throw the ball, go for a run, dig on the beach, run around the yard sniffing and rolling. They need high intensity activity every day and it is up to you to provide the space. I do see that their energy level tends to slow down as they reach maturity and age.
4. Grooming* - Grooming needs are fairly minimal for a Dobe. Give them a bath when they need it, not often, they keep themselves pretty clean. Shedding should be minimal. Learn to dremel the nails and slowly acclimate your Dobe to the dremel. It files the nails down so you can get closer to the quick without pinching. Dremel every week or every other week. If you want, or if you will show your dog, use clipper/trimmers to remove facial whiskers and inner ear hair. Many dog owners neglect dental care of their pet - do not forget to check and brush the teeth as needed to avoid dental decay (giving bones and hard food will help a lot with good canine dental hygiene). Also check for fleas and ticks and use proper preventative/treatment for your area as recommended by your vet.
*Ear Care - The ears of an uncropped Doberman need cleaned out frequently. They need kept dry inside. They are especially prone to infection. The ears of a cropped Doberman should dry out themselves, occasional cleaning is good, but they will require taping/posting consistently for the first few months of puppyhood up to a year old to train them to stand. This involves changing the tape every 3-5 days to ensure they are clean and standing properly. (The breeder should instruct you what to use and how to do it. It is not difficult.)
5. Handling - Acclimate your Dobe to having all areas of their body touched/examined. Generally this is only needed at a young age. It helps for when the vet, show judge, or children touch the dog they will not be alarmed if the foot is picked up, ear rubbed, or teeth examined. (This is true with any dog.)
7. In Home - Please do not keep a Doberman outside. Their short coats are not meant for extreme heat or cold. Some coat types (blue or fawn) are highly sensitive to sun exposure. And remember what the Doberman is all about - velcro dog companionship. They want to be with their family. A Doberman left outside will be cold/hot, bored, lonely, and will resort to destructive obnoxious habits when left outside or confined too long. Set them up a comfy bed and a crate for their "shelter" and private space IN the home.
8. License & ID - Identify your Dobe with microchip and ID on collar. If they get loose they can be identified and returned promptly. License them in your city.
9. Training - You wouldn't wait to give rules or teach manners to your child until they are a teenager. Same with your Doberman. Because they are a large dog and highly interactive, they need taught and socialized from day 1. Crate training, potty training, basic manners and obedience, and socialization are important to start at a young age. They really thrive off this interaction. Dobermans are in the top 5 smartest dog breeds, they learn things quickly. The mental stimulation is very fulfilling. A Doberman lacking this consistent daily training and enforcing of manners may be an unruly, unsatisfied, poorly behaved dog. This is especially detrimental to the breed image since they already have a "stigma." So training is very important from the beginning! If you are an inexperienced dog trainer, to me that is okay. Some breeders do not agree but there is a first time for everything. If training for a larger, intelligent dog is new to you - you MUST enroll in basic classes from puppyhood. The teacher can observe your dog's behavior in person and show you corrective and encouraging methods to teach them. If you are experienced with dog training, you will still attend classes/group meetings because you know how important these socialization and public training opportunities are to the development of your pup. The Doberman needs this.
10. Health/Vet Care - The Doberman can be prone to some serious health issues. If you obtain your Dobe through a reputable breeder that health tests and shows good health/longevity in the bloodline, odds are in your favor for a long healthy life. There are certain conditions that cannot be tested for that are common to the breed (wobblers) and conditions that can be tested for but are not foolproof to guarantee the dog or its offspring (carido). Since the breeder does the tests and only breeds healthy dogs, the likelihood of good health is much higher. You should know the VWD status in case your dog is affected it could be life threatening (a reputable breeder will know the potential outcomes of VWD for the litter before breeding because the parents are tested, and they will tell you). Heart issues are so common in this breed that we really recommend a cardio screening once a year even for pets not intended for breeding.
*General vet care is pretty average though - vaccines up to date, parasite medication, spay and neuter at appropriate age for pets, and well check ups. Know the health conditions prone to this breed so that you are prepared if any symptoms appear.
11. Attention - Attention needs may be the most critical for a Doberman. They are "velcro dogs" as you have read many times on this site and I'm sure in other sources for breed info. For most dogs, they live to be near you. You are what they live for. For a Doberman, it is a little beyond that. A Lab may also have a love for water, a Collie may also be born to herd, a Hound may also live to scent and hunt.. A Doberman - ALL they have is you. They are literally the only dog bred for personal protection. This means their world, their existence, the fibers of their DNA are engineered to be near you, to be your aid, to be your constant companion, to read and sense your emotions and that of other people so that they can sense a situation. For this reason, a Doberman is not a good dog for someone who is gone all the time and has little time to devote to a dog (that type of lifestyle is probably not recommended for any dog ownership anyway, regardless of breed). A Doberman will be happy and pretty well content just to be in your presence (sit by your side at the computer, on your lap for a movie, on the kitchen floor while you cook) BUT they need to be acknowledged and interacted with too. Look at them, train them, talk to them, give treats/games/toys, take them in the car and on trips. A Doberman really needs attention.
To summarize.. A Doberman has the same basic needs of all dogs and is pretty minimal in vet needs if they come from healthy breeding. They will require formal training from early on and daily physical exercise. They are prone to bloat so need portioned meals twice a day rather than free feeding or one large meal. Give them a bath occasionally as they need it, they should not have any odor and minimal shedding. Dremel the nails often. And their attention needs are the most significant since it is the soul purpose of a Doberman to be with and serve its master.
**Oh and may I point out... you will need STRONG and STURDY toys. Plan to replace them often because they can shred the indestructible!