Basic training & socialization is very important for a Doberman. They are super smart so they learn all of this very quickly, they will also learn to "work the system" if you let them get away with bad/sloppy behaviors. Be firm, be kind, be consistent. Part of the daily exercise needed for a Doberman is mental exercise, they LOVE to train!
- Training Overview
- A Word About "Walks"
- Dog Classes
- Basic Obedience
- Canine Good Citizen - CGC
- Crate Training
- Potty Training
"A trained dog is a happy dog!" and "There is no such thing as a bad dog, only bad handlers." You can tell a Doberman's mood by their tail. When the tail is up, they are up, they are happy/focused/alert. When the tail is down they are scared, unsure, or bored.
Training dogs is very simple when you think of it this way: Yes & No. That's it.
Only train when you are in a good mood to work with your dog. Remember that dogs can have good days and bad days, they're not robots. If your dog is having a "bad day" and struggling in their exercises, consider if they are feeling ill or hurt, if there is something new distracting them (a dog in season that has urinated on the training grounds, a stranger around the corner), if your energy/demeanor is too much pressure/intimidating or likewise too relaxed/no expectations. Just be in a good mood, be understanding, and use rewards and corrections to communicate. Keep training sessions short, 15 min twice a day is perfect. You can increase the time as the dog matures and progresses. But always keep it fun and engaging.
**Hitting, kicking, screaming, shoving, dragging, choking, withholding food, locking them away, etc are NEVER AN OPTION!! DO NOT HURT YOUR DOG, emotionally or physically, ever! The Doberman is so attached to you, they do not need extreme correction. They will lose trust in you, fear you, have low self esteem, and may eventually react as any dog would. Regardless, it is just not kind. Also, do not ever use your dog's name as a negative correction.**
FOR DESIRABLE BEHAVIOR: When you start training something new, like sit for example, show them how to do it and IMMEDIATELY when they do or get close then mark the desirable thing by saying YES! and reward (treat or toy). In the beginning, before they know what the command is, reward them for any small improvement. Slowly increase your expectations to the point where you are only rewarding for the full command and not part of it. Do not scold them for not doing something they don't know yet. When they figure it out, "ah hah moment," REALLY praise them (extra treats, lots of praise). When they show many times that they know the command, try it in a new place or with one added distraction. Try not to overload them but just change small things in small progression. Expect to "re-learn" it. It is like a whole new exercise. Keep doing this until they can reliably do the command anywhere, any time, repeat repeat repeat. After that, THEN they really "know" the command.
FOR UNDESIRABLE BEHAVIOR: When your pup does something you do not want them to do, you have a few options to teach not to do it. It will depend on the severity of the offense, what else you are doing, and the character of your dog if they are really sensitive or if they are a bit hard headed. To correct undesirable behavior you can either ignore it (no treat, praise or reward), redirect it (immediately divert their attention toward something else good), or correct it (say NO, ah ah ah). Usually if you are working on a training session and they do the wrong move or don't do the command, that would be a time to ignore the behavior. They are still trying, they are unsure, they are doing other DESIRED behaviors just not the right one, so do not use NO. Just ignore it. They will see that gets them no reward so they will try something else. If you are playing with your dog and they start biting on your hand in play, this is a good time to redirect it. Give them a toy or rag, something that is desired to bite on, and praise them for biting the correct object. If your dog does a serious no-no, or something they know better, this would be a time for correction to say NO! Like if they jump on the counter, that is not ever allowed so say firmly NO! Dogs learn very quickly the NO word, don't overuse it or it won't mean anything. So depending on the situation and the dog, you might ignore, redirect, or correct. These are "negative" consequences that discourage the dog from repeating.
THE KEY IS TIMING: you have a very small window, less than a second, to show your dog that what they are doing RIGHT at that instance is either correct or wrong. If you are teaching your dog to sit, and they touch their behind to the floor for a quick second - they have just demonstrated sit. You want to tell them yes good job so they know they have done it. If you IMMEDIATELY say YES and reward as they do it, they will make the connection between their behavior and the reward. They will do that again. Whatever they are doing when they get the reward is what they think you want them to do. If you say YES and reward them after they have sat and stood up and are waiting, then you are rewarding them for standing and waiting. Another example.. if your dog has an accident and minutes later you find it, then you call the dog to you "Fido come!" They hesitantly come toward you and you say "Bad, No!" You have just scolded them for coming to you. They will not want to come to you again if the reward for their coming is a "bad dog." Instead, if they have an accident, they must be caught IN the act and corrected. If you try to give consequence at any other time, they will not make the connection. Again, timing is key.
A Word About "Walks"
One of the best training advice I ever got was to not train my dog on a walk "in the beginning." A walk is leisure time for your dog. They can sniff and look all directions etc. This does not excuse them from basic manners (no pulling, barking, jumping, unruliness), but the point is - work time is work time, and play time is play time. To a puppy and young dog, a walk is a whole new world with so much to see and smell and check out. There are so many distractions that it is not a good environment to start brand new things and expect a lot out of them. So in the beginning, keep walks for walking. As they mature and learn to focus in different settings with different distractions - they will progress to the level they can start training here and there on a walk. The idea is to define when it is training time and when it is relaxing time. It takes a lot of mental energy and work for your dog to focus on you, in time they can do this on a walk and in public and it is highly encouraged to train in those places to get them reliable. But in the beginning.. a walk is just a walk.
Socialization is VERY important to the development of a reliable dog and especially Doberman Pinscher. Socialization is acclimating your dog to society. Basically so he/she can be comfortable around different people, new people, new environments, sights, smells, sounds, animals, and other dogs. If your Doberman lives a sheltered life as a young dog, with little to no exposure, normal experiences will be alarming to him/her. Going to the vet, on a trip, on an errand, guests coming over, anything like that could be a disaster. So continue your breeder's good efforts to have positive socialization experiences! Here is an AWESOME article detailing how to go about it, as this is a critical stage in the dog's development.
*Dog should be fully vaccinated before going out in public.
Please enroll in a credible dog class in your area! This is an invaluable experience of socialization, working under distraction, structured learning, objective evaluation, and a place to ask questions and learn! Even the most experienced of handlers and breeders will attend dog class. Practice makes perfect!
Usually the course consists of:
- 8-12 weeks of training meeting once a week.
- The classes will be divided by age/skill level. Puppy Kindergarten classes are fun socialization and support for new dog owners. Basic Obedience is geared around basic training and CGC test. Advanced training takes it a step further.
- They will require proof of current vaccination, aggressive dogs are typically not permitted (private training necessary), a proper leash and collar (see what kinds you will need in our NEEDED SUPPLIES list), and a capable handler.
Our top recommendation is AKC clubs that offer courses. Find them here: http://www.apps.akc.org/apps/clubs/search/index.cfm
If an AKC club is not available, your city/town will most likely have a class offered through their Parks & Recreation Department. There may be private dog training facilities not affiliated with the AKC. And commercial pet retail stores like PetSmart or PetCo will offer sessions as well.
Basic obedience should be taught from the beginning. The basics are simple commands and simple manners. This is the foundation for your dog.
- Leave It
- Drop It
- Manners like: no jumping on people, not to snatch food, take treats softly, potty training, no excessive barking in public, no biting or mouthing, staying off furniture (if that is a rule in your house), no chewing etc.
*Watch is a basic command that you will find invaluable for training. It is eye contact/focusing attention from the dog. When your dog knows the "watch" command, at any time in any place you can regain their focus.
Canine good citizen - cgc
The Canine Good Citizen test, CGC, should be the minimum basic goal of any dog owner for the training of their dog. Most obedience dog classes are centered around this test and the final exam is to pass the test. It covers:
- Accepting a friendly stranger
- Sitting politely for petting
- Appearance and grooming
- Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
- Walking through a crowd
- Sit and down on command and staying in place
- Coming when called
- Reaction to another dog
- Reaction to distraction
- Supervised separation
It is our hope, desire, and plea that ALL our puppies receive this minimal level of training. We do not require all our puppies to attain the actual certificate or title, but to be at this level so that they are a respectable member of their community and represent our "kennel" and the breed well.
Link to AKC's CGC site for more info: https://www.akc.org/dogowner/training/canine_good_citizen/
Crate or kennel training is a MUST. Even if you plan to let your dog have free run of the home at all times, they need acclimated right away to a crate or kennel for the following benefits:
- Potty training. They will not bathroom in their sleeping area or
- Safe confinement while you are not able to supervise young puppy. (They get into everything!)
- A private space for them to call their own. An "escape" from guests/overwhelming toddlers if the dog wants to relax on its own.
- Aids with prevention of separation anxiety. They learn it is okay to be alone for brief times.
- If you need to go out of town and they must be boarded.
- If necessary for travel.
- If they become ill or injured and need vet care or restriction of movement.
- If they ever need temporarily separated from another dog or animal in the house.
If a puppy is not introduced to the crate and properly crate trained from the beginning, they will most likely panic if suddenly put in a crate later on.
How to crate train: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGHxYlvgubM
- DO use the appropriate size to fit the dog.
- DO make it comfy, put a dog bed/blanket/matt/pad down. Outfit the crate with chews and water access, but only safe items that are not a choking hazard.
- DO keep the crate IN THE HOME and near you so the dog does not feel totally isolated.
- DO acclimate and reward the dog for good crate behavior (going in and out polite and on command, staying quiet while in the crate).
- DO NOT use a crate too big or too small! They should be able to fully stand with head not touching the top, and fully turn around. It should not be so large that they could bathroom in one end and sleep in the other.
- DO NOT use crate as punishment, ever. It is a happy and safe place. If your dog has done a naughty thing and needs confinement while you clean up a mess or regain your composure, gently direct him/her in the crate without emotion.
- DO NOT leave your dog in its crate if it has had an accident. Some people think they can "teach a lesson" not to bathroom in the crate by leaving them in it - that is animal cruelty. If a child wet their pants the parent would change it, not leave them in their excrement.
- DO NOT leave your dog in the crate too long. This is uncomfortable and cruel. You would not want to live in a box.
- DO NOT acknowledge your puppy's cries when they are first learning crate training. They will learn that their obnoxious whining/barking will be rewarded by letting them out. Sometimes they cry to go to the bathroom, use your best judgement.
- DO NOT allow objects in the crate that could be a choking hazard.
- DO NOT keep collars on your dog in the crate, they could snag and choke the dog.
- DO NOT keep your dog in a bare, hard crate. They deserve a comfy bed/blanket/matt to lay on.
Luckily, potty training a Doberman is fairly simple. Using the basic principles in the section above "Training Overview," just use Yes and No to guide them toward appropriate bathrooming. Remember that puppy bladder and bowels are small! When they eat or drink they will bathroom immediately or shortly after. The biggest keys to success for potty training:
- Consistent schedule. Take them to potty first thing when they wake up and come out of their crate, after each meal, several times a day at regular intervals, last thing before going to bed, and in the middle of the night if they are young enough to physically require it. You may need to carry them out the door in the very beginning so they don't have a potty break on the way.
- Supervise! Watch them like a hawk. If you see potty signs (squatting, circling, sniffing in a circle, lifting leg) then immediately redirect them outside before it happens. If you cannot keep an eye on them, use the crate. They will hold it in the crate.
- When you see them "go" outside - praise and reward heavily! Let them know they did the right thing. If you see them "go" inside or in an undesired area, catch them IN THE ACT and immediately say NO! and redirect them to the desired area.
- If they have an accident and you find it later on, could be 1min 10min or 1hour later, you CANNOT scold them for it. They will not make the connection they will only feel bad for something they do not understand.
- Provide a bell to ring, use the same door, listen for their whining - anything for them to give you the indication that they need to "go."
- Keep fresh water available at all times and make sure they know where it is. You might need to restrict water access at evening time for young puppies.
- Remember that in new places, they don't know where the potty area is. If you visit a friends house and they need to go but don't know the layout of where to go, they may have an accident.
- Some dogs urinate when they are excited or scared. This is not related to potty training. It needs addressed differently, and getting mad at the dog is not going to help.
- As necessary, watch your dog bathroom. It sounds weird. But the "quality" of their poop can tell you a lot of things. You can see if they are passing things they should not have eaten, if they have runny stool they may be sick or sensitive to their food, if you see worms/seeds/eggs in their stool they have a parasite infection that needs treated, if you let them outside to "go" and they are distracted and miss it before you bring them in then they may "go" in the house. Etc.
- Something in particular to watch for in young dogs/puppies is their urination. If your dog is squatting to pee frequently and/or no urine is coming, they could have a bladder infection that needs immediate treatment.