When many people think of the Doberman Pinscher, the image brought to mind is of a vicious, aggressive dog that is dangerous around children and strangers and difficult to handle. On the whole, this has never been true to the breed, although there was certainly some cause for concern in the past. But has the Doberman truly earned this bad reputation, and is it still true of the breed today? In this article, we'll take a closer look at the temperament of the Doberman Pinscher and how it has changed in the last few decades.
First, we must consider for what purpose the Doberman was bred. The Doberman Pinscher is one of those happy few breeds that has a clear history and we know the exact circumstances under which it was developed. When Karl Friedrich Louis Doberman was developing the breed, he wanted a dog to work as personal protection. The dog needed to be large enough to be intimidating but not so large as to be too difficult to handle and strong enough to take on a thief or a mugger. He had to be smart enough to be trained and to understand commands and have the discipline to wait until the command was given to act. All in all, the dog had to be both intelligent and fierce.
Dobermans went on to become very popular as a guard dog, police dog and even war dog. There is no question that the Doberman was indeed an aggressive breed, especially when many dogs were encouraged to be so. Its image in movies and television only helped perpetuate the idea of a vicious, dangerous dog.
Around twenty-five or thirty years ago, this started to change. The turning point may have, in fact, been in thanks to a Doberman judge. In an article about Dobermans on dogchannel.com, Audrey Pavia suggests that it was Peggy Adamson, a well regarded Doberman expert and conformation judge that turned the tide. In the middle of a prestigious dog show, Adamson disqualified a well known Doberman contestant for displaying viciousness in the ring. Although it may be a coincidence, around the same time the attitude regarding Doberman temperament began to change.
Since that time, breeders have consciously tried to breed out some of the harsher qualities of the Doberman such as aggressiveness and encouraged its better qualities, such as its confidence, intelligence and sense of playfulness. Although Dobermans may always be suspicious of strangers, since this is one the hallmark characteristics of the breed, they should be able to accept them readily when they see that their handlers are comfortable with the stranger.
Today, much of the sharpness that was formally associated with the breed has been bred out, but this doesn't mean that there aren't a few sharp Dobermans still out there, or that Dobermans don't have the potential to become so. There are two factors that will help shape the temperament of any dog - where the dog comes from and how it will be raised. If you're interested in purchasing a Doberman, you should pay a visit to a breeder, look see how the puppies and its dam are living, spend time with the puppy's parents, if possible, to get an idea of their temperament, and ask the advice of the breeder. Once you bring a puppy home, the rest will largely be up to you. Dobermans require a high level of interaction, play and exercise and the lack of these could turn any puppy into a dog that will lash out at others. But if your major concern is the idea that the whole Doberman breed is too dangerous, you can put these fears to rest, as this is no longer the case.