A few weeks ago my parents' house was robbed, so we decided the best way to defend our home was to get a dog. (We've had dogs in the past since they were puppies, but we never really trained them since they stayed outside and their deeds bothered noone.) We saw one 5 or 6 year-old Doberman (ears and tail cut) in a shelter and we decided to take her after some research I did, since the reputation would be enough to at least discourage thieves.
The dog is very sweet, she only barks at the cats we have in the yard, who are very scared and I'm gonna need tips on that one too. I pretty much need tips about everything 'cause I don't know much about dogs training. She must have had some training, but we can't tell at which language since she doesn't react to simple "sit" unless we touch her bottoms, but doesn't seem to have some common bad habbits.
We've been having her for 3 days now, she is really sweet and doesn't show aggression towards us (or any human as the matter of fact), but I can't tell what she really is about. I understand she must feel safe first, aknowledge us as her new family. How long do you think it should take her to adjust? What can I tell from her body language? When I'm outside she never leaves me out of sight, she goes where I go, lies down in front of my feet when I sit but I'm not sure about her obedience when there's stimulation around. I can't really draw her attention at once when she sees something or wants to do something. And since I don't know her past and what she's trained for, I don't really trust her at this point (nor do I trust myself much).
This is pretty much the story so far, I would appreciate an opinion from actual dog owners with more experience on the field.
I'm not sure exactly wh you are trying to ask here so I'm just going to throw some things out here for you.
1. I hope this new dog of yours lives in the house with your parents and not outside in the yard. For as tough of a reputation as they have Dobermans are very velcro like dogs. They need human companionship and tend to be a little on the needier side of most breeds. Plus they cannot effectively guard your house if they are left outside of it.
2. Trust is something you will have to build together on. You need to have a certain level of confidence as part of your personality in order to have a good relationship with a Doberman. If you are unsure of what obedience commands she already knows/doesn't know the best way to help build a strong relationship with her is to attend obedience classes together.
3. Dobermans have a high prey drive. Cats and small dogs may look like prey to her and therefore are best kept away from her until you know for sure that they will be safe around her. If these are cats that are yours, that live only in your yard, then in order for her to become acclimated to them you may need to keep her on a leash in the yard when the cats are there so you can teach her not to bark or chase them. If sh starts to bark or chase, give a quick pop on the leash and tell her no. Also if she watches you interact with the cats, letting her know they are your cats and they belong there, that may help her accept them as well. Since you haave no idea of her background I wouldn't leave it up to fate to see how she is with them.
4. Dobermans are a very protective breed in general. Individuals of any breed can vary on the scale of how much they take after the breed traits. They do not have to be taught how to protect their families. It is instinct. I would not recommend any type of attack training since you seem to have relatively little dog experience. Things could backfire on you in a bad way unless you know what you are doing. Do not worry that she has shown no signs of being aggressive. That is a GOOD thing. It shows she is smart and will know when the appropriate time is to display any warranted aggressiveness. A dog who shows aggressiveness without provocation to do so, is one who has an unstable temperament and that is not what you really want for your situation.
Dobermans are an awesome breed and you are lucky to have one. Take your time getting to know one another. They are extremely intelligent and loyal and will lay down their life for you. You need to treat her right and cherish that and there will be nothing she won't do for you. Good luck with her.
Thank you for your answer, it is quite helpful. I'm gonna give a bit more information and ask for some extra feedback :)
The dog is actually living outside, one of the reasons the shelter gave her to us was because of the large fenced space around our house and because we would never tie her up, which is quite common in our country. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way we can keep her inside the house for reasons I cannot display here. So besides the fact that we're not around her all the time, I also understand that this will make the training with the cats harder, and I'm thinking about using my house cat (inside her cage first) as stimulation for the dog. Right now we're working on walk with the leash and she's doing great. Should I teach her any other commands before I start with the cats? And should I be using the water spray to get her attention or would that make her angry?
A second and last issue is when we open the main gate to drive out. She wants to go out and explore of course, any ideas to discourage her from doing that?
What country are you from? In this country (USA) a shelter would definitely adopt to someone who had a fence and promised to never tie a dog outside in the yard but they would never adopt to a family who planned on keeping their dog outside 24/7.
Walking on a leash is great. A few commands I would suggest teaching her before introducing her to your cat would be leave it and no. There are several different ways of teaching the leave it command. 1 is by holding your palm flat, placing a treat on it and extending your hand in the dogs face. Tell her leave it and if she goes for it close your hand into a fist. When she backs off from your hand, open your palm again and tell her leave it. If she goes for it close your hand again until she backs off and repeat. She'll probably get the gist after a couple of closings of your hand. Don't reward her with the treat in your hand once she obeys. Have a completely different treat in your pocket and give her that and a lot of praise. Another way to teach it is by taking something she loves, like a ball or toy, and throwing it on the ground. On leash walk her past the item and if she goes to grab it pop the leash and tell her leave it. Walk in all sorts of different patterns around the object and each time you pass it tell her leave it. Tell her good girl when she does and reward her with a treat for walking past it without her grabbing it or without you telling her not to. Once she has this down pat without fail is when I would start the cat introductions.
I'm not so sure I like the idea of having your cat in a crate and then allowing the dog to sniff at the cat. I've never taught my dogs to tolerate cats that way but it might not be so bad. I have taught them to leave the cats alone by keeping them on a leash when the cats are around and if they went for the chase I would pop them on the leash and tell them no very firmly. With the one animal aggressive dog I have I trained her using a basket muzzle. I would put the muzzle on her, its one that they can still drink water with, the kind they use with the racing greyhounds, and then allow her to walk around the house and mingle with the cats. When I noticed her eyeballing them like they were food, I would give her a sharp no, my cats ! reprimand and she would walk away from them. This took about a few months to where I could trust her to be with them without the muzzle on. I still leashed her after I removed the muzzle just to be sure. I think though, as it has been my experience with my own dogs and cats, that training her to accept a cat in the house is way different than teaching them to accept every cat. My dogs do not bother our 4 housecats but outdoor cats that are not ours are fair game for them to chase after. You may teach her to deal with your indoor kitty but if she is going to be living outdoors she really needs to learn to leave those cats alone as well.
As far as opening the gate goes, there is no answer for that other then placing an invisible fence line across the area where the gate is and using the shock collar that comes with it and teaching her to mind the warning signals the collar gives off as she nears the invisible fence. Otherwise you will just have to physically hold her until that gate opens and closes. I don't know if they havve invisible fencing in your country but I would HIGHLY reccommend having a company that sells them come to your home and install it and train your dog. The do it yourself ones are really not a good investment.
I have to say this because I feel like I would be doing this dog a huge disservice if I didn't at least try to make you understand just how bad of an idea it is to keep a dog outside for the rest of it's life. Especially this particular breed. There are some breeds that are more independent than others that may tolerate being left outside and unattended but ALL dogs tend to become destructive when left to their own devices. Especially a highly intelligent dog breed like a Doberman. They need stimulation, mental stimulation, and if left on their own to prevent boredom they may become destructive. Then owners get all pissy because the dog destroyed their outdoor furniture, or dug huge holes in the yard, and they get rid of the dog. Little realizing it is their own damn fault for leaving the dog outside 24/7 with no human interaction or stimulation. There are people who can be successful in keeping dogs outdoors without the dog becoming bored and destructive but it takes ways more energy on the humans part to be able to do so. You need to interact with the dog way more when it lives outside then you do when it is in the house. For a dog, just knowing you are in the next room of the house is enough for them and most won't hound you for constant attention. A dog who is outdoors and does not know where you are will be all over you for attention when you walk out that door into the yard. Also dogs can become huge barkers when left outside. That may be a problem for your neighbors and I've heard horror stories about peoples dogs being poisoned by the neighbors because they've become nuisance barkers and the neighbors got tired of hearing them. If given the choice I would rather have an outdoor only dog then see it sit inside a shelter/pound and possibly be euthanized. So if it really is your only option to keep her outdoors then try and make enough time to spend with her each day so she doesn't feel lonely out there. I don't know what the weather is like in the winters where you are but just realize that Dobermans are a single coated breed so they cannot take cold temperatures at all. They do not have a double insulating coat like a Husky or German shepherd. They will need a doghouse with a heater and they will need a coat.
After re reading my post I realized that when I talked about using the basket muzzle I may have made it sound like the muzzle was on my dog 24/7. It was only on when she was out of her crate and loose in the house with us watching her. Until she became acclimated to our home, and living with other animals, she was crated while we were gone. If I couldn't be right on top of her watching her around the other animals, the basket muzzle was on. So it only equated to maybe an hour or so a day she wore it. The other times she was either on leash attached to me (me holding the leash constantly) or she was in her crate. She had to learn to live with other animals, something she had never done her whole life before us, or she had to go. Her going wasn't a great option as she probably would have been euthanized. I made a commitment in taking her and I made it work for her and us but it took a good 6 months before I could fully trust her around all my animals. She was never aggressive at all with people. I hope you are prepared to put a lot of work into this girl since you have made the commitment when you adopted her =]
Her name is Xena, warrior princess! Well, that's the name the shelter gave her.
I must say I'm impressed by the way you're replying, it shows a real interest about what I'm going to do with a dog you've never met and it's really touching.
The country we live in is Greece, on the island of Crete. Summers are kind of hot and winters are mild. During my research I did see that dobermans have low tolerance in cold, so in case she gets cold in the kennel, we are prepared for an alternative that will keep Xena warm. As for the gate, I don't think there is such a thing as an invisible fence for dogs over here, but even if there is we probably can't afford it. But we can have a leash tied up on the gate to tie Xena up when she goes towards it and set her free when we're out.
As for the cats, which is the only remaining issue, I'm starting to feel dicouraged. They're the only thing she barks at, and the only thing I'm feeling I cannot control the cirmumstances to train her with. Those cats are kinda stray, born and raised with us, no fighting instict inside of them and barely stay for us to pet them. My house cat is, well, inside the house and I can find her at any time and use her. But since Dobermans have a high pray drive, maybe we cannot teach her not to chase or bark at any small animals, I don't know... Although I get the feeling that if Xena comes face to face with a confident cat, she won't do anything but sniff.
I can tell how a bored dog can get destructive the way you said, but we don't mind her chewing things outside or diging holes, the space is really large and the places she should not "hurt" are fenced too, out of her reach. She can dig and chew all she wants, that freedom won't make her happy? There are chickens, goats and a few sheep inside the fenced spaces. Xena could not interact with those I guess, but wouldn't all those be company to her too? When we had our previous dog, one of the goats got really crazy when he wasn't around. I would really love to have her with ME all the time (although she's gonna be my mother's Xena), but this is not possible. My mother and I just want her to be happy here, and we really thought she would, otherwise we wouldn't have asked for her.
P.S. In Greek, "No" is 2 small syllables(3 letters), should we use "don't" which is one sillable (2 letters), or it doesn't make much difference? I've started using the Greek "No" from day 1, but I'm not sure how she replies to the other one.