Doberman Rescue of NC, Inc.
PO Box 91421
Raleigh, NC 27675
So you've made the decision to add a Doberman Pinscher to your family - congratulations! Owning and loving a Dobe can be one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have - provided, of course, that you've done your 'homework' , educated yourself about the breed, and know what to expect from your new family member. Excellent books on the Doberman Pinscher are available in bookstores and public libraries. Read and learn before you make a commitment.
Dobermans are loving, loyal, extremely people-oriented dogs. A Dobe is happiest when he can be a close part of your family (his 'pack', even if that pack consists of just two - you and him). This is a very sharp, intelligent and active breed that needs both physical and mental stimulation to thrive. A Dobe left alone too much of the time will tend to find *something* to do to self-stimulate (such as barking, digging, chewing, etc.) This is especially true of puppies. Please do NOT consider a Doberman if you want an outside-only dog. Because of their short coats, Dobes do not tend to tolerate weather extremes very well. And, again, it must be re-emphasized, this breed needs quality human contact in order to be well-socialized and happy. A poorly socialized Doberman can be a danger to both humans and other animals, and a legal liability to his owner.
Doberman puppies are quick learners - of both good and bad behaviors. Gentle but firm corrections (administered calmly and consistently) as well as exuberant praise, are critical to house-training, crate-training, elimination of undesirable behaviors (e.g. chewing, jumping on people), etc. Obedience classes will also be beneficial for both you and your puppy - they're great confidence-builders and also strengthen the bond between dog and owner. Be sure to take your puppy to your veterinarian as soon as possible after acquiring him. Puppies require a series of vaccinations to remain strong and healthy. You will also need to acquire monthly heartworm preventative for your puppy to avoid this fatal infestation.
If you feel that your lifestyle may not be suitable for dealing with the demands of a puppy, consider acquiring an older dog - perhaps a rescued one. Rescues, in most cases, are already house-trained, have been evaluated for temperament, and have gotten past that patience-trying puppy period!
Whether you acquire a puppy or an older dog, PLEASE, PLEASE, have your Dobe spayed or neutered. This can not only make your dog a better pet, but will also reduce or eliminate the possibility of some cancers and other health problems later in life. Hundreds of unwanted Dobermans are euthanized every year because pet owners decide to let Fido or Fluffy have some puppies. Please don't let your dog's puppies, or grand-puppies, end up being part of that statistic. We, in rescue, cannot save them all.
Okay, on to acquiring that puppy! Most important - do not buy on impulse - find a REPUTABLE BREEDER, even if it means you may have to wait a little while before bringing a puppy home. Your Dobe should be a lifetime commitment so don't rush impatiently to acquire the first puppy you find available. One good source of information on reputable breeders and other breed information is the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (the DPCA is the national breed club and creator of the Doberman Pinscher breed standard). The website is http://www.dpca.org Ethical breeders seldom advertise in newspapers and NEVER allow a puppy to be sold in a pet store. Large commercial puppy factories/farms/mills may have elaborate websites and magazine ads, but are a poor place to purchase a puppy. These puppies are produced for the sole purpose of making money and tend to be poorly socialized. These breeders seldom do health testing on the parents and the parents are rarely what most Doberman experts would consider to be "breeding quality" in temperament or structure. Don't let flashy breeder websites, newspaper ads or magazine ads fool you.
A reputable breeder will ask you a lot of questions to insure that their puppies (whether show- or pet-quality) will go to safe, loving, responsible homes. Don't be offended or put-off by their questions. Good breeders care deeply about the puppies that they produce and will want to make sure that both you and the puppy are a good match, and will have a long and happy life together. Most reputable breeders will require a contract signed by both the new owner and themselves. This contract should provide protection for both parties. It will often require the new owner to return the dog to the breeder if future circumstances (at any time during the dog's life) make it impossible for the owner to keep the dog. Again, a good breeder cares about his puppies FOR LIFE. Reputable breeders almost always have the ear crops done prior to placing the puppies in their new homes. After-care (taping, bracing, etc.) of the ears must often be done by the new owner (or his veterinarian) but a good breeder will be available to advise the owner on this, and any other issues that arise regarding the puppy. Puppies should never be placed in new homes before 7-8 weeks of age (preferably 8 weeks) since they acquire important dog-to-dog social skills by staying with their littermates during these first formative weeks.
Here are some questions you should ask your prospective breeder:
1) How many years have you been breeding Dobermans? (The longer, the better.)
2) How many litters do you breed per year? (A reputable breeder does not continually produce litter after litter - they may only have puppies available once every year or two.)
3) Can you provide a customer reference list? (A good breeder is proud of his puppies and should be able to gladly supply reference information.)
4) Can you show me the AKC registration papers and pedigrees for both parents? (The American Kennel Club (AKC) is merely a registry, meaning AKC papers signify that the dogs are purebred Dobermans but papers are not a guarantee of good health or temperament. Some breeders will advertise puppies from "champion bloodlines" - check the pedigree - champions located back beyond the 3rd or 4th generation have little or no bearing on the current puppies. If your great-grandmother won a beauty pageant in her day, that doesn't guarantee that your children will be beautiful too.)
5) Can you show me proof of appropriate health testing on both parents? (Ethical breeding takes a lot of work and money. A good breeder will perform certain standard health tests on ALL breeding dogs. In Dobermans, those recommended tests include OFA certification (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals - checks for hip dysplasia), thyroid exam (a special panel run only at Michigan State University is the preferred test for hypothyroidism), cardiac exam (including ultrasound - physical exam, xray, or ECG are NOT sufficient), CERF certification (Canine Eye Registry Foundation - checks for certain eye problems), vWD testing (von Willebrand's disease - a bleeding disorder that can result in delayed clotting time after injury or surgery - genetic/DNA testing should be performed on the parents). The OFA certification cannot be obtained until the dog is at least two years of age, and the thyroid levels will not be reliable indicators of hypothyroidism until the dog is mature (at least 18 months). Therefore, Dobermans should not be bred until reaching at least two years of age. Heart exams, CERF certification and thyroid panels should be performed every year.)
6) Can you tell me the ages and causes of death of dogs from prior generations? (Obviously, all dogs die eventually of *something* but you'd like to avoid known fatal genetic problems. A reputable breeder will be knowledgeable about the history of his lines.)
7) Why did you choose to breed these two particular dogs to each other? (A reputable breeder researches bloodlines and knows the strengths and weaknesses of particular dogs. That breeder will be working toward improving his lines. He won't be breeding just because he happens to own both Fido and Fluffy, or because he wants to make money. Believe it or not, reputable breeders seldom make money - they breed in a constant quest to improve the quality of their lines and those of Dobermans in general.)
8) Do you show your dogs in AKC-sanctioned competitions (conformation, performance, etc.)? If so, what titles do they have? (If the breeder is selling puppies he calls 'show quality' versus 'pet quality', he better have enough show experience to tell you how he graded the pups - show versus pet.)
Finally, a word about colors. The Doberman Pinscher Club of America recognizes four qualifying colors - black, red, blue and fawn (sometimes called isabella). Be aware that blue or fawn dogs may experience coat loss as they age (CDA - Color Dilution Alopecia). This is not a health issue as much as an issue involving esthetics. These dogs are often advertised by unscrupulous breeders as being 'rare' and more expensive. If you have your heart set on a blue or fawn, by all means obtain one - just be aware of the potential coat problems that may arise as the dog matures.
More concerning - the albino or 'white' Doberman. These, again, are offered as 'rare' and exotic (and pricey!) by disreputable breeders. These dogs can have physical and behavioral problems. Albinos have photosensitivity to sunlight. They have problems related to sight due to this photosensitivity which can be reflected in temperament or insecurity issues (e.g. hyper-aggression and fear-biting). Their skin often burns and blisters when exposed to the sun. Skin cancer is also a very real possibility. The white color is a disqualification under the Doberman breed standard and these dogs cannot compete in the AKC show ring (although the AKC will register these dogs). Albinos are no less deserving of love than a dog of any other color, but please DO NOT perpetuate the breeding of albino Dobermans by purchasing one.
We hope that the information we've shared here will help you both in making your decision to acquire a Doberman, and in finding an ethical breeder. Once you get that puppy home, please love him for his whole life. We think that once you've owned a Dobe, you'll never want to be without one!