House training, recall, and boundaries.

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viper's picture
Joined: 2014-04-30

My pup is a 16 week female. I have raised some very well mannered retrievers that would make a trainer blush. However, the Dobe and I just are not seeing eye to eye yet. I have read all the "they need exercise" and "they are persistent" hoopa but I need more details.

1. House training - Started at immediately at 8 weeks. The main issue is I never know when she needs to go and she does not seem to hold it very long. However, in her crate, she will hold it 7-8hrs. I really want her to have free range of the kitchen area all night but have to stuff her in her crate due to peeing. She nearly pees on command (my other dogs do) but not sure what else I can do. The main issue is I cannot be on her 24/7 to see her pee. The last time I caught it, we made progress. She knew she was in trouble and I got her out. She has problems with incontinence which my other females did. I just cannot excite her too much unless she is drained. Meets someone new....pee

2. Recall - Has been a big issue recently and out of frustration, I want to buy an electric collar. She will stop, look right at me, then proceed to run to something more interesting. I try to have treats available but it is obvious she is making a decision on the better option. My Goldy will recall at any distance and with one call instantly. I expect that type of performance at some point. I generally only offer praise and petting.

3. boundaries- I know some will want to stone me but my other dogs were raised without a fence. I walk the boundaries and back them up to stay in the yard. They figure it out. This pup has now found it a game to step outside the line and as I work around her to back her up into the yard again, she runs all over and feels it is a game. I have to fine a new tactic. I did buy some 2ft folding garden fence trying to teach a boundary but does not work so well.

4. leash training - what a nightmare! She needs exercise! I have tried a few times with the leash. She bites it, pulls, etc. I keep a short leash just behind me to train where to walk with me. The pulling was so ridiculous that I switched to a choke collar for a bit. It did not seem to affect her performance with a rather tight collar so not sure that is the right move. I have never had to use any more than a few jerks with the choker on my other dogs and they decide that is not fun. My others now walk with no leash.

Once she knows she is in trouble, she will not recall and that could get dangerous. I know some feel a fence is the obvious answer but I find that my dogs don't bark, and are relaxed with less anxiety without being "caged animals".

I feel some of this training would go MUCH better if she was 6-9mo but I am just unsure what I can expect from her at 4mo and how I might mitigate the bad habits until she is really ready for training? Right now we have sit, stay, down, give 5, up.

Just how much exercise does she need? I know all this cooped up energy is part of our problems. I need to find a way to drain her.

She is a baby, and IMHO you are expecting too much from her too fast.  Some housebreak fast and some don't.  I don't think that most quite "get it" till they are about 5-6 months old - and that is in a very consistent home. 

I would never recommend using an electric collar on a puppy that young. If you are not going to fence at least a portion of your yard, then keep her on a long line for now. Dobermans have high prey drive and can take off quickly - a tragedy waiting to happen. What I recommend is putting in a dog run or partially fencing your yard. Most good Doberman breeders - myself included - won't sell without a fence. I have sold without a fence twice, but they were experienced Dobe people that I trust and know well.

As far as leash walking - again, she is a baby. This is not a retriever... as you are discoving - LOL! When she is older, if you need it, use a good quality (herm sprenger) pinch collar. Dobermans have long necks that are prone to injury. Pinch collars work better at preventing injuries than choke collars. Head halties are not good for a Doberman that pulls - again the neck thing with this breed.

Good luck to you - as you are discovering, Dobermans are not your average breed  :-)  but I'm sure you will do fine.

viper's picture
Joined: 2014-04-30

Thanks for the advice!  Sometimes I have to think and realize she is still really young but getting big so I forget. 


I am curious what your other buyers have done without a fence?  I obviously have experience there and I feel the reward will be worth it and I am not in an area where a car strike is very likely.  Traffic is 15mph and she is already respecting cars.  Dogs seems to be so calm and I want her to know her boundary and respect it. 


However, when I walked her last night, a bunny popped up and I could not snap her out of "hunt mode". That is something I need help with.  I can snap my retrievers out of it easily but sometimes I tell em to "get it" and they respond with full on GO mode.  No chance of catching a bunny anyway. 


What can I do with leash training now?  Just keep trying? The way I work is is I give slack and give it a little jerk when she gets away too far.  However, she does not seem to care much.  My retrievers HATE leash correction and will straighten out in 1-2min, I remove it, we all good...


MichelleE's picture
Joined: 2013-05-31

Pet Profiles

As far as the potty training goes we set a timer to take him out every 20-30 minutes. We always took him out when he woke up, ate, drank, played. When we weren't right there to watch him we had him in the crate. When he went outside we praised him. If he went in the house we just took him outside and never punished him because it was our fault for not watching him more closely. 

As for leash training. I would hold a treat next to my leg where I wanted him to be and would say heel. He would try to nibble the treat as we walked and after a few minutes I would let him have the treat and praise him. I would never let him walk out in front of me. If he pulled or tried to run ahead I would just turn around and walk in the other direction. 

I would not use a shock collar. I did however use a pinch on Ares. I didn't like the idea at first but I put it on my own arm and pulled and it didn't hurt me one bit. But it gave him just enough of a correction it would snap him out of his behavior if needed. It doesn't take but a little tug on a leash either, no need to jerk it hard that will just aggravate the dog and make behaviors worse. 

As for recall we put ares on a 20 foot lead and would act all excited calling his name and clapping our hands and slowly real him to us with the leash once he got to us we would praise him. We did this over and over. Takes a lot of practice and patients. 

Good luck

talisin's picture
Joined: 2011-02-25

As was mentioned this is not a retriever - what you got from your retriever you won't get the same way with the dober dog....the prey drive is already showing up and snapping a dog out like a retriever that is waiting and was bred to listen to the person they are retrieving for is different than the doberman who is just going to act on the prey mode IMO and I would never allow a doberman outside without a leash, fence or containment and invisible fences are out cause the prey drive maybe so great that the dogs crosses the line and then can't get back in or gets lost, stolen, or killed. The only dogs I knew that could be walked around the boundary/perimeter of the yard and "get it" were the herding type dogs and the retrievers - any dog with terrier or sight hound background and there is some sight hound and I believe some terrier history in the doberman - cannot be trusted to know boundaries. They are smart and think for themselves and any dog that can and will think for themselves will most likely over ride what the human wants at some point. If the interest is greater in the "other" thing they will be off and gone. Fence is the only way, dog lots  are not that costly and yet can save a life......invest in one for those times.....yes it's great to have a dog that will instantly recall and do as told but you are years from that so protect this little body during that time at least.

And yes your baby is still a baby in a big body with a little bladder and very little control right now, you have to allow the sphincter muscles in and around the bladder to mature enough to be able to withhold the urine, right now the control is just not's not intentional - it's lack of the body being full grown. That's why some big dogs don't get potty trained till 6 months or older they just can't mature internally that fast....and punishing by getting upset which your dog will sense instantly and consider punishing is holding her responsible for something that is literally out of her control.

Kim's picture
Joined: 2012-02-05

Yep, she's not a retriever - Dobes are so different in the ways that they learn and think. They respond VERY well to positive reinforcement!  It'll be a whole new learning curve for you, I think.

As for the peeing - I think it's submissive peeing. Lib used to do it when she was a pup. When someone would come up to her, she'd roll over on her back, and pee up in the air like a little fountain!  (I was glad for linoleum floors - lol!)  She outgrew it - I just never made a fuss about it, and mopped it up. It had nothing to do with housebreaking, and everything to do with her growing up a bit emotionally.

I agree completely with a fence - Dobes are very strong willed, and the prey drive just doesn't shut off as they grow up. You can't train it out of them - a fence would keep her safe. I'm with Tal - nothing is as good as a physical barrier. I don't trust invisible fences at all.

Oz Dobe's picture
Joined: 2014-03-25

Totally agree with comments above!

Prey drive is very strong in this breed. At the dog park, Storm will mostly look at a ball thrown and walk away - too boring. But she will chase another dog chasing a ball. Tennis balls are too boring straight line lures, but a toy that bounces/lopes erratically, she will chase and chase.

Agree also with the sight hound information. When we go bush, Storm goes into what I call 'up periscope' mode where she lifts her head high and swivels from side to side scanning for movement. While Dobermans are not sight hounds per se, they have a strong influence on the breed. If you look at the Doberman wikipedia site, you will see some breeds very different to what you would find in retrievers, added to make the Doberman.

Leash training can be different depending on temperament. Some respond well to play during walks, some to treats, some to affection. It depends on what motivates your particular dog.

Leash jerks can tend to be ignored, I've found (and at her age can damage her neck), but what seems to work really well for me and Storm is walking in random directions. Keeping treats by my hip, reinforcing with 'good girl' when she gets in the right position, changing direction, changing pace. I have also noticed that rather than leash corrections, sometimes just stopping and paying no attention for 10 or 20 seconds can act like a time out during a walk. Every dog is different, but its all worth a try. And when you find something that works, be consistent. Start with walking in sterile environments and build up with more distractions gradually. Leash train regularly.

I read the part in your post where you said 'once she knows shes in trouble' she wont recall. I bet you can guess what I'm going to say. The more you yell at her to come,or, worse, punish her when you do get to her, the more she learns that coming to you will have negative consequences. You are reinforcing the exact opposite of what you want! The dogs thinks 'lets see, spend more time running around free, or come back and be scolded, which choice is best for me?' Never call 'come' if your dog is out of your control and can choose to ignore you. I'd be grabbing a long line and training her for recall on that. And even with the best recall, if she sees a rabbit/prey, I would not rely on that recall without a fence.

House training, its been said. Regularly take her outside, even if you don't think she needs to go. She will not sleep through the night at first, so set an alarm, work in shifts, the quicker you do this, the quicker she will learn and the happier you will all be.

Instead of 'mitigating the bad habits' why not try reinforcing the good ones? Every time she does what you want her to do (it must happen sometimes right?) reinforce the behavior. Dont set her up to fail - eg expect her at 16wks to recall off a rabbit chase when you have no fencing. In this situation, all she gets is negativity. It may eventually work for you, but your dogs happiness and confidence will be affected.

Instead put her in positions where she can easily succeed, and up the ante gradually. If you hit a wall scale it back to where it was working and stay with it a bit longer and try again.

Lots of exercise, companionship and training are required for the Doberman. These guys are high maintenance and you need to be prepared for that. I've found consistency in everything you do with them is key.

Going from retrievers to Dobermans is big change.