Training a Well Mannered Doberman

Obedience training is an essential part of dog ownership, especially Doberman ownership. Dobermans are powerful and intelligent creatures. If the Doberman owner is not training the Doberman, chances are the Doberman is training the owner.

Contrary to some views, obedience training is not a grueling or rigid process. It is a natural process where both the dog and owner learn how properly to behave and communicate with each other. This process is essential for a well adjusted Doberman and a happy Doberman family.

There are plenty of books that offer lessons in obedience. If it’s available a local obedience class is a great opportunity. Not only does an obedience class provide experienced instructors, it also provides a great place to begin socialization of a Doberman puppy by allowing him to be around many other dogs and people. These other dogs and people also serve as distractions for the dog to learn to ignore while obeying the handler.

Basic obedience focuses on heeling (walking next to the handler) on lead, and commands such as sit, down, stay, leave-it, and most importantly, come. Any dog lacking obedience to these commands, especially powerful dogs like the Doberman, is an accident waiting to happen that can only be blamed on the dog owner.

Advanced obedience is recommended with Dobermans. Dobermans thrive on this type of work, the bond developed between dog and handler is truly a wonderful experience, and an obedient Doberman benefits the whole breed. The public is impressed with a kind and obedient Doberman, in particular those with preconceived notions.

For those of us bitten by the show bug, there are obedience competitions. These competitions are a friendly and productive experience, competing for personal score rather than in head to head competition.

American Kennel Club (AKC) trials offer three levels of competition, Novice, Open, and Utility. Starting with Novice, each level progressively requires more advanced skills at higher degrees of performance. To achieve a title a dog must earn a passing score (a leg) of 170 out of a possible 200, under three different judges - in three different competitions (three legs). Once a dog receives a title, it can then move onto the next level.

A Novice level Doberman is a dog possessing basic obedience at the levels of a well behaved companion dog. At this level, the dog is expected to heel at the handler's left side both on and off lead while moving at different speeds and directions as commanded by the judge. He will stand for examination by a stranger and do a recall from a sitting position from the other side of the ring, ending in a ‘finish’ where the dog turns around on his own and returns to the heel position. He will also remain for a one minute sit-stay and a three minute down-stay in a group exercise amidst the distraction of people and other dogs, while the handler is on the other side of the ring. The novice title is the Companion Dog (CD) title.

Open level is similar to Novice but all work is done off lead and for longer periods. Also included are long and short jump exercises and some retrieval skills. Here the available title is the Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) title.

The Utility level includes the activities in the Open level but the dog is expected to perform them at an even higher level. Also included is a scent discrimination test where the dog must choose from 10 items the one scented by the handler. Titling at this level earns the Utility Dog (UD) title.

These levels are also split up at competition into ‘A’ and ‘B’ classes. A is for dogs not having received a title and B is for experienced dogs who have titled.

Once a dog has a UD title, it can go onto receive the Utility Dog Excellent (UDX) title by earning a qualifying score at both Open and Utility level at 10 competitions. Additionally, the title of Obedience Trial Champion (OTCh) is awarded to dogs earning 100 points by placing first, second, third or fourth in the Open B or Utility B class and a first place in Utility B and/or Open B three times. This is the highest award in AKC Obedience and is often referred to as the ‘PhD’ for dogs.

The first step in starting serious Doberman Obedience, besides the research you are doing right now, is finding a credible Obedience instructor, not only for the dog, but for you. There are no uniform certifications for Obedience instruction, but there are training programs with different certificates. The best thing to do is decide what type of obedience you are interested in, competition or just training a well mannered Doberman, then find an instructor experienced in that area. Visiting a class can tell you everything you need to know.

If you are interested in simply training your Doberman for general good behavior, finding a class that turns out satisfied people and polite dogs is what you need. If you find you have aspirations of titling at competition, it would be a good idea to find an instructor who participates in competitions regularly and owns dogs holding titles.