Composition of the Doberman Temperament

What the Doberman is Made of

The Doberman’s temperament is its most famous characteristic, besides its breathtaking appearance. This temperament can be summarized with a list of core attributes.

  • Aggressive
  • Fearless
  • Suspicious
  • Keen - Watchful
  • Sure - Reliable
  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Loving
  • Needy

Aggression

Yes, Dobermans are highly aggressive. Do not misunderstand. Dobermans are NOT vicious, violent, or malicious. The Doberman is bred for the most difficult of canine duties, and for this he needs to be ready to exert an all-out effort. This is aggression.

Not only is the Doberman physique like that of a champion athlete, so is its heart. Whether he is performing a silly trick, tracking a scent, or defending his handler regardless of injury to himself; he meets his task with great energy and focus: aggression.

Dobermans need to release this aggression. You wouldn’t buy a race horse and never let it run. Neither should you buy a Doberman and never let him face challenges. It is the responsibility of the Doberman owner to provide both mental and physical challenges to their Doberman through training, exercise, and fun games.

With regard to Doberman aggression and other aggressive breeds, there is a misunderstanding among the public. Aggression is viewed as dangerous. In fact it is, and like any potentially dangerous thing, if it is misused or abused it will eventually cause injury.

There are those who advocate misguided and ineffective measures against what they see as dangerous dogs. Rather than supporting legislation to protect all dogs and address human misuse and abuse, they clamor for something called Breed Specific Legislation. Breed Specific Legislation are proposed laws applying only to certain breeds. Many of these laws would regulate or even ban only Dobermans and other aggressive breeds.

The main problem with Breed Specific Legislation, besides being unjust, is that it is ineffective – it won’t work. Yes, a misused or abused aggressive breed is dangerous, but only slightly more dangerous that a non-aggressive breed of similar size. Furthermore, a less sturdy breed, one lacking the sureness of the Doberman, even when properly trained is more dangerous than a Doberman. Non-aggressive breeds, besides lacking the Doberman’s aggression, lack the Doberman’s sturdy temperament and ability to deal with stress. They are more easily frightened or “set-off,” and this is when they do harm.

Fearless

An important attribute bred out of the Doberman is fear. Fear causes two problems in a powerful working dog. First, fear can cause a dog to overreact to a situation. A dog that bites while not under command is reacting to fear. The most dangerous dog is one that is afraid.

Second, fear can cause hesitation under stress and can even cause a dog to refuse a command. Either of which are unacceptable in the risky business of being a working Doberman.

Suspicion

A fearless Doberman is necessary. A lackadaisical Doberman is no Doberman at all. A working Doberman is also a watchdog. Anything new needs to be investigated. If the Doberman is unsure – he barks just in case.

Doberman owners often comment to us about how their Doberman needs to know where all members of the family are at all times. They trot around the house every hour or so, checking each room. When the neighbors are in their backyard,that’s okay. But if they bring over a new friend, a Doberman will let you know someone new is in your territory.

The key to harnessing this gateway feature of the Doberman temperament is maintaining your role as the alpha. A trained Doberman will happily greet anyone you feel comfortable with or dramatically display his power for anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable.

Keenness Watchfulness

Along with suspicion, the Doberman has a near extrasensory perception. He is in tune with his environment and notices the slightest sound, movement, or smell. I am continuously astounded at the Doberman’s ability to notice things I must strain to find.

Along with this perception, the Doberman is watchful and aware. Dobermans like to look out windows. They investigate new sounds. they follow new smells. And if anything is questionable they let you know.

This is one of the most valuable of dog traits, and is probably the reason man first started keeping dogs. With a dog such as a Doberman, you can find anything and no one can sneak up on you.

Sureness Reliability

Sureness is reliability, confidence, and bravery - but is sometimes referred to as strong-will or stubbornness. This is the element of the Doberman temperament that allows him to steadfast under command, obediently, regardless of fear, pain, or confusion. It also allows him to sit calmly, with his power latent in situations where it is not needed.

A sure Doberman can walk past barking dogs with little more than a arrogant smirk. He will look to his handler for instruction on how to react to frightening sounds and sights. A sure Doberman at one moment can happily play with the children and another moment put himself between the children and an unfamiliar character, displaying muscle and teeth - but will attack only an imminent threat.

Sureness is the key temperamental attribute for obedience. The key to building sureness in the Doberman temperament is socialization.

Intelligence

Intelligence in dogs is often misunderstood. A common assumption is that an intelligent dog needs less training than a ‘stupid’ dog that may never be trained. First, a dog that acts stupid is a dog that is untrained or unsure, usually the fault of ignorant mildly abusive owners.

Second, an intelligent dog such as the Doberman needs consistent training. If this training is neglected the Doberman will happily take over training responsibilities not only training himself but also training his owners. Does this sound ridiculous? It should. It is. And is common in many dog homes, not just Doberman homes.

There are those dog owners who are unwilling to train even the most marginally intelligent dog the most basic behavior. You know the homes. The dog barks in the house and tears around like a tornado while everyone yells at it. It steals food. When guest come by it must be man-handled into a spare room to prevent it from assaulting people with long claws and dirty paws. Of course, it barks and tries to escape from the room. It pees and poops in the house...

If such neglect is put to a Doberman or any such breed, the consequences can easily be harmful and certainly destructive. A Doberman barking in the house I’m sure will eventually cause hearing lose to the people. A Doberman running in the house will not only destroy things, people could easily be injured.

With regard to stealing food; a Doberman on hind legs can reach the back-splash. A Doberman jumping on someone is reprehensible. If it doesn’t give the poor person a heart attack it could easily cause physical or psychological injury.

I remember first being outsmarted by our first Doberman. He loved destroying my sanding sponges. He would swipe them when I wasn’t looking and take them into the dinning room to shred them up. Several times I found a sponge missing and stormed into the dinning room only to find a sweet little puppy politely chewing on a bone and waging his little nub of a tail. After a third sponge disappeared, and finding him as usual in the dinning room with his innocent bone, I noticed some shredded sponge laying about. I investigated. What he was doing was stealing my sponge, hiding in the back room, and when he heard me coming he would conceal the sponge in the back of his mouth and chew on the bone as if that were all he was doing. That little rascal!

It is a shame not to train a Doberman. His intelligence makes him highly trainable and allows his superior traits to be harnessed. The key is consistency. Bad behavior should never be accepted. Doberman puppies are nasty, but once they understand their role, they are wonderful companions. It is up to the owner to teach this role.

Loyalty Devotion

In the old days, and still in Germany, Dobermans trained for police and soldier work were trained to only allow their handler to touch them. In the United States, Dobermans are generally allowed and encouraged, to their great delight, to accept affection from anyone with whom their handler feels comfortable.

Loyalty and Devotion are actually a combination of traits. I choose to discus them together because they are so profound. The Doberman is a brazen defender of its home. If trained to stay beside his handler, he will do so. If the handler is wounded, he will drag him along or defend him to his death. The Doberman’s body is a gift he will happily throw up to block you from danger.

Loving

One of the favorite temperamental attributes of the Doberman is lovingness. They simply can’t get enough affection and are happy to lie on the couch or in bed for hours with their owner. They need this affection. They are bred to be at the side of man and serve him; this is what they love. Treats are rarely needed in training; a “good boy” is all he needs - or "good girl" for her.

Needy

The Doberman is needy; needing of affection, training, socialization, and stimulation. This is not a dog to spend time alone in the back yard, kennel, or basement. The Doberman is bred to be at your side literally at all times and this is exactly what he will do.

When you sit quietly reading, he will lay by your feet. When you rise to grab a drink, he will follow. When you answer the door, he will be right at your hip. The trained Doberman knows his job is to be your helper, and he won’t miss a chance.