When does the Doberman trait kick in?

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yohoe's picture
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Joined: 2011-08-03

Our puppy (15 weeks) is very friendly and very well tempered but one thing he seems to be lacking is the "protection" trait.  He's great and one thing I love is how approachable and friendly he is with people and dogs we know but we had an incident recently which I wish he had the "who are you?" in him.

We got new neighbors and told them to stop by sometime.  Unfortunately, we were further back in the house and they decided to walk in unannounced.  Drake stood there and watched as they walked past him.  It was probably the one moment I wish he would've barked or something to alert us/give them a "this is not ok".  I didn't know these people and they didn't seem 100% ok in my mind on the first impression.

Is there a certain time in life the doberman trait "starts" or will he always stand on the sideline? 

DJ's Dad's picture
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Giving you MY opinion here:  If Drake is only 15 weeks old, he's still very much a baby.  He hasn't had time yet to figure out all the things in his little world yet, and so his self-confidence is still a work in progress.  Don't worry...he'll surprise you some day when you dont even expect it.   Unless his 'job' will be 'guard dog' more than pet and companion, I wouldnt push the protection mode....he'll get it naturally and at the time when it's right for him.  Trying to force a young pup to be protective sometimes backfires on you, unless you are an experienced trainer in that area.  Those instincts are deeply bred within the doberman, and you really dont need to try to bring it out before he's ready.

KevinK's picture
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I would expect nothing in terms of protection from a 15 week old puppy.  As he matures, based on his instinct, lines, quality of breeding, and quality of training, what should be "expected" will vary.

jeshykai's picture
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Just like has been said... 15 weeks is far too young.  And secondly, he may not know how to signal you something is off with a bark/alert.  Especialy if he is the only dog in the house.  That takes time to develop.  I wouldn't say Steve started patrolling the yard, barking at sounds, looking out the window, gearing up to guard us and the girls I nanny until he was 9 months old and even then it is still an evolving process.

I would hate for the dog to ever have the WRONG reaction.. so if you want a guard dog and/or more sophisticated guarding behavior.. you had best get a trainer and make sure you know what you are encouraging is what you want. 

I realize the situation put you off guard and upset you, but think of 15 weeks in a puppy as being the same as a 6 month old baby.  They are just starting to reach for toys, have more sensory awareness, and maybe understand their world is bigger than the house.  You can't expect them to "talk" just yet.

cemberdyllion's picture
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That is odd that the neighbors would just walk in like that. :/ 

This is my first Doberman, and I don't know if I just got lucky or what but my 4 month old pup Desoto will alert me to ANYTHING that is out of the ordinary. One night we had a vase of roses cast a long shadow and he barked once and let me know he found that weird LOL. He's friendly around other people, but whenever someone approaches the house he'll bark and grumble and let us know.

I have some friends who've had Dobes all their lives and they've said that their boys took longer to get that instinct whereas their girls were always more "serious business." I wish I knew for sure, but I think it comes down to the dog.

I hope the neighbors will at least think twice now that they know you have a Dobie and he will grow up.

Hickory67's picture
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Gideon is 22 weeks and is just now starting to alert on people/situations he thinks are out of the ordinary. At 15 weeks he left that to our chihuahua and just passively observed.

Oddly enough, the afternoon I wrote this Gideon alerted on a "stranger" who brought my youngest home from school (one of his teachers). My oldest said Gideon let loose with such a deep growl/bark he thought there was another dog in the house. He's used to the girl down the street coming home with Noah...he didn't know who this person was walking behind his boy.

axl1911's picture
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at 15 weeks I believe he is just settling into a routine and adjusting to his new surroundings..once he has a routine established and all is used to the surroundings he will notify u when something is not right or out of the ordinary - giving that he is mature enough to tell the difference (this depends on the dog).

when axl was a pup he was sooo friendly (not that he isn't now) i had doubts as to whether he would be good at notifying my wife and I of unusual people/things etc. now at 6 months he is fully aware and doesn't let a beat skip without investigating.

my advice would be to keep training him and excersicing him and give him LOTS of love (remember what you give your dog you get back 10 times as much)

laith's picture
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It will come and you will know when it does! Just prepare yourself for correcting your pup to protect correctly! :) I think Laith started to show it more around 6 months. And it faded -- then came back full force around 11 months and has gotten more noticeable (he is 15 months).

Ledhead's picture
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My Brea started showing her protective side at 5 months. She has a very deep growl and frankly scared the crap out of me when she first did it as I wasn't expecting that from her. We were watching TV and someone walked by the house. She jumped off the couch and raised hell at the person walking by. They decided it was safer to walk across the street than walk by my house. Lol. Your pup will show that instinct when he's ready and you're not lol.

Ledhead's picture
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Btw , dobies as a general rule do not stand on the sidelines. They are front and center!! Just ask Brea :)

Randevyn's picture
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Sounds like your neighbors need some manners. Who just walks into someone's house? Not only is that grossly illmannered, but it's bazaar, too. 

Honestly, I have the same concern about my Dobe sometimes. He's so warm and friendly. Zeke loves people and seems to think they're all nice and just can't wait to pet him. He's showing no signs of toughening up at all [he's almost 7 months now]. It may be my fault for having so many friends in and out of my house on a regular basis. I'm thinking there may be no such thing as a stranger to him at this point; maybe I've desensatized that instinct [big oops]. 

Zeke's mother isn't a very friendly dame [and certainly doesn't mind barking at strangers] and his father is a HUGE Dobe who is very quiet, observant and difficult to read. I'm thinking I may have gotten the social butterfly of the litter. It doesn't bother me too much - I got him more for a companion rather than a watch dog [although some bass would be nice at times].

Still love my little guy no matter what. 

NINKOjIN's picture
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I have the oposite problem, haha, my little boy is only 11 weeks old and he acts like he's an adult when any strangers are nearby. I was shocked the first time I saw his fur bristle and heard him snort and growl at some friendly kids walking by. We're... trying to work on that...

But yeah, I wouldn't worry about it.

Worry more about your neighbors instead, LOL!

Dawn D's picture
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Monty had only been with us since the Saturday and was settling in over the weekend.  On Monday I took him out for morning wees and there was a van parked in the lane at the bottom of our garden - next door were having their roof repaired and the workmen weren't there at the weekend.  Because the van was "new", Monty stood at the end of the patio on top of the steps down to the lawn, raised himself to his full height, and all the fur on the back of his neck and down his spine stood up.  He didn't bark, but wouldn't take his eyes off the van!  He was barely 5 months old.  Now he barks when he hears something he doesn't recognise or doesn't like the sound of, but only 3 or 4 times until I tell him it's ok and not to worry.

Randevyn's picture
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Way to go Monty! He's a little hero! You really lucked up.

KevinK's picture
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What most people consider to be "protective" and positive things, others would try to work on with training to eliminate.  I know I'm not proud of a dog that barks at strangers for no reason, that's something I would work on personally.  By rewarding and/or encouraging this behavior, it can become a big problem.  A young pup is most definitely not protective, probably barking out of fear or uncertainty.  But it's not being protective, and not something I would encourage.

bet 1941's picture
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Ok I have to tell you my stories.. I only had 2 dobies.. not at the same time either.. Angel was my first.. she was about 4 mos old maybe 5..  and a neighbor was mad at my son and came down the driveway and out of his car.. I was in the doorway and And had no idea he was mad and in a bad mood but Angel did she sat on my feet and i could hear that moan sound they do under their breath.  I noticed that she was very watchful she loved people but could read things.. One day I had told someone that needed water her well went dry.. so I said I would get jugs and fill them with water and to just come in the kitchen where I would be when she was ready.. I didnt here her come in she said to me .. Betty you need to tell Angel it is ok.. Angel was sitting halfway between me and her just daring her to come closer.. I said Angel its ok and she was fine..

another story.. a friend has a sweet dobie girl.. no one could come in unless her people were home.. the son moved out and she would let him in.. she loved him and played on the floor with him but he could only come in when her people were home until the son moved back lol

My next Dobie was a male.. big handsome guy with big ears that looked dangerous.. He would go to a stranger and lean on them.. but one night he didnt see me put a flower stand in the hall and in the twilight of the morning he saw and outline of the flower stand and raised heck.. 

I think if their human was in danger or attacked they would take care of business.

Also have heard stories that many dobies sit silently  (i am the worst speller) by the door when someone  knocks at it..  one story was a lady wondered what her dobies did when people came and she was not home so she knocked on the door and looked thru a window and they were by the door with lips up lol.. now that is a story I heard..

Well it is late and been on here a lot today.. Levi just tugged at me to go out for petes sake..

good evening

hugs

Bet

dobjade's picture
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my jade 12months old now and shes only just started to protect me and are home.. jade barks at everyone that walks past if they get to close to garden gate. jade very friendly people dog too..this y love the breed and she brillant with my two kids.. ive had other breed but in my eyes nothing beats the doberman as a family and a guard dog..

Buddys_ Mama's picture
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Buddy is 14 months old now. Our house is set back a little from the road and if someone walks by he will run to the door and checks it out. The other day, we had a gentleman come in to do some work on our windows and Buddy kept his distance but never lost sight of him. He had to come in and out of the front door several times so I showed him that it was ok. The man tried to engage him in conversation and even put a hand out but Buddy wasn't having it. He just watched him.

It wasn't until we were all outside that Buddy approached him with a waggy nub and let him know it was ok to pet him. The man said, "Oh I see, now we're friends outside your domain!" I thought he did well and I was proud of him.

 

S_traxler's picture
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Churchill seemed to pick up his "being a doberman" trait about 4 to 5 months ago, he was 9-10 months old by then. Sometimes it just clicks in and sometimes they sort of build up to it, it depends on the individual dog too. But I would say to give him a few more months and his protectiveness should start showing up. If not you can always start training him to guard the house.

Joined: 2011-08-29

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I agree with KevinK.  

I am in no way, shape, or form a doberman expert, just a lover of the breed. I am constantly wanting to educate myself further to better understand every aspect of the breed so that I can provide the best for my dogs both present and future. Anyways, it is my understanding that what most people believe to be "protective behavior" is actually nervousness and the dog being curious. Unless you've done A LOT of studying on animal, more specifically, doberman behavior, the common eye does not understand/properly translate the body language a dog/doberman is exuding. Like KevinK said, I would never want my dog to just bark at a random person. And honestly, I prefer she not bark at all-it drives me crazy.  

A while ago RnDDobermans responded with a GREAT response to someone asking about the protectivness that is "part of the breed."  I found since the search feature is down and thought I'd post here:

RnDDobermans:  I totally disagree with the statement that "protectiveness comes with the breed" In fact most of the time it does not. There is a difference between a dog running to the property barking, being leery of strangers or certain things and actually being able to Protect you. I would like to add another prospective on protectiveness from watching several WAE's (working aptitude evaluations) Watching several of these put on and participating with my dogs I found them very eye opening. I truly believe that we are breeding out the natural protective instincts of our dogs. Most people want a golden retriever mentality in a Doberman body and that is exactly what we have for the most part in the US.

In the WAE they have a portion of the test where an aggressor comes out and goes after the dog and handler in an aggressive manner. This is the portion of the test where MOST Dobermans FAIL! They either hide behind their owner, turn to the side or show behaviors of avoidance. Very few pass the test. In the WAE where Paris earned hers along with her littermate Moe, they had 20+ dogs entered and only 4 of them passed 2 of those being my breeding. Mind you all a dog has to do to pass this portion is stay out in front of the owner and stand his ground.

Both of my dogs mother and son who earned their WAE were very strong on this portion of the test, not only did they stand their ground but they were very hard to hold back and wanted to kill the guy, aggressive barking and lunging at the leash. Both of them had a hard time in calming down after the fact which they also have to be able to do to pass this portion after the aggressor is gone. On another note the grandmother of these 2 would not pass the test and she is one that I thought for sure would. Her reaction when the aggressor came at us was to turn to the side and maybe they will go away lol. I feel very confident with the other 2 knowing they will protect no matter what. Further training inSchutzhund with my male and I know for sure even if the pressure is directly on him that he will not turn away and is in for the fight.

Many people think that their dog is protective and will protect them, the WAE test has shown more people that this is not the case. At our last WAE I helped with we actually opened it up to other breeds for the fun of it after our club sponsored WAE was over. That was very interesting as well, we had several GSD's a Belgian Terv's, and a Boerbel. These were all owned by well experienced owners who each thought their dogs had a protective instinct it surprised a lot of them.

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Dallas was a rig dog for the frist 3 years, he didn't really bark but when ever  he was by or in the truck his wole stance and attatude chaged it was as if he knew that we were more vulnerable  in the rig then we were at home. He looks so noble when he is in guard mode he sits stright up and his eyes are watchfull and alert he will give a deep chested bark if the person comes closer without getting the okay

3sacrowd's picture
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My pups only 11 weeks old, she only barks when she wants food, wants a bone the other dogs have, or wants out of her cage to be more of a part of the family (and she doesn't bark a lot then, she is just talking to me, I feel).   She loves, loves people, but she's also very watchful of things; quietly alert.  She's also very self asured, and I agree, it's a fantastic thing to behold.  I think she must have almost the perfect temperment.   Olive Oil is exactly the dog I was hoping to get.  I've had her since she was 7 weeks old, and it seems I can see her mature daily before my eyes.  I couldn't be happier at this point.  If she ever does need and choose to protect me, I'm sure it will be something to behold.  <3 my Olive Oil

Funny story.  Had her for a walk a week or so ago, and a car passed.  I was teaching Olive to focus on me on our walks, so I had treats with me.  I chose to have her to 'sit' as a car passed us and I had my back facing the direction the car went.  Olive sat, focused on me, and took her treat.  Then I noticed she wasn't focusing on my commands any longer.  She kept looking to one side of my legs and then the other.  So I curiously turned to look over my shoulder to see where the car had went, and there, about ten feet from us, was a Huge Dog.  It kind of took my breath away because it's the last thing I expected to see.  I took the cue from Olive how to respond.  She was calm so I stayed calm.  I took my phone out of my pocket to call the dog catcher, the dog looked at us once more, and simply turned and walked away.  At such a young age, Olive seemed already to be standing her ground (she's actually been like that since I brought her home).  The dog never moved closer to us, and walked away.  Olive has such a presence.  Maybe it's just me being an imaginative, overly proud Doberman owner, but I really felt protected ... by a puppy!  Luckily the other dog wasn't agressive, I know.  But it was her calm demenor and how she seemed to be assessing the situation that comforted me.

I sure wish I could "like" some of your posts   It is really enjoyable to read about a Dobie lover's affection for their dog(s).

talisin's picture
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We've been asking for a like button for ages :)) one day maybe

Bet the other dog wanted some treats too

3sacrowd's picture
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lol talisin;  maybe she was protecting her treats and not me. haha.  As far as other instances of protection, there's been no opportunity (thankfully).  However, I've observed her being cautious.  When I let her and my Boston's out when it's dark, the Boston's run out into the dark yard to potty, and she'll stay up on the patio and bark into the darkness, and then go out to do her thing.  I'm glad she has a nice, deep, somewhat scarey sounding bark, but the saying goes, a barking dog never bites.  Time will tell if she has protective instincts, but I'm hoping not to ever need to find out.

talisin's picture
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I hope you never have to find out either. I joked that the rottweiler we adopted at the age of 7 (just died oct. 22 at 9 1/2) I used to say that I would have to pick him up and throw him at an intruder or a threat, hahahahaa but that bark, wow that would wake the gods, and draw thunder and lightning, it was so deep and went on forever, scare the crap out of you when he did out of nowhere and everything was quiet, geesh I would jump out of my skin.

Be happy you have a barking dog they are deterent

Sephora's picture
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Your Buddy sounds like a very wise and contemplative soul.. Well done Buddy!! This is exactly the behavior I would expect from an intelligent Doberman.

Sephora's picture
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I like your story, I think Buddy did a fine job both inside and out-side of the house. As a pet he did his job, Well done Buddy!

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lol Talisin, just found this, and read "have to pick him up and throw him at an intruder". That's pretty funny. 

Lately I've been actually thinking about the "protective nature" of doberman's.  I do think it's possible to socialize a lot of the protective instinct out of the dog, if they're highly socialized to other people. 

Along this line, I've been thinking that the more submissive the animal, the more protective they would be. 

One of my dogs was very submissive as a young pup; she would immediately turn to her back and expose her belly to be rubbed.  She sometimes becomes very protective of me (around other animals or people) and sometimes I don't know what causes this, because it's people I trust...but there's something about them that she doesn't trust, and it goes beyond the signals I'm giving her.

My Doberman is sometimes submissive to male friends.  I've not seen any instinctual distrust to anyone I've been around, but she's only a year old.   

I'm pondering what steps I may chose to make, to make her more protective, and to rely on me for clues to be less protective, so that if need be, I can instigate that protective drive.   That's a long sentence, but it made sense when I wrote it out.  :)

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I had an interesting episode of protectivenes with both my dogs on a walk last week and I was quite surprised. Zooey is the more wary dog in regard to strangers, especially men. She has warmed up to many men but she is definitely not as confident approaching them. Argo is very friendly with everyone and, although he will bark at strangers outside the house and yard, he hasn't seemed protective at all once a stranger approaches. Both of them are very well socialized to ignore people when on walks because we hike and go for walks around the neighborhood and on a local greenway pretty much every day. Anyway, we were on a walk around the neighborhood when a man approached walking towards us. I shortened up their leashes to the traffic leash loop just to make sure he had plenty of room to pass with one dog on each side of me - this happens all the time in my neighborhood and the dogs just ignore the people passing by. This man however was carrying a cane - not using it to walk with but carrying it in his hand. I thought it a bit odd but I said hello and he said hello as he started to pass us. Just then he sort of raised the cane in a movement that looked like he was thinking of hitting me. In retrospect, I think he was just shifting it but I definitely wondered for a minute and all of a sudden both dogs jumped in front of me and started barking at him at the same time. Luckily I had tightened up the leashes and I just sort of pushed forward with them and the man hurried past. I wasn't that suprised by Zooey's reaction but was very surprised by Argo. After we went by they settled down immediately but they gave him a very clear warning - I didn't stop but told him loudly that they reacted to his raising the cane - hopefully, he will be a little more aware next time he comes by the terrible twosome (or other dogs)! I think alot of people's dogs would surprise them if they actaully have a situation where protective behavior was merited and they picked up on your own unease around a person. I don't want them to be overly protective but I'm glad they jumped to my protection and quickly calmed down when there was no continued threat. I'm not sure specific training is necessary as long as they are attuned to your body language and emotions. Zooey's behavior which I sometimes think is protective because she will step in front of me if there is a strange man may be more fear based so I am trying to socialize her out of that behavior as much as possible. Argo is definitely dominant and socialized with strangers and his protective trait kicked in so I still think feel more socialization will give you a more predictable dog. I thought I would share the experience though because I found it inline with this thread. 

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My dog is two . I have heard him bark only a handful of times. As for protection, not going to happen unless I also pick him up and throw him. Today my son was going to take him to the park but couldn't get him to go in the car cause the neighbors cat was in my yard. My son called Axel and the neighbors cat came instead lol. I'm ok with this behavior because the Doberman reputation for once works in Axels favor. His size speaks volumns. Love my dobe .

 

 

Tess

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I had a protective female years ago.  She had 5 pups, some male, some female.  The pups learned too well from their mom.  I got notice from Canada Post that all mail delivery was stopped because of the puppies growling and barking in our enclosed front porch just prior to them turning 4 weeks!!!!! Seriously?  Not quite four week old puppies.  They did the same with friends and family.  I did my best to discourage this before they went to their new homes.  I'd rather not have a liability on my hands.  My current Doberman is not aggressive.  Many of our neighbours have had break ins to their garages, sheds, vehicles and homes.  Nothing of ours has been touched. He looks intimidating but is not. Non aggressive was a trait we searched for a very long time before selecting Daymian for adoption. His looks seems to keep strangers away and that works for me.

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Ben our previous rottie would have shown people where the valuables were but Sampson not so sure, he would if he was alone but if someone threatened me I think Sampson would be a bit unpredictable he has shown a bit of protection qualities already with me even with a couple of people he adores, he has barked at them when they made quick movements that I was unaware of so I think he would not tolerate a threat......

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We saw the first glimpse at 9 months.  A neighbor came in the barn and due to sunlight/shadows, Rip did not recognize him right away. Our boy took a stance in front of my daughter, gave a warning bark, then stayed in stance until she released him and recognized the neighbor.  At which time, he unleashed a lick attack...

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After being with Juneau for a week--which put him at 19 weeks old--he started to alert me to anything that he thought I didn't notice. We were walking in the park late one night before bed and he stood really straight and sort of pranced beside me and let out a couple of barks to my left. Turns out there were some homeless people camping at a table nearby (a pretty common problem in this particular area). He never has an issue when I initiate conversation with someone, even people in uniform or people we have never met before. He never barks at trivial stuff either, like the neighbors' little dogs barking like crazy all day. I've also noticed this past week that he will occasionally perk up when we are in bed, go out the dog door, run a perimeter, maybe "grr-uf" at something (probably a raccoon), and come back in. My lab/heeler mix Otto never really does anything like that, so I can only assume it is something programmed in. I appreciate this behavior and hope to hone it as he matures, but I can see how it would be a trait that would be bred out of dogs in the US.