The Breed History
This breed originated in Germany and was recognized in 1900. In the USA, the parent club was formed in 1921. The Doberman originates from a number of breeds including the Rottweiler, German pinscher, and Black and Tan terrier. The name of the breed originates with a German man, Louis Dobermann who was credited for early breed development.
Breeding for Function
Bred for work as a personal protection guard dog, police dog, and war dog, he is now very popular also as a companion. The Dobe is also prized as a police scent-tracking dog. They are also used in Schutzhund, and in search and rescue operations.
Height at Withers: female 24-26" (61-66 cm), male 26-28" (66-71 cm)
Weight: females 66-75 lb (30- 34 kg), males 66-80 lb (30-36.5 kg).
Coat: Breed colors include black, red, fawn and blue with legs, throat and face (muzzle and eye) marked with rusty pigmentation. White spots on chest of less than a half-inch square are allowed. Smooth short and dense hair coat lies close to the skin and is glossy. Black is dominant over red, and non-dilution is dominant over dilution. Albinos may be born, but it is a disqualification.
Longevity: 13 years.
Points of Conformation: Medium sized, powerful, agile, and muscular athletic dog, the Dobermans' way of moving and carriage is proud and springy. The head is long and wedged with almond-shaped brown eyes. In coats other than black, iris pigment may be lighter to match coat, but the darker spectrum of coloration is preferred. The medium length and size ears are usually cropped and carried in a pricked position in North America. They have a slight stop, and flat cheeks taper to a black nose in black dogs and a brown-tan-gray coloration is associated with the other coat colors (red-fawn-blue respectively). A well arched neck that widens at the base, a straight topline, deep-chested with well-sprung ribs, and a tail usually docked short characterize this breed. They possess straight limbs and feet well knuckled and compact. Dewclaws may be removed.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
This is reported to be a very loyal dog and the Doberman is a natural protector. High intelligence, fearlessness, high activity and alertness, and stamina in service characterize this breed. Dobes are easy to train using positive reinforcement, and starting at a very early age, it is important to include proper socialization to people and other pets. If not properly trained, aggression may develop. This can also happen if Dobes are kenneled or left alone excessively. They need lots of contact with people and frequent exercise and stimulation. They are average shedders and generally need only minimal grooming. This breed is over-represented in flank sucking behavior, a compulsive disorder.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Dilute coat color (d locus) is due to the homozygous recessive expression of a mutation in the melanophilin gene (MLPH). This can predispose to color dilution alopecia. A genetic test is available.
Doberman pinschers may be predisposed to adverse reactions to potentiated sulfonamides. Non-septic polyarthritis and fever occurring after 8 to 21 days of therapy is the most common sign. Some dogs may develop glomerulonephropathy, focal retinitis, polymyositis, skin rash, fever, anemia, leukopenia, or thrombocytopenia. This may be due to a limited capacity to detoxify the hydroxylamine metabolites of sulphonamides. The reaction may be a type-III hypersensitivity.
von Willebrand's Disease Type 1 (vWD): Autosomal recessive genetic disorder causing a mild bleeding syndrome. A genetic test is available from VetGen that reports 25% affected, and 49% carrier in the breed. Dorn reports a 806.44x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): An autosomal dominant with incomplete penetrance form of heart disease characterized by syncope, dilated cardiomyopathy, sudden death, ventricular tachycardia, and heart failure. Ventricular arrhythmia precedes heart dilation, and may be involved in the cause of DCM in the breed. Diagnose with 24 hour holter ECG and echocardiogram (ECHO). Pimobendan significantly improves the congestive heart failure associated with DCM in Doberman Pinschers. A European study found 50.7% of Dobermans over 8 years of age with an ECHO or holter diagnosis of DCM. A study of cardiac troponin (cTnl) levels showed that levels greater than 0.22 ng/ml could with high sensitivity and specificity identify dogs that will eventually develop DCM prior to any abnormal ECHO or holter changes. An autosomal dominant mutation in a mitochondrial protein gene has been identified. A genetic test for this gene is available.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 6.2% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 1.0% affected.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Doberman Pinschers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Narcolepsy: Rare, autosomal recessive disorder causing sudden collapse and a sleep-like state elicited by excitement. Clinical episodes begin at four weeks of age, with maximal symptoms by 10-32 weeks of age. A genetic test is available.
Congenital Blindness: A rare autosomal recessive disorder occurs in the breed, presenting with microphthalmia, corneal opacification, absence of the anterior chamber, aphakia, retinal detachment, and dysplasia, and partial depigmentation of the retinal pigment epithelial cells.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 8.4% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). May be associated with a DLA class II allele. Dorn reports a 2.51x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Cataracts: Capsular and posterior suture punctate cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 4.46% of Doberman Pinschers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Doberman Pinscher with a cataract.
Cervical Vertebral Instability (Wobbler Syndrome): Presents with UMN spasticity and ataxia. Imaging studies suggest that the primary lesion is foramenal stenosis and intervertebral instability at C6-7. MRI is superior to myelography in determining site, severity, and nature of the spinal cord compression. Dorn reports a 94.93x odds ratio versus other breeds. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Acral Lick Dermatitis (Lick Granuloma) and Flank Sucking: Behavioral disorders causing skin lesions frequently seen in the Doberman pinscher breed. These may have an obsessive-compulsive component.
Prostatic Disease: Doberman pinschers are the most frequently affected breed with prostatic disease. Intact males have the highest risk for bacterial prostatitis, prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia, and prostatic cysts. Mean age of onset is 8.9 years. Short CAG-1 repeats in the AR-gene are associated with increased risk for prostate cancer.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat, GDV): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Doberman pinschers with the deepest thorax relative to width have the greatest risk for GDV.
Demodicosis (Generalized): Doberman pinschers are shown to have a hereditary predisposition for demodectic mange. This disorder has an underlying immunodeficiency in its pathogenesis. Dorn reports a 3.57x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Hormonal Urinary Incontinence: Studies show a breed prevalence for urinary incontinence in spayed female Doberman pinschers.
Persistent Hyperplastic Tunica Vasculosa Lentis and Primary Vitreous (PHTVL/PHPV): Congenital disorder presenting in the breed with variable lesions from spots on the posterior lens to posterior lenticonus, and posterior polar subcapsular cataracts. Reported at a frequency of 6.7% in the Netherlands, and lower frequencies in the US. CERF does not recommend breeding any Doberman Pinscher with PHTVL/PHPV. Inheritance suspected to be autosomal dominant with incomplete penetrance.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 3.05% of Doberman pinschers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Chronic Active Hepatitis (Copper Toxicosis): The disease is predominantly seen in female dogs, usually 4 - 7 years of age. Clinical signs include polyuria/polydipsia, weight loss, anorexia, icterus, and ascites. Affected dogs have increased liver enzymes, bile acids, and hepatic copper concentrations. Pathology shows micronodular cirrhosis, fibrosis, necrosis and lymphocyte and plasma cell infiltration of the portal triads. The disease is strongly linked to a homozygous DLA-MHC haplotype, indicating an immune basis.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds are recognized in the breed. Can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. Reported in 2.25% of Doberman pinschers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.44% of Doberman pinschers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Follicular dysplasia: Condition causing hair loss in young adult Doberman Pinschers. Most often seen as Color Dilution Alopecia in some blue or fawn (dilute)-colored Doberman pinschers, but can also be seen in non-dilute red or black and tan dogs. Starts as a gradual onset of dry, dull and poor hair coat quality. Progresses to poor hair regrowth, follicular papules and comedomes. Hair loss and comedome formation are usually most severe on the trunk. A genetic test is available for the dilute gene.
Dancing Doberman Disease (Peripheral Neuropathy): Slowly progressive breed-related disorder that develops between six months and seven years of age. Affected dogs have a tendency to flex and straighten one and then both hind limbs while standing. The gait remains normal while walking, but may eventually develop weakness in the hind legs, and be reluctant to stand. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Synovial Myxoma Tumors: Doberman pinschers are overrepresented with synovial myxoma tumors, which offer a much better prognosis (without metastasis) than other synovial cell tumors. The most common sites are stifle and digits.
Congenital Deafness and Vestibular Disease: Rare congenital disorder reported in the Doberman pinscher. Affected dogs show early signs of head tilt, lack of coordination, and circling, and become deaf by 3 weeks of age. An autosomal recessive inheritance is proposed.
Juvenile Renal Disease: The disease presents in young Doberman pinschers as anorexia, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, polydipsia, polyuria, and dehydration. Laboratory findings are azotemia, hyperphosphatemia, lymphopenia, non-regenerative anemia, hypercholesterolemia, and proteinuria.
Atherosclerosis: Doberman pinschers have a higher prevalence versus other breeds. Most common clinical signs are lethargy, anorexia, weakness, dyspnea, collapse, and vomiting. Hypercholesterolemia, lipidemia, and hypothyroidism are common in affected dogs. Myocardial fibrosis, infarction, and thickened arteries with narrow lumens are found on necropsy.
Atrial septal defect, Brachygnathism, Bullous Pemphigoid, Chromosomal Intersex, Ciliary Dyskenesis, Diabetes Mellitus, Familial Benign Pemphigus, Fanconi Syndrome, Hemivertebra, Histiocytosis, Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Icthyosis, Lupoid Onychopathy, Malignant Hyperthermia, Mucinosis, Osteochondritis Dessicans-Stifle, Oligodontia, Panosteitis, Pemphigus Foliaceous, Prognathism, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Renal Agenesis, Seasonal Flank Alopecia, Sebaceous Adenitis, Supernumerary Teeth, Vitiligo, Wry Mouth, and Zinc responsive dermatitis are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Chronic Rhinitis and Pneumonia: Eight related Doberman pinschers were identified with chronic rhinitis and pneumonia. A defect in the bactericidal ability of neutrophils was identified.
Congenital Peripheral Vestibular Disease: Individual Doberman pinschers from repeat breedings had unilateral or bilateral congenital peripheral vestibular disease. Clinical pathology was normal. Marked lymphocytic labyrinthitis was discovered microscopically. The occurrence in separate litters suggests an inherited disorder.
Situs Inversus and Diaphragmatic Hernia: A 4 year old female Doberman Pinscher developed dyspnea during sedation. A diaphragmatic hernia was diagnosed, and situs inversus of both the thorasic and abdominal viscera was discovered during surgical repair.
Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD): A 3 month old Doberman Pinscher was identified with a unilateral dysgenesis of the femoral head and neck.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for vWD is available from VetGen. Direct test for DCM is available from North Carolina State University - Meurs Lab.
Direct test for narcolepsy is available from Optigen and HealthGene.
Direct tests for coat color (black/brown and dilute) are available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, genetic test for vWD, cardiac evaluation (ECHO and holter), and working dog evaluation (from DPCA). (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Recommend elbow radiographs and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Dobe, Doberman, Dobie, Dobermann, Thuringer Pinscher, Plizeilich Soldatenhund.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 18 (10,547 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Doberman Pinscher Club of America: DPCA.org
Doberman Pinscher Club of Canada: dpcc.ca
The Doberman Club (UK): thedobermannclub.co.uk
United Doberman Club: uniteddobermanclub.com
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