Is the Doberman the right breed of dog for me?

The AKC standard describes the ideal Doberman temperament:

Energetic, Watchful, Determined, Alert, Fearless, Loyal, Obedient

It is important for the prospective buyer to REALLY understand the implicit translation of these terms and what they might mean when you bring your puppy home.  Here is an in-depth look at these temperament characteristics and what they might look like: 

Energetic:  Dobermans are bred to gallop and love to run. This characteristic is one reason that they make excellent wilderness search dogs that need to cover a lot of ground.  While you don't have to have huge acreage to make a good Doberman owner, you will need to plan to spend some active time each day with your dog.  Without this activity, Dobermans tend to become bored and possibly destructive.  Jogging, hiking, playing ball or frisbee in a safe, enclosed area, participating in dog sport activities such as agility or schutzhund . . . all of these will keep your active, energetic Doberman happy.

Watchful:  As your Doberman matures mentally (usually about 1 1/2 - 2 years for females, 2 - 2 1/2 years for males), he or she will become more aware of his or her territory and will likely naturally begin to alert you when someone approaches.  Guarding behavior varies among individual dogs, and generally speaking, we don't like to see this type of behavior in very young dogs (less than one year of age) as a display of guarding behavior at this young age may be based more in fear than in territorial guarding.   

As a Doberman owner, you must be aware of the Doberman's inclination to guard and understand the responsibility that comes with it.  You cannot assume that just because your Doberman has never guarded before that it will not guard when challenged, and you cannot leave your Doberman unattended or out of your sight in a public area, such as a campground or dog park.

It is crucial that you begin obedience training your Doberman while he or she is young and establish appropriate behaviors for greeting visitors to your home and for meeting and greeting visitors and other dogs on walks and when you are away from home.  When training begins at a young age, you can use very gentle, positive methods to encourage the behavior that you want from your dog, while not suppressing his or her natural guarding behavior.

Determined:  You know that bone that got kicked under your beautiful leather sofa?  What happens when your Doberman cannot reach it?  It takes only a few minutes for a Doberman to scratch, gnaw or bite treasured furniture or belongings while on his or her quest to obtain a favorite treat or toy.  If you treasure your furniture more than your dog, a Doberman is not the breed for you.

Alert:  Your Doberman will become accustomed to a usual routine.  If you live in a busy area, your dog will not likely bark or otherwise alert you unless something out of the ordinary occurs. But when it does, you must expect your Doberman to let you know quite firmly and loudly that something is not right. If you are not prepared to have a dog that barks loudly when something out of the ordinary occurs, the Doberman is not the breed for you.

Fearless:  Dobermans are not born fearless, but when they are nurtured properly, they will become so.  You must provide a consistent, thoughtful environment with plenty of opportunities  for controlled interactions with people and other dogs in a variety of settings during your puppy's formative months to nurture his or her confidence.  Placing your puppy into a situation where he can become frightened or overwhelmed can create permanent negative memories that can be difficult for the puppy to overcome as he becomes older. Socialization is important, but unsupervised play with older, rougher puppies or dogs, or unsupervised interactions with children can do more harm than good.

Loyal:  Your Doberman would rather be with you than anywhere else. If your dog is getting plenty of exercise and has some basic obedience training, he or she will generally choose to stay by your side, and will follow you from room to room in your home (including the bathroom if given the chance). 

Dobermans are terrible kennel dogs and will often develop obsessive/compulsive behaviors if isolated away from you or your family, so you need to plan to have your dog in your house.  If having a 60 - 80 pound dog in the house bothers you, then the Doberman is not the breed of dog for you. 

Obedient:  Dobermans are incredibly smart dogs, and once they understand what you expect of them, they will work hard to earn their favorite reward for good behavior.  Like most dogs, they will flourish with consistent rules and primarily positive reinforcement training methodologies.