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Home 9 Breeder Education Home 9 Buying A Doberman Pinscher

Buying A Doberman Pinscher

Reprinted with permission of Mary Korevaar
by Mary Korevaar & Lisa Douzos, Doberman Education and Rescue, Inc. © 2000

Buying a Doberman Pinscher Guideline

Important information you need to know in order to make an informed purchase …

When considering the purchase of a Doberman Pinscher (or any other breed), a person deserves a dog that is healthy, attractive, mentally sound, functionally correct and has the best possible chance of providing years of companionship whether it be a dog for pet, show (conformation), to compete in dog performance events such as obedience, agility, flyball, tracking, Schutzhund, or to perform Search and Rescue or therapy work….anything.

Talk to breeders who are open and honest about health & temperament testing. Realize that all dogs do have problems – you want to deal with breeders who admit their problems, will discuss them and will be able to tell you how they are attempting to solve them.

All ethical and responsible breeders health test, temperament test, title their dogs, and aim to produce only the highest quality Dobermans which will better the gene pool. Responsible breeders are choosy about which dogs they breed – they study pedigrees for quality in conformation, health, longevity, temperament and working ability. They try to find the absolute best match for their female. They travel to great lengths to find the best male. It is rare that this best male will be living in their home or their neighborhood.

Some people feel that it doesn´t matter which breeder they deal with because all they want is a nice pet. Some people feel that it doesn´t matter if the parents of the dogs have any conformation, obedience, working or temperament titles but it DOES matter. A breeder who doesn’t health test, temperament test and title their dogs is basically saying that a buyer does NOT deserve any of this. And it’s extremely insulting that a breeder would try to satisfy a person with something that requires less knowledge, less effort, less commitment and less cost per unit.  Don’t settle for that!

Please, please be aware that pet stores buy their puppies from puppy mills (where dogs are kept locked in cages breeding constantly with no concern for their health or welfare – all that matters is that they are producing puppies for money. These dogs are killed if they can no longer produce puppies.). Responsible, ethical breeders do NOT sell their puppies to pet stores. People who truly care about animals do NOT purchase puppies at pet stores. Responsible breeders are concerned about where their puppies live for the rest of their lives. A pet store sells to whoever has the money with no concern as to where that puppy lives or what kind of life it will have. The puppies at pet stores are often in ill health and have had little socialization since they are taken from their mothers at an early age. Many of these puppies die on the journey to the pet stores crammed in cages with other sickly puppies in the backs of poorly ventilated, large trucks.

The high school student who works at the pet store usually can not answer your concerns and questions you will have about your new pet. Choose a breeder that is concerned about where and how their puppy will live. Choose a breeder that will be there to answer your questions and who will be there during your problems and joys of owning a puppy.

There are also establishments known as “commercial” breeders. They won´t call themselves that, but they produce many hundreds of puppies a year with little thought or regard to health, longevity, temperament, conformation, etc. This type of establishment may sound ideal because they are likely to have a puppy available with little or no waiting at any time. BEWARE! Think about it – how can they personally oversee proper puppy care and socialization? They are creating a “product for profit” in their eyes, not a living creature. These establishments often have glitzy brochures, splashy ads in magazines and may appear very classy, which is easy to do when they are selling hundreds of puppies for profit annually. Warning signs that may indicate a commercial kennel are slogans such as “World Wide Shipping” and “All major credit cards accepted!”  These are usually very clear signs that the breeder cares little about where the puppy ends up and who buys it. They are motivated by money, and not a caring for the puppies. These puppies are often sold with contracts that are very favorable to the “breeder” and offer little real protection to the buyer or the puppy. Any puppy contract you sign should be advantageous to you just as much as to the dog and the breeder.


Before you do anything, do some research into the breed to see if it is, in fact, the breed for you!  Dobermans aren’t for everyone – don’t feel bad if you end up deciding they aren’t appropriate for you!

If you feel certain the Doberman is for you, contact your national kennel club who will be able to provide you with breeder lists.

In the US, the nation kennel club is the American Kennel Club
In Canada, the national kennel club is the Canadian Kennel Club

Even better than this, contact the national breed clubs for more information on breeders.

In the US, the national breed club is the Doberman Pinscher Club Of America

In the US, there is also the UDC (United Doberman Club) which has a focus on the working aspect of the breed.

In Canada, the national breed club is the Doberman Pinscher Club Of Canada

**please note, a breeder’s membership in any of the above listed clubs is not a guarantee of responsible and ethical breeding**

Although many breeders have private web sites of their own, most reputable breeders do NOT use sites such as the Yahoo or hoobly classifieds to advertise their puppies. Most reputable breeders do not advertise in Dog Fancy or Dog World. Many reputable breeders don’t even advertise in the classifieds section of the newspapers! Reputable breeders tend to advertise in specific publications which reach select audiences (which may not be fair but that is the way it is).

The DPCA offers breeder referral (keep in mind that breeders pay to use this service – the breeders still need to be researched and checked out.  Inclusion in the Breeder Referral section is not a guarantee that the breeder is a good one.

The DPCC offers breeder referral as well.  The above caveat still applies.

The UDC also offers breeder referral.  Again, the caveat to check out breeders thoroughly still applies.

Finding a breeder is relatively easy. Finding a good one by doing your research and asking questions is the hard part! Always verify any information a breeder gives you.

*Ask at what age the breeder will let the puppies go to their new homes.

Responsible breeders keep puppies until they are at least 8 weeks old.  Some states actually have laws against selling puppies prior to 8 weeks of age.  Important socialization is being learned and taught during that time.  Puppies that are taken too early from their littermates and mother often have trouble and issues later.

*Ask what health testing was done on the sire and dam of the litter.

The Doberman fancy is working very hard to eliminate the genetic diseases that are harming our breed. Yearly shots & a vet’s “okay” are NOT an equivalent or substitute for health testing.

Responsible Doberman breeders today, in general, are testing for hip and elbow dysplasia, von Willebrand´s disease (vWD), thyroid disease, genetic eye disease, normal cardiac function, and normal liver function.

Hips and elbows

Responsible breeders send their dog´s hip and elbow x-rays to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for evaluation.

Ask the breeder for OFA hip/elbow results. This can be verified through the OFA database.

Breeders may also elect to register results of other health testing with the OFA. Currently the OFA registers results of thyroid testing by approved laboratories, cardiac testing by approved evaluators and vWD DNA tests by VetGen.

Another method of evaluating hips is the PennHip method. A breeder may have PennHip ratings rather than OFA ratings.

In Canada, some breeders choose to have their dogs´ hip x-rays evaluated by the Ontario Veterinary College.

Hip and elbow evaluations are normally done once in the lifetime of the dog.

Von Willebrand´s disease

There are two companies in the US offering vWD DNA tests. VWD is a bleeding disorder. It is imperative that Dobermans be tested for this as we are now able to eliminate this disease by testing and breeding carefully. By testing the parents of a litter, a breeder can usually tell you what vWD status the puppies will have.

DNA tests for vWD are only required once in the lifetime of the dog.


Thyroid testing is normally done routinely on Dobermans by responsible breeders. Thyroid results can vary with age. It is recommended that routine thyroid tests begin around 18 months of age and continue every 12-18 months throughout the lifetime of the dog. A full thyroid panel should be completed on any breeding dogs. A full thyroid panel measures Total Thyroxine (TT4), Total Triiodothyronine (TT3), Free T4 (FT4), Free T3 (FT3), T4 Autoantibody, T3 Autoantibody, and canine Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (cTSH).

The thyroid impacts many of the body´s most important organs. Thyroid testing should not be overlooked.


Dogs can be examined for the presence of inheritable eye disease by CERF certified canine ophthalmologists. CERF stands for Canine Eye Registration Foundation.

Eye testing is something that must be done yearly – a CERF certificate is valid only for one year. Ask the breeder when was the last date and result of CERF eye testing. This may be verified through the CERF database.
(Some breeders elect not to register the results in the database – ask the breeder to see the copy of the CERF test instead.)


Dilated cardiomyopathy continues to be one of the biggest problem in Dobermans today. Annual cardiac ultrasounds and electrocardiograms are a must, especially for breeding dogs. Holter monitoring (a 24 hour ecg) is now available worldwide.  Some breeders and clubs are purchasing their own Holter monitors.
In October 2010, a DNA test was released to identify one gene (called the PDK4 gene) said to cause dilated cardiomyopathy.  It is widely felt that more genes responsible for causing dilated cardiomyopathy will be found in the future, but at this time, it’s the only cardiac DNA test we have.

The NC State University Veterinary Cardiac Genetics Lab keeps a database of the PDK4 DNA results online.

(Some elect not to have their results published online, so ask the breeder if the dogs have been tested.  Ask the breeder for a copy of the results.)



Many breeders are starting to recognize the importance of annual liver panel testing due to the fact that Chronic Active Hepatitis can be a problem in the Doberman breed.
*The breeder will be ready, willing, and able to show proof of all such tests and the results. You should not have to pay for this.  Responsible breeders will not be offended that you ask – they will be glad you are doing your research!

In addition, responsible breeders will keep you advised throughout the lifetime of your puppy about the ongoing health of the parents and of the siblings. They are also likely to seek out information about your puppy to help them make future breeding decisions.

*Beware of breeders who tell you that their Dobermans are guaranteed free of cardio (dilated cardiomyopathy) and/or CVI (Cervical Vertebral Instability). There is no genetic test to screen for Cardio or CVI (aka Wobbler’s disease) at this time.

*Avoid breeders who purposely breed “OVER-SIZED”, “GIANT” or “KING” Dobermans. Some even call them “GENTLE-GIANTS”, “GLADIATORS” or “WARLOCKS”.

Dobermans were NOT meant to be a large size, and when they are purposely bred as such, it jeopardizes their health in many ways, regardless of what the breeders of these Dobes tell you. A very general rule is that the larger the dog, the shorter the lifespan. Bigger is NOT better in this case.  Reputable, responsible breeders breed according to the standard for the breed


Remember that conformation to the breed standard is a basis for good health! A dog built properly is less likely to suffer from athletic injuries such as joint pain and poor shock absorption, and also less likely to have dysplasia problems.

*Do the sire and dam come from lines with any Longevity Certification (LC) or Bred For Longevity (BFL) certification issued by the DPCA?

The breeder should be able to provide you with ages and causes of death of many/most of the dogs in a 5 generation pedigree. You will probably want to avoid purchasing a puppy from a pedigree of many early and/or unexplained deaths.

*What are the AKC or Canadian Kennel Club [CKC] registered names of the sire & dam?

*Will the puppies be registered with the AKC/Canadian KC?
***Note*** Breeders in Canada are fully responsible for registering the puppy at their expense. A breeder from Canada who says you can buy the dog cheaper without papers is breaking FEDERAL LAW.

Also, note that the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club are reputable kennel clubs. There are several other registries operating now that are a complete joke – they “register” dogs that are not purebred.

*How old was the sire and dam at the time of the breeding?
Health tests such as hip and elbow evaluations can NOT be definite until
the animal is at least 2 years of age. Dobermans are a breed that is not fully mature until at least 2 years of age. Breeding before that time is considered unethical by many.

*How often does the breeder produce litters?
One, possibly two litters a year is more than enough in this writer´s opinion. Any more than that and it becomes very difficult to provide a high standard of care for the puppies and for their owners.

*Do the sire and dam come from pedigree lines that are free of albino or albino-factored Dobermans?

*Albino/albino-factored Dobermans are mistakenly referred to, or sold, as whites, white-factoreds, creams, cremellos or rare Dobermans. **DON’T BE FOOLED BY THIS!!** A breeder of albino/albino-factored Dobermans is purposely breeding and selling dogs with a known birth defect. Albinism is a birth defect and there can be many extra health considerations to these unfortunate Dobermans.

**To anyone considering the purchase of a Doberman, be absolutely sure the puppy/dog does NOT carry the gene for albinism. In the US, look for a “Z” on the AKC blue slip of the puppy/dog. A “Z” at the beginning of the litter registration number identifies puppies/dogs that WILL produce a litter resulting in albino or albino-factored Dobes. Ethical breeders DO NOT breed for this. They do not purposely breed for a genetic defect! Make sure the Dobes are “Z” free. Unfortunately, Canada has no such tracking system in place.

Doberman Pinschers come in four accepted colors – black and rust, red and rust, blue and rust, and fawn (Isabella) and rust. The blue color is a dilute of the black, the fawn color is a dilute of the red.

Before considering the purchase of a blue or a fawn Doberman, it is important to know that many (not all) of these dogs may suffer from coat problems ranging from slight to severe. They are prone to a problem called Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA). Many blues and fawns are nearly bald as adults. A recent article in Doberman Digest suggests that as many as 93% of blues and 75% of fawns may have CDA.

Many breeders choose to avoid including dilution in their bloodlines because of the possibility of coat problems which many people will not want to deal with. Others are perfectly willing to take that risk and have been able to produce dilutes with healthy coats. If considering a blue or a fawn Doberman, you will want to ask to see several other older blues and fawns from that bloodline since CDA usually doesn’t appear until the dog is past the age of 3.


Some breeders are utilizing a new DNA test that determines whether a dog carries dilution.

*Will the ears be cropped, tails docked and dew claws removed? At what age will this be done?

Tails are normally docked and dew claws removed around the age of 2-4 days. Cropping is usually done between 7-10 weeks of age.

Usually, breeders in North America who do NOT crop, are cutting corners to save on out-of-pocket expense on the litter.

Reputable breeders usually ensure that the ears are cropped before the puppies go to their new home for several reasons :
– historically, the Doberman is a cropped breed and the breeder wishes to retain the traditional look
– the breeder can ensure the cropping is done correctly by a qualified individual and can oversee the immediate aftercare of the ears (novice owners should never be responsible for trying to find someone to crop.)
– the breeder is aware that it is normally easier to re-home a cropped Doberman because the majority of people continue to recognize and prefer the look of a cropped Doberman
– the breeder feels that the ear canals can be kept cleaner, drier and are less prone to infections

The responsible breeder will instruct the new owners on how to care for and post the ears properly.

*What championships and/or performance titles have the sire and dam of the litter earned? Have they earned titles in conformation, obedience, rally, agility, flyball, tracking, Schutzhund, SAR, therapy work? Any/all of these give some indication of what the puppies may be capable of. Any/all of these provide an indication of what the temperament and working ability of the parents are.

*Have sire and dam been temperament tested?
In the US, the DPCA offers the Working Aptitude Evaluation (WAE) as an indication of stability and proper temperament and helps to determine if a Doberman possesses the willingness to be a steady companion and protector. Dobermans who pass this test earn the title WAC after their names.

Dogs with TT after their names have passed the all-breed Temperament Test which is based on the WAE.

The DPCA offers the title ROM (Register Of Merit) for Dobermans who have achieved a championship, completed a working title and who have passed the WAE.

The DPCC offers the title ROMC (Register Of Merit Canada) for Dobermans who have achieved a championship, completed a working title and who have passed the TT.

While not a performance “title” many Doberman breeders will also try to earn Canine Good Citizen certificates (in the US) with their dogs, or in Canada the Canine Good Neighbour certificate. The CGC/CGN is a test of basic obedience/manners and a mild stability test.

*Is the breeder a member of the DPCA (Doberman Pinscher Club of America), DPCA chapter clubs, the UDC (United Doberman Club), the Doberman Pinscher Club Of Canada, the CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or any other dog clubs (excluding the White Doberman Club)? Membership in clubs may indicate a better than average interest in Doberman/dog activities, news, advances in research, medicine, health, etc.

*Showing in conformation and/or obedience trials, temperament testing, club memberships/affiliations, etc. are strong indicators (when combined with health testing) that the breeder produced the litter to better the breed and not just to produce another litter of Dobe puppies for profit. Responsible, ethical breeders participate in breed clubs, help with rescue, breed education, take part in medical research, attend seminars and learn more about Dobermans any way they possibly can. They are constantly GIVING BACK to the breed something other than a litter of puppies.

*Will the breeder be able to at any point and time in the lives of the puppies, be able to take back those puppies – NO QUESTIONS ASKED? A responsible, ethical breeder (including the owner of the stud) will at any time take back dogs they bred for whatever reasons. They will ensure that none of the puppies they produced ever end up in a homeless situation, that they never burden an animal shelter, pound or rescue organization.

*An ethical and responsible breeder will ask just as many questions of you. They will be just as concerned what type of home their pup is going to, so be prepared! An ethical and responsible breeder will be there for the entire dog’s life to help with anything concerning it.  Responsible breeders usually use puppy contracts that protect you, the puppy and the breeder.

*Responsible breeders don’t sell male Doberman puppies to homes that already have male dogs.  Mature Doberman males are often same sex aggressive.  While neutering may curb this problem, it doesn’t always.  A common reason that male Dobermans are turned into rescues around the age of 18-24 months is that they no longer tolerate sharing their living space with another male dog, and the owners were never advised this might be an issue.

*Responsible breeders generally will not sell 2 puppies to the same home at the same time.  Two puppies tend to bond to one another rather than to the owner.  It is difficult to house train two puppies at the same time.  In short, a puppy deserves all your time and attention for the first 18 months of its life to get it off to a great start.

Above all, ask for REFERENCES!! Ask for the names and numbers of at least 5 of the breeder´s puppy owners and follow up with them. Also, it would be wise to ask for a reference from the breeder´s vet. Ask the veterinarian about the standard of care the breeder provides for the dogs from a veterinary standpoint. It wouldn´t hurt to ask a few other breeders local to the one you are considering if they would recommend them as well.

A well-bred, sound, healthy puppy from a reputable breeder is WORTH THE WAIT. Don´t get caught up in a mind-set that you must have a puppy immediately. Take your time to do your research and don´t be surprised that you will likely have to wait for a quality puppy. The time and money you invest in the puppy up front is very likely to save you time and money later.

Also, consider that sometimes breeders will have young adults available to new homes. These may be dogs that they showed for a while and didn´t turn out quite like the breeder expected. They may be champion animals that just don´t fit into the breeding program for whatever reason (perhaps the breeder owns a better dog they would rather use). To understand the subtle differences in show quality:

Perhaps they have one that was returned by another puppy owner for various
reasons that have little or nothing to do with the dog (divorce, loss of job, moving, death of owner, etc). They may have one available that simply doesn’t get along with another dog in the household.  You may very well be able to get a nice dog that is older than a puppy – one that may very well already be housetrained, crate trained, some obedience training, some health testing completed, very well socialized, etc. Keep an open mind. These dogs can fit very well with little effort into your home and completely eliminate all the hassles of adopting a puppy!  As cute as puppies are, they are a big investment in time and training.


It is not unusual for a breeder to expect a deposit on a puppy once you’ve made your decision on a particular litter or puppy.  A typical deposit is $100-$200.  This holds or reserves a puppy for you.  A deposit is generally expected just before the litter is born (and ultrasound has confirmed the presence of puppies) or just after the litter is born and the breeder knows what is available.  The deposit is generally not refunded if you simply change your mind, but generally is refundable if your choice (sex and colour) of puppy is not available.  You should obtain a receipt for any deposit you pay – the first and second choice of colour/sex should be noted on the receipt.  Do NOT forward full purchase amounts until it is time to receive the puppy.  Do NOT put down a deposit on a puppy months in advance.  Ask how many deposits the breeder has taken – it makes no sense to be way down the list and paying a deposit when the likelihood of a puppy being available is low (for instance, don’t be the 14th deposit when the average litter size is 8 puppies.)

If you can´t wait for a well-bred puppy from a reputable breeder, please consider adopting an unwanted, homeless Doberman from a rescue organization. These unfortunate dogs also most often find themselves in these situations through no fault of their own. Legitimate rescue organizations ensure that these dogs are spayed/neutered, up to date on vaccinations, and try to match the dogs to appropriate homes prior to placement.

Doberman Pinscher books

The Doberman Pinscher — Brains And Beauty – Joanna Walker & Rod Humphries
ISBN 0-87605-216-2

The World Of Doberman Pinschers – Anna Katherine Nicholas
ISBN 0-86622-123-9

The Book Of The Doberman Pinscher – Joan McDonald Brearley
ISBN 0-87666-658-6

The New Doberman Pinscher – Joanna Walker
ISBN 0-87605-113-1

This Is The Doberman Pinscher – Louise Ziegler Spirer & Evelyn Miller
ISBN 0-87666-283-1

Doberman Pinschers Today – Jimmy Richardson
ISBN 0-87605-139-5

Unauthorized Reproduction prohibited without express written permission of original authors.