by R.M. (Bug) Russell
These questions are certainly those that every breeder gets asked over and over again. I’m not a breeder but I’m going to answer the questions that this potential Doberman owner asks anyway.
We are considering getting a Doberman as a family pet. We have some questions and would like a referral to a breeder in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here are our questions:
1. When we bring the puppy home, how long after do we take it for obedience training?
If you are thinking about getting your first Doberman I’d recommend a puppy obedience class as early as the puppies adults vaccinations are complete. Dobermans seem, in general, to have more than their share of very smart dogs and even the puppy obedience class will give you some valuable information about how dogs interact and how to train any dog, including a Doberman. It also gives your puppy a chance to see and interact with other puppies and young dogs in a stress free but supervised situation. And finally it will allow you to lay down the beginning training that ALL good dogs should have if they are to be a successful pet and companion.
2. Should we bond with the puppy first or take it to obedience training right away?
Over the last few years I have reached a point where the term “bond” has become a sore point with me. I see it used, inappropriately, to describe a lot of owner behavior which always turns out to be greatly to the detriment of a good owner/dog relationship. I have gotten Dobermans (and other breeds) at various ages, from very young puppies to fully adult dogs. If what you mean by “bond” is for the dog and you (or you and your family) to form strong attachments to each other then I must tell you that I’ve never had a dog (of any breed or age) who wasn’t thoroughly attached to me and when there were other family members living at home, to them as well by the time he’d been with me for a week. Obedience training is simply another way for you and your dog to interact with each other.
Even if you don’t take your puppy to a class for obedience training you should buy one of the excellent books on the subject of training dogs and use it to help you train your dog from the beginning. These should be painless lessons on behavior for the puppy. Puppy hood is when dogs learn the basics of life in the real world–they soak up what you teach them like a sponge. You can make this part of the “bonding” (that awful WORD again) and both you and your dog will profit by it.
3. Do you recommend that we take time off and be with the puppy?
I certainly recommend that you take time off to be with the puppy when you get it. If one member of the family isn’t home all the time a week or two is kind of a minimum period of time for you and your puppy to be together and learn about each other and for the puppy to learn how to behave in your household.
But if your family is one in which both (all) parties work on a full time basis you might want to think again about getting a Doberman at this time. Or for that matter about getting a dog at all. Nothing can be much more destructive than a bored puppy/adolescent/dog–it can make your life with your dog so distressing that you will rue the day you ever wanted a dog. Raising a puppy is very much like raising a child–you get out what you put in. But a puppy grows to well behaved adulthood in a very telescoped period of time. Too often a puppy who gets insufficient supervision when young ends up in the same boat as the juvenile delinquent–NO ONE wants them–they are simply too much trouble.
Many of the young dogs who end up in rescue come from the ranks of puppies with too much energy and not enough supervision.
4. For how long should we stay home with the puppy?
See the comments above. When I have a puppy I have a deal I make with the place I work–I come in early and stay late and take a longish lunch hour. Since I work 40 hours a week there is no way that I can be there to supervise the puppy. Instead I’ve worked out a routine which means that the puppy is NEVER alone longer than 4 hours at a time–and that is the maximum it would ever be alone.
I have a breeder friend who loves to place puppies with retired folk–they, she told me, are always home and are willing to spend time with their dog, to go places and take the dog with them–in short–they are great homes. This can’t always be said for those of us who work 5 days a week. Make sure you have enough time in your life for a puppy and for the dog it will grow up to be.
5. What type of obedience training do you recommend; how long should the training be?
I recommend puppy kindergarten for first time owners–see the answer to the first two questions. I train my own dogs in a rather informal way (since I show them in conformation I don’t want them learning some of the formal obedience exercises–specifically the automatic sit) But I also believe that Dobermans should be able to do it all and I also eventually put at least one working title on my dogs–it is generally a CD–but the foundation is laid long before we go to class to learn the formal exercises. All dogs, no matter what you do with them should be able to walk on a leash with you and not pull you off your feet. All dogs should know how to sit, to lie down, and to stand on command. And all dogs should know how to stay where you left them for a short period of time or wait for you to attach a leash, open a door or put the groceries down.
In short–all dogs should have good manners. You need to teach them that–in or out of an obedience class. I have friends who take their dogs to obedience classes for years. They aren’t going to show them in obedience–it just provides a week to week reminder for both the dog and owner; for the owner, how to teach the dog things and for the dog, how to please the owner by doing what they have been taught.
6. Should Dobermans be kept indoor or outdoors?
Dobermans are dogs–they need time outside to do doggy things without worrying about what you might want them to do. If by this last question you mean should they be what people used to call a “yard” dog–a dog that has a house out in the yard, who is fed in the yard and who never comes inside DON’T get any dog–particularly DON’T get a Doberman.
A Doberman is at his very best as a family member. These are not dogs who will do well as kennel dogs, yard dogs or anything except the dog that lives with you–where you live–inside, where they can see you, be your companion, and just generally hang out with you.