Are Dobermans Good Family Dogs? The Surprising Truth

A Happy Doberman Family

When I was looking for my first dog, I had just bought my first home and was getting ready to marry my long time girlfriend. I knew that small kids and a family weren’t too far off in the future. Now, a handful of years later, I have two small kids, a wife, and a 90 pound Doberman Pinscher all living together. Now that I’ve raised a family with a Doberman, there are definitely a few things you should know if you’re considering one for your family.

Are Doberman’s good family dogs? Doberman Pinschers are highly intelligent people-oriented dogs that are loyal, loving, and protective. If care is put into early socialization and training, they can make excellent family pets.

Although Doberman’s generally make fantastic family pets, there are certainly personality differences between individual Dobermans. Knowing how to spot a Doberman puppy who will grow to work well in your family is key. Also, early socialization with young kids and other pets will ensure a very well rounded dog that can work well in your family unit.

Temperament Overview

This is a general overview of the temperament and personality traits that are most common in a Doberman to help you decide how one might fit in with your family. You may be in love with the breed, but don’t be afraid to seek out a different breed if you don’t think these traits will work well in your family unit.

  • Highly Intelligent: Doberman’s are considered one of the top five smartest dog breeds in the world, according to PetMD. This intelligence means they’re easily trainable but also easily bored. They’d work well in an active family that still has rules and boundaries that need to be followed.
  • Loyal: These dogs are naturally incredibly loyal and will bond very well to a family unit. They do have a tendency to pick out one family member and bond exceptionally close to that one person, but they also love just being “part of the pack”.
  • People Oriented: Doberman Pinschers are very in-tune with people and will look you directly in the eyes while you’re speaking to them. They’re often called “velcro dogs” because they’ll stick to your side at all times. They’re very adept at figuring out what you expect of them, which is a great quality for a family pet.
  • Loving and Affectionate: The modern-day Doberman can be just as loving and affectionate as any lap dog. Be prepared for your 90-pound Doberman to climb up in your lap at every opportunity and beg you to be let up on your bed with you at night.
  • Protective: Originally bred as personal protection dogs, Doberman’s are naturally great guard dogs. They’ll almost always sleep facing the door for safety reasons and won’t hesitate to protect your family if necessary.
  • High Exercise Requirements: Since they’re a working breed, Doberman’s need lots of exercise and they do well in a home that has a large fenced yard with plenty of room to run and play. This is a great quality if you have active kids that could also benefit from getting tired out in the back yard from time to time.

These traits are typical of Dobermans, but each dog really does have their own unique personality. See How to Choose the Best Doberman Puppy for help picking a puppy that has the right temperament for your family.

In this video, I discuss exactly what you can expect from a Doberman in a family environment.

Dobermans in a Family Unit

As a whole, these dogs are very well rounded and can adapt to a variety of situations. Their intelligence and how in-tune they are with people helps with this. By nature, Dobermans are pack animals and love the feeling of belonging to a family unit or group.

You’ll find that any Doberman you own will bond quickly to your family and they don’t like being away from the group. In fact, Doberman’s love this feeling of being with the pack so much that it isn’t uncommon to be able to walk one regularly without a leash. Of course, this is dependant on the training the dog receives and its environment. I went on a three day backpacking trip with my Doberman in the forest and didn’t use a leash once, he had no desire to leave the group and wonder off.

If well socialized from a young age, Dobermans are also great with kids, can work well with many other pets, will protect the family and be a great loyal companion.

Dobermans with Kids

Dobermans are generally great with kids that they’re raised with. They are great at being gentle and tolerant of young kids and babies. They can also be great with all kids if they are socialized from an early age. We’ll talk more about how to socialize them appropriately later in this article.

Affectionate: Kids love affection. They love to give it, and receive it. Dobermans were bred to be very people-oriented which has a side effect of producing a dog that loves affection. Cuddling, endless petting, and kisses in the face are all greatly appreciated by these dogs. In fact, you might find your Dobie demanding affection too often. Turn them loose on your kids and they’ll get all the affection they can handle.

Protective: Since Doberman’s were originally bred to be personal protection dogs, they have a natural instinct to protect their owners. This is especially true for anyone the dog spends a lot of time with and I’m willing to bet your kids will be spending plenty of time with your Dobie. Without any training at all, Dobermans will naturally jump into action if your kids are threatened.

Tolerant: If raised correctly (see the section below titled “Early Socialization is Key”), they can be incredibly tolerant of those in their family. Poking, prodding, rough hugs from an excited kid, none of it will phase your Dobie. Just make sure they’re used to it from a young age.

Exercise Partners: This is a working breed of dog and they tend to have endless energy, which is great if you have rambunctious kids. In fact, Dobermans need a lot of exercise throughout the day to keep them happy, so a close relationship with active kids tends to benefit both the kids and the dog. When a dog is well exercised you will find you can leave them for longer periods home alone, they tend to be less destructive (especially during the teething phase), and are generally healthier overall.

For an idea of how specific behaviors of Dobermans change when there is a kid in the house, have a look at Are Dobermans Good with Kids? What You Need to Know.

Dobermans with Other Animals

Any pets your Doberman is used to or better yet, has grown up with, should be fine. However, the problems come in when you introduce an adult dog to a small furry pet. Large barnyard animals can be ok, but you’ll have to keep a close eye on your dog initially. If they appear fearful or protective of you around the animal (this can be the case with very large animals, like horses for example), then it could spell disaster.

With Other Dogs: Dobermans generally get along well with other dogs in the house of the opposite sex. If you must have two dogs of the same sex in the home, generally females seem to do better with other females. Two male Dobermans however, or even one male Doberman and one male of any other breed, can be a difficult situation.

Although dog breeds of similar stature to your Doberman are best, there has also been success by owners raising Dobermans with much smaller dogs in the same house. I wrote another article on this topic which includes a Doberman and small dog breed compatability list here.

With Cats: There doesn’t seem to be a rule that applies to Doberman’s as a whole pertaining to how they get along with cats and it seems to be dependant on the temperament of the individual dog. They’re both natural predators which does help them to get along, but a cat is small and furry one, which is one of the worst types of animals to put with a Dobie. A poll of Doberman owners was conducted on iHeartDogs.com asking this question. In the poll, 28% stated that their Doberman gets along very well with cats, 47% said they get along “ok”, and 25% said they don’t get along very well. If you can introduce your Doberman to your cat while he’s still a puppy, you’ll have a much higher chance of success here.

For more on how well cats and Dobermans get along, including how to best introduce them for the first time, see my article Can Dobermans Get Along with Cats? Introductions Made Easy.

With Other Types of Pets: Although each individual dog’s personality is different, they generally get along well with other large animals. Then can do well with horses and other large farm animals if they are introduced to them properly. However, Dobermans tend to have problems getting along with smaller furry pets, such as Guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and ferrets. Some success has been reported by Doberman owners introducing their dogs to a rabbit at a young age, but introducing an adult Doberman to any of these common household pets can be disastrous.

The best chance at success with having your Dobie get along with any other pet is to introduce them at a young age. The younger the better, so that when they are a strong and powerful adult, they’re used to your pets and won’t feel the instinct to hunt or pursue them.

Early Socialization is Key

Whether it’s kids, other dogs, or other types of pets, the running theme here is that early socialization is key. When a Doberman is a young puppy, they’re curious about everything. Introducing them to as many situations, people, and other animals as possible will help to ensure they become well-rounded adults.

This is especially true with kids. When my Dobie was a young puppy, we brought him around as many kids and other dogs as we could. He got very used to kids petting him, pulling on him, tugging a little too hard on his ears, and worse. Since all dogs can become protective over their food, my wife and I would routinely put our hands into his food bowl as he was eating, making him have to stop eating and wait for us to remove our hands so he could continue again.

“Socialize them early and often—you’ll reap the rewards of a loving and tolerant dog later.”

– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)

Now he is almost six years old, about 90 pounds in weight, and he just can’t be phased by kids or anyone else. He is the most gentle dog I have ever owned when it comes to kids. They can pull and tug on him as much as they want and if it’s too much for him, he’ll just walk away. Our kid can stick his hand in his bowl or even directly in his mouth while he’s chewing his favorite toy and it just won’t phase him. He’ll immediately stop eating his food or chewing his toy and wait. I just can’t stress the importance of early socialization for a Doberman enough.

Take him to the dog park, to your family gatherings where there is a large loud group with lots of people, let your neighbor kids play with your cute new puppy, enroll them in puppy classes, or even take your Doberman swimming. Just do as much as possible when they’re young and you’ll have a gentle giant when they’re an adult.

Video: Dobermans Protecting Babies and Kids Compilation

Guard Dog Instincts

The Doberman Pinscher breed was originally created in the 1800’s by a tax collector who needed a dog for personal protection while out collecting taxes. He bred in many qualities he thought would be ideal for a guard dog. The result is that Doberman’s now have a natural instinct to protect those who they bond with.

Modern-day Dobermans are a lot more gentle than their counterparts from many generations ago though. Breeders have done a good job in breeding out some of the aggressive traits that these dogs had, even just a few decades back. They’re now great family companions who love their owners, they’re gentle, love to cuddle, but will certainly still protect you.

Common Protective Doberman Behaviors:

  • Always sleeping facing the door, or between you and the door to your bedroom.
  • Stuck close to your side when in a new environment.
  • Increased protective instincts when approached by large males.
  • Increase protective instincts when approached by people with a large stick or other threatening types of items in their hands.

You’ll probably notice your Dobie will always be sleeping facing the door to your room so he’s ready for whatever comes through it. They’ll stick close to your side especially if you have them with you in a new place or out for a walk in a new area of town. Even the nicest, best-socialized Doberman will become protective if they sense their owner is in danger. They will do this to a fault and if they truly believe you’re in danger, you can expect your Doberman to sacrifice themselves to keep you safe without thinking.

There’s a common myth with this breed that says Dobermans are prone to sudden violent aggression towards their owners for no apparent reason. The myth says that their brain grows too fast for their skulls causing them to turn on their owners. This is a complete myth however and no scientific data (or bite statistics) back up this assertion.

Exercise Requirements

One of the most important aspects when deciding if a Doberman would be a good fit in your family is to consider how active your family is. These dogs need lots of exercise to be happy and relieve stress.

If your family is one that is always going on walks or bike rides, hiking, or just running around playing outdoor games, then this would be a great dog for you to get. In fact, you just might find your Dobie will outlast your kids and tire them out. If your family tends to be less active and stay indoors a lot, then this just may not be the best choice.

There are many dog breeds that are bred to be companion dogs and be completely happy resting on your lap for hours inside the house. The Doberman Pinscher is just not one of them.

A Doberman babysitting a baby.
My Doberman Cooper is completely trusted, even around our newborn. He’s incredibly gentle and cautious.

Final Thoughts

I am asked often about my opinions on Doberman Pinschers living in various situations and I can tell you that I never hesitate to recommend a Doberman for a family. They have so many qualities that make them work incredibly well in a family and even with young kids.

My decision to get a Dobie for my family was the perfect decision for me. When I am gone from the house, I love knowing that my dog is there with my wife and kids. When we have extended family over and it’s a large chaotic scene with tons of kids tugging and pulling on our dog, I am so happy that I have a gentle giant.

Do you know if a male or female Doberman is best for your family? To find out, see my article Male vs. Female Doberman: Which is Better?

Other Useful Articles

Related Questions

Are Doberman Pinschers good with other dogs? Dobermans generally get along very well with other dogs of the opposite sex. However, there are some issues with same sex aggression in the breed, especially between males. Early socialization with other dogs is key to reducing this aggression.

Do Dobermans like to cuddle? Although each Doberman has its own personality, they are very people-oriented by nature and often enjoy cuddling with their owners. Referred to as “velcro dogs”, Dobermans are known for always being by the side of their owners.

John Walter

I'm the founder of Doberman Planet. I live in the Sacramento area of California and love spending quality time with Cooper, my 6-year-old Doberman Pinscher.

9 thoughts on “Are Dobermans Good Family Dogs? The Surprising Truth

  1. Our Doberman femelle was adopted when four years old ( just like the one we had before who die at the âge of nine. This is a fantastic companion who travel with us everywhere we go.
    Intelligence, love and fidelity has no equal.
    The only problem: At 9 to 10 years of age, you must be prepared for their departure. The only way to support this very tragic happening is after a month or two, adopt another one.

  2. Just a fantastic companion. Love and fidelity almost impossible to be equal by humans.
    One simple secret: It is not a dog but a companion, the Doberman must feel that he is a full part of the familly and not a toy….The negative point: Lifespan is about ten years, so the best approach is to get another one instead of felling into deep depression. This approach does not erase the one you lost, in my case almost daily, I have a deep thought for my fist one I lost four years ago. For the second time I adopt,
    (via PAD or Doberman in distress) generally at 3-4 years of age, and the love between each other takes only a week or two. If you copy, you will not regret it.

  3. Is getting a Doberman (european, as I live in Europe) a good idea before starting a family? me and my girlfriend are planning to start a family in around two years and I thought that now would be a good idea to get a puppy as we have more time to invest in training her (it will be a female). However I am concerned about introducing a baby when the dog is 2-3 years old. Early socialization is key and a baby will not be present during the puppy period. My soon to be born nephew will be around but is it going to be enough?

    1. Personally, I am a major fan of doing what you describe. Getting a Doberman before you have kids, focusing in on training and heavily socialization, and then when you start your family your dog should be squared away. Just make sure to focus the socialization of your dog on lots of interactions with children from a young age and you should do great. In my opinion, it’s a much better option then trying to handle training and socialization when you are also juggling an infant or toddler in the house. I think you’re on the right track, Emmanuel!

  4. We had a Doberman, Sgt Schultz. Wonderful with kids. He would ’round up’ the grandkids in the back yard into a corner then lay down in front. The kids would yell, Grandma Shultz won’t let us play. He thought it was easier to keep track of the kids if they were all in one place. If our 2yr old granddaughter was having a fit I would pick her up she carry her to her room, Schultz would try to stop me from picking her up, her thought I was hurting her. Many many other examples. He was the best dog we’ve ever had. I agree socialize socialize socialize. We are not able to have a large dog where we live now.. I miss Sgt Schultz,

  5. What are your thoughts on a 1 year rescue for a family dog. Seems to have a great temperament already and could add to it? I have tiny screaming children.

    1. I usually caution people about adopting an adult Doberman when they have young children in the house. But a one-year-old is still pretty young. I would say it’s definitely doable for a young family but seeing how you don’t know the dog’s history, I’d make sure the interactions with the children were supervised for a much longer time than normal until you fully trust that the dog doesn’t have any deep down behaviors you aren’t expecting. Good luck to your family! I hope you end up with the perfect pup!

    1. Absolutely! In fact, that’ll only help the Doberman become more socialized and well rounded. Exposure to many different people, kids, and other animals is the best thing you could do for these dogs. It’ll ensure they’re gentle adults with predictable behavior in the future.

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