As a responsible parent, you’re trying to decide if a Doberman Pinscher is the right dog for your family. Naturally, you can’t know if it’s a good fit unless you understand how the Doberman will get along with your kids. In this article, we’ll talk about how Dobermans get along with infants (babies), toddlers, and older kids. Here’s what you can expect from this amazing breed.
Are Dobermans good with kids? Doberman Pinschers are extremely loyal, people-oriented, family dogs. When properly socialized, they do extremely well with kids of all ages. They are gentle, patient, and kind around children. This is especially true if they are raised with kids from a young age.
There are some interesting nuances about raising a Doberman around young children that many Doberman owners don’t find out until they’ve tried it. I’ll break these down for you here so you don’t need to learn the hard way.
For the sake of this article, I’ll first talk about how you can expect a well-socialized adult Doberman to behave around kids. Then lastly, we’ll go over the important points you should know if you’re attempting to bring a Doberman puppy into a family with kids.
Dobermans in a Family with Kids
As a Doberman behavior expert, by far the questions I get asked the most revolve around how Dobermans are as a family dog being raised around kids. The short answer is that a well-socialized adult Doberman does extremely well in a family with kids. However, Doberman puppies are a bit more problematic around children.
Here are some of the behavior traits that Dobermans naturally have that help to make them such amazing family dogs.
Traits That Make Doberman Great with Kids
- Extremely Loyal – Dobermans are some of the most loyal dogs on the planet which is a great character trait for a family dog who’ll surely be bonding with the children in the home.
- High Energy Levels – These dogs are working dogs who have high (but controlled) levels of energy and like to be moving all day long. They have no problem keeping up with your kids and they’ll tire each other out nicely.
- Human-Focused – Dobermans are highly focused dogs who are in tune with their owners. They can read the emotions of a kid in the house easily and will generally match that emotion. In other words, if your kids are excited, your Doberman will be too. If your kids are relaxed and cuddling under a blanket, your Doberman will be too (yes, probably under the blanket also).
- Instinctually Protective – This breed is the only dog breed in the world created for the role of personal protection of humans. They’re amazing guard dogs and will instinctually protect the children in the home whom they’ve bonded with.
- Patient and Forgiving – Dobermans are incredibly patient family dogs when they’re well socialized from an early age. They’ll easily forgive the ear tugs, smacks, tight hugs, and other chaos that kids put them through.
- Love Attention – Kids often give their dogs far too much attention. However, Dobermans naturally crave this from their owners and are very difficult to “overwhelm”. They love being close to (or on top of) their family members and will jump at the chance for more attention at just about any time.
Dobermans with Infants
An adult Doberman that has been well-socialized with kids from a young age can be extremely trustworthy around infants and babies. There are a few natural behavioral traits that this breed possesses which can make them excellent with very young kids such as their extreme intelligence, desire to please, loyalty to the family unit (or “pack”), and their protective instincts.
It’s not uncommon to see a very noticeable change of behavior in a Doberman around an infant. Below are some of the behaviors you may often see from a Doberman with an infant or baby in the family:
- Increased awareness of the baby’s location.
- Walking slower or more cautiously around the child.
- Reassuring actions directed towards an upset baby (licking of the face or hands, nuzzling, etc).
- An increased curiosity about the baby when he or she is crying or upset.
- Laying next to or near the baby.
- Laying between the child and the entrance to the room (or other protective actions).
These changes in behavior around a baby in the house can come very naturally to a Doberman once they understand that the baby is there to stay, and a part of their family pack. In fact, Dobermans are known to bond extremely tightly at times to one specific family member, and this may often be the member they perceive to be the weakest or the most vulnerable—in other words, the baby of the house.
It’s not uncommon for an adult Doberman to lick the baby of the family as a form of comfort for the child. This not only makes for some incredibly cute video footage (like the video on this page) but it is a great, natural way for the dog to comfort a crying baby. My Doberman Cooper absolutely loved to lick my son’s hand (and face on occasion) when he was getting upset and flailing around on the living room rug. You’d be amazed how quickly this can calm a frustrated child.
If the Doberman does get annoyed or disturbed by a baby, they may get up and walk away to a quieter portion of the house, although this is rare. So never keep a Doberman in a tight space with an infant without a means for the dog to leave the area if they need to. Also, never leave any dog with an infant unsupervised.
“Don’t let your Doberman get too excited or energetic around young children, despite their gentle nature, they can inadvertently knock a young child over or scratch them with their paws.”John Walter
Dobermans with Toddlers
A toddler can be a challenging creature not only for parents but for an intelligent dog like a Doberman. A toddler can follow dogs that are trying to get their space, tug their ears, push, poke, and prod them. This is why toddlers should always be supervised around Dobermans, even ones that are well socialized.
You’ll probably be surprised how well a Doberman can handle a toddler if they’ve been well socialized and grew up with the child from a young age. Below are some of the common behaviors you are likely to see from your Doberman when interacting with your toddler.
- Extreme patience with annoying actions directed towards the dog.
- A small increase in the number of times the dog “walks away” from your child.
- Less focus on the child themselves and more focus on the child’s surroundings.
- Increased likelihood of a noticeable bond with the toddler.
- More playful interactions with the child (i.e. playing interactive games with the toddler).
- A desire to sleep in the same room as the child while always facing the door to the room (a continuation of the protective instincts).
At the toddler stage, your Doberman is most likely starting to become your kid’s best friend. You’ll see them interacting more and may discover that they randomly engage in repeated games that they appear to have made up themselves.
Remember though that your Doberman is more likely to get annoyed with your child a bit more often during this stage, and should always be allowed some means to “walk away” from the toddler. It’s a very good idea to set aside an area in your home where your dog can retreat to (out of reach of your kid) should the constant prodding by an overly enthusiastic toddler become too much.
Dobermans with Older Kids
As kids become older, you can start to have your child work with your Doberman in a more involved way. Your kids can help you train your Doberman which is a great experience for both your dog and your kids. This will help your kids become more confident with the dog, and for your dog to bond tighter with your children.
During this stage, owning a Doberman is one of the most satisfying experiences. Your children’s bond with the dog has no doubt grown quite strong by this point. Some of the typical behaviors you are likely to see are as follows.
- Daily routines being established between your Doberman and your kid.
- Your Doberman seeing your kid as more of a leader in the family and not as a peer (especially if they feed or help to train the dog).
- A stronger mutual friendship.
- An increase in the amount of cuddling of the children from your Doberman.
- More balanced “give and take” interactions.
At this age, children can have extremely high levels of energy. This can be tough for parents at times. Luckily, a Doberman is a working dog with a high drive and generally high exercise requirements. This means that during this stage, your Doberman and your kids can be a blessing to each other. Your kids can get worn out, and your dog can get the proper exercise they require by playing together in a safe area.
Other really cool things happen at this stage too, which can appear as a tighter bond between the kid and the dog. At this point, your Doberman is likely feeling very comfortable with your kid and trusts him or her not to do anything uncomfortable or unexpected to them (like a toddler might), so they’re more relaxed with them. This means they’ll often lay on, sleep with, or generally just cuddle your kids more frequently.
Cuddling with Children
Dobermans absolutely love to cuddle. With you or with your children (i.e. other members of their family, or “pack”). They’re people dogs that love attention, love to know they’re doing right by their owners, and will soak up as much love as you want to give them. Your Doberman is likely to discover that they can get as much love as they can handle from your kid.
This is certainly true as your child grows out of the toddler stages. As a toddler (and younger), your child is more likely to randomly pull an ear, poke an eye, or do other uncomfortable things to the dog. So as your child leaves those stages behind, the dog will start to relax more around him or her, and you’ll see your Dobie running to your kids more often for the attention they desire.
Be cautious though—a 100-pound dog climbing up into your 7-year-old’s lap while she’s watching TV can be a bit much to handle. It can even be painful. So make sure cuddle time remains safe for everyone. If you want to see how big these dogs can get, and how quickly, take a look at my article Doberman Weight: Growth Curve and Average Weights.
This is also the stage where your Doberman will likely be much more insistent about sleeping in your child’s room or on your child’s bed.
General Temperament with Kids
There are some temperamental traits that are common with the Doberman Pinscher that directly influences how they behave around children. Although certainly, each specific dog will have its own disposition, the following is a list of some of the common traits Dobermans have and how they affect their behavior around children.
- Extreme Intelligence – Dobermans are consistently ranked among the top five smartest dog breeds in the world. They’re smart enough to be self-aware of their actions. In fact, they’re intelligent enough to adapt their actions to who or what they’re interacting with. That’s why a Doberman may behave completely differently around a baby then they will with an older child—they actually understand that they’re interacting with a young and more fragile member of the family.
- Trainability – Also being one of the most trainable dogs in the world means that slight corrections due to any inappropriate behavior around a child are likely to be understood and remembered by the dog in the future.
- Desire to Please – Dobermans have an extremely high desire to please their masters. This comes from a combination of their intelligence and their people-oriented nature. This means they want to know clearly what is expected of them and they will abide by those expectations quite consistently.
- Protective Instincts – This breed is protective of their family (or “pack”). Once they understand that the young baby is part of the pack, they’re likely to become protective of the child as well.
When in doubt, use the Doberman’s trainability and desire to please to your advantage. If you see some action or behavior of your dog around your children that isn’t desirable, provide careful correction and guidance to your dog. The great thing about owning a Doberman is that they’ll understand this guidance easily.
Protective Instincts and Kids
Dobermans are naturally protective by nature and will usually exhibit protective behaviors with any member of their family. But they do tend to bond strongly to one specific family member and it’s often with a child in the home. This means that your dog can be a wonderful protector and a natural guard dog for your kids.
Most people will think of the more dramatic situations with this idea, such as your dog stepping in if your child were to be attacked. However, there are many more subtle protective instincts involving your kids that your Doberman is likely to demonstrate.
You’ll probably notice that your Doberman will always sleep with its back to a wall, and facing the door to a room. This is especially true if they’re sleeping in a room with your kids. Also, they’ll be more aware of their surroundings and often check the perimeter of an entire room if entering a new place with their family for the first time. These behaviors are the result of their natural guarding instincts.
Other natural instincts will show such as an increased focus on specific subjects in crowds that look or smell different than others, sticking closer to the side of your kids in new or unusual surroundings, and increased sensitivity to sounds during the night.
I was amazed the first time my wife and I were out in public with our first Doberman. He began following one specific person with his eyes, tracking him among the crowd of people that was near us. He let out a low growl while maintaining an intense focus on this person who was walking through the crowd. I realized, he was tracking the only “homeless-appearing” person in the crowd with his head as he walked by us. Somehow he sensed something different about that individual and he focused on him in the crowd.
Dobermans and Strangers Approaching Your Kids
The behavior of your Doberman around strangers that may approach your children will depend heavily on two main factors.
- How well socialized your Doberman is.
- The fear level of your children.
Dobermans were bred from the beginning to read their owner’s emotions and they rely heavily on that while guarding, or protecting, their families. So, if a stranger approaches your children, your Doberman is well socialized, and your children are not fearful, then it’s generally safe to say that your Doberman will be very welcoming and likely looking to play with the new person who approached.
If, on the other hand, a stranger approaches and your kids are fearful, your Doberman will sense that and will likely become naturally protective fairly quickly. This is the case even for highly socialized Dobermans. Luckily this breed is so amazingly good at reading their family’s emotions that they will pick up on subtle signs of fear incredibly consistently and act accordingly.
Male Dobermans are fairly consistently more welcoming of strangers whereas female Dobermans have a reputation for being a bit more suspicious of new people near their families. You can learn more about how these dogs differ from a protection standpoint in my article Are Male or Female Dobermans Better Guard Dogs here.
Aggression Towards Children
In general, a Doberman will not display any aggression towards children in the same house. This is especially true if the dog is raised with the children from a young age and is well socialized. Raising your Doberman with a major emphasis on socialization, with as many people, and new situations, as possible is key to ensuring no ill-placed aggression is demonstrated by your dog.
Most dog bites occur, not because of aggression, but because of fear from the dog. The best way you can reduce fear in your Doberman is to expose them to as much as possible while they’re young. Never skip bringing them to a family event, or other settings that may have a large group of people present. These are perfect times to socialize them further!
The truth is, while many people are worried about aggression from a Doberman towards kids before they get to know the breed. Once they have even the smallest level of personal experience with the breed, their fears are put to rest. This issue has been discussed in many public forums in the past.
For more information about aggression in the breed, take a look at the article I wrote all about Doberman aggression here.
Rescue or Adopted Dobermans
I am a huge fan of rescuing Dobermans who are in need of good homes and I believe that you should always consider this option first. However, I thought it was worth mentioning that the bulk of this article was written with the assumption that you are raising a Doberman puppy with your kids from a young age (i.e. a dog at “puppy age”—or 8 to 12 weeks of age onwards).
Most often, large dog breeds like Dobermans are given up to rescue centers because of behavioral problems. Bringing home an adult Doberman into a home that has children can be a very risky situation. Not knowing the history of a large and powerful dog such as this is scary.
You don’t know what their behavior is like, how they were treated in the past, how well socialized they were (or weren’t), or how much you can really trust them. Personally, I wouldn’t bring an adult Doberman into a home that had young children without significant thought and serious consideration of the risks.
Doberman Puppies with Children
Doberman puppies playing and interacting with children can be one of the cutest things you’ll ever see. But you need to be aware of the potential dangers to the dog and the children.
Puppies can be hyper with sharp claws and very sharp teeth. Children can also scream and act out at the dog in ways you can’t always predict. Improperly supervised interactions between screaming children and a Doberman puppy can lead to a dog with behavioral problems or children with a fear of dogs.
For these reasons, some Doberman “experts” may just tell you not to attempt to get a Doberman puppy if you have young children, this includes the Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA). Personally, I believe this is a “lazy way out” for an expert. What they should be telling you is what you need to know to successfully raise a Doberman puppy with children—not to skip it entirely. Having children grow up along with a dog from puppyhood is a beautiful thing if done right.
Here are some basic rules of successfully raising a Doberman puppy in a household with young children.
- Never allow the puppy and children to play unsupervised.
- Do not allow intense screaming or “out of control” play while interacting with the puppy.
- Ensure the puppy always has a means of escape to leave a situation. They should never be able to be cornered or restrained by your kids.
- Never allow your children to engage in play biting or nipping games with the puppy—this behavior will continue into adulthood and lead to a biting problem.
- Teach your children how to play gently and responsibly with the puppy by setting a good example and then guiding them during playtime. Playtime should never be a “free for all.”
- Provide plenty of Doberman appropriate dog toys (like these) and other objects for the puppy to bite on during playtime.
- Never allow the children or the puppy to be in a situation where they’re frightened—this can have negative effects on their relationship in the future.
Not only is it possible to raise a Doberman puppy in a household with children, I believe it can be quite beneficial for a Doberman to grow up around children from a young age.
Just please understand that it can be a lot of work to supervise the children and the dog at all times—but very necessary, especially with young kids in the home. Only take on this challenge if you feel you’re ready to put in the necessary work.
The Basics of Owning a Doberman
A Doberman is a fantastic, loyal, guardian for your family and is an excellent choice if you have kids. They are more wave kids. They are more work as puppies if you have kids in the house, but once you’re through the puppy stage, family life with your Doberman becomes significantly easier.
Key Points About Owning a Doberman
- Size – Dobermans are large dogs. Adult males can be between 26 and 28 inches tall and weigh between 75 and 100 pounds. Adult females can grow to be 24 to 26 inches tall and weigh between 60 and 90 pounds.
- Life Expectancy – Officially, Dobermans live between 10 to 13 years, although recent studies suggest that owners are experiencing shorter lifespans of closer to 9 years in recent generations.
- Exercise – Dobermans are high-energy dogs so they will need 1 to 2 hours of exercise every day. With kids, however, this is usually easy to accomplish.
- Mental Stimulation – Also, they like to have tasks to complete, new commands to learn, and various other forms of mental stimulation. Regular obedience training is important for this reason.
- Grooming – Dobermans have a single-layer coat with short hair and they don’t shed much at all. They also naturally stay very clean. Brushing is optional and a quick wipe-down with a damp towel will keep their coat shiny.
- Intelligence – Dobermans are the 5th most intelligent dog breed in the world. They’re incredibly smart and can use that intelligence for good (like figuring out a new command you’re teaching them), or evil (like creatively getting your attention if you’ve been ignoring them).
- Human Interaction – These dogs are incredibly human-focused and need lots of interaction with their owners to stay happy.
- Health Conditions – Dobermans are prone to a handful of genetic health issues similar to many other purebred dog breeds including Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), Bloat, hip dysplasia, hepatitis of the liver, von Willebrand’s disease (vWD – a blood clotting disorder), hypothyroidism, and more.
Essentially, if you are bringing your Doberman into an active family that can provide your Doberman with lots of human interaction, mind-stimulating tasks, regular exercise, and lots of love, then you are an ideal Doberman owner. Yes, even if you have kids.
You can learn a lot more about what it’s like owning this breed through the complete Doberman breed overview here.
It’s just as important that you supervise your kids and teach them the proper way to interact with your Doberman as it is to guide and teach your Doberman. It can definitely be done but it does take a significant amount of work.
The bond that your children and your Doberman will develop is like no other. As tiring of an experience as it can be ensuring your Dobie grows up in a healthy manner with your kids, it’s also the most rewarding. There’s nothing quite like the bond between a kid and his (or her) Doberman.
If you want a better idea of how a Doberman behaves with the family as a whole, including how they co-exist with other pets in the house, see my article Are Dobermans Good Family Dogs? The Surprising Truth.
Do Dobermans make good family pets? The modern-day Doberman makes a loyal, protective, and very people-oriented family pet. Their high levels of intelligence and trainability make them very adaptable to most living situations.
Are Dobermans good with babies? Dobermans can be exceedingly gentle, patient, and tolerant around babies and young children if properly socialized from an early age.