The choice between a Doberman and a German Shepherd can be very difficult since both are truly amazing and adaptable dogs. So which one should you get? How about both! But can these two amazing dog breeds really live together? I spent hours talking to some of the Doberman owners I know who also happen to be own German Shepherds, and I learned quite a bit. Here’s what I found out, which might be a little surprising.
Can a Doberman live with a German Shepherd? A Doberman can live with a German Shepherd with proper socialization and obedience training from a young age. Both breeds can be territorial, but both can be trained to live with other pets, even each other. Fewer problems will occur if these two dogs are of the opposite sex.
German Shepherds were bred as protectors of flocks of sheep while Dobermans were bred to be personal protection dogs. The final result, however, is two dogs that are actually very similar in many ways. Although there are certainly some differences that you need to be aware of which could toss a huge wrench into your plans to have both of these dogs living together under the same roof.
How Dobermans and German Shepherds Get Along
Almost every single owner of both Dobermans and German Shepherds that I spoke to before writing this article said that these two breeds get along very well together and will have no trouble living in the same household. These dogs are actually similar in so many ways that you may often hear experienced owners refer to the German Shepard as “a Doberman with more hair.”
Both breeds are prone to same-sex aggression issues however so if you can, it’s best to have two dogs of the opposite sex living together; a male Doberman and a female German Shephard, or vice versa. If you must get two dogs of the same sex, try to have a good age difference between the two of them and preferably have them both fixed. Unaltered dogs can have more issues with same-sex aggression.
Below are some of the similarities and differences between these two breeds so you can have a better idea of what to expect having them in the same household.
- Highly trainable.
- Great family guardians.
- Good with kids.
- Love to please their owners.
- May have same-sex aggression issues.
- Prone to separation anxiety.
- Have high exercise requirements (1-2 hours per day).
- Require lots of socialization (especially when young).
- German Shepherds will do what you want of them, exactly as you want it done. Dobermans will do what you want after thinking it through and deciding if there is an easier way of doing the same task.
- Dobermans do poorly in cold weather, while German Shepherds do much better.
- Dobermans are much more likely to be stuck by your side while German Shepherds are a bit more independent and willing to wander off on their own.
- German Shepherds are a bit less focused on their owners as compared to Dobermans.
- Dobermans are more in-tune with their owner’s emotions (especially female Dobermans).
- Dobermans like to cuddle and “be on top of” humans more often. German Shepherds can give you some space.
If at all possible, get the two dogs when they are puppies so that they can grow up together. Puppies are much more playful in nature and curious about each other. This will get them off to a great start which can be all it takes for a lifetime relationship. This will avoid some same-sex aggression problems since that’s not an issue until after puberty.
One of the biggest benefits of having these two dogs being raised in the same household is that they will exercise each other constantly. Both dogs have high exercise requirements to stay happy and having these two living together makes reaching those requirements extremely easy—it won’t all be on you!
While researching for this article I heard such heart-warming stories of the amazing relationships between Dobermans and German Shepherds. There was a German Shepherd who’s Doberman housemate lost his eyesight. The German Shepherd would go outside and lead the dog inside the house when the owner called. Or a Doberman who helped potty train a German Shepherd puppy by barking at him anytime he was about to go to the bathroom in the house. The relationships between these two can be amazing with proper care and supervised introductions done by the owner.
Each dog’s individual temperament will have a much bigger impact than the breed when it comes to these two getting along together. There are so many similarities that the differences are hardly noticeable. What is far more noticeable is individual personalities, so just make sure you pick a puppy with a good temperament. I have an article all about picking the right Doberman puppy here which should help.
Owning a Doberman
Doberman Pinschers are beautiful, elegant, guard dogs. To successfully own a Doberman, you really must understand their personality. Due to their energy level, protective nature, and ease at which they become bored, a Doberman can be very needy of time and attention. Even more so than a German Shepherd.
Dobermans are extremely energetic dogs. They are very loyal, to the point that sometimes they will noticeably bond tighter to one specific family member. They’re incredibly smart which makes training them easy as long as there’s plenty of positive reinforcement and clear direction. They are so smart that they will often run what you tell them through their own filter and decide if there is a better way of doing things—something you don’t see as often in German Shepherds.
Dobermans, like Germans Shepherds, do very well with kids and most other pets when socialized often and from a young age. A Doberman is a very sweet dog that will want to spend its evenings laying in your lap.
They’re very in tune with the emotions of their owners and can be sensitive to stress in the home as a result. This is why they will often try to break up a verbal argument between family members. Without proper training and socialization, they have the potential to misinterpret behaviors as threats to their family, such as other people approaching the family quickly or suspiciously. They get bored easily if not kept mentally and physically stimulated. A bored Doberman will often find trouble or become destructive.
Dobermans are instinctively very protective, even without and guard dog training. If you are bringing a German Shepherd into a household where a Doberman resides, it’s best to not have that Doberman guard dog trained. This can increase their “alpha dog” mentality and lead to problems when you introduce the German Shepherd—especially if they are the same sex.
Doberman Care and Training
The three keys to caring for a Doberman are good training, lots of bonding time with their owners, and ample exercise. Since Dobermans were bred to protect, you should put extra energy and focus into socializing them at a young age with other people, kids, and animals. Due to their high levels of intelligence, they also need obedience training, so they learn to respond to their owner’s commands.
Dobermans are a high energy breed. They need to lead a lifestyle that is physically active and mentally challenging for them. Dobermans need at least one hour of exercise a day, although two hours is better. They get bored easily, which leads to mischief and other “bad” behaviors. Pent up energy can also lead to anxiety and problem behaviors.
Potential Problems with a Doberman
Above all, Dobermans need owners that are knowledgeable about their unique breed and it’s requirements. It’s important to be aware of the following personality quirks that a Doberman can have which might be an issue depending on their environment.
- Love being close to people—very needy of attention.
- Require lots of socialization at an early age to be well-rounded adults.
- Respond poorly to long periods of isolation.
- May have same-sex aggression issues with other dogs in the home.
- Clear direction and training are required.
- Can be prone to separation anxiety.
These issues may not be problems at all for you or your home. For example, being needy of attention from people can be a very good thing. It means they are a companion and protector that always wants to be close to you. So you’ll need to decide if these are really “drawbacks” for your situation or not.
Owning a German Shepherd
The key to owning a Shepherd, just like with a Doberman, is careful training and proper care. Shepherds are smart and easy to train and love to please their owners. When properly trained and socialized, they can get along with very well children and other pets. With training, they are confident, watchful, and alert. Without it, they can be high-strung, nervous, and prone to separation anxiety. This is all right in line with a Doberman.
German Shepherd Temperament
German Shepherds were originally bred to be herding dogs and protect their flocks. Because of this, shepherds are fiercely loyal and often leery of strangers and other animals. The main concern would be if either dog felt they had to protect the family from the other.
German shepherds are not bred to be aggressive. However, their drive to protect their “flock” can lead to aggression in response to a threat. Early socialization helps them learn to differentiate what is really a threat. When shepherds are overly aggressive, it’s usually the result of poor socialization, lack of obedience training, or owners who purposefully train them to be aggressive.
They are a bit more independent than Dobermans and aren’t as likely to be stuck to your side, or demanding to crawl up into your lap, as a Doberman is. For this reason, they are a little more challenging to train to walk without a leash, although it’s certainly possible due to their desire to please their owners.
German Shepherd Care and Training
German Shepherds do best with socialization and obedience training at a young age to prevent problems, such as over guarding, aggression, and separation anxiety. They need a firm owner who will establish dominance and clear direction. Their owner needs to expose them to other people and pets, but only under supervision. They also don’t do well with long periods of isolation. Does all this sound familiar? It should, I could easily have written this paragraph under the Doberman column!
German Shepherds are high energy dogs, just like Dobies. They need ample exercise and mental stimulation daily. They need 1 to 2 hours of exercise daily to prevent boredom and anxiety. Shepherds left alone too often with too little exercise are prone to separation anxiety and being destructive.
For more information about separation anxiety in German Shepherds specifically, see the All Shepherd Rescue’s article about this topic here.
Potential Problems with a German Shepherd
When owning a German shepherd, you need to be realistic about what you can expect from the breed. German shepherds are prone to their own set of potential problems. Just like with the Doberman list you’ll need to decide if any of these are an issue for you.
- Require lots of socialization at an early age to be well-rounded adults.
- Can be nippy at 6 to 7 months of age—a common puppy problem in their breed.
- They will “take charge” if you are not confident and firm with training.
- Clear direction and training is required.
- Can be prone to separation anxiety.
Again, all very similar to the Doberman Pinscher, however, German Shepherds do have a bit of a reputation for being a bit more mouthy between about 6 to 7 months of age. This shouldn’t be allowed, even during playtime since although it’s cute as a puppy, when they’re adults it could become a serious biting issue.
I feel that discussing separation anxiety separately is important since both German Shepherds and Dobermans can suffer from this and it’s the number one reason these dogs end up in rescue centers or at the dog pound.
Both of these dogs are very affectionate and loyal people dogs. It’s difficult for these breeds to be separated from their owners. Long periods of isolation and boredom can result in high levels of anxiety. This is one reason you should work hard to make sure these two get along—so they can keep each other company. If you have to always keep them separated when you leave, they’ll both suffer.
Dobermans do tend to need more mental stimulation along with the exercise to help prevent separation anxiety. Puzzle toys or other games that include their mind (or nose) will help set their mind at ease. German Shepherds benefit from this but don’t require it like Dobermans do. Just general exercise seems to help German Shepherds ward off separation anxiety.
If these dogs don’t receive these things and have to do without their owners (or each other) for extended periods of time, they can act out. This is when they become destructive and damage doors, windows, furniture, and other objects.
Dogs with separation anxiety generally act out due to a desire to have their owner return or to escape in order to reach their owner. With Dobermans and German shepherds, this is especially true. Much of the destruction they cause is part of their attempts to dig or chew their way out.
The important thing is to remember that both of these breeds are very needy of attention. When owning both, balancing time between them will be very important. If you want more information about separation anxiety in Dobermans, much of which applies to German Shepherds as well, see my article How Long Can You Leave a Doberman Home Alone?
When deciding on a dog breed, keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament through genetics is much less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as coat, coloring, or size. Temperament and behavior are primarily shaped by their owners, environment, past socialization, and training.
Dobermans and German shepherds are both fiercely loyal, protective dog breeds that can be very fun and loving with the right care and training. Really, their requirements to be happy are not very different from each other and they almost always get along wonderfully together.
Just remember to put in the time and effort to train, exercise, and socialize them from a young age and you should be just fine.