One of the most intimidating aspects of owning a Doberman is how to go about training them. Every new owner seems to know that Dobermans are a unique breed and require a lot of training to be happy dogs. That uniqueness means that training them isn’t always as straightforward as it is with other dogs. So I wrote this guide to help you get started with basic training for your Doberman using their uniqueness to your advantage. The techniques in this guide are the best and most effective methods I’ve found for training Dobermans specifically.
How do you train a Doberman? The basic principle for training any Doberman is to elicit the desired behavior while giving a verbal command along with a visual cue, and then to reinforce that behavior.
Table of Contents
- Doberman Training At-a-Glance
- Importance of Training
- Motivating Your Doberman
- Using Visual Cues
- Obedience Training
- Behavior Training
- Making Yourself the Alpha
- Hard to Train or Stubborn Dobermans
- Clicker Training
- Getting Doberman-Specific Help with Training
- Related Questions
Doberman Training At-a-Glance
Below is an outline of the general process for training a Doberman in just about any obedience command or behavior.
- Give your Doberman the command you’re training along with a visual cue.
- Elicit the desired action from your Doberman.
- Once the action is performed partially or completely, praise and reward.
- Repeat these steps while setting the standard for praise and reward higher each time.
Dobermans are very in-tune with human emotions and have a natural desire to please their owners. Both of these things work heavily in your favor while you’re attempting to train him. The above steps are a very basic approach, however, there are specific approaches that work best while training certain commands and behaviors.
This article covers these specific approaches that seem to work best for the Doberman breed depending on which behavior you’re attempting to train.
If you’re completely new to the breed, take a look at this complete Doberman breed overview to give yourself a crash course on this amazing breed.
Importance of Training
If you’re reading this guide, then you probably found it because you already understand how important training is for a Doberman. However, there are a few things you may not have considered that, once you understand, should highly motivate you to put the work in that’s required to train your dog.
Frequently working with and training your dog will help ensure that they are happy and confident. This is true for many breeds, but especially so for the Doberman. They are a highly intelligent breed with a natural desire for direction and guidance from their owners.
Because of this natural drive, they have a tendency to feel “lost” if not provided with regular direction and guidance. This will lead to an increase in anxiety in your dog which may ultimately result in destructive behavior, separation anxiety, barking issues, or even biting problems in extreme cases. To avoid these things, work on training regularly with your Doberman in a way that he or she understands.
Motivating Your Doberman
The biggest hurdle that any owner faces while attempted to train any dog, is motivation. Luckily for us Doberman owners, we have the advantage of having a breed who is genetically inclined to want to learn from us. But the more motivation the better, so here are some ways to make sure your dog is as motivated as possible to learn from you.
- Plenty of Praise – Dobies are incredibly in-tune with their owner’s emotions. Which means you can use that to your advantage. When your dog does something well during training, give him lots of excited praise. Pat him, jump up and down, smile, tell him he’s a good boy, etc. Seeing you happy and proud of him can be even more motivating than a treat for your Doberman.
- Rewards – This is a great motivator for any dog. Having plenty of delicious treats that are also healthy (or at least, as healthy as possible) will make training so much easier. It’s also just a great way to guide the dog’s around by placing the treat in your hand so he follows it with his nose. I suggest some irresistible training treats on my Doberman food and treats page here.
- Excitement – Your excitement level about training time will also make a big difference. Dobermans are known for staring their owners in the face and attempting to understand their emotions. If you are excited and looking forward to training time, they will too.
- No Harsh Correction – Harsh physical correction should always be avoided. The biggest problem besides being cruel (in extreme cases of physical correction), is that it makes training time into something that’s not exciting or fun. It may make it feel like work to your dog, or worse, your dog might even start to dread training time. This will make training drastically more difficult.
Taking the time to figure out what specifically is the best motivator for your Dobie specifically will make the difference between a well-behaved dog, and an exceptionally well-trained one that’s fully trusted.
Using Visual Cues
I’m a huge fan of using visual cues while training a Doberman. They respond incredibly well to it and it takes advantage of the Doberman’s natural tendencies to really “study” the physical indicators of their owners.
Something as simple as pointing at the ground with your finger while giving the command “lie down” makes your request so much clearer to your dog. Think about it, your dog listens to you talk all day long. They hear the television, music, and other ambient noises and words all the time. So think about how difficult is it to get this one command you’re trying to teach them to stand out. But how often do they see you do a somewhat unique physical gesture towards them while looking them in the eyes?
So come up with some new physical gesture, or cue, you can give your dog with each and every command you teach. It doesn’t really matter what the gesture is, just make sure it’s something you’ll easily remember to do (or better yet, something you’ll naturally do) so that you can remain consistent with your training.
The first thing you’ll want to teach your Doberman is basic obedience and the commands that go along with it. Getting your dog familiar and comfortable performing these commands will make everything you attempt to do with them in the future (leash training, resolving barking issues, training tricks, etc) so much easier. So start here.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
This is one of the most important commands to teach your dog and luckily, one of the easiest. You can start teaching your Doberman this command at just 8 weeks of age. It’s very natural and comfortable for a dog to sit, you just need to associate a command with it. This is the quickest, and the best approach I’ve found for teaching a Doberman to sit.
- Hold a treat in one hand and get the dog’s attention by allowing him to briefly smell it through your hand.
- Lift up the treat above the dog’s head just out of reach, and then over their back and about a foot towards their tail.
- At the same time you are moving the treat, say “sit” in a strong voice and point to the dog’s rear end with your other hand (this is your visual cue).
- The dog will naturally sit to get a better view of your hand that has the treat inside.
- Immediately praise and reward the dog with the treat.
If the dog doesn’t naturally want to sit, it’s more than likely because he or she is distracted and overly excited. This is often the case when trying to teach a younger puppy. If this happens, it may be better to try training when the dog is slightly on the more tired side and focus on putting extra effort into keeping their attention.
This can be done by practicing this in an area with fewer distractions or by continuously talking to your dog to keep their attention while working with them. Just make sure that when you give the command “Sit” it stands out as something important you’re saying (by tone or inflection). Also, don’t forget to include a visual cue also, such as pointing at the dog’s rear end while giving the command.
Age to Start Teaching: 10-12 weeks
This is one of those commands that while it’s very easy for your Dobie to get a basic handle on, your dog will likely be improving with this command for many years to come. But it’s important to have your dog get a basic grasp on this concept now to make training other behaviors significantly easier. This command is best taught after your dog can react appropriately to the “sit” command. Here’s how to teach your Doberman to stay.
- Give your dog the sit command and visual cue with a treat in your hand.
- Once the dog sits, immediately give the “stay” command while displaying the palm of your hand to the nose of your dog close enough to slightly crowd their personal space— about 1 foot away from their nose usually works well.
- Noticeably “pause” yourself by staying motionless while maintaining eye contact for a second or two.
- Lower your hand, give a release command of your choosing (such as “ok!” or “release!”) praise, and reward.
- Repeat this exercise while gradually increasing the length of time you have your dog pause before lowering your hand and praising.
After your dog can “stay” for about 3 seconds, it’s time to start lowering the palm of your hand after a few seconds (removing the visual cue) while still maintaining eye contact and not saying the release command for a short time. The expectation is that your dog will continue to stay until they hear the release command despite the fact that you put your hand down. Then he’ll receive his praise and reward.
After your dog starts to show an understanding of this, it’s time to start giving the stay command (and visual cue for a few seconds) and then walking away from the dog, stopping, and staring at the dog from a distance. Then after a short time give the release command. Work on increasing the length of time you wait to release the dog and the distance away from the dog that you walk.
If your dog is getting up and not staying as you intend, such as the case with younger dogs, move your hand closer to their nose for the visual cue. Also, you may have to repeatedly get them to sit again and again without giving them their praise and treat until they pause there, even for the shortest of time. Another option is to instead give them the “stay” command when they’re in the lying down position instead of the seated position—some dogs will stay better in that position. Once they’ve “stayed” successfully even for a second or two you can praise and build up off of that starting point. Don’t forget to do this in a place with as few distractions as possible.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
Teaching your Doberman to lie down on command is very important for many reasons. It’s incredibly useful in your daily life and while teaching other behaviors. Additionally, since lying down is a submissive action, it helps to assert you as the dominant (or alpha) figure in the household—something that’s very important when working with Dobermans. Here’s how to teach your Doberman to lie down.
- Get your dog’s attention with the use of a treat in your hand. Give them the command and visual cue for “sit”.
- Once the dog sits, point to the ground just in front of the dog’s paws by lowering your hand all the way down to the ground and touching it.
- Your dog will likely naturally sniff at your hand and go into the lying down position to be more comfortable while attempting to get to the treat that’s in your hand.
- As soon as your dog is lying down, quickly praise and reward him with the treat that’s in your hand.
- Repeat this until you can point at the ground (visual cue) while giving the command from a small distance, and without your hand touching the ground. Gradually increase the distance you are from the dog while giving this command.
If your dog refuses to lie down, it’s likely because they’re pawing at your hand from a seated position or because they’re too distracted. If distraction is likely the issue, move to a location with fewer distractions.
If your dog is pawing at your hand and jumping around, it’s probably because they have too much energy or you haven’t gotten their attention well enough. Ensure the treat you’re using is one they are excited about eating. Also, consider trying to teach the command later in the day or after the dog is tired from a long play session.
Age to Start Teaching: 10-12 weeks
This is a command you’ll likely use quite a bit with your velcro Doberman. When your dog is on the couch, your bed, or on you and you want your dog to get off, this is the command you’ll use. Teaching this command is a little less instinctual for a Doberman. It’s also related to dominance so if you have an overly dominant Dobie, then this will take a bit more work. But it’s a very important way that you can establish yourself as the dominant one in the household. Here’s how to teach your Doberman the “off” command.
- Starting when the dog is a puppy, get yourself into the habit of giving the command “off” along with a visual cue (such as pointing off the object they’re on and towards the ground) before moving the dog off of any object.
- Praise the dog immediately after any time you move them off an object while giving the command.
Teaching this command relies heavily on your ability to stay consistent. If you’re having difficulty teaching this behavior, it’s most likely related to how consistent you are in giving the command and visual cue while moving the dog off of the object. Another option is to use a treat to lure the dog off of whatever object they are on.
With a dominant dog, it’s very important that you teach this command and follow through every time. Do not ever give the “off” command and visual cue, then give up on moving the dog if they’re being extra stubborn that day. Dobermans are incredibly smart and this will teach them that if they’re stubborn and dominant in the future, they will win with you.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
Luckily for you, teaching a Doberman to come on command is probably the easiest command of all. However, it does help if they know the sit and stay commands first. Most Dobermans (even young ones) will readily come when you call them. Many Dobermans don’t need a treat as motivation to come when learning this command either, although it’ll make things easier so we’ll incorporate it. To get started teaching your Doberman to come on command, follow these steps.
- Have your dog sit and stay.
- Show your dog a treat in your hand.
- Backup some distance, then give the “come” command while pointing at the ground in front of your feet (visual cue).
- Provide verbal and visual encouragement for the dog to come to you (say “come on boy!” in an excited tone, clap your hands, etc).
- Once he gets to the area you pointed to at your feet, reward and praise.
- Begin working on using this command in more and more distracting environments and later incorporating the additional step of asking your dog to sit at your feet once they come.
If you’re having difficulty during the training process for this command, it’s likely because you’ve progressed too quickly. For example, you may be in an environment that’s too distracting and you’ll have to spend some more training time in less distracting environments first. Or if you have trouble getting the dog to sit after he comes to you, you may need to practice just having him come without requesting he sits at the end for a longer period of time first.
Age to Start Teaching: 10-12 weeks
This command is useful for preventing the dog from picking up or mouthing something that he or she shouldn’t. It has the potential to literally save your dog’s life if he’s about to pick up something dangerous or poisonous. This is a great safety command for your dog to know. Here’s how you teach a Doberman to “leave it”.
- Have two treats with you of different types—one semi-boring treat for your dog (like a piece of his kibble), and one exciting treat (like a tasty training treat).
- Put the boring treat inside a closed fist and present it to the dog. He will likely sniff at it and try to get to the treat.
- Give the command “leave it” and wait until he stops sniffing your hand.
- Praise and reward immediately when this occurs.
- Repeat this process until your dog quickly looks at you after giving the leave it command. Then increase difficulty gradually by tempting your dog more each time (opening the hand with the treat, then leaving the treat on the floor in front of him, etc). Then progress to more tempting treats or toys. Only progress to the next step once he’s mastered the previous one.
The most important thing to remember while training the leave it command is to never accidentally allow your dog to get the treat you’re tempting him with. This will tell your dog that it is possible to get the desired object even after you told him to leave it.
This command can take some patience to teach and it’s very important to gradually increase the temptation for your dog as you go. Most people fail at teaching this command by progressing the level of temptation too high too quickly, or allowing their dog to occasionally get the treat they’re tempting them with. Be cautious not to do either of these things with your Dobie.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
The release command for your dog is any command that you choose which tells your dog “ok, I am done asking you what I want from you, relax and go be a normal dog now.” You should pick a word that you’ll remember and consistently use. I use the “ok” command given in a firm voice.
However, many Doberman owners prefer to use a word that is less common in daily speech so as to not accidentally release their dog when you don’t mean to. Other options are “done”, “free”, “break”, “dismiss”, or simply “release”. Pick a word and make sure you stick with it.
There really isn’t a step-by-step process for teaching the command. Actually, the best way to teach it is to incorporate it as part of the “praise” step while teaching your dog other commands. Dobermans are so incredibly smart that simply by incorporating a release command into other pieces of training, he or she will quickly figure out what it means.
For example, while training your dog for the “stay” command, strongly and clearly give the release command and start your praise immediately after. Or while training your dog to sit, do the same thing. Give the release command as soon as they’ve sat down and then immediately give your praise and reward. Learning this command should be very natural for your Doberman if you incorporate it into the training of your other commands.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
Spending some time teaching your dog a few fun tricks is a great way to engage their mind and further refine their overall obedience. Both of these things are critical for Dobermans. Although teaching each trick might be slightly different, there is a basic formula that I’ve always used to teach my dog new tricks.
This method works amazingly well with Dobies, and although I wish I could say it’s because of the genius of my method, in reality, it’s the intelligence of the Doberman that should get the credit. Here is the basic approach I use to teach a Doberman just about any new trick.
- Get their full attention through the combination of a treat and being in an environment that is distraction-free.
- Give a verbal and visual cue and then get them to perform the desired task. When teaching a new trick for the first time, you may only get them to partially do the task. This is ok, just demand more of them each time you practice.
- Praise and reward your dog as soon as they perform more of the trick then they did last time.
- Repeat this process until your dog has the full concept of the trick you’re teaching them.
For my dog, the absolute best time to teach him tricks was at dinner time. He would literally do anything to get his dinner. So every night I would have him sit down in front of me while I put his full food bowl on the ground behind me. I would then ask him to do various tricks before I would give him the release command and allow him to eat.
For example, if I was teaching him to shake I would place his bowl down behind me while he gave me his undivided attention. Then I would say “shake” (verbal cue) and put out my hand for his paw (visual cue). I would then pick up his paw, place it in my hand and shake it up and down. I’d then praise him and give him the release command so he could eat his dinner. After only a couple of nights, he was shaking on his own.
Video: Teaching Commands
I wrote an in-depth guide all about teaching specific tricks to Dobermans which includes a long list of tricks that Dobies will almost naturally perform with very little training. In the article is also a video I made all about this basic formula I use. This article is 13 Easy Tricks to Teach Your Doberman (with Pictures).
Behavior training your Doberman is a bit more advanced than teaching basic obedience commands. This is a bit more involved and various approaches need to be used depending on which behavior you are trying to get your Doberman to have, or not have. Below are some of the most commonly trained behaviors and how to best approach them for the Doberman breed.
Leash Training (Heel)
Age to Start Teaching: 12-14 weeks
Teaching your dog to heel while walking on a leash can be difficult but it’s so necessary with large powerful breeds like the Doberman. Leash training can be a very involved process but there is a basic method that most Doberman owners use with success.
In order to begin leash training your Doberman, you need to make sure your dog has an understanding of some of the basic obedience commands such as sit, a release command, and the leave-it command can also be helpful. Also, you need to have established yourself as the alpha in the house through small daily actions (being the one to give them their food every day, not allowing them to walk first through a door, setting and enforcing boundaries, etc). Having these things squared away first will make leash training much easier.
Below is an overview of the basic technique I usually recommend for leash training a Doberman.
- Start by teaching your Dobie the concept of yielding to leash pressure. This means getting your dog to understand that a small amount of pressure in one direction on the leash should communicate an action on his part (stop walking, turn to the right or left, etc). Start with your dog on a leash and at your side. With the leash lowered, and parallel to the ground apply light pressure one direction so your dog looks in that direction. As soon as he does, praise and reward. Continue doing this until he has a basic understanding of yielding to leash pressure.
- Get your dog comfortable and accustomed to the heel position. The heel position is when your dog is at your side with their front feet roughly in line with your feet. Bring your dog to your side and in the heel position (you can use a treat in your closed hand to guide him if you need to). As soon as he is positioned correctly, quickly praise and provide him with a treat. Pause a few seconds then praise and provide with a treat again. If he walks away, the praise and treats should stop and you should bring him back. After 10 to 20 seconds of being successfully positioned while you are praising and rewarding, give him the release command and allow him to relax for a minute or so. Repeat this process, gradually increasing the duration of time between the treats you provide and the length of time he spends at your side before releasing him.
- Start walking short distances in a controlled environment. With your dog next to you while in a controlled environment with few distractions (such as your house or back yard) have him smell a treat in your closed fist so you have his attention. Then start walking with him following your hand. Walk 10 to 15 feet and then tell him to sit. Once he sits, give the treat and praise him. Don’t walk unless your dog is giving you slack in the leash.
- Repeat this and correct your dog as necessary along the way. Repeat step three while walking longer and longer distances. If at anytime your dog walks in front of you, stop, back up a few steps with him, and have him sit. Don’t wait until he’s pulling on the leash to correct him. Correct him as soon as he tries to walk in front of you. Once your dog is sitting next to you for a few seconds, say “heel” and begin walking again.
- Slowly transition to public places and other areas with distractions. Once your dog has a handle on the basic concept of walking in the heel position on a leash, slowly transition to walking in public places with more and more distractions.
Leash training your Doberman takes some patience. But the key to success here is to make sure that the walk is not fun for your dog as soon as he starts doing something he shouldn’t. If he walks in front of you (out of the heel position), stop, back up a few steps, and then sit down. Say “heel” and continue walking.
Where people have problems here is when they progress through these steps too quickly, before the dog has an understanding of the previous step. Or they don’t take breaks along the walk by giving their dog a release command. Allowing your dog time on walks to sniff around and just be a dog is very important to keep the walks fun. Also, remember that every walk is leash training time.
Lastly, please resist the urge to go on “just one” quick and sloppy walk where you allow the dog to do whatever he wants because you need a break from training him. This will teach your dog that if he or she is persistent enough, they can have a walk where they don’t have to behave and where they make the rules.
I wrote a very in-depth guide to leash training your Doberman in my article How to Train Your Doberman to Walk on a Leash. That article should be able to help you handle any issues you encounter along the way with leash training—and there can be many.
Age to Start Teaching: 6-8 months
Training your Doberman to reliably play off-leash while remaining under your verbal control should never be a rushed process and should always progress slowly as your dog becomes more and more trustworthy with your recalls. In fact, your dog should only practice off-leash training in a completely enclosed area where there is no chance of your dog getting into a dangerous situation. A fenced-off baseball field, dog park, or your fenced-in backyard are great places to practice.
Only once your dog is 100% trustworthy with his recall should you ever attempt to use it in any other situation. And I do mean 100% trustworthy (with no exceptions), regardless of the distractions. The last thing you want to do is walk your dog somewhere where they can run out into traffic if they decide this is the 1% of the time they won’t listen to your attempts to recall them.
With the dangers hopefully crystal clear, let’s go through the basic technique for teaching a Doberman to be off-leash.
- Practice the “come” command. See the section about the “come” command in this article. Repeatedly practice the come command at home until your dog is completely reliable with the command. Then slowly progress to more and more distracting environments.
- Once your dog is coming consistently when called, try it in a large open area. Choose a safe area for your dog (somewhere fenced in) where you’ll be letting him off-leash. Give your dog plenty of exercise before attempting to let them off-leash.
- Allow your dog off-leash and then recall right away. The first recall of any outing is the most critical so make sure to do it right away when letting them off-leash. It’ll tell you how obedient your dog may be in that specific environment and it’ll also tell your dog what kind of reward they’ll get for coming when you call that day. So make the reward they get for coming when you call that first time the biggest and best reward possible. This will tell your dog that they will get rewarded handsomely if they come when you call on that specific outing.
- Allow your dog plenty of time to play and just be a dog. You want off-leash time to be fun, but recall them every now and then to remind them that there are still rules and they need to pay attention to you. Always praise and reward them when they come to you after being called.
- Repeat this process in increasingly distracting environments. Be very careful not to progress to potentially more hazardous environments unless your dog has shown complete, reliable, proficiency in the previous environment.
Just remember that safety is the most important thing here. Also, always bring a leash with you so you have a way to secure your dog if you need to, no matter how trustworthy or experienced they are at being off-leash.
Make sure recalls of your dog are always followed up by one of your dog’s favorite things (such as a treat, favorite toy, favorite game to play with you, etc). Also, resist the urge to repeatedly call your dog if he’s ignoring you. If your dog ignores you, it’s time to retrieve your dog. If you call repeatedly while your dog ignores you, it teaches your dog that they are free to choose which command they listen to and which they do not.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
There are various opinions out there about crate training a Doberman. Some people feel you should never crate train, and others feel it’s critical. In my opinion, it’s very important to crate train your Doberman when they’re young for use during the night hours.
Like many Doberman experts out there, I’m against leaving your dog in a crate for hours on end while you’re away at work. If you want more insight into how I suggest you handle a Doberman while working full time, see my article How Long Can You Leave a Doberman Home Alone?
But crate training your Dobie puppy when they’re young to sleep in the crate is a great way to not only help them to sleep better at night (they’ll feel more secure if you do it right) but help housebreak them by reducing accidents in the house at night.
“Never use the crate as a punishment. The crate should be a happy place for your dog.”– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)
Dobermans, and dogs in general, love a secure feeling while they sleep. They love to feel like they’re in a secure den. So set up your crate with the door facing out into the room, and the back of the crate against a wall. Drape a blanket (making sure your puppy is unable to pull the blanket through the grates of the crate) over three of the four sides so as to make a secure, den-like feeling. This will help relax your dog at night.
Lastly, make sure the crate is about 6 inches longer than your dog’s body length. This is very important because an oversized crate will encourage your dog to urinate or defecate in a corner. Too small of a crate will be uncomfortable and not an enjoyable place to sleep. A correctly sized crate will encourage your dog to “hold it” during the night since it’s natural for them not to urinate or defecate where they sleep. Some crates will come with a movable wall inside it so the crate can grow with the dog, which is very important.
Here’s how to get your Doberman used to being in the crate at night.
- Leave the door of the crate open during the day. This will allow your dog to wander in and out and inspect the crate as they see fit. You want them to understand that the crate is not a scary thing. Make sure to secure the door open so they don’t accidentally bump into it or have it close on them and frighten them.
- Introduce the crate to your dog initially during the day. After your Dobie puppy has seen and sniffed the crate a few times, it’s time to officially introduce it to him. Start with their favorite toy or treat in your hand and attempt to lead them in. If they won’t go in, don’t force them. Take a break and try again later with more encouragement and excitement.
- If he still won’t go in, use mealtime. Mealtime is the best time to get a Dobie to do what you want. If you’re having consistent trouble using treats and toys to get your dog to go into the crate, try feeding them their meals in the crate. Try putting the bowl all the way in the back of the crate. If that doesn’t work, just put it as far as they’re willing to go.
- When your dog is inside the crate and distracted, close the door. If your puppy is working on their favorite toy or bone that you tossed into the crate (or eating their meal), close the door gently while they’re distracted. As soon as they’re done playing or eating, open the door immediately. Do this with longer stretches of time after they finish eating or playing and before opening the door. If they start to cry, don’t open the door until they stop crying.
- Begin associating a command with the crate. When it’s time to go into the crate, start to associate a command like “crate” or “go to bed”. Be consistent with saying this command every time they go in. Also, keep treats near the crate and whenever they go into the crate because you asked, praise them and reward with a treat.
- Allow them to see you while in the crate. Their anxiety level will increase quickly when they can’t see you. So during the first few times in the crate, make sure they can see you the whole time. Gradually start doing things in the room where they can still see you and eventually casually leave the room or go to sleep in your bed where they can’t see you.
Remember that a very young puppy can’t hold their bladder for more than 3 or 4 hours at a time so you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night a few times to let them out until they can hold it longer. Generally, a puppy can hold their bladder for about 1 hour for every month old they are. Make sure the crate is near your bed so you can be easily woken up by your dog. Most puppies will start crying when they need to go to the bathroom as long as their crate is the correct size.
Never use the crate as a punishment. The crate should be a happy place for your dog and if you start sending them there for punishment, they’ll never be able to relax while in their crate at night. Also, it may be a good idea to put one or two safe toys for your dog in the crate so they can chew on something in the middle of the night to get out some anxiety if they need to.
Once your Doberman is fully potty trained and trusted in the house (usually around one year old), you can start having your dog sleep in a normal dog bed outside the crate depending on your level of trust you have in him.
Age to Start Teaching: 8 weeks
Potty training a Doberman puppy can be one of the most trying and difficult things to do. It takes a ton of patience and consistency. Also, there will be accidents along the way while your dog is learning. It’s important to start housebreaking your dog right away so that he or she has some guidance and doesn’t develop bad habits.
Also, it’s a good idea to work on associating a command with your request for your dog to relieve himself. If every time you bring your dog out to the spot where he should go to the bathroom you say a command like “go potty”, your Doberman will quickly understand that is the command you say when you want him to go. This is great when you find yourself somewhere new and you need him to quickly go to the bathroom in a place that he’s not used to going.
Potty training should always be a positive experience and there should never be any harsh correction. The old-school method of rubbing a dog’s nose in their mess just won’t work in your favor with a Doberman.
Here are the basic steps I use for potty training a Doberman puppy.
- Develop a routine for predicting when he needs to go. It’s important that your dog is outside (or wherever you are training them to relieve themselves at) any time they naturally need to go. The more times they go outside on their own, the better. If you’re training your dog to go on your grass in the backyard, take him out and put him on the grass immediately after he wakes up in the morning, after a nap, after eating a meal, and the last thing before bed at night. Also, bring him out every 30 minutes to an hour during the day initially—you can extend this time later.
- Always bring him to the same spot. Always bring your dog to the same spot to relieve himself. Dobermans, and dogs in general, are triggered by scents to relieve themselves. If they catch the scent of a previous time they relieved themselves in that area, it’ll remind them to go.
- When he goes where he should, praise and reward. When your puppy finally goes where he should, regardless of whether or not you had to take him there, praise and reward him as much as possible. Get excited, jump up and down, pet him, and give him a treat. That way he’ll eventually start to associate going to the bathroom in that spot with positive feelings.
- When an accident occurs, quickly move him to the correct spot and give the command. If he has an accident in the house, or anywhere else where he’s not supposed to go, quickly pick him up and walk him to the spot you’ve designated as his bathroom spot. Set him down and give the command you’ve chosen to tell your dog to go to the bathroom. He probably won’t go again, but he’ll smell the scent of previous times he’s gone in that area and it will help him to understand that this is the correct place to go.
Repeat this process with perfect consistency and you should be able to potty train your Doberman fairly quickly. Keep in mind that occasional accidents in the house are normal for a Doberman puppy up until about the age of one year old. So be prepared to stay on top of potty training for that first year.
Here are some situations that you might run into, and how to handle them.
- If you catch your puppy in the act of going in the house: You need to quickly stop the dog from continuing to urinate or defecate. The best way to do this is to clap your hands loudly. Once you have your dog’s attention and they’ve momentarily paused, quickly pick them up and rush them to the correct spot for them to relieve themselves. If they continue to go in the correct spot, praise, and reward.
- If your puppy does have an accident in the house that you don’t discover until later. You’ll need to clean up the mess with a cleaner specifically designed to breakdown the enzymes in the urine. This will ensure that the scent will be destroyed. Normal ammonia-based cleaners may leave some of the scent behind which will encourage your dog to go again in the same spot later. I like to use Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover (Amazon Link). It works well for the stains that might be left behind and it also breaks down the enzymes to prevent future accidents in the same spot.
- If you’re having continuing accidents in the house: Work on figuring out your dog’s individual schedule of when they usually go, and take them outside to their bathroom spot during those times (i.e. right after a meal, after waking up, after playing, etc). Also, try extending the amount of time you’re outside with them allowing them to sniff around longer to increase your chances of having them relieve themselves outside. Lastly, focus on the signs your dog gives when he’s about to go. Most dogs will leave the room and find a corner somewhere, or start sniffing in circles, or other similar actions. If you see these things, make a note so you can spot them in the future and get them outside as soon as possible.
The best advice I can give about potty training Doberman puppies specifically is that they love routine, and you can use this to your advantage. So make it your routine to go to the bathroom outside immediately after waking up in the morning, eating, or playing. Use their natural drive for routine to help you with potty training.
Consistency is key here. Yes, it’s incredibly tough, but you need to be consistent with helping your dog to get potty trained, especially in the first year of his life. If you need to leave the house for extended periods, such as for work, make sure you have someone come check on your dog throughout the day. A puppy can usually only hold their bladder for about an hour for every month old that they are.
Age to Start Teaching: As needed
Barking problems are a tough one to handle in Dobermans. The problem is that there are so many reasons a Doberman might be barking and the reasons will dictate the best approach for solving it. You will have to use a little common sense here and adjust this suggested method below based on what your situation is.
These are the basic steps to stop barking in a Doberman Pinscher.
- Determine what is causing the barking. The most common reasons a Doberman barks is because they’re bored, lonely (separation anxiety), frustrated, hungry/thirsty, or they need to go to the bathroom. If the issue is occurring when you leave or are getting ready to leave the house, then it’s most likely due to separation anxiety. Knowing the cause should guide you into creating a plan to correct the problem.
- Reduce or completely eliminate the motivation to bark. The first, and easiest, step is to remove whatever is motivating them to bark. Sometimes this is easily done, other times it’s just not possible. For example, if your dog is barking at people walking by your fence and you can easily patch the hole in the fence they look through, do it! This may be all it takes in the easiest of cases. However, if your Dobie is barking simply because you have to leave for work, there isn’t a whole lot that you can do about having to leave every day. But try to reduce the motivation to bark wherever possible. If you’re lucky, you can solve the issue right there.
- Put your dog in tempting barking situations and provide correction. Now you need to recreate the situation in which your dog barks but do whatever you can to get them not to. For example, if your dog is barking at someone coming to the door to alert you, but doesn’t do it when you’re standing next to him, then get someone to come to the door while you stand there with your dog. Once your dog goes through this process without barking, praise and reward! If they do bark, give them a firm command you’ve chosen to get them to stop barking (such as “quiet”), and have them sit and lay down. This is a submissive position that will communicate to the dog they’ve done wrong. Have them stay like that for 10 seconds or so and then release him.
- Repeat this in gradually more tempting situations. Slowly make the situations your Doberman is in where they might bark more and more tempting. If you rush this process you’ll notice that you are no longer making progress, but losing control of the barking. If this happens you need to start a few steps back and start again. Trust me, I know very well how much work this is, but don’t rush this and be consistent. It may take days or weeks to desensitize your dog enough to stop the barking.
Remember never to physically correct your dog in any harsh manner. You want to portray that you are the alpha in the house and while the alpha may be firm at times, they’ll never be out of control. Yelling, screaming, and hitting your dog is a sign you’re out of control or losing control. This will only work against you in your training efforts.
The Humane Society has some good suggestions and alternate methods for stopping barking on their website here. It may be worth a look if you’re still having on-going barking problems which you can’t solve.
Remember, solving barking issues is difficult because Dobermans bark for many different reasons. Really consider what your Dobie’s motivation to bark is and what the stimulus is. Then figure out how you can either desensitize them to that stimulus, distract them, or just simply provide clear guidance as to what you expect of them in that specific situation.
If you want a more in-depth guide for the best method to stop barking in Dobermans, including the method I use most often, see my article 6 Steps to Get Your Doberman Pinscher to Stop Barking.
Making Yourself the Alpha
In the wild, each pack of dogs has an “alpha” or a dog that’s in charge of the pack. This dog sets boundaries, behavior expectations, and corrects the other dogs where needed. He is respected by all the dogs in the pack and never questioned. Quite simply, the alpha makes the rules. You need to be seen as the alpha in your house in order to properly train your Doberman.
How do you do this? It’s the simple things that all contribute to making you the alpha. Here are the things that can help ensure you’re seen as the alpha in your home by your dog.
- Maintain an alpha attitude. Your general demeanor will say a lot about you, especially to a dog that’s so intuned with human emotions like a Doberman. You need to be calm, in control, and concise with your dog. If you get frustrated with your dog and yell, scream, or hit your dog, then that shows that you’re out of control or in the process of losing control. This is not a characteristic of an alpha or pack leader.
- Walkthrough doors first. In general, the dog in a pack who is in charge will take the lead. If you make it a point to have your dog wait at a doorway (such as when leaving the house and going into the back yard for example) and allow you to go through first, you’re basically reminding them that you’re in charge. That’s a great position to be in if you also want your dog to listen to what you say later during training sessions.
- Feed your Doberman only after they do something for you. Being the one who provides the food is a clear indicator that you’re in charge. But it’s always a good idea to take it one step further. Every meal, before you feed your dog, always ask them to do something for you. I like to hold my dog’s meal bowl, full of food, and ask him to perform a command or two for me. Such as “sit”, “lie down” or “shake”. Each meal I ask something different and I only provide the food once he does it. It helps to keep me in the alpha spot in the house while in the process reinforcing his obedience training.
- Never immediately change your mind. This is a hard one that’s often missed by many Doberman owners. After all, they’re just so cute, that sometimes those puppy dog eyes can be very convincing. For example, let’s say your Dobie asks to come up on your bed and you give them a firm “no”. Then they come from a different direction with that cute, sad look in their eyes and you give in by allowing them up. You just taught your dog that persistence can overrule the boundaries that you, as the alpha, set. This is hard to recover from if you get in this habit. So if you tell your dog to do (or not do) something, stick to it and don’t give in.
- Work on obedience training frequently. Obedience training is good for your Doberman for so many reasons. It engages their mind and puts you in the position as the instructor or the one to be followed. With a Doberman, it’s important to at least practice some basic obedience commands every day. By doing this frequently, you’ll help solidify your position as the alpha.
Remember that if you set boundaries for your dog, you need to be firm in enforcing them. The worst thing you can do is start to “cave” when your dog repeatedly tests the boundaries you have. Being seen as the alpha in the house will make your daily life with your Dobie so much easier. In fact, everything will be easier. Obedience training, behavioral training, and even playtime will go much smoother.
Hard to Train or Stubborn Dobermans
If you’re one of those unlucky owners that has an unusually stubborn Doberman the only thing you can do is to either increase the motivation to follow your direction (i.e. the reward they receive), ensure you’re as absolutely clear and consistent as humanly possible, and progress as slowly as needed with the training.
By far, the most common issue I see with those who claim they have a stubborn Doberman is the owner’s lack of consistency. Many of these owners have unknowingly trained their Doberman to be stubborn by repeatedly giving in to their dog when they test the boundaries they, as the owner, have set.
“The most common issue I see with those who claim they have a stubborn Doberman is the owner’s lack of consistency.”– John Walter (DobermanPlanet.com)
Take leash training for example. Maybe you start your walk by being very strict with your dog and not allowing him to pull on the leash, but then they just continue to test you and keep pulling on the leash over and over throughout the walk. Eventually, you start to allow them to pull more and more before you correct them. Guess what, you just trained your dog that stubbornness pays off and in reality, he’s training you to allow pulling more than you’re training him not to pull.
So always be consistent even if you have to dig deep when you don’t want to and enforce the rules even though you just want a nice “quick walk” with your dog. Look at consistently training your Doberman as an investment in a future with a Doberman who is easy to live with.
Many Doberman owners swear by the use of a clicker during training. There are studies out there that show that the use of clickers during training does increase the speed at which some dogs learn. Basically the idea is that the clicker will provide a loud “click” and be an immediate marker of good behavior on your dog’s part.
Immediately rewarding good behavior is incredibly important when training a dog, especially one that’s easily distracted or hyper. There is often a gap of time between when your dog does something you’ve asked them to do and your ability to dig out a treat for a reward. A great way to fill that gap of time is by using a clicker as that marker that a bigger reward is coming.
I recommend clicker training for Doberman owners who are having difficulty training their Doberman due to their excitement level (common in very young Dobies) and are constantly distracted. If this is you, then you may want to try using a clicker to keep your dog’s attention during training time.
Getting Doberman-Specific Help with Training
If you’re having difficulties training your Doberman with either basic obedience commands or general behavior training, it may be a great idea to consult with a professional. Don’t let the price scare you—I’m not telling you that you’ll need to undergo 20 weeks of training. You just need a good trainer who knows how Dobermans learn for a few hours. That’s it.
I’m available for private coaching if you feel that having a private session with me may be beneficial for you. But even if you feel you only want in-person assistance and can only afford a couple one hour sessions with a reputable dog trainer who’s familiar with the unique training requirements of a Doberman, I would suggest it because it just may get you on the right track with your at-home training and make all the difference.
I’m available for private one-on-one coaching sessions through my Private Coaching page if you need personalized help with your Doberman.
Are Dobermans easy to train? Dobermans are highly intelligent dogs with a natural desire to please their owners. They can be easily trained through the use of reward-based training with consistent reinforcement of desired behaviors.