One of the biggest concerns I hear from new Doberman owners is that they are worried the breed has an extremely short lifespan. There are many rumors surrounding this topic so I decided to do some legwork and collect as much information on the actual lifespan of the Doberman as possible.
What’s the Lifespan of a Doberman Pinscher? The average lifespan of a Doberman Pinscher is between 10 and 13 years of age. Regular checkups are important for the Doberman since many genetic disorders that the breed is prone to can be addressed if caught early.
I’ve read the same average life expectancy numbers as every else has. But what do actual Doberman owners say? Not just veterinarians, dog breed books, or online encyclopedias, but people who’ve actually owned these magnificent dogs? I decided to find out.
Doberman Lifespan Survey Results
It’s not that I don’t trust the official life expectancy numbers, it’s just that I am more of a hands-on type and I wanted to conduct this research myself. I want real-world numbers. So this is my own, un-official study to see what the average lifespan of a Doberman Pinscher is. Would the lifespan I discover as actually reported from owners of Dobermans be more or less than the “official” number of 10-13 years? Here’s what I did to find out.
I spent hours scouring all the forums, facebook groups, and other meeting places for Doberman owners who had posted messages of their Doberman’s passing away to see what they reported as their age at death. Yes, it was a bit depressing at times, but quite interesting too!
I took into account male, female, and unknown sex dogs. A dog might have an “unknown” sex listed below because although the owner reported what age their dog died at, they didn’t indicate the sex.
I collected data on 59 Doberman Pinschers in my sample and this is what I found.
|Sex||Number of Dogs Surveyed||Average Age at Death|
Now, remember that these numbers were pulled from forums, facebook groups, and other social media platforms. It’s worth mentioning that there is something fascinating that happens when someone posts a question like “how old was your Doberman when they died?” on social media.
People love to respond to these types of polls when they either want sympathy or want to brag. Think of your ex who is always posting about how magnificent his or her life is. Is their life really that amazing, or is just that human desire to brag coming out? That’s what I believe happened with this survey.
The average age of almost 9 years old is significantly lower than many would imagine for a Doberman to live likely because many people were looking for sympathy for the passing of their dog. Frankly, this is natural and understandable.
I’m not saying anyone was lying with what they posted, I’m simply saying that those who had their Doberman for the length of time they expected, didn’t feel the need to respond or post about it. Those who lost their dogs “too early” needed an outlet. That’s why I believe these numbers are slightly skewed.
I did find a poll that Dobermantalk.com did with their members asking them to vote on how long their Doberman’s lived. You can see the poll here. The sex of the dogs wasn’t specified in this poll. Here are some takeaways from the polling:
- The question posed: “How long did your Doberman(s) live?”
- Number of poll respondents: 106
- Average age at death: 13.6 years
- The age most often cited: 10 years and 12 years (23 votes each)
- The oldest age cited: More than 14 years (11 votes)
- The youngest age cited: Under 5 years (13 votes)
Note: The oldest and youngest age categories on this poll were disregarded while calculating the averages.
Now with a poll such as this, there is a different psychology at play. The people who vote in it can’t type out a long description of what happened to their dog, they can only click an age to vote.
What happens in this type of voting is the natural desire to “win” or be at the top of the list (think of your ex on Facebook again—their life is just so great). Therefore, you often have people whose dogs died at an older age responding more often and those who’s dogs died younger, or at the expected age, not responding at all.
Although this survey isn’t perfect, it’s as close as we can get to some real-world examples of the Doberman’s life expectancy. The official lifespan of a Doberman is generally considered to be between 10 to 13 years of age. Given that this is almost exactly between the two results I got from scouring social media and the user poll, I’d say this is an accurate number.
Predicting Longevity with the Coefficient of Inbreeding (COI)
There have been some really exciting developments in the world of dog DNA testing that might be able to help you get some insight into your Doberman’s potential longevity.
Probably the most exciting thing is called the “coefficient of inbreeding” (or COI) test. This is something that certain DNA health test kits not include which can give you a number of how inbred your dog is. All Dobermans are inbred to some extent, but some are worse than others. The more inbred your dog is, statistically the shorter their lifespan.
I urge every Doberman owner to health test their dogs. Modern test kits will give you such an in-depth view of your dog’s genetic health disorders and other health-affecting factors that it’s simply incredible.
I go into much more detail about what this COI number is, how to test for it yourself, and what it actually means in my guide Doberman DNA Health Testing: The Complete Guide.
How to Determine Your Doberman’s Current Age
Believe it or not, many owners don’t know their Doberman’s true age since they either rescued the dog or adopted it from someone other than the original breeder. At this time, there’s only one real way to “test” your dog at home to determine their age, and that’s through the use of a DNA Age Test Kit such as this one (Embark link).
These tests are a scientifically proven method of accurately estimating your dog’s age from a simple cheek swab that you can do at home, and mail in to be tested. The tests linked to above will even estimate the dog’s exact birthdate.
A veterinarian can help you estimate your Doberman’s age based on their physical development as well, however, these are usually educated guesses at best. A DNA test is the most trustworthy method of determining age.
Why Doberman’s Have a Short Life Span
Short is a relative phrase but I am going to use it here because if you speak to any owner of these magnificent dogs who’s lost them, they’ll tell you that their life just wasn’t long enough. There are a few reasons why Dobermans seem to die earlier than many other breeds.
First, they are an impressively large breed of dog. It is well known that the larger a breed is, the generally shorter lifespan they have. As an example, the Great Dane has a lifespan of between 8 to 10 years while the Shih Tzu has a lifespan of 10 to 16 years. That’s a big difference. They are also drastically different in size.
In addition to their size, Dobermans are also prone to some specific diseases. These are some of the common disorders in Doberman Pinschers.
- Von Willebrand Disease: One of the scariest disorders a Doberman can have, this is a genetic blood clotting disorder. Besides difficulting with clotting after a cut or scrape, the dog may spontaneously bleed from the nose or mouth. There are genetic tests to determine if a specific dog has this disorder.
- Chronic Active Hepatitis: This is a progressive disease that causes inflammation of the liver and eventually severely damages or destroys it.
- Wobbler Syndrome: This will cause a wobbly gait in your dog’s stride and is due to malformations and abnormalities in the spine.
- Bloat: Some Doberman’s will have problems with a buildup of gas and fluid in the stomach called “bloat.”
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM): This is a form of heart disease which causes the dog’s heart to become enlarged. As a result, it no longer pumps blood throughout the body as it should. It’s common in many large dog breeds, but seems to affect the Doberman worse than many others. I dedicated an article all about DCM in Dobermans here, since this issue is becoming so serious in the breed.
- Prostate Diseases: Dobermans are affected by many prostate issues more than other breeds such as bacterial infections, cancers, tumors, cysts, or various cell problems causing enlargement of the prostate.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a malformation of the hip socket causing problems walking, lameness, or arthritis of the joints. Although Dobermans are susceptible to this issue, they are not as affected by it as many other large breeds are.
This seems like a long list of disorders but keep in mind that these are just possible issues that can crop up in a Doberman and issues they are more susceptible to than the average dog. Keep in mind that every breed has a list of issues they are prone to.
For more information about health issues that affect Dobermans, including additional information about the breed, see my article The Doberman Pinscher: A Complete Breed Overview.
The most important thing to do is have regular checkups and get your dog (or your dog’s parents, since it’s genetic) tested for Von Willebrand Disease. It’s a nasty disorder that can be detected in many different ways. The earlier you detect these health issues the better chances you’ll have at being able to mitigate the disorder so your dog can live a long and happy life.
“In general, the larger the dog, the shorter the lifespan. Dobermans are prone to some problems such as bloat and Von Willebrands’s disease, however, their size is a big factor on the length of their life.”
President of veterinary medicine at Newton Veterinary Hospital in Newton, NJ
How to Help Your Doberman Live a Longer Life
There are definitely things that an owner can do to help their Dobie live longer. Some of these are common-sense steps that any responsible dog owner should do to keep their dog healthy but there is at least one surprising study I found about something that can be done to (possibly) extend their life up to 30%, at least in females.
Common sense steps that any dog owner can do to extend the lifespan of their dog is to provide them with a quality diet, plenty of exercise, regular checkups, and good oral hygiene. Skip that cheap Walmart brand dog food and go for something a bit higher quality with more protein. Blue Buffalo and Royal Canine (large dog formula) are two examples of quality dog foods.
Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise is even more important for Doberman’s since they’re considered a working breed. This will not only help them stay physically healthy but mentally healthy too. Doberman’s are incredibly intelligent dogs that are easily bored.
There are plenty of studies that show how a quality diet and plenty of exercise extends the life of a dog so I won’t go into that here. However, I did find one exciting study that suggested that female dogs who aren’t spayed until after the age of six lived about 30% longer (their average lifespan increased from 9 years to 13 years). This study was conducted on Rottweilers and not Dobermans, but it is worth mentioning. You can find more information about this study here.
Other interesting facts are that on average, females tend to live 2 years longer than males and spayed or neutered dogs live 1.5 years longer. Notice this doesn’t indicate when they are spayed or neutered, just that they are. This is based on a University of Georgia study.
The Oldest Known Doberman Pinscher
There are rumors of a “documented” case of a Doberman Pinscher in Berlin, Germany living to the ripe old age of 22 years old. Even though this case is supposedly documented, I wasn’t able to find any information to back it up. I was able to locate multiple Doberman owners who said their dogs made it to 14 years of age, and the oldest I found was 16 years of age.
Are Dobermans prone to cancer? Doberman Pinschers are considered to be among the top 5 breeds most prone to developing cancer in their lifetime. This usually occurs in the form of prostate cancer in Dobermans. If caught early, there are often treatment options available that can significantly extend life.
Are Dobermans prone to heart problems? Doberman Pinschers have a genetic predisposition for developing heart disease. A genetic mutation present in the Doberman breed makes them susceptible to developing Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which causes an enlarged heart, erratic heartbeats, and weakness of the heart muscle.