One of the first steps a potential new Doberman owner has to do is pick between all the various types of Doberman out there; the American, European, the various colors, what age Doberman to get, and even if they should get a male or female Doberman. There are almost endless combinations to pick from. As someone who specializes in the differences in behavior between the various Dobermans out there, believe me when I say there are very real differences between these Doberman variants and it’s incredibly important to pick one that matches your home environment and your goals.
There are certainly far more traits to explore with these dogs beyond what’s listed in the table below. For example, a single owner living by themselves who wants a dog that excels at keeping them safe on a daily basis will likely choose a much different type of Doberman over a family with young kids wanting a dog to fit in seamlessly with the kids in the house.
Doberman Type Decision Chart
The chart below outlines some of the major types of Doberman that you will choose between during your dog search, along with the key deciding factors for each type and examples of ideal situations.
|Type||Key Deciding Traits||Example Owner Type|
|American||Calmer, more in-tune with their owner’s emotions, responds well to positive reinforcement. An excellent family dog.||A family or individual without lots of dog experience or who is less active.|
|European||Confident, headstrong, requires more daily exercise, responds best to firm direction. An excellent working dog.||A family or individual with experience raising working breeds and who’s very active.|
|Male||Accepting of strangers, likely to bond with a family as a whole, slower to mature, more easily distracted during training when young.||A family or individual who is highly social and playful.|
|Female||Suspicious of strangers, likely to bond tightly to one individual, faster to mature, easier to train when young.||A family or individual wanting a protective dog that’s easy to train.|
|Puppy||Can be trained in the owner’s preferred training, their past experiences will be well known, they easily develop bonds with people and animals in the house.||A family or individual with young kids or other animals in the house.|
|Adult||Have already completed the difficult puppy stages, may be partially trained or housebroken, and may have already reached a calmer and more mature stage.||A family or individual without young kids who’s experienced raising dogs.|
|Working Lines||Higher exercise requirements, drive, and determination. Excel in physical competitions, law enforcement, and other working roles. Best for experienced dog owners.||A family or individual who is very active, experienced raising dogs, and wants to get involved in dog sports.|
|Pet Lines||Lower exercise requirements, less drive, easier to train, and more adaptable to family life. Excel as family pets. Excellent for first-time dog owners.||A family or individual who is inexperienced with dogs, is less active, or who desires a general pet.|
Although there are many more differences between these types of Doberman (explained further in the sections below), their behavior seems to be the most important factor for new owners.
Choosing the Variety
There are a few varieties of Dobermans to pick from and although they’re all considered Dobermans, they have many differences from each other. You can dive further in-depth into the differences between American and European Dobermans in my article American vs. European Doberman: A Side-by-Side Comparison.
The American Doberman is considered to be better suited for a role as a family pet and is a great choice for first-time Doberman owners. They have many character traits that help them to excel in this role. The list below will give you an overview of American Dobermans, should you make this choice.
- Males: 26 – 28 Inches
- Females: 24 – 26 Inches
- Males: 75 – 100 lbs
- Females: 60 – 80 lbs
- $1500 – $2500 from a reputable breeder in the U.S.
- Build—Thinner, more toned, long, lean, and with a more elegant look.
- Head—Wedge shaped, with a thinner muzzle.
- Eyes—Light brown.
- Chest—Smaller, narrower chest.
- Legs—Thinner bone structure.
American Dobermans are known for being the ideal family pet due to their calmer and more relaxed nature. They tend to be more in-tune with their owner’s emotions and respond positively to lots of positive reinforcement during training. They’re less head-strong and stubborn than the Europeans and can be easier to train for the new dog owner.
They also tend to share space better than the European Doberman and will cuddle with their owners without hesitation. However, they can lack some confidence as compared to Europeans in new situations meaning they may stick closer to your side while out in public and might be slightly less likely to physically intervene if their owner is attacked. Although it’s worth noting that any Doberman is still likely to intervene if their owner is threatened.
The European Doberman is considered to be better suited for a working role but is often known to excel as a family dog as well, especially in active families. Below are some of the notable traits of the European Doberman.
- Males: 27 – 28 Inches
- Females: 25 – 27 Inches
- Males: 80 – 105 lbs
- Females: 65 – 85 lbs
- $2500 – $3500 from a reputable breed in the U.S. (likely less if purchased in Europe).
- Build—Thicker, with more muslce mass, less toned, and builkier overall.
- Head—Broader head with a thick muzzle.
- Eyes—Dark brown.
- Chest—Larger, broad chest.
- Legs—Thicker bone structure.
European Dobermans are known for being the ideal working dog due to their high levels of energy and drive. They tend to be more confident and headstrong than the American’s and thrive on firm, clear direction during training mixed with some positive reinforcement. Due to their stubbornness, European Dobermans can be more difficult for an inexperienced dog owner to train.
European’s can also be great family dogs but do generally prefer more room and are less inclined to share personal space over their American Doberman. Europeans do well in very active families. They’re more confident in new or unusual surroundings however, this means they may be more likely to wander away from their owners in these situations than the Americans. Their high level of confidence also means that they are more likely to intervene physically if their owners are threatened.
Warlock, King, Gladiator, or Goliath Dobermans
There isn’t a set of behaviors or physical traits that are typical for a Warlock Doberman since this is primarily a marketing term some breeders use to describe an “exceptionally large Doberman”, and it isn’t truly any recognized variety of Doberman. Other similar names also used in this same fashion are the terms King, Gladiator, or Goliath Doberman.
The term “Warlock” originated from a famous American Doberman from the 1950s and 1960s named “Borong the Warlock”. Borong became famous due to his astonishing long list of titles in a wide variety of dog shows and competitions.
Borong the Warlock (the original Warlock) Racked Up:
- 230 Best of Breed titles.
- 20 “bests” in Specialty shows.
- 66 working group titles.
He was also the only Doberman Pinscher to have won the DPCA National Specialty three times. This long list of accomplishments is what helped propel Borong the Warlock to such a famous status. But remember, Borong the Warlock was just a normal American Doberman of average size. Borong sired many puppies since his name was so revered in the Doberman community due to his accomplishments and the name “Warlock” became known as meaning simply “a Doberman from a good quality bloodline”.
Around the 1970s in the United States, the term “Warlock” was adopted as a marketing term by breeders who were attempting to fill a growing demand for exceptionally large Dobermans. Unfortunately, this often meant they bred mix-breed dogs while looking for genetics to make larger Dobermans and labeling their creations as “Warlocks”.
Therefore there isn’t a set of standard behavior or even physical characteristics for a Warlock since it has meant so many different things over the years to so many people. Here are the types of mixed breed dogs that are often referred to as “Warlocks”.
Common Mix Breeds Referred to as Warlock, King, Gladiator, or Goliath Dobermans
- Doberman/Great Dane Mix – Also often called a “Dober-Dane”. Often this is done to make what appears to be a “taller Doberman”.
- Doberman/Rottweiler Mix – Also often called a “Rotterman”. Which is often done to make what appears to be a “bulkier Doberman”.
Just remember that if you are seeking out a Warlock, King, Gladiator, or Goliath Doberman then you’re usually seeking out a mixed breed dog. At times, some breeders will use the term to describe normal Dobermans who are just genetically slightly on the large side as well. But they’re always either an American or European Doberman. Refer to those sections above to learn more about those two main varieties.
Choosing the Sex
The most interesting thing about selecting the sex of the Doberman you want is that each sex has its own set of typical behavior traits. Below is a summary of the main differences between the two sexes but to learn more in-depth information about the differences, see my article Male vs. Female Doberman: Which is Better.
Male Dobermans are typically about 2 inches taller and 15 to 20 pounds heavier on average with more muscle mass than females. They’re known for being more “goofy” and playful than the females. They also have a reputation for bonding well with a family as a whole and being more accepting of strangers. They are generally more “outgoing” while in public and willing to explore their surroundings which can make them a bit more difficult to control while off-leash as compared to females.
They bond easier with new people and animals than females do. They’re also slower to mature than female Dobermans and usually hit an adult mentality at closer to 4 years of age. The fact that they’re slow to mature can make early training at a young age difficult at times due to how easily they’re distracted as compared to females.
Male Dobermans can also be a bit more headstrong and stubborn than females. They’re also more demanding of attention and affection from their owners. When bringing a Male Doberman into a home with other male dogs, it’s important to note that male-on-male aggression may be an issue especially if the dogs are close in age. Male Dobermans get in more frequent conflicts with dogs of the same sex than females do, but they’re usually less serious in nature with fewer injuries.
“Choosing a Doberman that is of the opposite sex of another dog already living in your home will increase the likelihood that they’ll get along.”– John Walter, Canine Communication Certified (DobermanPlanet.com)
Female Dobermans are about 2 inches shorter and 15 to 20 pounds lighter than male Dobermans with less muscle mass. They’re “smoother’ in appearance and less bulky in muscle. Female Dobermans are known for being more serious and intense than males are. They generally bond tighter to one specific person in the family, which is another difference from the males.
Female Dobermans are also generally more reserved and suspicious of strangers and slower to warm up to new people. This means they are more cautious about exploring their surroundings while in a new environment and more likely to stick closer to their owners. This can make off-leash control of a female easier at times than a male.
Females tend to mature quicker than males and hit that adult mentality at about 2 years of age. This can make training a female Doberman at a young age easier than a male as they tend to stay more focused during training sessions. Females need more affection than males to be happy but are less demanding about getting it from their owners.
When bringing a female Doberman into a home with other female dogs, it’s important to note that female-on-female aggression may be an issue especially if the dogs are close in age. Female Dobermans get in less frequent conflicts with dogs of the same sex than males do, but when they occur they’re usually more serious in nature with frequent injuries.
Choosing the Lineage
What lineage your Doberman comes from arguably makes the biggest impact on how he or she will ultimately behave. Their genetic influences can more than make up for the sometimes subtle behavior differences between the specific variety or sex of the dog. Remember to always ask your breeder what they’re breeding for in their puppies. Are they breeding for champion working dogs or family dogs? This will tell you a lot about the likely genetic influences in the dog’s behavior.
Dobermans bred from working lines tend to possess higher levels of energy, more drive, more determination, and require high levels of focused daily training. They tend to be difficult for the average family to own and are almost never recommended for a first-time dog owner.
Working lines are happiest when they have regular tasks to accomplish during the day, especially those requiring physical exertion. If brought into a relaxed family environment without adequate daily exercise, it can lead to heightened levels of anxiety from the dog resulting in destructive chewing, barking, crying, and other negative behaviors. Intense working Dobermans without an outlet can also become a risk as biting problems can develop.
Dobermans bred from genetic lines focused more on behavior and temperament traits which are ideal for a family pet to possess tend to be a much better family dog. They’re generally calmer, easier to train, less stubborn or headstrong, and are recommended for first-time owners.
These dogs are happiest when they’re living in close proximity to the members of their family, have a predictable daily routine, and close interactions with the other members of their “pack” (or family). They tend to be more accepting of strangers and just generally easier to manage on a daily basis.
Choosing an Age
When buying a Doberman from a breeder, you rarely can select at what age to bring the dog home. It’s almost always when the dog is between 8 and 12 weeks of age. But adopting or rescuing a Doberman means you can get a dog of just about any age.
Puppies (8 Weeks – 1 Year)
Getting a Doberman as a puppy means you can bond with your dog from a very young age. You will be taking your puppy home while he or she is generally still within the “critical socialization window”, which occurs between 4 to 16 weeks of age. This is when the sights, sounds, and experiences a dog has will set the stage for their future behavior.
Getting a Doberman as a puppy means you can acclimate your dog during this critical window of time to the sights, noises, and experiences they’ll typically experience while living with you, potentially leading to a calmer adult dog later on. Also, by selecting a puppy instead of an adult it means you can train the dog from the beginning the way you want, ensuring there are no negative habits that result along the way.
- You can socialize them the way you want during the “critical socialization window”.
- You’re able to train the dog in your training style.
- You’ll get extra bonding time at a young age.
- You know the dog’s history.
- They’re more accepting of new experiences, people, dogs, and other animals,
- Often humans family members will bond tighter to puppies.
- A lower risk around children.
- Potty training takes a lot of time and attention.
- Socialization can be a big commitment.
- The biting and nipping stage during puppyhood is difficult with Dobermans.
- The teething stage is diffult and it’s often hard to avoid destructive chewing in the house.
- Constant attention is needed during the early stages (prior to 1 year of age).
However, the dog will need a very high level of focus and attention from you during the first year of development. This means you’ll have your work cut out for you with potty training, the puppy nipping/biting stage, teething, and socialization.
“To increase the chances of a Doberman getting along with another dog in the house, make sure there is at least a 6 month age difference between the two dogs. Although a 2 year age difference (or more) is preferred.”– John Walter, Canine Communication Certified (DobermanPlanet.com)
Adults (1 Year or More)
Choosing to get an adult Doberman generally means you’re adopting your dog from a rescue center or shelter. Adult Dobermans, especially those from a shelter or rescue, can have an unknown history. This means they may have bad habits, unpredictable behavior triggers, or may simply be used to a much different living environment than you provide.
- May be potty trained/house broken.
- Likely knows basic commands that you can build off of during training.
- Calmer and less hyper than a puppy.
- You get to see their adult temperament before committing.
- You miss early puppy bonding stages.
- You miss the “critical socialization window” making acclimation to your home life more difficult.
- They may have bad habbits.
- They may have unknown behavior triggers.
- They’ll likely have an unknown history.
- A higher risk around children.
Bringing home an adult Doberman means you are taking on a dog who you don’t know much about generally. The good news is you get to get a glimpse into the dog’s adult behavior before bringing the dog home, something that is not possible when buying a puppy.
However, if the dog has an unknown trigger, you may not discover this until you’ve already committed to owning the dog. This could also be scary if you have children in the house. Also, they may have developed bad habits at their previous home such as destructive chewing, leash pulling, or barking habits that they were permitted to get away with by their previous owner.
Dobermans given up to shelters or rescue centers are often done so because of behavior issues that the owner was not equipped to handle while other times it may simply be because an owner passed away or was no longer able to care for the dog. It’s impossible to know all the details with a rescue dog.
The main benefits to taking on an adult Doberman are that you can skip a lot of the more difficult stages in a dog’s life that occur during puppyhood. They’re often at least partially housebroken, leash trained, and may already understand some basic commands.
Choosing a Color
The primary differences between Dobermans of different colors are how the dog looks, and their health concerns. Very rarely do behavior traits have anything to do with color. The differences between health, colors, and any notes about temperament are listed below.
Black and Rust
This is the most common color of Doberman per the American Kennel Club (AKC). This is also the most traditional look for a Doberman and it’s the color combination more often seen in movies and television. It’s generally believed to be the color with the fewest health concerns and easiest to find when searching for a Doberman. This color is created via a dominant gene in Dobermans which is why it’s seen more frequently.
Key Deciding Factors
- The “classic” Doberman color.
- Most easily recognizable as a Doberman.
- The most popular color.
- The least health concerns.
- Can compete in any breed competitions.
The black and rust Doberman is also most quickly and easily identifiable as a Doberman which is one reason they’re a popular choice for guard work—intruders who recognize a dog as a Doberman are less likely to challenge that dog. This is considered a “standard color” for both American and European Dobermans and they can compete in any dog show or event.
Red and Rust
The red and rust Doberman is the second most popular and common color of Doberman. These dogs are generally thought to be a bit more easy-going and less territorial than black and rust Dobermans. Although, there are no studies to back this assertion up, and this is simply conjecture among those in the Doberman community.
Key Deciding Factors
- Second most popular color.
- Thought to be easy going and less territorial.
- Prone to some skin and fur issues.
- Can compete in any breed competitions.
They are a bit more prone to skin and fur issues than the black and rust Dobermans which are usually mild and easily treatable. These issues include acne and hair thinning or loss. This is considered a “standard color” for both American and European Dobermans and they’re able to compete in all dog shows and events.
Blue and Rust
The blue and rust Dobermans (often called a “grey”, “silver”, or “purple” Doberman) usually appear to be more of a grey color. This color is made via a color dilution gene that causes the pigmentation of an otherwise black and rust Doberman to become “diluted” in appearance.
Key Deciding Factors
- Less common color.
- Same temperament as black and rust Dobermans.
- Prone to skin and fur concerns.
- Prone to Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA).
- May be excluded from some European Kennel Club competitions.
They’re often considered less desirable and are therefore bred less often by breeders, making them rarer than the black or red Dobermans. These dogs have the same temperament as black and rust Dobermans with a few additional potential health concerns.
Blue and rust Dobermans are especially prone to skin and fur problems such as ingrown hairs, staph infections, and acne. They’re also very prone to a condition called Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA). This is a condition that is passed down genetically and can cause thinning hair, hair loss, and dry and itchy skin. This color is considered a standard color only for American Dobermans but not Europeans. As a result, they may be disqualified from entering certain competitions put on by European Kennel Clubs.
Fawn and Rust
The fawn and rust Doberman (also often called “Isabella” Dobermans) are essentially red and rust Dobermans who also have inherited the color dilution gene. This “dilutes” the pigmentation in their coat resulting in a fawn color, instead of a red.
Key Deciding Factors
- The least common of the four standard colors.
- Same temperament as red and rust Dobermans.
- Prone to skin and fur concerns.
- Prone to Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA).
- May be excluded from some European Kennel Club competitions.
These are also often considered to be somewhat less desirable and are often avoided by breeders, making them a rare find. These dogs have the same temperament as the red and rust Dobermans but do have additional health concerns.
These health concerns, same as with the blue Dobermans, involve their skin and coat. They are more prone to acne, ingrown hairs, and staph infections. They are also prone to Color Dilution Alopecia (CDA) which is a genetic condition that can cause hair thinning, hair loss, and dry and itchy skin. This color is considered a standard color for American Dobermans but not European Dobermans. They may be disqualified from entering certain competitions put on my European Kennel Clubs.
The white Dobermans (also often referred to as “albino”) is the most controversial color of Doberman. This rare color is considered by many in the Doberman world to be the least desirable due to its potential for skin, health, and even potentially behavioral issues.
Key Deciding Factors
- Very rare.
- Possible behavior problems due to inbreeding.
- Prone to skin and fur concerns.
- Prone to sun burns.
- Prone to cancerous skin tumours.
- Prone to eyesight problems, especially in bright light.
- Excluded from kennel club competitions.
Many professionals in the Doberman world claim that significant levels of inbreeding and limited gene pools within the white Doberman lines have resulted in dogs with behavioral and health issues. Many consider it immoral to continue to breed for white-colored Dobermans.
Common health concerns of white Dobermans include eyesight issues (especially in bright lighting), the potential for sunburns, and increased rates of cancerous skin tumors. You can learn a lot more about the white Doberman in my article The White Doberman Pinscher: Pictures, Cost, Health, and More.
While the colors listed above are the most common and recognized colors for Dobermans, you can learn all there is to know about the various colors of Doberman that exist such as the all-black Doberman (and many more) in my article All the Colors and Types of the Doberman Pinscher.
Example Situations and Dog Choices
Below are some examples of specific owners and their situations along with a recommendation for a specific type of Doberman that would be likely to fit their needs. These are merely recommendations and don’t mean that other types, sexes, ages, or lineages of Dobermans won’t work, simply that these recommendations are more likely to be an ideal fit for the types of owners listed below.
- A single woman without much dog experience, living alone, who isn’t highly active, and wanting protection – A great choice for this person would be a female American Doberman who is a puppy and from pet lines. American Dobermans are great for new owners, as are puppies (adults can have past behavior issues that require experienced owners). American lines with a pet lineage are also better for those who aren’t active or experienced dog owners. Also, a female is great as they love bonding with one individual very tightly and tend to be very protective of that person.
- An experienced dog owner, who is very social, and wishing to get involved in Search and Rescue (SAR) work – A great choice for this person would be a male European Doberman who is either a puppy or adult, and from working lines. Males are known for being very socially accepting of new people which is great for a social person like this. Also, Europeans are fantastic for roles as working dogs. An experienced owner should be able to handle either an adult or puppy.
- A family who is moderately active, inexperienced raising working breeds, and consists of multiple young children – A great choice for this family would be a male or female American Doberman, who is a puppy, and from pet lines. Dobermans are active dogs and even though the American is less active, they can still easily keep up with most families. They’re also a bit better for owners inexperienced in raising working breeds. Getting the dog as a puppy and raising them with young children in the house allows for tight bonding with the kids and is much better than an adult Doberman with an unknown past.
- An experienced dog owner who is single, not very social or active, living alone, and wanting protection – A female American Doberman, who is either a puppy or an adult, and from pet lines would work great here. American Dobermans are a great fit for owners who may be less active. Female Dobermans also bond very tightly to one person, seem to do better in less social households, and are excellent at protecting that person.
- An extremely active backpacking enthusiast, who is highly social, experienced raising working breeds, and who wants a dog to train and hike with – A male European Doberman from working lines who is either an adult or puppy is a good fit here. European Dobermans are great for highly active individuals. A male Doberman is great for someone who is highly social and wants a dog to be open to new people and animals. Also, this owner should be able to handle behavior problems that may arise from the unknown past of an adult Doberman so they could thrive with either an adult or puppy.
- A single man who is not very social or active, and already owns a 2 year old male dog – A female American Doberman puppy from pet lines would be a great fit here. American Dobermans are better for those who are less active and a female Doberman is better for this person because he already owns a male dog (this will avoid “same sex aggression” issues in the house between the two dogs). Also, a puppy is best as this will ensure a 2 year age difference between the dogs, lessening the chances of the owner experiencing behavior issues with his dogs due to “littermate syndrome”.
In my opinion, the single biggest influence on the behavior of any given Doberman is what lineage he or she comes from. Meaning, what the dog was bred for. As an example, American Dobermans are generally calmer and easier for an average family to manage but I’ve seen working lines of American Dobermans who are incredibly intense as they were bred for working sports.
Similarly, I’ve seen European Dobermans bred for families who are very relaxed and easy to manage. So although we dissected many, often subtle, differences between the various types of Dobermans in this article, remember that the genetics of the individual puppy you choose is probably the strongest influence on that dog’s behavior.
If you want help choosing a specific puppy from a litter and gauging their individual genetic influences (very important when getting a puppy) you can see my article all about picking a specific Doberman puppy from a litter which will help you gauge how that dog is likely to behave as an adult.
Which Doberman breed is best? The best Doberman for a role as a family pet in a household that has frequent visitors is most commonly a male American Doberman Pinscher. The best Doberman for a highly active individual owner is most likely a female European Doberman.
What Doberman should I get? You should get a Doberman whose temperament closely matches your lifestyle. For example, a highly active owner living alone who wants a dog for protection should consider a female European Doberman while a relaxed family who has frequent visitors to the house should consider a male American Doberman.
Which Doberman is bigger? The biggest type of Doberman is generally considered to be a Warlock Doberman (also often called a King, Goliath, or Gladiator Doberman). Although these dogs are often not purebred Dobermans. The largest purebred Doberman is a European Doberman.
- 15 Places to Find Doberman Puppies for Sale: Best to Worst – This is a useful list of the best places to find Doberman breeders. This page rankes the various Doberman breeder directories from low risk to very high risk.