How Even Untrained Dobermans Will Protect Their Owners

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Doberman barking while on a leash.

One of the most desirable features of the Doberman breed is its protection abilities. This is what draws a lot of families I work with to the Doberman breed in the first place. However, most owners either don’t want to or aren’t able to, get their dog’s “protection trained”. So this begs the question, will a completely untrained Doberman protect its owner—out of instincts alone?

An untrained Doberman will often instinctually protect its owner from a perceived threat such as an intruder in the house. How likely a Doberman is to physically intervene is dependent on factors such as its training, confidence, past experiences, and its bond to its owner.

The Doberman breed possesses an impressive set of behavior traits that make them highly likely to instinctually protect their owners from harm. Additionally, with even just minor confidence reinforcement through specific activities during daily playtimes, an owner can increase their Doberman’s confidence levels and therefore the likelihood the dog will physically protect them if needed.

Physical Traits Great for Protection Work

Physically, the Doberman is certainly cut out for protection work and it’s obvious that this is the case while simply looking at a Doberman. Here are some of the physical traits that make this dog so perfectly cut out for protection work.

  • Physical Stature – Dobermans are large and powerful standing at between 24 to 28 inches tall and weighing between 60 and 100 pounds (source). They also have a deep broad chest which is a great asset for taking down a human or any large animal.
  • Muscle Mass – The Doberman is known for having lots of lean muscle mass which is impressive to look at but also means they’re very strong.
  • Mouth and Jaw – Dobermans also have a mouth that can open extremely wide, allowing whatever they’re biting on to go all the way to the back of their mouth where they can get plenty of leverage for biting, which is partially why their bite is so strong. You can read more in my article all about the bite force of the Doberman.
  • Head – The Doberman posseses a wedge shaped head that is not oversized like some other breeds. This, combined with an often thick neck means the Doberman is incredibly hard to gain control of through a choking type manuever.

Additionally, the Doberman Pinscher traditionally has cropped ears and a docked tail. This reduces the handholds for an attacker to gain control of the dog and also makes them more alert in appearance. This is why the creator of the breed originally had his Doberman’s ears cropped and tails docked (for protection work).

You can learn more about why Doberman’s ears are cropped here: Doberman Ear Cropping Pros & Cons. Also, you can find out all the reasons why tail docking is done here: Doberman Tail Docking Pros & Cons.

The Doberman’s Guarding Instincts

Doberman Pinschers are the world’s only dog breed specifically created to excel at the personal protection of their handlers. The breed was created by a tax collector and night watchman during the 1890s named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. He also happened to be the local dog catcher in his small town of Apolda, Germany.

This meant that Mr. Dobermann had access to many different breeds of dogs. So he set out to create the ideal personal protection dog that would accompany him on his rounds collecting taxes and performing duties as a nightwatchman. Through selective breeding, he eventually came up with the dog we know today as the Doberman Pinscher.

The Doberman has an impressive natural drive to guard and protect its owners. This comes with some really cool instinctual qualities that are engrained in this breed.

Instinctual Features of Dobermans Great for Protection Work

  • Highly Intune with Their Owners – Dobermans are known for being highly intune with their owners. So much so that it is often said they can sense how apprehensive their owners are about a given situation while out on a walk “down the leash” and react accordingly.
  • Fearless – Dobermans are known to be fearless when compared to most other dog breeds. They are much more likely to challenge a scary situation than they are to run from it. Another great trait for a guard dog.
  • Suspicious of Strangers – These dogs are naturally suspicious of strangers, although this depends on their levels of socialization when young and other factors. In fact, female Dobermans are known for being much more suspicious of strangers than males. You can learn more in my article Are Male or Female Dobermans Better Guard Dogs.
  • High Drive and Determination – Dobermans love having a task to accomplish and have a natural drive to accomplish that task no matter what. This means they are incredibly difficult to discourage from continuing an attack if they have decided to physically intervene to protect their owner.
  • Highly Trainable – In the book “The Intelligence of Dogs” Dr. Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia, concluded that the Doberman was able to understand new commands in fewer than five repetitions and obey the first command 95% of the time or better (source). This places the Doberman among the most trainable dogs in the world, perfect for guard work.
  • Loyalty – Dobermans are known as one of the most loyal breeds on the planet. This is one reason militaries and police departments are actually using the Doberman less often. They have a hard time changing handlers. However, this is a great trait for a family protection dog.
  • Stay Close to Their Owners – Dobermans are known as “velcro dogs” meaning they have a strong natural desire to stick close to their owner’s sides and make sure they don’t go anywhere alone. Another great trait for a protection dog.
  • Intelligent Problem Solvers – Dr. Stanley Coren, PhD also concluded that the Doberman was the 5th most intelligent dog breed in the world. They are apt problem solvers and when combined with their drive and determination, this makes them an extremely formidable protection dog.

Clearly, the creator of the breed did amazingly well in selecting traits to preserve as he was selectively breeding. He created a dog that has many natural traits that make them perfect for guard and protection work.

A Doberman dimly lit in the dark appearing highly alert.
The appearance of a Doberman is often enough by itself to send an intruder running, due to their reputation as guard dogs.

Natural Protection Behavior

A Doberman, even one that has never been trained in protection work or bite sports, can often be seen exhibiting natural protective behaviors that are completely instinctual to them. Below are some examples of behaviors you’re likely to see from a Doberman.

  • Sleeping Facing the Door – Dobermans can most often be found sleeping with their backs to the wall and facing the doorway or enterance to a room. This is especially true when sleeping with their owners in new enviornments.
  • Sticking Close to Their Owners in New Environments – This breed will naturally stick closer to the side of their owners while in new or unusual environments, especially female Dobermans.
  • Checking in with Their Owners Frequently – If let off leash, most Dobermans will often periodically check back in with their owners. Usually every couple of minutes.
  • Protective or Aggressive Behavior When Their Owners are Anxious – This is most often seen while an owner is out on a walk and becomes tense in an unusual situtation. Dobermans can sense this tension and will often react accordingly.
  • Checking the Perimeter of Their Property – You’ll often notice that when a Doberman is let into their yard after being kept away, they’ll immediately run around the perimeter searching and smelling the area for any changes since they last left.

These are common behaviors you’re likely to naturally see out of any Doberman, even completely untrained ones. These behaviors, which come naturally to the Doberman, are incredibly useful to an owner wanting a protection dog.

Dealing with Intruders

Whether or not a Doberman will physically protect its owner when an intruder breaks into the home is dependant on many factors including that specific dog’s personality, level of training, confidence, and more. It is not a given that a Doberman will automatically protect its owner, although Dobermans are arguably one of the most likely breeds to do this.

European Dobermans especially are most likely to physically intervene if an intruder breaks into their home, although many American lines will as well. You can learn more about this, and other differences between these two varieties in my article American vs. European Doberman: A Side-by-Side Comparison.

Almost all Dobermans will alert and bark at an intruder, and many will physically intervene. Especially if that intruder is becoming physical with someone in the house. Dobermans, like many dogs, understand the significance when a situation turns physical, versus when it’s verbal only.

Training Your Doberman to Protect You

There are some things that you as the owner can do to help encourage your Doberman to physically protect you if the need arises. Below are some of the things you can do to help with this.

  • Build Confidence – The number one thing any owner can do to increase the chances of a Doberman protecting them if needed, is to build that dog’s confidence. Confident Dobermans almost always intervene when needed. Confidence building games such as tug-of-war or agility games great ways to do this. I made a video all about building confidence in a Doberman which you can see here.
  • Bite Sports/Training – Many owners will get their dogs involved in bite sports such as IGP, IPO, or Shutzhund. This is a great way to get your Doberman confident in protecting you when needed. To excell at this sport you need to have a Doberman who knows when it’s appropriate to be protective and when it’s not.
  • Build a Stronger Bond – The stronger the bond between you and your dog, the more likely they are to put themselves in harms way for you when needed. Spend time with your dog, train them, work with them, and include them in family events. The more bonding time the better.
  • Increase in Socialization – The more socialized your dog is, the more relaxed they’ll be in new situations. Having a socialized Doberman isn’t just great for a relaxed family dog, it’s also great for a protection dog because they’ll more easily be able to tell when a situation is “unusual” or “abnormal” and will be more likely to react appropriately.

Past Examples of Dobermans Protecting Their Owners

There are many examples of Doberman protecting their owners in various ways when needed. You’ll notice below that the intelligence of these dogs means they won’t just protect you from a burglar or attacker, but they are smart enough to realize when they need to protect you from other things like snakes.

Example 1 – Doberman Takes a Bullet Defending It’s Owner

On September 1st of 2020, a 58-year-old man was returning home after withdrawing cash from the local bank when two men, armed with guns, approached and threatened the man. They told the owner that they were going to shoot him when the man’s granddaughter opened the gate to their property without realizing what was happening.

When she did that, the family Doberman “Niki” can be seen on a security camera assessing the situation before physically attacking the assailants. The dog was shot but made a full recovery. The owner said the following about what Niki did, “She saved my life…They would have shot me, they told me they were going to shoot me.”

Video of This Incident

Example 2 – Doberman Saves Baby from Snake Attack

In 2007, a family rescued an adult Doberman name “Khan” from an animal shelter. The Doberman had come to the shelter as an abused dog who had been starved and beaten and had multiple broken ribs. The family who adopted Khan had a one-and-a-half-year-old girl, Charlotte. Only four days after the family rescued Khan, Charlotte was playing in her backyard when with Khan nearby.

At the time, Charlotte’s mother saw Khan “pushing” Charlotte away while she was playing. Khan had spotted a King Brown Snake, near Charlotte (the world’s third more venomous snake). As Khan wasn’t succeeding at pushing Charlotte away from the snake, he eventually grabbed her and threw her away from the snake.

Khan the Doberman was then bitten by the deadly snake shortly after. He was treated and made a full recovery. You can read more about this story here.

Example 3 – Doberman Shot Defending Owner from Armed Intruder

In 2011, a five-year-old Doberman named Zeus was let out of the house by his owner into his backyard when Zeus ran around the side of the home. His owner followed closely behind, but before the owner got to the corner of the home where he could see Zeus, the owner heard a gunshot, and Zeus “yelp”.

This gave the homeowner enough warning to quickly turn around and run back into the home for safety, calling authorities. Zeus recovered from his injures. You can see a video of the news report here.

Example 4 – Doberman Bites Home Intruder

In 2018 a home intruder broke into Vicky Cataldo’s house in Edmond, Oklahoma. Vicky’s daughter was inside the home alone with their 10-year-old Doberman Pinscher named “Prince”. Prince had never been trained to bite and was only raised to be a family dog.

Vicky stated that she believed the intruder was watching her house and broke in only once he saw all the cars leave. That’s when the suspect opened up the front door and came into the house. The dog quickly bit the intruder who ran from the scene screaming.

News Report on This Incident

Example 5 – Doberman Attacks Potential Burglar During the Night

YouTuber “amikegyver” posted security camera footage from his property in July of 2017. He reported that a trespasser came onto his property before his Doberman chased him away.

In the video, the potential burglar can be seen scoping the property for an entry point. He finally came within the fence line when a large Doberman shows up and appears to be aggressively pursuing the intruder before he is sent scrambling back up over the fence and off into the darkness.

Video of This Incident

Final Thoughts

Dobermans were bred from the beginning to be the ideal personal protection dogs and they certainly excel at that role. Their intelligence, drive, determination, loyalty, and fearlessness all play a huge role in why they are so great at protecting their families.

If you’re looking, as I was many years ago, for the ideal family dog who could double as a great personal protection dog, I would strongly suggest you consider the Doberman since they’re naturally great at protecting your family from an intruder with very little, or even no, training.

John Walter and Cooper, his Doberman Pinscher.

About the author

John Walter is a Family Doberman Specialist, holds a CPD certification in Canine Communication, and is an active dog trainer specializing in the Doberman Pinscher breed. He's been quoted in Doberman Network Magazine, Bark Magazine, Doberman Dispatch, and he's the founder of Doberman Planet. Learn More

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