Choosing a new member of the family can be a daunting task! Since a dog will be with you for the next ten to fifteen years, you want to make sure that you and your new pet will be a good match. There’s much more to choosing a dog than looks; it’s important to consider temperament, size, exercise and grooming needs, health issues, personality, and more. If you have other pets, it’s also important to make sure that your new dog will get along with them!
Is a Doberman the right breed for you?
The first step in finding your new dog is to decide if a Doberman is the right breed for you. They are sleek, attractive dogs, alert and intelligent, and require little in the way of regular grooming. However, that doesn’t mean they are low-maintenance! Dobes are a high-energy breed; they require plenty of exercise and human attention. As with any dog, training is a must for Dobermans, so plan to set aside time for a training class or a regular training routine with your dog. If there are young children in your household, consider whether a Doberman is the right choice. Dobes are physically powerful dogs, and even in play or casual contact they might knock down or step on a toddler. Always supervise children and dogs to prevent accidents.
Dobermans are very athletic, and can make good companions for runners or cyclists. They also tend to excel at Agility, Rally, Obedience and other dog sports. They are not ideal couch-potato dogs; left on their own without something to keep them busy, they bore easily and will frequently find a way to entertain themselves (which might involve removing all the stuffing from your couch cushions!).
All dog breeds are prone to certain breed-specific health issues, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of these before choosing your breed. Some health risks are minor and can be mitigated by careful attention to diet or activities; others are more serious, and might require medication or major lifestyle changes.
Finding A Dog
If you’ve determined that a Doberman is the right breed for you, the next step is to find the right dog! Rescue organizations are very helpful in this regard, because their dogs are fostered in volunteers’ homes, and they can tell you about each individual dog’s temperament and personality. Rescue groups adopt out dogs of all ages, from puppy to senior. Many of these dogs also receive some basic manners training (including housetraining) in their foster homes, as well as veterinary care, vaccinations, spay/neuter, etc. Also, if you have other pets in your home and want to see how the new dog will interact with your current animals, rescue organizations will often allow your pets to meet with a potential adoptee to make sure they will get along.
If you are interested in meeting the Dobermans available for adoption in the Midwest, you can contact either of these organizations:
Finding A Breeder
If you have your heart set on bringing home a new puppy, first check with the rescues; litters of puppies are frequently handed over to rescue groups. If by some miracle they have adopted out all their young dogs, or if you are looking for a Doberman bred for a particular sport (such as Conformation), your next step is to find a reputable breeder.
Good breeders don’t advertise in the newspaper classifieds or on bulletin boards, and they are very choosy about what homes their puppies go to. If you are looking for a breeder, here are some things to look for:
- Health testing. A reputable breeder will be able to show you the test results of the parents’ OFA or PennHIP (hip), CERF (eye) and DNA tests for vWD and other disorders common to Dobermans. Also, ask what those dogs’ grandsires and granddams died of, and how old they were. Find out if there is a family history of any health problems such as DCM (cardiomyopathy).
- Titles. Look for letters before and after the dogs’ registered names! It’s not enough for a dog to be of “champion bloodlines” (which means only that somewhere in its genealogy, there was one dog who earned a championship). If your puppy’s sire and dam do not have a few conformation or performance titles, there has been no independent evaluation of the dogs’ physical structure and temperament. In other words, you have only the breeder’s word that the puppies will turn out healthy and sound.
- Contracts. A good breeder will offer you a purchase contract with a health guarantee and a return-to-breeder clause that stipulates they can take the dog back if you don’t keep it for any reason. Good breeders care about the dogs they produce, and they don’t want their puppies to go to shelters!
- Referrals. Talk to local rescue groups, breed clubs and veterinarians and ask their opinion of that breeder’s dogs. Attend dog shows or trials and watch that breeder’s dogs in action.
If you don’t find the right dog or breeder right away, don’t give up; it may take quite a bit of research to find the perfect pet for your family. Take your time choosing, and enjoy the years with your perfect Doberman!