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Just after some training advice

Argos

New Member
Hi, I am new to Dobermans and the website and wondering if anyone could give some general training advice. I am in the UK and have a slightly odd situation where I have been looking after a neighbour’s Doberman for the last ten months - at first the owner and the bitch pup were both living with us but for the last eight months the owner has just been dropping in for a few hours every few weeks to see her. The pup has done better being in a stable environment - she was imported from Serbia as a lockdown purchase, delivered in the back of a car, and turned out to be 27 weeks old on seeing her passport. She had diahorrea and then one episode of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, but we have found food that suits her and now at 15 months old the vet says she is in excellent condition.
However, this is not a breed I know or to be honest would have chosen. We love her very much but have always had rescue border collies which are not easy themselves but in a different way. She has settled in brilliantly with an elderly collie bitch, a three-year-old dog collie, and an eighteen-month-old feral bitch (something like your Carolina dogs) - all neutered as rescues, all obedience trained and good-tempered. The Doberman is bottom of the pecking order and happy there, being quite shy. There are only two adults in the house, my husband works from home, we have no dog dominance issues and all the dogs live in the house and have access at all times to a large enclosed concrete yard. When we are around the dogs come around the 20 acres we live on. Otherwise she gets one good walk with lots of loose running in the morning and a shorter walk seeing to the horses in the fields in the evening. She sleeps in a crate in a room with the other dogs.
My questions for those of you with experience of this breed are the following.
- she can be nervous-aggressive although this is improving as she gets older. She nipped a random running guy on a footpath 7 months ago and I have been taking her weekly to group obedience training since - she went straight through Kennel Club Bronze good citizen award test and is expected to easily pass the Silver Award in October. But she remains unpredictable with people and I do not trust her with children. She is fine if we accept people into the yard and just stays back to look them over before greeting, but if someone enters the yard unaccompanied she sometimes just barks a bit, sometimes is more jumping up and barking in their faces. Kids she can stare at and sometimes jump up at even on a leash. She has good training focus (she clicker-trained for eye contact really fast and is totally focussed at group training classes - we do retrieve, wait and recall loose amongst a changing group of 10 mixed dogs no problem) so I have been distracting her with commands and exercises when kids come along and it has worked well, but any advice on predicting her behaviour better? I did not like the speed at which the nip happened - it caused a blood-blister but the guy was very nice about it because she was a puppy. She is tall and 29 kgs now and I think he would be less forgiving. I especially don’t like the attitude to small children but we can’t easily desensitise her with none at home - how do you ask someone if you can use their kid as a guinea-pig?!
- When I took her to the vet for her jabs last month she wouldn’t go near him and was guarding/staring - I gave her to the veterinary nurse and left the room and she was fine - they jabbed her, weighed her, listened to her heart etc without needing a muzzle though I told them she was muzzle-trained and to use one if they wanted. The vet was happy enough with this solution but is there’s a way you can train Dobermans turn off the guarding behaviour in veterinary or similar situations? And is this closer relationship with me than I expected going to be a problem if her owner decides he does wants her after all? She has bonded with us, and she is her owner’s first dog bar a Labrador when he was a young kid.
- we spent effort introducing her to the horses and she is excellent with them and cows, avoiding them quietly and coming out riding with the horse sometimes. Sheep are a different matter! We haven’t let an incident happen but she is way too keen. If they are still or come over she sniffs them and does nothing but if they run she would chase given a chance. Any ideas how to control this? Our other dogs are all 100% with stock so she is getting no encouragement. We are surrounded by farms so this is important.
- she is pleasingly sociable with other dogs if they are polite - at training she slam-dunked an aggressive young dog that got loose off his longline and went straight for her with his teeth out. She got him on the ground with lots of fangs and barking but no contact and he ran away - the trainer shrugged it off as a completely reasonable reaction to a stranger rushing up yelling at her and commented on her self-control. However, she is horrified by the little Maltipoos and things that meet and greet by being over-friendly and waving their feet in her face. My other dogs are unimpressed by this but she is horrified and air-snaps and retreats behind me. Ditto very young puppies who are OTT - she is a bit horrified on a leash, better off a leash. Do Dobermans have a bigger sense of personal space than other breeds / are more stand-offish? She is good at the moment with other dogs and I want that to continue, not to muck it up by getting a situation wrong. Also, my trainer says entire young bitches can be more flighty than neutered bitches (she has had one season) - is this your experience and does it settle down? I have only had rescue dogs, already neutered.
Sorry this is such a long post but I feel a bit cut loose with this dog and you all seem to know the breed well. For what it is worth she is I cropped, undocked, and likes to cuddle except when she is stealing shoes and rough-housing with her feral dog sister. Then she is like a cross between a kangaroo and a crocodile! I am grateful for any advice you can offer on getting it right so, whatever happens, she has the best chance of a good future.
 

Firestar Dobe

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Dobermans are personal protection dogs. That is what they have been bred for. Because of this, Dobes usually prefer their owners to all others under any circumstances. When they are in the yard without their owners they may become much more wary of strangers and become more protective. They are known as "Velcro dogs" due to the fact of how much they want and need to be with their "people". They are happiest when glued to your side! As far as children are concerned, they can be amazing with them once trained. I tell all my students (I am an Obedience Instructor) to remember that dogs are not toys and play time needs to be monitored by an adult. I also tell the ones with Dobes to remember how powerful they are, and though they are very loving, they are not the Golden Retriever type of dog. Until the dog is extremely well trained, they should be monitored around kids and strangers (mine are well trained but I still keep a sharp eye on them). I am always cautious when out and about with my girls no matter who may be around. I never let anyone just come up to them and pet them unless I tell them they can. You will need a lot of patience, but it is very much worth the effort. I always tell my husband "there are dogs and there are Dobermans"! :rofl:

Welcome from Wisconsin! :ntmy:
 

Argos

New Member
Thank you for your welcome and advice, Firestar Dobe - really helpful to hear from a trainer as well as a Doberman owner :) I hear your warning about keeping a sharp eye on any interaction with kids even if she does improve and yes, she is physically becoming very powerful although she doesn’t yank you around on the leash when walking. Dobermans are not that common in rural southern UK so people tend to be wary rather than want to pet them, which is helpful.
She is rather gluey, yes. She does guilt-trip eyes if you go out in the car without her, although the collies are gluey too so not a surprise.
Do you only let your Dobermans off-leash in isolated places? We tend to walk early and in big open areas so we miss most other dog-walkers and can see any coming. Her off-leash recall is good even if she sees someone else in the distance. Or am I taking a risk?
I will go with the patience then! I am working on a distance ‘Stop’ command and on recall from distraction. Can you think of any other key exercises that will help keep her safe and controlled in public spaces?
Thank you ever so much again.
 

Firestar Dobe

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Thank you for your welcome and advice, Firestar Dobe - really helpful to hear from a trainer as well as a Doberman owner :) I hear your warning about keeping a sharp eye on any interaction with kids even if she does improve and yes, she is physically becoming very powerful although she doesn’t yank you around on the leash when walking. Dobermans are not that common in rural southern UK so people tend to be wary rather than want to pet them, which is helpful.
She is rather gluey, yes. She does guilt-trip eyes if you go out in the car without her, although the collies are gluey too so not a surprise.
Do you only let your Dobermans off-leash in isolated places? We tend to walk early and in big open areas so we miss most other dog-walkers and can see any coming. Her off-leash recall is good even if she sees someone else in the distance. Or am I taking a risk?
I will go with the patience then! I am working on a distance ‘Stop’ command and on recall from distraction. Can you think of any other key exercises that will help keep her safe and controlled in public spaces?
Thank you ever so much again.

I know may people let their Dobermans off leash, including my son who also has 2 Dobes. I have let them off leash when we are hiking in the forest. The problem with my girls is that even off leash they refuse to run or move more than 6 inches away from us! Maybe because I not only trained them, but I use the as "demo" dogs for my obedience classes. We have a fenced in yard so they have plenty of room to run and they do get the zoomies. Yet when we are out, they refuse to leave our side even though they both have high prey drives! I did forget to mention that in my last post, that many Dobermans have crazy high prey drive, which may explain your Dobes reaction to sheep! And yes, as time goes on you will most definitely be able to spot her body tension, movement (or non-movement) and facial expression to warn you of a behavior you don't want. It will be easier the longer you train and work with her. As for other exercises in obedience, one of my favorites is "leave it". I apply this when ever I want them to stop doing something. I started with a treat on the floor and would tell them to leave it, if they came toward it I would cover it with my foot. They would get a reward once they no longer looked in the direction of the treat. Then I would put the treat on my knee while I was watching TV or reading in the evening and again cover it with my hand if they even looked at it. Once they had that down, I would put a "bait" out where I would be walking them and then give the command to leave it. Now, even if they are interested in a rabbit, person, noise, all I need to do is say leave it in a firm loud voice and they do. You just need to do daily living training. Sitting before being fed. Sitting at the door before being let out or in. Allowing you to go through a door first. Doing long downs or sit stays while cooking, doing dishes, watching TV etc. I love doing doggie sit ups with them...sit, down, sit, down. I am sure there a ton of other things to do and you will get many ideas from different people here. You got this, no problem!

Oh and...pictures please! We would love to see her and your other dogs as well!
 

Argos

New Member
That is really really helpful training - I will get on with the ‘Leave it’ exercise from today. A lot of the manners and long stay exercises you mention we have to do for the KC awards so that fits in really well, too, and won’t surprise her. The other two younger dogs are doing obedience and KC awards, too, so they can all join in. Thank you so much for taking all this trouble to advise, I am very grateful. Photo attached from early morning on the beach a few weeks ago - not great quality, will try for a better one tomorrow.
 

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Firestar Dobe

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That is really really helpful training - I will get on with the ‘Leave it’ exercise from today. A lot of the manners and long stay exercises you mention we have to do for the KC awards so that fits in really well, too, and won’t surprise her. The other two younger dogs are doing obedience and KC awards, too, so they can all join in. Thank you so much for taking all this trouble to advise, I am very grateful. Photo attached from early morning on the beach a few weeks ago - not great quality, will try for a better one tomorrow.
No trouble at all! You will find that the members on here are always ready to help and share their knowledge. I was so happy back when I found this forum, it is the best Doberman forum around. No one judges anybody, we just all share our love of Dobermans!
So glad you found Doberman Chat!

Your dogs are adorable!
 
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Firestar Dobe

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Love it! Back when my husband and I got married we had a horse boarding stable. We owned a Belgian Draft horse and a Welsh Pony. I miss those days!
 

Kaiser2016

Active Member
have a slightly odd situation where I have been looking after a neighbour’s Doberman for the last ten months - at first the owner and the bitch pup were both living with us but for the last eight months the owner has just been dropping in for a few hours every few weeks to see her. The pup has done better being in a stable environment...
...However, this is not a breed I know or to be honest would have chosen.
Odd situation indeed. It's hard enough to raise a Doberman when you KNOWINGLY go into this! 🙃That's very generous of you to put in all this effort 👏 Also, what is this person's issue that they keep visiting but can't care for their own dog? It does sound like you have a pretty good handle on the training situation though.
she is stealing shoes and rough-housing with her feral dog sister.
Stealing shoes must be a Dobie thing because several around here love to do this, mine included. It does not surprise me that a feral dog would make a good play partner for a Doberman 😄 They have soooo much energy and not all breeds like to play rough like a Doberman. The first time I saw 2 Dobermans playing, I actually thought they were fighting!

Re kids, we don't have any, so we exposed Kaiser to kids by walking near a school so he could observe kids on bikes/skateboards and such. We did have a baby visit the house recently and he was very interested in figuring her out. Once she started crying, he barked at her making her cry more so then he barked more 🙄 By the end of the visit he was licking her feet, with no risk of him biting her. He definitely did not like it when my hb held the baby though - he is bonded more closely to him.

Re sheep, well, Dobermans can be good at herding, I don't know if you want to test that out on your own sheep lol. Little dogs are very annoying and he will paw slap them nowadays. When he was under 3, he had plenty of little dogs running out to bark in his face and used to not care, but now if it happens, he'll make them go away. I think maturity has a lot to do with it and he's now 5. It is said that females mature much faster though.
 

Argos

New Member
Hi Kaiser2016, thanks ever so much for the feedback re shoes, kids and sheep. Yes, the feral dog is a good partner as - like all truly feral-bred dogs - she has brilliant social skills and body language with other dogs. Genetic selection in the original sense, if you are anti-social you don’t make adult. And she is a rough-tough little player without being mean. Although having two ‘teens’ at the same time was a bit trying for a while!
Trawling past schools for a while is a good idea for some distance exposure, although that had better be me not my husband or he could get some weird looks! I think you have a point about bikes/skateboards - the movement thing is big with collies and with what Firestar Dobe said about high hunting drive it might be noise and movement that she needs to get more used to with kids.
Crossed fingers with the small dog thing...watch this space.
How to be fair to everyone in the situation? Short version: very nice new guy buying derelict house next door, we say he can stay over a few days while the sale completes, he turns up to stay with an impulse-purchase Doberman puppy he has had 24 hours. Then November lockdown hits and they both stay for a month. Puppy sale stinks - 3 day return period in London expired, no paperwork at first, totally unregistered European microchip, no support or info on what she has been eating etc, four days in transit across Europe then time in ‘pet shop’ quarantining, then a car boot to London and then his car boot to us. No training at all. He has no knowledge at all so we house-train her to start with (it is our house taking the mess!) Sold as 16 weeks old at time of delivery, passport when it turns up says she was 27 weeks old. All wrong. Lockdown ends, puppy hauled around for a month between us, London and when he works abroad his mother’s place where she has 14 days of constant diarrhoea, vomiting and howling and comes back to ours looking like hell with ropey inflamed intestines you can feel and weighing 20kgs. At which point I put her on chicken and rice and tell him to leave her here - haemorrhagic gastro-enteritis within a week but he is working abroad and so she goes to my vet - she has never seen a vet before this point. Then lockdown January-March and he is stuck in the Middle East and she is here and getting settled. When he comes back she is not the puppy he bought, which shocks him; she is also having her first season and different in temper with his parents and his mother’s dog. She doesn’t look so spindly and elegant as the puppy-skinny version and she isn’t bonded with him though she is friendly. So he is back and forth and even if he wants a ‘Puppy puppy puppy puppy’ moment within 5 minutes he is back on the laptop or phone working. It isn’t actually his fault: he was told she was suitable for him and in 4 weeks lockdown she would magically become a perfect companion / personal guard through her genes. He pays for her food and any vet bills, and he insured her for public liability when I asked him to after the incident with the runner. He made a mistake. The people who need shooting are the Serbian breeder and the UK ‘pet shop’ (importer) who made no effort to find out if he would be a suitable owner and just wanted to cash in.
Are we being used? Yes. But from a selfish POV, I looked ahead and saw an adult untrained Doberman next door and wanted her to at least know us, our dogs, cat and horses so we were safe. Then you fall in love with them, don’t you, and I thought the dog needed a chance if she was going to be rehomed and the more socialised / trained the better. And then I realised she is a good, trainable dog that needs the stimulus and gets so excited when she gets it right, and suddenly she is part of the family. Basically, cut away all the human error and people making money and using each other and at the centre there’s is a super dog that has every chance to go wrong. I’m not going to watch a slow-motion car crash. The rescue centres in the UK are braced for the wave of Covid puppies being discarded and she doesn’t deserve to be one of them. So we sustain the status quo until he works it out and in the meantime she is getting a fair deal.
 

Argos

New Member
Firestar Dobe, loved your horse talk! We live in the middle of farms and forestry and some of the local guys still use Belgian drafts for logging on steep slopes / inaccessible areas - they are so neat-footed and sensible, I watched a demo at a show last summer. You lucky devil to have had one. Welshies are my favourite cobs - I lost one this spring but still have a couple of Welsh Section D x TBs which are great riding horses. Welsh cobs in the UK can be surprisingly hot to handle, quite Araby, lots of snorting and bouncing on the spot at times - are they similar in the States? You need a sense of humour. They will amble past a combine-harvester then have a nervous breakdown about a big leaf in the hedge!
 

Two Dobes

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WOW....you sound like an amazing person. I hope that guy does not want her back?? You seem to have a pretty good handle on the entire situation, and great that you look for advice here. Wonderful that you were able to step up and keep her (hopefully forever) and help her through her early illnesses and unsettled behavior. Dobermans thrive on consistency and structure. Please stay in touch on here....Keep up the amazing work, and love your photos!!!
 

Two Dobes

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Also, meant to add that you may want to train her on an E collar for off leash exercise. Once she is trained with it, it is great insurance even though you said her recall is spot on. I feel better to be safe than sorry.
 

Argos

New Member
Two Dobes, you are SO kind but we are only patching up a situation that shouldn’t have happened. :( If I was more experienced with Dobies like you lot I might have done a better job from the start. BUT I have been reading past threads like an addict the last few months and got a lot of reassurance and ideas from them, even on silly things like why her claws don’t wear back naturally like the other dogs!
Thanks for the comment on consistency and structure - bit like kids, then. Most animals do prefer routine I suppose. I hadn’t thought about e-collars but it is a good idea to look into and I know security dog handlers train with them a lot in the UK. I might have to find a trainer who is experienced with them as I don’t think my trainer has ever used one - she certainly hasn’t mentioned them. Safe than sorry agreed - there is an understanding of the ‘first bite’ rule in the UK. Unless your pet dog really hurts someone it is accepted that an owner/handler could not necessarily predict a dog’s first bite of someone...but in incidents after that first one the law throws the book at you if you haven’t taken steps to make the dog safe in public.
She is legally not my dog. Period. Not making ultimatums in case it pushes her owner to cash her in - theoretically she is supposedly quite well bred if the paperwork is even genuine. :(
Love the pictures you are all using - your matching pair in the window are stunning! All your dogs look so alert and controlled!
 

Two Dobes

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If I was more experienced with Dobies like you lot I might have done a better job from the start
What you have already done, has become your experience!!! Knowledge to build on....you know way more now about Dobes just by your experience. I'd say you are "experienced" now ;) in a much more difficult situation than I have ever been in! Remember, we all started out with our 'first' dobe. Many of us made mistakes with our first, and that is where the learning is. I really applaud what you are doing. :thumbsup:
And with the E collar for off leash insurance, that is all I use mine for....have not used it for any other training; other than to come to me while loose. I don't even have to use the tone because mine are collar wise, which I prefer. I keep the controller 'on' but don't usually have to ding them.
 

Firestar Dobe

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Firestar Dobe, loved your horse talk! We live in the middle of farms and forestry and some of the local guys still use Belgian drafts for logging on steep slopes / inaccessible areas - they are so neat-footed and sensible, I watched a demo at a show last summer. You lucky devil to have had one. Welshies are my favourite cobs - I lost one this spring but still have a couple of Welsh Section D x TBs which are great riding horses. Welsh cobs in the UK can be surprisingly hot to handle, quite Araby, lots of snorting and bouncing on the spot at times - are they similar in the States? You need a sense of humour. They will amble past a combine-harvester then have a nervous breakdown about a big leaf in the hedge!
We had a special saddle made for Blue, our Belgian Draft, and a special bit so that we could ride him as well. Standard riding equipment didn't fit him. We had an apple orchard on our farm and after storms there would always be tree branches down. We would have Blue pull those branches out for us. We had a small sleigh that we used in winter to go on rides with the kids. We also had him pulling carts in parades and would take him to our State fair and show him and his skills in the arena. He was an amazing horse, very, very gentle and very, very large!
Molly, our Welsh Pony, was lots of fun to ride and was quite spirited! Miss her a ton as well!
 

Firestar Dobe

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Firestar Dobe, loved your horse talk! We live in the middle of farms and forestry and some of the local guys still use Belgian drafts for logging on steep slopes / inaccessible areas - they are so neat-footed and sensible, I watched a demo at a show last summer. You lucky devil to have had one. Welshies are my favourite cobs - I lost one this spring but still have a couple of Welsh Section D x TBs which are great riding horses. Welsh cobs in the UK can be surprisingly hot to handle, quite Araby, lots of snorting and bouncing on the spot at times - are they similar in the States? You need a sense of humour. They will amble past a combine-harvester then have a nervous breakdown about a big leaf in the hedge!
Molly, our Welsh, definitely had sass! She was spirited and yes she could be hard to handle, but she was also sweet and fun. She had quite the mixed personality!
 

Kaiser2016

Active Member
Thanks for the backstory. It is interesting to hear how the pandemic created such twists and turns for everyone involved.
What you have already done, has become your experience!!! Knowledge to build on....you know way more now about Dobes just by your experience. I'd say you are "experienced" now ;) in a much more difficult situation than I have ever been in! Remember, we all started out with our 'first' dobe. Many of us made mistakes with our first, and that is where the learning is. I really applaud what you are doing.
I agree with all this and also applaud you for considering the Doberman's future whether she lives with you or eventually becomes your neighbor. We are first time Doberman owners too, so trust me, you ARE gaining experience every day that you raise this dog and she will be better for having had this time with you 👍
 

Ukesox

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Hi Argos
It sounds to me like you’re doing really well with a young dog that’s had a shakey start. I’m onto Dobie number six now (over 37 years) and even having them from 8 to 10 weeks old as pups with no baggage they can be very challenging & each one very different in temperament.
Its worth bearing in mind that at 15 months shes still a pup. My current hound Luna is about to turn 3 and has only over the past 9 months or so started to get less reactive to bikes, pedestrians, other dogs etc. etc. despite training classes, lots of daily exercise & mental stimulation. Even now though she’s only allowed off lead on a walk if there are no other people or dogs (other than ones she knows) in sight & when passing people & dogs on lead if she gives any advance indication that she might show unwanted interest I distract with a toy or treat. She has been far & away the most challenging of my six Dobies (all bitches) but the hard work and consistency are paying off As she matures. Just believe that if you keep on what you’re doing your girl will improve naturally with age though maybe not enough to be 100% trustworthy in new & unexpected situations. What I’ve learned with Luna is that the same object (child, pram, dog, bike, jogger) in the same location, once experienced is OK therafer. However, put that same object in a new location and I can expect an unwanted reaction. So with her it’s not just a case of “once I’ve experienced something I’m chilled“ because if she sees it somewhere else, she‘s not! Most of my walks are in the Norfolk (U.K.) countryside & luckily Luna rarely strays far even when offlead & is equally happy to trot along on a 40ft retractable lead, but I’m not sure that she’s ever going to be able to trusted 100% not to react to ”new” experiences on or off lead.
 

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