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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My doberman Jadzia's age is currently 3 months (21.6lbs). I originally got her to protect my family from any possible intruders when I'm gone to work. We also have a lot of relatives and friends that live here in town. My wife on the other hand wants her to be a friendly people person.

Now to my question. Is it possible to have a doberman that's an effective guard dog, and at the same time be a people person and friendly with everyone else?

I don't want to raise a killer, and every time we have company over we can't have Jadzia out, or we raise her to be nice and friendly dog and she plays with the bugler that tries to break in the house. There has to be some happy medium or training method to make her a trained guard dog. I don't want my 2 year old niece to get bit because we raised a killer.
 

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Squirrel Wrangler
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I think you'll find that your girl will end up somewhere in between where you both want her to be. The standard calls for dogs who are alert, loyal, and fearless. It's possible for a dog to be both friendly and vigilant. For example, when my boy was younger he was a lover. He never met a stranger, was constantly trying to be petted and lick everyone. As he's gotten older, he really only shows affection towards close friends and family (my mom, dad, girlfriend, and myself) and is much more aloof to strangers and people he doesn't see very often. When we go out, he "checks out" everyone by giving them a sniff and maybe letting them pet him a couple times, but he quickly goes back to doing his own thing. Now I have no idea whether he would actually be able to recognize a dangerous situation and protect me because he's never been tested. But as I've heard here before, a Doberman is one of the best visual deterrents you can have. It only takes a gun to stop a dog of any breed, but who in their right mind wants to test themselves against a Doberman?
 

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Depends on the dog. For the first couple years I thought my last girl didn't have it in her to guard, but when my father in law tried to hop the fence (because we had forgotten to leave a key for him) to pick something up from our house she wouldn't let him over until she recognized him. And a couple years later when we were truck camping some guys didn't realize we were sleeping in the truck bed and came sneaking over at 2:00 am to steal our stuff only to come face to face with her snapping, barking, and growling. Outside those two or three incidents she was as sweet as pie. Piper is naturally more aloof and suspicious, so all my training goes toward tempering that and being more friendly.

I figure guarding in dobes (who seem to have the capacity - I know some don't) is so innate that you can't train it out of them, just teach them what normal is. Then whatever isn't normal will bring out the guarding behavior. I'm sure those with far more dobe experience could give more incite though. I've only had the two, and he second one is still young.
 

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Big Lil pup
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Hi Sarabia

You may be interested in an earlier post of mine: http://www.dobermantalk.com/doberman-related-chat/269698-mccoy-guard-dog.html

Now, at about 2 1/2 yo, he is still basically the same. Very socialized... Very protective of our home. He never barks or growls in public. However at home, he is always ready to jump to full alert mode. Given his training, I seriously doubt that he would actually "attack " an intruder. Yet, his mere presence is cause enough to give a ne'er do well a moment or more of hesitation. Good enough, in my book.

John
Portland OR
 

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My former Amy was the friendliest dog to most people...even certified as a Therapy dog & OB titled.
She was socialized extensively and trained with much love, most of all she became people smart.
- almost like she thought she was 1/2 human
- Amy knew like 450 English words...tell her something once or twice, she had it for life

^^ She protected my wife from a larger dog attack, and submissed a larger GSD-lab mix.

When I did our country home renovations on a construction site, she would let 19 out of 20 people enter the front door, without knocking.
But one day a shady character drove up and got out of his car.
Amy stopped him dead in his tracks / half way to the front porch & would not let the man go back to his car.
- barking her head off / bearing K9 teeth
- this A-hole was rude to me earlier and I made him apologize to the dog, before I called her off...LOL
- the experience was so natural, to a well socialized dog...one that was trained off leash, since puppy hood
But most of all, I learned to trust this dogs instincts reading people & I never had to worry about an innocent kid or nice adult getting bit.
- even when our son brought home a GF, I watched Amy very closely...to judge the choice

NOW a local garage owner raised and trained 2 GSD's to be on-site guard dogs.
- one night a old ladies car broke down, up the Hwy.
- she walked to the garage for help & someone forgot to lock the garage door at closing time
- old lady entered garage & was bitten and mauled by the two dogs...for minutes
- she was in serious condition & a big law suit followed
Can't have your cake & it it to...can't raise a dog like a wolf, outcome doesn't make for good protection.
 

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Hairy Dog, RIP Caesar, Katana, Kip, Capri
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You would do best to socialize your dog well. Introduce her to lots of different kinds of people--people who act and dress differently, people who have on hats, coats, men, bearded men, women, children--as many different variables as you can think of. Take her to all kinds of different places--parks, sidewalks with busy and noisy traffic,near playgrounds, in the city, countrysides with farm animals--broaden her experiences as much as possible and ask her to relax under those conditions.

Then she will have the knowledge to judge whether or not someone is dangerous. Right now and likely for the next year or so, any “aggressive” behavior you see (loud barking, snarling, etc) is likely to be a fear response to something she is not familiar with--she’s seeing a lot of new things and is not sure what she should react to and what not. She needs some experience and self assurance in all kinds of situations to be a stable confident dog.

In general, most well socialized and confident dobes, as adults, will step up to the task of “guarding” her loved ones from danger on her own. You should expect her to be a little wary and watchful of newcomers, but then be willing to accept anyone you have introduced her to. She may not be terribly sociable and lovey-dovey with people not in her family (though that varies from dog to dog), but she shouldn’t show any threatening behavior to them once you have told her they are OK.

You should NOT try to train her or encourage her to engage in aggressive behavior.

You can, if you want, encourage her to bark when the doorbell rings (most don’t need encouragement :)) and teach her to stop on command. With training of this sort (teach no more “aggression" than that), I aim to be able to say, under any circumstances, “What’s that?” in a sharp tone and get an alert response, or even possibly a bark or two (if I want it to go that far). I give them a touch of praise for a correct response...and then I want to be able to ask them to stand down and relax “All right, it’s OK. Hush”.

But you shouldn’t set out to “make” her an aggressive guard dog. If you don’t know what you are doing and set out specifically to try to train her as a guard dog, you will do likely do more harm than good. Then you will have an unpredictable and possibly dangerous dog on your hands.

Give her experiences to help her gain confidence and she will do her part when it’s needed. The looks and reputation of a doberman, plus her natural instinct to protect, will generally be all you need to have a sound dog in a family situation who will act protectively if needed.
 

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Dobermans need to be well socialized. A good Doberman will be able to differentiate between a friendly and an unfriendly stranger.

One of my Dobermans was a certified therapy dog - super friendly to anyone we allowed into our house. I used her to do dog safety presentations to groups of children at our local school. However, Velma would also protect me in an instant. Once a large group of young kids trooped into my house and one of their dads thought he could follow them in the front door.... Velma had him pinned in the corner right by the front door. If there had been a gang of young kids robbing houses, they could have walked right into my house.... but not adults haha!! She was a great dog - miss her every day!
 

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We love to entertain, so it was important to us that Zuko be well socialized with both people and other dogs. At 4.5 years old he is great with both. He gets very excitable when people come over and will race to the door and let out a throaty, guttural bark whenever someone visits and plant himself right in front of the door so there is no getting past him. To a stranger it sounds very threatening and that itself would (hopefully) deter them away, but I doubt he would attack if they did decide to enter. Probably get growling, bristling, bared teeth maybe, but I don't think he knows how to bite to defend himself...he would rather flee...

Of course if he knows you, you'll get a greeting of licks and happy stubby-tail wagging.
 

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In my (very limited) experience generally you do not have to teach a Doberman to be on alert, and I believe they are more in tune to who's "bad" than we do. Walks in busy areas are great to expose them to what's normal, I've never had an issue with anyone that I've introduced my pup to. He is friendly but is mostly aloof when it comes to strangers. He loves kids, and although he is bigger than they are he is thoughtful enough to be gentle at only a year old. That being said, he definitely lets me know when people are outside the house. He knows when it's a strange hour for people to be about, my in law knocked on our door late and the way he jumped up and barked there ain't nobody in this world that would've pursued trying to get in. We hang out in our garage a lot and my other in law came strolling into the garage unannounced and he didn't recognize her, he flew up barking and had her pinned against the wall before he realized who she was (honestly though she's kind of shady too) and I told him it was ok. If people see a Doberman, much less have one growling or barking at them, they are not going to be a problem for you. Burglars take a great risk and many scope out houses before they plan a robbery, everyone in my neighborhood knows about Brinks. They are a kind of dog that stands out and is an instant deterrent.
 

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I'm hoping for a similar balance and was wondering what people think?

The socialization is crucial, everyone agrees. So we walk and meet people and other dogs everyday, he just got his rabies shots so we'll be going to obedience class and the dog beach soon, which can have upwards of a thousand people + dogs during the summer. I've also seen how I react to strangers is a good guide for him. That's how I'm planning on getting the nice part. And he's very friendly to dogs and women, ignores most men, and is nice but totally confused by kids.

The guard part is untestable so some input would be good. Some of the schultzhund looks fun, as does the agility and smelling competitions, and I plan on getting him registered as a service dog, so he has to be nice enough for that. I also need him to guard thousands of dollars of equipment, especially if I have to leave him with my bike while I use a restroom or grab a drink/coffee for a minute.

So when we're playing with a toy or directly with eachother, I chose the command "get it", probably should have been one that's more uncommon, and just play extra with the toy. Shake it more, push his head around with it so he starts trying to control the toy etc. or if playing directly with Apollo just increase the excitement/energy level. It's a ton of fun and now I have a command if I need it that says go ahead and rip the stuffed animal up. Then if there's ever a need for it, it's there, and I don't feel it trains in any extra aggression. And I end the playtime instantly at random with a stop command, so he has an off switch if needed.

The next goal would be to have a command where he goes after the toy, but only if the toy does something, like touch my bike/practice cardboard box.
 

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The answer is yes. And in order for your dog to know what is odd, abnormal behavior, your dog must be exposed, over and over again, to normal people and normal behavior. Proper socialization is absolutely critical to creating a stable dog who is able to discern a real threat, rather than an unstable, unpredictable dog.

To emphasize, let me share something that just happened this week to me. My dogs are both from outstanding breeders who breed temperamentally sound dogs. My boy will be 5 this summer. My bitch is 15 months. Both are beyond friendly - there are a few people on this forum who know them in person who could tell you that they are really, really outgoing dogs.

Here's what happened Monday morning:

The dogs went NUTS barking as I was getting ready for work. Wouldn't stop when I asked them to (normally they do). I look out the window to see a man walking through my neighbor's (fenced) backyard, right along our fence line - not my neighbor. He proceeds to cross the street and hop over my other neighbor's fence into her backyard. I called the police. To keep the story reasonably short, Richter and Sypha met three police officers (they came to the door five minutes after I called). The dogs greeted the police with wagging nubs. The man is "known" to them (and my neighbor across the street...he's sort of been harassing her and is a former friend of her son, who has had some issues in the past with drugs and run-ins with the police himself; he has now been through rehab and lives out of state and is doing well).

Way go go, dogs! They did their job alerting me that something was wrong. They also really, really liked the police officers (and the feeling was mutual. The nice officers told me we had nothing to worry about, despite the fact that the man was gone by the time they'd arrived.

So, yes, absolutely, my dogs, who are very, very friendly, were incredibly alert to something "off", told me about it quite clearly, did not stand down when I initially didn't know what was up, and then were quite friendly to the non-threat (the police). Thankfully I didn't have the guy try to get into my house, but I was sure glad my dogs were there!
 
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