Sam, an Affectionate Doberman Pinscher

By Dorothy Johnson


Sam, who is named Samurai for the warrior aristocracy of Japan, carries himself like a prince in a world of lesser dogs.  He is sleek, intelligent and conducts himself in a way that makes him appear aloof from the common activities of everyday life.  I met Sam at a small trailer park just off Garfield Street in Calais.  His owner, Jessica Holmes readily admits that Sam hates city life because it just does not give him the room he needs to run.  That is why he can often be found vacationing in the country with Jessica’s mom.

As a young pup, Sam learned to chew gum.  He would chew it for about ten minutes and then swallow it. Although this was a good trick, the veterinarian told Jessica that the gum was not good for Sam so that particular trick had to be terminated.  Now he loves to chase bubbles, which is safer for him and provides a lot more exercise. Being a smart dog, Sam has figured out how to grab his blanket with his teeth and twirl around on the bed until he is completely covered.  He refuses to be chilly.

When I met Sam, I must admit I was a bit intimidated by him especially when he came over and stared me in the eye.  I could not remember if I was supposed to drop my eyes or stare back.  I did not want him to think that he was not the Alpha dog so I backed off.  He did not seem to be excited one way or the other; he just seemed to float above the fray.

The Doberman Pinschers that I have seen on television are usually racing around the crook’s mansion, separated from the story’s hero by an iron fence and often jumping on the fence with their ears standing straight up and their teeth very prominent.  Sam was nothing like that.  He was quiet, thoughtful, affectionate with his owner and obedient.  He did not bark repeatedly at me and when he realized that I was talking about him, he even came to see me. He is friendly with cats at his house but not so friendly with strays. At one time his playmate was a ferret owned by his family.

The Doberman was bred to be a medium-sized guard dog and companion in Germany around 1900.  It is thought that Louis Dobermann, the breeder, mixed several breeds (short-haired shepherd, Rottweiler, Black and Tan Terrier, and German Pinscher) to get to this particular dog.  Because of their intelligence and obedience, these dogs were used as police and war dogs.  More recently, the North American breeders have worked toward lessening the Dobermans’ aggressive nature and having a calmer, more evenly tempered family dog. This transition has made the Doberman a popular family dog.  In 2002 the dog was rated 23rd in popularity, but in 2012 the breed was ranked at 12th.

A controversy over docking the Dobermans’ ears and tail has ensued through the years and has not been universally settled.  Docking is the surgical removal of the dog’s naturally long tail and floppy ears.  Some countries have made this practice illegal, but it is continued in North America.

The Doberman is very muscular and possesses great endurance and speed.  It is elegant in appearance and reflects great nobility and temperament.  That is why Sam is really Samurai.  Properly bred and trained, the dog will be a friend and a guardian.  It has the ability to retain training and needs to have consistent commands by all members of an adopted family. The owner (s) must have the ability to be willing and able to display a natural authority over the dog.

The Doberman comes in several colors: black, red, blue, fawn and (rarely) albino.  The blue is a diluted black and the fawn is a diluted red.  Both of these colors have a color dilution gene that sometimes causes a skin disorder.  Although the disorder is not life-threatening, it is a nuisance.

Other health problems common to Dobermans are heart problems, cervical vertebral instability, von Willebrand’s disease (a bleeding disorder for which genetic testing is available) and prostatic disease, hypothyroidism and hip dysplasia.  If some breeds are diagnosed with congestive heart failure, they are expected to live about eight more months.  For the Doberman their life expectancy is two months after diagnosis.  Without any of the above health problem, the Doberman has a life expectancy of 10 to 11 years.

Although the Doberman is stereotyped as being ferocious and aggressive, Sam showed me none of those characteristics.  Families that choose a Doberman must realize that the dog will need lots of exercise and minimal grooming.  That dog will also need training that is consistent through all family members.  With those requirements met, this family will have a wonderful family dog, just like Sam.