For the New Adopter (and Foster Care Giver)

 Always feel free to contact us if you have any questions. You have us for life.

Note:Nothing on this website is meant to replace the advice of your vet or a qualified trainer/behaviorist. Suggestions here are just suggestions. Before you decide on any action, please consult a professional. Any decision you make is your decision and your responsibility, not ours. Make learning about your Doberman something that last’s your dog’s whole life.

Bringing Your Dog Home. Providing an Appropriate Standard of Care. Understanding Your New Rescue. Dog Communication. Positive Training. Housebreaking. Marking. Crate Training. Bloat, and Torsion. Food. Edible and Other Toxins. Perils Around the Home and Garden. Pools. Snake “Proofing.” Shock Collars. Treats. Exercise. Desert Heat. Bedtime. Coat. Nails. Teeth. Ears. Licking. Blanket Sucking. Pica. Post-Spay Incontinence. Anxiety and Fear Issues.

Introductions and Bringing Your Dog Home. If you have other dogs or cats, it’s best to keep the newcomer out of sight and reach for at least three days. She should be kept where the other animals can smell but not see her, and vice versa. This gives them time to adjust and get acquainted without risking direct eye-to-eye contact, which can quickly turn into hard stares and other negative reactions. Consider getting a dog pheromone collar for them all. The natural canine pheromone helps the dogs to relax, and when associated with the newcomer, sets up the dogs for a more pleasant, smoother transition. When the time comes for the dogs to mingle, take them for a walk together, separated by 4 or 5 feet. Just be your natural, relaxed self. Act as if there’s no big deal about taking the whole family out, and there probably won’t be. 

Providing an Appropriate Standard of Care. Your Doberman is smart, sensitive, intelligent, and observant. She or he needs pretty much what a 3-year-old child needs. Emotionally, your job is to be patient, loving, and consistent. Physically, you are responsible for the dog’s safety, security, health, and fitness. Intellectually, you are responsible for giving your working dog a job to do and plenty of mental stimulus. Remember, Dobermans are one of the top five most intelligent canine breeds. Don’t waste their potential! Obedience training and agility training, from basic through competitive levels, are wonderful for Dobies, as are rally and schutzhund and other dog sports. Work with your Dobie. You’ll be so glad you did.

Providing safety means, above all, training your dog. Probably the very top reason for relinquishing a dog is lack of appropriate training. With training, your dog will be a lovely addition to your family. Without it, your dog will be a nuisance because she or he won’t know any better, and soon he or she will be rejected. Training is absolutely bottom-line essential. If you expect to save money by not training, reconsider. You’ll spend more on carpet cleaning and replacing shoes and door screens–not to mention vet bills for accidents and injuries to your dog or someone else’s. Providing safety also means anticipating and avoiding problems whether with people, things, or other animals. Teach your dog where the pool steps are, and how to get out in case she/he falls is. If your dog has a history of fear of other dogs, then don’t take it to a dog park! If you know little Johnny is coming with his mom and dad tonight, crate your dog until you KNOW that your dog will be safe from taunts and startles and other childish provocations. If you entertain visitors, give them your clear and absolute “dog rules.” And of course providing safety means warmth in winter and cool, water, and shade in summer, and never leaving your dog in a car or outside unsupervised. Never.

Providing security means seeing that fences are strong and sturdy, gates are locked, doors are closed when appropriate. It means storing pool, home, and auto chemicals out of your dog’s reach, and keeping socks and shoes put away. Security also means giving your dog its own private space where she or he can retreat to sleep or de-stress. We recommend a large wire crate, draped with a sheet on three sides. With a nice, soft bed, a pail of water and your dog’s favorite stuffy or chew, this creates a wonderful den that your dog will love and appreciate. Not least, security means a county license and a micro-chip with up-to-date ownership information.  

Health and fitness require food of good quality and adequate quantity. Go online for dog food ratings. Some commercial-grade kibble is OK. Some is truly disgusting. Do your homework. You might begin at a site like this: If you can afford a high-end feed, go for it. If you can’t, feed at least the quality of Costco’s Kirkland Lamb and Rice, with appropriate supplements for coat, joints, and bones. Switch brands from time to time, but when you do, do so gradually to avoid stomach upset and diarrhea. Start with 1 part new feed to 4 parts current feed and gradually back out the current feed. Have clean, fresh water always available, and when you travel, take a gallon or two of water from home to avoid tummy upsets and diarrhea. Move gradually to an entirely new water supply by mixing home water with new water, gradually backing out the home water. Make sure all vaccinations are current, and that your dog has an annual health check-up. 

Fitness means giving your dog at least a brisk half-hour walk morning and evening, with extended playtime whenever possible. Regard a brisk half-hour walk as the bare minimum needed to keep your Dobie sane. Games of chase and fetch in safe, fenced areas; rowdy time with other dogs (whom you know and whose owners are responsible); long hikes (with appropriate weather protection for feet and body); and longer neighborhood walks are a precious time for bonding with your Dober kid. Don’t stint. If you can, pursue formal obedience, rally, or agility training. They are great for mind and body.

Understanding Your New Rescue. Be Observant, Patient, and Consistent. From Day 1, we do our best to observe and screen all our dogs, and for your safety and ours, we do not rescue biters. We report all that we learn to you, but often, we don’t know anything about a dog’s specific history. Therefore, you must get to know  your rescue well enough to recognize its specific issues and needs. This takes skill, time, and attention.

This hasn’t been a cake walk for your Dobie. S/he has just been through one or more big challenges. Coming to your home is just the latest. Right now, your dog has no idea what to expect. Understand that it may take your Dobie 2 or 3 months to fully trust that you are his/her Forever Home, to show his or her full personality, and to learn your household routines. During this time, be especially loving, consistent, patient, and observant! Spend as much time as possible with your new buddy and take care to show him or her the ropes.

Oversimplified, some dogs tell us their history by how they behave in the present. Keeping in mind that every dog is different, and that it takes more than one clue to solve the riddle, pay attention to how your dog behaves. Watch for patterns. If you pick up a broom, a long stick, a rake or length of hose, for instance, what happens? How does s/he respond to car trips, loud sounds, other dogs, tall men? Is she destructive and terrified when you leave her alone at home? Does he lunge ferociously at other dogs for no apparent reason? Often, such behavior signals past abuse or emotional trauma. Although one clue is rarely conclusive, a dog who always cowers, balks, or flees from a chain may have been beaten or threatened or staked outside. A dog who always whines, barks, paces, pants, and cries continuously in the car, and always refuses to get out at the rest stop, may have been dumped from a car and abandoned. Your dog may need patient and informed positive rehabilitation. When in doubt, seek the help of a qualified behaviorist/trainer. Ours is excellent. (We have no financial relationship with ours.)

Learn Dog Communication. To understand your dog well and better manage your household,  learn about dog communication. For instance, flinching, freezing, growling, stiff-legged walking, raised hackles, bared teeth, whale eyes, or a hard stare warn that something is not acceptable. Repeat: These are warnings. They signal fear, pain, or anger, or all of the above. On the other hand, soft, slow blinks and goo-goo eyes often signal love and invite touch. But what can lip licking signal? Go find out. Learning dog language will enrich your relationship and teach you that communication is a two-way street.

If your rescue shows a warning sign, respect its limits until it can be re-trained and desensitized. This will require professional guidance, and will help keep it safe as it gains trust. It may also protect you. Remember: It will take commitment, patience, and time to regain its trust around an issue of past abuse, and often careful re-training and desensitizing. Ask us for help.

Training. Training should never involve punishment. There are other much more effective ways to communicate with your dog. Pinpointing a desired behavior, using lots of tiny, tasty treats, giving lots of high energy praise, training in small doses, and always ending a session with a win are hallmarks of positive training. Speak with your vet, experienced Doberman owners, and qualified behaviorists and trainers who employ positive training  techniques to learn how to help your dog adapt successfully. (There are many positive trainers and training sites.) See our Training page for more.

As you are training and introducing your dog to your home, don’t inadvertently set your dog up to fail. If your dog growls when another dog gets too close, well, duh!, don’t allow another dog to approach it. A dog fight is a dangerous matter. Your dog counts on you to keep it safe. This means learning dog language, reading your dog well, and anticipating dangerous situations in order to avoid them.

Until you understand your dog’s reaction patterns, take precautions, especially when children, other dogs, and strangers are around. What do we mean? Well, we had owned our first rescue for nearly a year before we found out the hard way that she hated 9-12 year-old Hispanic girls. One day, with no warning, she lunged angrily at such a girl approaching us on a sidewalk. Fortunately, our dog was on a short lead at the time and the girl was still a few feet away. When we say take precautions and learn all you can about your dog, this is what we have in mind.

Housebreaking. Tie your dog to your waist by a 4- or 5-foot rope so that it goes wherever you go. Or crate it. Either way, take it outside every two hours. When it pees or poops, celebrate happily, exuberantly, and give it a high-value treat. (Peanut butter, stinky liver bit, diced bits of hotdog, or the expensive natural meat/fish/duck etc. nibbles. High value is what your dog says it is–as long as it’s safe and healthy.) Gradually lengthen the time between outings to the reasonable maximum for a Doberman of its gender, size, and age. (See your vet.) Celebrate and treat exuberantly when it goes where you want it to go. Repeat until your dog understands reliably that it must go outside to tend to business.

Do not rub your dog’s nose in it, or yell, or punish, or have a tizzy if s/he has an accident. First, your dog won’t know what’s wrong. Second, the mistake is your fault when your dog doesn’t know any better or couldn’t hold it any longer, and it’s nobody’s fault if s/he’s ill. Third, if your dog knows you’ll have a fit, s/he’ll just wait until you’re not around. If you catch the dog in the act, usher it outside quickly and praise it lavishly as it finishes. Otherwise, quietly clean up and teach housebreaking.

Marking. Even after neutering, some male dogs will mark their territory by emitting a small amount of urine at special spots. This is not related to housebreaking. This is territorial behavior. To cure your dog of this habit, put it in a belly band (available online) with a sanitary pad while it is indoors. If it marks, it will soak its pad and become uncomfortable. Naturally, monitor the pad and replace it as soon as it is wet or irritation/infection can occur. This is not about punishment; it’s about deterrence. Always take it off whenever the boy goes outside.  Every couple of hours, take the boy outdoors, allow him to mark in an OK place, and praise and treat lavishly when he does so. Repeat until your dog understands that only outdoor marking is OK.

Crate Training. Yes they do like crates as long as crates are not used as punishment. Dogs are natural denners. They love to den. A comfortable extra-large crate at least this big, equipped with clean, soft bedding and a bucket of water makes a wonderful den. Crating is not punishment unless you associate the crate with punishment. To crate train your dog, place the crate somewhere close to family members–like the family room. Put the dog gently in its crate and treat it when it goes in. Start off with two minutes. Work up gradually to five, then eight, then twelve, and so on. Treat as the dog goes in and as it comes out, and celebrate and praise lavishly. Crate your dog when you expect a house full of company, or when other people’s children are in your home–door closed.  Other times, leave the door open so that you dog can go into his/her crate when desired. It should be your dog’s safe zone.

Bloat and Torsion. Bloat, a rapid gassy welling of the stomach, followed by torsion, a twisting that occurs when bloat tears the stomach away from the walls of the abdomen, affects deep-chested dogs more often than others. It happens quicky and is often fatal. Learn the signs of bloat and torsion, and how to avoid this painful, rapidly fatal reaction. We believe that it is not wise to feed only one large meal a day. Dogs who eat a large amount of dry food (kibble) in one sitting, and then drink a lot of water, can easily bloat and torsion. These are horribly painful, often rapidly fatal developments. As no one knows precisely what causes bloat and torsion, it’s  a lot smarter to play it safe. Feed smaller amounts twice daily, use a bowl specifically designed to slow down the gobbler. (Don’t spend $20 for a fancy bowl. Instead, thoroughly wash a smooth rock the size of a large man’s fist  and put it in the middle of a regular dog bowl. Sprinkle the kibble around it.  The effect isto force the dog to eat slower.) Also, don’t allow your dog to drink large amounts of water rapidly, especially after eating or exercise, and never give your dog iced water, especially when it’s hot.

Food. While in rescue, your dog was probably fed Costco’s Kirkland Lamb and Rice kibble (occasionally mixed with a  higher-quality kibble such as Nutri-Source Super Premium grain free, or Natural Balance). It was supplemented with small amounts of cottage cheese and raw beef periodically, and with weekly fish oil capsules. We avoid grains, dog food with any animal by-products, and any edible not made in the USA. Grains and byproducts can cause allergies or  include things no dog should be eating. Supplements with omegas for skin and coat, and glucosamine and chondroitin for joints, are recommended. If we could, we would feed all our rescues one of the fine Natural Balance kibbles such as sweet potato and fish, supplemented as above. See Whole Dog Journal’s autumn food issue for the latest on foods to choose and foods to avoid, and join a email list like HealthDobes to keep up with latest recalls and other nutrition tips. It matters. Some foods contain fillers like sawdust, and rendered dog or worse. Besides, when you feed a high-quality food, there’s a lot less poop.

If you choose a different food, be sure it contains wholesome, healthy, and nutritious ingredients—not ground peanut hulls and animal byproducts. (Check the ingredients. You might be surprised.) Also, to avoid tummy upset and/or diarrhea, gradually introduce any new diet, starting with 1 part of the new food to 3 parts rescue chow and increasing the proportion of your food over 4-5 days. Do the same thing with tap  water if you live outside of Maricopa County,  AZ.

Edible and Other Toxins. Grapes, raisins, onions, avocado, fruit pits, citrus, chewing gum, chocolate, and alcohol are poisonous to dogs and that’s not all.  Surf the web and consult your vet.  Keep these things locked away from your dog’s reach. Keep your purse off the floor (that’s where dogs get chewing gum) and your own and your dog’s medications out of its reach.

Perils Around the Home and Garden. Household cleaners, automotive fluids  including antifreeze, insect repellants, human medications, some kinds of  plastic, certain plants like oleander, as well as pool chemicals, fabrics or sponges pre-treated with cleanser or stain blockers, and some forms of glue–are also  toxic. All of these can be deadly.

Please toddler-proof your house on Day 1, particularly for a younger dog. An adult Doberman has approximately the intelligence of a 3-year-old child. Some learn to open cabinets, and many learn to  “counter surf.”  All dogs find things they shouldn’t, and some chew and swallow things they shouldn’t. Therefore, your dog shouldn’t be exposed to anything your toddler shouldn’t encounter. Lower cabinets should be secure if they contain the garbage, and things left on counters shouldn’t be tempting. Be sure your dog is not exposed to things such as household cleaners, garden fertilizers (bone meal, shredded cocoa bean mulch), and pool and garage chemicals. See Food and Other Toxins, above.) Also beware of electric cords, toys and stuffed animals with beans, beads, or pellets inside. And remember: Dogs with Pica actually swallow things like dirty socks, underwire bras, nylons, feces, rocks, sand, pebbles, panties, balls, toys, used sponges, and the like. Keep discarded toothbrushes and plastic razors, used foil and plastic wrap, rubber bands, bag ties, plastic baggies, medications, and items that can splinter and perforate a mouth or, worse, be swallowed whole or in sharp chunks. Unless you want to risk your dog’s life and spend $2,500 to remove an intestinal obstruction, pay attention  to what your dog is eating, chewing, and swallowing at all times. Keep dangerous indigestible out of reach.

Outside, it doesn’t hurt to clip the tip spines off those  agave blades, and root out any jumping chollas or oleander. Dogs are easily distracted when they play, and when excited and rambunctious, can ignore everything around them. Clipping sharp spines can save an eye or avoid a painful, expensive trip to the vet. While you’re at it, check with the Desert Botanical Gardens to see if you have other poisonous plants growing inside or out that  should be removed.

Pools. Please pool-proof your dog right away. It may take several  repetitions using high-value treats, but put your dog into the pool and teach it where the steps are and how to get out all by itself.  Proof this training and rehearse it from time to time–that is, ensure by testing several times a year that your dog still remembers how to exit the pool by itself. But begin by training pool safety immediately, whether there is a fence around your pool or not. Accidents do happen.

Snakes. The best snake proofer is avoidance. Otherwise, there’s no such thing. No technique permanently proofs a dog against encountering a snake.  When the dog can’t see or smell it, the dog can’t avoid it. That’s your job. The best aid after avoidance is an anti-venin injection. It will buy valuable time to get your dog to a vet if it is bitten.

Arizona is rattlesnake habitat and dogs are curious creatures. Especially if you live in a new development, on a ranch, adjacent to park or preserve land,  in the mountains , or out in the desert, snakes are part of your environment.  If you hike or camp with your dog, ditto. They’re there even if you don’t see them. In fact, assuming they’re not because you haven’t actually seen one could be your worst mistake.

Be smart. Invest the time to thoroughly learn snake habitat, snake seasons, snake behavior, how to recognize AZ’s 17 species and sub-species of rattlesnakes, the highest-risk times of day and night, how to avoid snakes, what dogs do and do not do that may undermine “snake-proofing,” and why no known snake-proofing technique is fool-proof or permanent.

You are your dog’s most effective protection against snake bites, but only if you’ve done your homework. Talk with your vet and with desert wilderness and park guides. Consider rattlesnake vaccination, know the optimal window for treatment, and keep your pet on the path and on a short lead in snake territory.

 Invisible Fences. This gimmick might keep a dog in for a while—until s/he  figures it out—but notice: it doesn’t keep intruding dogs out. We don’t recommend them. We do recommend training.

Shock Collars. Someone has estimated that a Doberman has the intelligence  of a smart 3-year-old. Would you put a shock collar on your toddler? No.  We strongly discourage using electric shock  collars in dog training. It isn’t necessary. Choose positive, intelligent training  instead.

Treats. If you give your dog edible chews such as rawhide flip chip or bones, be sure to supervise him or her. Choking can occur. Stay away from all treats made in China. Avoid small hard objects that can be swallowed, and  read up on toys and treats like Kongs and Nylabones. Find out which treats are  fattening. You may be surprised. Deduct treat calories from the dog’s daily food allotment to keep his/her weight in check. Be sure the toys and treats you give are safe  for your Dobie, and don’t over-treat. Consult your vet for suggestions.

Exercise.  A healthy Doberman needs a lot of exercise fefore its senior years, and moderate execise then. If possible,  find a large fenced area where s/he can safely run full out with a trusted dog buddy. Your Dobie needs at least an hour a day of brisk walking and running. However, your Dobie wants to please you. If you play toss and retrieve games, s/he will play until s/he drops. Use your head. This goes triple in Arizona heat. Do not overdo it. You are your dog’s caretaker. Take care of him or her.

Desert Heat. Every year in May or June, the Arizona Republic  tells us about the unwary visitor who took his dog hiking on Camelback or South Mountain and died, with the dog, from heat exhaustion and dehydration. If you’re hot, consider that your dog is barefoot and wearing a fur coat. Just don’t be stupid, OK? Arizona’s extreme heat can cause severe dehydration in five minutes. A barefoot dog in a fur coat doesn’t stand a chance. Our pavement and sidewalks can blister pads in minutes. Try walking barefoot on a sidewalk when it’s 108 degrees before you ask your dog to do so. If  you must take your dog out in our hot season, go out very early or very late, put him or her in booties, keep it very brief, and provide lots of (un-iced) water. A wet towel or a Kool Koat can help, as can “blue ice” packs in a doggy backpack.  Talk with your vet or trainer/behaviorist.

 Bedtime. Be sure your buddy has a toilet break before bedtime, and a comfortable, dry, safe place to sleep. Don’t be surprised if  that turns out to be on your bed. Dobermans are notorious for sleeping on their humans’ beds.

Coat. Brush your dog’s coat with a short-bristle semi-stiff  brush once a week. Add a fish oil supplement to its diet to keep its coat glossy and its skin properly toned. Dry flakes mean not enough fish oil or  inadequate nutrition. Stiff, brittle hair and patches of thinning or hair loss  may mean a thyroid dysfunction. Consult your vet. Thyroid dysfunction can also have negative implications for your dog’s behavior.

Nails.  We recommend using a rotary sanding tool such as a Dremel to grind your dog’s nails down.  Watch a groomer do this first, or see online illustrations and YouTube videos.  Introduce your dog to the tool slowly and gently. Avoid clipping tools like  guillotines and scissors. These pinch the quick and cause your buddy needless  pain.

 Ears.  At least twice a month, clean your dog’s ears with a moistened towelette. Use Q-tips very carefully.  Repeated pawing or head-shaking, heavy discharge, a foul odor, or a dark discharge indicate an  infection. See your vet promptly.

Licking. Some licking of its body is natural; it’s the dog’s grooming process. Obsessive licking, however, as of a paw or haunch or leg, will cause painful wounds called lick granulomas, and indicates serious boredom, high anxiety, or another problem. Get your dog out for healthy levels of exercise and mental stimulation! If the licking doesn’t abate, talk with your vet.

Blanket sucking. Some Dobermans suck and chew their blankets. We don’t know why, but it seems to be calming.  Unless it is truly obsessive, ignore it.

Pica. On the other hand, eating inedible objects is dangerous and may be a plea for help. With regular exercise and a healthy diet, your Dobie shouldn’t eat rocks or socks or underwear. Without these things and mental stimulation, your Dobie might eat whatever s/he can wrap lips around. One dog ended in rescue because she ate three 18” tube socks (three different occasions). She had been left home alone for 50+ hours a week.  Once rehomed with an active couple and given attention, she became an obedience champion. And guess what. No more pica. Give your dog attention, mental stimulation, a job to do, and company. Also keep socks, underwear, bras, pantyhose, and other swallowable inedibles out of reach, and give treats only under supervision. Google pica on the Internet.  It can save you a $2,500 abdominal surgery.

Post-Spay Incontinence. There’s a pill for that. See your vet.

Anxiety and Fear Issues.  Centuries ago, mothers discovered that wrapping babies snugly in cloth helped to calm them. Often this works with dogs, as well. If your dog is terrified of thunderstorms and firecrackers, or experiences mild separation anxiety, try a product called Thundershirt. Other calming agents are Rescue Remedy, pheromone collars or spray, lavendar spray, homeopathic “fear” remedy, and desensitization training with a professional. 

We can’t cover every issue here, of course. If something arises that you’d like our help with, just contact us. We’ll do our best.


More Resources

See Petfinders for great guidance for new adopters. You can start here!