Behavioral problems

Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs?

Eduarda Piamore
By Eduarda Piamore, Expert in canine and feline psychology, education and training.. Updated: July 17, 2024
Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs?

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In movies, when someone is trying to break into a old warehouse or similar restricted area, it is common to see a scene where they encounter vicious guard dogs. This dog will be portrayed one of only a few breeds, one of which is often the Doberman Pinscher. Certain dog breeds will gain public visibility for various reasons, especially due to film and television. The resultant reputation of Doberman Pinschers is that of a dangerous attack dog that will stop at nothing to cause harm. Even when they are not attacking, they are often seen as plain mean dogs. Such a reputation has led to various myths surrounding the Doberman such as their brains growling to large for their head or that they will inevitably attack their owners.

At AnimalWised, we try to dispel these myths by asking are Dobermans aggressive dogs? We look at the character of Doberman's to find out the truth about this breed, as well as understand why some people still consider Dobermans to be dangerous dogs.

You may also be interested in: Why Are Chihuahuas So Aggressive?
  1. The history of the Doberman Pinscher
  2. Is it true that Dobermans are aggressive dogs?
  3. Myths about the Doberman Pinscher
  4. Is the Doberman a dangerous dog?
  5. Is the Doberman considered a potentially dangerous dog?
  6. What to do with an aggressive Doberman Pinscher

The history of the Doberman Pinscher

We know the Doberman Pinscher was first bred in Germany by a tax collector called Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann. We do not know the exact mix of breeds which were used to establish the Dobermann Pinscher, but we do know the German Shepherd, Weimaraner, Rottweiler and other German dog breeds were involved, as were the Greyhound and the Manchester Terrier.

Dobermann's purpose in developing the breed was to create the perfect protection dog. To do so, certain physical and behavioral traits were encouraged through selective breeding. Such traits included loyalty, strength, intelligence and stamina. The resultant breed was successful. The Dobermann Pinscher is a strong and powerful dog with a particularly marked intelligence. They are always alert, obedient to their owners and have a great capacity to learn.

Their intelligence is such that they are considered one of the top 5 most intelligent dog breeds according to psychologist and dog behaviorist Stanley Coren. When properly educated and with sufficient mental and physical stimulation, the Doberman Pinscher shows a remarkable ease in learning new skills, with an outstanding ability to memorize.

Since they were bred to be such loyal companion animals, they can be incredible family pets. They are can be wonderful protectors of children, as long as they are well socialized and integrated in the family. Although their role as protector is paramount in their nature, Dobermans are very capable of showing and receiving affection from their guardians.

While their protectiveness has been useful as a companion animal to families, they have a long history of being employed as a working dog. They have been used to guard businesses, they have also been used as security dogs for the police and as military dogs, especially during World War II. Since this time, Doberman Pinschers grew in popularity as a companion animal, although they are still used in working capacities all over the world.

Learn more about this breed by looking at the different types of Doberman Pinscher.

Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs? - The history of the Doberman Pinscher

Is it true that Dobermans are aggressive dogs?

As referenced in the introduction, Doberman Pinschers are often portrayed as vicious dogs. This has led to a very pervasive stereotype which is shown to be untrue in the majority of cases. However, as with many stereotypes, there is some truth to the perception. We can understand why this is so by examining the history of the Doberman Pinscher.

Loyalty, defensiveness and intelligence are all traits which have been encouraged by Doberman breeders both through crossbreeding and education. When we train a dog to be a working dog for security or military purposes, they are often taught to be wary of strangers. A certain level of caution around non-family members is to be expected.

When employed as a working dog, a certain level of aggression has been encouraged in specific situations. This does not mean they have been bred to be generally aggressive. It certainly does not mean they are aggressive with their guardians. In fact, modern breeders have made efforts to reduce aggression in Doberman Pinschers. This is seen in the fact that American-bred Dobermans appear to be less aggressive than their European counterparts.

In this regard, breed does play an important factor. Some breeds are known to be more dangerous than others. This is due to temperament, but also their physicality. For example, one survey saw that Chihuahuas were the most aggressive breed when it came to other dogs, but their small size does not give them the reputation as being dangerous[1].

It is very true that Doberman Pinschers have the potential to be aggressive and dangerous. This is true of all dogs. Dogs learn boundaries and appropriate behaviors through experience, socialization and training. If they are deficient in any of these areas, it can lead to problematic behaviors. This doesn't mean they are an aggressive dog by nature, but the genetic inheritance of dogs can influence their behaviors to some degree.

Learn about other breed behaviors with our article on whether Rottweilers are dangerous dogs.

Myths about the Doberman Pinscher

One myth about this breed has led to some asking, do Dobermans go crazy? This is likely derived from their depictions in fiction. No dog of any breed will go crazy for no reason. As with any dog, a Doberman can suffer from a neurological disorder which can affect behavior such as brain trauma or degenerative neurological disorders in dogs. This does not mean they have a predisposition to attack or become randomly dangerous.

Misunderstanding may have also influenced this myth about Doberman Pinschers. There is some evidence to suggest that a Doberman's brain structure can influence the development of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) in dogs[2]. This trait is manifested in stereotypies such as regularly sucking on their flanks, but not in becoming aggressive or dangerous.

Such misunderstandings may influence some of the other myths about Doberman Pinschers:

  • It was believed by many that the Doberman's brain grew rapidly and continuously throughout their lives, but their skull stopped growing after maturity. The belief claimed that this cause pressure to be exerted on the dog's brain which would cause the animal to go crazy. This is not true and there is no scientific evidence to support it.

  • Another rumor claimed that the skulls of Dobermans underwent intense thickening in the adult phase. As a consequence, their brain would suffer abnormal pressure and suffer the same problem as the previous myth. This also has no basis in reality.

  • One strange legend claimed that Doberman Pinschers lose their sense of smell by the age of 2 years. This would prevent the dogs from being able to recognize their guardians as easily and result in them being attacked.

Fortunately, advances in ethology and veterinary medicine allow us to confirm that all these rumors are absolutely false. Learn more about the physical and emotional wellbeing of this breed with our article on common illnesses of Doberman Pinschers.

Is the Doberman a dangerous dog?

The behaviors that a Doberman shows in its adulthood will depend mainly on their education and experiences. One of the most vital factors is their socialization period. While socialization needs to be reinforced throughout their lives, the period between 3 to 12 weeks of age is particularly important. During this time, the dog learns important boundaries and behaviors which will make them feel secure in adulthood and avoid various behavioral problems.

In addition to their breeding, the physical characteristics and intelligence of Doberman Pinschers mean they have the potential to be more dangerous than other breeds if they become aggressive. Aggression is avoided in all dogs by proper socialization and education. A Doberman which has been properly socialized and trained should have a stable character. This means Dobermans are not dangerous dogs by nature.

When we look at the statistics of dog attacks and fatalities, there are certain breeds which stand out statistically more than others. The Doberman Pinscher is one which has been involved in fatal dog attacks, but this has shown to occurred less than the Labrador Retriever[3]. This shows how important the individual dog's circumstances are since few of us would consider the Labrador Retriever to be a dangerous dog.

Is the Doberman considered a potentially dangerous dog?

Whether or not you think of Dobermans as being dangerous, some jurisdictions have labeled them so. Certain countries have enacted legislation which prohibits or restricts the ownership of certain breeds. This will usually depend on local laws as opposed to a nationwide ban.

Some states of the United States of America have restrictions on the Doberman Pinscher and have labeled them a ‘potentially dangerous dog’. They may used terminology such as aggressive, but no state has banned them completely. Many states require dog guardians to register breeds considered as potentially dangerous dogs to a specific dangerous dog registry. This may put certain restrictions on their care.

Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs? - Is the Doberman considered a potentially dangerous dog?

What to do with an aggressive Doberman Pinscher

Many owners mistakenly neglect the socialization and training of their dogs. With smaller dogs, they may exhibit behavioral problems which do not pose specific threats. With the Doberman Pinscher, neglecting their training will likely lead to behavioral problems, potentially even aggression.

For this reason, they are considered a dog breed only for those with the correct experience and dog training skills. Fortunately, Doberman Pinschers are incredible students. They will want to please their guardians and training provides them with the mental and physical stimulation they require to be healthy.

Training a dog is a continuous process which is required throughout the dog's life. It requires commitment, patience and knowledge. It also requires the avoidance of trauma and negative experiences. This includes negative reinforcement in the form of scolding or hitting the dog. This not only causes trauma for the dog, but it is counterproductive in achieving positive results from training.

If we are inexperienced or having any problem with a Doberman Pinscher exhibiting aggressive behaviors, we need to go to a professional. A canine ethologist or trained educator will be in the best position to assess the dog's individual needs and provide actionable training to prevent such aggression. Take a look at our related video below to learn the basics about training a Doberman Pinscher:

If you want to read similar articles to Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.


1. Hare, B., & Woods, V. (2016). Pit Bulls Are Chiller Than Chihuahuas. Retrieved from:

2. Ogata, N., Gillis, T. E., Liu, X., Cunningham, S. M., Lowen, S. B., Adams, B. L., Sutherland-Smith, J., Mintzopoulos, D., Janes, A. C., Dodman, N. H., & Kaufman, M. J. (2013). Brain structural abnormalities in Doberman pinschers with canine compulsive disorder. Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology & biological psychiatry, 45, 1–6.

3. McCarthy, N. (2018). America's Most Dangerous Dog Breeds. Retrieved from:

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Are Dobermans Aggressive Dogs?