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Seriously Aggressive Doberman – Possible Reasons Why

Aggressive Doberman
I have a three-year-old male aggressive Doberman.
 We did obedience with him his whole life. The problem started off as redirection. He got into a fight with his brother. When I tried breaking it up, he snapped at me. And I had no choice but throw him down and hold till he gave up. I made him stay there for 30 minutes after I let him go. Seemed to work. Till about five months later he was laying down. I reached to grab something behind him and boom another bite no warning. And he kept going after me, so the same thing again, he was overpowered and held on the ground till he gave up. With my blood dripping all over. So now what happened later. A drunk guy approached him, and bent over in front of my dog and acted like a fool. My dog started showing his teeth, and I went to stop him from getting the guy in the face. So instead he got my hand, and I needed stitches, another redirection. Also whenever he does something, he knows he shouldn’t. If I come and tell him, no but he decides to ignore. I raise my voice he gets all tense and raises his tail walking away slowly looking like his a ready for a fight. Now the odd part.
 I am the only person he listens to no matter what we do or where we go he will always follow me instead of any other family member.
 He is off leash 90% of the time and recall is 100% with me only.
 He will sit and stay on my command even if there are dogs and people all over.
 He will not touch his food unless given permission. 
I even forgot to tell him OK when I put his plate down. 20 minutes later I got out of the shower. He was still standing there drooling all over. I felt so bad.
 His obedience is amazing with me.
 I can call him to heel off leash for as long as I want
. Working on constant eye contact. But why is it that he still challenges me? And if there is any aggression he will take it out on me.
 And if I raise my voice he will go into a defensive state. And will attack with no warning if I as much as touch his collar. Even if he bumps into a tree when walking, he might think its something I did and growls at me for a moment. I never overcorrected for no reason. Other than when he went off, and I had no choice. Val (Toronto, Canada) Hi Val, That’s serious AND dangerous. Off the top of my head, there are a few possibilities. It would take some digging to narrow it down. It’s not impossible that it might be a combination of factors as well. Part of what you are describing may be due to the way you think you are correcting him. “I never overcorrected for no reason.” Other than when he goes ballistic you don’t mention how you respond if he does something inappropriate. When he does lose it, and you’re pinning him down, I would start looking at that as more a restraint safety measure rather than an efficient or clear correction. Those sort of moments aren’t always the best learning moments, and besides if you get into a knock down dragged out fights with a dog it’s a powerful signal that something is seriously wrong. Either with the dog or much more likely the relationship between the dog and owner and the training approach. Some of what you describe is the sort of response I’ve often see from some high drive examples of working line breeds. Part of it may be due to breeding (genetics), and part may be due to the common training approach and mishandling of dogs in this category. These sorts of dogs are more often than not are found in a working environment rather than companion dog homes for no other reason than they crash and burn without the handling, training and activity levels they are wired to require. However, even in working environments, these characteristics rear their heads. Breeding a high-quality high-drive working level dog requires a lot of tweaking and sometimes that tweaking just goes too far. This sort of “climb the leash” when frustrated reactivity is relatively common in the Belgian Malinois but indeed isn’t unique to that breed. I’ve seen it in a lot of terriers as well. These dogs literally vibrate (shake) in anticipation when they anticipate there’s a job that needs doing and they are being kept from it. So, check your Doberman’s bloodlines and find out what his predecessors were being used for day to day. Also, check with his siblings and the progeny from prior litters with the same mother and father. I would try to talk directly to the owners of the individual dogs rather than through the breeder as I haven’t found breeders very forthcoming. I wouldn’t only be laser focusing on learning of incidents of similar aggression. I would also be looking for anything indicating lack of stability, for example, anxiety. With the Doberman, I’d ask about problems with Acral Lic Granuloma on the forelegs or obsessive licking any other part of the body. If you see a pattern, you may have at least part of the reason behind your dog’s reactivity. It may be high-drive dogs in the wrong homes or dogs where the tweaking has gone too far. Another possibility is tied to the traditional way high drive working line dogs are still often trained. They are often subjected to various versions and intensities of the ‘Might Is Right’ approach to dog training. It’s a yank and crank, alpha roll, I love you but I am Master, and you are Slave approach. Trainers and handlers of these dogs aren’t necessarily bad people. I’ve met a few that need to be locked away but overall they just honestly still believe that any other approach to training would result in a completely out of control dog. They would be correct if that approach were the ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ nonsense method made popular in recent years by celebrity dog trainers and pseudo-scientists. However, these dogs would do fine with a less autocratic and more balanced approach to relationship development and maintenance and the approach to their training. This ‘Might Is Right’ approach is unfortunately still prevalent in many hunting dogs, police dogs and working dog sports. It’s changing but the method is as much of part of the culture as it is an approach to training and as a result, it’s difficult to change the mindset. Part of the problem in bringing about change is that when the ‘Might Is Right’ approach is applied to working level well-bred dogs more often than not they bounce back in seconds. They often have extremely high thresholds for stress. As a result, they bounce back so quickly from these unnecessarily harsh physical corrections that it leaves their trainers and handlers with the impression that there’s nothing the matter with what they’re doing. If they get the results they wanted and they often do because pain is life’s number one motivator their belief in their methodology is further reinforced and the ‘Might Is Right’ approach lives on. Whereas try the same folly on your typical mediocrely bred companion level dog and you would quickly find they’d shut down if not need lifelong therapy. Where it goes south is if the dog can’t figure out what they’re doing to trigger the ‘Might Is Right’ reaction in their handler. If they can’t, they can’t fix it, and that is mighty frustrating. Some dogs finally get to the point where at the slightest sign of trouble they go into ‘get you before you get me’ mode. It’s a form of caused by training learned helplessness, except they don’t shut down. They fight back. They then start looking for the slightest signs that the hammer may be about to fall and again preemptively fight back. You may not think your reactions to misbehaviours has historically been over the top. However, one of the concepts in balanced training is treating dogs as individuals, and if you’re following a model rather than tailoring for your dog’s personality, it might be too much. I’ve found even aggressive Dobermans to be pretty sensitive when out of drive. You don’t have to be overly heavy-handed to be too heavy-handed for some dogs. It doesn’t have to be physical corrections either. Your tone and body language say a lot, and if the dog can’t connect the dots, stress levels can soar, and you can have an unexpected fight on your hands. You may just have a dog requiring a lot more finesse than another dog might. Another possibility, but less likely based on the information you’ve provided is relationship based. A lot of people live with their dogs like they’re fantastic roommates. Which is confusing to some dogs when it comes time to take guidance for minor things let alone more significant issues. People have three choices on how to develop a relationship with their dog. The ‘Might Is Right’ is authoritarian based and has a lot of areas where it can go wrong, but it does produce results. The ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ approach is more dependent on getting dogs addicted to treats and convincing the dog that the handler is their dealer rather than a natural teacher/student, parent/child relationship. It can also produce results but more in keeping with patterned behaviours akin to tricks rather than jobs. Then there’s balanced training which is based on the model selected by evolution and used by parents of every higher order species on the planet and is more thoroughly explained in my e-book The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template In short, it’s based on developing a teacher/student relationship that is almost always all positive but should the need arise, with a dash of ‘I’m not asking you, I’m telling you’. Leashes and collars are for keeping the dog from having physical advantages as opposed as a means to correct the dog. They can be used to get a distracted dog’s attention, but actual corrections are based on using tone and body language to convey, ‘you’re warm, and you’re cold’ in a manner tailored to the individual dog rather than a one size fits all. With that in mind, your obedience may not be what you think it is. It may merely be conditioned responses developed because you’ve worked hard to improve them. He does them without thinking because he doesn’t believe there is any other option. He’s may not even think of alternatives. It’s when there are options out of the ordinary scope of day to day obedience that you determine how healthy the relationship and obedience is. If this isn’t a hardwiring problem (genetics), I would be focussing on learning more about relationship building through a dialled down approach to obedience. I encourage my clients to use their leashes and collars for no more than getting a dog’s attention. They use their tone and body language to convey whether the dog is warm or cold. We then do what I refer to as the rule of three where we quickly repeat that portion of the lesson three consecutive times. This moves the dog from ‘what the heck’ to ‘Hmmmm’ to Oh!” It also allows the handler to tone down their approach. Much better than ‘Might Is Right’ or ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ attitudes as it allows the dog to work with the handler as a guide in figuring out how to please. Never forget, the dog is as far as I know the only species on the planet selectively bred to please human beings. You don’t have to aim for fear, or their tummies (stomach). If you are you’re missing the best part of the do (Note this column continues extensively in the comments below.) – John

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26 thoughts on “Seriously Aggressive Doberman – Possible Reasons Why”

  1. Val Doberman

    Thank you for the reply.
    As you mentioned , i know its a hardwired problem and could also be a little on my part of the early stage trainning.
    He is like that with dogs as well. He will play with a female dog for a few weeks without any incedents,and then out of no where as soon as she runs up he will snap. He also has confidence problems when it comes to other dogs. He will back away and if they smell him he will snap.
    Same for bite work. He will avoid biting the sleeve. But then if the helper gets a little jumpy and my dogs feels like its a threat he goes for the bite out of anger. Not prey drive. He will only react this way towards a bigger dog or person that will try to show him any kind of dominance. He did come from a working blood line. His Father has ipo1.
    He is from del elfiorsilva. And mother is from di altabelo. He is ckc registered.
    I think most of the problems come from him being a super driven dog with working bloodlines and confidence issues. He had them from day one.

    I didnt think much about his confidence problems at an early age. I think some of the pinch collar corrections even mild ones got to him in the wrong way. I never alpha rolled him only on 2 occasions but i had no choise. It was run away and make him think it worked. Or fight back and still get bit but not run off.

    1. The idea behind believing that were you to “run away” and the result being it would, “make him think it worked” is only correct in a superficial manner. Not to mention that what you’re doing isn’t working if you look at the repetitive and escalating nature of the behaviour and if we keep doing it why wouldn’t he? It’s part of the erroneous ‘Might Is Right’ mindset that I think you have been exposed. I do not believe in the idea of only rewarding good behaviour and certainly not ignoring bad behaviour. However, sometimes the best thing we can do for the dog is walk away and do some thinking as to what it is you’re doing that is triggering his lack of confidence in our communication skills. If he thinks that was a win for him, it will be temporary if you chose to learn from the experience. You also create the very real possibility if you duke it out with him that he’ll learn from that experience that next time he better try harder and maybe try to get to you before you know he’s coming at you. If you find things are escalating since he’s become an adult this is very likely why.

      Once in a blue moon I’ve found a prong/pinch collar to be useful but as a rule I don’t like them. It’s too much too fast on a reactive dog particularly in the hands companion dog owners and ties in to much of what I’ve had to say already about ‘Might Is Right’ training. I also think they often result in some lazy handling habits in dog owners and trainers that use them exclusively. It gives far too many people the belief that they have control but in the same way someone might think they’re a great driver but always have their emergency brake on. Physical control has a purpose in dog training however the goal is to teach the dog to exert self control when asked by their handler. Balanced training doesn’t use tools as means of correction. The most effective and clear corrections and rewards come from a handler the dog perceives and has come to respect as a teacher. Getting attention is fine but cross the line over to pain and you’re asking for trouble with a lot of dogs.

      You don’t have to physically alpha roll a dog. You can do it to them emotionally.

      1. Sharyl Thompson

        Please tell me how you would alpha roll a Dobie, emotionally.

        1. Hi Sharyl,

          Emotional isn’t the best choice of word. Let’s use psychological instead. The answer to your question is briefly addressed below. It’s not rocket science but it’s not something that can be entirely synopsized in a reply to a blog comment. More a seminar-type thing. Good question though.

          The amateur dog training world mostly seems to believe that dog training is some sort of unary or binary approach that has been picked up second hand and is parroted without any investigation to see if there’s any science to back it up. Typically companion dog owners are subjected to some pseudo-science presentation of either ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank) or ‘R+/All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free/Never Say No/Skinner Meant Two Quadrants Not Four/Everyone Gets A Trophy/Don’t Wreck The Dog’s Self-Esteem/Sit Down And Talk About Our Feelings. I would argue that no higher-order social species use anything similar to these scientifically unsupported ideologies in the context of teaching life skills.

          Imagine you and I go to a bar and to say the least, we don’t behave very well. The bar’s answer to our behavior is to call in the bouncer who will use some variation of ‘Might Is Right’, Alpha, Pack Leader, Dominant (Yank and Crank) to ‘change’ our behavior. There is certainly behavior modification in play although depending on how well equipped you and, or I are to respond in kind, Depending on our individual histories (the impact of past nature and nurture) there can be a few different short-term and long-term outcomes. Arguably as many if not more undesirable as desirable.

          The mainstay for all higher-order social species is to live with (raise), behave and teach offspring in such a way that is perceived as the ‘teacher’ to their offspring’s ‘student’. Something I also refer to occasionally as being perceived as a loving authority figure. The goal, in the case of dog rearing, is conveying, “You’re not bad. I’m not bad. But instead, the behavior is bad”.

          How do you ‘emotionally/psychologically’ alpha roll a child you’re raising?

          • You begin their lives by supervising them as if their lives depend on it from birth to adulthood. The physiological differences (speed/agility) between a dog starting at about 10 weeks of age and in some cases strength not too far down the line for some breeds make supervision far problematic than with our own species, but it’s entirely addressable, and arguably must be addressed to ‘emotionally/psychologically’ alpha roll.
          • You don’t wreck their freedom, you wreck their freedom to make mistakes.
          • You come to learn tone and body language that lets them know whether they’re ‘warm’ or ‘cold.
          • You teach foundation skills requiring the exercising of the ‘suck it up muscle’.
          • You set them up to succeed and build confidence by incrementally increasing the complexity of what is required of them.
          • You’re never all positive, but you’re mostly all positive.
          • If they know better and refuse to adhere you meaningfully up the consequence ante (Alpha roll if you will).

          The human equivalent of an alpha roll (I would argue that however, we want to dress it up, we have various forms of them) is very similar to what happens, (if you really watch carefully) what precedes such an act in the dog world when the dogs have an existing normal relationship and is rarely in place between the average human and their dog. The average dog perceives their owners (mostly due to the nonsense propagated by the amateur dog training world) as at best a room-mate.

          Human Offspring Alpha Roll:

          1. We’ve had this conversation 3 times.”
          2. You didn’t just hear me, I made sure you were listening to me. So you know “I wasn’t asking you. I was telling you.”
          3. You are now old enough to know better.
          4. Unplug your Xbox/hand over your phone/you’re grounded etc.

          Canine Offspring/social Group Alpha Roll:

          1. Warned you three times (tone and body language).
          2. You know I’m not your roommate.
          3. You know better.
          4. Here’s some physical correction to emphasize how serious I am.

          My question to you is how does an average-sized owner “Alpha Roll” their misbehaving adult Doberman when they can’t get the dog to do an undistracted stay/come/heel without a treat?

          I would argue there are a goodly amount of single moms with highly physically competent, athletic, intelligent young men grown into adulthood that still listen quite well, and that they established their loving authority figure perception/dominance without an ‘Alpha roll”. They psychologically/emotionally establish.

          – John Wade (

      2. I just lost my two year old dobie girl. Started as a bouncy bit of play but when my wife said off she hit her four times, twice in the arms as she shielded her face, once in the lower back and once in the buttock. It had never happened before. She outed on command but the damage was done in only a few seconds it took to run out the door and call her off. Still devastated. She was well trained and very closely bonded to me. She was easy European active working stock so we had no screening of past generations. What gets me is the suddenness of the behaviour. That said, she didn’t use her canines but her head, incisors and feet have resulted, multiple cuts and bruising and in dressing being changed and prophylactic antibiotics. Still devastated. She was my best friend

        1. Hi Barry, Thanks for sharing. When you’re feeling up to it, see if you can connect with owners of her littermates, and prior and past litters of the same parents. It would be good for them to know, just in case there’s a genetic reason behind this, and it might lead to helping you better understand the sudden change.

          – John “Ask The Dog Guy” Wade – Embracing Science and Common Sense

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  2. Val Doberman

    Its so hard to explain it in a text manner. I wish there was somone to see it happned who has the experience with a dog like this one. We can play tug for months at a time . He will out as soon as i say out. He will do everything asked of him and get rewarded and never corrected. Then one day you ask him to out. He ignores you. You raise your voice just a bit. He will out and growl in return. I will praise for the out. And stop the play or trainning. He seems fine after 30 seconds like nothing happned. Same as the last time he snaped at me. He was sleeping right beside me on the couch. For like 2 hrs. I just moved the blanket. And the static electricity from it scared him and he atacked me. Lucky the floor was slipery and i moved fast. Got away with some teeth marks on my back. Within 1 minute he acted like nothing happen. I did not correct him. And he is no longer alowed on the couch or any other furniture we use. I just cant seem to figure out a way to fix this.. so far had 7 incidents in his lifetime of 3 years.
    Or do i just learn to live with him this way and try to avoid close contact where he might go off.
    I have had 6 dogs in my life time including ,dogo argentino,boxer,and 2 roties. But i knew all there behaviours. And knew exactly what dog will react and how. This guy is unpredictable.seems so sweet for months at a time and then something like the static from the blanket sets him off. While i was just laying down

  3. Val Doberman

    As for emotionaly. My guy is very selfish he does not like atention unless you play with him. You can ignore him all day. He could care less. You come back from vacation he might not even come to meet you. He only realy interacts if he wants to play or you have aomething exiting for him. Otherwise he could care less. Not sure how to emotionaly anyone could make him think he did something bad. Ignoring does 0. And he wont even notice.
    Raising your voice he thinks it a threat and gets all tensed up. But will do whats asked. Phisical is not posible unless he is on leach. If you go to touch him he will snap.

    1. Hi Val,

      The additional information helps. You are correct though, this isn’t the appropriate venue for getting to the bottom of things like this. I do want to be clear that my responses shouldn’t be interpreted as judging you. They’re on the generic side so that others that find the site and this article might get some hints to point them in the correct direction.

      I think you’ve likely got a combination of factors. One is his genetics might be in conflict with his confidence, two, his genetic issues and confidence were very likely negatively impacted by activities during his critical socialization period (3-12 weeks of age), third the approach to training considering the other factors may haven’t been the best match for him. It’s also possible he simply has a chemical imbalance that may or may not be treatable. I would have his thyroid levels checked and if I were told they were in the normal range, I’d want to know how close to either edge. If it’s close I’d ask that he be treated as if it were outside the normal range. There is research to suggest that thyroid imbalance might cause this sort of problem or at least contribute to it. It’s inexpensive to treat. Here’s a link to one research paper’s abstract. The effect of thyroid replacement in dogs with suboptimal thyroid function on owner-directed aggression: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial

      Good luck,


  4. Val Doberman

    Thanks for all your replies. one last question. he’s not fixed, would that contribute to any of this would fixing him change anything?
    If he as much as smells afemale dog that passed by he will start drooling and clenching his jaw.
    Even if he just smels blood same thing.
    Even his own.when he cut his paw.

    When we go out. He can smell where the female dog went. And he walks up to that spot starts sniffing , drooling and licking that spot in the grass. Gets anoying .

    As for thyroid levels we tested when he was younger it was all normal.
    If judging by how he behaves. Could be on the high level side.
    He will eat as much as you let him. And still hungry.
    Runs more than any dog i have seen. Will run for hours at a time. And i mean like full out sprint. Sometimes i worry he will get a heart attack running so much. Comes home and walks around in circles like he has too much energy.
    He is very easy to train as long as its active trainning. When he anticipates going out or just me to toss his frisbie he is shaking cant controll himself. But wont move till i give release comand.
    Some people keep telling me to fix him. He will loose some of the energy.

    1. When the accepted psychological or psychiatric treatment for aggression in young adult male humans becomes castration I’ll start buying into it as a legitimate treatment strategy for the much more domesticated male dog.

      If this dog cannot learn to exercise his “suck it up muscles” after three years of legitimate training and a lifestyle in keeping with his mental and physical needs or has a genetic flaw contributing to what appears to be dangerous and certainly socially unacceptable behaviour for a normal working line Doberman that cannot be pharmaceutically treated I doubt castration will significantly impact the problem.

      What you seem to have (have someone that knows what they’re doing actually assess him one on one) is what I refer to as a hand grenade dog.

      Imagine a hand grenade minus the pin accompanying you throughout the day… you have no idea how long the fuse is… it could go off at any time… time passes… you let your guard down … and suddenly … you or some innocent are subjected to his next explosion.

      If this a hand grenade dog, safely dispose of him before he does any more damage to you or an innocent. Harsh I know. They can’t all be saved. They all shouldn’t be saved.

      If the breeder won’t take him back and you can’t bring yourself to put him down, then yes, castrate him. At least then we don’t pass his potential if not likely genetic flaws into the gene pool.

      You obviously care very much for your dog and are doing everything possible to be a responsible dog owner. However our responsibility (or maybe it’s an entirely different responsibility – either way) doesn’t absolve of us of our responsibility to family, friends, neighbours, or an innocent dog ignorant passerby.

      Also not good for the reputation of the breed.

      I wish I could be of more help.


  5. VAL Shelkunov

    Hi. Thanks for the advice.
    He has never shown any agretion towards anyone yet. Even dogs. He is more likely to hide behind me and if the presist he will only then snap.
    Never shown any agretion towards strangers or people. Even during bite work he will sometimes not do anything unles the helper will use something to get him going like a loud sound or a whip just touching his legs.even then he is not holding onto it properly. Even that time with the drunk guy like i mentioned in a past message . If i was a dog i would have bit him. He was 2 inches from mu dogs face growling and spreading his hands like a dog himself. And my dog started showing his teeth. I went to grab him and thats when i got was my fault. Leting it get there. The guy was playnig with him with my dogs frisby and then had some stupid ideas. Other than that its only me that he snaped at. I allmost feel like anyone that will try to train with him. And show him who is boss will be on his watch out list. Even without physical corrections. Just dominant body language and using a loud strict comand. And that will only happen when he does what he knows is not allowed. Then he will be watching out for you. The worst part is that it only happens once in like 5 months. And then he is like an angel the rest of the time. I had an9ther dog in the past that was like it. But all the time. And it was easy to control as it was expected. This one is unpredictable. Almost feel like he had a bad dream and woke up remembering something.

  6. VAL Shelkunov

    I could never put him down.
    The worst part of this is that he never showed agression to other people. Not anyone at home or outside other than me. Even dogs outside. Ones he does not know he hides behind me. And will only snap if they keep going after him. If he is with my girl friend than thats a different story he gest defensive of other dogs. He thinks thats his job.
    He got atacked by a dog while being with me and didnt even move. Not even fight back. The dogs owner pulled him off. and my boy was just standing looking at me like what just happened.
    So i am not woried about strangers safty or other dogs. He sometimes snaps at dogs he plays with on a daily. But never on stranger dogs. I think he will only snap at a person he thinks is higher ranking and when he feels like he did something wrong and you come too close to him.
    He wont even bite the sleve during training. Unles the helper gets a little pushy like when my dog feels like he has no choice. And even then his bite is not confident.lots of barking and no bite.
    So i would not worry about that at all.
    I feel like he knows he cant do certain things around me and others let him get away with it. So when i come he is all tense and thats when he can snap if i sit beside him or do something suden over him when he is sleeping.

    The time with the drunk guy ,if i was a dog i would bite him myself. The guy was playing with my dog for a little while with a frisby. Then decided to chalenge him. Leaned over and put his face 2 inches from my dogs face and started growling like a dog spreading his hands. My dog wrinkled his nose and was about to get him. I got in the way and got it instead when i tried to grab him. Thats the only incident ever. And even there my boy hesitated. I think he got me because he thought he is in trouble. And was already in that state.

    other ones happened 1 out of his sleep i was right over him trying to pick something up.

    When he was sleeping beside me and the static from the blanket scared him.

    Once when i yeled at him for braking a windo mesh trying to get out to play with the kids outside. I was walking towards him yeled and told him to go to his place. He went i folowed him and asked him to lay down. He would not, to i pointed at his bed and yelled down thats when he went off and bit me.
    And then layed down and was shaking.

    Anofher time when he put his paws on the table. That was something he did only once in his whole life. Stood with his paws up on the table. I said off. He ignored me. I walked up and said off . He just stood there . I pushed him off and he snaped. But didnt get me as i put the chair infront of me and made him back up and lay down.

    Thats why i feel like he just has mood swings. This happens once every 5 months or so. Other than that he is like an angel. Very playfull i can do w.e i want with him. Comes in the mornning a licks my face to wake up. This is why i have trouble understanding him.

    I had an agresive dog before. But he was allways the same so i knew how to deal with it. This guy is allways good. But then i cant fully trust him. Ans he might have a mood swing.

  7. Catherine

    Excuse me, but if you are constantly keeping this dog in a state of arousal, by using a “bite trainer” to goad him so that he is a guard dog and then punish him for taking control in a power situation, you are creating the situation. If a drunk is teasing your dog you walk away, you don’t wait for it to snap. If he is woken out of a deep sleep and is in a continual state of anxiety, it is no wonder that he attacks. His life is completely inconsistent. If you’ve been away for a while and he ignores you it’s because he doesn’t know what to expect from you…one moment you are treating him like he’s a slave and the next you are wondering why you have an unhealthy relationship. How could any dog relax? I suggest that you quit deterrence training, and steer him away from situations of arousal and treat him gently and consistently with love. And you need to unwind, it seems that your transmitting your stress to him. You’ve had guard dogs all your life and now you have one who is high strung. You need to go to someone who can train you to change your way of dealing with this dog. It’s apparent that you love him and you are in for the long haul. He needs patience, strength and confident leadership, not bullying, testing and goading followed by extreme punishment and terrified obedience. He might be stubborn and Alpha, but this scorched earth dominance is obviously getting you nowhere. And you have to look at what you are doing, to contain his anxiety, not enhance it. He loves you. Let him trust you.

    1. I sent the following message to Catherine, regarding some concerns I had regarding the content in her reply along with an opportunity to re-read what the original poster had written and reconsider with a re-write.

      “I can print your comment but I will have to point out that the first half of what you’ve written is based on accusations that are at best assumptions based on liberal extrapolations of what the dog’s owner has provided. It’s these bits that concern me, “kept in a constant state of arousal” your assumptions as to what is guard dog training are inaccurate, reframing the incident with the drunk inaccurately, the dog’s life is inconsistent. Opening with “Excuse me,” isn’t exactly a warm invitation to dialogue either. You do make some very good points starting with, “I suggest you quit deterrence training…””

      Catherine said print as is and in fact doubled down with additional comments which I haven’t posted as they were sent by email as opposed to comments for this article/column. She can copy and paste and add and submit as well if she wishes. The above is printed as is.


  8. VAL doberman

    Even with other dogs only ones he knows. Not strangers. There is a big english mastiff male thats about 160LB. My dog allways runs up to him starts snaping his jaw at him. Not actual biting. The other dog does not respond. Then my dog avoids him for the rest of the time being there and never goes near him. Next day same thing all over. Will snap at him and then go into avoidance behavior. He knows that mastiff from when my dog was 6 weeks old. And the mastiff used to let my guy jump on him the whole time he was growing up.

    If around other dogs he will never play tug. He thinks its somehow a threat and lets go of the toy and avoids it completely or will snap the odd time. But still let the toy go. And not pick it up till all the dogs are no where near it. No matter the size of the other dog. Even if it a Chihuahua.

    Sometimes he will squeal and run away if another dogs goes to sniff him. If that dog follows he will then snap and want to fight and that is when its hard to brake up.. as my guy is afraid of submitting. Literaly he will never give up. He will sometimes slip on the mud and slide on his side then go into a defensive state around other dogs.thinking he is vulnerable.

    When walking on the street he will allways avoid other dogs. Specialy if he is on leash.

    If its a female dog he will eventualy get happy and go up to her.

    If it a intact male he will avoid and not go up to him.

    A fixed male they allways snap at my dog and my guy doesnt know what they are. He thinks they are a female so he doesnt fight back.

    I dont know whats on my dogs mind. He is a wonder dog. The shutzhund club i go to. People with over 35 years trainning experience. Have trouble understanding my dog. As he is different every time i am there. And they had dogs all their life. Some on a national level ipo 3 .

  9. Val doberman

    and as you mentioned with the drunk guy i could not walk away. we went camping and this was someones friend that came along. and for a few hrs he was playing with my dog just fine. till he came up with stupid i ideas. i was all ways watching and what he did happened out of no where within 10 seconds.

    as for state of arousal … thats not the case, we used to train 2 times a week and there was more obedience .bite work once a week for no more than 15 minutes. and the bite was never forced and all ways trying to make it a calm and pleasant experience for the dog with lots of praise. and he allways wins and gets to go to leave with the sleeve.

    i don’t know where you got the extreme punishment and bullying from???

    he only got punished 2 times in his life and that was unavoidable as i would get chewed. while i was moving away he kept going at me and i am sure he is faster than me if i try to get away. the other times i let it go and did nothing but put something in front of me so he cant get to me.and strictly told him to go to his place and stay . ignored him for the day after that. and those times he managed to get me as well but slippery floors are on my side.he had no traction.

    everyone i talk to said put him down. if you had him you could then talk and blame someone for his behavior but i don’t think most of it is my fault. he was this way from 12 weeks old. redirect at anyone who would pull him off his litter mates.

    i am here for advise not accusations.
    and talked to many people here in toronto. worst ones are the positive training only trainers. w.e they say to do MAKES IT WORSE. as the dog will do w.e he wants and you got no punishment at all. even something basic like asking him to get off the couch. he will not listed to anyone. even if they yell . he will just look at them and stay there. if i come and just say off. he gets off instantly and gets a praise every time. and i have tried positive only for 80 % of his training. but the odd time he needs a little push. and its not anything drastic.used a prong collar and he would get a slight tug and a strict command. nothing more and all ways praised after doing whats asked.

    the way this dog is, even as a pup. crate training was a disaster. ignore him for a day try and wait for a silent minute to go over and praise him. but he never gives up. same thing goes for anything. you give him food from the table once (family members keep doing it) he wont stop begging after and if you ask him to go away he will completely ignore and just stand there. unless i come and ask him to leave.

    he has the best life out on any dog i ever had. as i know he is sensitive to corrections and try and do everything verbally and praise more than any other dog before.

    and i am not trying to make a guard dog out of him.
    schutzhund is a sport. not protection training.

    it involves lots of obedience. a lot of prey drive. and confidence. the less aggression the better. as that way the dog still listens and easy to control.even during bite work the helper will pet him and tell him good boy before letting the dog have the sleeve. when he runs out of there he is super proud and happy.

    before you accuse me of treating the dog as a slave and say i bully him. look into the sport and then talk. i have 0 intention in treating him bad. and love him like my own son. treat him better than myself.

    you can pick and choose from what i wrote. but that’s all info i tried to provide for John. i didn’t want to explain every small detail like the drunk guy.
    as i would never let a stranger drunk come near him.

    1. I wouldn’t bother even explaining to such a accusations you received that person has obviously no clue whatsoever about guard dogs, how they are trained and how they can behave and acts out when stressed. On top bloodline of dobermans yours from is very very hard to work with it’s completely different game in guards dogs. From what I read so far I think you are doing great job and you should be proud of yourself.

  10. Your Dobermann does not have the correct temperament to be doing bitework. I love and own two of my own dobies (I am South African so they are of European lineage, not much American blood here). A dog doing bitework, especially a Dobie needs to be 100% stable, which your dog is not. I am afraid to say that you are misguided in believing he is working line, Altobello is a large scale puppy farm breeder of showline European dobermanns. IPO I means very little as in many countries that is a requirement to breed a dog and often the judges are quite crooked. Real working line dobes are few and far between, a kennel like Warringhof breeds working line dobes you will see all their dogs are titled in IPO III at least besides other titles they may have. A eruo bred dobe is still often capable of work even if show line but its temperament must be carefully assessed. No dog as unstable as yours should be allowed near a sleeve or a suit. HE IS DANGEROUS and sadly unstable. My two have started civil personal protection and both are socialised to the max, good with children, crowds, loud noises and other dogs. My male is a stable as can be and the trainer would like me train him up for PSA competition I am not sure if I have the time. The truth is a good protector must never show unnecessary or unprovoked aggression, this is a big no no. If your dog is biting you repeatedly this is serious problem. A dobermann by nature should never show aggression to their owner/handler it goes against what they are. A nervous or anxious dog should also not be used in high stress sports or work like IPO or PSA. I am sorry to read about your dog as that is not the way a well bred dobermann should be. It is very sad. I wish you luck but please no more bite work and no more high stress.

  11. Oh and by the way my male is neutered and lost none of his drive. There are some Malis that act this way, like your dobie, that i know have been euthanised or dumped because they are too crazy for even work. Anxiety mixed with a hair trigger very dangerous. PS dobes do very badly with old shcool correction techniques, they are handler sensitive, and unlike the shepherds their nerves, when it comes to their owners, can be ruined by very heavy handed training. My two have had everything to build and maintain confidence.

  12. I have a 19 month old Doberman (94lbs, 28 inches tall, still in tact) named Sarge. He has been exhibiting aggressive behavior but only when he becomes excited. Please read and reply. I’m even opened to speaking with you offline if you are. But we really need advice, guidance and help. My Dobie is confident, alert, smart, and stubborn. He’s very sociable with other dogs. All he wants to do is play play play. If we are in friendly environments (pet store, vet, park) he allows complete strangers to pet him. But he’s very protective of us and our home. It’s as if he has polar opposite personalities. He goes from being a sweet goofy baby to barking, growling, hairs standing on his back if someone knocks on our door. Very intimidating! He stood tall and exhibited this behavior as early as 12 weeks. We bought him at 8 weeks. So the reason for my email is to get your advice.

    1. The first time aggression was an issue Sarge was 14 months. I dropped him off at the Vet as he had a histiocytoma on his lower back. When the tech brought him back to the car he said they had to muzzle him because he became cage aggressive as they approached the crate. I was shocked but he was in the beginning stages of this new irritating itchy histiocytoma so I assumed he wasn’t himself.
    2. The 2nd episode shortly afterwards was with my 12 year old son. It seemed initially when Sarge jumped on my son he was trying to engage in rough play (he would not stop jumping on my son). When I went to pull him off he turned aggressive towards my son. This was the very first time we ever saw him like this. He never exhibited aggressive behavior towards one of us.
    3. The third time, we wouldn’t open the back door for Sarge to chase a stray cat out of our yard. Unfortunately, my husband allowed him to chase this cat for two months. However, because Sarge exhibited aggression towards our son the week prior, we would not allow him to chase the cat. We don’t even say the word “cat” anymore out loud as that triggers him. So I made sure no one opened the back door. He was super excited and seemed frustrated that we wouldn’t let him out. Then he started jumping on my 17 year Ins daughter. Initially, when he jumped on her, he seemed like he wanted to rough house or play. When she got excited (high pitched scream throwing her hands up) and when I went to pull him off, he got aggressive towards her.
    4. The fourth time, me, my 17 year old daughter & 12 year old son were sitting in the living room with Sarge on my lap. Then our 14 year old Chihuahua (Carter) started to yelp (he was in the living room also just a little out of our view). My daughter’s and my first reaction was to run and see what was wrong. His foot got stuck in Sarge’s crate as Carter was trying to walk inside. My daughter reached Carter first to untangle his foot. The next thing I know Sarge turns his excitement then aggression on her. And jumped on her as if trying to attack. He bit her arm to grab it. It didn’t penetrate or break the skin. Just a firm grip. I had to bear grab Sarge to get him off of her. I feel like if I weren’t there to keep him off her he would have attacked or it would have definitely escalated. We think Sarge thought she was hurting Carter.

    He had the histiocytoma for 10 weeks and was very aggressive during that time. It completely dissolved and healed etc. Anyhow, we ended up getting an ecollar to correct (using the vibration and bell feature) his behavior. We also use a choke collar to walk him. He’s very strong. The ecollar has worked well. He does know what the shock feels like. We’ve used it twice in the first three weeks of using it.

    The last episode this week was two nights ago. My 21 year old son who’s home from college laid on the floor to wrestle him or play with him. I told my son never get on the floor and appear small. They continued to play for not even one minute it seems. My son was slap boxing (gently) his face. My son’s energy was high. I noticed Sarge started to jump in him with excitement and then aggression. My husband yelled and Sarge stopped immediately.

    Any advice you offer is greatly appreciated. I sent an email through another website and never heard back. I’m a little desperate at this point Thank you!


    1. Hi Mary,

      Can you send a video or videos of Sarge’s behavior?

      Sorry, I haven’t updated the site or all of the site forms to say so, but with the access people now have to ‘smartphones’, and subsequent access to video, I’ve decided to give priority to people looking for some input, where video (and permission to use the video) is included along with their dog behavior request/question.

      There are three major advantages:

      1. Actual video of Sarge’s behavior(s), vs. a verbal description can often eliminate a lot of guessing on my end and provide a much clearer idea of what is going on and subsequently make my reply far more likely to be useful to you.
      2. My reply video uses your video of Sarge as its backdrop to more precisely illustrate what I see and what to do about it. In much the same way coaches use practice and game-play video to improve performance.
      3. The end result is a more powerful resource for not only you but others struggling with similar issues.

      I hope you do decide to send some video examples of Sarge’s behavior as I’m certain many dog owners in similar situations will find my response video beneficial. Although, of course, do not put yourself or anyone else in jeopardy. Instead, provide video of Sarge in the lead-up, or alternatively, being equally less than responsive to your direction, but in a less dangerous context.

      Here’s the link for sending me videos: Send Your Video To Ask The Dog Guy For Input

      – John Wade (

      1. I do appreciate your prompt response. I have strong reservations mainly because I would prefer for my family to remain anonymous. If we are able to make a video without our faces visible then I might submit it to you. It may be challenging to replicate but certainly possible. I don’t worry about safety much if he’s leashed, my husband is present and we have the ecollar on him. When I’ve read on websites how people can wrestle their dog (and say it’s safe and healthy), I just think well lucky them. I would never suggest doing that after having this dog. He is a very sweet affectionate dog and we hope to keep him for the number of years Dobie’s typically live. He loves his family so much. We love him also. It’s 100% apparent that his genetic disposition and desire is to be glued to us (velcro dog) to protect every member of my family. He’s on constant patrol when outside. This is our first Dobie so I guess it’s Dobie thing. Before 14 months I would have thought he was the most mentally stable dog ever. I do think the histiocytoma altered his state of mind. My vet didn’t think so much. She said that you see your dog’s true personality and inappropriate behaviors around 15-18 months. And if he doesn’t improve to consider neutering him.

        1. Jane Cheuvront

          Hi I am looking for a answer. In my life time have owned four Doberman’s and never had a issue.
          My question is in regards of my niece who has four Doberman’s in various age groups.
          Two days ago she was bringing one of her dogs in from outside and she normally cleans their feet of mud.
          Nomad her 7 year that has owned since a puppy viciously attacked her. She has numerous leg and hand wounds requiring lots of stitches.
          Nomad has never displayed any signs of aggression in the past.
          All of her dogs are very socialize well treated and taken care.
          The dog was humanely destroyed.
          Now my brother and sister in law have three dogs from the same litter. Should they be on alert or could this happen to them regarding their’s do being the same litter.
          I know and have enter acted with both parents of the dog and never saw or heard of any aggressive behavior regarding their parents.
          We are baffled and curious to what would cause Nomad to attract her after owning the dog since a puppy for seven years.

          1. Hi Jane,

            In my experience, if a dog achieves three years of age and has legitimately not been aggressive, AND there haven’t been any changes in the rhythm and structure of the dog’s day-to-day, AND, OR ‘pack’ structure, a sudden change in behavior is likely to be due to an undetected/diagnosed disease or injury. Unless there was an autopsy done, as the dog is dead that questions can’t be answered. (Not that an autopsy always provides the answer.)

            However, in almost every instance I’ve been involved in where the dog’s owner claimed that they “never had an issue” or “never displayed any signs of aggression in the past ” has proven false due to either a cognitive bias or logical fallacy of some sort. Normally it turns out that the dog’s owner had consciously or unconsciously worked around certain “triggers”. Perhaps less likely in this case (which isn’t to say unlikely) as the dog in question was seven years of age and spent those years with the same owner. One would think there would have been a much earlier incident.

            If I had to dig, I would be looking at the recent dynamic between the four dogs, particularly related to gender and developmental period, AND the nature of the relationship between the dog’s owner and the dogs. If it wasn’t some sort of neurological, disease, or injury, I suspect the answer lays there.

            Sorry, your niece had this experience.

            – John Wade (

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