Here’s Why Dobermans Aren’t Used as Police Dogs. Surprised?

When you think of a Doberman Pinscher, you probably envision a muscular dog with a fiercely intimidating appearance. Not to mention their agility, loyalty, and intelligence.

Seems to be perfect for a police dog, right?

Truth is, despite these qualities, Dobermans are not commonly used as police dogs. In fact, they are one of the least popular breeds for police work. The reason lies in two words: reputation and temperament.

In this article, we’ll explain what this means.

To better understand why Dobermans don’t make good police dogs, let’s take a look at where they originated and what they were bred for.

Dobermans originated in Germany and were bred by crossing several breeds, including the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Weimaraner, and German Pinscher. The result was a breed that was strong, agile, loyal, and intelligent.

Thus, the Doberman Pinscher was born!

We consider Dobermans to be a large breed, with males typically weighing between 75-100 pounds and females weighing between 60-90 pounds. They have a sleek, muscular build and are known for their strength and agility.

Originally bred as guard dogs and watchdogs, their intelligence, loyalty, and bravery made them an excellent choice for protecting people and property.

Dobermans were also used as military dogs during World War II. Their jobs included detecting mines, carrying messages, and guarding military installations.

Dobermans are now popular family pets but are still widely used as watchdogs and guard dogs.

So why aren’t police departments taking advantage of all these positive traits and using them as K9 officers? The answer lies in two words: reputation and temperament.

It’s true that Dobermans can make excellent family pets because of their affectionate nature, loyalty, and intelligence. On the downside, they are high-energy and strong-willed. This means they need to be properly socialized and trained to avoid becoming overly aggressive.

And since K9 training is particularly lengthy and rigorous, this means Dobermans can be more expensive and time-consuming to train than other breeds.

Temperament Issues

Dobermans are excellent guard dogs due to their loyalty, confidence, and fearlessness. When it comes to police work, however, a more critical factor is temperament.

Police dogs need to have a strong sense of loyalty, be able to follow commands, be disciplined, and have a high level of confidence. While Dobermans are naturally loyal and confident, this can be offset by their tendency to be stubborn and dominant.

Socialization Issues

Doberman with two other dogs

By socialization, we mean introducing dogs to new people, animals, and environments so that they can learn to behave appropriately in different situations. Unfortunately, Dobermans can be pretty difficult to socialize.

One of the challenges in socializing a Doberman is their wariness of strangers. Dobermans are naturally protective of their family and territory, and that means they can be overly suspicious of which can make them suspicious of people they don’t know.

This can be a real problem for K9 dogs, as they are frequently exposed to the public.

Dobermans must be exposed to a variety of people, including adults, children, and seniors so that they can learn to tell the difference between a friendly person versus a threatening one. The last thing a police officer wants is for a K9 dog to attack an innocent person.

Another challenge in socializing a Doberman is that they can are not always good around other dogs, especially ones of the same sex.

Since Dobermans were bred to be guard dogs, they can be territorial and dominant. As a result, they must be socialized with a variety of dogs from a young age.

It’s important that they learn to behave well and not automatically show aggression when meeting other dogs. This is something that is not always natural to Dobermans and must be learned.

Finally, Dobermans don’t always react well to new experiences and environments.

They can become anxious or stressed when exposed to new situations, which can make it challenging when it comes to socialization and training. They must be introduced gradually to new experiences, which only extend the basic training time before they can begin law enforcement training.

Training Challenges

Dog getting an obedience command

A major obstacle in training a Doberman as a police dog is their sensitivity to stress and anxiety.

Training for police work can be highly demanding, challenging, and stressful for both the dog and the handler. Dobermans require a lot of training to be able to handle this stress.

Dobermans also require extensive obedience training from a young age to control their natural aggression and territorial instincts. The time and expense for this level of training is a problem for most police forces.

Another issue with Dobermans is their tendency to be dominant. This can make them difficult to train and handle, especially for inexperienced handlers. They require a firm and consistent approach to training, which can also be time-consuming and expensive.

Lastly, since Dobermans are not as popular as other breeds for police work, it can be difficult to find experienced trainers who can work with them effectively. It’s far easier with other breeds, such as the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois, that are more popular and established for police work.

While Dobermans do have some inherent traits that can make them effective police dogs, the extensive training required to get them to this level is a major obstacle for law enforcement organizations.

Aggressiveness and Dominance Issues

A primary limitation for Dobermans as police dogs is their aggressive temperament. While this can make them effective guard dogs and watchdogs, it also makes them difficult to handle in high-stress situations.

Added to this, Dobermans have a high prey drive. This is a problem with it comes to working with other animals, such as horses or other police K9 units. It can also be a problem when encountering smaller animals in public places, which is where police dogs can spend much of their time.

And, as pointed out earlier, training them to overcome these tendencies can be very challenging and more than what a police department wants to take on.

Problems with Multiple Handlers

Dobermans are known to have a strong tendency to bond with one person. This can be a problem for K9 dogs, as they can work with multiple handlers and are frequently in a team environment.

Dobermans can become overly protective of their chosen person, which can cause aggression towards other people or other animals. This is a big disadvantage for police work, where they may need to work with and be handled by many different people.

While this tendency to bond with one person is why Dobermans make excellent family pets, it makes them less effective as police dogs, where they need to be able to work with different handlers and respond to commands from anyone on the team.

In addition, Dobermans can be prone to separation anxiety, which can make them unsuitable for long periods of time away from their handlers.

Doberman newspaper headline

As a breed, Dobermans suffer from bad press, which has led to a rather negative perception on the part of the public.

After all, they have a very intimidating appearance. They are a large, muscular breed with a sleek, black coat and cropped ears. This can certainly be scary to people not familiar with this breed.

Combined with their reputation as aggressive dogs, many people fear them or at best are uncomfortable around them. This has also been fueled by sensationalized media reports and movies that depict them as vicious attack dogs.

Unfortunately, this resulted in Dobermans being unfairly labeled as aggressive and dangerous dogs, despite their friendly and loyal nature. This is one of the reasons they are less popular as pets than some other breeds. It’s also what makes them even less popular as police K9 dogs due to the growing negative public perception of this breed.

We think it’s important to note that Dobermans are not inherently dangerous or overly aggressive dogs. Any breed of dog can be trained to be well-behaved and obedient, and Dobermans are no exception.

Despite their strong, muscular physique and intimidating looks, Dobermans have some physical limitations that impact their desirability as police dogs.

Hot and cold climates

Dobermans have short and thin coats. This means they don’t have much insulation for cold weather, which can lead to hypothermia. It also means they have little protection from the sun’s harmful rays during hot weather.

Consequently, they have a higher risk of developing health problems resulting from extreme temperatures.

They can be prone to respiratory issues because of either cold or hot extreme temperatures. They are also at a higher risk of developing skin problems such as sunburn and frostbite, due to their thin coat.

This is another reason why they are not commonly used as police dogs. Police dogs spend much of their time outside, so breeds with thicker coats to better contend with both cold and hot climates are more suitable for police work in extreme climates.

German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois, with their thick coats, are better suited for police work in extreme temperatures.

Dog nose

Like all dogs, Dobermans have a keen sense of smell,

However, it’s only average when compared to the common police dog breeds. While the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois are in the top 10 of dogs with the best sense of smell, the Doberman doesn’t even make the top 25.

This makes them less effective in tracking and detecting scents, which is a crucial skill for police dogs, where a stronger sense of smell is generally preferred. Dobermans are much better as guard dogs, where other skills are more important.

At 10 to 12 years, Dobermans have shorter lifespans compared to other police dog breeds. As a comparison, Belgian Malinois have a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years, and German Shepherds are at 9 to 13 years.

Speaking from a strictly economic viewpoint, this means that they may not be able to serve as long as other breeds. This can make them less cost-effective in the long run.

Doberman at the vet

Dobermans are more prone to several health issues than other police dog breeds.

One of the most common health concerns is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This is a condition that affects the heart muscle and can lead to heart failure. It’s often hereditary and can be difficult to detect until it is too late.

Dobermans are also prone to hip dysplasia, a condition that affects the hip joint and can cause pain and lameness.

They also tend to overheat. Their short coat provides little protection from the sun, making them susceptible to heatstroke in hot weather. Also, they have a high metabolism and a low body fat percentage, which makes it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature.

Dobermans are also prone to bloat, a condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists on itself. This can be a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. This makes them a high risk in the field.

Lastly, Dobermans are prone to a variety of skin issues. This includes allergies, hot spots, and bacterial infections. These conditions can be uncomfortable and painful for the dog and may require ongoing treatment. These can be a distraction and can require time off for treatment.

Having said all this, we’ll also say that Dobermans are generally healthy and robust dogs. But their susceptibility to certain health issues makes them less suitable for police work than some other breeds.

German Shepherds

German Shepherd police dog

German Shepherds are one of the most popular breeds for police work. They are known for their intelligence, loyalty, and courage.

German Shepherds have a strong work ethic and can handle a variety of tasks such as tracking, searching, and apprehension. They are also highly – and easily – trainable and can perform well in a variety of environments.

There are several other reasons why German Shepherds are preferred over Dobermans:

  • Their size. German Shepherds are larger and can thus appear more intimidating than Dobermans.
  • They are also more agile and can move quickly in tight spaces.
  • German Shepherds have a better sense of smell than Dobermans, which is essential for tracking and searching.
  • Another reason why German Shepherds are preferred is their temperament. They are highly trainable and have a strong desire to please their handlers. Unlike Dobermans, they can handle stress well and can remain focused in high-pressure situations.
  • German Shepherds have much more experience. They have been used in police work for over 100 years.
  • German Shepherds were bred for police work, whereas Dobermans were primarily bred to be companion and personal protection dogs, not to do police or military work.
  • German Shepherds are bred to be calm and in control, even in chaotic and high-stress situations. Dobermans can struggle with this unless extensively trained.
  • While German Shepherds are naturally suspicious of strangers, they are a better judge of whether the stranger is a threat, a trait that helps protect their human partners.

Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois Police Dog

Belgian Malinois are another breed that is commonly used in police work and in fact, are gaining in popularity over the German Shepherd.

They are highly intelligent, energetic, and have a strong work ethic. Belgian Malinois are known for their agility and speed, which makes them ideal for tasks such as chasing and apprehension. Here are other reasons why they make better police dogs than Dobermans.

  • Like German Shepherds, they are highly trainable and can easily handle a variety of tasks such as tracking, searching, and detection.
  • Belgian Malinois also have a better sense of smell than Dobermans, which is essential for tracking and searching.
  • They are also more agile and can move quickly in tight spaces, even better than a German Shepherd.
  • Their temperament. They are highly trainable and have a strong desire to please their handlers.
  • Like German Shepherds, they are naturally suspicious of strangers but good at determining the level of threat they may pose.
  • Also like the German Shepherd, they can handle stress well and can remain focused in high-pressure situations.

Overall, both the German Shepherd and the Belgian Malinois make better police dogs than a Doberman for most of the same reasons.

To recap, while Dobermans are a great breed, they are not as well-suited for police work as German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois.

These breeds are more agile, larger (in the case of the German Shepherd) and have a better sense of smell than Dobermans. They are also highly trainable and have a strong work ethic.

While Dobermans have many positive traits that make them excellent guard dogs, their temperament issues make them less suitable overall for police work. Public perception also works against them.

While some individual Dobermans may excel in police work, as a breed, they are not commonly used in law enforcement.

Scroll to Top