After months of deliberating, you took the plunge, you bought a beautiful, pet Doberman Pinscher.
You get home with your new addition to family, with a proud grin. As you walk through the door, your smile begins to flatten as you think “Now what?”
Training! That’s what!
Training a Doberman can be a tough at times, especially if you’re new to it. But if you understand from the start, that training doesn’t always have to be perfect, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache.
Training your dog is probably one of the best things a new D. Pinscher* owner can do. The sooner you start training your Doberman, the sooner your dog will become acclimated to you and your family, their new environment and what you expect of them.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is if you have a newborn Doberman, hold off on training for 8-10 weeks to allow your pet to become properly socialized. This can prevent potential aggression issues later on.
Today let’s examine the one schools of thought related to training a Doberman: Negative Reinforcement Training.
Training A Doberman Through Negative Reinforcement
Today I’m going to tell you a story about a different dog breed, one from my childhood, if that’s okay. I’m sure by the end of the story you’ll understand what I’m getting at:
When I was six years old, my father bought a pure breed, German Rottweiler, the son of a German dog show champion. The Rottweiler is a large breed that is renowned for it’s ferocity, but is also quite a loyal dog.
As a child, I remember my Dad putting my Dog’s nose in its own poo, when he would go to the bathroom on the floor. It seemed like the way to do things because it was common advice. “Want to potty train your dog? Put his nose in his own pooh.”
When he was a puppy I remember our Rottweiler being sweet, playing with the kids in the neighborhood, playing with the dog next door, etc. The dog had minor issues, namely leg-humping, but he was pretty well socialized.
When I was around 10 years old, the Rottweiler began to grow into his own. For some reason or another my Dad started taking a progressively more old-school, far more harsh approach to training our Rottweiler.
When the dog would make mistakes, or engage in behavior my father disapproved of, my Dad would yell at the dog or hit him (the hallmarks of negative reinforcement training).
Over time, the Rott did eventually catch on to all of my father’s rules and would follow them.
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The Effects of Negative Reinforcement Training
Unfortunately, I also noticed over time, that the dog became increasingly afraid of my father. When Dad was around the dog would sometimes cower with his tail (or stump in this case) between his legs, or he would crouch and lower his head.
It was almost like he was preparing to be hit whenever he was around my father. Initially we didn’t pay much attention to the behavior, because he would still be pretty playful with friends and family.
Over time, that all changed. Our sweet little dog champion pup, grew up to be a very strong dog, but very mean dog. I hate to say it, in our household we kind of took pride in having the fiercest, guard dog on the block. Our dog made us feel quite safe.
Looking back though, I realize the little things. Knowing that my dog wasn’t always like that, made me think about what changed him.
As a pre-teen, my friends were terrified of my dog. When he would see strangers, he would pause at the window…lip slightly curled, and the the ferocity would ensue. He would start jumping, barking and scratching at the sliding glass door he was housed behind.
The scariest incident was when the dog jumped a concrete enclosure that we thought was too high for him to get over, and he chased after one of my sister’s friends.
The young lady darted for the house, the dog hot on her heels. She slammed sliding door (on my mother’s hand) mere seconds before the Rott Weiler got to her rear leg.
Luckily she was a fast runner, but that could have turned out so differently. What if she wasn’t so quick? What if the Rott Weiler had gotten a hold of my sister’s friend? The dog was heavier and stronger than she was.
The Rott Weiler would have seriously injured this girl or worse. Had that happened, it is highly likely that our beloved dog would have been put down.
The Final Years
In his old age, I think our dog began to lose his vision. He actually bit me once while I was petting him! Years of aggression and old age don’t mix so well I guess.
I became increasingly afraid of the family pet. I didn’t want to feed him anymore, because I was scared of what he might do. In his later years, my Dad did most of the care-taking.
He died about a year after the biting incident. Sadly that’s one of the final memories I have of a dog that lived from the time I was 6 until I was nineteen years old.
The Moral of The Story Is…
This is a story about a Rott Weiler, but the lesson easily applies to any dog. Whether you’re training a Doberman, a Boston Terrier, or a Chihuahua, negative reinforcement training has consequences.
An isolated dog that has been raised with negative reinforcement can lead to serious aggression issues.
If I hit my Doberman every time I’m trying to communicate a message to him, it’s highly likely that my dog will become aggressive.
An aggressive dog is a dangerous dog. These days, with my Doberman Pinscher, I follow a far different approach than my father did. We’ll talk about that, next time…