The Doberman Pinscher is one of the most iconic dog breeds to originate out of Germany. Not only are they superb working dogs, but are also loyal and fearless protectors. But do Dobermans have the dog intelligence to match their physical prowess?
Doberman Pinschers are some of the smartest dogs in the world. In fact, they’re the 5th smartest dog breed for “obedience & working intelligence.” But what makes them truly intelligent is their innate ability to gauge perceived threats in nearly any situation and environment. It’s why they’re the premiere guard dogs.
The Doberman Pinscher is a highly capable dog. There’s no doubt about it. After all, there’s a reason why they make some of the top police and military dogs – in addition to being home guardians. That said, let’s examine what really makes these dogs smart.
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How We Measure a Doberman’s Intelligence
As the 5th smartest dog breed, Doberman Pinschers are more intelligent than nearly every other breed. In fact, only the Border Collie, Poodle, German Shepherd and Golden Retriever rank higher. But how did the “experts” come to this conclusion?
The infamous smartest dog breeds list was developed and published by a pHD and canine psychologist, Stanley Coren. He ranked dog breeds based on “obedience and working intelligence,” which measures how fast a dog learns and retains its training.
The Dog Intelligence Criteria
Though he was credited for the research, he didn’t do it all by himself. Coren requested the help of 199 obedience trial judges (from the AKC and CKC) to help evaluate and rank dog breeds based on his obedience training criteria.
Here’s what the rankings were based on:
- The number of repetitions needed for a dog breed to learn a new command. Fewer repetitions meant the dog breed was a faster learner, thus more intelligent.
- The success rate of a dog breed obeying a known command on the first attempt. The higher the rate, the more obedient and intelligent the dog breed.
Stanley Coren received a much larger response than he anticipated. But even so, not all dog breeds that participated in the trials qualified for his final intelligence list. Instead, only breeds that had at least 100 responses qualified.
The trials also did not include mixed dog breeds. Only recognized dog breeds were evaluated by the obedience judges in the trials. But thanks to their immense popularity, the Doberman Pinscher qualified for the trials.
How the Doberman Performed
The Doberman Pinscher performed exceptionally well. Like, top 5 well. Dobermans did so well that they were placed in the top 10 smartest dogs class – the highest possible category for dog intelligence. So what does this mean for the dog?
Being in the top 10 meant that Dobermans were capable of learning a new command with less than 5 repetitions! Depending on the complexity of the command, you may be able to teach a Doberman a new command in just a few minutes!
Furthermore, Dobermans will successfully obey a known command on the first try 95% (or higher) of the time. Not only are Dobermans smart, but remarkably obedient too!
And just for reference, other dog breeds in the same intelligence class as the Doberman include the Rottweiler, Papillon, Australian Cattle Dog, Labrador Retriever and the Sheltie. Not a bad group of breeds to be associated with.
Dobermans vs. Average Intelligent Dogs
There’s nothing wrong with being average, especially when it comes to dogs. All dog breeds are smart enough to provide most people with their needs. But out of curiosity, how does the Doberman Pinscher compare to the average dog?
The average dog is capable of learning a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. In other words, Dobermans are at least 5 times faster than the average dog when it comes to learning commands.
In addition, average dogs tend to obey a known command on the first attempt just 50% (or higher) of the time. The numbers suggest they’re certainly less obedient. However, it doesn’t mean average intelligent dogs don’t understand what you’re asking.
Some of the world’s most popular dog breeds are “average” intelligent. For example, the Dachshund, Boston Terrier, Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky and Shiba Inu are in this intelligence class. That’s also not bad company for being just “average intelligent.”
2 Other Reasons Why Dobermans Are Smart
When it comes down to obedience and working intelligence, the Doberman Pinscher is second to only a handful of breeds. They’re some of the best learners and most obedient dogs. But are they intelligent in other ways?
Obedience and working intelligence is just one dimension of canine intelligence. But because it’s much easier to objectively measure this type of intelligence, it’s used for Coren’s list.
And even Stanley Coren admits that there are two other components of dog IQ, called adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, Dobermans excel at. Some will even argue that these other two dimensions are even more important in truly measuring dog IQ.
The “Guard Dog Intelligence” in Dobermans
Instinctive intelligence in dogs refers to the innate ability, skill or job the dog was bred for. In the past, all dog breeds were bred for a specific purpose. It’s why we have so many dog groups and classes today: retrievers, herders, guard dogs and more.
For example, Border Collies were bred to herd livestock. Hence, herding is their instinctive IQ. The innate ability of Border Collies to round up livestock and move them into formations and in different directions (all without human training) requires instinctive intelligence.
Skyler is a mix but has the Doberman protectiveness. She would let anyone in the house, but if they tried to hurt someone…oh somebody would be dog food.– Wolfgirl121 (Gentle Doberman)
On the other hand, the Doberman Pinscher was bred to be the ultimate guard dog. In fact, the dog was first bred by a tax collector named Louis Dobermann. Back when tax collecting was a dangerous job, he needed a guard dog to accompany him on his runs.
After years of crossbreeding, the Doberman Pinscher was finally born. And as a result, they’ve become one of the most formidable and feared guardians. They’ll come with natural protective instincts and great awareness – all the qualities of a top guard dog.
By nature, Dobermans are loyal and will guard their people and territory. However, it’s their ability to recognize friends from foes that makes them so instinctively intelligent. I mean, what good is a guard dog if he or she just attacks everyone and anything?
There are a lot of big, scary dogs in the world. But since Dobermans are so good at differentiating the good from the bad, they’re some of the best guard dogs. Despite this, it’s still highly recommended that you provide them with lots socialization.
Early on, a Doberman must learn to differentiate between the two on their own. By meeting all types of people with good intentions, they will easily recognize the bad. This is the only way to fully bring out their instinctive IQ. That said, Dobermans still need to be trained to be friendly.
The Doberman’s Adaptive Intelligence
The final dimension of dog IQ is adaptive intelligence. This type of intelligence refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. In other words, high adaptive intelligence is seen in dogs that can solve problems and learn from mistakes.
It worth noting that adaptive intelligence can vary a lot among individual dogs in a breed. Still, the Doberman is a dog breed with generally high adaptive intelligence as evident through anecdotes and owner stories or testimonials. For instance, one owner tells us:
My Doberman tried to outrun a wolf. The wolf was faster, but she anticipates his moves and uses her intelligence to cut the wolf off.– Camelandfriends
If you’re interested in watching the video, check this out. After running around in circles for a good while, the Doberman was able to learn from the experience. He not only realized that the chase was futile, but devised a plan to get ahead.
Another owner tells us how his dog gets his attention: “he’ll walk to table, grab a pair of our sunglasses or something, bring them back over in front of us, and drop them on the floor. And then he just stares at us like ‘whacha gonn’ do?’“
These are just a few stories of high adaptive intelligence in Doberman Pinschers among the many that are out there. And if you asked a Doberman Pinscher owner what they’ve done that was “smart,” you’ll likely get plenty of similar responses.
Is Your Doberman Smart?
One of the best ways for gauging a dog breed’s intelligence is to ask the owners. But chances are, you may not known many Doberman Pinscher owners.
So, we surveyed the very-popular Doberman Subreddit for answers to this question. Here’s what the owners had to say:
Real Owner Answers:
1. Mermaidintraining says Yes: “The good thing about Dobermans is that they’re highly intelligent. But the bad thing about Dobermans is that they’re highly intelligent.”
2. Dragonsecho says Yes: “These dogs are termed Velcro dogs due to their need to be with you ALL THE TIME. Not sure on hunting, although they are extremely intelligent and highly trainable dogs.“
3. Fantasmalime says Yes: “My Doberman is often times smarter than my kids. It’s a little comical just how intelligent these dogs are.”
4. Bajasa says Yes: “They are super smart, easy to train, pick things up really quick. But saying that, they’re so smart, they need to be exercised or have some stimulation or they can get destructive/moody.“
5. Auserhasnoname says Yes: “Our Doberman pup is proving to be a lot more trouble than expected. She is extremely intelligent and all the more stubborn because of it.”
6. Immikehonco says Yes: “He is extremely intelligent and takes to the training very well. My wife…walks him a lot in the afternoon, plays with him and reinforces the training. The problem is he has destroyed so many things.”
7. Sherbetwinnr says Yes: “I’ve owned a Border Collie, Rottweiler, Aussie and German Shepherd. The Doberman was the smartest and most obedient!“
8. Justamananddog says Yes: “Never underestimate the intelligence of a Doberman!! Don’t fall for their ‘play dumb’ act. They’re smart and they know it.”
9. Evilsardine says Yes: “First time dobbie owner here as well! They are extremely smart dogs that are super friendly with people and dogs as long as all the proper training and socialization is done.“
10. Terrencetice says Yes: “Dobermans are hilariously smart…but only to the point where they become super adept at finding ways to get your attention.”
Smart Toys for Smart Dobermans
The problem with owning a smart dog is that well, they’re a smart dog. The more intelligent the dog is, the more mental stimulation they’ll need. And of course, Dobermans are some of the smartest dogs.
Imagine if Albert Einstein was not provided the tools and resources to research physics. By not providing a Doberman with mental stimulation, you’d be doing something similar.
One owner recommends, “give them an outlet, providing mental stimulation will work better than physical activity in keeping them happy and well- adjusted.“
The good news is that mental stimulation can come in the form of smart toys and dog puzzles. It’s the perfect tool to give you a break from obedience training. Here’s some of my dogs favorite smart toys.
A great interactive dog toy is the StarMark Bob-A-Lot. Instead of just handing you Dobie treats and kibbles, why not make them work? They’ll need to figure out that tilting the bobble a certain way releases the treats/food.
If you’re interested in this, make sure to get a size Large for your Dobie. It comes with two chambers, so you can have both kibbles and treats! I’d highly recommend checking it out here at Amazon.
Another dog puzzle that my Aussie absolutely loves is the Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle. This comes in three variations, but I thought the Hide N’ Slide was the best.
Your Doberman can spend a great deal of time figuring out how to access his/her favorite treats. It’ll for sure keep them busy especially if you put in their favorite treats. Check it out here at Amazon.
The point is that Dobermans need a lot of methods for mental stimulation. If none of these toys seem attractive, you should still find something to help out. Take your pick on Amazon – there are so many great options to choose from!
Doberman Pinschers are fantastic dogs with a high dog intelligence. But you’l want to provide the essentials for a happy and healthy Doberman. Otherwise, it may be possible to see some destructive behavior which no owners want.
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