Written by Sue Barrett (KZN Representative)
The story of Dobermann Rescue South Africa began in January 2013. A friend told me about a six-month-old female Dobermann who needed a home because her landlord did not like the fact that the dog was digging up the garden of the rented property.
Dobermanns belong to the “working dog” group. They were initially developed in Germany in the late 1800s by Karl Friedrich Louise Dobermann (hence their name) as protection dogs. Herr Dobermann was a tax collector in Ipolda, Germany; he also managed the dog pound. He wanted a dog to protect him whilst on his tax collection duties and mixed various breeds (or “pound dogs”) together to create the Dobermann.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (the largest international federation of kennel clubs) breed standard describes the Dobermann as: “…of medium size, strong and muscularly built. Through the elegant lines of its body, its proud stature, and its expression of determination, it conforms to the ideal dog. The Dobermann must be exceptionally suitable as a companion, protection and working dog and also as a family dog”.
Dobermanns, as personal protection dogs, were originally bred to seem aggressive and ferocious – they had to be large and intimidating, fearless, and willing to defend their owners but be sufficiently obedient and restrained to do so only on command.
This has been toned down by modern breeders and today’s Dobermanns are known for a much more even- and good-natured temperament, extreme loyalty, high intelligence and great trainability. They’re also known to be energetic, watchful, fearless and obedient.
All these traits mean that Dobermanns – often affectionately known as Dobeys or Dobes – have particular needs when it comes to owners.
What Dobermanns need
Dobermanns have specific needs, and if these aren’t met, people may sit with a “problem” dog that they can’t manage. Sadly, this often ends with the dog being given up for rehoming.
These are high-drive dogs with a lot of energy. As a result, they require a lot of stimulation, exercise, and training. Some will say that the Dobermann trains its owner, not the other way around – they have a way of dictating how things should be done and when. Therefore, firm boundaries have to be set with Dobermanns. If their need to “work” isn’t met, they’ll become bored – and a bored Dobermann will invariably end up in rescue.
They also require lots of attention and have a propensity to be “in your face”, literally and figuratively (you will NEVER go to the bathroom alone when you have a Dobermann!) – they’re not called “velcro dogs” for nothing. Because of their loyalty, they make wonderful companions.
Despite appearing tough, Dobermanns are best suited as indoor dogs; their short coat means they don’t handle the cold well and their strong attachment to their family means that they’ll do anything and everything to get to their family – including scratching your front door down! Dobermanns do not suit a home where they’ll be left to their own devices.
Dobermanns are wonderful with children if they grow up with them and if the children do not bully them. Cats can be problematic – unless they’ve grown up with them, they’re generally not good with cats. Remember that high drive? Cats are seen as prey, and when the cat runs, the game is on…
The bottom line is that the Dobermann is not a dog for everyone. If owners don’t have time to invest in training and exercise (including both mental and physical stimulation), they should consider another breed.
And that brings me back to the beginning again…
Since that first dog arrived on my doorstep in 2013 – the one digging up the garden (her owner was a policewoman and was out all day and often worked night shifts) – Dobermann Rescue South Africa has rehomed over 50 Dobermanns per year across the country, with Gauteng being the biggest generator of dogs needing homes.
On the 6th of March 2013, we created the Facebook page in the name of the Dobermann Club of Natal; very shortly thereafter, it was changed to Dobermann Rescue South Africa as we were very soon networking dogs from around the country.
We’re proud to say that our Facebook page now has a following of over 3,800 people, all focused on finding good homes for Dobermanns in need.
Many happily ever afters
We have many good stories to tell. Some very sad ones as well. Fortunately, for the most part, the dogs we rehome are not abused but need new homes because owners are moving (emigrating or scaling down), have passed on, or, like the first girl we got in, are bored because of a lack of stimulation.
Charlie and Rex are two of the lucky Dobeys which were helped through Dobermann Rescue SA.
Charlie, a brown male Dobermann, was found as a stray in Cape Town in shocking condition; he was skin and bone and had pressure wounds on his joints. He was taken into foster care, and very shortly thereafter was rehomed. In no time at all, he was a transformed dog!
Rex was found in Johannesburg after having been hit by a car at only one year old; he had broken bones in both back legs and was taken to the vet. Unfortunately, it would cost R20,000 to fix his legs. His owners were found but sadly simply couldn’t afford this and he was surrendered to DRSA. Through our Facebook page and our followers’ generosity, we raised R10,000 for Rex’s operation. We’re forever grateful to Dr Michele Miller of Paws in Motion Veterinary Clinic, Gauteng, for agreeing to do Rex’s operation at the reduced amount. Rex made a full recovery and went on to be adopted by the Holmes family where he is very happy.
For more happy Dobermann stories and to find out more about DRSA, visit their Facebook page at @dobermann.rescue.sa (https://www.facebook.com/dobermann.rescue.sa/) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.