Choosing between two dogs such as the German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher can be really tough.
Maybe your dilemma is that their both similar.
Or perhaps you’re just unclear on what makes each breed unique.
Here, we will look in detail at both breeds to find out what distinguishes them from one another.
This article will help you see which breed would suit your family best and learn a few important canine facts.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher History
One of the most interesting ways to find out just how similar two dogs are is to look at their histories.
Where did the breeds come from? When did they start to become popular? What were they originally bred for?
Let’s take a look.
As the name suggests, the German Pinscher originated in Germany, and is actually one of the earliest dog breeds from this country.
This breed was originally bred as a pest exterminator, to hunt and kill rats.
The German Pinscher was used to breed the Doberman Pinscher into creation.
The Doberman Pinscher is another German breed, but they were created and bred for a very different purpose.
Bred by a taxman called Louis Dobermann, he wanted to create a dog that could protect him from his tax-collecting rounds.
This use as a working dog has led to a number of careers for the breed over the years, including military and police dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs, search dogs and even sporting dogs.
The breeds thought to have been used to create the Doberman Pinscher include Rottweilers, Black and Tan Terriers, the German Pinscher, and any other working dogs available in Germany at the time it was created.
So we can see that the German Pinscher and Doberman Pinscher have quite strikingly different histories and purposes, even though they are linked.
German Pinscher Pinscher Appearance
We’ve looked into their histories, but what about the breeds as we know and love them today?
Let’s look at the similarities and differences between the two breeds in terms of appearance.
The German Pinscher generally grows to be 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder. A healthy adult can weigh 25 to 45 pounds.
This is a muscular, powerful breed. Its physique will show this.
They are have a distinguished wedge-shaped head and dark eyes.
The German Pinscher has a short, thick coat that can come in a variety of colors, including black, blue, brown, fawn and red.
The markings that can occur on the German Pinscher can be red, tan or a mixture of the two colors.
But how similar is this to the Doberman Pinscher?
Doberman Pinscher Appearance
The Doberman Pinscher generally grows to be 24 to 28 inches, depending on its sex.
The colors Doberman Pinschers can come in include black and rust, blue and rust, fawn and rust, red and rust, or white.
Healthy Doberman Pinschers can weigh 60 to 100 pounds when fully grown.
So, as you can see, this breed is quite a bit bigger than the German Pinscher, although just as muscular.
There are a few similarities between the two breeds.
The Doberman Pinscher also has the same wedge-shaped head, dark eyes, and short, thick fur.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher Temperament
The German Pinscher was used as a rat-hunter partly because of its temperament.
It is a brave, outgoing dog that is extremely intelligent.
Although intelligent, this breed can have an independent streak. This dog is also playful and mischievous.
But how similar is the Doberman Pinscher?
The Doberman Pinscher is known for being a loyal, brave, alert breed—hence this dog’s perfection as a protection dog.
This is also a very intelligent breed, who loves being around the owners as often as possible.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher Training
So, we know both the German Pinscher and Doberman Pinscher breeds are extremely intelligent, but how easy is it to train them?
It is important to start socialization and training as early as possible, but for slightly different reasons.
The independent streak that German Pinschers can be prone to means it’s important for your dog to know exactly who is boss.
The Doberman Pinscher, on the other hand, needs to know who is boss mostly because it’s such a large dog.
If your dog does not respond to commands, it can accidentally end up hurting both adults and small children simply from being too rough or jumping around.
It is important to be in complete control of your big dog to avoid destructive tendencies.
Socialization from an early age is just as important as training, even though these breeds are confident.
Socialization helps to ensure your dog feels comfortable in new situations, and around other animals and people.
This is important because it minimizes the chance of your dog reacting aggressively to something new or feeling scared in a new situation.
It can be difficult to maintain the attention of both breeds, so short bursts of training several times a day is a good option.
If you’re not sure how to go about training your Doberman Pinscher or German Pinscher, one option is to go to puppy training classes.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher Exercise
Both of these dog breeds are high-energy, athletic dogs. This means both require lots of exercise every day.
Their athletic ability can be seen in the careers they were bred for. These are dogs that needed to be on their feet all day.
Therefore, if you don’t have the time to dedicate to giving these dogs lots of exercise every day, another dog breed might be better for you.
The intelligence and energy levels of these breeds mean both are great for activities like obedience, agility and tracking.
If you’re an active person that wants to take your dog with you on hikes and walks, both would be a great choice.
However, the Doberman Pinscher would be slightly better because the German Pinscher has retained its prey drive.
This means if it sees something it considers prey when out and about with you, the German Pinscher is likely to chase after the target.
This can be hard to control, after any level of training, which might make Dobermans a better choice for those who want a companion outdoors.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher Health
Finally, let’s look at the health of these breeds, any conditions they can be prone to and which would make a healthier pet.
There are some issues that both breeds are vulnerable to.
- Hip dysplasia
- Eye issues, such as progressive retinal atrophy
- von Willebrand’s disease
- Heart conditions, such as an enlarged heart
The Doberman Pinscher is prone to bloat, wobbler syndrome and hypothyroidism.
The German Pinscher has also been reported to have experienced delayed, post-vaccine complications.
Neither of these breeds are guaranteed to develop these conditions but can be prone to them.
Choosing a reputable breeder and keeping up with vet checks can help to ensure a healthy pup for life.
Generally, healthy German Pinschers live up to 14 years old. Doberman Pinschers can live up to 12 years.
German Pinscher vs Doberman Pinscher Grooming
Neither the German Pinscher or the Doberman Pinscher have pressing grooming needs.
The Doberman can generally stay shiny and clean with a daily brush.
The German Pinscher should be brushed at least once a week, with the occasional bath.
If their nails aren’t worn down naturally, they should be trimmed monthly to avoid any issues walking around.
Additionally, as with every breed of dog, make sure to check teeth and ears for any problems or irregularities.
Which Breed Makes a Better Pet?
So, if you have an active lifestyle and are looking for a loyal companion to be a part of it, the Doberman Pinscher and German Pinschers might be the right breeds for you.
They are loyal and love spending time with their owners. Please do not leave them at home most of the time.
Their high energy means they aren’t suitable for small homes.
They are better off living with families that have lots of space for them to run around and stay entertained.
The German Pinscher has slightly fewer grooming needs than the Doberman, but both are generally healthy dogs without too many health conditions to worry about.
Have you ever had a German Pinscher or Doberman Pinscher as a pet?
Tell us what they’re like to have in your home.
What’s your favorite thing about these breeds?
More Breed Comparisons
If you’ve found this interesting, we bet you’re going to love our other breed comparisons.
Take a look at some of them here!
References and Further Reading:
Brooks, M., et al., 1992, “Epidemiologic Features of Von Willebrand’s Disease in Doberman Pinschers, Scottish Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs: 260 Cases (1984-1988),” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 200, Issue 8, pgs. 1123-1127
Jerold S. Bell, J.S., 2014, “Inherited and Predisposing Factors in the Development of Gastric Dilatation Volvulus in Dogs,” Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, Vol. 29, Issue 3, pgs. 60-63
Kennedy, L.J., et al., 2006, “Association of Hypothyroid Disease in Doberman Pinscher Dogs with a Rare Major Histocompatibility Complex DLA Class II Haplotype,” Tissue Antigens, Vol. 67, Issue 1, pgs. 53-56
Mellersh, C., 2012, “DNA Testing and Domestic Dogs,” Mammalian Genome, Vol. 23, Issue 1-2, pgs. 109-123
Minna Leppanen, M., et al., 2001, “Results of Ophthalmologic Screening Examinations of German Pinschers in Finland – A Retrospective Study,” Veterinary Ophthalmology, Vol. 4, Issue 3, pgs. 165-169
VanGundy, T.E., 1998, “Disc-Associated Wobbler Syndrome in the Doberman Pinscher,” Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, Vol. 18, Issue 3, pgs. 667-696
Wess, G., et al., 2010, “Prevalence of Dilated Cardiomyopathy in Doberman Pinschers in Various Age Groups,” Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Vol. 4, Issue 3, pgs. 533-538
Patt A says
Five Doberman Pinschers vs one German Pinscher – 1968 -2021
Both Breeds have their benefits. Even if I had known about the German Pinscher all those years ago, I would still have the Dobermans, as I did. I wanted a dog then, which commands respect from others – especially anyone with evil intent.
But until about 1990 I never even knew about the German Pinscher.
Over FIFTY years, we had Five Dobermans, all fantastic dogs, all with proper training and lots of love
Along with these dogs, I grew as a person, especially in regard to training them. In the periods in between, without a dog, I thoroughly researched other Breeds, determined to change to a better breed. And ALWAYS ended up with yet another Doberman !
Living the the DFW area, twenty years old when Princie came into my life, I was VERY ignorant about Dobermans and Dogs in general. Growing up, we had three wonderful mutts over the years.
Immature myself, Princie learned very quickly how to fit into MY life.
She helped get me thru some very trying times.
A year later, Baron joined her – because “a brace of Dobermans” was SO elegant!
In 1969, they were also a handful.
Back then, I very much regret, I was a harsh disciplinarian. I hadn’t grown up yet myself. I’ve learned now, over the years.
As a US Army dependent, living in West Germany then, even back in those days, I discovered the Sprenger prong Collars, which brought two unruly dogs under control. Thereafter I was rewarded with their love and was able to control them.
The male was intact all of his life; the female was spayed, but she dominated the male.
Due to a divorce, the dogs were separated – the female was given to a Green Beret friend, and she lived the rest of her life, in comfort, captivating Germans. I kept the male and returned to the United States. Without her dominance, he turned into the most wonderful dog ever, gentle, friendly, protective and wary of strangers. He was NEVER a problem after he was separated from the female. He did NOT mark like so many male dogs, just raised his leg to urinate when necessary. He left Life with Lymphosarcoma.
Around this time, Home was 2.5 acres of unfenced land, adjacent to a wild brush area in Los Angeles County. Plenty of land to run in. A dog-door was built in, so dogs have access to outdoors.
The next Doberman, Strider, several years later, also a male, was a handful. The Breeder showed and finished Strider. In the ring, with a Handler, he was perfect. At home, he couldn’t run free. Gone for several days, he just wanted to explore and breed with any animal with four legs, thus he was mostly confined to a forty foot lead.
During that period, my son was born; and over the years, we went to great pains to eliminate jealousy between the two.
They were great companions, but we lost Strider a bit too soon, with what I suspect was DCM, especially from a lack of exercise.
Another year or so went by before we got DP#4. She was Raven; and by placing my son’s sweaty T-shirt in the whelping box, Raven imprinted on him, not as a human boy, but as a Littermate! They remained very close the rest of her life – like twelve years. She was the BEST female – only wanting to please her Family.
The last DP came with a mistake. Kona was shipped by air from Serbia-Montenegro, imported because, by then, US-bred Dobermans had too many health problems. She was a great dog and responded to training well, but she had been traumatized by the overseas trip in the kennel, from Europe. MY mistake! I will never ship a dog in a kennel again!
She never craved love and attention as the other four DPs had – she remained a bit aloof, constantly attempting to assert dominance. She too was a really good dog otherwise. As with the other dogs, I cried when she left, also a victim of DCM.
All of these dogs were well-trained and under control. They afforded me a huge degree of protection, and confidence which I never realized, until I was left all alone. But they were all large 75-90# dogs.
Meanwhile, over the decades, I had graduated from feeding cheap Purina to now mostly chicken.
I learned a better way to train dogs, without being cruel or mean, by indulging them with love and attention and NO negative reinforcement.
But fifty years have passed – my body is no longer able to deal with these large dogs.
I chose a German Pinscher because I am too old to have ninety pounds slamming against my knees. Already with Strider, I fell in love with GPs at a UKC Show around 1990 – decades before internet. At that time, there was no information whatsoever available on this wonderful breed. May Day of 2019, we brought Copper from Arizona, with amazing breeding and excellent health. I love her intelligence and especially her SPIRIT, and her desire to please!
My major concern in training her (Me, myself and I) was how to control the intense GP prey-drive. Prey-drive vs obedience!
It was really easy! I smothered her with Love and POSITIVE discipline. Because she loves me SO much, and because she gets lots of praise, she’ll do anything for me. Including calling her off chasing coyotes, which are afraid of her – she’s quite ferocious with them – she was taught coyotes are NOT dogs – they are BAD! So she wants to protect me from them.
Even though she barks as strangers approach HER house, her one fault is she is worthless as a guard dog – everyone is her Best Friend! Sometimes she does “sleep-overs” with the kids next door – she loves them too. Copper has been super-socialized at the Dog Park.
In two years, Copper has had only three showers with me, no baths, and is an exceptionally CLEAN dog, with very little shedding and NO odor. And ditto the Dobermans! But Copper’s claws DO grow fast and must be trimmed twice a month.
I never trained a Service Dog before; but somehow, she knows when she has her SD Vest on, it’s time for serious work and paying attention. She is excellent with basic obedience, and can be controlled with hand signals, even off leash. She sits quietly while waiting, remains under the table in restaurants, and rides the Metro, elevators & escalators with me.
DO NOT get a DP or a GP if you’ve never had ANY dog before – both breeds require experienced Owners, who know how to discipline dogs POSITIVELY!
====>NEVER yell at a DP or a GP – ignore the bad things which happen. When they do something correctly, praise them as if they just won the Kentucky Derby or a Gold Medal at the Olympics. That’s the kind of discipline they require.
UPDATE – JUNE 2023
Copper German Pinscher is now four years old.
As a Trained Service Dog, she has traveled to Manhattan & Columbia University, attended a Service at Arlington National Cemetery, complete with horse-drawn Caisson, the Riderless Horse and Twenty-one Gun Salute. She’s been on twenty airline flights, AmTrak and the Subway, MOMA and the Met.
And EVERYONE loves her!
Since she is a bit older now, I can add a NEW difference between the German Pinscher and the Dobermans.
When injured or when in pain, the Dobermans were ALL stoic and allowed me to try to ease their pain, both physically and emotionally. They understood I was trying to help them.
Copper German Pinscher is quite different.
Trying to clean out a small laceration on her thigh with Betadine – it hurt I’m sure – she snarled at me and became very defensive.
Another time, when I tried to remove tiny foxtail burs from her pads, she snapped her feet away and bared her teeth, even though she knew I was removing the discomfort.
Copper screams when her claws are clipped, even though the Groomer has NEVER caused any bleeding, and Copper is just fine walking back to the car.
German Pinschers are far more sensitive to pain than Dobermans.
Paul Hobbs says
Good article except, you are a little naive about health. As a rule, the German Pincher is much healthier than the Doberman.
One big topic that was not discussed in thus article which is taking the lives of many Doberman pinschers at very early stages of life (6 years and under) is DCM. We lost our healthy and happy energetic boy to this heart disease that we came to find out is very common in Doberman Pinschers at the young age of 6 y/o and found out about more dobes having these heart complications called the silent death because it happens out of nowhere. Please be aware and do proper research. Thank you
Chris Floyd says
Also, since Dobies can grow very large (and grow quickly), they can be more prone to bone cancer. We lost one of our male Dobies when he was only 5 years old due to bone cancer, despite aggressive chemo, leg amputation, etc… I’m not suggesting that ppl should expect this (my last female Dobie [Zoe] lived to be just shy of 12 years, and had *great* health up until her last couple months) — but be aware that large dobermans (sometimes called “warlock dobermans” – my male was ~115 lbs) can have some serious health issues.
We have 2 male dobermans. We were told not to have 2 males but wouldn’t have it any other way. They are from 2 separate sets of parents but are great together. They are 4 years apart. It is important to teach them who is boss. The older one growled at me once and I told him no and he had never growled at me again. We always took their food, toys and treats away from them while they were in the middle of eating our playing with them (and gave them back) just so if a child were to do it they were ok with it. They are fun, goofy, entertaining dogs so want to please their owners. Lots of energy. They are very sweet but are protective.
Hi, very good article! I think you touched on some really good points here. We have a German Pinscher ourselves and might be looking for a Doberman. I just want to mention that we have to trim our GP’s nails weekly to keep them comfortably short. They grow very fast.. Monthly would not be often enough.
Except for that, great article! They are such a fun breed. Lots of energy when it’s not raining (they usually hate rain), and our dog is being such a great hiking buddy (on leash) as well!
Chris Floyd says
Definitely agree about the rain!! I had 3 dobermans before my now current (and only dog) German Pinscher. It was a *REAL CHALLENGE* to house train her (almost a year for her to consistently use the dog door and go outside). If it’s raining, she’ll still pee on the floor just in front of the dog door rather than go outside and pee in the rain. (I can’t say I blame her, but my dobermans were SIMPLE to house train.). Dobermans EXIST to please their owners, whereas German Pinschers EXIST to have fun, find trouble (like fight copperhead snakes in the backyard), and they do their own thing… GPs are trainable, but I’d say it’s 10X harder to train a GP than a dobie… Again I had 3 dobies: all were super-easy, super calm, essentially ‘couch potatoes’…(My last dobie that I rescued at 4 months old *never* peed or pooped in the house — EVER. She was amazing.) However, my 1yr old GP, not so much… I still LOVE my GP [Piper] more than anything — maybe even more than my Dobies — because the personality of a GP is SO much different. Both are “velcro dogs” (they ALWAYS want to be with you 24×7), but a GP *NEEDS* to be with you, and close…which is manageable because they’re not as large. They will definitely be “lap dogs” (or “chest dogs”, “bed dogs”, or anywhere else they can lean up and love you… )