American vs. European Doberman: 15+ Key Differences

Many people are familiar with the popular Doberman breed. But most do not realize there are two different types.

These two varieties are the American Doberman Pinscher and the European Dobermann.

While they look very similar, the purpose and temperament of these dogs are actually quite different!

Many experts believe that these varieties have become so different that they should actually be considered two separate breeds.

Interested to learn more about American vs. European Dobermans? Keep reading as we share the key differences between them.

European Dobermann

european dobermann dog

The European Dobermann came from Germany and was bred by Louis Dobermann during the 1880s. Louis first bred them by mixing Rottweilers with a type of shepherd dog from Thüringen. It is also thought he mixed breeds like the German Pinscher and Tan Terrier into the bloodline too.

At the time Louis was a tax collector and part-time dog breeder. The original Doberman was bred to be an intimidating and dependable companion that could accompany him while collecting taxes, hence the nickname “Tax Collecting Dogs”.

Because of its job the European type needed to be strong, muscular and active.

The European Dobermann is recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale which is the international federation of kennel clubs.

This type of doberman must go through rigorous training and testing in order to be registered as a European. The Zuchttauglichkeitsprüfung (ZTP) is a breed suitability test run by the International Dobermann Club. After the test each doberman is given a classification for breeding, either 1A or 1B which are fit for breeding, or they will be deferred and deemed unfit to breed.

These rigorous breed standards have helped ensure that this dog’s appearance and character is predictable and suitable for their many jobs. They are known for being assertive, confident and loyal.

Nowadays European breeds are often used as police and guard dogs since they are fearless and alert workers. While these dogs can make wonderful family companions, they require lots of exercise and are happiest when they have a job to do.

They are popular in many countries including Germany, Canada, and the United States. The Marine Corps even named them as their official “war dog” to recognize their strength and courage during combat.

American Doberman Pinscher

american doberman

American Doberman Pinschers come from the same line of dogs bred by Louis Dobermann.

The difference is this variety has moved away from the working dog characteristics of the European. They were selectively bred over many decades to be a regal show dog. Similar to English vs. American Labradors where the Americans are show dogs and the English are working dogs.

At some point in history the second “n” was taken off their name to steer away from the German influence on the breed. This explains the difference in spelling between the American and European Dobermann.

The American Doberman is an obedient and loving family dog that often excels in the show ring. They are most commonly seen with their ears cropped and tail docked in order to look regal and alert.

While these dogs are classified under the working dog group by the American Kennel Club they are most often used as family pets, rather than police or guard dogs.

Americans are a sleek and elegant breed that is well-suited for family life. They are often easy to train and are known to be extremely obedient. This breed loves their family and is known for being in tune with human emotions.

Due to their longstanding history as a tax collecting dog the Dobermann will be very protective of their families and makes a great guard dog when trained properly.

Despite their intimidating looks these dogs are wonderful cuddle-buddies and can be couch potatoes when they want to be!

American vs. European Doberman Differences

Bloodline

doberman from american

The first Dobermann was bred by Louis Dobermann of Apolda, Germany in the 1880s.

Louis was a tax collector and was often faced with hostility due to his line of work. He bred the Dobermann to create an imposing defender who could be his work companion. This helped coin the nickname “Tax Collector Dog” which is still used today.

Both American and European Dobermans come from these first Dobermans bred by Louis. However, the breed has diverged into a working dog (European) and a family/show dog (American Pinscher).

European Dobermanns are bred specifically to be a working dog. Therefore breeding regulations have been put in place to ensure the breed standard is upheld.

The American Doberman separated from the original Dobermann to create a smaller, shorter and sleek family dog. These dogs are more refined in appearance, but lack some of the characteristics of a working dog in their size and body conformation.

Breed Name

The American variety is often called the American Doberman Pinscher. This is a reference to one of the breed’s ancestors, the German Pinscher.

European Dobermanns dropped the Pinscher part of the name due to the breed no longer resembling many of the Pinscher’s traits. These traits are still easy to see in the American variety which still keeps the name. Some good examples of these traits are their sleek body type and their head shape, which is longer and more pointed,

One of the interesting differences in these breeds is that American and European Dobermans are spelled differently.

At some point during the late 20th century, the second “n” was taken off the American’s name to steer away from the German influence on the breed. This was mostly due to the negative connotations they carried after World War II.

Size

American Dobermans are typically 26 to 28 inches tall for males and 24 to 26 inches tall for females. Male Europeans are 27 to 29 inches tall and females are 25 to 27 inches.

American Dobermans are on average one inch smaller than Europeans.

AmericanEuropean
Male26 to 28 inches27 to 29 inches
Female24 to 26 inches25 to 27 inches

Weight

American Dobermans weigh 75 to 100 lbs for males and 60 to 90 lbs for females. Typically, European Dobermanns weigh 88 to 100 lbs for males and 70 to 77 lbs for females.

Normally, European Dobermanns weigh 5 to 10 lbs more than American Doberman Pinschers.

AmericanEuropean
Male75 to 100 lbs88 to 100 lbs
Female60 to 90 lbs70 to 77 lbs

Size and weight differences are the two most notable physical traits used when distinguishing between American and European Dobermans.

Color

The American Kennel Club accepts four color varieties for the American Doberman. These colors are:

  • Black and rust
  • Blue and rust
  • Red and rust
  • Fawn and rust

The official name for a “brown” doberman with tan markings is called the “red and rust”. Sometimes they are also called chocolate and rust too.

White is not an acceptable color, but the American Doberman can have a small white patch on their chest. This white patch must not be larger than ½ square inch.

The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognizes only two color varieties for the European Doberman:

  • Black and rust
  • Brown and rust with tan markings

Breed standards for the European Dobermann are more strict than the American due to the rules of the breed suitability test (ZTP).

American Dobermans are allowed more color varieties and a small white patch on the chest.

Markings

european doberman

The European Dobermann (pictured above) must have distinct rust color markings on their muzzle, on the top of their eyebrows, along the throat, two spots on the front of their chest, on the inner side of the back legs and under the tail.

American Dobermans must have the same markings, but are allowed a white patch on their chest as long as it does not exceed ½ square inch.

White markings are not allowed on the European variant.

The markings are similar for both the American and European Doberman, however, American markings are typically a lighter rust compared to the darker rust color of the European.

Head

Europeans have larger and broader heads than the American Doberman whose head is slender and more elongated. The American’s head is more elegant and sleek, along with the rest of their body.

Ears and Tail

american doberman dog

The breed standard for the European Dobermann states that their ears should be kept natural and uncropped. This is mostly due to ear cropping and tail docking being outlawed for most breeds by the European Convention.

Their natural ears should be large and lay against their cheeks.

American Dobermans should have their ears cropped so they stand erect and tall above their head. Their tail should also be docked at approximately the second joint of the tail.

Ear cropping and tail docking has continued to be a practice for Americans to preserve the breed standard and maintain the show dog appearance.

While cropping and docking is important for the show ring, many American families decide not to crop ears or dock tails.

Many people disagree on whether cropping or docking is ethical, but the American Kennel Club still supports this practice. This is why many pitbulls have their ears cropped too.

Appearance

european dobermann

The American Doberman is lean and elegant with a slender muzzle and oval eyes. Their bodies are slender and muscular without being bulky. Their necks are thin and arched. A slightly arched neck is a distinguishing feature of the American.

European Dobermanns (pictured above) are a large and sturdy breed with a muscular build. Their muzzle is wide and long with a thick neck and a broad chest. Their body is compact and their legs are sturdy and long.

The American Doberman is muscular but not bulky like the European variety. They are built like an athlete.

European individuals are larger and more sturdy. They have much broader shoulders and thicker necks than the slender American.

Lifespan

The American Doberman Pinscher lives to be 10 to 12 years old, which is the same for the European. Both breeds have on average the same life expectancy.

Health

American and European Dobermans are prone to many of the same health issues that stem from overbreeding and therefore inbreeding within both varieties. While there is some debate on if one variety is healthier than the other, there is no conclusive evidence to prove one way or the other.

Below are the common health concerns for both the American and European:

  • Sudden death by heart failure (cardiomyopathy)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Volvulus or bloat
  • Hemophilia (von Willebrand’s disease)
  • Wobbler’s syndrome (paralysis)
  • Degenerative eye disease

Health screening prior to breeding can help to prevent these diseases and genetic conditions from being passed on to your puppy. The American Kennel Club recommends health screening for this breed specifically for their hips, heart, eyes, and thyroid, as well asand a DNA test for Von Willebrand’s Disease.

When adopting a European puppy potential buyers can be fairly certain that these dogs have been well bred due to the breed qualification test which all Dobermann breeders are required to pass.

Temperament

Three doberman dogs

The American Doberman (pictured above) is a loyal and alert family dog who is a people pleaser with those in their close circle. They can be protective of their owners, but rarely intervene physically or bite. They form strong bonds with their owners and are known to be in tune with human emotions. They enjoy cuddling with their owners and can be quite loving.

European Dobermanns are alert and assertive dogs who are focused and driven. Their high prey drive and working attitude makes them less focused on family life.

The European Dobie is known for being stubborn and hardheaded. These dogs are extremely protective of their owner and will often bite or intervene physically when threatened. With proper training and socialization this breed can make a much better guard dog.

American Dobermans are typically more affectionate and attuned to their owners. They are not normally used for police work as they are less assertive and rarely intervene physically.

Training

American Dobermans are very obedient and easy to train. They do best with an owner who uses positive reinforcement and softer corrections. They are often easier to train because they are people pleasers who respond well to positive reinforcement dog training.

On the other hand Europeans can be stubborn and often need an experienced dog owner to teach them obedience. They need a strong, assertive and knowledgeable owner who can provide them with structured training. If you are a first time dog owner, this is not the breed for you. This variety can be quite stubborn and often needs an assertive owner to establish boundaries and rules.

Energy

American Doberman Pinschers are well-suited for family life, but they still need lots of exercise to stay happy and healthy. They do best with active owners who regularly allow them to stretch their legs and give them over 60 minutes of exercise each day.

European Dobermanns require lots of exercise too because of their working roots. They have a high prey drive and crave a purpose and job.

They are best suited for a working dog lifestyle or as a family pet who also serves as a guard dog. This breed does not do well living in an apartment or with inactive owners.

American and European Dobermans both require lots of exercise and mental stimulation, but Europeans are happiest when they are working. European Dobermanns are not usually recommended to be used just as family pets.

Puppies

doberman puppy

American Doberman Pinscher and European Dobermann puppies look almost exactly the same. Over time their body type will differ and the European will grow 5 to 10 lbs heavier, but it is difficult to tell puppies apart.

Selecting a reputable breeder is important to ensure that your puppy is what you expect.

Since there are more breeding regulations around European puppies backyard breeders and puppy mills are less common.

American Doberman Pinschers do not have an equivalent breed test and therefore anyone can breed one. Because of this puppy mills and backyard breeders are more common.

Price

European Dobermanns cost between $2,500 and $3,500 from breeders in the United States. Puppies for European countries are less expensive, however, this cost difference is only significant for those who live in Europe. Shipping costs can quickly add up.

American Dobermans are cheaper and range from $1,500 to $2,500 from reputable breeders. Typically the higher end of the price range would be for show quality pups. These puppies are evaluated by professionals to ensure they have desirable traits to be successful in the show ring.

Europeans are more expensive than American Dobermans mostly due the rigorous protocol breeders must follow in order to breed their dogs.

Differences Explained

american vs. european doberman

The main difference between American (left) and European Dobermans (right) is their purpose.

American Doberman Pinschers are an excellent family dog who also excel in the show ring. They are elegant show dogs who have lean and athletic bodies. These medium sized dogs are 5 to 10 lbs smaller than the European variety and have a thinner and longer body.

European Dobermanns are bred to be working dogs who are often selected for police and military work. These dogs are large and compact with a strong and sturdy build. They are larger and more powerful and are therefore more intimidating.

Americans require lots of exercise, but they also love to cuddle and spend time with their owners. They are also extremely obedient and can be a good choice for less experienced owners. They are often more loving than the European which can be hard-headed and stubborn.

The European breed is an uncommon choice for a family dog. They are loyal to their owners and are extremely protective, but are less outwardly loving and cuddly. They make much better working partners than family companions.

Breeders for European Dobermanns must have their dogs pass the breeding qualification test. These standards help to ensure consistency for the breed, but are also the main reason for puppies being more expensive. Typically European puppies cost $1,000 more than the American Doberman.

NameAmerican Doberman PinscherEuropean Dobermann
Size24 to 28 inches25 to 29 inches
Weight60 to 100 lbs70 to 100 lbs
ColorBlack and rust
Blue and rust
Red and rust (i.e. brown or chocolate)
Fawn and rust
Black and rust
Brown and rust with tan markings
MarkingsLighter brown rust with white acceptable on the chestDarker brown rust
HeadMore elegant and sleekLarger and broader
Ears and TailEars cropped and tail dockedNatural and uncropped
AppearanceMuscular but not bulkyLarger and more sturdy
TemperamentLoyal, loving, obedientLoyal, protective, head-strong, assertive
TrainingObedient and easy to trainHard-headed and stubborn
PurposeFamily PetWorking Dog
Price$1,500 to $2,500$2,500 and $3,500

American Dobermans are a smaller, shorter and sleek family or show dog. The European Dobermann is bred specifically to be a working dog.

Which Is Better?

american dobie

Neither American vs. European Dobermans are better, they just serve different purposes.

American Doberman Pinschers are bred to be family dogs who enjoy human companionship and form strong bonds with their family. These dogs are extremely loyal to their owners and will often protect them from strangers. However, it is rare that this breed will actually attack a potential threat, making them better alert dogs than true “guard dogs”.

They are also great dogs for the show ring due to their elegant appearance and obedient nature.

A European Dobermann is happiest with an owner who is an experienced dog handler that will allow them to use their skills as a guard dog.

They are very loyal to their owners and will protect them from potential threats. They will not retreat from a threat and will often physically protect their owners, making them an excellent guard dog.

Owners should be aware that European Dobermans are not very social and do not crave human companionship in the same way other dogs do. They tend to keep to themselves and are not people pleasers by any means.

When deciding between American and European breeds it is important to choose the breed that best suits your lifestyle.

Think about whether you are best suited for a working dog or family dog and if you can handle the temperament of either. With the right fit they make amazing dogs!

Comments

  1. I have two europens and have had american dobermans in the past. I don’t think my european’s are less loving. They crave attention and they are extremely friendly to people. I feed raw meat and bones! I have had them professionally trained one is my service dog. Big loving gentle boys! I’m a disabled veteran in a wheel chair! I wouldn’t have another american now that i’ve got to know the bigger healthier dobermans!

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