Atlas turned 13 weeks old and has been in our household for one entire month. I am sharing our experience as first time dog owners and our life with a European Doberman puppy, month 1. If you’re considering a Doberman puppy and if you are a first time dog owner, this article will ring home. I wrote this article to give potential first time Doberman owners a feel of what it is like to live with a Doberman puppy for the first month.
We read and researched our hearts out for months before picking up Atlas. But, preparedness versus actual experience are two entirely separate entities. It’s like being book smart versus being street smart.
My Advice Based On Our Experience
My biggest advice? Before even considering a Doberman, or any dog breed, is do your research and understand the breed. Understand its temperament, its requirements, health implications, diet requirement and most importantly, exercise/mental/physical stimulation. Be sure to research financial commitment – both one time investment plus recurring costs. If you’re considering picking up a Doberman puppy, understand that their needs are more demanding than an adult Doberman. There are plenty of free Doberman resources available. If you’re not sure where to look, begin with the American Kennel Club Doberman Pinscher breed page.
On Setting Ground Rules
My second advice is lay down the ground rules. Immediately assert to your Doberman while it’s still young and imprint-able, that humans in the household are the Alphas. Your puppy needs to understand his position in the pecking order. You need to establish this the very day you bring your Doberman puppy home or you’ll lose control of your dog. It is true that a Doberman puppy will gravitate to one person in the household and respect him/her above others. In our case, this is me.
Your Doberman puppy needs to understand that all the humans in the household are equals. Your puppy must obey commands no matter who issued it. For this to happen, everyone in the household must be on the same boat. A firm “OFF!” command to get your Doberman puppy off furniture or people needs to be communicated in the same manner and tone by everyone else. If not, then your puppy will only listen to the true Alpha of the household.
On Transitioning Food
My third advice involves transitioning your Doberman puppy to new foods, particularly dry dog food, kibbles. If you are going to keep your puppy on the same kibble diet fed by your breeder, then this doesn’t apply to you. On the other hand, if you are going to switch kibble brands, then I recommend buying small 5 lbs. sample bags to ensure that it is compatible with your puppy’s digestive system. If you are unable to successfully transition your puppy to the new kibble brand, at least you did not waste $40+ and have a full 28+ lb. bag of useless kibbles. Once you find a brand that your puppy enjoys eating and doesn’t cause allergy or an upset stomach, then you can purchase the larger bag.
Approach to Training
A well balanced approach to puppy training is imperative. That is, training cannot be positive-only reward based training, which is all the rage these days. It needs to be a balance between negative reinforcement/correction and positive reinforcement. We correct Atlas when he engages in an undesirable behavior, such as digging holes in the backyard or chewing on furnitures. And we reward him when he stops exhibiting the bad behavior. A puppy doesn’t understand good from bad behaviors when all he is exposed to is positive-only training. Atlas learned the commands “OFF!” and “LEAVE IT” by the second week he is with us with repetition and a combination of corrections and positive reinforcements.
Week 1 is all about getting our puppy accustomed to his new home. We used this week to train Atlas to respond to his name although his attention span is non-existent. I had success by means of treat and increasing levels of distraction each subsequent day. We also took him to the vet for his wellness exam and for his fecal test, 3rd round vaccination, flea treatment and microchip. I learned he had giardia and administered powdered Panacur for five days.
By far, the most difficult week to endure. We brought Atlas in as first time dog owners and the Doberman is our first dog. Atlas had multiple accidents throughout the day and had separation anxiety on the second night. The result was 6 hours of straight howling and crying. He cried so much he lost his voice the next morning. We only enjoyed 3 hours of sleep that night. After the second night, Atlas’ separation anxiety diminished each passing day. The 3rd night, he cried for 20 minutes before sleeping. The 4th night, he cried for 10 minutes. By the 5th night, he cried only 2-5 minutes and after a week, he goes to sleep in his crate without any resistance.
I had to get up at least once in the middle of the night to take him out to the backyard. This occurred between 2 AM – 4 AM.
On Week 2, Atlas started sleeping through the night. I was able to get a full nights rest without taking him out for his overnight bathroom break until as early as 5 AM – 6 AM. We had to remove his crate bed and his dog bed in our living room because he started peeing on them. We put in dog training pads in his crate for accidents. By the second week, he learned to pee the minute he gets out into our backyard. He poops within 5 minutes after. During week 2, I started training Atlas the “SIT,” “WAIT,” and “STAY” commands. He learned to sit and wait rather quickly, but his stay still needs work. He’s 11 weeks old at this time and his attention span is still very limited.
At week 3, I can safely say that we are 100% fully adjusted to having Atlas live with us. We got his schedule down, his diet and his exercise routines figured out. Atlas also sleeps through the night for the most part of the week. Some time, I would hear him scratching his crate tray around 1 AM or 2 AM. That’s my cue to take him out or risk him peeing inside his crate. Other than that, I usually get up at 5:00 AM to take Atlas out to pee and poop, return to bed until 7:00 AM to give him 20 minutes of backyard exercise. He enjoys his breakfast at 7:30 AM followed by one last pee and poop session at 7:45 AM. Then he hangs out in his crate until I return home for lunch around 11:30 AM.
Atlas got a chance to socialize with a lot of children and adult friends (strangers to Atlas) during my wife’s birthday celebration at our house. He did amazingly well with children and adults alike. The children loved Atlas and enjoyed playing with him and vice versa.
Atlas still had occasional accidents around the house and in his crate, however, they are all pee accidents. In other words, Atlas had zero poop accident inside the house for 3 weeks straight. By this time, Atlas sleeps through the night 90% of the time. Occasionally, I am awaken by Atlas walking around his crate in the middle of the night. The minute I hear his footsteps, I put on my sweater and sweats and rush him outside to let him pee. Sometimes he would poop in the backyard after he pees, in the middle of the night, but it is rare. If I miss this opportunity, it is almost certain that Atlas will pee inside his crate.
In this week, Atlas’ bark has also transformed the high pitch puppy bark to a deep toned throaty bark of an teenage / adult dog. He still has the puppy whine but when he’s overtly excited, he’ll let out his teenage bark. When we heard it for the first time, it really startled us!
Week 5 – Start Of
At the start of week 5 (Atlas is 3 months old at this time), Atlas had his follow-up DHPP vaccination, 2 of 3. We scheduled his 3rd DHPP vaccination during the first week of March. By that time, Atlas will be old enough to receive his rabies shot. He also finishes a whole bag of 6 count, 6″ Best Bully Sticks in a single week instead of a month. This means we’ll need to purchase a 24 count pack monthly.
Atlas has learned to play fetch, which kicks his exercise routine up another level of fun. Life with a European Doberman puppy, month 1, was a challenge, especially the first two weeks. However, it got easier as Atlas got older. He appears to be aware that he has done something undesirable or wrong. As a result, he’ll tilt his head back, lower his ears and display the sad puppy eyes expression. He remains this way until we admonish him for what he did wrong, then tell him everything is okay with a treat.
Although Atlas is still a puppy, his puppy excitement and temperament has significantly mellowed down since week #1. He still jumps on people’s legs, he still puppy play-bite and he still has a short attention span. But he comes when we call his name and learned to wait patiently for his food until we say he can dig in – even if his food bowl is placed in front of him. He’s beginning to utilize the Mighty Paw Smart Bell to ask us to let him out. He goes into his crate when we command him to and he even goes in it voluntarily to settle down and relax.
I’ll write two follow-up articles. One will be about the financial aspect of owning a Doberman. I will go into the initial and one-time investments plus recurring costs, such as pet health insurance policy, cost of food, chew toy replacements, etc. The other article will be about how we stimulate Atlas mentally and physically. Mental and physical stimulation is important for puppies that are Atlas age, and especially for high energy breeds like Doberman. The article will share some indoor and outdoor activity ideas we participate in, especially since Atlas does not have all his vaccination and rabies shot yet.