Why Do I use A Doberman as a service dog?

Select where you want to go

I've been asked many a time why did I chose a Doberman Pinscher for a service dog. Well, it's an interesting story, so here we go.

My first service dog, Tyler, was a oversized Labrador Retriever standing 27 inches at the withers. He was provided by a service dog program, however, he was dog aggressive and child aggressive. Because of the problems that I had with his program, I vowed NEVER to go through another program to get a service dog, I'd train my next dog myself. I retired Tyler unexpectly one day after he jumped a guide dog. He was already half-retired because he was having seizures. I called his program and had the director get ahold of his trainer, becuase she had expressed interest in having Tyler when he was retired. Because of his dog aggression, I knew I couldn't keep him and train a puppy at the same time.

I had planned to buy a Labrador Retriever puppy from a breeder back in the Midwest, but the puppy was going to cost me $600, and that didn't including shipping the puppy to me. It was hoped that the puppy would be oversized, because that's what I needed for walking and bracing when I fell.

A week after I gave Tyler to his trainer, I was headed for dog training to visit with some friends. There was a woman there, with a Doberman Pinscher. I always thought that Dobermans were naturally aggressive and dangerous. Dana Babb, my dog trainer, introduced me to Julie Alexander, and Warlock, her Doberman. I kept a respectable distance away from Warlock. Well, Warlock had other ideas. He came up to me, and proceeded to nudge me with his nose on my breastbone. The message was pretty clear, "PET ME!". I started to pet Warlock on the head, very gently, and very slowly. Well, THAT wasn't exactly what Warlock wanted, he wanted me to really pet him! I did so, and he just closed his eyes in bliss. If I stopped petting him, he'd nudge me again, to remind me what I was to do. *laugh* Well, Julie needed to take care of a nature call, so she asked me if I'd hold Warlock. I wasn't too sure about this, but I said I would. Warlock just watched Julie head for the restroom and when she got behind me, Warlock stuck his head under my arm so he could watch where she was. Talk about a velcro dog!

I found out pretty quick that Dobermans are not vicious normally, they have to be trained to be that way. Well, in the course of conversation, I found out that Warlock was protection trained. Well, Warlock didn't act like any protection trained dog I had seen, but that was the point... unless commanded, they are just wonderful and loving.

Dana told Julie that I was between service dogs and why. Julie immediately offered me a puppy. Wow. Well, I accepted and the next week, Keith (my husband), Dana and I went up to Julie's home to look at the puppies and choose one. When we were introduced to the puppies (who were about 6 weeks old at this time), they all came over to me and said hi, then wandered off, all except one. This one puppy started investigating my shoes, and untied the shoelaces on both of them. How cute! I retied my shoes and this puppy decided that this was great fun! He untied them again. We played this game for a few minutes, until I double knotted my laces. Once he got tired of pulling on them and nothing happening, he decided that chewing on my crutch tips was great fun, too. Being a 6 week old puppy, he tired out really fast, but he just fell asleep on my crutches. This puppy made it perfectly clear that he was choosing me. *laugh*

He was also the best built of the puppies so I picked him. Julie delivered him the next week to dog training, and I had a puppy. I named him Gillis, after my husband suggested the name. I could now introduce him as, "This is my Dobie, Gillis." Yeah, yeah, cute, but when I protested it was too cute, well, when 6 friends ALSO suggested it, I went with the flow. :)

I took Gillis to all the places I could think of to socialize him. He had exposure to dogs and kids and enjoyed everywhere we went. I was going to make sure that Gillis loved animals and humans alike. And yes, he does!

With a puppy in training to be a service dog, you really don't know if it's going to work out. At the age of eight months, Gillis proved he was going to be a great service dog. I was walking down the hall in our apartment, when I tripped over my own feet and hit the floor hard. Gillis came running up to me barking. Gillis's barking alerted my husband that something was wrong, and he came to see what was up. Once he reached me, Gillis stopped barking. I had landed on my right side. I managed to turn myself over onto my stomach, and Gillis scooted under me, and then stood up, placing me on my hands and knees. The remarkable thing about this is that I did not teach Gillis to do this. He did it on his own. I was able to push against Gillis to stand, using a brace command that I DID teach him. But, since he took the iniciative to get me up off the floor, that shows that he's thinking, which is VERY important for a service dog.

Gillis's temperment is such that he will go up to a person or another animal with tail wagging, wanting to say hi, or play! He's everything I could ever want in a service dog. However, I am working on the excessive, "I want to say hi to EVERYONE!" behavior when he's working. *grin*


If you use the above link, take out the -REMOVE in the email address.

*Copyright © 1998-2007 Dana L. Marshall
*All Rights Reserved