Happily for me, Kaline generally does not get questioned as to his legitimacy due to his breed. We do get a ton of comments along the lines of: "I didn't know THEY used Dobermans as service dogs!" (No word yet on the identity of the mysterious "they.") The one major access challenge we've had as a team, oddly, was because of his custom-made, very professional-looking mobility harness. Apparently it looked like some sort of extreme control device. (Pro-tip: If you try to control a dog's movements with a mobility harness, you will fail. Spectacularly.)
|Kaline in his big mobility harness.|
If you love taking advantage of photo opportunities, Dobermans will certainly help you there. Kaline, anyway, is a huge ham. He absolutely loves to pose for photos. Where some dogs (read: Juno) require high-value bribery like string cheese to put their ears up nicely for a picture, all Kaline needs to see is that camera. Once, while he was having an off-duty romp at a beach, Kaline galloped past a guy with a massive camera who was getting pictures of the scene. Kaline screeched to a stop, made a U-turn, and began cavorting in front of the camera, much to the photographer's delight. While I don't usually like to be in photos myself, I love few things more than taking photos of Kaline looking handsome.
|This was a completely irresistible photo-op.|
Many children will ask if he's a police dog, which I find completely adorable. Less than adorable is when parents, though usually not on a regular basis, use Kaline's breed to frighten their children away from him. While I appreciate parents who educate their kids about why they shouldn't pet working dogs, it's quite unnecessary to tell the children that if they go up to Kaline he will bite them. Kaline's major failing with kids is he really loves to kiss them. And given that he's at face level with small children, sometimes that can surprise and startle them; this is why he only gets to greet kids taller than he is.
|"Of course I would love to pose on this rock!"|
You might wonder why Dobermans are so uncommon, given how fantastic they can be as working dogs. Being taller than most Labs and Goldens, they can be a better choice for people who need mobility. They tend to be very in-tune with their handlers' emotions, a plus as long as you can keep that from becoming serious separation anxiety or overprotectiveness. They're incredibly snuggly and delightfully low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. They're also fun to train and quite intelligent, if not so very biddable as Labs and Goldens.
|A love of snuggling means Kaline is great at deep-pressure therapy.|
They're also well-known for health problems, despite the tireless work of ethical breeders. One of the major health issues that crops up in Dobermans, as well as the most devastating, is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), a heart disorder that is inevitably fatal. It generally crops up in older dogs, and there isn't yet a reliable genetic test for it. By the time a breeder learns that one of their dogs has the condition, the dog is likely to have been bred already.
Dobermans aren't the greatest candidates for service dog programs, in the sense that they tend to bond very strongly to their person, and may have major difficulties shifting that bond to a trainer or trainers, and then again to a new handler. While you can't go on autopilot with any dog and expect it to maintain its training without regular refreshers, doing this with a Doberman can be especially bad.
Then you have the diva aspect. Dobermans' shiny, beautiful coats are pretty much only for show. They get cold very easily, and aren't shy in the least about informing you about their distaste for the situation. If I take Kaline to a baseball game in Oakland in the summer, for example, and don't bring his various jackets and his cocoon-blankie, he will shiver dramatically, fix me with utterly miserable puppy dog eyes, and poke me every inning to see if it's finally time to go. Ask him to lie down on a marble floor without his mat, and he'll drop his head into your lap and stare at you mournfully: "But it's so cold on the floor. I couldn't possibly lie down here."
|Kaline enjoying summertime at the ballpark.|
|My favorite old vest. Alas.|
|Sometimes we attract both fellow Wolverines and Doberman aficionados.|
|Kaline makes a new buddy.|