In 2010, a man from Salem, Oregon was walking his Doberman in a city park and spotted children watching a rabbit frolicking in the grass. Out of spite, the man released his dog to have it tear the animal to shreds in front of frightened children for kicks. As a result, the man was charged with aggravated animal abuse and was barred from entering parks. The man was said to have also taunted children in the parking lot. While this story points to the juvenile and bullying nature of this man, it also sheds light on whether or not Dobermans would make a good rabbit dog.
Dobermans in general are not the best choice for rabbit hunting, but their lineage does hold retrieval and hunting sensibilities. There's no question that Dobermans can be trained to hunt other animals, including water fowl, and larger animals like coyotes. But rabbit hunters have been successful in training Dobermans for the hunt.
A tax collector from Thuringen, Germany by the name of Louis Doberman owned a dog pound and wanted a unique breed to accompany him while making routine collections during the late 1800s. He started by breeding the German pinscher and the old German shepherd (now extinct). Other breeds that were later included in the mix was the greyhound, Manchester terrier and the Weimaraner, and there is speculation that the Rottweiler and Beauceron lineage is in the Doberman line as well.
The Beauceron breed originates from northern France. Photo from Mas Perros.
However, no one knows for certain the exact breeds that made the Doberman, but there are solid records indicating that the Black English greyhound and Black and Tan Manchester were used during the late 1800s.
The original Doberman was heavyset in appearance, but was later bred to have a thin and sporty frame by various breeders.
The Doberman was a popular guard, police and war dog throughout the 1900s, but it also made a great show dog and family pet. Because of their rugged roles throughout history, this has always been a dog used for intimidation and protection, but they have proven themselves to be a versatile canine that can be a loyal pet and hunting companion.
Do they stack up as a hunting breed?
The Weimaraner gave the Doberman its talent as a hunting and retrieval breed. The Pinscher in their background gave them a knack for speedy reaction and terrier tenacity. It is also a dog known for sound mental focus (excellent for training), and the breed derives much of its intelligence from the old German shepherd. But if the Rottweiler was used in the molding of the Doberman, this is where this sporting dog owes much of its fearlessness and ruggedness.
Since they are known for being tough dogs, they have garnered a reputation as being inherently dangerous, and this is only true if it was taught by its master to be mean and vicious. Like any other dog, the Doberman will only act aggressively if encouraged to do so, as was the case in Salem, Oregon.
Overall, if you're on the lookout for a hunting dog, you're best bet is to go with a beagle. While a Doberman can be trained to be a rabbit dog, retrieval is not what it was specially bred for.