There has been too much controversy involving albino and white Dobermans for several decades now, and it is all rooted in the longstanding question as to whether the two are distinct from each other.
What’s more, the views of major kennel clubs, breeders, and geneticists about this issue are all conflicting.
To finally put this matter to rest, I decided to write this guide which aims to describe white and albino Dobies in great detail. Hopefully, as you finish poring over this article, you’ll be more careful in using the terms white and albino because these words are not interchangeable.
What Is a White Doberman and an Albino Doberman? Are They the Same?
A white Doberman is a product of inbreeding and is tagged as partial albino. They still have some pigmentation on their coat, making them cream-colored, so they aren’t really white. Meanwhile, albino Dobermans have an all-white coat and pink eyes due to a lack of pigmentation.
Kennel organizations condemn both dogs because they are prone to congenital disabilities. Another reason why they are frowned upon by many is that they cannot camouflage in the dark.
Dobermans are originally bred to be sentry dogs, so they are expected to blend in, guard, and accompany their owner during their rounds at night. Their light coats obviously stand out, making them faulty.
History and Origin of Albino and White Doberman
The history and origin of the white and albino Dobies are well-knitted into each other that’s why pet owners often confuse them as the same. I understand how conflicting data may lead to misconceptions, so here’s the exact history of both dog varieties explained in a non-technical way.
The first-ever white Doberman known to exist is named Padula’s Queen Sheba or simply Sheba. She is a product of two black and rust Dobermans called Rasputin VI and Dynammo Humm and was born on November 10, 1976.
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America (DPCA), which is the only recognized Doberman organization by the American Kennel Club (AKC), addressed Sheba as an albino believing that she wasn’t able to produce any pigments.
This is still being contended by a number of geneticists because the cream coloration of the dog implies that she did not wholly lack pigment.
Interestingly, the pedigree of Sheba states that she is the first white Doberman who is not put to sleep or euthanized. This statement implies that some other white Dobermans came before her, but they weren’t recognized for some reason. There is very scarce literature on white Dobies throughout canine history, so this will probably remain a mystery.
Another thing that I would like to mention is that, when Sheba’s unique color first got the attention of canine circles all over the world, there were doubts as to whether she was really a purebred Doberman Pinscher.
Fortunately, 11 years after she was born, her owner was finally able to provide the AKC with complete proof that she is indeed a purebred. In 1978, she was finally registered with the number WE166747.
You may be wondering how is it possible that there are still white Dobermans today when Sheba was born in a litter of non-white Dobies. The answer is simple.
Sheba was mated to her own offspring, and all current white Dobermans came from this single bloodline. Continuous inbreeding of Sheba’s descendants further weakens the white Dobie line, so you’ll notice pups who are smaller and thinner than their ancestors.
Differences in Physical Appearance
To fully differentiate a white Doberman from a pup who suffers from albinism, let us look at what makes them distinct in terms of appearance.
White Dobermans aren’t really white in color but a rich light cream with white markings. Some other traits that set them apart are their blue eyes, pink nose, and pink eye rims. They look different from albinos because there are noticeable pigmentations on their skin which true albinos lack.
Below is a more detailed review of how they look:
- Head: Their head is long and resembles a blunt wedge in both profile and frontal views. It widens gradually towards their ears.
- Eyes: Their eyes are almond-shaped and often light blue in color.
- Ears: Their ears are carried erect even though it is cropped.
- Neck: Their neck is well-muscled and proudly carried. It is also well-arched, and it widens toward their body.
- Body: Their body is compactly built, powerful, and muscular despite their medium size.
- Chest: They have a broad chest, and their forechest is well defined.
- Coat: Their coat is smooth, short, close-lying, and thick.
- Height: Males are ideally 26 to 28 inches, while females or bitches are 24 to 26 inches.
- Weight: Males weigh between 75 to 100 pounds, while females are 60 to 90 pounds.
Note that due to continuous inbreeding, some white Dobermans may have a reduced height and weight.
Before I describe how an albino Doberman looks like, I would like to clarify that the term “albino” does not really pertain to the white coloration in a dog’s coat but to pups who suffer from albinism.
I’ll discuss more about this condition in the section for genetics, but for now, I’ll focus more on what makes them different from white Dobies.
Albino Dobermans do not have any cream tint on their skin just like the variety we formerly discussed. True albino Dobermans are entirely white in color due to the absence of pigmentation.
Here’s a detailed elucidation of how they look:
- Head: Similar to white Dobermans, they have a blunt-looking head that widens gradually going to their ears.
- Eyes: Albinos have pinkish blood vessels which makes their eyes appear pink. This is a tell-tale sign that they aren’t white Dobies who usually have blue eyes.
- Ears: Their ears are often cropped and carried erect just like their other cousins.
- Neck: Their neck is also proudly-carried and well-muscled.
- Body: Their body is compact, muscular, and powerful.
- Chest: Their chest is broad while their forechest is well-carved.
- Coat: Their coat is also short and smooth. Their coat color is white, but there is a pinkish tinge on them.
- Height: Males are expected to stand at 26 to 28 inches, while females should be 24 to 26 inches.
- Weight: Male body mass is between 75 to 100 pounds, while a female albino is between 60 to 90 pounds.
Differences in Temperament
Temperament is another point of interest when discussing the differences between white and albino Dobermans. Allow me to discuss them in separate subsections below.
There aren’t many studies that prove that white Dobermans have an undesirable temperament, but breeders and kennel clubs are insistent that they showcase disagreeable behavior. This is because there are a lot of breeders who prioritize achieving this dog’s color more than their health.
When you look at things logically, you’ll see that the temperament failings of white Dobies aren’t really the fault of the dogs themselves, but the unethical breeding is done to maintain the “rare” color which is used for marketing them.
Their main behavioral issue is that they show aggression, unlike other Dobermans who are obedient and loyal. It may be possible to alter this through training, but there is still minimal research done to claim that this is true.
Because albino Dobermans are prone to several health issues due to deleterious mutation, they are found to be more fearful of others than their other colored cousins. They are also a lot harder to train because most of them have low-level of intelligence.
Helping your albino Doberman develop a well-balanced temperament will require a lot of work on your end. The success rate is also not that high, so my advice is that you invest your money on standard colored puppies who are a lot easier to teach and maintain.
Differences in Genetics
Genetics is the beginning and end of the controversy clouding white and albino Doberman reputation. Once you learn how these dogs were bred based on genetics, you’ll be able to deduct how different they are.
It is a known fact that not all pale-colored dogs are albinos, and yet many breeders and pet owners fail to recognize this. White Doberman is an admittedly partial albino, but it is wrong to address them in the traditional sense of the word.
White Dobermans managed to retain pigmentation on some areas or their coat due to the amount of melanin they produce. This is possible because they are tyrosinase-positive, unlike true albinos, who are tyrosinase-negative. I lost you there, didn’t I?
Well, to put it simply, tyrosinase is an enzyme that is responsible for melanin production. Since this pigment creates a dog’s coat, eyes, and nose color, being tyrosinase-positive means a dog will exhibit whitening in the form of cream coloration and white markings.
True albino Dobermans have pale white skin with a pinkish tint. Unlike white Dobermans who are tyrosinase-positive, true albinos suffer from the genetic mutation called tyrosinase-negative. They totally lack the pigments that produce color in dogs.
It is believed that the defect on the tyrosinase enzyme is a result of a recessive gene that an albino Doberman inherited from its parent. This gene also affects a true albino’s health; that’s why they are predisposed to certain health issues like deafness.
Life Expectancy and Health Issues
There isn’t any scientific data differentiating the lifespan of white and albino Dobermans from that of the standard colors, so I would no longer be dividing this section into two.
They can live up to 10 to 13 years just like their other-colored cousins, but they can also have a shorter lifespan if we are to consider anecdotal accounts of previous owners.
Until veterinary scholars have thoughtfully studied this topic, we won’t be able to predict the exact life expectancy of these Doberman varieties. What we do know is that they are extremely vulnerable to certain diseases and health problems which include the following:
- Skin Sensitivity: Melanin does not only provide dogs with its color but also absorbs solar radiation which can lead to sunburn and cancer. Albinos and white Dobies are known to have sensitive skin because they are deficient or they totally lack melanin. The common signs of this condition are excessive scratching, hair loss, and dry patches, but this can be prevented if you won’t expose your Dobie to sun rays for an extended period of time. It would also help if you can accessorize your pet with shirts, bodysuits, and hats whenever you take a walk with them. If you choose to apply sunscreen lotion to your Doberman, consult a veterinarian first.
- Photophobia: The blue eyes of white Dobermans and the clear irises of the albinos are both sensitive to any sort of light. They do not have enough pigmentation to screen the light entering their eyes; that’s why they can go blind if they are exposed to too much brightness. Even low lighting affects their visual accuracy, binocular vision, and depth perception. Your best option to protect their eyes from too much sunlight is to make them wear goggles. They may look weird, but trust me, it will save them from retinal damage.
- Sunburn: This is one of the skin problems that white and albino Doberman may acquire if they weren’t provided with shade as they go out in the sun. One of the common signs of this skin condition is the extreme pinkish tint on their coat which is no longer usual. Giving them sunblock and clothing is necessary.
- Skin Cancer: If you plan to neglect all my reminders about taking care of your white and albino Doberman’s coat, they would be at a higher risk of acquiring skin cancer or melanoma. This is a serious concern because they grow quickly and they will spread to the dog’s other organs.
- Tumors: In a study published by Winkler et al., they figured out that skin tumors are more prevalent on white and albino Dobermans as compared to other colors. Specifically, 12 out of 20 dogs have at least one tumor on their skin. The usual types that afflict dogs are squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumors. Treatment will depend on the tumor’s type and location on the dog’s body.
- Deafness: There is a strong association between the coat color of white and albino Dobermans to their hearing ability. In fact, research conducted by George Strain entitled “The Genetics of Deafness in Domestic Animals” determined the exact pigmentation patterns that relate to hereditary deafness in dogs. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for this congenital disease, so most albino and white dogs remain deaf for the rest of their lives.
- Neurological Problems: Because white and albino dogs are deficient in melanin, their brain function is also somehow affected because of the lack of specific receptors. As an unfortunate result, they are highly unpredictable, unlike standard-colored Dobermans.
White and Albino Doberman Puppy Cost: Are They More Expensive Than Standard Dobermans?
The answer to this would depend on the breeder you have business with. You see, there are a lot of unethical breeders out there who don’t care about dog health temperament.
They breed whites and albinos to market their color and tag them as rare. If you aren’t informed about the health issues of these dogs, you may be deceived to pay for a relatively higher amount.
According to statements I have gathered from those who bought white and albino Dobies, both dogs range from $800 to $2,500. It is important to note that there are a lot of factors that affect this pricing, including shipping, ear cropping, guarantees, etc.
Are Albino and White Dobermans Rare?
If you visit a kennel facility in your area, chances are you won’t find a white Doberman for sale because they are quite rare. This is so because they are a product of inbreeding, and not many breeders are allowed to develop them.
In addition, major kennel clubs strongly prohibit their reproduction because of several health issues associated with them.
Watch this video to see the rare white Dobermans up close:
If white Dobermans are rare, true albino Dobermans who don’t have any pigment on their body are even rarer. The reason behind this is that the genes that create this trait are primarily recessive.
You can still take your chances and look for albinos on some kennel facilities, but there is a very slim chance that you’ll go home with one.
The Issue of Inbreeding White Dobermans
I have mentioned in one of the former sections above how the first white Doberman named Sheba was bred to her son to continue producing whites.
Their offspring are then bred with their sisters in order to develop more white Dobermans. This process of mating closely related dogs is called inbreeding.
While there is no other option but to inbreed to continue the white Doberman lineage, this is not exactly ethical because of the potential health problems that dogs may acquire.
The limited gene pool translates to puppies with immuno-compromised status, which is quite problematic because they are marketed as puppies with sound health.
Currently, many white Dobermans exist with unclear data on where they came from and who bred them. We are not entirely sure whether this current white Doberman generation still descended from Sheba and her sons.
This is alarming because this means that many backyard breeders or maybe even puppy mills continuously produce these dogs even though the AKC and DPCA are firmly against it.
The Policy of DPCA Regarding White and Albino Dobermans
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America refers to the white and albino Dobermans as the same dog variety. They are quite adamant in opposing the breeding of these dogs because they believe their health and welfare were disregarded in order to achieve their color.
Also, they mentioned that all breeding programs should be undertaken responsibly to preserve canine characteristics, so they condone intentional breeding of pups with genetic defects.
The DPCA amended the Doberman Pinscher breed standard in 1982, and they only allowed four colors which are black, blue, red, and fawn Dobies with rust markings.
They also mentioned that the white patch on a puppy’s chest should not exceed ½ square inch. This is the only amount of white that the Doberman must possess which, in a way, implies that white dogs aren’t permissible.
Unfortunately, because of this, white and albino Dobermans cannot compete in conformation shows which evaluate how a dog adheres to the established description of their breed. They can only compete in other companion events, including agility, rally, obedience, and tracking.
DPCA’s Historical Timeline of Involvement in White and Albino Doberman Identification
The DPCA has been involved in the identification and tracking of white and albino Dobermans since 1976. Let’s look at the timeline of their involvement in these dog varieties.
|1976||Two black and rust Dobermans produced 11 black and rust pups and one white female dog with blue eyes, pink nose, pads, and eye rims.|
|1979||The owner registered the white dog as an albino, but the AKC sent him a letter explaining that albino is not a color. They have examined the pictures of the dog and came to the conclusion that she was white. The AKC then registered the dog named Sheba as the first white Doberman in history. The owner took this as a blessing to design a breeding program to produce more white pups.|
|1981||The DPCA heard about the existence of the white Doberman and requested the AKC to investigate further. It was then determined that the dog is actually a purebred.|
|1982||The DPCA amended their standard disqualifying dogs with a faulty color. AKC approved this later on.|
|1983||The White Doberman Research Committee of the DPCA acquired two white dogs that they have called albinistic puppies. They studied it for five years, and they found out that these dogs were prone to solar skin problems. They are also photosensitive and hyperactive fear biters.|
|1990-1994||While DPCA is studying the white dogs they acquired, the number of Dobermans of the same color increased by 475%.|
|1994||The AKC asked the DPCA to survey its members regarding their views about the issue of white and albino Dobermans. 1,153 votes or 98.8% of the members opposed the breeding and the AKC registration of these dogs.|
|1998||The DPCA implemented Z-List. (I’ll discuss this in detail in the following section.)|
|2013||The gene that causes white coat and albinism is finally identified.|
Z-Tracking of White and Albino Dobermans
To identify the Dobermans who descended from Sheba, the AKC established a system that can track their existence. The letter “Z” was added to the registration number of these dogs to inform everyone that they may have albinistic genes.
From here, the DPCA maintained a directory of all white and albinos through what they call the Z-list. Instead of using only the letter Z like the AKC, they used WZ as an identifier.
According to DPCA, the Z-list became possible through the efforts of their chairman and president at that time.
When it became apparent that the AKC will not stop registering white and albino dogs, they demanded the kennel club to think of a unique way so breeders can recognize the descendants of Sheba.
DPCA boasts that since 1998, the Z-list has become an invaluable tool for breeders to avoid the problematic genes of whites and albinos.
In the early utilization of the Z-list, there were seven dogs registered who were not in any way related to Sheba. These dogs were misregistered as whites when they are actually fawns.
The AKC released a statement clarifying that this was an honest mistake because color identification is quite confusing for novice breeders. However, this already alarmed many Doberman enthusiasts because it appears that the list may not be that accurate.
Currently, there are over 47,000 white and albino Dobermans registered in the Z-list managed by DPCA. The first on the list are the parents of Sheba, followed by her littermates.
You can check out the registration number, registered name, color, and the year these dogs are registered through the DPCA Z-list page.
Are White and Albino Dobermans Considered Faulty by the AKC and Other Kennel Clubs?
You may already have an idea of how kennel clubs perceive white and albino Dobermans, but I will still be presenting you with a detailed view of the AKC, CKC, and UKC regarding the colors acceptable for the dog on focus.
|Doberman Variation||American Kennel Club (AKC)||Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)||United Kennel Club (UKC)|
|White Doberman||White coated dogs are accepted even though they are not considered standard. This color has a registration code of WE166747.||The white coloration should only be in the form of chest marking not exceeding ½ square inch.||Color not recognized. Only black, blue, red, and fawn are acceptable.|
|Albino Doberman||Albinos are not explicitly mentioned as disqualified, but a note of the AKC says that colors aside from black, red, blue, and fawn are faulty.||No mentions as to whether this is faulty.||Albinos are tagged as disqualified.|
Do White and Albino European Dobermanns Exist?
The white and albino coat have never been an issue for European Dobermanns. In fact, there are currently no reported light-colored Euro Dobies that exist, which means that this condition is only specific to the American lineage.
However, some breeders are planning to introduce the European bloodline to intensive breeding programs for white dogs. They aim to diversify the genetic pool of white and albinos even though they will directly disregard the standards of the FCI.
The FCI or the Federation Cynologique Internationale extensively manages the breeding of European Dobermanns. Their breed standard emphasizes that this dog is only bred in two color varieties which are black and brown.
They do not consider blue and fawn permissible, much more the white color and the albino. They’ll probably have a similar disposition as the DPCA once unethical breeders succeed in manipulating the genes of European Dobermanns to produce white coats.
Their dogs are strictly bred to be guard dogs, and they would surely condone money-grubbing breeders who develop puppies that have problematic medical conditions.
What Is the Current Status of White and Albino Dobermans?
White Dobermans are still frowned upon by kennel clubs and Dobie organizations even after 44 years since they were first identified. This is also the current status of albinos which have been the focus of many researchers, especially in the present century.
Both dog varieties still possess congenital defects, they are even more prone to certain diseases, and they are believed to have a shorter life span.
Some geneticists argue that their traits even worsened due to intensive inbreeding done through the years. I recommend that you carefully study their characteristics before buying or adopting one.
Many white and albino Dobermans are being advertised these days which did not descend from Sheba. If the pups from the first AKC registered white Doberman are already problematic, what more are those who came from an unknown lineage.
Should You Consider Buying White and Albino Dobermans?
There may be a part of you who wants to own a white and albino Doberman due to their unique coat, but the rational side of your brain reminds you that buying one is like riding a sinking ship.
To save you from your agony, let me share some arguments of pro and against white and albino Doberman ownership.
Arguments of those who do not oppose breeding and owning white and albino Dobermans:
- Some breeders of these dogs do some health tests, so you are aware of the possible conditions they may be carrying.
- The prevalence of inbreeding these dogs is almost at par with the standard colors which are bred to their closest kin to achieve certain traits.
- Standard-colored Dobermans also suffer from skin problems because of color dilution alopecia. Having sensitive skin is not only unique to whites and albinos.
- The temperament issues of whites and albinos are the sole responsibility of the breeder.
- Light and blue eyes aren’t considered a defect in humans; therefore, they shouldn’t be viewed as problematic in Dobermans.
- There are a number of white and albino Dobermans who are certified by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Meaning to say, they are free from congenital eye conditions.
Note that these arguments are not based on scientific evidence but on the accounts of those who are pro-white and albinos. Some of these may not be accurate, but I chose to include them here so you will be more aware of the strategies used by opportunistic breeders.
Now, let’s take a peek at the other side of the coin.
Arguments of those who are against breeding and owning white and albino Dobermans:
- Scientific data suggests that these dogs come with a string of health issues.
- Their genetic pool is minimal, so inbreeding cannot be prevented. This would translate into more unstable dogs.
- Breeders who develop these dogs choose their breeding stock for color with total disregard for temperament.
- CERF certification does not actually assess the areas of the eyes affected by a gene mutation.
- Being an owner of white and albino dogs means that you’ll be making extra effort to take care of your pet. You will also have to spend a good portion of your money to buy clothes, sunscreen, and goggles to prevent them from being exposed to too much sun. Vet bills are also way more expensive when you own these types of dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Other Doberman Colors?
American Doberman Pinschers come in four standard colors: black, blue, red, and fawn. All of these have tan markings on their body, while some may exhibit a small white spot on the chest.
The AKC allows registration of white Dobermans, but they do not consider it as a standard color. European Dobermanns, on the other hand, are only bred with black and brown coloration. White and albino Euros still haven’t existed until today.
Is It True That Blue and Fawn Dobermans Have More Skin Issues Than the White and Albino?
Blue and fawn Dobermans may suffer from color dilution alopecia, but this is not as alarming as the skin problems of white and albino Dobermans.
The skin condition of blues and fawns only leads to bacterial infections, while white and albino skin problems may lead to death. This is because melanoma and other tumors are more prevalent in light-colored Dobies.
I hope that through reading this factual guide, you are now more informed about the controversy regarding white and albino Dobermans. They are actually different dogs despite many claims that they are one and the same.
If you find yourself wanting either one of them, I require you to do thorough research because they aren’t that easy to manage. Yes, I used the word “require” because this matter is fairly critical. They might even get you bankrupt because of their health status.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.