Many people who are new to Dobermans don’t know the existence of the white Doberman (or cream-colored Doberman) and are often confused or surprised at the breed they see when they first meet one.
These dogs are often called “albino Dobermans” because they have very light skin.
White Doberman Color
There is controversy surrounding the white Doberman. Many believe it’s unprofessional to breed this Doberman color for health reasons. So, I decided to do some research on the white Doberman and dive in.
This section contains information about the albinos, their history, genetics and health issues, as well as costs.
Judy Doniere, a member of the DPCA, breed enthusiast, and breeder was the one who raised the alarm about the white Doberman trend. She worked hard to raise awareness and preserve the standard.
White Albino Doberman Pinscher
The DPCA began its investigation into the white Doberman with a conversation with the breeder and recording/photographing his white dogs.
Bill Garnett was an AKC judge, Breeder and Exhibitor Education. He believed they were purebred and noted their good conformation.
However, he also observed that they had sensitivity to light and depth perception issues.
The majority of the DPCA Board of Directors believed that the issue of whites was not worth addressing.
After many years of research and much encouragement from a few concerned members, the DPCA decided to stop supporting/ignoring the white/albino.
The DPCA requested that restrictions be placed on breeding white Doberman. The first attempt to limit breeding/registration of albino Doberman was in 1994; the AKC refused to restrict registration of the whites.
Although the AKC was not willing to block registration of any Sheba-related white or dog, it agreed with the DPCA to declare that the Sheba breed was too risky for the breed’s reputation as well as its overall disposition.
The AKC began tracking all Sheba-originating dogs in June 1994. Although the first Doberman white was born in Tennessee, they were not registered.
According to the official record, Virginia, a pet-line breeder, was the first person to register and breed albinos.
Padula’s queen Sheba, registration number WE166747) was incorrectly called a white bitch in 1974. She was the first albino Doberman registered.
She was the only albino known at that time, and no other lines have ever produced albinos.
After her sister had bred Tarzan to him, she was bred Tarzan to her black dog to produce albinos. They produced two litters with whites.
1996, hairs taken from Sheba were submitted to a DVM geneticist. He wrote a letter to explain his evaluation of the sample. “Dear Mrs. Doniere”
Concerning the question of “White Dobermans”, although I have only one white Doberman to work with,
This individual has been compared to samples from other breeds that we accept as “normal” white, such as Samoyeds and Great Pyreneses, Kuvasoks, Bichon Frises and American Eskimo dogs.
While it’s true that not all breeds of dogs are “all” white, all the coats were white in the sample.
The “white” Doberman’s coats are different from other breeds because they have different parameters such as the size, shape, and number of pigmentgranules.
These dogs are, in other words, not “normal” whites as we have been led to believe.
Albino vs. White Dobermans
We need to first discuss what these dogs are and aren’t. Professionals are still arguing about whether these dogs can be considered albinos. Here’s what we know so far.
White Dobermans have a light cream color and white markings. They have pink lips, noses, rims, and eyes with blue eyes.
These dogs aren’t albinos as they still have some pigmentation. Blue eyes can only be achieved with some pigmentation. A complete lack of pigment would cause eyes to appear pink.
The fact that white Dobermans can be considered “tyrosinase positive Albinoids” is widely accepted ( source Wikipedia ). This is an albino type, but it’s not the one you and I think of.
You might get some stares from people who are familiar with the Doberman world if you refer to these dogs simply as “albino”.
Because many Doberman professionals believe you are referring to the traditional full albino, which these dogs don’t.
If you really want to be precise, you could call them “tyrosinase positive albinoids,” but it’s easier to refer to them simply as “white Dobermans” (or “cream Dobermans”) for the purposes of this article.
Due to the traditional genetic mutation which causes albinos in animals, it is genetically possible to have full-albino Dobermans. However, a true “full albino” Doberman has not been found.
It is easy to tell the difference, as a true albino Doberman will have pink eyes because there is no pigment. A white Doberman will have blue eyes (i.e. Some pigment is present.
Padula’s Queen Sheba, also known as “Sheba”, was the first Doberman of white to be registered with American Kennel Club (AKC). Both her parents were black and rust-colored on November 10, 1976.
It is interesting to note that her pedigree bears the words “first white Doberman not laid to sleep” written on them.
This suggests that other white Dobermans were born before her. This mystery remains unsolved, but there are some references to a “light-colored Doberman” in literature dating back at least to the 1930s.
Initial doubts arose about Sheba’s purebred Doberman Pinscher. After the owner provided sufficient evidence to support the claim, Padula’s Queen Sheba became an AKC registered Doberman Pinscher in 1978.
Sheba was later bred together with her son, and the son was bred along with his sisters in an effort to preserve this genetic trait. All known Doberman Pinschers of white color have descend from Sheba.
An interesting first-hand account of how the white Doberman first became known to exist to the DPCA is available on the DPCA ALBINO DOBERMAN HISTORY PAGE.
Dogs have a mix of black and red pigments (Eumelanin and Phaeomelanin). Each dog’s genetic makeup will determine the amount of each pigment in their hair and how it is diluted.
All the colors we’re used to seeing in the Doberman Pinscher, such as black (Isabella), red (Isabella), and blue (Blue).
Now it is known that the white Doberman is actually the result of a recessive gene. This hides the final color that would otherwise have been produced by normal genetic processes ( source).
This gene is a mutation of the SLC45A2 genes. The source gene has a significant portion of its genetic code missing.
Although the result is fairly typical of albinism, it is not yet known what the correct term is. In other animals, this same mutation has been shown to cause OCA4 (or Oculocutaneous albinism Type 4).
A Doberman who carries one copy of the mutant gene is considered a “carrier”. If they have two, they will be considered affected by the mutation and will be white or cream in color.
To put it another way, you need two copies of the mutated gene to make this Doberman color possible. You can easily test your Doberman’s DNA for the mutant gene using a simple kit.
This means that if you breed two SLC45A2 carriers, the offspring will be 25% white or cream colored ( source ).
Researchers believe this mutation occurred at least five generations before Sheba, since her parents were carriers. This gene mutation was likely passed down from one common ancestor.
White Doberman Puppy Prices
As with any item on the free market, the price of these dogs has less to do what they “should” be sold for and more with what the breeder thinks they can get the dogs for.
This is why you will likely see a wide range of prices for these dogs. In preparation for this article I reached out multiple white Doberman owners and breeders.
Here’s the data I gathered on the average price of these dogs.
|White Doberman Puppy Prices|
Note: These are the prices that owners actually paid for white Dobermans. These amounts have been rounded up to the nearest hundred dollars.
Remember that there are many factors that can influence the price of a white Doberman pup, such as location, title, registration status with kennel clubs, ears cropped, and kennel club membership status.
Many people believe these puppies should not be more expensive than a typical Doberman. Breeders may still consider these dogs rare, and will charge more for them.
They are less common than the other colors, but there are many breeders who specialize in them. A buyer will be able to find multiple sources for these dogs if they put enough effort.
White Dobermans have additional health issues. Some health issues may arise due to the low levels of pigment in white Dobermans.
- Sunburn– White Dobermans can get sunburned due to their low pigment. Dog-friendly sunblock is recommended for extended exposure to direct sunlight, especially on the nose. You may also need to limit your time outside in the sun.
- Tumors One study found a significant increase of skin cancers in white Doberman pinschers compared to standard colors. In the study, 12 out of 20 White Dobermans had skin tumors. This was in contrast to 1 in 20 standard-color Dobermans.
- In this study, each white Doberman aged 5 or more had at least one cancer. These tumors can be either cancerous or benign, and most of them are likely to be.
- Vision The absence of pigment in the iris (the colored part of the eyes) of white Dobermans means that more light can pass directly to their retina.
- The dog will often squint when exposed to bright light. While some owners opt to purchase tinted goggles that are dog-specific, others say it is unnecessary.
- Other Concerns– White Dobermans can also be affected by the same health problems as any other Doberman. These include gastric dilatation, volvulus syndrome (GDV, bloat),
- Hip dysplasia (DCM), chronic activate hepatitis(CAH), von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD), cervical verbral instability (Wobbler Syndrome), progressive renal atrophy (PRA), hypothyroidism and osteosarcoma.
White Doberman owners are likely to have a greater commitment to their dogs’ welfare and require more time and attention.
You should consider factors such as the time spent in direct sunlight, sunscreen, and any other concerns. A DNA test is the best way to find out about your dog’s overall health.
This is an easy process you can do by yourself. You can find out what your dog can expect in the future when it comes to their health. It’s so frustrating to watch the years pass by without knowing what lies ahead. You can find my guide to health testing your Dobermans here.
Inbreeding of White Doberman
Inbreeding within white Doberman lines is a major concern. It is well known that the American Kennel Club (AKC), first white Doberman registered with them, was later bred by her to her son.
Her son was then bred directly to her sisters. All known white Dobermans today are thought to descend from these first few.
The main concern is not always with the initial breeding that produced the white Doberman.
Many are concerned about the possibility of inbreeding in recent generations. This article will discuss more about the controversy. It is believed that inbreeding can be extensive by unscrupulous breeders who want to produce whiter Dobermans.
This is possible in certain circumstances. However, backyard breeders can also inbreed standard-colored Dobermans for other reasons or simply because they don’t know the lineage.
Life Expectancy of White Doberman
10 – 13 Years
There have not been any studies or large data collections that offer insight into the longevity and health of white Dobermans compared to other colors.
This topic is best covered in the current study, “A Partial Genetic Deletion of SLC45A2 Causes Oculocutaneous Albinism In Doberman Pinscher Dogs”,
which shows a higher incidence of potentially cancerous skin tumors in white Dobermans (12% of 20 white Dobermans developed these tumours, whereas only 1/20 of standard-color Dobermans experienced them).
It is worth noting that 20 Dobermans are a very small sample.
The current life expectancy of the white Doberman is 10 to 13 years, or the same as that for standard-colored Dobermans. However, no studies have shown an increase in mortality rate or a shorter lifespan.
TIP: For a catalog of all the available Doberman colors and types, see my article All the Colors and Types of the Doberman Pinscher.
DPCA and White Dobermans
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America is a member club of American Kennel Club (AKC). This is the AKC’s only Doberman-specific club.
The DPCA made it clear that they do not support the breeding of white Dobermans.
The dog is considered unacceptable because of their photosensitivity (or photophobia) and their health issues. They will not promote the breeding of their breed since their mission is to preserve the integrity, health and function the breed.
The DPCA changed its breed standard for Doberman Pinschers in 1982 to allow four colors. These include black, red and blue Dobermans, as well as fawn Dobermans that have rust-colored markings.
According to the breed standard, a white patch on the chest is permissible, but not more than 1/2 inch.
Disqualifying Fault: Dogs of a prohibited color.” You can find the complete breed standard here.
This means that any dog with more than half an inch of white on their chest will be disqualified from conformation shows. The rules also state that dogs of any prohibited color will be disqualified.
The white Doberman will therefore not be eligible to compete in breed conformation shows. The white Doberman is still eligible to compete in all companion events, including agility, rally, tracking, and obedience.
Official stance of the DPCA is that these dogs shouldn’t be bred. Breeders should make sure they don’t breed dogs with this gene in their pedigree.
Parents who have had white puppies in the past or are carriers of dogs will notate their AKC registration number with a “WZ”. This is also known as the “Z-List”.
All DPCA materials regarding the white Doberman are available on the DPCA Albino Reports Page.
White European Dobermans
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale), a worldwide kennel club, is well-known and deals extensively with European Dobermans.
White is not an acceptable color for this organization’s breed standard. FCI disqualifies any Doberman with white fur.
According to the FCI Doberman breed standard, “The Doberman is bred in two color varieties: black or brown with red rust, clearly defined markings (tan marks)”.
It also mentions “white spots” among the disqualifying faults. The standard is to be followed and any deviation from it shall be considered a mistake.
The FCI has restricted the Doberman’s color choices to black or brown (or red), with rust-colored markings. The complete FCI breed standard is available.
The FCI has never had to deal with the white Doberman, as it has not been seen in European Doberman lines. This color seems only to be a problem for the American Doberman Pinscher.
However, I spoke to some breeders who are now introducing European bloodlines to their white Doberman breeding programs to diversify the genetic mix.
The Doberman Pinscher Club of America maintains the Z-List. This club tracks all descendants of Padula’s Queen Sheba, the first white Doberman to be registered. This list also includes any other white Dobermans who have been registered with the DPCA.
The registration number for these dogs starts with “WZ”. You can find the complete list at the DPCA Albino ZList page.
However, it is possible that there are many Dobermans who have the gene mutation. This is because the note on the pedigree of the “first” white Doberman stated “first white Doberman not taken to sleep.”
Notable is also the fact that 50% of offspring are genetically defective, so each generation is less likely to receive this gene.
This list does not contain any dogs with this mutation.
Robert Loechel (VetGen Veterinary Genetics Services Chief Scientific Officer) performed genetic testing on standard-colored dogs that were on the ZList. He found that only 21.25% were carriers of the mutation.
The DPCA has claimed that all known white Dobermans are descendants of Z-List dogs. They will keep using this list to track Sheba’s descendants.
White Doberman Controversy
Most of the Doberman controversy centers around the ownership and breeding of white Dobermans. Both sides have Doberman experts with decades of experience who can help you understand the breed.
Arguments for Breeding White Dobermans
Here are the main arguments that are most frequently used by people who support breeding and owning white Dobermans.
- Albino Status– The White Dobermans do not qualify as full-albinos, although they have some pigmentation (meaning that they don’t have pink eyes)
- To cast a negative stigma around these dogs, the term “albino”, is used unfairly by those who oppose their continued breeding.
- General Health Health is a serious concern because white Dobermans are so stigmatized that breeders of such colors are more likely to test their dogs for health than those of standard-colored Dobermans.
- Inbreeding There was inbreeding at the beginning of the creation of the white Doberman. However, the levels of inbreeding are not known for more recent generations.
- Standard colored Dobermans are more common in the United States than white Dobermans. Recent inbreeding is a result of unprofessional breeders, and not the dog’s coat colour.
- Skin Issues Blue and fawn-colored Dobermans have more skin problems that white Dobermans because of color dilution alopecia.
- Temperament Questions There are many responsible breeders who have “alternative colors” available for the Doberman. This includes the white color.
- Temperament issues that result from poor breeding practices are a function a unethical breeder and not the dog’s colour.
- Bright Sunlight Problems (Photosensitivity). – Bright sunlight can affect other animals and people with blue eyes just as much as it does the blue-eyed Doberman.
- Dobermans should not consider blue eyes in Dobermans to be a defect.
- Other Eye-sight Problems Many white Doberman owners will have their dog CERF certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. This certification verifies that the dog is healthy from any potential inherited eye conditions. This certification is easy for white Dobermans.
Arguments Against Breeding White Dobermans
These are the main arguments used by people who oppose breeding or owning white Dobermans.
- Albino Status – Geneticists have shown that the white Doberman was created by a gene mutation in SLC45A2 known to cause Oculocutaneous Albinism Type 4.
- Albinism can take many forms and not all Albinisms produce pink-colored eyes. This dog is an albino.
- General Health These dogs are in poor health because of issues like sunburn and increased risk of skin cancer.
- Inbreeding White Dobermans are known for their long history of inbreeding to produce more white Dobermans. It is difficult or impossible to prevent inbreeding within their genetic lineage because the genetic pool is so small.
- Temperament Problems These dogs are subject to ongoing temperamental issues due to inbreeding.
- Breeders are limited in the breeding stock, so they choose mating pairs based on their genetic potential to produce white puppies.
- Eye-sight Problems These dogs are sensitive to bright light, and often have poor vision in other situations. Fear can cause fear biting.
- CERF certification, which white Doberman owners claim proves their eyesight is good, does not evaluate the vision areas that may be affected by albinism, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, depth perception problems, and optic nerve abnormalities.
- Medical Care Owning these dogs can mean more responsibility (such as wearing sunscreen, goggles and clothing outdoors, and limiting exposure to the sun) and higher chances of costly medical bills.
I used scientific, official, and unofficial sources to research and write this article. I also spoke with numerous experienced breeders of alternative colors and made phone calls.
This article contains information that both sides seemed to agree on. The “The White Doberman Controversy”, section will address the main points of contention.