Dochanashvili was born in Tbilisi, the capital of then-Soviet Georgia. Having graduated from the Tbilisi State University in 1962, he worked for the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnography, and participated in several archaeological expeditions from 1962 to 1975. He then managed the prose section of the literary magazine Mnatobi from 1975 to 1985. Since 1985, he has been a director-in-chief of the Gruziya-film studio.
Dochanashvili debuted as a writer in 1961. He was immediately noted for his rejection of the Soviet literary dogmas of Socialist Realism, and his dissident views. Since then, he has published dozens of stories and novellas which won him a nationwide acclaim for their fairy-tale lightness and invention. His most popular work is the 1975 novel The First Garment (სამოსელი პირველი) based on the Holy Bible and story of the War of Canudos in the 19th-century Brazil.