If you’re familiar with the breed, you know that the modern Rottweiler came from Germany, where it was a working cattle dog. You may not know that the ancestor to the Rottweiler we know today was actually a Roman drover dog.
The Roman Empire is well known for its ingenuity and practicality in many areas, and dog breeding is one area that the Romans also improved. You also probably know that the Romans are most famous for their tireless conquest and expansion of their empire. Their armies marching all over the continent brought herds of livestock on its conquests to feed the soldiers. The ancestor to the modern Rottweiler was one of the dogs used to drive and herd their cattle. The Romans used Asian mastiff-type breeds as the breeding stock for the Rottweiler’s ancestor, but not much is known about them. They were bred to have the stamina to keep up with the marching armies while herding the cattle all day and then guarding them all night.
The Romans spent a considerable amount of time in the area we know today as Germany. One of the biggest plagues to the Roman army was the wild barbarian Germanic hordes native to the area. So when the Roman Empire fell, and soldiers turned to farmers, some of the army’s dogs were left wandering around areas where the troops had once been. The ancestor to the modern Rottweiler was one such dog and found a new life in the town of Rottweil, Germany, where it excelled at moving cattle from pastures to market. The breed was refined to suit this role and became known as the Butcher’s Dog of Rottweil.
With the reach of railroads expanding in the 1800s, cattle didn’t need to be moved all the way to a marketplace but rather to the nearest town and train car. This meant that the Rottweiler had much less livestock work to do but was quickly recognized for its ability as a protection and police dog.
The breed standard was drawn up in 1901 for the modern Rottweiler, and very little has changed with the breed since that time. Today they still excel at military and police protection work and have made a name for themselves in scent and service work, thanks to their willingness to please and high-energy level. The breed is well known for its patience and watchfulness with children and the protective instinct for its home and family. Rottweilers are one of the most loving, capable, and loyal dog breeds thanks to its original working purpose and adaptability to home life.
In more recent times, breeders have tried to bring the ancient Butchers’ Dog’ a high natural levels of aggression down a few notches. Were they successful? Statistics give us reason to doubt that, naming the Rottweiler as responsible for most human deaths by dog attacks in the US between 2005 and 2019 – only second to the American Pitbull Terrier: “Combined, pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 76% of the total recorded deaths.”
While some of these unfortunate tragedies could probably have been avoided by the proper training and socialization, certain risks do come with the breed: Fatal accidents involving Rottweilers are known to have happened even to very experienced trainers and breeders. These were owners who had done all the socializing and whose Rottweilers had passed the challenging IPO-qualifications required to breed a dog. IPO requires high levels of obedience, impulse control, and impeccable conduct with humans unfamiliar to the dog.
And whilst some of these accidents can be related to the breeds’ high prey drive – such as attacks on small children – others cannot: Especially intact male Rotties seem prone to challenging their handler. And by “challenging,” I do not mean the dog is growling at the person, but the dog trying to bite the person.
Other incidents can be related to the Rottweiler’s immense natural protective instincts: Should the dog perceive a threat to its owner’s safety, it absolutely will kick into action – and the same applies if someone enters a property the dog is guarding. Rottweilers do not need any training to be highly effective personal protection dogs and guard dogs.
Whilst they CAN make excellent family companions and guardians, caution is advised for everyone planning to have a Rottweiler as a family pet: As we just said, tragedies happen with this breed, even in the households of calm, consistent canine leaders. However, some Rotties adore children and are very patient with them. They are calm and gentle in the house and even get along well with other pets – especially if they grow up with them. It goes without saying that you should never let your dog and your young kids play together unattended: Even the friendliest Rottweiler is still a large and powerful dog who can easily knock a child over by accident.
Because of their history as herding dogs, Rotties are prone to nipping their family into the legs and ankles. This is not an aggressive behavior but an attempt to “herd” their flock. Of course, you should nip such nipping “in the bud” whilst your dog is still small: You do not want an adult Rottweiler sinking its teeth into people’s legs.
Rotties are medium- to high-energy dogs – keen, alert, and always eager to work. They also absolutely love vigorous play and long walks. These powerful dogs require lots of exercises every day to stay balanced and content, and that exercise absolutely should include obedience drills. Being highly intelligent and eager to please their owners, Rotties make superb sports dogs as well as service- and even therapy dogs.
In terms of working drive, prey drive, and intelligence, the Rottweiler is on roughly the same level as the Doberman or the German Shepherd. However, the breed lacks the Doberman’s gentleness and German Shepherd’s extreme trainability: Rotties do come with a stubborn streak, and coupled with their high levels of independence and confidence, this stubbornness makes training them more challenging than the average guardian breed.
For this reason alone, the Rottweiler is absolutely not the breed to go for if you are new to the world of dog ownership: These large guard dogs need an owner who is not only experienced in having dogs but in owning and training strong guardian breeds. In the right hands, the Rottie can and will unfold its full potential.
This is a highly effective and driven working breed that can be educated to high levels of tracking, obedience, and guarding. At the same time, Rottweilers are amazingly devoted and deeply loyal to their humans. This makes them the perfect choice for experienced owners who are looking for a powerful natural guardian – a dog who will defend them and their homes with its life, if necessary.
The good news is that Rotties are, in fact, surprisingly easy to keep clean: They have short, straight, and coarse double-coats that hardly shed. Outside of shedding season, that is – in spring and autumn, Rottweilers lose their seasonal coats and require more brushing than normal for a few weeks. The number of underwool Rottweilers has largely depended on the climate in which they live. But in any case, the best tool to extract dead and loose hairs from their undercoat is a Furminator specifically designed for short-haired dogs.
Apart from shedding season, you only have to brush your Rottweiler once or twice a week with a pin brush and a natural bristle brush. By the way, grooming your dog not only removes the dead hair stuck in their coat, but it also stimulates circulation and distributes the natural oils in their skin.
Do Rottweilers need Baths? Unlike other breeds with long and plush coats, Rottweilers do not need regular baths to stay neat and clean: One bath once every two or three months is sufficient. In the meantime, you can quite easily remove any dirt or dust by wiping your Rottie down with a wet washcloth. If you have a yard or garden, you can also spray them down with a hose to remove excess dirt. When you do bathe your Rottweiler, use a mild dog shampoo and rinse the dog thoroughly to remove any soapy residue. Because their coats are so short, Rotties air-dry quickly.
To remove any remaining loose hair, it is best to brush them before and after the bath. And if you want to give their coat an extra-nice shine, rub them down with a chamois leather cloth after the bath, or apply a spray-on conditioner for dogs. What about my Rottweiler’s Nails, Ears, and Teeth? To ensure that your Rottweiler’s floppy ears stay free from painful ear infections, check them at least once a week for mites and excess wax build-up.
Alternatively, make it a routine to insert one or two drops of ear-cleaning solution for dogs into each ear. Then, gently massage your Rottie’s ears to spread the product throughout the ear. When it comes to their teeth, you want to regularly check for cavities, especially right on the surface of your dog’s molars, but also between their teeth. As a large dog breed, the Rottweiler is less prone to tooth decay than smaller breeds, but better to be safe than sorry.
Your Rottweiler’s claws can be quite long and unwieldy if not cut regularly. Overly long nails can cause injuries: For the dog and for yourself – if, for example, your 60 kilo Rottweiler digs them into your naked feet. Also, long claws make unpleasant scraping sounds and sometimes scratches on wood- or parquet floors. Therefore, best to cut them about every two months with a specific claw cutter. To avoid accidentally causing your dog pain, it is best only to chop off small pieces at a time. If in doubt, ask your vet to cut your Rottie’s claws for you. And this wraps up our discussion of the powerful Rottweiler’s grooming requirements. As we saw, keeping these strong guard dogs clean is surprisingly easy.
The Rottweiler – bred to protect These beautiful, muscular black-and-tan working dogs have been used as livestock- and property guardians and personal protection dogs for centuries. During the Second World War, Rottweilers served as guard dogs for German soldiers, and today, the breed has gained worldwide recognition as a police and military service dog.
Especially in recent times, more and more people are interested in this breed for personal and home protection. But what about those statistics that say the Rottie is to blame for almost as many dog-bite related deaths in America as the American Pitbull Terrier? Is this a dog whom not even their owners can control, and who is a serious danger to children and other animals? The Rottweiler we have today is an excellent natural guardian. Bred and trained to defend their own during centuries, they are born with a powerful protective instinct. An instinct that includes any other animals living on their property, thanks to the Rottie’s past as livestock guardian.
These same instincts make Rottweilers very protective of their entire family; children and other household pets are included. The Rottie – Families’ best Friend or Foe? But then, you might ask, why is it that so many accidents happen with Rottweilers?
In many cases of these dogs biting their owners’ children we see that the dog was kept outside of the home. Instead of living in the house, many of these Rottweilers had spent their days in a kennel or on a chain since puppyhood. Of course, this would have made it very difficult for this dog, and that child, to form a close connection with each other. In all likelihood, many of these Rottweilers did not regard the child as part of their family because one person in the household only handled them.
Also, Rottweilers do have a considerable prey drive, which makes it possible that a child’s sudden movement triggered their apparent aggression. And while, of course, bite-accidents involving children are an absolute worst-case scenario, similar reasons can apply to a Rottweiler biting another pet – like another dog in the household, the cat, or an unfortunate rodent like a rabbit or guinea pig.
However, whilst there usually is a reason behind any bit-attack, I have to say that this breed does come with a specific natural level of aggression: When compared to a Golden Retriever or Beagle, the Rottweiler is clearly more prone to being reactive. And, despite training and socialization, many Rotties develop dog aggression when they reach adulthood.
Now, to all the Rottweiler-lovers out there: Please do not get me wrong; I absolutely love Rotties, and I enjoy working with them whenever I get the chance. It is just that they need the firm leadership of an experienced handler – much more than most other breeds. And even more than most other large guardian breeds.
A Rottweiler without rules, boundaries, and limitations can easily contribute to the breed’s reputation as being potentially dangerous. Avoiding accidents like Rotties biting kids or other pets requires every (human) member of the household to be the dog’s calm, consistent leader. If this is not possible, because your children are still too small to be calm, let alone lead a dog calmly, it is your responsibility as the dog’s handler to ensure their safety. If your Rottweiler respects your guidance, it is not likely to snap at your child. Of course, you should not leave your dog and your kid together without supervision.
With that said, Rottweilers can make fantastic family dogs when raised as part of the family. And when taught to respect all humans and pets in the household. These dogs are very fun-loving, and they make fantastic playmates for older children. Because they are eager to learn, they easily can be taught to play fetch, tug-of-war, and other fun games with their family.
A well-socialized Rottweiler who is diligently trained in obedience and manners can make an excellent family guardian – who will respect and protect their own no matter what. And this wraps up our discussion of the Rottweiler’s behavior towards children and other animals. As we saw, these powerful guard dogs can be affectionate and devoted family companions – if raised and trained by an experienced owner and if allowed to share the home with their favorite humans.
Like most breeds, there are specific health issues. Now, extremely few dogs develop everything that can happen to a Rottweiler, but you should know of at least some of the conditions that are related to the breed.
When you get your puppy from the breeder, the only thing you know (hopefully!) is his parents’ health, perhaps his grandparents, hopefully, older siblings and maybe other relatives. That’s the only guarantee you have that your pup is and will be healthy – and basically, that means no guarantee at all.
So what can you do to prevent ill health with your Rottweiler?
One of the most important things is helping him grow at a slow rate as a puppy. Larger and heavier breeds grow fast, but they shouldn’t grow too fast. That’ll be bad for their joints, which in turn can cause significant damage to their bodies later on.
You should also keep the amount of exercise on a very low level for your pup. A breed of his size and weight shouldn’t be doing any high-level exercise until he’s around one year old, and then it should be started at a slow rate to give him the chance to build muscle tone, stamina, and so on.
On the other hand, as an adult, your Rottweiler should get as much exercise as he needs. That’ll give him a strong and healthy body, especially if you keep his food intake under control. A Rottweiler tends to love his food, and if he overeats, he’ll get fat. A fat Rottie is not a happy Rottie.
If you’re unsure of how much you should exercise your Rottie as a puppy, how to increase the amount of exercise and so on, please consult your breeder or your vet. They’ll advise you to give your Rottie a good start.
And speaking of vets, you’ll need to vaccinate your pup several times before he’s an adult. The breeder does the first vaccination, and after that, it’s your responsibility. Make sure you get it done, as it’ll protect your puppy from various diseases that could cause severe problems if you don’t.
If you really want to keep your Rottie healthy, you should consider doing regular check-ups with your vet. That’ll help to find possible health issues before they get too serious.
First of all, the most important thing to do with a breed as strong and powerful as the Rottweiler is to provide him with structure and boundaries. The easiest way to do this is to give him all that by walking him. A structured walk is an excellent way to provide leadership and allow him to look to you for guidance and direction.
However, your Rottie is most likely going to enjoy other ways of showing off his athleticism. Some of the things you can do to keep your Rottie happy is pretty much any canine sport you can think of. But especially searching and tracking, where he’ll use his body and his mind – and that is equally important if you ask me.
Getting yourself a Rottweiler – well, you must either have a death wish, or you’re somewhat of an athlete yourself. While other breeds require even more exercise, the Rottweiler most certainly is not for the couch potato (although there may be individuals who prefer to stay home and sniff the flowers in your yard rather than engaging in physically challenging exercises).
The Rottweiler may not be the largest of breeds, but he is large and heavy enough to be treated with care when it comes to exercise and physical training. The number one rule with larger breeds is to proceed with extreme caution and care and increase the amount of exercise very slowly.
As a pup, your Rottie shouldn’t go on any walks at all. Playing around in the yard is quite enough for him to find out where his limbs go and how to move forward. As he grows a little older, you can start taking him on (very!) short walks and begin the training of walking on a lead. As he gets even older, you can prolong these walks by- say 5 minutes per week, at the most.
A Rottweiler should not walk any lengthy walks until he’s at least a year old. I know it sounds boring, but if you want to keep his joints healthy, you’ll need to follow this. But once he is an adult, you can probably walk for hours and hours without him being bored or tired.
And, as an adult, he’ll need all that exercise. The Rottweiler can be prone to gaining weight, and walking is one way to keep him fit.
Your Rottweiler needs to be challenged, both physically and mentally. Many canine sports are excellent ways to do that. But you can also engage him in pulling – carts, tiers, small wagons. You name it. He’s not a Husky or a Malamute, so you may not get him to run for hours behind a sleigh, but he’ll undoubtedly enjoy pulling at a slower pace.
If you’re unsure or want to know more about how you can challenge your Rottie, please contact the breed club in the country where you live and ask what you can do to keep your Rottweiler happy and satisfied.