Choosing to add a furry friend to your growing household is a long-term commitment, and picking a breed that fits your lifestyle presents the key to a happy home. With over 160 American Kennel Club-recognized breeds, that decision can seem overwhelming. We’re here to help you meet the breed that’s right for you. If you’re looking for a gentle four-legged giant to add to your pack, find out everything you need to know about the Rottweiler.
Rottweilers are one of the breeds that tends to be misunderstood and misrepresented way too much. They are NOT mean dogs, nor are they wantonly aggressive or ‘born fighters’.
|Photo by Vladyslav Dukhin from Pexels|
The REAL Rottweiler is a highly intelligent, brave, loyal and loving dog who will be your companion for life. Bred and raised properly, a Rottweiler puppy is the perfect ‘mans-best-friend’.
If you want a Rottweiler, learn how to raise it first! If you don’t get these dogs off to the right start, you may never be able to control them, and they will be a constant danger to you, your family, and others. With a bite strength roughly 25% greater than a German Shepherd, they must be trained – it isn’t optional. If you do learn to do it right, you will own one of the best and safest pets it is possible to own.
The breed’s history likely dates to the Roman Empire. It is likely that the Rottweiler is a descendant of ancient Roman drover dogs, a mastiff-type dog that was a dependable, rugged dog with great intelligence and guarding instincts. During their quest to conquer Europe, the Roman legion traveled in large numbers across the continent. The non-existence of refrigeration meant the soldiers had to bring herds of cattle with them on their excursions for food. These drover dogs were not only used to keep the herds of cattle together, but to guard the supply stock at night. Around 74 A.D. the Roman army travelled across the alps and into the southern part of modern day Germany. For the next two centuries the Roman drover dogs were continually utilized in herding and driving cattle for trade even after the Romans were driven out of the area by the Swabians.
A town in this region was eventually given the name Rottweil. It became an important trade center and the descendants of the Roman cattle dogs proved their worth by driving the cattle to market and protecting the cattle from robbers and wild animals. The dogs are said to have been used by traveling butchers at markets during the Middle Ages to guard money pouches tied around their necks. The dogs eventually came to be called Rottweiler Metzgerhunds, or butcher dogs. As railroads became the primary method for moving stock to market, the need for the breed declined, as did the number of Rottweilers. The number of Rottweilers diminished so severely that by 1882 in a dog show in Heilbronn, there was only one very poor representative of the breed.
The buildup to World War I saw a great demand for police dogs, and that led to a revival of interest in the Rottweiler. During the First and Second World Wars, Rottweilers were put into service in various roles, including as messenger, ambulance, draught, and guard dogs.
The Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub (DRK, German Rottweiler Club), the first Rottweiler club in Germany, was founded on 13 January 1914, and followed by the creation of the Süddeutscher Rottweiler-Klub (SDRK, South German Rottweiler Club) on 27 April 1915 and eventually became the IRK (International Rottweiler Club). The DRK counted around 500 Rottweilers, and the SDRK 3000 Rottweilers. The goals of the two clubs were different. The DRK aimed to produce working dogs and did not emphasise the morphology of the Rottweiler.
The various German Rottweiler Clubs amalgamated to form the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK, General German Rottweiler Club) in 1921. This was officially recorded in the register of clubs and associations at the district court of Stuttgart on 27 January 1924. The ADRK is recognised worldwide as the home club of the Rottweiler.
In 1931 the Rottweiler was officially recognised by the American Kennel Club. In 1936, Rottweilers were exhibited in Britain at Crufts. In 1966, a separate register was opened for the breed. In fact, in the mid-1990s, the popularity of the Rottweiler reached an all-time high with it being the most registered dog by the American Kennel Club.
This breed continues to excel at serving its original breeding purpose: to protect and serve. The fierce and friendly Rottweiler is known for its territorial instincts and warrior traits. It’s so well known as a fighter that some cities have chosen to ban this tough breed from households. Without a doubt, the no-nonsense Rottweiler has massive power — we’re talking 328 pounds of pressure from a single bite. As tough as this pup can be, it’s also known to show kindness and loyalty to its human masters.
Should you get a puppy or an adult dog?
I’ve had both, and there are several factors that play into this decision. A puppy will give you the advantage of starting all training from scratch, on a clean slate if you will. This is helpful because training a Rottie can be tricky, so the earlier the better! An adult dog may come with some excess baggage, such as a history of abuse (like my female, “Roxy”) or neglect, lack of training, etc. However, these are not impossible to overcome for an experienced dog owner. In fact, not enough can be said for how wonderful it can be to rescue an adult Rottie from a shelter! Giving one a second chance may be the best for you both, it’s just important to be patient and allow extra time for the dog to adjust. So many animals are killed every year in shelters because there aren’t enough homes for them all, so adoption could be a great option! Also keep in mind that a puppy will need potty training, while many adult shelter dogs already have that experience. If you do decide on a puppy, never purchase one from a pet store; those usually come from puppy mills, which are kept in deplorable condition and usually result in pets with many health problems!
Breed at a glace:
- Active lifestyle;
- Environmentally adaptable;
- Easy grooming;
- Guard dog capabilities;
Grooming for Rottweilers is minimal, including bi-monthly baths, as well as regular nail trims and ear cleaning. Keep in mind, however, that they do shed quite a bit. Their fairly thick undercoat is short, but will still cause little black tumbleweeds of fur all around your house. Be prepared for weekly if not daily sweeping or vacuuming. Since they have black nails and you will be unable to see the “quick” it is best to consult a professional groomer if you are not experienced with nail trimming.
Considerable cost can be involved in caring for a Rottie. First you will definitely want to consider spaying or neutering your pet, not only to control pet overpopulation, but also to have a cleaner, healthier, more well-mannered dog. This can cost anywhere from $100 for a puppy to $400 or more for an adult. Shelter dogs should already be “fixed” before you adopt them. This procedure is routine and relatively safe, and reduces or even eliminates the risk of certain cancers and other health issues. Annual vaccinations can range in cost from $50-150, and monthly flea, tick, and heartworm preventative may cost around $30 per month.
A Rottweiler’s lifespan can be 10-15 years with proper care. They can suffer from a number of health issues, for which you will need to be prepared financially, physically, and emotionally. Because of their size, they are prone to arthritis, which can make walking, standing and lying down very difficult, especially if they are overweight. If your dog needs help getting up from the floor, getting into the car for a vet visit, or using the stairs, are you physically capable of helping him? Also, there are a number of quality joint supplements on the market, which can be used as preventative care and for pain relief as well. These products will not come cheap for such a large breed, as the dosing is based on weight. Rotties are predisposed to different forms of bone cancer, and it is not uncommon for that to be the cause of death. There are conventional and holistic treatments available which can prolong and even improve the quality of your dog’s life, but currently there is no cure. You may also encounter other less severe health problems, such as allergies, ear infections, or scrapes and cuts (they are a little clumsy!).
- AKC group: Working
- UKC group: Guardian Dog
- Average lifespan: 8 – 10 years
- Average size: 75 – 110 pounds
- Coat appearance: Short, sleek, coarse
- Coloration: Black and tan markings
- Hypoallergenic: No
- Other identifiers: Large and muscular build; defined tan markings; small pendant ears
- Possible alterations: Can be seen with either a natural-length tail or short-cropped tail
- Comparable Breeds: Doberman Pinscher, Mastiff
Is this breed right for you?
Rottweilers require immense amounts of constant training and discipline. This breed is not recommended for novice owners or those without the proper dedication to training this fierce dog. All potential owners should check their city guidelines, as some cities have created a ban against this tough breed. Due to its protective and territorial background, this breed requires early training and socialization to become a safe and loving family pet. Rottweilers can easily adapt to any living environment as long as daily exercise is part of their routine.
Do Your Research First
Find out as much as you can about Rottweilers, read books, search online, go to local dog shows, talk to breeders and so on. As with any breed, Rotties have their own distinct personality traits and breed-specific characteristics. The better you understand them, the easier it will be to raise your pup properly.
Choose A Breeder Carefully
There are lots of excellent Rottweiler breeders but also lots of not-so-good ones, take your time and don’t go with the first one you see. Choose a breeder who does all the appropriate health-screenings (eg. OFA, cardiac, eyes) on their breeding stock. Also check for both conformation (show lines) and working ability (Schutzhund or tracking for example) as this shows that the dogs look and act like Rottweilers! Ask any potential breeder questions, and expect them to ask you questions too.
Take Time To Pick The Right Puppy
Rottweiler puppies are irresistible, but you don’t necessarily want to take home the first pair of puppy-dog eyes you see. Each pup is an individual with his/her own personality and combination of genes. A good breeder will be able to help you find the perfect pup for your home/lifestyle/plans.
Be Prepared For Puppy Parenthood
- A new puppy will take a lot of time, patience, love and money and you need to be ready for that. The first few days can be a bit hectic but things will soon settle into a routine. Here are a few things you’ll need to know/do…..
- Make sure your pup stays up to date with vaccinations and de-worming treatments. Rottweilers are especially vulnerable to a viral disease called Parvo and you need to be extra-vigilant during these early weeks.
- Start housebreaking right away and use a crate to help prevent ‘accidents’ in the house. One of the biggest parts of housebreaking a pup is not allowing bad habits to form. Always take your pup to the same spot outdoors to ‘do his business’ and only allow him free-reign indoors when you’re supervising closely.
- Begin training immediately too. Rottweilers are very intelligent and eager to please. Start with basic name recognition and housebreaking as soon as you get home, and add simple commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ as soon as your pup feels at home. Rottweilers don’t need (or respond well to) harsh corrections or training methods. They’re sensitive and smart, and will learn quickly if you use positive, reward-based training methods. Once your pup is fully vaccinated enroll him in a formal Puppy Obedience Class.
- Socialize him early, and throughout his life. Rotties are a guardian breed and are naturally reserved, tending to be a bit aloof or ‘stand-offish’ with strangers.
- Kids Rotties are great family dogs. They love children. These are not “one man” dogs. They belong to whichever family member they are with at the time. No one will feel left out. Be prepared though – if given their way, they will spend most of their time with the kids; They really love kids. For those with small children, remember: NEVER leave a young child alone with any dog for any amount of time!
- House Pets Rotties love to lounge around the house and soak up love and laziness with their masters. They enjoy being “house dogs” as long as they have a yard in which to play and plenty of attention from their master. Rotties tend to follow their masters around the house from room to room, settling in wherever you do. They are part teddy bear, part ornery best friend, part draft horse and part guard dog, all in one truly beautiful package. They love to be handled and you should get them used to having their mouths and paws handled to make your vet’s job easier down the road. This is really important – they should allow you to handle any part of their body without stiffening up or getting stressed. Keep gently doing it until they get used to it.
- More Than One? Having two Rotties is great fun and they provide each other extra exercise. If you want two, I strongly recommend getting a male and a female instead of two males. Males are far more aggressive and ornery than females and if they get in a fight, they are going to be badly hurt, possibly killed. I also recommend getting your dogs neutered after they reach 6 months of age. This does not reduce their effectiveness as watch dogs and males will still learn to pee with their legs raised.
- Intelligence Rotties are incredibly intelligent. Ours learned to turn light switches on and off, open fence gate latches and open sliding cabinet doors. These are things they learned on their own! We have taught them tricks in addition to the standard obedience commands. They are really fun dogs. They actually plan complex diversions to distract the other Rottie’s attention while they steal the desired toy. Think ahead if you want to be their boss because Rottweilers are problem-solving smart.
- Crates Get a crate and use it! This is the place your dog will go when he doesn’t want to be disturbed. Respect that – always. Never try to pull him out of his crate for anything, including punishments and treats. His crate is his one place that you must respect. It is also the place you will put your dog when you don’t want him to disturb you. He won’t mind. After all, it’s “his place.” I do not recommend having the dog’s food and water dishes in his crate unless absolutely necessary. Because Rotties have such warm coats, I strongly recommend wire frame crates instead of the plastic ones. The extra ventilation is very important. Wire crates have the added advantage of folding for transport.
- Grooming and Maintenance Rotties only need to be brushed once a week. A slicker brush is good. Of course, you can brush them as often as you like, but only bathe them about twice a year. Over-bathing will dry out their skins and their coats. They are clean smelling dogs and their coat should not develop any odor unless something is wrong. Because they have folded-over ears, you should clean their ears once a week. You can buy a solution at a pet store or from your vet for this. I prefer a one-step solution. You put your dog in a down-stay, straddle him, and squirt solution into an ear until it is about to overfill. Then stick a regular cotton ball in the ear to keep the fluid in, and fold the ear down. Hold his ear against his head to keep the cotton ball and solution in. Repeat for other ear and then hold their ears shut for 10 full minutes; then release and remove the cotton balls. Some dogs don’t mind it and some hate it but it really needs to be done once a week. Trimming toe nails is really not hard with good sharp clippers, some practice and a regular routine. I do it every 2 weeks. If you start all these routines when your Rottweiler is a little puppy (8 to 10 weeks), they are much easier to do when he is grown. That way he just accepts them as the routine order of life.
- The Vet Get a good one, and keep him! Work out a written schedule of shots and HeartGuard for heart worm protection, and stick to it like glue. We use an animal hospital that treats farm and zoo animals, including tigers and such. This helps us know that the vets there are experienced and stay on top of medical advances, but are also practical minded. Rottweilers’ immune systems tend to over-react to shots (vaccinations) and drugs. Expect your Rottie to feel under the weather for a day or two after getting a shot or series of pills. Usually, this is not a problem, just something of which to be aware
- Food Feed your Rott a high quality food if possible. One reader suggests making sure your dog’s food contains the amino acid taurine to avoid heart problems. Read the ingredients on the dogfood bag and talk to your vet and local breeders about this. If your dog needs weight control, I suggest controlling portion size instead of going to a lower protein-lower fat dog food.
- Guard Dog Or Pet? You do not need to train a Rottweiler to protect you and your family. It is a strong instinct in them and is absolutely trustworthy.
- Read The Book! Go to your local library and get the oldest available copy of the Monks of New Skete’s book – “The Art Of Raising A Puppy,” follow their basic techniques, and your Rottie will never let you down – and you will never let him down either. If your dog is already an adult, they still have a book for you – “How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend.” The Monks’ latest books have gone politically correct and gotten away from their earlier strength, which was observing natural dog behavior and using it to teach humans how to be part of their own “pack.” Think about it: Non-domestic canines (dogs and wolves) use the dominance down constantly to maintain pack order while at the same time avoiding real fights. If it’s awful, why do dogs do it and why does it work for them? I strongly recommend trying to find an older version of this book at a local library. The older books are more factual and straightforward.