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When people think of Rottweilers they probably don’t immediately think of farms. In fact, folks are more likely to think of Rottweilers guarding a junkyard before they imagine them helping out on the farm.
While that’s how movies and popular media have represented these big softies, that hasn’t always been the case and Rotties have worked a variety of canine jobs over the years.
But do they make good farm dogs?
With a long history of herding and guarding, the strong and powerful Rottie makes a great all-purpose farm dog. In ancient times, Rottweilers were used to herd livestock, guard property and even pull carts. These instincts are still alive and well in the modern Rottweiler which makes them a solid choice for a farm dog.
Even though popular culture isn’t likely to show off this side of the Rottweiler, those in the know will include the ancient Rottie on almost any list of the best farm dogs.
Let’s take a closer look at what roles these pups can play and why they’re well suited to life on the farm.
What Exactly Is A Farm Dog?
It’s worth quickly clarifying exactly what we mean by a farm dog. There are many types of farms out there and just as many roles for dogs to fill.
Most farm dogs are expected to do a little bit of everything which could include herding, droving, protecting property, hunting down pests, and while it’s not so common anymore even pulling carts of supplies. Rottweilers can handle every one of those jobs and more.
There are also some very specific farm jobs, like living with and guarding livestock, that Rottweilers may not be as well suited for. However, when it comes to general or all-around work on the farm, Rotties make a great option.
What Kind Of History Do Rottweilers Have?
If you want to figure out what kind of skillset a particular breed has, the most obvious place to start is by looking at their history.
After all, there aren’t many “accidental” dog breeds and every breed has a purpose…even if that purpose is just to sit in someone’s lap!
Rottweilers can trace their history all the way back to ancient Rome where they worked as herding and driving dogs. Because the Roman Legions would travel great distances they need a hardy herding dog to not only drive livestock but also protect them.
However, these early Rottweilers weren’t what we see today and it wasn’t until the Rottie’s ancient ancestors crossed the Alps with the Romans that they took on something closer to what we see today. The Romans brought these dogs through the Alps and into the city of Rottweil in southern Germany. It’s here the ancient Rottweilers bred with the native dogs of the region to get the Rottweiler breed we see today.
As you’ve probably already guessed, Rottweil is also the city where this burly breed got their name and they were very popular among butchers since they could be used to pull carts of meat to market and protect it on the way. Some butchers were even reported to put their money around their Rottweiler’s neck for safekeeping as most folks aren’t going to be brave enough to try and pickpocket a Rottie!
Just in that brief history, we’ve seen that the Rottweiler has a history of droving long distances, herding cattle, pulling carts, protecting people, and guarding livestock all while living closely with humans.
With a history like that, it’s no wonder that these dogs do so well on farms!
What Sort Of Farm Jobs Are Rotties Good At?
Despite being able to do well at just about any job, let’s look at the most common roles Rotties fill on the farm.
When you think of herding dogs, you might first think of the sleepy sheepdog from cartoons or the hyperactive border collie but Rottweilers deserve a spot as iconic herding dogs too!
Rottweilers were herding dogs long before they become synonymous with protection or guard work. While you’ll still need to help them hone in on their natural skills, many Rottweilers will naturally herd goats, cattle, sheep, and other livestock on instinct alone.
Droving, which is also called driving, is the process of moving livestock across long distances. Rottweilers picked up this skill with the ancient Romans when they helped move cattle and other animals across long distances with the army. After all, there were still thousands of years until freeze-dried foods and refrigerators were invented so the Romans needed to bring their entire food supply with them.
This isn’t done nearly as much these days and since there are much more efficient and modern ways for moving animals long distances. However, it’s still a useful skill to have and while you might not be moving cattle across states with your Rottie you still may need to move livestock around the farm.
You can check out some Rottweilers showing off their droving and herding skills in this video:
In ancient times, Rottweilers would help butchers bring their meat to market by pulling a cart. While this might not be as useful today with the prevalence of cheap farm vehicles, Rotties are tough to beat here. It’s still a great way for the modern-day Rottweiler to get some exercise and an often overlooked job around the farm.
You can even find groups that competitively race their Rotties or videos of the not-so-average owner going on a cart ride with their Rotttie.
Just about any farm is going to have some kind of pest to deal with and dogs have a long history of helping in the process. However, Rottweilers aren’t the first dog you think of for rodent control and compared to dogs like Jack Russel Terriers or Daschunds they aren’t the best. These smaller dogs have been bred for thousands of years to hunt down small game and many breeds are even trained to dig them out of burrows.
That doesn’t mean your Rottie is useless here and a Rottie’s powerful jaws will make quick work of any pests. Many Rotties also have a powerful prey drive that will encourage them to chase down rodents but it can also get them in trouble with smaller animals or other farm dogs in some cases.
If you want a farm dog to handle the occasional pest, then the Rottie is a good choice. But if you’re in an industry where pest problems are a major issue then your Rottie will need some focused training or another breed may make more sense.
There’s a reason Rotties are constantly shown as guard dogs in popular culture. Not only were Rottweilers used to guard cattle in ancient Rottweil but they were also expected to guard property.
That means the protection instinct has been bred into Rotties for thousands of years and it’s something that can give them a bad reputation in modern times. In most cases, you won’t need to do anything to teach your Rottie to protect your farm but instead, you’ll need to help them manage this instinct by having a solid foundation of basic training.
What Else Makes Rotties Good For The Farm?
There are several traits that make Rottweilers great farm dogs but aren’t tied to any specific job. Let’s look at a few of them!
Hardy and Strong
The average Rottie weighs between 95 and 130 pounds (43 to 59 kilograms) and they’re usually around 24 inches tall (61 cm). They’re certainly not short but they aren’t tall either and those dimensions make them stocky, sturdy, and strong. All qualities that are great for a general-purpose farm dog.
Whether it’s an encounter with another animal or just staying around the farm, a Rotties power can help keep them safe.
Professor Stanely Coren has committed his life to the study of canine psychology and intelligence. His most popular book ranks the intelligence of 138 different dog breeds looking at a combination of intelligence and willingness to follow commands.
The hyper-intelligent Border Collie shows up at the top of the list but the big, burly Rottie takes position 9 putting them squarely in the top 10. That means Rotties beat out 129 other dog breeds in terms of intelligence making them extremely smart.
That’s also another positive for their potential as general farm dogs since you need a pup that can learn quickly unless they’re only filling a very specific role.
Eager To Please
But intelligence is only as good as a dog’s willingness to follow commands. Huskies, for example, are by no means dumb but they’re also more than willing to ignore their owner and do their own thing.
Rotties, on the other hand, are happy to have a job to do and even happier to please their owner.
While it’s rarer these days, Rottweilers do have a history as police and military dogs but also search and rescue pups. It’s a combination of intelligence and eagerness to please that has allowed them to excel at so many roles over the years, including farm dog.
Rottweilers Don’t Make Great Livestock Guardian Dogs
While there’s a much longer list of farm jobs that Rottweilers are great at, there’s also a shortlist of jobs they aren’t so well suited for and one of those is work as a livestock guardian dog. A typical livestock guardian dog lives full time with their herd whether that’s goats, sheep, or something else. They’re essentially part of the herd or flock and many dogs have been bred specifically for this role.
Historically, Rottweilers have been used for guarding herds and flocks from the outside than outside rather than within. That means they don’t spend 24 hours with the herd and don’t sleep in the same area. Specifically bred livestock guardian dogs are naturally gentle with the herd while Rotties are more likely to get carried away with rough play or even give in to some of their natural prey drives.
How To Set A Rottweiler Up For Success
A Rottweiler’s instincts will give them a big head start when it comes to finding success on the farm but that doesn’t mean they’ll be ready to go as soon as they set foot on the farm. This is especially true if your Rottie is expected to fill several different roles so let’s look at two key factors to consider for setting your pup up for success.
Socialization is important for any dog but even more so for a farm dog. If you’ve got livestock or poultry on your farm, it’s critical that your Rottweiler is exposed to these animals early…before they’re a 135-pound powerhouse!
Even though Rottweilers are naturally brave, you also want to make sure they’re prepared for all the other activities that happen on the farm including the noise of equipment.
In short, exposure your Rottweiler to just about anything you can as soon as you can to make sure they aren’t surprised or frightened by farm life when they’re older.
We’ve mentioned several of Rottweiler’s instincts that can set them for success on the farm or cause problems. While the most common is prey drive, which is the urge to hunt and kill prey, brave Rottweilers may not always respect the boundaries of the farm as they wander off or chase down interesting smells or sounds.
Basic commands are absolutely critical here not only to keep your livestock safe but also to keep your Rottie safe. The farm can be a dangerous place and if your Rottie doesn’t come when called or stay when asked then tragic accidents can happen.
While it might surprise some folks, Rottie’s can make surprisingly effective farm dogs.