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Rottweilers aren’t exactly the first breed that comes to mind when you think of hunting dogs. Instead, most people probably imagine packs of beagles chasing down a scent or the classic hound dog barking away.
But can Rottweilers make good hunting dogs?
While they do have the required prey drive to keep them interested and a powerful nose for tracking scents, Rottweilers don’t have the natural retrieving instinct that traditional hunting breeds do. It’s entirely possible for them to be hunting dogs but it may take a bit more training for them to be successful.
But I do want to emphasize that it is completely possible to train a Rottweiler to be a hunting dog. Just check out this handsome dog helping out on the hunt by finding the fowl, getting it in the air, and then gently retrieving it.
Let’s take a closer look at what makes the handsome Rottweiler good or bad during the hunt.
What Is A Hunting Dog Supposed To Do?
There’s a wide range of roles when it comes to hunting so first let’s make sure we’re on the same page as far as what a hunting dog actually does.
The main responsibility of a hunting dog is to track or retrieve. Dogs use their powerful nose to lead hunters to their prey and often times dogs will bring the prey back to the hunter after they’ve killed it. This is especially true when hunting fowl and many retriever-type dogs will happily dive into a lake or other body of water to retrieve the prey as well.
Do Rotties Have A History Of Hunting?
Rottweilers have a very long history that goes all the way back to the ancient Romans. You know that when a breed is associated with a civilization that has “ancient’ in the name that it’s a pretty old breed!
Over the last several thousand years, Rottweilers filled all kinds of roles but they were primarily used for herding, droving, and protecting cattle. Over time, they were used as general farm dogs where they filled several roles including guarding property. Rottweilers are also a popular breed for search and rescue.
But nowhere in their history were Rottweilers primarily used as hunting dogs. While they have a prey drive that dates back to their wolf ancestors, they lack some of the powerful instincts, like retrieving, that are common in hunting dogs.
That doesn’t mean Rottweilers can’t be trained, but a lack of hunting history means it will take a little more work.
What Makes Rotties Good Hunting Dogs?
Let’s look at a few things that make Rotties a good choice for hunting dogs.
Prey drive is, of course, critical for hunting. While all dogs have some level of prey drive, not all have enough to hunt. For example, you wouldn’t want to take a Maltese out into the field and expect them to naturally take an interest in tracking down game.
Rottweilers, on the other hand, have a powerful prey drive that can actually get them in trouble from time to time as it can occasionally lead them to attack small, yippy dogs. That’s a big problem at the dog park, but when you’re out hunting a powerful prey drive is exactly what you want.
Strong & Powerful
If there’s one thing that Rottweilers are known for its power. Between their legendary bite force and imposing physical appearance, these bulky dogs are durable, hardy, and strong. All of which can be useful qualities when you’re out in the field.
Having a 120-pound dog made of pure muscle may actually be a bit more than you need in many cases but all that extra power can certainly come in handy. A stronger dog is a more durable one and it can decrease the chances of accidents out in the field.
Intelligent, Eager To Please, and Brave
Rottweilers are very intelligent and eager to please which makes them quick learners. Hunting can be dangerous for a long list of reasons and the last thing you want is a dog that won’t follow commands during critical moments. That could ruin the hunt in the best case scenario or put people and dogs at risk in the worst cases.
Canine psychology expert Stanely Coren ranks Rottweilers number 9 out of 138 different breeds in terms of how effective they are as working dogs. He looked at overall intelligence, how long it takes dogs to learn a new command, and how often they obey a command.
With a position in the top 10, Rottweilers are sharing an intelligence rating with classic working dogs like the Border Collie, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever.
Even though Rottweilers may not have all the traditional hunting instincts, they’re quick to learn the skills with the right training. They’re also brave enough that once they know what you want, they’re unlikely to have issues following through.
They Can Be Good Trackers
While their sense of smell may not be as powerful as the legendary scenthounds, Rottweiler can still excel at tracking. They’re commonly used in search and rescue operations and you can see this cute quick video of a Rottie showing off his tracking skills:
The ability to track game will be more or less useful depending on the type of hunting you’re doing but it’s something Rotties can do very well.
Double Coats Make Them Great In Cold Weather
When you’re out in the field, you want a dog that can handle all kinds of weather, and a Rottweiler’s double coat sets them up for success. Rottweilers not only like snow, but they can usually handle temperatures as cold as 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 degrees Celsius) without an issue. That should be plenty for most hunting trips except for artic areas where you’ll need a more specialized dog anyways.
The only downside here is that the double coat will also lead Rotties to shed a lot more than some other breeds but there are plenty of ways to manage your Rottweilers shedding.
What Are Rotties Lacking When It Comes To Hunting?
Okay, we’ve looked at what makes Rottweilers good hunting dogs, let’s take a look at what’s holding them back from excelling during the hunt.
They’re Only Okay Retrievers
Any dog can retrieve but some do it better than others and it should be no surprise that the best dogs tend to have the word “retriever” in their name. These are dogs with long, multi-generation histories of retrieving.
That doesn’t mean retrieving can’t be trained. After all, there’s nothing particularly special about retrieving that makes it different from teaching your dog to perform any other task and the intelligent Rottie can quickly figure out what you’re asking them to do.
Rotties Don’t Have A Soft Mouth
A soft mouth is a trait common across hunting dogs and it describes a dog’s ability to gently retrieve the game for the hunter. Regardless of what you’re hunting, you probably don’t want your dog to bring you a mangled-up bird or rabbit that they’ve nibbled on while they brought it back to you.
Retrievers naturally have a soft mouth that keeps them gentle with whatever they’re carrying. Rottweilers can be trained to do the same with a little work but it isn’t the easiest task.
They’re A Little Bulky
We’ve actually mentioned a Rottweiler’s powerful and durable build as a pro but it can also be a con when it comes to hunting. Depending on the type of hunting you’re doing, you may need your canine companion to travel significant distances over a long period of time. Rotties certainly aren’t lazy dogs, but they aren’t built for long distances either.
At least not these days.
Remember, Rotties have a history of herding and even droving cattle which is the process of driving cattle over long distances. But as this ancient breed continued to become more popular they also became bulkier and the Rottweiler we know today doesn’t have the body of a distance running dog like a Greyhound. Instead, they’re built like sprinters with plenty of muscle.
In some cases, this may be exactly what you need. But if you’re hunting game across longer distances then your Rottie may have trouble keeping up.
They’re Only Okay At Swimming
Even though many Rottweilers love a good swim, they aren’t exactly the best swimmers. Their muscular bodies make them less likely to float and they need to constantly work at keeping their head above water.
When you add the task of carrying waterfowl in their mouth, some Rotties could have a hard time swimming. Still, they aren’t terrible swimmers and a good lifejacket can make things a lot easier for your Rottie.
They Aren’t Great In The Heat
Heatstroke is always a risk for dogs and while Rottweilers aren’t in the highest risk category they may have trouble handling hot weather. Once again, that powerful but bulky body comes with some downsides, and handling heat is one of them. Additionally, a Rottie’s double coat and black color can cause them to be warmer than other dogs.
Make sure you understand the risks and signs of heatstroke in dogs and avoid the Rottweiler if you’re hunting during the summer.
Do Rottweilers Need To Be Trained Differently From Other Hunting Dogs?
For the most part, all the same training methods you’d use with any other dog will work for your Rottweiler. You may need to have a bit more patience depending on what you’re training your Rottweiler to do since they may not have the same hardwired instincts.
But their high intelligence, bravery, and willingness to please will help balance out the lack of some instincts when it comes to training.
Even though Rottweilers aren’t exactly the most common hunting breed they can absolutely handle the job. If you’re looking to get out there and hunt fowl or other small game, the Rottweiler can do everything you need them to and more.
But as with anything else, if you’re looking to do any kind of specialty hunting then you may need a special or specific type of dog.
What do you think? Are you going to hit the field with your Rottie?