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Rottweilers are well known for their brawn but this burly breed isn’t just about strength and these dogs are as smart as they are strong.
While the combination of brains and brawn make the Rottweiler an exceptional working dog, it can also make Rotties a difficult breed to manage in the wrong hands which makes them a poor choice for most first time dog owners.
But with the right owner, along with plenty of both mental and physical stimulation, the Rottweiler can make a great companion in just about any environment and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more loyal or easy-to-train companion! From the family to the frontlines, Rottweiler can do it all!
|Height (Measured At Top Of Shoulder)||25 to 26 inches||24 to 25 inches|
|Weight||100 to 125 pounds||95 to 105 pounds|
Appearance and Background
|Breed Group||Working / Guardian|
Cattle droving, protecting property, drafting (pulling carts)
|Tail||Long, but often docked|
|Coat Type / Length||Short, double coat|
Medium to high. Significant shedding of undercoat twice a year due to double coat.
|Colors||Black with tan or mahogany|
Personality and Intelligence
|Personality||Affectionate, assertive, and playful|
|Intelligence||Very high, top 10% of all breeds|
|Playfulness||High, can be very silly dogs|
|Trainability||Highly intelligent, eager to please, and easy to train|
Activity, Tolerance, and Adaptability
|Exercise Amount||45 minutes a day or more is ideal for this active breed|
|Energy Level||Playful but calm|
|Barking Level||Rarely and only when highly concerned|
Can be high but depends on individual skull shape
|Snore Level||Low to medium, depends on individual skull shape|
|Affection Level||High, very loving with family|
|Affection Level With Children||
High, can be a great family dog with proper socialization. Does best with older children.
|Guarding Ability||High, natural guard dog|
|Cold Tolerance||High, double coat provides extra warmth|
Medium to low. Double coat, stocky body, and relative short snout means Rotties warm up fast
|Tolerance For Being Alone||
Low, very social dogs that need plenty of mental stimulation
|Tolerance For Apartments||
Medium to low, can be overstimulated by noises of apartments
|Tendency To Dig||Very low|
|Friendliness With Strangers||Weary of strangers and can be slow to warm up|
|Friendliness With Dogs||May be reactive with some dogs and isn’t a good dog park candidate|
|Friendliness With Other Pets||Can live with other pets but may be reactive|
|Prey Drive||High, but can be managed with training|
Health and Lifespan
|Life Expectancy||9 to 10 years|
|Common Medical Concerns||Cancer, hip dysplasia, gastric dilatation-volvulus and obesity|
|Potential for Weight Gain||High|
Rottweiler Physical Traits and Appearance
It’s hard to miss the big Rottweiler with their distinct black and tan markings and of course their massive size! While there are many other breeds that share a handful of the same physical characteristics, there are few that put it all together like the Rottweiler.
Male Rottweilers can weigh as much as 120 pounds and females aren’t far behind at roughly 100 pounds. Males can stand up to 26 inches as measured just above the shoulder (also called the withers) and females are usually around 24 to 25 inches tall.
Rottweilers have a short double coat that helps them endure cold weather but can also lead to significant shedding twice a year when they “blow” their coat.
The breed standard requires that Rottweilers have a black and tan coat with the distinct tan portions making up no more than 10% of the total color. While Rottweilers are born with long tails, their tails are unfortunately often docked. This practice is slowly changing over time there are more Rotties than ever that are competing in and winning shows with their natural tail.
If you’re looking for a Rottweiler for a family pet, then height and weight are the most important characteristics. But if you’re looking to show your Rottweiler, you’ll want to pay close attention to the breed standard which goes into great detail on every aspect of the Rottweiler’s appearance and markings.
History Of The Rottweiler
The Rottweiler is considered one of the oldest dog breeds with a history that dates back to the ancient Romans where the Rottie could be found driving cattle and traveling with the Roman legions.
Rottweilers did more than just drive cattle though and they were also valued for their ability to protect cattle, people, and property. These protective instincts are very much active in the modern Rottweiler which makes them excellent guard dogs but can also get them in serious trouble if these instincts aren’t appropriately managed.
But it wasn’t until the Romans brought the Rottie’s ancient ancestors to the region of Rottweil (part of modern day Germany) that the Rottweiler become the breed we know today. As with all other bully breeds, the Rottweiler is a descendant of the giant Molosser dogs that were a staple of Greek and Roman society. In Rottweil, the early Rottie breed with local dogs to create the powerful breed we know today. Today, the Rottweiler still bears the name of the city where the breed first became established.
In Rottweil, the Rotties were still responsible for driving cattle but they slowly became most well known as a butcher’s dog. Rottweilers would not only protect the butcher’s currency, meat, and overall property but these powerful dogs would also pull their cart to market making them an all purpose pup with several jobs. Even today, Rottweilers are one of the strongest breeds when it comes to raw pulling power.
Some sources suggest that the butcher would even put their gold coins around their Rottie’s neck when they went for a drink in the pub! The butcher could rest easy knowing that no one would try to steal the coins off the Rottie’s neck.
Centuries later, the first Rottweiler club, the Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub, would be formed in Germany on January 13th, 1914 followed soon after by a second club formed a little over a year later. More clubs formed and eventually they merged into one official club in 1921. This new club would be called the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub and it’s still around today.
Around the same time, World War I was starting, and Rottweilers were recruited to help the war effort. As you’d expect, Rottweilers were valued for their protection work but they also served as messenger, police, and all purpose dogs. With a long history of guarding work, Rottweilers have been bred to be brave which has always made them a top choice for dangerous work including police and military operations.
It took a bit longer for American groups to recognize the breed and in 1931 the American Kennel Club recognized the Rottweiler as an official breed. The Rottweiler continued to work a wide range of jobs throughout the 20th century including making their way into homes around the world as a family pet.
But the Rottweiler’s popularity only increased as we entered the 21st century and the Rottweiler was one of the first breeds at ground zero after the 9/11 attacks where they assisted with life-saving search and rescue work.
Today, the Rottweiler is just as popular as ever but you’re more likely to find them curled up in the living room of a comfortable home than carrying messages across the front lines. The Rottie consistently ranks as one of the top 10 most popular breeds not only in the United States but also across the world and they’re especially popular in countries like India.
While many breeds have been bred for a very specific purpose and aren’t able to do much else, the sturdy and intelligent Rottweiler is a working breed that has worked almost every job you can think of. Driving cattle across long distances, pulling carts to market, search and rescue, working as an all-around farm dog, and even occasionally acting as a service dog the Rottweiler has really done it all.
In many ways, the history of the Rottweiler is human history and this powerful breed was ready to adapt as the world changed.
Types Of Rottweilers: Roman, American, and German
While all Rottweilers have the same shared history, distinctions are commonly made between Roman, German, and American Rottweilers.
However, these differences are typically unclear and insignificant. Since they aren’t an accepted part of the breed standard, they have more to do with clever marketing from breeders than anything else.
Still, it’s worth looking at the common differences attributed to each type of Rottweiler so you know what people are commonly referring to when they make these distinctions.
With a history and origin dating back to ancient Rome, all Rottweilers are at least a little bit Roman.
But Roman Rottweilers are usually bred to be larger and may also be called King Rottweilers, Giant Rottweilers or Colossal Rottweilers. These Rotties may indeed be bigger but responsible breeding should value health and an even temperament above size.
American Rottweilers are usually a bit taller and less stocky than others. This may not always be the result of intentional breeding and as mentioned isn’t a part of any official breed standard. Again, health and temperament should come before any particular look.
German Rottweilers may indeed be different from their counterparts across the pond and that’s a result of much stricter breed guidelines set by the ADRK. Only the best Rottweilers are allowed to be bred and critical characteristics like hip health and temperament are evaluated before a dog is allowed to reproduce. As a result, German Rottweilers are more likely to adhere to breed standards and may even be overall healthier too.
Rottweiler Temperment and Personality
The Rottweiler is an extremely affectionate breed with a serious side. With a long history of guarding, Rottweilers are naturally cautious around strangers, and without the appropriate socialization and training their natural instinct to protect could get them in trouble.
Their drive to protect combined with a brave disposition that’s not likely to back down from a threat means that this isn’t a great breed for first time dog owners.
Or as the American Rottweiler Club explains, “For us, Rottweilers are the best breed in the world, but we firmly believe they are not a dog for everyone. Rottweilers require a calm, stable and firm “pack leader” or they will assume that role for you. Puppies AND adults need socialization, exercise and stimulating mental challenges. With these things, you will have a wonderful companion; without them, your Rottweiler may become destructive and out of control.”
When it comes to the breed standard, the Kennel Club notes that Rottweilers should be “Good natured, not nervous, aggressive or vicious; courageous, biddable, with natural guarding instincts.”
But if your Rottie is brought up with plenty of socialization and training, you can expect a big goofball when your pup is around the family. Rotties are off the charts when it comes to affection and have a long list of silly strategies for showing their love from leaning on you to even “purring” almost like a cat. You can find hundreds of videos online of Rottweilers being absolute goofballs with their family but this is one of my favorites:
Still, it’s not all fun, and games with the Rottweiler and their powerful instincts for guarding and protecting territory will need to be managed as they can never really be completely removed.
It’s also worth pointing out that while history and breed greatly influence a dog’s temperament and personality, dogs are individuals and you can expect some variation between canines. If you’re buying from a breeder, make sure you know what you’re looking for in terms of temperament and discuss your potential puppy’s parents extensively. Adopting is even better because unless the Rottweiler was found lost, you should have an extensive history of how the dog acts in the home and across several situations.
Differences Between Genders
While differences between genders are usually subtle they can be a bit more pronounced with Rottweilers. One study found that male Rottweilers were more likely to be confident which also increased their drives to guard and play.
If you’re looking for a family pet, these natural differences may not make much of a difference. Even more so when you consider the impact of spaying/neutering, extensive training, and socialization. But if you need a Rottweiler to fulfill a very specific job, these differences in gender may be more important.
Rottweilers and Aggression
Any dog has the potential to show aggression and breeds with a history of guarding and protection may be more prone to territorial displays of aggression- especially if they’re not given the appropriate socialization and training.
But one study found that Rottweilers have only an average level of aggression when compared to popular breeds like the Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Rottweiler, Shetland Sheepdog, and Siberian Husky. In fact, researchers found that the Dachshund was the most likely to bite of all the breeds studied.
Another study found that roughly 7.46% of Rottweilers included in the research had some kind of aggression issue either towards humans or dogs and aggression was more common in males over females. However, just how this compares to the overall canine population is unclear and some research suggests that well over 50% of dogs may have aggression-related issues which can include growling and barking at strangers.
What really makes a Rottweiler’s aggression notable is the severity of injury when aggression does occur. Despite the fact that the little Dachshund is more likely to bite than a Rottweiler, there’s a huge difference in potential damage between the two breeds. Not only are Rottweilers much larger, but their big skulls also give them one of the most powerful bites on the planet.
Rottweilers were associated with roughly 10% of all dog bite fatalities from 2005 to 2017 and while that is a frightening statistic it’s worth pointing out that larger and more popular breeds will naturally be involved with more bites.
Overall, aggression is a concern for any breed, and the Rottweiler’s large size, natural guarding instincts, and bravery can lead to dangerous situations if this breed isn’t appropriately trained and socialized.
Rottweilers and Children
Rottweilers are extremely loyal and affectionate with their family, including children. Rotties are usually quite tolerant of rough play and petting from children as well and while their large size can make many folks understandably nervous, it’s a real benefit when it comes to playtime with a rambunctious child.
However, a Rottweiler’s herding background could become a liability especially around very young children that can easily be knocked over by a Rottweiler’s guiding nudge. Not all Rottweilers will herd but pay close attention to this behavior and redirect the behavior to something more appropriate or give your Rottie some downtime if you see them herding.
A Rottweiler’s protective nature can sometimes get them in trouble as well when it comes to rough play between children. Rottweilers may not always understand the difference between playtime and a real threat so it’s best to leave them out of large groups of children unless they’re already experienced with how children play.
As with all breeds, socialization will go a long way to setting your Rottweiler up for success and the earlier you can expose your Rottweiler to young children the better. Even if you don’t have kids yet if you adopt or purchase a Rottweiler puppy try to introduce them to young children as soon as possible.
Teaching and training children how to interact with your Rottweiler is just as important as socializing your pup. That includes the basics like petting gently, not pulling on the tail (if your Rottie has one), or ears but teaching your children to respect your Rottie’s property is just as important.
Resource guarding (protecting toys, treats, or food) accounts for almost half of all canine to child aggression according to some studies. If you add guarding territory to the equation, then that number is well over 50%. That means teaching children to avoid Rotties when they’re in their crate or having a meal can greatly decrease the risk of a problem.
A Rottweiler’s protective instincts can make them more prone to resource guarding and just because your pup allows you to take their toy away doesn’t mean they’ll tolerate the same things from a child.
Rottweilers and Other Dogs
Rottweilers can get along with a variety of different breeds, but they usually do best with larger compassions that can handle their powerful build and rough play.
However, Rotties can be territorial (part of their protective instincts), and introducing a new adult dog to your home with a resident Rottie needs to be done carefully and slowly. Additionally, Rotties, like most other dogs, can sometimes be less tolerant of dogs of the same gender so try to go for opposite genders whenever possible.
Ideally, your Rottweiler is brought up and socialized with another resident dog. But at a minimum, you should work hard to socialize your Rottweiler with other dogs as early as possible while making sure to not expose your unvaccinated puppy to other pups.
Rottweilers and Other Pets
Rottweilers have a high prey drive which can create problems when interacting with smaller pets but with enough socialization, Rottweilers can get along with other pets including cats.
As always, introductions are critical and avoid situations where smaller pets feel the need to run. This can trigger a Rottie’s instinct to chase and lead to big problems. Instead, give smaller pets plenty of areas where they can quickly get away without an extended chase.
Health and Life Expectancy
Rottweilers typically live to around 9 to 10 years of age and while they’re prone to certain conditions, Rottweilers are an overall hardy breed.
Let’s break down some of the most common conditions that Rottweiler owners need to be prepared for.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
As with just about every large breed dog, hip dysplasia is a concern for Rottweilers. Hip dysplasia is the abnormal growth of the hip where the ball and socket joint of the hip is mismatched which creates looseness.
Similarly, elbow dysplasia is the same issue with mismatched joints but occurs at the elbow.
While there’s no single cause of hip or elbow dysplasia, they’re most commonly associated with poor genetics and responsible breeders will do everything in their power to breed out the condition. That’s why it’s so important to work with responsible breeders first and worry about price second. Additionally, adopting an adult dog will help you avoid early-onset hip or elbow dysplasia entirely and you’ll know exactly what you’re getting in terms of joint health.
There are corrective surgeries but they’re difficult, expensive, and not always effective. Instead, it’s better to avoid hip dysplasia or try to address it as soon as possible with early screening by your veterinarian.
Rottweilers can also be prone to osteochondritis of the ankle, spine, or shoulder. Osteochondritis occurs when “the bone does not completely ossify (get hard, as bones should), which leads to a thicker layer of cartilage. Thicker cartilage makes for a softer, spongier surface on the ends of the bone. And spongy ends of the bone make for an unstable joint structure. The result of this instability is a defect in the surface of the cartilage within the joint.”
Additionally, this condition can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort for Rottweilers. This condition is common in larger or giant breed dogs that grow rapidly and is typically first seen between the ages of 4 months and 7 months of age.
Rottweilers are also prone to certain heart conditions, especially Subaortic stenosis (or SAS), which is the narrowing of an area of the heart just below the aortic valve. There are few outward signs of this condition but in most cases, a murmur (which is an abnormal heart sound) will be audible to a veterinarian when they listen to the Rottie’s heart as part of a normal physical exam.
Treatment is difficult but the options available to you and your Rottie will depend on the severity.
Cancer is one of the most common causes of death for any breed, but unfortunately, the Rottweiler is one of the breeds that is more prone to it. Studies suggest that cancer is responsible for as much as 60 to 80% of all Rottweiler deaths across the globe with cancers of the bone being the most common.
Routine wellness exams are critical for catching cancer early, especially as your Rottie ages.
Entropion occurs when the eyelid rolls inward causing pain and discomfort for the Rottweiler. This condition is easy to identify and thankfully surgical correction is also quite straightforward. Entropion usually occurs before 1 year of age and rarely appears later in a Rottie’s life.
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV or Bloat)
While just about any dog can suffer from bloat, it’s much more common in deep-chest, large breed dogs like the Rottweiler. GDV is a life-threatening emergency and occurs when the stomach becomes distended with gas and twists itself preventing anything from exiting or entering the stomach.
The exact cause isn’t known but managing how quickly your dog eats or drinks can help. Additionally, elevating your Rottweiler’s food and water bowl may help reduce the risk of this condition.
It’s important for every big dog owner to understand the signs of bloat which is characterized by a distended abdomen, anxiety, and excessive salivation.
Obesity is extremely common in Rottweilers and they’re one of several breeds that gain weight quickly and easily. Regular exercise can help prevent weight gain but owners will need to be especially vigilant when it comes to meal sizes and treats.
The amount of food your Rottweiler needs will depend on their age, weight, and overall metabolism. Any reputable dog food brand will list the recommended amount of food and if your Rotweiller is overweight, your veterinarian can help you come up with an appropriate diet plan.
Rottweiler Cause Of Death
While Rottweilers can be prone to a handful of health concerns, by far the biggest concern is cancer.
According to a 2003 study that examined 345 Rottweilers, cancer was responsible for 69% of all deaths compared to only 6.4% for the second most likely cause of death (gastrointestinal disease).
You can see the full results of the study in the chart below:
|Cause of Death For Rottweiler||Number of Rottweilers (%)|
|Appendicular bone sarcoma||74 (21.4%)|
|Other cancers||131 (38.0%)|
|Gastrointestinal disease||22 (6.4%)|
|Neurological disease||15 (4.3%)|
|Cardiopulmonary disease||14 (4.1%)|
|Musculoskeletal disease||11 (3.2%)|
|Old age||10 (2.9%)|
|Renal disease||8 (2.3%)|
|Endocrine disease||8 (2.3%)|
|Other (includes hematologic, infectious, trauma, behavior)||11 (3.2%)|
Rottweilers have an easy-to-maintain coat that does best with weekly brushing and the occasional bath every month or so.
However, don’t let their short coat fool you and because of their double layered coat, you can expect at least moderate shedding. Twice a year, Rottweilers will remove their undercoat to prepare for the upcoming change in weather. Referred to as “coat blow”, this can lead to a massive increase in shedding.
While the exact timing of this will depend on the climate you live in, Rottweiler owners should be prepared for coat blowing season and consider bringing their Rottweiler to a professional groomer during the biannual coat blowing. At a minimum, you’ll need to increase how often you brush your Rottweiler and ideally take the brushing sessions outside.
It can be tempting to add in extra baths during coat blowing season, but too much bathing can remove healthy oils from your Rottweiler coat and may even lead to more shedding and not less so instead focus on brushing.
As with any other breed, Rottweiler will need regular nail timing and ideally teeth brushing too.
Make sure to start grooming your Rottweiler early in life and use plenty of positive reinforcement so they always see grooming as a fun bonding experience and not a chore.
As a working breed with a long history of hard jobs, Rottweilers need plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation. As a general guideline, Rottweilers do best with at least 45 minutes of exercise a day but most healthy adults will happily tolerate more. As Rottweilers age, they’ll need less exercise, and walks around the neighborhood may be enough for an older Rottie.
Because Rottweilers are large breed dogs, their bones will take longer to fully develop and set. That means controlled exercise is critical while your Rottie is a puppy and as a general rule, Rottweilers under 18 months shouldn’t have any forced exercise that’s longer than 10 minutes.
Forced exercise is anything where Rotts don’t have an option to stop and includes activities like long hikes and jogs. That’s not to say that Rottweiler puppies can’t exercise for longer than 10 minutes, and they most certainly can, but it should be off-leash play where they can easily take breaks.
Mental stimulation is also important for the super-smart Rottweiler and owners should be prepared to introduce a variety of games and activities to prevent their pup from getting bored. As long as you’re focusing on interactive play, your Rottie will most likely get the stimulation they need but adding some interactive toys and food puzzles can be a great addition too.
Training and Intelligence
Even though they don’t get the attention that brainiac breeds like Border Collies get, Rottweilers are exceptionally smart dogs.
According to canine intelligence expert Stanely Coren, Rottweilers are ranked in the 9th out of 183 breeds in terms of intelligence and ability to follow commands. That means Rottweilers will be quick to learn and follow your commands but their high intelligence may lead them to get bored if you’re not consistently challenging your Rottie.
When you consider the long list of different jobs and roles Rottweilers have had over the centuries, it should be no surprise that Rottweilers are so intelligent. They’ve needed to have big brains to keep with the constantly changing demands of their human companions.
Rottweilers In The Media
Despite the popularity of the Rottweilers with prominent celebrities, the breed is often portrayed as aggressive or vicious in popular culture with dozens of appearances as evil or even possessed dogs.
Mainstream media is also quick to point out the problems with this breed despite a long history of happily working with and supporting mankind. But with a little investigation, you can find plenty of heroic stories from pups like Samantha who protected her 3-year old companion during a cold night alone or Rocky who protected his pregnant owner from 4 armed assailants.
Where To Get A Rottweiler?
When it comes to finding a Rottweiler you’re typically looking to choose between a breeder or adoption and both options will require you to do your homework before making a decision.
When it comes to breeders, you’ll be purchasing a puppy and it’s important to choose a reputable breeder. That means someone who is in good standing with the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) or the club appropriate to your location. You can see a full list of ARC-approved breeders here but you’ll still want to do your own research as well.
Make sure you know what temperament you’re looking for and work with a breeder that has a matching pedigree. You should know what you want before talking to the breeder but I usually suggest asking the breeder about their stock first so what you tell them you want doesn’t impact their description. In addition to plenty of questions and conversations, ask to meet one or both of your puppy’s parents as well.
While many folks will overlook adoption when it comes to purebred dogs, it is a great option. Not only can you save a small fortune but you’ll often know exactly what you’re getting yourself into.
Rottweilers available for adoption are usually young adults and they’ll often come with a detailed history of how they interact with other dogs, people, pets, and children. If you already have children, you can find a Rottie that has a great history of living with kids, other pets, dogs, or anything else that makes sense for your home.
As with any dog, history isn’t a guarantee of future behavior but it does give you a big leg up compared to the unknown future of a puppy.
Beyond the practicality of adoption, there are simply too many pets and not enough homes so adopting a dog means you’re helping a Rottweiler in need. Can you imagine the joy inside a little Rotweiler’s heart when they realize they’ve found their forever home?
You can contact your local shelter to ask about Rottweilers and many shelters will notify you when a Rottweiler arrives.
You can also find Rottweiler-specific groups across the United States by clicking here. Many of these groups are foster-based which means available Rottweilers live with a volunteer until adoption. In most cases, you’ll be able to talk to this volunteer or at least get detailed information from them about your potential Rottweiler’s personality, temperament and habits. This is valuable information that can you help find the perfect Rottweiler for your home!
There’s a lot to say about the amazing Rottweiler!
Not only is this one of the most iconic breeds on the planet, but the powerful Rottweiler has worked with mankind for thousands of years making them one of the most ancient dog breeds. Despite a sometimes problematic reputation, Rottweilers can be an amazing addition to the right family!
What do you think? Did you learn something new about Rottweilers?