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Everyone once in a while, my old Rottweiler, Stella, would catch my eye and make my heart melt.
She just had this way about her that made her always look like she was sad or depressed. I knew she wasn’t; I’d mention her name and her little stumpy tail would start wiggling, all the while with her mournful expression on her face.
I know other Rottie owners have also mentioned that they think their Rotties look sad, and I started to wonder why?
Why do Rottweilers look sad?
A Rottie’s face has a structure and coloration that combine to create several universal signs of sadness even in a happy Rottweiler. True sadness or depression in your Rottie will be coupled with some other tell-tale indicators, but it may just be that they have resting sad face.
Let’s take a closer at each reason that contributes to a Rottie’s resting sad face!
Reason #1 – Rottweiler’s Faces Look Sad
Human beings are incredibly complex, social creatures. As such, there are only a handful of universal expressions (seven universal expressions actually, according to some scientists).
By this, I mean ways of communicating that people of all cultures and languages will consistently recognize.
Turns out, the structure and coloration of a Rottweiler’s face hit several universal signs of sadness.
They display these signs at all times, even when they are happy.
Universal signs of sadness in the face include:
- The inner corners of their eyebrows are pulled up and together
- The upper eyelids droop down to the sides in the eyes look down
- the corners of the lips are pulled down
You can see this displayed on this sad woman’s face here:
The thing about this is, this is also incredibly similar to the general structure of a Rottweiler’s face.
Check out this Rottweilers face:
The unique coloration of the brown spots above their eyes gives their face the appearance of eyebrows, eyebrows that look scrunched together and pulled down in the middle, just like a sad human being’s face looks.
The unique shape of their eyes includes an almost teardrop-like shape, dripping down on the outer edges.
Finally, the shape of their jaws makes them look like they have a frown when viewed straight from the front.
All of these things combined make it seem to us that a Rottweiler always looks sad or a little melancholy.
However, simply because your dog has this shape and coloration, it does not mean that they are necessarily sad.
It may be that you are just picking up on the wrong Q’s, which brings me to reason number two.
Reason #2 – You’re Misinterpreting
The fact is, your dog does not know how their face looks. It’s true that they do have distinctly sad-looking faces, but you are the one making the interpretation that they are sad.
So be very careful when you are labeling your dog things like sad, angry, depressed. The fact that we can not actually, specifically, communicate with our dogs what they are feeling means; that we have to acknowledge that there is real for interpretation.
Of course, the room for misunderstanding a dog’s true feelings does not just end at the appearance of their faces. There are hundreds of ways that your dog, consciously or not, could communicate to you that they are feeling sad or any other of their emotions.
A Rottweiler that is very tired may easily have their body language misinterpreted as sad. Lethargy, sighing deeply, or being disinterested playtime could equally mean that your dog is depressed or that they are simply tuckered out.
And you don’t want to bother your sleepy Rottweiler with lots of fun games trying to cheer them up when they just want to go to sleep.
If you think your Rottweiler is sad, before we go any further, make sure that you keep an open mind about what else could be making them act the way that they are acting.
Dr. Matricia McConnell has a fantastic book, The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, that’s a fun and interesting guide that may help you to understand what behaviors you may be doing around your dog that you don’t even recognize.
Reason #3 – You’re Projecting
While it is entirely possible you are simply misinterpreting your Rottie’s behavior, it’s also possible that you are bringing some of your own perspectives to the table and bypassing your Rottie’s actual cues entirely.
If you’ve disciplined your Rottie, denied them a treat, left them behind, or done something else that YOU feel guilty about, yes, they could be sad, but you may also be expecting them to be sad.
Because your dog is not able to tell you how they feel, you may be filling in the gaps in communication with your own assumptions about how you think they should feel.
This is distinctly different than misinterpreting a dog’s behavior. If your dog does something, you may misinterpret what they are doing as sad when in fact what they were doing was tired or exhausted behavior.
Projecting comes all from YOU. Lots of people will anthropomorphize their Rottiies by assigning them emotions and motivations that are simply impossible to know are true.
Things like she loves her blanket, he is depressed when it storms, she gets sad when I don’t give her my dinner, all contain a huge amount of assumption and, therefore, the potential for projecting on the part of the owner.
Reason #4 – You’re Reinforcing It
If you think your Rottweiler is sad, what is it that you do?
You probably jump through hoops trying to cheer them up. This may take the form of giving them lots of treats, taking them for a walk, playing with them, or otherwise giving them a lot of attention that they may not have been giving before.
Rottweilers are incredibly smart dogs and it is not too much of a leap for them to come to understand doing whatever behaviors that they do to make you think that they are sad gets them lots of positive reinforcement in the form of treats and love etc.
Your dog may not be sad but they may be going through the motions of sighing deeply, staring deeply into your eyes, or any of the other classic signs of sadness just to get a treat.
Reason #5 – They Are Sick
Symptoms of many illnesses can easily be mistaken for sadness in your Rottweiler.
These symptoms can include sighing deeply, prolonged eye contact, awkward or stiff posturing, or even some vocalizations expressing their discomfort.
It is important for you to keep your mind open and not assume that your dog is sad. Getting to the bottom of why they are presenting themselves the way that they are can help make sure that you rule out any potential illnesses, some of which may be life-threatening.
If your Rottweiler’s sadness persists for more than a couple of days or if it is coupled with other new, troubling behaviors, you should make sure that you bring them to the vet to rule out anything serious.
Reason #6 – They’re Sad
And here we are, at the final reason they make look sad: they are sad.
Venturing into the world of using words like sad, angry, love, and hate with dogs is generally counterproductive in my opinion.
While it can safe to assume that your dog likes some things and dislikes others, identifying traits like sad or angry are generally too difficult for people to separate from their own understandings of the world and their dog to be truly accurate.
This more often than not leads to wasted effort trying to solve problems from the wrong angle.
However, if you have kept an open mind about what may be getting your dog down, you’re sure that you’re not misinterpreting or projecting on their behavior, and you’re 100% sure that they are not sick, it really just made me that your Rottweiler really is sad.
Because you are a Rottweiler is your friend, it’s hopefully not too difficult for you to identify the cause of their bad mood.
Changes in lifestyle like a loved one moving or passing away, or even the birth of a new family member may be reason enough for your dog to be depressed.
Not getting enough exercise may also cause your dog to be sad. Rottweilers are active, working dogs who thrive in an environment where they’re able to burn off lots of their pent-up energy.
Not doing so will result in a Rottweiler that is not getting what they need to out of life, who made end up sad.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that your Rottweiler is being treated with kindness by everyone in their environment.
This means making sure that any other animals in the house, dogs, cats, and anything else that you may have in your menagerie, are not antagonizing or mistreating your Rottie.
This is also true for the human members of your family, especially if you have young children or teenagers.
How To Tell If Your Rottweiler Is Actually Sad?
Many of the following items overlap with the symptoms of health issues, so it’s important to make sure that you’re Rottie is healthy.
But if you think your Rottie may be sad, check for some of these other signs to help point you n the right direction and check out this video for some quick-facts about canine depression:
Change In Appetite
Much like humans, a change in appetite may be an indicator of a change in an emotional state. Your dog may eat very little or may eat a lot more if they are sad. Or they may be hungry at different times than usual.
Sleeping excessively or simply laying down, sitting, or otherwise being disinterested in their usual activities may also be a sign that your dog is actually sad.
It has been reported that many dogs who are anxious, stress, or even sad will excessively groom themselves.
This behavior includes licking their paws, nose, or just generally smacking their chops and licking their mouths more frequently than usual.
Social Avoidance Or Aggression
Your sad Rottweiler may choose to avoid you or the other people in the house. Just like when a human is sad, sometimes dealing with the input of another being is just too much.
If your Rottie is trying to avoid you, don’t push it. They will come around and forcing the issue may cause your dog to respond aggressively.
Dogs do not have the ability to understand and handle their emotions like people do, so a sad dog may not know what they should do to try to make themselves feel better or what is causing their discomfort.
And confusion can easily lead to aggression.
Whale Eye or Squinty Eye
Many dog owners will recognize the term “whale eye.” For those that don’t, you know how you can’t usually see the whites of your dog’s eye?
Their large pupils generally take up the entire visible area of their eyes.
Whale eye refers to when your dog looks at you out of the corner of their eyes, revealing the whites around the pupil.
Conversely, a dog that is sad may be excessively squinty or keep their eyes closed, basically the exact opposite of a whale eye.
Why Rottweilersand other dogs express their feelings in this way is still mysterious.
Heavy panting even when they’re inside in a cool environment is also a sign of sadness or general anxiety in Rotties.
Your Rottie may make grunt, whine, or even bark or growl if they are sad.
Changes In Behavior
Any sudden change in your Rottweiler’s behavior is generally cause for alarm. All dogs are creatures of habit, so a sudden change may indicate that they are sad, for whatever reason.
How To Cheer Up Your Rottie
If you have a sad Rottweiler, cheering them up should not be some big mysterious task for you.
After all, this is YOUR dog that we are talking about.
But in the short-term, giving them what you know that they like, like treats, scratches, or walks will help distract them from their bad mood and may be enough to shake her out of it entirely.
Consider picking up a new toy for them that will get them playing with you and their heart racing, like this flirt stick for large dogs. I guarantee you that they’ll be exhausted after a solid 10 minutes of playtime.
If the sadness persists, you may need to reevaluate some big-picture lifestyle choices that are chronically getting your Rottie down.
We all love our dogs so much, and our Rotties aren’t afraid to show us love either, so it can be extremely disheartening to watch your furry buddy get down in the dumps.
Making sure that should Rottweilers life is filled with fun, happy times is both your responsibility and privilege as their owner.
Above all else, make sure that you are having a fun time with your Rottie. Like most dogs, if you’re happy and having a fun time, so will your Rottweiler.