The Rottweiler breed was developed in Germany to haul meat to market and herd livestock. They have a strong protective instinct and are known for their boldness, which makes them excellent guard dogs. However they have developed a bad reputation due to owners who haven’t trained or socialized them properly which resulted in aggression. If they are raised well they are good natured and calm family companions that have a playful and silly nature.
The history of the Rottweiler reaches as far back as the Roman Empire, when Roman armies brought strong dogs with them to guard their livestock. After the Roman Empire collapsed, Germanic tribes kept some of these dogs, and in the town of Rottweil they were used to protect and herd livestock and haul butcher’s meat to market using a cart. In the 19th century, the railroad grew and took over the cattle and meat transportation so that these dogs were no longer needed in that role. However they found new jobs working with the police, search-and-rescue, guide dogs for the blind, and as personal guardians. They were used to help find people in the rubble after the attack on of the World Trade Center, and after the Oklahoma City bombings.
Rottweilers have developed a reputation for being a dangerous dog, but according to the American Rottweiler Club, it depends on how you bring them up. They say that ‘they require a calm, stable and firm “pack leader” or they will assume that role for you. They 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.’ They are loyal and fearless guard dogs who are good at protecting their family and are also playful and affectionate to the people they are closest to.
Rottweilers have a double, medium length coat that is black with rust or mahogany colored markings. They also have very unique markings in specific places, such as the mahogany dot above each eye, and two triangular marks on their chest. They have a broad head, and strong jaw, with an alert and confident expression on their face.
This breed require mental and stimulation or they can become destructive, so it is important to make sure they are walked every day, especially if they are confined to somewhere small like an apartment. With its double coat, the Rottweiler is usually fine in cold weather, but can’t tolerate hot weather that well. Some that live in hot climates have adapted by not having an undercoat. This is not a good breed choice for a novice owner because they require firm leadership or they can become out of control, and go past the fine line between protectiveness and aggression.
Rottweilers are usually wary around strangers, but should not become aggressive unless they feel there is a need for it. They are generally affectionate with their family, and will even try and sit on your lap. They are good with children, especially if they have been raised alongside them. But it’s important to remember that they have both a strong prey instinct and strong protective instinct. So if there is a lot of loud playing they might feel that their children are being threatened. Or if children run around they might want to start chasing them. Children should be taught how to behave with them, and should never be left unsupervised with your dog. They may be intolerant of other dogs and pets, especially if they are new to them, so they should always be kept on a leash when they’re out and about.
Shedding is moderate for this breed, though heavier in shedding seasons. A weekly brushing will help with this, and also keep their coat looking shiny. Their nails should be trimmed weekly – and a nail grinding tool is often good for them. Teeth should also be brushed weekly to keep them from having bad breath and help keep their gums healthy. A bath can be given as needed.
It’s very important to start training Rottweilers while they are still young, and take them to obedience and socialization classes. They need to be exposed to a variety of different situations and people. They train well though – as evidenced by their use in search-and-rescue and the police force. But they need a firm hand and complete consistency. If you give them an inch they will take a mile, so you need to keep the boundaries clear at all times. Their strong prey drive means that they may start chasing small animals, and they should never be left alone with babies or small children, because quick movements of limbs may look like prey to them.
Rottweilers should be walked at least twice a day, and given some time and space to run around as well. They need regular activity, because otherwise they can become destructive and start chewing everything in sight. They enjoy having a job to do as well, since they were originally bred for hauling carts to market. Activities that suit them include running alongside you while you’re hiking in the country, agility competitions, swimming, and running alongside while you cycle.
Rottweilers should be fed high quality food, with the main ingredient being meat. Grains are often used as fillers, so you will want to avoid dog food that has too many grains and not enough protein content. Raw or homemade food can work, but you will need to make sure they are getting the right amount of nutrition, and you may want to supplement with vitamins.
Puppies should be fed three times a day till they are around 5 months old. They can then be transitioned to two meals a day, or sooner if they start refusing their food. It’s important to feed them the right amount of nutrition as they are prone to developing bone and joint conditions.
Avoid soy and corn ingredients, as these can cause food sensitivities or allergies. Also watch out for chemical preservatives and colors, as these can cause problems as well. Symptoms of food allergies include diarrhoea, flatulence, upset stomach and itching.
Recommended daily feeding amount: 4 to 10 cups of high quality dry food every day, divided into two meals.
Rottweilers are prone to becoming overweight, so you need to be careful how much you feed them. Some owners only feed them once a day and their dog does fine, but more meals a day are often a good way to help prevent bloat. Some breeders also recommend a day of fasting once a week. You can usually tell by looking at them whether they are overweight or too skinny. You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them.
Common Health Concerns
This is a relatively healthy breed, but as with many others, Hip Dysplasia can be a problem. This is where the hip and thigh joint does not fit correctly. Responsible breeders should screen the parents before breeding. Osteochondritis Dissecans can also occur if they grow too rapidly.
As with other large breeds, bloat (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) can occur from them gulping air too fast. This leads to the stomach being filled with air and twisting, which then cuts off blood supply to major organs. It can be fatal, so it’s important to know the symptoms, such as lethargy, retching, and abdominal distension, and get your dog seen immediately if you suspect it. You can also help to prevent it by giving him more than one meal a day, and avoiding exercise for an hour after he eats.
Osteosarcoma is one of the most common causes of death in younger Rottweilers. This is a bone cancer, and lameness is usually the first symptom you will see. It can be treated with chemotherapy and by amputating the limb that is involved – which will usually prolong their lives by up to two years.
Rottweilers are also prone to certain eye conditions, such as Entropion and Ectropion, and may develop Hypothyroidism. This last condition can be managed with daily medication. Aortic Stenosis can be a problem – where the artery supplying the body with blood from the heart becomes narrowed. This can cause fainting or death, and is usually detected by a heart murmur.
Rottweilers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Rottweilers in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don’t see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Rottweilers rescue.