Rottweilers were originally bred to pull carts of farmers and butchers and to drive cattle to the market. They are among the first police dogs which also were used for the military K9 units.
Today, Rotties are among the top 20 most popular breeds in the USA and worldwide and are preferred family pets and guardian dogs.
Read on to learn everything you need about these remarkable canines.
- Temperament: loyal, guardian, loving
- Height at the shoulder: 24-27 inches for males, and 22-25 inches for females
- Weight: 95-135 lbs. for males, 80-100 lbs. for females
- Life expectancy: 9-10 years
- Breed Group: Working Breed
About the breed
Rottweilers are robust and strong guardian dogs that originally descended from the molossus dogs and mastiffs from the Roman legion.
When properly bred, socialized, and trained, they are great family dogs and gentle companions that will protect everybody in the household from danger.
They are naturally suspicious of strangers and are large and strong dogs with deep chests, considered one of the best watchdog breeds in the world.
They have glistening and shiny black double coats with rust markings and a trotting effortless gait thanks to their muscled legs and backs. They do not shed too much apart from the spring and the fall shedding season when they will blow their coats.
Rottweilers that are properly bred and cared for are confident and calm dogs. they are generally fearless dogs but without being aggressive without an actual cause. They also can never be timid or fearful.
They are playful and fun companions at home but present themselves as aloof and serious dogs in front of strangers. Some Rotties will even love hopping on your lap at home for a little nap or cuddle just like giant lapdogs.
It may look strong and scary, but the eyes of the Rottie say it all – they are warm, smart, alert, and mellow.
The Rottweiler is a dog that is born with strong territorial instincts, but with proper socializing and training, it can be harbored in the right direction. Without firm but fair training and early socializing, these dogs can turn into dangerous bullies, which can become a threat even to people they know.
You will need to have the experience, the confidence, the patience, and the time to set yourself at the top of the hierarchy and to lead the Rottie, but never with force, punishment or anger.
Being intelligent and powerful dogs, Rottweilers can easily win over the dominant position at home, which is not a good or safe idea.
Those dogs which are well-bred are fairly easy to train and can be superb companion dogs when treated fairly and with respect. They love spending their time with their humans, and shouldn’t be left alone at home, or chained outside because they can become aggressive and destructive.
They are definitely not a dog breed that is suitable for everyone. Some cities have banned the breed altogether, and many people will discriminate against it and pre-judge it, so you must be prepared to deal with such sentiments and potential problems. Also, you must be confident and dedicated enough to socialize, care for, and train your dog properly.
If you manage to teach your pup to respect people and obey your commands, you may be able to redeem the bad reputation of this German dog breed.
Plus, you will be rewarded with a faithful and loving companion for life.
Always choose a puppy with a pleasant temperament from a reputable breeder who can provide you with proof that the parents are healthy and free of genetic diseases. Also, make sure that you meet your dog’s mother and its siblings if possible in order to get an idea of the character of your future pet.
The perfect Rottie is confident, calm, and courageous, and never shows shyness. The aloofness to unknown people is natural, and it means that the Rottweiler will not make new friends immediately. Instead, the dogs from this breed have a wait-and-see attitude towards new people, dogs, and situations.
It has strong territorial and protective instincts and will watch over your family and your property at all times.
Rotties are not easily excitable. They are smart and affectionate pups who will follow their family members around the house and will love cozying up next to you.
They are hardworking dogs and adapt easily to all kinds of homes and families.
Usually, the male Rotts are a tad more alert and watchful for their families, while the females can be more affectionate and easier to control.
They are easy to train, but can sometimes be quite stubborn which is something you will need to work around with patience, rewards, consistency and fair but firm obedience training.
Once you have established your leadership position over the dog, you will need to constantly direct it with discipline which should never be harsh. Because they can easily become dominant themselves, these dogs are not for inexperienced or timid owners. They are also not suitable if you don’t have the patience and time to train them and to supervise them at all times.
Teaching the dog that it will be praised or rewarded for good behavior and that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior can take more time with Rotties than it does with dogs from other breeds.
The personality of your Rottie depends on its heredity, as well as on the care, training, and socializing you provide it with.
The puppies which are playful and curious and those that allow being cuddled are the most suitable ones to choose from.
Make sure you meet at least one of the parents of the dogs because it will give you a clearer idea of what to expect from your dog’s temperament later on in life.
In order to curb its natural instinct to protect, and its potential aggression towards other dogs of the same sex, you will need to take your Rottweiler puppy to meet other friendly dogs, new people, the vets, the groomers, to hear new sounds and to see different sights from an early age.
Make sure you invite guests to your home on a regular basis and meet up with your puppy with the dogs you are going to be running into when it grows up.
This will help make it less aloof and will decrease the risk of aggression in the future.
Rottweilers have an urge to “bump” cattle, other animals and children in order to herd them. Given that these dogs are quite big and strong this can be dangerous if you have toddlers at home. Plus, Rotties can get overexcited when they see children running and roughhousing due to their strong prey drive, which is why no matter how well trained and behaved your dog is, you should never leave it unsupervised around children, especially very young ones.
Be careful when you introduce other dogs or pets to your Rottweiler because they can show aggression to canines of the same sex. When raised together and socialized properly, and under your leadership your Rottie can learn to live peacefully with other pets at home.
These dogs are highly intelligent and can be trained easily with patience, firmness, and consistency.
You will need to be clear with what you ask them for, because these smart dogs may try to test you and look for loopholes if you don’t really mean it.
The recommended daily meals for a Rottweiler should be between 4 to 10 cups of high-quality dog food, divided into two smaller meals.
The actual amount of food your pup requires to be healthy, strong, and well depends on its age, its size and weight, its metabolism, its activity level, and its health.
Also, the amount also depends on the type of food you choose. High digestible and high-quality dog food is higher in nutritional value, so your dog will need smaller portions of it.
You can also feed your dog with homemade food, but be careful to stay away from human foods which can be toxic to dogs, such as grapes, onions, garlic, xylitol, and others. Also, do not feed your pup with food leftovers and scraps especially if they are high in fat, salty, or heavily seasoned.
Since Rottweilers are prone to overeating they can easily become overweight and obese, especially as they age. This is why you should monitor your dog’s weight and figure on a regular basis, and be careful to measure its food every day.
In case you are worried about the dog gaining too much weight you may want to speak to your vet or an animal nutritionist to find out how to make corrections to the pup’s diet, activity level, and others.
Obesity and extra weight in dogs can cause serious health issues and significantly shorten the dog’s lifespan.
Also, make sure you feed your dog with age-appropriate dog food and limit the dog treats you give to under 10-20% of the entire caloric intake for the day.
These excellent German watchdogs have beautiful short double coats which are coarse and straight. Their outer coats are medium-long, and the undercoat can be seen mainly on the thighs and necks of the dog.
The amount of undercoat the Rottie has depends on the climate it lives in.
It doesn’t shed heavily apart from the shedding seasons, usually in the spring and fall.
The color of the coat of the Rottie is always black and has markings that can be rusty or mahogany in color. These markings are on top of the eyebrows, on the muzzle, the cheeks, the legs, the chest and beneath the tail. They also have tan lines on their toes.
In order to keep the coat of your dog healthy and nice-looking, and to remove the dead hairs and distribute the healthy oils, you will need to brush it once a week with a firm bristled brush.
These dogs should be bathed only when needed, and when it is warm outside if you bathe it outside.
You should brush the teeth of your Rottweiler at least 2-3 times a week. This will help remove the tartar and bacteria and keep them in good health along with gums. It will also prevent bad breath issues.
If the pup doesn’t wear off its nails naturally, you should trim or grind them once every week as well.
As you are grooming your dog, take the time to inspect its ears for redness, a bad smell or other signs of infection. Use a cotton ball and dog ear cleaning liquid to gently clean them without pushing anything up the ear canals.
Also, inspect the dog’s body for any rashes, bumps, ticks, sores or other problems regularly, as well as its eyes, mouth, and nose for unusual discharge or redness.
In order to make the grooming process much easier on yourself and for your dog, it is advisable you start teaching it to tolerate it from an early age. This will be very helpful for future visits to the vet or groomers too.
Rottweilers are large and athletic dogs that do need to be kept physically and mentally active and busy to prevent boredom which can easily lead to destructive behavior and aggression.
At the same time, they are pretty sedentary and inactive when they are at home with their families.
If you have a backyard, make sure it has a very secure fence to protect the dog from straying away and keep strangers safe from unexpected attacks.
It is a good idea to put up a sign warning strangers and guests not to enter the property without you supervising the dog.
The average Rottie needs about 20 minutes of walks and playtime per day, but of course, this depends on your dog’s temperament and activity level. Rottweilers can be couch potatoes, but can also be very athletic and hyperactive as well.
The more active dogs from this breed are excellent jogging, running or hiking buddies. They enjoy playing games like catch, fetch and playing with balls and other toys too.
Thanks to their natural athleticism, intelligence, and trainability these German watchdogs are usually exceptional performers at agility and obedience events and competitions.
Of course, they are perfect at doing what they were originally bred for – pulling carts, but they are also excellent canines for tracking, herding, or as service or therapy dogs.
These pups also require being stimulated mentally, so making sure you take the time to teach them new tricks or new things.
Rottweilers are usually easy to housetrain when taken out on walks on a regular schedule and when rewarded for taking their business outside.
They need to undergo consistent, firm, and fair obedience training as early as possible. Try earning the respect of your dog from day one, and begin teaching it basic commands, as well as behaving itself and walking on a leash.
Do not punish or shout at the dog, especially without reason, because this can quickly turn against you and cause the dog to start dominating and doing whatever it likes.
Positive reinforcement is the way to go if you want to earn its respect and establish yourself as the leader in your home.
These smart dogs need to be stimulated both physically and mentally, so make sure you have the time, the patience, and the energy to keep your dog exercised and also to train it and teach it new things every day.
Socializing the puppy should start from day one as well. Invite different people to your home, and when it is safe for the dog to meet other pups, make sure it does that too.
Being naturally protective and potentially aggressive towards other dogs is something you will want to keep curbed and under control at all times. this is why showing your dog different things and places, and meeting it with as many people and friendly dogs as possible is crucial.
Rotties are great with children, especially when they have been raised together. Be warned though that they do tend to use “bumping” when they are herding animals and children, which can be dangerous if you have very young kids.
They are better suited to families which have children old enough to understand how to safely interact with dogs.
Plus, roughhousing can cause the Rottie to become overexcited, which is not advisable, especially when young children run and play around. The dog may try to “save” their child from others, even though it is obviously not in danger.
Introducing new pets, especially dogs of the same sex should be done under extremely close supervision too.
Rotties can get used to living under the roof with other dogs and pets with proper socializing, and with firm and consistent guidance from your side.
These dogs are people dogs and thrive well when they are at home with their owners and families. This said it is not a good idea to leave a Rottweiler alone for long hours or to keep it outdoors or chained all day long. This can lead to disastrous results, and even to dangerous behavior.
Even though they can be a bit stubborn, Rottweilers are smart and eager to learn new things every day.
They are definitely not suitable for timid or first-time dog owners. Neither are they suitable for somebody who doesn’t have the patience and time to spend with their dog training, socializing and communicating with it.
They are excellent competitors in all kinds of dog sports and events such as cart pulling, herding, obedience, agility, tracking, and others.
Of course, they are superb working dogs, therapy dogs, and service dogs as well.
Even though Rottweilers are strong and healthy dogs, they can be prone to certain inherited and other health conditions which their owners should be warned about.
Here are the main health problems which can happen to Rotties:
This is a genetic condition that causes a painful misplacement of the thigh bone and the hip joint. While some dogs with hip dysplasia show pain, others may exhibit no discomfort for years.
The condition can be diagnosed via an X-ray examination.
The dogs can have hip dysplasia on either one or on both rear legs, and it can cause pain, lameness, and mobility later on as the dog ages and gets arthritis.
Responsible breeders never breed dogs with either hip or elbow dysplasia, so always choose a reputable breeder and ask for health clearance for both parents of the puppy.
The condition can be worsened by other factors including rapid growth from a high caloric diet at an early age, injuries, and from jumping on hard surfaces when the dog is still young and growing.
This is yet another inherited health problem that affects one or both of the front legs of Rottweilers. It is a misalignment of the bones which make up the elbow.
It is diagnosed via X-ray screening, and in some cases can be realigned manually, but in other cases may require medical treatment and surgery.
Once again, always ask your breeder for health certification by an authorized orthopedic institution for both parents of your future dog.
Aortic Stenosis, Sub-aortic Stenosis
This is a pretty common defect of the heart which can occur in Rottweilers too.
It is a condition in which the aorta becomes narrow right below the aortic valve which causes the heart to have to work much harder in order to supply blood to the dog’s body. It is known to cause fainting, and in some cases may even lead to sudden death.
It is a hereditary condition that a vet can diagnose when a heart murmur is detected.
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that unfortunately affects more of the larger and giant dog breeds. The first sign of this cancer is lameness, and the illness can be diagnosed with X-rays.
In some cases, osteosarcoma requires aggressive treatment including the amputation of the affected limb and chemotherapy.
With proper treatment, dogs are known to live with osteosarcoma for 9 months to 2 years and even more.
Thankfully, dogs don’t have problems adapting to life on three limbs very quickly, so amputation is not such a problem, but sometimes pups do suffer some severe side effects from the chemo such as hair loss and nausea.
Gastric Dilatation-volvulus – Bloat
This is a very dangerous condition that can kill any dog in a matter of minutes or hours. It is more common among dogs with deeper chests and among larger dog breeds.
Bloat occurs when air gets stuck in the dog’s stomach and causes it to torsion or twist around itself. This causes the blockage of the normal blood flow to the other organs in the body.
The first signs of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus include the dog attempting to vomit or belch unsuccessfully. Other symptoms include an increased heart rate, lethargy, collapse, a distended abdomen, and excessive retching or salivation.
You need to get the dog to the vet as soon as possible if you suspect it may be suffering from bloat because medical intervention needs to be performed immediately to save the dog’s life.
In order to minimize the risk of bloat, avoid feeding your Rottie a super large meal right after exercising. Also, do not let it drink too much water rapidly after a long run, walk or playtime. Always divide your pup’s daily food into several (two) smaller portions, and also place the dog’s bowls on stands which will allow them to drink water and eat without needing to crouch or bend down excessively.
Pano is often referred to as “growing pains” because it usually happens in dogs that are about four months old. The main symptom of panosteitis is lameness. Often rest is all the puppy needs, but in case you notice that it starts to limp, you should speak with your vet.
This is another hereditary condition that causes the thyroid gland of the dog to not be able to produce sufficient amounts of hormones. Hypothyroidism is known to cause epilepsy, hair loss, skin thickening, pyoderma, hyperpigmentation, obesity, lethargy, and a number of other problems.
It can be managed with daily hormone replacement therapy and a suitable diet.
Allergies are pretty common among dogs of all sizes and breeds, including the Rottweilers. Allergies in dogs can be contact, environmental and food-related. In some cases, you may be able to remove the allergen causing the negative reactions completely while in others such as pollen or dust allergy this condition could be managed with medication and air purifiers or other methods.
The allergies in dogs can cause digestive problems, as well as skin irritation, hair loss, sneezing, and ear infections.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find the exact allergen causing the dog’s allergy.
General health advice for Rottweiler breeders and owners
If you are planning on buying a Rottie puppy, make sure you find a reputable and reliable breeder who has health clearances for both parents of the dog. Reputable breeders also work with dogs with good temperaments, which is extremely important for strong and protective dogs like Rottweilers.
You can expect to see health certificates and clearance for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand’s disease, thrombopathia, cardiac and eye health clearance for both parents of your future puppy.
As the puppy grows, it is essential to follow its recommended vaccination regimen and to keep the dog intact until it is at least 6 years old, according to studies for cancer prevention.
The ancestry of the Rottweiler can be traced back to the Roman Legions which bred mastiff-type molossus dogs for guarding and herding the livestock they brought with them. They were durable, and tough dogs that were bred to be able to move the herd, guard it, and march with the conquerors.
These Asian mastiff-type dogs reached all parts of the world via the Roman conquerors, and are believed to be part of the ancestry of what we know today as the Rottweiler.
As the Roman Legions fought against the Germanic tribes, the dogs they brought with them remained in the area where they proceeded to mate with the different local breeds and became the founding stock for a number of different German breeds.
After the Roman Empire collapsed, these dogs started to be used as herders, protectors, and cart pullers for the local cattle farmers and butchers in the area of the town of Rottweil.
Rottweil was named after the red tiles which were used by the Romans to build their baths, churches, and villas in the town.
The other names for these dogs were: Butcher’s Dogs of Rottweil and Rottweiler Metzgerhunds. They were used to pull the carts with the meat and to guard the money of the butchers and farmers.
With the industrial revolution and the development of railroad cattle cars, the use of Rotties as cart dogs came to an end. This happened in the 1800s, and these powerful dogs found new work in the local police, as personal guard dogs as well as working dogs for all kinds of people.
They were among the first dog breeds which were used as guide dogs for the blind. In more recent times, they have become popular search and rescue dogs for different disaster sites, including the WTC in NYC, and Oklahoma City.
Even though the breed became almost instinct after the onset of the Industrial revolution and only a single Rottweiler was shown at the dog show in Heilbronn in 1882, fanciers of the breed founded the Rottweiler and Leonberger Club in 1901 and proceeded to save the breeds.
The first standard for the Butcher’s dog has changed very little since it was adopted back in 1901.
Several different Rottweiler breeding clubs were formed through the years, but the one which retained its power was the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub which was founded in 1921.
The club survived World War II, and still is one of the promoters of good breeding practices not only in Germany but around the world as well.
The main goal of the Club is to retain the excellent working abilities of the Rotties.
The first known Rottweiler arrived in the US alongside an immigrant from Germany in the 1920s. the first known litter was born in the 1930s, and Stina v Felsenmeer was the first dog officially registered by the American Kennel Club in 1931.
Following World War II, the German breed grew in popularity. The breed reached its highest of its popularity in the 1990s when over 100,000 dogs were registered by the AKC.
Because of the boost of popularity, some irresponsible breeders have been producing unhealthy puppies with not-so-good temperaments which is a huge problem for the proper development and preservation of the Rottweiler breed.
Due to these breeders, the Rotties started showing aggression and gained a bad reputation which decreased the demand for them.
Thanks to the reputable dedicated breeders, there is a good chance that the opinions of this breed, as well as its popularity, will once again turn around in the USA and around the world.
They are currently the 17th most popular of the registered breeds with the American Kennel Club.
They are also considered among the top guard dog breeds of all time and are favorite family companion dogs for owners and families from around the world.