Type: Herding dog (originally), search and rescue, and guard dog (nowadays)
Weight: Male – 50-60 kg
Female – 35-48 kg
Height: Male – 24-27 in / 61-69 cm
Female – 22-25 in / 56-63 cm
Appearance: The Rottweiler is a medium to large dog, black in colour with tan markings (on the head, legs, chest). Their coat is two-layered – the outer coat is medium, dense and flat, the inner coat can be seen on the neck and thighs. The eyes of the Rottweiler are medium size and dark brown and the ears are rather small, hanging close to the head. Their tails were traditionally docket but this is now banned in many countries including the United Kingdom.
Temperament: It’s all in the training, contrary to the common belief Rottweilers are not innately aggressive and can be goodnatured dogs. They are intelligent, devoted, obedient and eager to work. Often self-assured and fearless they can make great companions and guardians. There’s no denying however that poor training may produce an unreliable temperament and the breed is powerful enough to do real damage if it does attack.
Skills: Rottweilers are known for their endurance, intelligence and strength. They can still display the instinct to herd, a product of their original breeding purpose. Because of their strength, size and strong desire to control and protect Rottweilers are often used in illegal dog fights.
Behaviour Toward Other Animals and Kids: Rottweilers are nice by nature and love their owners, but since they are extremely protective of their territory they can be aggressive towards strangers, especially if poorly trained. Overall Rottweilers can be a beautiful dog for the right owner but are maybe not the best breed choice for a novice.
Common Health Problems: Some of the health problems that can occur are hip dysplasia, osteochondritis dissecans, ectropion, entropion, parvovirus. Like many other large dogs, Rottweilers are prone to obesity which can have its consequences – arthritis, breathing difficulties, reproductive problems, diabetes, heart failure and many more.
Lifespan: Average 8-10 years as cancer is one of the most common causes of early death.
- Start young. Housebreaking and training have to start immediately after you bring your Rottweiler pup home. Results will come fast if you start at age 6 weeks to 6 months. It might require some more time and patience if the dog is older and untrained, but Rottweilers are intelligent and eager to please, so with positive reinforcement methods and proper communication, your efforts will soon pay off.
- Socialise your Rottweiler. Regardless of the dog’s age, he needs to be socialised with as many animals and people as possible. Take him to the canine playground, bring him along when you visit friends and let him meet your guests as well. Socialising is crucial and in some ways even more important than training. It shapes a pup into a happy and confident dog. Ensure contacts with other dogs and people are positive experiences for your Rotty. Socialising is where a dog learns to be comfortable or afraid.
- Use positive reinforcement. Consistency, rewards and praise are the most effective communication you can have with your dog. Even if your Rotty doesn’t understand your verbal language, training by reward will let him make associations as to what actions are encouraged and he will soon learn what behaviour brings him rewards.
- Make it a game. Consider your training sessions as a pleasurable time and a bonding opportunity for you and your dog. Stay enthusiastic and excited during training, lavish with praise when the dog complies with a command, and always end sessions on a high note. Training is just a game to Rotties and they love to play. The more fun you keep it, the better and faster results you will achieve.
- Teach simple commands. Teach commands using positive reinforcement methods which include praise and rewards. The first command you should teach is “Sit”. It will help you with daily routines such as feeding and grooming and will lay the foundations for teaching more advanced commands and even tricks. Before you teach a command, first ensure your have the dog’s attention. He needs to be focused on you, not distracted or side-tracked by the treats you will use as reward or any other visual or noise interruptions. It works better if you use your hands instead of your voice to show the dog what you want him to do. Reinforce hand signals with a simple vocal command that stays consistent throughout training. Using your hand to show the dog what to do, teach “Down”. Make a downward motion, with the palm of your hand facing the ground and simply say “Down”. The motion of your hand will help the dog understand you want him to lie down. After “Sit” and “Down”, “Stay” might take some more time and patience on your part, but don’t get discouraged if your Rotty doesn’t follow immediately. Teaching “Come” after the dog has grasped “Stay” will be a breeze, as Rotties love your company and will be eager to come to you.
- Don’t start training sessions when you’re feeling tired or irritable. Keep your calm and don’t give up or become aggravated when the dog doesn’t comply with a command. Remember, your dog is your companion and wants to make you happy, so if you show annoyance or scold him, this will only make him shut off.
- No physical discipline. Never physically discipline or yell at your Rottweiler. Lashing out on your dog can have an adverse effect on training altogether, making him fearful and discouraging him from learning.
- Avoid untimely reactions. You can say “No” or “Bad” in a firm yet calm voice when you want to discourage destructive behaviour but you should always react promptly. Use these words the moment you see the dog displaying bad behaviour, be it eliminating in the house, chewing or digging. Reprimanding you Rotty for something he did three hours ago will have no effect as he simply won’t realise what he’s being told off for.
The Rottweiler’s history can be traced back to the drover dogs indigenous to ancient Rome. These Mastiff-type dogs, descendant from the Molossus dogs, travelled with the Roman legions on their quest to conquer Europe and were used for keeping herds of cattle together and guarding the stock at night. The drover dogs have been described as dependable, willing workers, with great intelligence and a strong guarding instinct.
In the years 73 or 74 AD the Romans settled in the Wurtemberg area of Germany. The area grew into a little town with small red-roofed villas. During excavations centuries later, one of the villas was uncovered and the area was given the name ‘das Rote Wil’ – “rot” for the red roof tiles, ‘wil’ for villa. Thus, the city of red-roofed Roman villas became known as ‘Rottweil’. Roman Molossus dogs were largely used by cattlemen to drive their livestock to town to be sold for butchering. They even tied their bags of money around the dogs’ necks to prevent robberies. Butchers used the Rottweilers to pull carts loaded with meat and the breed became known as Rottweil Butcher’s Dog, which was later shortened to Rottweiler.
As rail transport replaced cattle drives, the breed was almost entirely lost. In 1899, the Rottweiler and Leonberger Club was founded, and the first Rottweiler breed standard was written in 1901. Rottweilers started working as police dogs, a job they were very well suited for, and during WWI and WWII, they were put into service in various roles, including as messenger, ambulance, draught, and guard dogs. In 1921, The Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK) was founded in Germany. It carried out breeding programmes with consideration for preserving the working ability and improving the appearance of the breed.
In 1931, the Rottweiler was recognised by the American Kennel Club. In Britain, Rottweilers were exhibited at Crufts in 1936 and registered as a separate breed in 1966.
A Rottweiler puppy that has just left its mother is used to eating little and often, and as he is being weaned off onto larger meals, the type of food will determine how much you need to feed him. A puppy that is fed low value commercial food will need to eat more than a pup that eats highly nutritional food. Feed your Rotty pup food which contains 24% to 28% protein and 14-18 % fat. Read the labels and opt for formulas that have meat listed as a first ingredient. Avoid foods with grain fillers, by-products and meat meal as a first ingredient. Establish a feeding routine of several meals a day and keep to it strictly.
As the dog reaches maturity, the feeding schedule should include two meals a day. It is very important to monitor calorie intake and establish an exercise routine along with the feeding routine to keep the dog’s weight under control. Don’t leave out food and don’t overfeed your Rotty – when large, deep-chested dogs eat too quickly or too much, drink water or exercise immediately after eating, they can develop a bloat, which is a serious health condition. Feed your Rottweiler a nutritional diet consisting of 22-26 % protein and 12-16 % fat. Avoid foods containing soy, wheat, or corn, and never feed a Rottweiler food which contains chemical preservatives, sugar, or artificial colourants.
Behavioural problems or discomfort can indicate a bad diet, and flatulence or itchiness may be signs of allergies. Consult your vet if your dog is experiencing any of them.
The best exercise you can provide for your Rottweiler are outdoor activities. Originally bred for working dogs, Rotties need to move around, and exercise their muscles. Proper and regular exercise has many benefits – it keeps the dog’s weight under control, decreases digestive problems, and enhances the immune system. It is also invaluable in preventing destructive behaviours such as hyperactivity, chewing, barking, and digging.
A simple walk twice a day with your Rottie will do you both good. Explore the outdoors for about half an hour, and keep the dog on a leash for the sake of his own safety and the safety of everyone else around. Take it up a notch and go hiking with your Rotty. The challenge of climbing further and higher will push his exercise level to the limit. Don’t forget to bring his food and water bowl along. Play fetch or, if you have the chance – take your Rotty for a swim. He will surely enjoy the experience, but if you’re having any concerns, get him a vest for your piece of mind. Don’t forget to give a good bath with dog soap and shampoo afterwards.
Grooming and Health
Regular grooming keeps your dog’s coat free of dead hair and matting, and distributes the skin oils to make it shiny. For a puppy, use a brush with pins on one side and bristles on the other, and use only the bristles for the first sessions. For a mature dog, use a slicker brush and always brush in the same direction that the hair grows, starting at the head, working downwards towards the tail. Rotties are prone to allergies, so check the skin for rashes, red spots, and patchy hair loss. Allergies can also affect the ears and excessive scratching or head-shaking are typically signs of an allergy reaction. Clean your Rotty’s ears with a soft cotton ball dampened in warm water or a specialised cleaning solution, without probing the ear canal. Use a dental care kit for dogs (NOT human toothpaste) and brush regularly the dog’s teeth to prevent periodontal disease, which can lead to problems with the heart, lung, and kidneys.