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Rottweilers: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Rottweiler temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Rottweiler dog breed

The AKC Standard describes the Rottweiler as "a calm, confident, and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships."

Some Rottweilers are serious dogs, while others are happy-go-lucky clowns. But in general, the Rottweiler tends to respond quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment, like strange sights and sounds.

This muscular dog needs some space and exercise: brisk daily walks, interactive romping sessions, and regular opportunities to stretch out and run. Mental exercise is even more important and appreciated. Mental exercise includes advanced obedience classes, agility classes, or even Schutzhund classes if your Rottie is from German Schutzhund lines. Schutzhund is a dog sport that combines protection, obedience, and tracking.

Rottweilers must be thoroughly socialized at an early age so that their territorial instincts are controlled rather than indiscriminate.

They can be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex. And while many Rottweilers live peacefully with the family cat, other individuals are predatory toward cats.

Most Rottweilers are inclined toward dominance and will test for position in the family pecking order. But they will respect an assertive owner who knows how to lead a strong-minded dog.

Overall, the Rottweiler is a splendid, capable companion in the right hands. But without ongoing companionship, socialization, obedience training, and supervision, he is "too much dog" for many households.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is large, stocky, and muscular
  • Is easy to groom
  • Is generally calm and confident
  • Is very loyal to his family
  • Makes an intimidating-looking deterrent

A Rottweiler may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • An extremely careful search to avoid over-aggressive or unstable lines
  • A heavy dog who wants to sit on your feet, lie on your lap, and lean his weight against your leg
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping when young
  • Destructiveness when bored or not exercised enough
  • Providing enough socialization so that protectiveness doesn't become aggression
  • Potential aggression toward other animals
  • Strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Potential drooling (individuals with massive heads and loose lips)
  • Gassiness (flatulence)
  • Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)
  • A multitude of serious health problems and a shortish lifespan

A Rottweiler may not be right for you.


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Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

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More traits and characteristics of Rottweilers

If I was considering a Rottweiler, I would be most concerned about...

  1. The wide range of temperaments. There are different "breeding lines" of Rottweilers, each bred for a different purpose and a different temperament. If you want a family companion, you do NOT  want high-energy working lines; you want a good-natured dog who won't harm innocent people. His presence alone will be enough to deter intruders. On the other hand, If you want a dog to compete with in the sport of schutzhund, you want high-energy working lines.

    With Rottweilers more than most other breeds, you must know what you want long before you start calling or visiting breeders. You need to ask the right questions. Otherwise you might end up with a Rottweiler that isn't at all what you were looking for – and possibly an individual who is too much for you to handle.

    To make your search even more challenging, some idiot breeders are breeding Rottweilers to be dangerously sharp. "Sharp" dogs aren't protective – they're unstable, which makes them more likely to attack an innocent person or another animal. There are also Rottweilers who are skittish or nervous – another form of instability that makes them potentially dangerous.

  2. Providing enough mental stimulation. Rottweilers should not be chosen by people who just want a dog to hang around the house and yard. These working dogs only thrive when you find interesting things for them to do.

    Get your Rottweiler involved in agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or schutzhund, a German protection-dog sport. Play fetch games. Take them hiking. They must have physical outlets for their energy, and mental outlets for their intelligent minds.

  3. Potential animal aggression. Most Rottweilers are good with other pets in their own family. But some show predatory behavior toward cats, and many Rottweilers are aggressive toward other dogs of the same sex. Starting at an early age, you need to correct the very first sign of aggression; if you let an incident slide by, another will occur and another, until the bad habit is firmly ensconced.
  4. Legal liabilities. Rottweilers may be targeted for "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. In this day and age, the legal liabilities of owning any breed that looks intimidating and has a history as a guard dog should be considered. People are quicker to sue if such a dog does anything even remotely questionable.
  5. Serious health problems. Many Rottweilers live to 12 or 13 years old. But many others die early, at age 6 or 7, to crippling joint diseases, bone cancer, heart disease, bloat, or epilepsy. Read more about Rottweiler Health.
  6. Gassiness (flatulence) that can send you running for cover. Commercial diets make flatulence worse by including fibrous or hard-to-digest ingredients. Rottweilers who are fed a heavily meat-based diet have much less trouble with gassiness.
  7. Socialization requirements. Some Rottweilers are chunky cuddlebugs who are polite toward everyone. But most Rottweilers have at least some protective instincts toward strangers. They need extensive exposure to friendly people so they learn to recognize the normal behaviors of "good guys." Then they can recognize the difference when someone really does act abnormally. Without careful socialization, a Rottweiler may be suspicious of everyone and show unwarranted aggression.
  8. Providing the proper balance of exercise. Young Rottweilers need enough exercise to keep them lean, but not so much that their growing bones, joints, and ligaments are over-stressed and damaged. Adult Rottweilers need enough exercise to keep them in shape, but not miles of running, and never in hot or humid weather – their black coat makes them prone to overheating.

    Since you need to minimize their exercise, young Rottweilers can be rambunctious. They will romp with uncoordinated gawkiness all over your house. You need to substitute extra quantities of companionship and supervision at this time. Otherwise, left alone, young Rottweilers become bored and destructive, and their powerful jaws can destroy your living room.

  9. The strong temperament, especially in males. The best Rottweilers are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal. But they are not pushovers to raise and train. Some individuals, especially young males, are so dominant and bossy that training is a true challenge; those dogs will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.

    In other words, you must teach your Rottweiler to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Follow my free online training programs.

  10. Shedding. For such a shorthaired dog, Rottweilers shed more than you might think – on the high side of average.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

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