October 23, 2017

Introduction to the Rottweiler

Many people think of the Rottweiler as a big scary dog and there is some truth to that description.

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Rottweilers can make very good guard dogs. However, the breed is very versatile. They are used for herding livestock, search and rescue, guide dogs, and they have been used as cart dogs.

While protective and powerful, Rottweilers are also calm and intelligent. With good socialization they make excellent family dogs.

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History of the Rottweiler

It is believed that the Rottweiler’s history dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. When Roman legions spanned the European continent 2000 years ago, they had to bring their own cattle along with them to feed their soldiers. They used mastiff-type drover dogs to herd their cattle. These dogs were thought to be intelligent, rugged, with both herding and guarding abilities since they had to guard the cattle at night. Around 74 AD the Romans crossed the Alps into what is now modern Germany and their dogs were used to herd and drive cattle for trade for the next two centuries. One town in this area was eventually named Rottweil and it became an important market. The descendants of the Roman dogs were used to drive cattle to market in Rottweil and protected them from theft. In the Middle Ages, traveling butchers would tie their money in pounches around the necks of their dogs to keep them from being stolen by thieves. Eventually the dogs became identified with the town and were known as butcher dogs or Rottweiler Metzgerhunds. The dogs were also used to pull carts loaded with meat and other items to market in Rottweil.

However, with the coming of the railroad, the need for the cattle/butcher dogs lessened. The train could take cattle to market instead of the dogs. By 1882 at a dog show near Rottweil, there was only one Rottweiler dog, and it was a poor representative of the breed.

The fortunes of the Rottweiler changed as World War I approached. There was a demand for police dogs and the Rottweiler proved of great use. They served as messengers, draught dogs (pulling carts), guard dogs, and ambulance dogs.

The first official Rottweiler club in Germany was founded in 1914. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1931. Today the Rottweiler is the 10th most popular breed in the United States.

Rottweiler Health-Related Issues

Rottweilers are a generally healthy breed. Like many large dogs, they can have problems with hip dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia can also be an issue, as well as osteochondritis dessecans (which often affects the elbow and shoulder). OCD occurs when the smooth cartilage that normally allows two bones to move against each other without friction grows abnormally, tears, develops calcium spurs, or has some other problem that keeps the cartilage from protecting the bones. This causes the dog pain and usually results in some lameness. It often requires surgery to repair the problem. It often occurs in large breeds that grow rapidly – one of the reasons why people with large and giant breeds are encouraged to feed special puppy diet for these breeds and aim for slower growth.

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Entropion and ectropion can occur in Rottweilers. These are eye conditions affecting the eyelids – whether they turn in or out improperly. These conditions can be detected by the time a dog is a year old. If necessary, they can be corrected by minor surgery.

Some Rottweilers can also be missing some back teeth. This is a problem if you are considering breeding your dog but it isn’t usually a problem in a pet.

If you are thinking of breeding your Rottweiler, the American Rottweiler Club http://www.amrottclub.org/, the AKC parent club for the breed, recommends the following health tests for a dog:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Eye Exam by a boarded ACVO Ophthalmologist
  • Congenital Cardiac Database

Cancer tends to be a serious problem in Rottweilers and is a common cause of early death. In addition, as with some other black and tan breeds, parvovirus can strike Rottweilers very hard. It’s important to make certain that puppies are thoroughly protected from a very young age and to maintain your dog’s parvo vaccination throughout his lifetime.

Rottweilers are also prone to gaining weight so owners need to watch out for dogs that become overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to a number of health issues such as diabetes mellitus, respiratory problems, cardiac problems, and it can worsen arthritis and joint mobility issues.

Rottweilers tend to have a shorter lifespan than many breeds, usually living between 8 and 10 years. The American Rottweiler Club is currently participating in a Longevity Program to track and study Rottweilers with longer lives in order to try to improve the breed’s longevity.

Remember that most dogs do not major have health problems. Breeders work diligently to test and screen their dogs so they produce healthy puppies. But no one can completely guarantee that every dog will be healthy throughout their lifetime. If you are interested in getting a puppy or dog, be sure to talk to the breeder about their dogs and their health guarantees.

Rottweiler Temperament

The media often portrays Rottweilers as vicious dogs and they are frequently named when someone tries to describe a dog attack. However, there is good reason to believe that the breed is often maligned. Over the years, many breeds have been singled out as “bad” dogs. In Victorian times, for example, Collies were thought to be vicious. It wasn’t until Queen Victoria became fond of the breed that their reputation changed. Today the Collie’s reputation is completely different – they are commonly thought to be gentle and intelligent, and are widely beloved thanks to Lassie. Other breeds have also had their ups and downs, such as German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, and Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers. Very often, if there is an incident with a dog bite in the news, witnesses and reporters will misidentify the dogs involved, name mixed breeds as a breed, and blame dogs that were not even present as the offender. So, you should always take stories about dog attacks with a grain of salt until they are proven.

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However, Rottweilers are protective, guardian dogs and if someone wanders where he shouldn’t on your property, it is possible that your dog might defend your home. These dogs can be territorial. If you have a Rottweiler, you should have a good fence to keep your dog safely at home. Rottweilers are friendly once you introduce them to people that you welcome to your home. They are very good-natured, obedient dogs. In fact, they can be quite laid back and relaxed at home. They are devoted to their families and they like to please. But they are alert and fearless, so it’s a good idea to socialize your Rottweiler from the time he is a small puppy. Obedience classes are a good idea, too. You want to be able to have him under control whenever you say the word.

At home Rottweilers can be clownish and they are happy to please you. They usually get along with other dogs and pets. They are very affectionate. It’s only strangers who have anything to worry about from them so make sure that your Rottie is well-trained and well-socialized – and make sure you have a good fence.

Rottweiler Grooming

Rottweilers are easy to groom. They have a medium-short, dense, hard coat that tends to shed dirt and moisture. You should brush the coat a couple of times per week and bathe as needed.

The tail of the Rottweiler in the United States is docked. This is done when the dog is a puppy (2-3 days old).

Otherwise, grooming a Rottweiler is similar to grooming other dogs. You will need to check and clean your dog’s ears, keep his nails trimmed, and maintain his teeth in good condition.

Rottweiler Fun Facts

  • Rottweilers are still used to work cattle and sheep today. Most people are surprised to discover that the dogs are herders.
  • Rottweilers are also used for Schutzhund. Schutzhund is a German dog sport that was originally developed to test for the ideal qualities of the German Shepherd. Today it tests for the skills necessary for police dog work, odor detection, search and rescue, and other tasks.
  • Rottweilers do tend to drool and they can produce gas to clear a room. They are large dogs with large lips that can slobber a lot. These are facts of life if you live with a Rottie.
  • There are negative stereotypes about Rottweilers and some insurance companies may give you a hard time about house insurance if you own a Rottweiler, or charge a higher rate. Some cities may have special laws or bans relating to Rottweilers.

Common Rottweiler Mixes

Rottweilers are moderately popular when it comes to crossing with other breeds. Here are some of the popular Rottie crosses:

  • Boxweiler – Rottweiler and Boxer Mix
  • English Mastweiler – Mastiff a Rottweiler Mix
  • Golden Rottie – Rottweiler and Golden Retriever Mix
  • Great Bullweiler – Bullmastiff and Great Dane and Rottweiler
  • Labrottie – Rottweiler and Labrador Retriever Mix
  • Mastweiler – Rottweiler and Bullmastiff Mix
  • Rottbull – Rottweiler and Bull Terrier Mix
  • Rotterman – Rottweiler and  Doberman Pinscher Mix
  • Rottle – Poodle and Rottweiler Mix
  • Rottmatian – Dalmatian and Rottweiler Mix
  • Rottpeake – Rottweiler and Chesapeake Bay Retriever Mix
  • Rottsky – Rottweiler and Siberian Husky Mix
  • Saint Weiler – Rottweiler and Saint Bernard Mix
  • Schnottie  – Rottweiler and Standard Schnauzer Mix
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Rottweiler FAQs

What is a Rottweiler’s Life Expectancy?

Rottweilers typically live 8 to 10 years. This is relatively short life expectancy, though they are a large breed. Cancer is one of the most common causes of death.

Are Rottweilers easy to train?

Rottweilers are very smart and they are considered easy to train, as long as they respect you and you are in charge. Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, ranks the breed in the top 10 of all dogs, at #9, in the brightest dogs category. These are dogs that learn new commands after less than five repetitions and obey on the first command 95 percent of the time or better. These are the top achievers at obedience.

Do Rottweilers shed a lot of hair?

Rotties shed seasonally, in the spring and fall. Female Rottweilers also shed after they have been in season. This is normal for many dogs. When they shed, they shed a lot but Rottweilers don’t shed much the rest of the time.

Do Rottweilers make good apartment pets?

You could keep a Rottweiler in an apartment if you were dedicated to making sure your dog got plenty of exercise each day, but, in general, Rottweilers do better if they have a yard of their own. They need plenty of exercise each day. They also need plenty of mental stimulation. If they get bored they can become destructive in the home. They also tend to slobber and pass gas which you may not like in the confined space of an apartment.

Are Rottweilers good with Children?

Rottweilers are very good with children. They are loving, affectionate, and protective. However, as with all days, you should always supervise when children and dogs play together. Accidents can happen, even with the gentlest dogs. Teach your children how to interact with dogs safely.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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