Rottweiler (Rottie): Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Rottweiler

 

horsesdogscats / Getty Images

The Rottweiler, or Rottie, is a large, muscular and rugged dog with a hard-working and confident demeanor. Descended from the mastiffs of the Roman legions, the Rottie can be a gentle playmate, despite its reputation for being dangerous. The breed is a bit aloof but also very intelligent, protective, and loyal to its family. The Rottie can be an excellent working dog, watch dog, or guard dog, too. 

Breed Overview

Group: Working

Height: 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 80 to 130 pounds

Coat and Color: Short double coat in black with tan, rust, or mahogany

Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Characteristics of the Rottweiler

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Medium
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History of the Rottweiler

Though the exact origins of the Rottweiler are not known, it is believed that the breed derived from the Mastiff and that its ancestors can be traced back to ancient Rome. They were drover dogs who herded livestock for the army. Later development of the breed occurred in the German town of Rottweil, where it worked as a cattle dog and sometimes a police dog before its popularity diminished. At one time, the breed was referred to as the Rottweiler Metzgerhund or Butcher's Dog of Rottweil.

In the early 20th century, the breed was once again used as a police dog and began gaining popularity in the U.S. The hard-working nature of the Rottweiler has made its popularity grow over the years and it is now the eighth most popular breed, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1931.

Rottweilers and Breed Specific Legislation

Unfortunately, the Rottie has a reputation as a dangerous breed and may be subject to breed-specific legislation. However, this is an unfair generalization: Any dog can be aggressive, regardless of breed. The key is training and socialization.

No matter the breed, if you adopt a dog, discuss temperament testing (rescue groups and shelters usually do this before putting pets up for adoption). If you are buying from a breeder, ask about the line's temperament history and meet the puppy's mother (and father if possible). Behavior traits can be inherited, but good breeders breed for good temperament. Sadly, some irresponsible breeders will purposely breed dogs for aggression.

You must check the laws of your jurisdiction if you want to adopt a Rottweiler. You will also need to check local laws when you travel with your pet. Your home or renters insurance carrier may require extra liability coverage if you own a Rottweiler.

Rottweiler Care

The Rottie has a short, somewhat coarse, but shiny hair coat. This breed has a moderate shedding rate and requires little more than basic grooming care. Use a curry brush or similar tool to brush your Rottie periodically and keep the coat healthy. Expect heavier shedding in the spring and fall.

Some Rotties will naturally wear down their nails, but it is important that you inspect them regularly and trim the nails as needed. This will keep your dog's feet healthy and comfortable.

Good oral hygiene will benefit your pet. Brush your dog's teeth daily or at least two to three times per week.

The Rottweiler has a drive to work, high endurance, a commanding presence, and potential for territorial behavior. Ideally, a Rottie should get vigorous exercise on a daily basis. They are not ideal for apartment living as they do best with a yard to play in. Since they may be aggressive towards new dogs, your Rottweiler may not be welcome at the dog park. Many Rotties will benefit from some type of "job," such as guarding the home, obedience competition, or tracking.

Few Rotties have an aggressive nature, despite what some people think. They are usually very calm, loyal, and loving companions to those they trust. However, they may be suspicious of strangers due to their protective nature. It is essential that all Rotties be put on a strict training program to best utilize their intelligence and energy, keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. In addition, proper socialization is imperative and will help your Rottie feel comfortable in many situations.

The Rottweiler is intensely loyal and protective of trusted family members. This breed also has a playful and affectionate side that it reveals when at ease. Rotties can be excellent companions for all kinds of families, including those with children (provided you train your dog to behave around kids and also teach your kids how to safely interact with dogs). However, they do have a tendency to herd children, giving them a nudge, which might knock over a small child. A Rottweiler may also be overly defensive of the kids in its family and intervene when they are rough-housing with other kids. The dog's prey drive may kick in and lead it to chase running children.

Rottweilers may not be a good choice for multi-pet households. Their prey drive may make them aggressive with cats and other small pets and they also may be intolerant of dogs of the same sex in their households.

Rottweilers playing outside
Callipso​ / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Responsible dog breeders work hard to maintain the highest breed standards as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health problems. However, there are some hereditary health issues that may occur in the breed. The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury: A rupture of the ligament that attached the femur to the tibia, the two main bones of the knee joint.
  • Hip dysplasia: A condition in which the hip sockets form abnormally.
  • Osteochondrosis (OCD): The abnormal development of the cartilage on the end of a bone.
  • Entropion: A genetic condition in which the eyelid inverts or folds inward.
rottweilers as pets illustration
Illustration: The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

Feed a Rottweiler two meals of two to five cups of dry food per day. The amount depends on the dog's size, activity level, age, and other factors. Free-feeding isn't recommended because Rottweilers are not good at self-moderation and will tend to put on weight if allowed to eat whenever they want. Obesity will shorten your dog's lifespan, so discuss this with your veterinarian to get a recommended feeding schedule, amount, type of food, and exercise plan.

Pros

  • Intelligent

  • Loyal and protective

  • Courageous and athletic

Cons

  • Tendency to herd children may interfere with family harmony

  • Commanding presence that may intimidate people or other animals

  • Strong prey drive may make them incompatible with other pets in the house

Where to Adopt or Buy a Rottweiler

The American Rottweiler Club is a great place to start your search for a Rottie. The club's breeder referral coordinator can connect you with a member breeder.

The Rottweiler Rescue Foundation supports rescue groups throughout the U.S. and lists their contact information so you can research adoptable dogs by region. Remember to check the laws of your jurisdiction if you want to adopt a Rottweiler.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you think you are ready to have a Rottweiler, it's important to do more research first. Get opinions from veterinarians and pet professionals, and ask Rottie owners, responsible breeders, and rescue groups for more information.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, look into these to compare the pros and cons:

Explore the range of dog breeds out there. With a little research, you can find the right one to bring home.