Hard shell, soft centre! The Rottweiler is a strong, fearless and confident dog, the ideal guard dog or police dog, and not afraid to show its teeth in warning when the situation calls for it! But this former butcher’s dog also has a soft side that makes it the perfect family dog – it is affectionate, loyal and loves a cuddle!
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The breeding standard of the World Canine Organisation recognises this breed as number 147, in Group 2 with Pinschers, Schnauzers, Molossoides, Swiss Mountain Dogs and Cattledogs. The Rottweiler is described as being a dog with a “friendly and joyous outlook”, which is loving, child-friendly and obedient. Despite this calm, good-natured temperament, the Rottweiler is often brought into disrepute and in many countries it is in fact a banned breed. In action and horror films, the Rottweiler is generally depicted as an aggressive beast that is always ready to bite, and even in the ‘real world’ it is always being linked to bite attacks. However, the blame for this lies with owners in the past, who would train their Rottweiler to be an aggressive biting machine, treating them recklessly and carelessly. A misinformed view of animals accompanied with lacking or inconsistent training led to many dogs exhibiting extremely aggressive behaviour.
This means that the essentially good nature of the Rottweiler can be hidden or brought out to its best, depending entirely on the behaviour of the owner, as is the case with most dog breeds. In responsible, experienced hands offering consistent, reliable training, the Rottweiler can develop into a well-balanced, keen to work and devoted dog that is no more dangerous than any other dog of its size. A well-socialised, well-trained Rottweiler is even suitable as a family dog, above all being a loyal and reliable companion. Even if it only follows commands given by its “leader”, it will still be faithful and loving to other family members. Children are approached openly and gently. Living with other animals is also unlikely to cause any real problems once it has become used to the situation. Although its strong, muscular body may not suggest it, the Rottweiler is a peaceful and relaxed housemate that loves to put its feet up. On the other hand, this sporty, energetic dog can really turn up the tempo when it wants to! This breed loves to play and race around outdoors, enjoying creative sports programmes that really give it the opportunity to burn off energy.
Rottweilers also benefit mentally from diverse, sporty activities. If they are kept physically and mentally busy, then they naturally become more relaxed and easy-going. This means that Rottweilers are rarely nervous or aggressive. Strangers are met with suspicion, but a well-behaved dog will merely remain distant and reserved. A strong protective instinct, courageous character and, not least, great physical strength mean that this breed is easily able to defend its people and protect its possessions if the situation calls for it, but these traits are only called upon if the owner asks for them. Above all, it is this dog’s strong nerves and willingness to work that help it complete any task thrown at it, making it the ideal service dog, working dog or canine companion.
The Rottweiler has the ideal characteristics for working as a service dog in the police or the military, with a muscle-laden body and wide, powerful jaws with 42 teeth to inspire ultimate respect. This stocky, heavy figure is bursting with strength and energy. Despite its slightly squat physique with a straight, firm back and wide, deep chest, the Rottweiler does not appear clumsy or ungainly. On the contrary, its trotting gait and powerful ankles reveal agility and stamina.
Male dogs weigh around 50kg, with a wither height of 61-88cm, while females are slightly smaller and lighter, at 56-63cm and 42kg. The dense, short coat consists of both top and bottom coat, in a glossy black colour with rich red-brown markings. These rust-coloured markings are on the back, muzzle, underside of the neck and on the legs, as well as around the eyes and at the root of the tail. The triangular hanging ears are set high on the medium-length skull. Its well-developed nose is broad and round, making it ideal as a tracking dog. The fixed lips are also a dark black colour.
As early as the Romans, the great strength, agility and stamina of these dogs was wholly appreciated, with Roman shepherds using the ancestors of the modern-day Rottweiler as drifting and herding dogs. The Rottweiler, therefore, belongs to one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.
Roman legionaries would send their herds of cattle to various livestock markets throughout the Roman Empire with the help of these persistent and intrepid dogs. The ancestors of the Rottweiler would even have entered into the former imperial town of “Rottweil”, which was an important centre for livestock trade in the 19th Century and which eventually gave its name to the breed. Cattle and sheep were taken from Rottweil to Breisgau, Alsace and the Neckar Valley. The livestock trade relied on the local butchers, who quickly recognised the usefulness of this breed and began to breed it as a helpful working dog. They were bred specifically for their endurance, herding ability and intelligence for many centuries and were known as “butcher dogs”. Thanks to their unwavering vigilance, unconditional protection instinct and high work ethic, these dogs were indispensable to the local butchers. They not only herded cattle, but also served as protection for their master and his property, keeping robbers and thieves at bay. In mediaeval markets where cattle traders and butchers went to sell their goods, the powerful, alert Rottweiler would wear a leather wallet around their collar, containing any money they had taken in order to ward off even the cleverest of pickpockets.
In the late Middle Ages, the popular Rottweiler breed spread from the livestock trading centre of Rottweil in Baden-Wurttemberg to other areas and regions. However, shortly after this movement the breed lost its original use as a driver of large herds of cattle. The advent of the railway and other vehicles had made it easier, quicker and more efficient to transport livestock, meaning that herding dogs were no longer needed. Unlike other herding dogs, however, the Rottweiler did not stop being a popular breed.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the police began testing various dog breeds to decide which had the most practical value. The Rottweiler was chosen as a useful breed and was officially recognised as a service dog as early on as 1910. To this day, the Rottweiler is used by the police service and border guards.
Breeding and training
Rottweiler breeding still holds characteristics useful for a service dog in extremely high regard. Vigilance, courage and strength are seen as key features, with responsible breeders also focussing on psychological resilience and strong nerves. Above everything, the self-assurance and balance of a Rottweiler is what makes it ideal as a loyal, reliable working partner. Likewise, obedience and the will to “belong” to a leader make them perfect for employment.
These strong nerves, balanced temperament and obedience also make the Rottweiler great as a family dog. In order to ensure these characteristics emerge, it is important that the dogs are properly and seriously bred, but also that this good breeding is followed up with solid, consistent training. It is important that this training and also socialisation with other dogs and people begins when the Rottweiler is just a puppy. Every young Rottweiler puppy is willing to join a pack and learn from those around it. However, this spirited and strong-willed dog needs to be shown its limits at an early stage. It is particularly important in the first nine months that it learns to restrain its strength and follow instructions from its human owner. Similarly, the Rottweiler should be integrated into its human family as early as possible. This breed is inherently distrustful, meaning it needs to be introduced cautiously, patiently and regularly to strange people and new situations.
As the Rottweiler has a naturally strong protective instinct, it is only through proper and consistent training that it will become a gentle, friendly companion or family dog. If you correctly socialise and educate your Rottweiler from a young age, you can expect a loyal and affectionate partner that will stand firmly by your side through thick and thin, a real asset for all dog lovers.
It goes without saying that this breed is not for everyone. The Rottweiler requires an experienced dog handler who exudes calmness and level-headedness, as well as having a breadth of training knowledge and expertise. The self-assured Rottweiler will not submit to uncertain or nervous personalities. In addition, anyone looking to get a Rottweiler should have sufficient strength and stability to handle this powerful dog when it is on a lead. The male dogs in particular can harness enormous strength in their bodies, which can weigh over 50kgs. For this reason, bitches are more suitable as family pets. You should ensure you get plenty of tips and advice from breeders and Rottweiler societies about correct raising and training before committing to this breed as a pet.
Irresponsible breeding, incorrect or a lack of training and a non-professional attitude can result in the Rottweiler displaying dangerous behavioural patterns, including the frequently mentioned bite attacks. Since 2001, the Rottweiler has in fact been listed as a banned breed in many German states, meaning that owning one of these dogs is subject to certain restrictions. For example, a physical test must be undertaken and passed. In certain Austrian states, you require a “dog driving licence”, so to speak, and a “certificate of competence” for handling is also required before you can own a Rottweiler. In twelve out of thirteen “canton” regions in Switzerland, ownership is subject to approval. You should be well informed about all rules and regulations in your country and area before looking to purchase a Rottweiler.
Health and care
Where attitude and training are concerned, this particular breed is not without its problems and can be described, at the very least, as challenging. However, the physical care of a Rottweiler is in contrast fairly simple. The short coat needs infrequent brushing and a regular massage with rubber gloves should be carried out only when it is changing to its winter coat.
The Rottweiler is also fairly resistant to disease, thanks to being robust and muscular. However, as with many dogs of this size and weight, the Rottweiler can be at risk of hip and elbow joint dysplasia (HD/ED). The German Rottweiler Club, therefore, provides X-rays of skeletal framework as standard, as well as breeding tests to reveal genetic disposition to such joint diseases. In recent years, heart disease and cardiac arrest have also been diagnosed in Rottweilers.
In general, the risk of disease can be minimised by a suitable, nutritious diet and a balanced sports programme, as it can be in humans. Rottweilers kept as family pets rather than working dogs are in particular need of physical and mental stimulation. Obedience, scent work and agility can all make excellent choices for activities for your Rottweiler. Rottweilers also enjoying jogging along with their owners, not necessarily for the distance they are running but rather for the fulfilment of a satisfying task. Taking part in combined sports like this can also help improve your owner-dog relationship.
People with the time and passion to dedicate themselves to this challenging breed, offering consistent, clear upbringing, a close family connection and a comprehensive mental and physical role will be rewarded with a loyal companion for life, not only as a guardian but, above all, as a reliable, affectionate and gentle friend. A stunning dog, not only because of its sheer strength.
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