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The Rottweiler has been a working dog since the days of the ancient Romans, if not before; but it has only been acknowledged as an official purebred dog since the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. There is a lot of history in between.
|Here is the Rottweiler at a Glance|
|Average weight||80-135 pounds|
|Average height||22-27 inches at the shoulder|
|Life span||8-11 years|
|Coat type||Dense, medium length, rough|
|Color||Black coat, tan markings|
|Tolerance to heat||Poor|
|Tolerance to cold||High|
|Barking||Not a barker|
|Exercise needs||Needs regular, physical and mental|
|Friendliness||Reserved, shy, can be aggressive|
|Good first dog||No, for most people|
|Good family pet||No|
|Good with children||Not really|
|Good with other dogs||No|
|Good with other pets||No|
|Good with strangers||No|
|Good apartment dog||No|
|Handles alone time well||Okay|
|Health issues||Hip and elbow dysplasia, osteosarcoma, gastric torsion|
|Medical expenses||$260 annually|
|Food expenses||$235 annual average|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$75 annual average|
|Average annual expense||$570|
|Cost to purchase||$1,600|
|Biting Statistics||Human attacks: 535 Maimings: 296 Child victims: 297 Deaths: 85|
The Rottweiler’s Beginnings
They say an army marches on its stomach. The ancient Roman legions were no exception, and to make sure they always had enough to eat as they made their way out of Italy and into neighboring lands across the Alps, they brought their cattle along with them. To herd and protect the cattle, they used dogs, big, strong, fearless dogs.
Whenever they stayed in one place long enough, the Romans typically sat up a garrison, and many of those garrisons grew and developed into towns and cities. One of those towns, established in the middle of the first century AD in the province of Swabia on the edge of the Black Forest, was a place that eventually got the name Rottweil. Down the road, the town gave its name to a burly black dog we now know as the Rottweiler.
The Rottweiler is a drover dog, one of the oldest known of that variety. It was bred to herd livestock and keep them safe from other animals. The Rottweiler did that across large parts of Europe as it followed the legionnaires and their livestock. It got an early reputation for strength, intelligence and fearlessness. Because of its size and strength it also found use as a cart hauler, pulling loads of butchered meat to the troops.
New Lease on Life
In the nineteenth century the coming of the railroad almost spelled the end of the Rottweiler because people raising cattle no longer had to drive their livestock to market. Cattle moved by rail instead. The number of Rottweilers shrank drastically as a result. By 1882, efforts to include Rottweilers in a dog show in Heilbronn, Germany, only managed to turn up one dog, and not a very impressive one at that.
World War I brought the breed back to life. Big, strong and courageous, it began to see use as a guard and messenger dog. The Rottweiler turned out to be very intelligent and trainable, and as a result was an early and popular member of what we would now thing of as the K9 corps. That popularity has grown over the years. Rottweilers are trained as guard dogs by the military and police. They are widely used in search and rescue operations; and they have found a niche as seeing-eye dogs for the blind.
Rottweilers got official recognition in Germany in 1921, and finally got the official American Kennel Club kiss of approval in 1931. Since then there has been no stopping them. In 2013 the AKC listed them as the ninth most popular dog in the United States.
The Dog You See Today
The Rottweiler is a big dog. The male can weigh up to one hundred and thirty-five pounds. Its head is medium large, and broad across the forehead. The nose is large and broad as well. The lips are black. A Rottweiler’s chest is broad and deep, and its back is straight. The legs are straight and fairly wide apart, with heavy muscles. The tail is medium long. In the United States and New Zealand it is frequently cropped, but that serves no useful purpose, and most other countries do not allow it.
Rottweilers have heavy, rough black coats with tan markings. The coat is very dense, and as you would expect of a dog bred in northern climes, it handles cold weather perfectly well. Hot weather, not so much, and in fact if you live in a tropical area, this is probably not the dog for you.
The Inner Rottweiler
Rottweilers nave some sterling qualities. However they also have some things about them that do not make them ideal pets for most people. In fact, people who have more than a passing acquaintance with the dogs would probably find it difficult to put “Rottweiler” and “pet” together in the same sentence.
Rottweilers are brave, fearless, and loyal. A Rottweiler will bond closely with its owner, but probably not with other people, in or out of the family. They are good watchdogs, very alert and aware, and not automatically trusting of strangers. They are, in fact, picky about choosing friends, and their trust has to be earned. They are quiet, although they will bark if an unknown person approaches.
Rottweilers are not playful, and are in fact somewhat sober-sided. But they are very affectionate with those they are close to, and if you allow it, they will spend a lot of time with their heads, and as much of the rest of their bodies as possible, in your lap.
Living with a Rottweiler
Rottweilers also have a strong drive for dominance, and can be stubborn. Early socialization is vital, and the owner needs to establish early on, with firm but positive discipline, who is going to be the boss. Failure to do this can be more than unfortunate-it can be fatal; Rottweilers are in the top ten percent of dogs that have attacked others.
Remember that these dogs were bred to work and guard; they were never designed to be playmates.
Wherever you plan to live, early and intense socialization is mandatory with this dog. Rottweilers have strong instincts about turf issues. They are territorial by nature, and can be aggressive aboutenforcing what they see as theirboundaries.
Discipline, and your dominance in the relationship, need to be enforced on a regular, daily basis, mainly through training and spending time working with your dog. If you don’t have the time and/or energy for this, you should not have a Rottweiler.
How active is the Rottweiler?
First of all, if you are an apartment dweller, don’t even think about getting a Rottweiler. This is a dog that needs a fair amount of space. A decent sized back yard, with a fairly high fence, is needed here. Also, Rottweilers aren’t terribly friendly, and won’t do that well surrounded by people and other animals. On the other hand, they do need regular exercise, and you are the one who will have to provide it. They are also not good dogs to try to leave with a friend or at a kennel.
These dogs want and need to be fairly active. They thrive on physical and mental stimulation and enjoy being trained. They are smart and have good memories. They want to please the person they have bonded with, but again, not necessarily other people.
Caring for the Rottweiler
The Rottweiler is not a high maintenance dog. The coat is smooth, short and easy to brush using a firm bristled brush once a week. Even though it is a short haired dog it still shed quite a lot, above average so there will be loose hair to clean up. A couple of times a year there will be heavier shedding during seasonal times and brushing should then be done daily. Give it a bath just as it needs one, you can do it outside if it is warm enough to save a mess in the house. If you do not have a bathroom big enough and it is not warm enough outside take it to a groomer and use the dog baths there.
Brush the Rottweiler’s teeth at least twice a week to keep on top of bacteria and tartar. Have a vet or groomer clip its nails when they get too long, unless you are familiar with dog nail clipping in which case you can take care of that yourself. Ear infections can be a problem so check for signs like bad odor and redness. Wipe clean the ears once a week but do not insert anything into the ears.
The Rottweiler will need anywhere between 4 to 10 cups of high quality dry dog food a day depending on its size, age, metabolism and level of activity. High quality food is better as it contains more nutrients and less filler ingredients. The Rottie will slobber especially after eating and drinking so you may need to wipe it down. Make sure you feed it in at least two meals a day to avoid problems with bloat.
Interacting with children and other pets
Rottweilers are not great family dogs, and are not that good around children. As already noted, they tend to bond pretty much with one person, and will not get particularly close to other people in the family. That also goes for other pets. If you have children and decide to get a Rottweiler, early socialization is even more vital, and the children will need it also. The will have to learn to maintain a respectable emotional, and probably also physical, distance.
What Might Go Wrong
Rottweilers are generally healthy, durable dogs without a lot of predisposition to illnesses. There are some things to watch out for, however.
Although not as prone as some other breeds, Rottweilers do come down with hip dysplasia, where the hip joint becomes dislocated and has to be re-stabilized. If the problem becomes recurrent, surgery might be advisable.
A similar problem is elbow dysplasia, which can especially occur with a more active dog who spends time in rough country, bounding around. Once again, surgery is sometimes advisable.
Rottweilers can sometimes have gastric problems. A common one is gastric torsion, sometimes referred to as the bloat, where stomach contents get trapped in the abdomen.The dog may show symptoms of discomfort and lethargy and may have the dry heaves. Quick medical intervention is necessary.
A final problem is bone cancer, which is more prevalent in larger breeds like the Rottweiler. This is probably the most serious disorder Rottweilers are prone to. It comes on quickly, spreads fast and metastasizes to other organs, and in most cases is eventually fatal.
When examining dog attack reports over the last 34 years the Rottweiler can be linked to at least 535 attacks on people. 297 attacks were on children, 296 were maimings which means the victim was left with permanent scarring, disfigurement and loss of limb. There have been at least 85 deaths. Over the course of 34 years that means it averages at over 17 attacks on people a year putting this dog as one of the most likely dogs to attack in the top 10% of dog attacks. This data covers just attacks on people, not the many more attacks there are on other dogs and animals.
The Rottweiler is strong willed, overly territorial, protective and possessive. There are too many poor lines out there being bred where the dogs are not being screened for these traits. Owning a Rottweiler needs an experienced person with a lot of time for training and socialization. One who can handle the many attempts the dog will make it being dominant. Before buying check you are getting a dog from a good and stable line. Because of its reputation there are more legal issues to be aware of. Some places are banning the dog, some insurance companies are refusing to offer policies.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
Rottweilers are expensive. The average price for a pup with papers is in the neighborhood of $1,600. If you are open to an older dog, you might find one at an animal shelter, where the cost will be more in the neighborhood of $250. There are also a sizeable number of rescue organizations that specialize in Rottweilers; the cost there will vary from place to place.
Once you have your pup, it will need to be spayed (female) or neutered (male), which will typically cost around $225. Then there will be other initial medical costs for things like puppy shots and deworming for another $70 or so. If you decide to obtain veterinary insurance, which many peopledo these days, you are looking at another $200 or more, and that is per year. Out of your own pocket, a Rottweiler typically runs you about $260 a year in ongoing medical expenses.
Now you have your puppy home, with of course a leash and collar, and shiny new tags, all for around $50, and it’s time for dinner. Good quality dog food-and you wouldn’t get anything less than the best, right?-will run about $235 a year for a dog this size.
Overall, not including possible insurance, you will be spending in the neighborhood of $570 a year for your Rottweiler.
Looking for a Rottweiler Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!
Rottweilers have been around since the days of the Roman Empire. They moved across the Alps with the centurion, guarding and herding the soldier’s livestock as they spread into what is now Germany, France and the Netherlands. They were large, courageous, hard working, loyal and aggressive. They are still all of those things, and can be the ideal dog for some, but not for everyone. They have won a firm place as guard dogs, search and rescue dogs, and seeing-eye dogs. They bond closely with their owners, and actually love being trained and learning skills.
However, there are down sides to owning Rottweilers. They are big, active dogs and need space. Trying to live with one in an apartment would be a definite mistake. They are demanding, territorial, and can be aggressive. They are not the most friendly dogs in the world; they were bred to be herders and guards, not playful pets. They need firm discipline and control. They are not great around children and pets. Failure to socialize them early and intensely can lead to serious, even disastrous, problems.
More than a lot of dogs, owning a Rottweiler is a responsibility, and one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are thinking about getting one, a good thing to do would be to get to know and talk to other people who have had one. Get to know the dog and the owner, then decide if you and a Rottie would have a good fit.
Popular Rottweiler Mixes
Rottweiler, Saint Bernard Mix
|Height||22 to 28 inches|
|Weight||100 to 180 pounds|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
Calm and Protective
Alert and quiet
Good Family Pet
Rottweiler and Brussels Griffon Mix
|Size||Medium to Large|
|Height||Medium to large|
|Weight||45 to 80 pounds|
|Life span||10 to 14 years|
Labrador and Rottweiler Mix
|Weight||70 to 115 pounds|
|Height||24 to 27 inches|
|Life span||9 to 12 years|
Eager to Please
Rottweiler Pitbull Mix
|Weight||45 to 100 pounds|
|Height||18 to 26 inches|
|Life span||10 to 15 years|
Good Family Pet
Bull Mastiff, Rottweiler Mix
|Height||24 to 27 inches|
|Weight||80 to 130 pounds|
|Life span||10 to 12 years|
|Barking||Occasional to frequent|
Confident and Happy
Needs experienced owner
Good family dog
Featured Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Rottweiler’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Rottweiler
- Living with a Rottweiler
- Caring for the Rottweiler
- Interacting with children and other pets
- What Might Go Wrong
- Your Pup’s Price Tag
- Popular Rottweiler Mixes