- Average Height: 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder
- Average Weight: 75 to 110 pounds
- Dog Breed Group: Working
- Average Lifespan: 8 - 12 years
Key Personality Traits:
Tolerates being aloneHard WorkingProtective
Massive and muscled, the Rottweiler can be a gentle giant or a scary beast, depending on his personality and his owner. In general, he takes awhile to warm to strangers but is a loyal and loving family member. With the work ethic of a world leader, the Rottweiler needs a job to be truly happy.
The Rottweiler is one of the more recognizable breeds with his large head, solidly muscled body, and distinctively handsome black-and-tan markings. He is intelligent, strong, and loyal. His fans seem to fall into two camps: Those who consider their dogs to be large but gentle love bugs, and those who wish their dogs to be anything but. News stories of killer Rotties in the hands of inexperienced or less-than-savory owners have turned many people off the bad-to-the-bone dogs, but reputable breeders are picking up the pieces and restoring the reputation of the breed. A word to the wise: Don’t underestimate this dog’s power and protectiveness.
The Rottweiler is a big dog and can weigh up to a hefty 135 pounds, most of it muscle. Bred for generations to use his protective instincts and independent judgment when his family or territory is threatened, this is one tough customer. It’s no surprise that these dogs are used in police work. They’re often the target of laws aimed at controlling or banning dangerous dogs, and some insurance companies won’t sell homeowners’ policies to anyone who owns a Rottweiler.
Even so, it is entirely possible to find a gentle, family-friendly Rottweiler. Rotties from many different backgrounds can be quiet, calm, and easy-going. But all Rottweilers need structured, consistent training from an early age as well as focused socialization around children, strangers, and other pets if they are to be well-adjusted members of the family. Be fair and firm but never mean with the Rottweiler and he will repay you with love and respect.
Even the gentlest, best-behaved Rottweiler can put children, the elderly, smaller adults, and anyone who is unsteady on his feet at risk. A vestige of the dog’s heritage as a cattle herder is bumping — and the nicest Rottie’s idea of a playful nudge might have a much greater impact.
Rotties put on weight easily and need at least a couple of 10- to 20-minute walks daily, plus mental stimulation in the form of training and puzzle toys to keep their bodies and minds in shape. Even 5 minutes of practicing obedience skills in the backyard will give the Rottie a feeling of accomplishment. Rotties thrive when they have work to do, whether it’s obedience competition, competitive protection work, agility, carting, therapy dog work, or herding.
It’s no surprise that over the years the Rottweiler has excelled as a police dog, herding dog, service dog, therapy dog, and obedience competitor. In fact, the Rottweiler can do nearly anything asked of him, and if you don’t ask, he’ll probably find something to do on his own — which may involve eating your sofa or digging a hole for that swimming pool you always wanted in the backyard. But in the right home, with early socialization and training, the Rottweiler can be a wonderful companion, guardian, and all-around dog. He should live indoors as a family dog.
Other Quick Facts
- The Rottie is not innately a guard dog. He is a thinking dog whose first reaction is to step and back and look at a situation before taking action.
- Rottweilers are prone to health problems such as hip dysplasia and eye issues.
- Rottweilers are surprisingly sensitive and may experience separation anxiety.
The History of Rottweilers
The Rottweiler descends from dogs used by the Romans to drive the herds that fed the army as it marched through Europe. Along the way, the Roman dogs bred with local dogs, and in the town of Rottweil, the result was strong dogs used by butchers to drive cattle to market. On the way home, the dogs served as protection, guarding the butcher’s proceeds from robbers. The dogs also pulled carts, delivering meat and milk to customers. With the advent of motorized vehicles, the need for the Rottweiler decreased and the breed nearly disappeared. Fortunately, German dog lovers saved it, and people in other countries began to appreciate the breed for his work ethic and protective nature.
Today, the Rottweiler ranks 8th among the breeds registered by the American Kennel Club. That’s down quite a bit from the 1990s, when he was ranked No. 2 for two years in a row, but that’s just fine with Rottweiler people. They are satisfied to keep the breed as their own special secret.
Rottweiler Temperament and Personality
Rottweilers are individuals, and their personalities range from serious and reserved to silly and fun loving. Some are one-person dogs, while others are affectionate even toward non-family members. Out of the same litter, one Rottie may have a high amount of drive, leading him to dismantle your living room for lack of anything better to do, while his mellow brother is happy to sit on the sofa with you eating popcorn. Whatever his personality, a proper Rottweiler is more likely to be calm and alert instead of nervous, shy, excitable, or hyperactive.
The Rottweiler is aloof, not in your face, but he will follow you around to ensure your safety. He doesn’t mind being by himself, which under certain circumstances can make him a good choice for people who work during the day. When he is with his family, he is inclined to be loving and sometimes even clownish.
It may surprise you to learn that the Rottie is not innately a guard dog. He is a thinking dog whose first reaction is to step and back and look at a situation before taking action. It takes a high level of training for a Rottweiler to learn to step forward in situations.
It’s important to learn to read the Rottweiler’s behavior. For instance, he is not typically a barker. If a Rottweiler is barking, you should pay attention and go see what has caught his interest.
Do not assume that just because your Rottweiler loves your children that he will love other children as well. That is not usually the case. Play between children and Rotties should always be supervised, especially when neighbor kids are around. If the Rottweiler thinks “his” children are being hurt, even if they’re not, he will step in to protect them.
Rottweilers are territorial and will not permit strangers onto their property or in their home unless their owner welcomes the person. Some Rottweilers will not even let people they know into the house if the owner isn’t there, which can be a problem if you need to have a pet sitter or some other person come in while you are gone.
Start training your Rottweiler puppy the day you bring him home. That little black-and-tan ball of fluff is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Do not wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a much bigger, more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines have been completed.
Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, counter-surfing, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained, or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Rottweiler, the “teen” years can start at 6 months and continue until the dog is about 3 years old.
What You Need to Know About Rottweiler Health
The Rottweiler is prone to a host of health problems. Here’s a brief rundown on a few conditions you should know about.
Rottweilers are one of the breeds most affected by hip dysplasia, a genetic deformity in which the head of the femur doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. This condition can range from mild to severe. Severe cases are extremely painful and often require surgery to correct. Even with the surgery, the dog is likely to develop arthritis as he ages. Elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis of the knee and shoulder also occur in this breed.
Rottweilers can develop progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, eyelid deformities, and other vision and eye problems.
Rottweilers can develop heart problems, including cardiomyopathy and subaortic stenosis (SAS), a narrowing of the aorta that carries blood away from the heart. This usually shows up first as a slight heart murmur, but murmurs can often occur in puppies who have no heart problems as adults. SAS can lead to sudden death, even at a young age, so have your dog’s heart checked regularly.
Rottweilers are prone to other conditions including von Willebrand’s disease (an inherited disease that affects blood clotting ability), hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease (a disease of the adrenal gland), gastroenteritis, folliculitis, and a fairly high rate of cancer.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible.
Before individual Rottweilers can be included in the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database, the American Rottweiler Club requires them to have a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, hip and elbow evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and an OFA cardiac (heart) exam. You can search the OFA and CHIC websites yourself to see if a pup’s parents are listed.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease, but not all genetic diseases can be prevented or detected early. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the health of the puppy’s parents.
Not every Rottweiler visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Rotties can develop hot spots on their skin. Bored Rotties can lick themselves to the point of sores called lick granulomas on their front legs. Blown cruciate ligaments are also not uncommon.
Rottweilers are sensitive to high temperatures. Never leave one outdoors on a hot day without access to shade and an unlimited supply of fresh water.
Rottweilers are more likely than many breeds to bloat, a condition in which the stomach distends with gas and can twist on itself (called gastric torsion), cutting off blood flow. Bloat and torsion strikes very suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums, lip licking, trying unsuccessfully to vomit, and signs of pain. Bloat requires immediate veterinary treatment and may require surgery. A procedure known as gastropexy, which anchors the stomach to the body wall to help keep it from twisting in the future, can be performed to prevent bloat from happening again.
The ideal Rottweiler weighs 75 to 110 pounds, but some people breed them to weigh much more, up to 135 pounds. But bigger is not always better. Excess weight puts more pressure on joints and can contribute to the development of hip dysplasia and arthritis. Keeping a Rottweiler at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to protect his health.
The Basics of Rottweiler Grooming
The Rottweiler has what’s called a double coat. The medium-length outer coat is straight, coarse and dense, lying flat on the body. The soft, downy undercoat is present on the neck and thighs, and its thickness depends on whether you live in a cool or warm climate. A Rottie’s coat is shortest on the head, ears, and legs, longest on breeching (the hair on the hind thighs).
The Rottweiler’s coat sheds moderately — in other words, more than you might think — but requires little grooming. Brush him weekly with a rubber hound mitt or soft bristle brush to keep the hair and skin healthy. In spring and fall, he will have a heavy shed, known as “blowing out” the coat and will need to be brushed more frequently to get rid of all the loose hair.
Bathe the Rottie as you desire or only when he gets dirty. With the gentle dog shampoos available now, you can bathe a Rottie weekly if you want without harming his coat.
Clean the ears as needed with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear; they can push gunk further down into it. Wipe out the ear with a cotton ball, never going deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.
Trim the nails regularly, usually every couple of weeks. They should never be so long that they click on the floor. And don’t forget to brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste.
Choosing a Rottweiler Breeder
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.
Good breeders will welcome questions and should also inquire about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the breed’s history and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems.
Find a breeder who is a member in good standing of the American Rottweiler Club and who has agreed to abide by its list of mandatory practices, which include screening all dogs being bred for genetic diseases, selling only with a written contract, and guaranteeing a home for any dog the breeder sold if the owner becomes unable to keep him.
Ask to see the results of genetic screening tests for a pup’s parents. Look for a breeder who will do even more than the required minimum testing. Certification by the American Temperament Test Society (ATT), OFA clearance of the parents’ thyroids, and certification that the parents are free of inherited bleeding disorders like von Willebrand’s disease are all signs of a truly dedicated breeder.
Choose a breeder who is not only willing but insists on being a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog. The ARC has additional guidelines on how to interview and select a Rottweiler breeder.
The cost of a Rottweiler puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he comes from a line of show dogs. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Rottweiler might better suit your needs and lifestyle. An adult Rottie may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
Adopting a Dog From a Rottweiler Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here are some tips.
Browse adoption and rescue websites. There are loads of resources out there to help you adopt a Rottweiler dog. Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can point you to Rotties both locally and nationally. AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review for Rottweiler dogs.
Get social. Your social media accounts are an easy way to get the word out that you’re looking for a Rottweiler. Use Facebook and Instagram to your advantage and ask friends and family to share so you reach more accounts and people.
Consult area pet experts. Start talking with all the pet experts near you about wanting a Rottweiler. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. Often, people will reach out to their own trusted network if they need to make the difficult decision to give up a dog.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, one of the first things you should do after bringing your Rottweiler home is to take them to a veterinarian. Your vet will work with you to set up the right nutrition, vaccines, and preventative measures to ensure your dog gets a healthy start.
Do Rottweilers shed?
Yes, Rottweilers do have a double coat and they moderately shed. They shed more heavily in the fall and the spring and should be brushed more regularly during those heavy shedding seasons.
How long do Rottweilers live?
Rottweilers typically have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years. Proper preventative care and regular veterinary visits can help to extend your dog’s life.
How big do Rottweilers get?
On average, Rottweilers weigh 75 to 110 pounds, with some weighing up to 135 pounds. They typically stand 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder.
Are Rottweilers good with kids?
Yes, Rottweilers are generally good with children. They are gentle and patient dogs and tend to make good family companions. However, be aware that Rottweilers are large dogs and may accidentally bump into small children. All interactions between Rottweilers and small kids should be supervised.
Are Rottweilers aggressive?
Rottweilers that are properly trained using positive reinforcement methods from a young age will not grow up to be aggressive. Rottweilers are protective and loyal to their family members, but when they are properly socialized and trained, these dogs are good family pets.