November 09, 2009
The following information is offered as a guide to prospective Rottweiler buyers who may or may not be aware of the special qualities possessed by this breed, both positive and negative, so that they can make a more accurate estimate of their needs in relation to the demands of Rottweiler ownership. The Rottweiler is not a breed which fits into every home.
SIZE: Males range from 24" to 27" at the shoulder and 95 - 135 lbs. in weight. Females are somewhat smaller: 22" to 25" and 80 to 100 lbs. Animals can be found which are taller or shorter than the measurements given here; however, they would not be considered typical by the breed standard. The Rottweiler is very strong for its size. It has been used in Europe to pull carts and retains the compact musculature desirable in a draft animal. A full-grown adult can easily knock a person down, and for this reason the breed is not recommended for the elderly or physically infirm person. Obedience training is a must because of the animal’s size and strength; you must be able to maintain complete control of your animals at all times.
COLOR: Rottweilers are always black with markings ranging from tan or light brown to rust or mahogany; the darker shades being more desirable. Pigmentation of the eyes and mouth should be dark; light eyes and pink mouths are considered faults.
TEMPERAMENT: Rottweilers vary from natural clowns, who are affectionate to almost anyone, to the very reserved, one-person dog. Ideally, they should be calm but alert companions. These dogs often follow their masters from place to place in the home, keeping a constant and sometimes obtrusive watch over their loved one. Nervous, shy, very excitable or hyperactive animals are exhibiting traits which are undesirable in a dog the size and nature of the Rottweiler and should be avoided.
AGGRESSIVENESS: This trait varies with the individual to some degree, although all have a strong, territorial instinct and if socialized properly as a puppy, will defend their master’s home, car, and property from intruders. Rottweilers have also been known to bully or bluff their owners or other family members, a trait that is most disconcerting. This problem can be prevented through early obedience training.
PROTECTION INSTINCT: Many families have purchased a Rottweiler for this trait, only to discover later that it brings with it a considerable moral and legal responsibility. Problems can arise quickly; strangers must never come into your home or yard unannounced, the dog doesn’t know the difference between a burglar or your brother. Your Rottweiler must be carefully schooled to accept your friends into your home, but physical contact or rough-housing should be approached carefully until the dog realizes it’s all in fun. People expected to be in contact with the dog while owners are absent should be thoroughly familiar to the dog. Although they do not usually bite without provocation, even being cornered and held by one of the dogs is a very unnerving experience for meter men, gardeners, or neighbors coming into the yard while the owner is absent.
TRAINING: This breed has been developed for its working ability and often blooms when given a chance to work with its master, although there are occasional exceptions. It is very necessary to establish your control over the animal and obedience training is often the easiest and most rewarding way to do so. Your breeder should be able to provide you with guidance in the selection of a training class; however, avoid the very rough trainer. Rottweilers can often be controlled using verbal reprimands, and while they occasionally require strong physical corrections, some trainers tend to be much rougher on this breed than is necessary. Women have been very successful with the dogs in obedience and Schutzhund work. Physical mastery of the dog is often less important than sensitive and positive training methods, time, and patience.
DISCIPLINE: The Rottweiler is a sensitive, intelligent and loyal animal and usually wants to please its owner. Occasionally, it can be quite stubborn though, and requires more attention. It is imperative that discipline be consistent, fair, and firm, without being overly rough. Ownership is not for the timid or very busy person who cannot or is not inclined toward careful supervision of his or her pet.
SMALL CHILDREN IN THE HOME: The adaptability of the Rottweiler to small children varies with the individual animal. Many are very tolerant and loving towards toddlers; others resent the sometimes rough treatment an unknowing child can inflict. One serious problem is the size of the dog. Families have been forced to give up much beloved pets because the dog inadvertently caused injuries to small children in the family by bumping into them and knocking them down or into furniture. This bumping is a natural behavior in the Rottweiler, a legacy from the days when the breed used to herd cattle in Europe. They will bump and “herd” children, adults, and other pets and this can be a problem if your home contains small children or elderly family members. Some breeders recommend waiting until children are at least school age and preferably older, before introducing a Rottweiler into the home. The amount of space in your home, the age of your children, and the amount of time the dog will be in contact with the children should be part of your decision.
OTHER PETS IN THE HOME: Rottweiler puppies frequently adapt well to older dogs or cats in the home, however, older Rottweilers can be more difficult to integrate into a new home with existing pets. This can also be true of bringing in a new dog after your Rottweiler has been “ruler of the roost” for some period of time. Dog-to-dog aggression is influenced by socialization experiences in puppyhood, bloodlines, and sex; males tend to be less tolerant of other males than they are of females. Bitches may be intolerant too, of either sex. Rottweilers who are aggressive against other dogs must be watched carefully when around other dogs. It is an individual matter and can be controlled to a great extent with obedience training of the offender, a necessity if you anticipate having your dog around other dogs in public places.
DESTRUCTIVENESS: The Rottweiler’s level of destructiveness (digging, chewing, etc.) varies with the age, training, temperament, and activity level of the individual. Puppies and young adults less than three years old are the worse offenders. Early training, lots of attention, and obedience training with regular work-outs can help - but the dog left alone for long periods of time may do considerable damage to landscaping, furniture, trees and personal property. Many breeders recommend crate training the puppy and keeping the dog confined while the owner is away. Dogs and puppies should never be left alone with chew toys as pacifiers; they can tear off sizeable chunks and choke in a few minutes.
SPACE REQUIREMENTS: A large yard with a six foot fence is ideal but adult Rottweilers have been kept successfully in large apartments. The yard is essential if a puppy or young dog is being acquired; it will help to keep the dog exercised and reduce boredom, possibly helping to prevent some destructive behavior. If you don’t have the space, think about a smaller breed.
CLIMATE REQUIREMENTS: The Rottweiler can tolerate cool temperatures better than excessive heat. The dogs should never be left outside in direct sun during the summer; heat stroke comes on very quickly because of the black coat color. Your breeder should be able to advise you on precautions to take for local climate but the dogs must have shelter, regardless of the locale.
SHOW QUALITY: This term is often misunderstood and misused; it can mean something as simple as a puppy with no disqualifying faults at the time of sale. Breeders vary on the amount of experience they’ve had with grading litters, their ability to critically evaluate their own stock, and their understanding of what the term “show quality” means. The serious buyer looking for a potential winner or breeding stock had best spend some time going to dog shows and talking to exhibitors, as well as learning the standard for the breed. Serious or disqualifying faults to avoid include: cryptorchid or unilateral cryptorchid pups, those with undershot bites, missing teeth, long or curly coats, light eyes, hip dysplasia, and unstable temperaments. Overshot bites (upper jaw extends beyond the lower jaw) can correct as a pup matures, however, buying an overshot puppy must be approached with some caution and a written agreement with the breeder is advisable, in the event the jaw does not correct itself. All lines carry one or more of these traits and your breeder should be able to give you a candid description of what is in your dog’s genetic background. One further caution, the nicest puppy in the litter can turn into a very mediocre adult. Be prepared to critically evaluate your animal, because even if you paid a good price, you may still end up with a pet quality adult. Show quality prices range from $900 - $1500 (1991).
PET QUALITY: Many times breeders will offer animals with major faults (bad bites, large white spots on the chest or belly, several missing teeth, and so forth) for a much lower price: $400 - $600 (1991). These animals are not for breeding because these are genetic faults and the conscientious breeder will require that the animal be spayed, neutered or vasectomized before releasing the AKC registration papers, if the surgery hasn’t been done prior to the sale. These Rottweilers make good companions and often their faults are not detectable to any but the most experienced eyes. Temperaments run the natural gamut, but neutering or spaying does not effect the territoriality of protectiveness of the dogs and they make excellent family pets. They must never be bred.
SELECTION OF A BREEDER: A great deal of the success you will have with your dog depends upon what happened to your pet before it came to you; its socialization, genetic background, and early conditioning are the results of the breeder’s efforts. The Rottweiler has recently seen a surge in popularity and many of the breeders now advertising in popular dog magazines have had little experience with the breed, although they may be very sincere in regard for the breed. Carefully investigate breeders before you buy a puppy. Talk to several and ask them for names of people you can contact who have purchased a puppy from them in the last two or three years. If they offer written guarantees against hip dysplasia or any other contingency, ask for names of people to contact who have had to have a dog replaced or money refunded. Guarantees are poor substitutes for careful breeding practices and sometimes contain clauses which make them worthless. Conscientious breeders will be happy to answer your questions, they have nothing to fear.
Not all private breeders are conscientious , but commercial establishments like many kennels specializing in “attack” or “aggressive” Rottweilers, pet stores, and “puppy mills” seldom can give the individualized attention needed by puppies and new owners. If your area has a local Rottweiler club ( and there are several, in all regions of the U.S.), attend meetings or contact them for assistant in locating breeders nearby. A list of breeders is included with this pamphlet. Remember though, a referral is not necessarily an endorsement and it is your responsibility to investigate the breeders you are referred to and make up your own mind about their credentials.
HIP DYSPLASIA: This is a problem in this breed and most breeds of large dogs. It is a developmental disease in which there is a malformation of the hip joint(s), often causing the animal pain as it ages. Puppies should be bought only after careful investigation of the hip status of the parents, and if possible, the grandparents. Parents should be certified clear of dysplasia by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (O.F.A). (There is no such thing as O.F.A. cleared puppies, as dogs can not be certified until they have reached their second birthday.) The owner of the puppies should be able to produce the reports on the hip status of the parents on official stationary from O.F.A. for you. This is not a guarantee that your puppy won’t develop dysplasia later on; research has documented that normal adults can produce litters with one-third or more of the puppies dysplastic as adults. Genetics is only part of the cause of dysplasia and environmental factors like over-feeding of puppies is probably an important contributor to this disease. It is almost never detectable in animals younger than six months, and then only in the most severe cases. However, continued selection of O.F.A. certified dogs for breeding stock reduces the incidence and severity of Hip Dysplasia.
SELECTION OF YOUR PUPPY: Having thoroughly acquainted yourself with the standard for the breed, carefully evaluated several breeders, hopefully seen a number of puppies and adults, and satisfied that the breeding of the puppies you are looking at fits your needs - you are ready to select your puppy. Begin by observing the behavior of the dam (and sire, if available). Ideally, the dam will be calm and steady, possibly even curious or friendly towards you. If she is reserved, that is quite acceptable by Rottweiler standards, but the openly hostile female which does not respond to her owner’s reassurances, or a shrinking, cowardly, or shy bitch is undesirable. In Germany, the temperament of breeding stock is tested and those showing unstable qualities are excluded from breeding. Disqualifying traits include: shyness; nervousness; unwarranted viciousness; and emotional instability. The temperament of the sire is important too; it is best to observe both parents; if possible.
Puppies should be playful, inquisitive, and trusting of humans. They should submit to gentle handling and respond to their environment. Clarence Pfaffenberger’s book, New Knowledge of Dog Behavior, is suggested reading before you select your pup. Many pet stores carry this book in stock or will order it for you.
COST OF MAINTAINING AN ADULT: Depending on the size, sex, age, and activity level of your dog it will consume from 15 - 25 lbs. of kibble each week. Good quality kibble costs around $15.00/20 lbs. (1991). Many breeders advise additional meat vegetables and cottage cheese, particularly for puppies. Monthly food expenses would begin at $50.00 and easily run up to $75.00/ month with supplements. Veterinary care for routine immunizations, wormings, etc. vary by area of the country but average $200.00/year. Spaying for a bitch can cost from $70.00 to $200.00, depending upon the area and the vet (neutering for a male can cost from $55.00 to $185.00). The Rottweiler is an expensive breed to maintain, compared to most breeds.
A FINAL NOTE: This introduction is designed to give readers a candid appraisal of some of the traits which are fairly typical of this breed, so that they will be able to make a more knowledgeable decision regarding the suitability of this breed to their circumstances. The Rottweiler is a wonderful breed of dog, but ownership is much more complicated that many uninformed buyers have been led to believe. Please investigate our breed, but above all: