The Rottweiler (a.k.a. “Rottie”) is a loyal, courageous and smart dog breed who is known for its unwavering devotion to its owners, whom they will defend at all costs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) refers to the Rottweiler as “a calm, confident, and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships.”
Rottweilers are famous for their large, muscular build, unique coat colours. Originally bred as herding dogs, today’s Rottweiler is often used as a guide dog, guard dog, police dog, and search & rescue dog.
Of course, they aren’t just made for work – Rottweilers are fiercely loyal companions. Despite some portrayals in the media, they are not generally dangerous dogs. As with all breeds, the Rottweiler has potential for aggression if its owner fails to train and socialise it at a young age or assert his or her position as the “pack leader”, but in general, the Rottweiler is a docile and laid-back breed who makes a great playmate for other pets and children.
As they are big, active dogs, the Rottweiler needs at least one walk per day. Therefore, they are suited to individuals and families who are equally as active and who have enough time to give their dog an adequate amount of exercise.
Healthy male Rottweilers weigh between 50 and 60 kg and stand at 61 – 69 cm tall. Females weigh in at about 35 – 48 kg and stand at about 56 – 63 cm tall.
The average lifespan of the Rottweiler in the USA, UK and Denmark is 8-10 years, but some have been known to live up to 16 years old.
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In general, the Rottweiler is a good-natured, calm, loyal and obedient dog who is eager to work. They are very alert dogs, which is unsurprising given their use as guard dogs.
Rottweilers are inclined toward dominance and often test their position in the family. Training is therefore required in order for the owner to achieve “pack leader” status. When humans live with dogs, we become their pack and every member of the pack must be sure to clearly outline boundaries and rules. The dog must always be beneath humans in the pack order.
Known for their work ethic, Rottweilers are natural gatherers with a strong desire to control. When herding livestock, they take advantage of their ability to intimidate, and often seek out the dominant animal in the herd and challenge it.
Though clownish and playful around family and friends, Rottweilers are protective of their “pack” and territory, and are very wary of strangers until introduced. While they are fiercely devoted to their owners, they have a tendency towards aggression when meeting strangers. However, as with all dog breeds, if the Rottweiler is trained and socialised with other people and animals at a young age, aggression should not be an issue. Aggression usually grows out of abuse, neglect, and irresponsible ownership.
According to the CDC, Rottweilers and pit bulls were responsible for 67% of fatal dog attacks in the USA, concluding that these attacks were “breed-specific”.
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It is likely that the Rottweiler dates back to the Roman Empire as a descendant of ancient Roman drover dogs. During their conquests, Roman soldiers would take with them herds of cattle in order to have a source of fresh food. Rottweilers were brought along to herd the cattle and keep watch overnight.
Around the 1st century, the Romans and their Rottweilers made their way to Germany. The Romans were driven out but their dogs remained. They were named after the town Rottweil, in which the dogs drove cattle to the market and protected them from other animals and thieves.
During the Middle Ages, it is said that butchers used Rottweilers at markets and tied money pouches around their necks to keep robbers away.
Once railroads were introduced, however, the need for Rottweilers declined and the number diminished severely. The years leading up to World War I saw a resurgence of the breed to be used as police dogs, guard dogs, messengers and ambulance dogs.
The Rottweiler was officially recognised by the AKC in 1931, and as of 2013 it was ranked as the 9th most popular purebreed in the USA.