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The Rottweiler (a.k.a. the “Rottie”) is a loyal, brave and intelligent dog breed that is known for its unwavering devotion to its owners, whom it will defend at all costs. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes 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 renowned for their large, muscular build and their 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. As a big, energetic dog, the Rottie needs at least one walk per day; the breed is suited to active individuals and families who have enough time to give their dog an adequate amount of exercise.
Rottweilers are fiercely loyal companions. Despite some negative publicity in the media, they are not generally dangerous dogs. As with most breeds, the Rottweiler has potential for aggression if its owner fails to train and socialise it from a young age or assert his or her position as the “pack leader”. In general, however, it is a docile and laid-back breed who makes a great playmate for other pets and children.
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 is around 8-10 years, but some have been known to live up to 16 years.
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In general, Rottweilers are good-natured, calm, loyal and obedient dogs who are eager to work. Known for their work ethic, they 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. They are also very alert, which is unsurprising given their popular use as guard dogs.
Rottweilers are inclined toward dominance and often test their position in the family. Firm, consistent training and clear boundaries and rules are required in order for the owner to achieve “pack leader” status; the dog needs to know that it is beneath its humans in the pecking order.
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 may 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 from a young age, aggression should not be an issue.
Aggression in the breed 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 thought that the Rottweiler dates back to the Roman Empire as a descendant of ancient Roman drover dogs. During their conquests, Roman soldiers would take herds of cattle with them in order to have a source of fresh food. Rottweilers were brought along to herd the cattle and keep watch during the night.
Around the 1st century, the Romans and their Rottweilers made their way to Germany. The Romans were driven out but their dogs remained. There they were named after the town Rottweil, in which the dogs drove cattle to the market and protected them from thieves and other animals.
During the Middle Ages, it is said that butchers made use of Rottweilers at the markets. They tied money pouches around their dogs’ necks, effectively keeping robbers at bay.
Once railroads were introduced, the need for Rottweilers declined and the number diminished severely.However, the years leading up to World War I saw a resurgence of the breed in which they were used as police dogs, guard dogs, messengers and ambulance dogs.
The Rottweiler was officially recognised by the AKC in 1931, and in 2020 it was ranked as the 8th most popular breed in the USA.