Everything You Need To Know - ROTTWEILER TEMPERAMENT
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The Rottweiler’s Ancient History
Rotties are one of Germany’s oldest dog breeds whose history can be traced back all the way to the Roman Empire. Back then, the Rottweiler’s ancestors were used to herd and guard cattle for the Roman army. After the Romans had crossed the Alps and conquered parts of modern Germany, these strong herding dogs were crossed with local breeds – and their offspring became the base breeding stock for today’s Rottweilers. Over the centuries, the “Butchers’ Dog of Rottweil” distinguished itself as extremely capable in driving cattle and in protecting both livestock and its owners from thieves.
During the second World War, Rottweilers were trained and utilised as War Dogs to fight alongside German soldiers. According to veterans of World War II, many more lives would have been lost, had it not been for their fearless dogs alerting them to ambushes.
The Rottweiler Today – Born to Protect
In more recent times, breeders have tried to bring the ancient Butchers’ Dog’a high natural levels of aggression down a few notches. Were they successful? Statistics give us reason to doubt that, naming the Rottweiler as responsible for most human deaths by dog attacks in the US between 2005 and 2019 – only second to the American Pitbull Terrier: “Combined, pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 76% of the total recorded deaths.”
And whilst some of these unfortunate tragedies could probably have been avoided by the correct training and socialization, certain risks do come with the breed: Fatal accidents involving Rottweilers are known to have happened even to very experienced trainers and breeders. These were owners who had done all the socializing and whose Rottweilers had passed the challenging IPO-qualifications required to breed a dog. IPO requires high levels of obedience, impulse control, and impeccable conduct with humans unfamiliar to the dog.
And whilst some of these accidents can be related to the breeds’ high prey drive – such as attacks on small children – others cannot: Especially intact male Rotties seem prone to challenging their handler. And by “challenging”, I do not mean the dog growling at the person, but the dog trying to bite the person.
Other incidents can be related to the Rottweiler’s immense natural protective instincts: Should the dog perceive a threat to its owners safety, it absolutely will kick into action – and the same applies if someone enters a property the dog is guarding. Rottweilers do not need any training to be highly effective personal protection dogs and guard dogs.
Rottweilers as Family Companions
Whilst they CAN make excellent family companions and guardians, caution is advised for everyone planning to have a Rottweiler as family pet: As we just said, tragedies happen with this breed, even in the households of calm, consistent canine leaders. However, some Rotties adore children and are very patient with them. They are calm and gentle in the house and even get along well with other pets – especially if they grow up with them. It goes without saying that you should never let your dog and your young kids play together unattended: Even the friendliest Rottweiler is still a large and powerful dog who can easily knock a child over by accident.
Because of their history as herding dogs, Rotties are prone to nipping their family into the legs and ankles. This is not an aggressive behaviour, but an attempt to “herd” their flock. Of course, you should nip such nipping “in the bud” whilst your dog is still small: You do not want an adult Rottweiler sinking its teeth into people’s legs.
Intelligence and Energy Levels
Rotties are medium- to high energy dogs - keen, alert and always eager to work. They also absolutely love vigorous play and long walks. These powerful dogs require lots of exercise every day to stay balanced and content, and that exercise absolutely should include obedience drills. Being highly intelligent and eager to please their owners, Rotties make superb sports dogs as well as service- and even therapy dogs. In terms of working drive, prey drive and intelligence, the Rottweiler is on roughly the same level as the Doberman or the German Shepherd. However, the breed lacks the Doberman’s gentleness and German Shepherd’s extreme trainability: Rotties do come with a stubborn streak. Coupled with their high levels of independence and confidence, this stubbornness makes training them more challenging than the average guardian breed.
For this reason alone, the Rottweiler is absolutely not the breed to go for if you are new to the world of dog ownership: These large guard dogs need an owner who is not only experienced in having dogs, but in owning and training strong guardian breeds. In the right hands, the Rottie can and will unfold its full potential. This is a highly effective and driven working breed that can be educated to high levels of tracking, obedience, and guarding. At the same time, Rottweilers are amazingly devoted and deeply loyal to their humans. Which makes them the perfect choice for experienced owners who are looking for a powerful natural guardian – a dog who will defend them and their homes with its life, if necessary.