Rottweilers are the 9th most popular breed in the United States, according to the AKC. They are an ancient breed with a strong work ethic and an even stronger devotion to their families. But sometimes these beautiful dogs may be a bit misunderstood. While it’s true that this breed isn’t for everyone, they can make some of the best pets you’ll ever have. Here are 6 things you should know about Rottweilers – before you get one, or before you write them off completely.
- Their History Traces Back to Ancient Rome
The Rottweiler has only been formally recognized by the AKC since 1931, but the breed’s history can be traced back to ancient times. Though there are no formal records to indicate the Rottweiler’s lineage, reasonable logic and other historical records indicate that “Rotties” are likely descended from drover dogs. These ancient Roman canines were used to herd cattle. The drover dogs worked while Roman troops marched long distances, guarding the cattle along the way. Drover dogs were hard-working, intelligent, and possessed a strong guarding instinct – all qualities that match the AKC standards for modern Rottweilers
Early drover dogs also had to be very strong and powerful to manage herds of cattle. Rottweilers today use their bodies to push cattle to follow their instruction. This requires immense strength and drive, two qualities that modern Rottweilers still possess.
These Roman marches traversed all over Europe, including southern Germany, where a new town was founded by the Romans called Rottweil. It was there that people with their drover dogs began to settle, and the dogs continued working as cattle herders and guard dogs.
- Rottweilers Nearly Went Extinct
Rottweilers were a hardworking breed for centuries, working diligently at many jobs for their masters. Until suddenly, they weren’t needed anymore.
For years the town of Rottweil depended on these dogs to keep their industry booming. They pulled carts and most importantly, herded cattle. But then in the mid-19th century, the rise of railroad transportation was beginning to take over. Cattle driving was outlawed to make way for the new trains and railways. On top of that, donkeys began to replace dogs for cart-pulling work. Suddenly the Rottweilers had no jobs to do. No one needed them.
At the end of the 19th century, the Rottweiler population was declining so sharply that by 1905 there was only one female of the breed in the entire town of Rottweil. Something had to be done.
In 1907 a Rottweiler club was formed in Germany, and they began to protect the breed. Members started to keep records of breeding, and outlined breed standards for the Rottweiler’s appearance and temperament. Breeding became more planned and well thought out in an effort to save the breed and preserve the lineage. If it hadn’t been for this club’s devotion, the Rottweiler might have never existed in modern times.
- They Aren’t Afraid to Be the Boss
Modern Rottweilers are members of the “working group” of dogs, and still have that drive in them that has existed since ancient Rome. In the modern world, the Rottweiler expresses this trait by always looking for someone to be their boss. They enjoy being in a working environment, and thrive when they are given direct and firm commands.
However, if a Rottweiler has an owner who is more timid, the Rottweiler will give the title of “boss” to itself. This can lead to unwanted aggressive encounters if the dog doesn’t have the proper guidelines for behavior. As the American Rottweiler Club puts it, Rotties “have strong territorial instincts.” These instincts can be useful when a Rottweiler is trained properly and knows who is boss, but detrimental if your Rottie is making their own rules.
- Socialization is Extremely Important
So how do you make sure your Rottweiler doesn’t turn “bad” when they grow up? Plenty of socialization! The AKC states that early and frequent socialization coupled with training is “mandatory” for Rottweilers. It’s also not something you can stop doing once your Rottweiler grows up. Training and socialization should be a lifelong endeavor.
When a Rottweiler has proper socialization and a firm hand to look to for guidance, they can often be found following their favorite human from room to room. They are an extremely loyal and loving breed, and crave attention and direction from people. Leaving your Rottweiler home alone or chained outside for extended periods of time is a big mistake. All that hard work and training you put in won’t do a bit of good if your Rottie is left to their own devices. Being alone can make a Rottweiler behave very destructively.
While this all may seem a bit high maintenance, Rottweilers truly love people and often express themselves in a goofy manner with the people they love. This “clownish” behavior is a lot of fun and can be extremely rewarding for the Rottweiler owner who puts in the time and effort to diligently socialize their dog.
- Rotties Love to Work!
Rottweilers haven’t lost the work ethic that they learned herding cattle in ancient Rome. But herding isn’t the only thing Rotties excel at. In fact, they are so driven to follow directions and do good work, the breed is now used for many other jobs. Rottweilers can be found pulling carts, performing agility, tracking, working as police dogs, working with the military, and even working as therapy dogs! They certainly are a multi-talented breed.
This is thanks to their intelligence and willingness to be trained. But as the American Rottweiler Club emphasizes, consistent and early training is important! A common mistake with Rottweilers is believing that they need to be trained using physical force. Their size and their reputation for aggression can sometimes make people believe this. However, forceful training methods can actually be the cause of aggressive behavior.
The need to please and work hard is deeply ingrained in Rottweilers. Firm but patient obedience training is the best place to start. Once a Rottweiler understands want their master wants of them, they typically catch on quickly – and even love it!
- A Rottweiler Was the Star of a Popular Children’s Book
Published in 1985, the illustrated classic “Good Dog, Carl” features a Rottweiler and his human baby getting themselves into antics. The book contains very few words, and almost every page features only illustrations. The book follows the dog Carl and the baby as they play and go on adventures – while the baby should be napping!
After the success of the first book, fourteen other illustrated books featuring Carl the Rottweiler were released. The author Alexandra Day based her illustrations of Carl off of her own family Rottweiler named Toby.
The story of Carl and the baby that he takes care of is a lovely representation of how protective and caring Rottweilers can be. They truly are social, lovable dogs.