Owning a Rottweiler: What You Should Know
So you think you want a Rottweiler? One cannot blame you, for such a desire is not unfounded. I have had the pleasure of owning these amazing dogs for the past 10 years. The Rottweiler is a majestic breed, not only because of his impressive stature and commanding presence, but also his loyalty to those under his watchful eye.
Affectionately known by enthusiasts as a “Rottie,” this breed truly has a soft side, despite the rough image and bad reputation given by many in the media. Many have attempted to exploit the Rottweiler’s protective nature and muscular build, resulting in a cascade of negative press and a stigma which is not easily erased.
However, those who have come to truly know the breed cannot help but to love them, and that love is returned ten-fold. Yet there are certain things one should consider before acquiring such a dog; after all, introducing this breed into your household will truly be a life-changing experience!
Why Do You Want a Rottweiler?
First, consider the reason you’ve decided that a Rottweiler is the breed for you:
- Will he be a companion?
- Do you feel the need for protection?
- Have you owned a Rottie before?
- Do you feel that owning this dog will improve your social status or make you appear “tough?”
If the latter is true, please consider not getting involved with this breed. Rotties are NOT fighting dogs, and they should never fall into the hands of anyone interested in using them as such. They are also NOT for the inexperienced, as a walk through an animal shelter will prove. Many end up there because their owners were not prepared for the demands of owning such an intelligent but stubborn breed.
It should also be noted that owning a Rottie purely for looks is likely to end in disaster; without the proper research and understanding of the breed, they can become quite unmanageable. With that said, if you are someone who truly appreciates this beautiful animal and are ready to take on its challenges, read on!
Should You Get a Puppy or an Adult Dog?
I've had both, and there are several factors that play into this decision. A puppy will give you the advantage of starting all training from scratch, on a clean slate if you will. This is helpful because training a Rottie can be tricky, so the earlier the better! An adult dog may come with some excess baggage, such as a history of abuse (like my female, "Roxy") or neglect, lack of training, etc.
However, these are not impossible to overcome for an experienced dog owner. In fact, not enough can be said for how wonderful it can be to rescue an adult Rottie from a shelter! Giving one a second chance may be the best for you both; it’s just important to be patient and allow extra time for the dog to adjust. So many animals are killed every year in shelters because there aren’t enough homes for them all, so adoption could be a great option!
Also keep in mind that a puppy will need potty training, while many adult shelter dogs already have that experience. If you do decide on a puppy, never purchase one from a pet store; those usually come from puppy mills, which are kept in deplorable condition and usually result in pets with many health problems! Stick with an experienced breeder, and ask for references!
What Is a Rottweiler's Personality Like?
As noted before, the Rottweiler is an incredibly loyal dog. They form a strongly cemented bond with their owner and enjoy being with them; my big furry babies follow me around the house, insisting on being close enough to nudge me with a paw or a wet nose if at all possible. They are naturally protective, but this should not be confused with aggressiveness.
When properly trained, Rotties have a keen ability to sense the difference between friend and foe. Therefore they do not have to be taught to guard or protect; rather, if they are socialized well and learn who to trust, they can automatically determine when there is a threat.
They have big personalities and are very affectionate with those they feel safe with. They do well with children and are generally very tolerant, though caution should always be taken never to leave a child alone with any animal. Rotties retained some herding instincts from their ancestors, so they may feel inclined to herd small or excitable children.
Breeders vs. Shelters
If you decide to purchase a puppy from a breeder, it is important to see and handle the parents of the litter, so that you can evaluate their temperament. Some breeders intentionally use selective breeding to bring out aggressive qualities in their dogs, not at all what you want in your Rottweiler!
If you choose to adopt from a shelter, ask as many questions as possible to get background information on the dog’s behavior history. Spend as much time as you can getting to know the dog before you adopt, maybe even fostering him first.
How Should I Train My Dog?
Whether you acquire you Rottie from a breeder or a shelter, beginning positive reinforcement training ASAP will be one of the best things you can do. They can be a very stubborn and tenacious by nature, which—left unchecked—can leave you with a big problem on your hands, so they need a firm, dominant owner. NEVER hit your Rottie as punishment!
In-home training should be immediate and ongoing, but also consider professional training classes. The real-world experience and socialization with other dogs and people is invaluable! It cannot be stressed enough to socialize, socialize, socialize! (Your puppy should be fully vaccinated before coming in contact with animals or places where animals frequent.)
Exposing him to as many new people, animals, noises and places as early as possible is crucial to his development. This will help him become a calm, well-behaved member of society. Even before his puppy immunizations are complete, you can invite people to your home to get him started.
What About Grooming?
Grooming for Rottweilers is minimal, including bi-monthly baths, as well as regular nail trims and ear cleaning. Keep in mind, however, that they do shed quite a bit. Their fairly thick undercoat is short, but it will still cause little black tumbleweeds of fur all around your house. Be prepared for weekly if not daily sweeping or vacuuming.
Since they have black nails and you will be unable to see the “quick” (the center of the nail which contains the nerve and blood vessel), it is best to consult a professional groomer if you are not experienced with nail trimming.
How Much Does It Cost to Keep a Rottie?
Considerable cost can be involved in caring for a Rottie:
- First, you will definitely want to consider spaying or neutering your pet, not only to control pet overpopulation, but also to have a cleaner, healthier, more well-mannered dog. This can cost anywhere from $100 for a puppy to $400 or more for an adult. Shelter dogs should already be “fixed” before you adopt them. This procedure is routine and relatively safe, and reduces or even eliminates the risk of certain cancers and other health issues.
- Annual vaccinations can range in cost from $50-150, and monthly flea, tick, and heartworm preventative may cost around $30 per month.
- Since the Rottweiler can grow to be well over 100 pounds, they can eat quite a bit so you will need to do your research on pet food costs. Be prepared to spend $30-40 per month or more on dog food.
What Should I Feed My Dog?
A high-quality, meat-based food should be fed, with some type of protein being the first ingredient listed on the bag or can. Look for a formula specifically targets the special needs of large-breed dogs. Obesity can cause major problems for such big dogs, putting unnecessary strain on their joints, heart, and lungs. A licensed veterinarian can help you determine the correct amount to feed your pet.
What About Exercise?
Rotties also need plenty of exercise; while many are content to laze around at home and sleep the day away while you’re at work, they can still have a considerable amount of energy and need an outlet for it. As a part of the Working Class of dog breeds, they need to feel they have a “job” to do, even if that means playing or exercising. Daily walks will help keep them fit and prevent destructive behavior due to boredom from too much confinement.
Space Requirements for Rotties
They require a large, fenced yard to run in, and they should not be crated for extended periods. Rottweilers should never, ever be chained or tied outside. This can evoke territorial aggression, because they feel threatened by the restriction of movement and may feel the need to protect their space.
Their heavy build and dark coat also do not make them well-suited for hot climates; so long periods outside in the heat should be avoided. They are not apartment dogs; in fact, you will be hard-pressed to find an apartment that even allows Rottweilers due to their size and liability issues. Even homeowners may be rejected by some insurance companies or face higher fees, because Rotties are considered to be a “dangerous breed” by some who lack experience with these dogs.
Are Rottweilers Really a Dangerous Breed?
The "dangerous" label is also partly due to biased statistics in the media. Any dog can be dangerous when with the wrong person; Rottweilers as a whole are not, but they can be trained to be by a dangerous owner! Again, please do your research before deciding to own this dog.
How Long Do They Live?
A Rottweiler’s lifespan can be 10–15 years with proper care; I currently have a 13-year-old female. They can suffer from a number of health issues, for which you will need to be prepared financially, physically, and emotionally:
- Because of their size, they are prone to arthritis, which can make walking, standing and lying down very difficult, especially if they are overweight. If your dog needs help getting up from the floor, getting into the car for a vet visit, or using the stairs, are you physically capable of helping him? Also, there are a number of quality joint supplements on the market, which can be used as preventative care and for pain relief as well. These products will not come cheap for such a large breed, as the dosing is based on weight.
- Rotties are predisposed to different forms of bone cancer, and it is not uncommon for that to be the cause of death. There are conventional and holistic treatments available which can prolong and even improve the quality of your dog’s life, but currently there is no cure. Sadly, I lost my 10-year-old male, "Butch" (pictured in this article) to this aggressive disease after 6 months of chemotherapy.
- You may also encounter other less severe health problems, such as allergies, ear infections, or scrapes and cuts (they are a little clumsy!)
One general rule of thumb to remember: The bigger the dog, the bigger the vet bill!
Rottweilers Are Wonderful Dogs for the Right Owners
Overall, the Rottweiler makes a wonderful companion . . . when placed in the right hands. If you have done your research, surveyed your home, analyzed your lifestyle (and bank account), and feel you are ready for the commitment, then congratulations! You will be rewarded with a true friend.