Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, former veterinary assistant, and author of the online dog training course "Brain Training for Dogs."
If your Rottweiler attacks other dogs, you may be worried about this behavior. Perhaps they are very reactive to other dogs when on leash—snarling and going into a full barking and growling fit—or maybe he's intolerant of other dogs approaching him in a certain way.
In any case, the behavior warrants your attention and care to prevent heartbreaking accidents from happening
When a Rottweiler attacks other dogs, there are several risks. For instance, consider the fact that Rottweilers are very large and strong dogs that can easily hurt another dog. Even if the other dog doesn't get hurt, there are risks for the other dog to be impacted emotionally. Helping dogs recover from a dog attack may be a long and tedious process.
Not to mention, the risks for a re-directed bite in cases there's the need for separating two dogs fighting. Separating fighting dogs incorrectly is not without risks. Learn how to stop a dog fight making safety your top priority.
It goes without saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you own a Rottweiler who attacks other dogs, you'll need to be extra careful to protect your dog, yourself, other dogs and other people.
On top of this, you'll want to also act responsibly as an ambassador for the Rottweiler breed which sadly has been struggling with a bad rap due to irresponsible ownership.
Why Does My Rottweiler Attack Other Dogs?
Rottweilers may attack other dogs for a variety of motives, but not always the exact motive is clear. Important is to consider several factors such as age, sex and the contexts in which the attacking behavior occurs. Following are several reasons why Rottweiler may attack other dogs.
Reaching Social Maturity
Age plays a big factor when it comes to sociable behaviors in this breed. Many Rottweiler owners report their puppies were getting along well with other dogs until they reached social maturity. While many of the smaller breeds are socially mature around the age of one year, a Rottweiler is generally considered to be socially mature at 2 to 3 years of age.
During this time, Rottweilers may turn out to be more selective over which dogs to befriend. They may start restricting their circle of friends or they may come to no longer tolerate certain interactions.
Several Rottweilers at this time start no longer tolerating "rude" behaviors from other dogs. They may growl when a young Labrador gets in their face, they may snarl if a dog dares to place a leg on his shoulder or chin. Even if they allowed this in the past during play, they may no longer appreciate meeting and greeting dogs on walks.
The changes occurring during this stage is one of the main reasons why Rottweiler owners start keeping their adolescent dog away from other dogs. This leads to a downward spiral of worsening behavior.
A good way of dealing with this behavior is to keep taking a Rottweiler to a good obedience class. There are classes specifically for dogs who don't like other dogs and they are known as "Reactive Rover" classes. Make sure the trainers employ force-free methods.
While it's not good forcing a Rottweiler to interact with other dogs, Rottweilers can learn to at least stay composed when they see other dogs on walks.
The Breed Standard
Breed standards are crafted by dog breed associations or breed clubs and are meant to reflect the use or purpose of the breed along with its characteristics both physical and behavioral.
When it comes to a Rottweiler's temperament, the American Kennel Club describes the breed to be a "calm, confident and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships."
In the show ring, the Rottweiler is expected to be under control, willing and adaptable, allowing examination by the judge yet, an aloof or reserved dog should not be penalized, as this is considered an acceptable character of the breed.
In regards to this breed's attitude towards other dogs, the breed standard claims "an aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted."
Now, this doesn't mean that it's OK for a Rottweiler to not get along with other dogs, it just means that in the show ring a Rottweiler showing some "attitude" towards other dogs is not a means for disqualification. If your Rottweilers lunges and attacks other dogs, it's important to prevent such incidents and train your Rottweiler to remain composed.
The Role of Barrier Frustration
There is aggression and aggression in dogs, and one form of reactivity that warrants a different approach is barrier frustration. Does your Rottweiler get along with other dogs off leash? Does he have a great record of behaving well at the dog park? Does he only turn into a barking, growling and lunging monster once he's on leash and sees other dogs?
Answers to these questions can help differentiate a case of possible barrier frustration from a case of true "reactivity." If you answered yes to all three questions above, very likely you're dealing with a case of barrier frustration.
Dogs with barrier frustration do fine and are even friendly with other dogs when off leash, but struggle when they are on leash or behind a barrier because such barriers frustrate them as it prevents them from meeting and playing with other dogs. Hence, why this type of behavior is referred to as "barrier frustration."
Acting "Protective" of Owners
In some cases, Rottweilers attack other dogs because they are acting "protective" over their owners. This is nothing to brag about with friends with remarks such as "my Rottie is protective of me," as this is a serious behavior problem.
Typically, affected dogs will attack other dogs only when in presence of the owner. They have basically come to guard their owner as if he was a valued possession such as a bone.
There is debate over whether dogs do this because they truly perceive their owners as a super valuable possession in the real sense of the word, or because there's some element of fear, and therefore, when in presence of their owners they just feel bolder and therefore more motivated to attack, compared to doing so solo.
Protecting Their "Turf"
With a history of marching over the Alps with the Roman legions protecting humans and driving their cattle, it comes natural for Rottweilers to want to protect their turf from intruders. Rottweilers can be territorial dogs and therefore they may have a strong dislike of other dogs approaching their turf.
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Both our Rottweilers had strong guarding instincts and we often joked about how our "King" Kaiser's perception of his property was far beyond our property lines. When our neighbor's pack of small Chihuahua down the end of the road tried to attack us once on a walk, King Kaiser made a booming bark and stood his ground standing tall and the Chihuahuas made a quick about turn back to their homes!
How to Stop Your Rottweiler From Attacking Other Dogs
To stop your Rottweiler from attacking other dogs, you will need to take a multi-faceted approach, tackling the issue from various angles. The core of stopping the attacks though relies on behavior modification. Imperative though is to get professional help for safety and its correct implementation. Following are several tips to stop your Rottweiler from attacking other dogs.
Keep that Brain Busy
Provide more exercise and mental stimulation (brain games!). Rottweilers, especially when young and under the age of 5, are very energetic animals. Exercise and mental stimulation helps tire them out and when their pent-up energy is diffused, they take training better and tolerate things more easily.
Up the Training
You certainly saw this coming, didn't you? Here's the thing: just because a belligerent attitude towards other dogs is something not totally frowned about in the Rottweiler breed, doesn't mean your Rottweiler should be totally out of control.
When Rottweilers are provided with guidance, they can be persuaded from acting out their instincts. Now this doesn't mean you'll need to force your Rottweiler to accept things he doesn't like from other dogs, it just means, you'll have to prevent putting him certain situations, change his underlying emotional state and train him alternative behaviors you'll like him engage in instead of going into attack mode.
This is a dog that will do anything you want him to, but if you give him full reign of all situations, he'll do everything you allow him to do.
Certainly, training your Rottweiler to ignore other dogs isn't the easiest task, but with patience, consistency and hopefully guidance from the right professional, you can make a lot of progress.
Train your Rottweiler using gentle training methods. With this breed, you can't just sit idly expect your Rottie to train himself.
Train your Rottweiler better impulse control and frustration tolerance and take your Rottweiler to classes. In particular, look for Reactive Rover classes which are specifically crafted for this type of problem.
If you are dealing with a case of barrier frustration, train your Rottweiler an alternate behavior you have pre-trained that is incompatible with his barking and lunging behavior on walks. Training him to heel while looking up at you can be a great skill.
Keep Your Rottweiler Under Threshold
Keep distance from other dogs on walks, at least initially. Being too close to other dogs will make your Rottweiler react with more intensity and you won't be able to ask him to engage in an alternate behavior.
Work on keeping your Rottweiler dog under threshold by constantly be scanning your environment, looking out for other dogs.
The Importance of Seeing a Professional
If your Rottweiler has a history of not getting along with other dogs, it's best to consult with a dog behavior professional. Behavior modification may be needed such as employing desensitization and counterconditioning methods such as Leslie McDevitt's Look at that Dog method or Jean Donaldson's Open Bar Closed Bar.
The earlier you nip the behavior in the bud, the better. Aggressive displays that have been rehearsed for months or years can be more difficult to tackle.
Have a Plan in Place
Train your Rottweiler an emergency u-turn. This will turn helpful if you ever cross another dog in your path that's too close for comfort.
If an off-leash dog approaches your dog, toss this dog a few treats to gain some distance as you do an emergency u-turn. If you're too late and he's already nose-to-nose with your Rottweiler, keep your leash loose as tight leashes amp dogs up. Try to happy talk and encourage your Rottweiler to move on with you without pulling.
Equipment for Better Control
If your Rottweiler lunges towards other dogs on walks, it's important to make safety your top priority. A front-attachment harness can help provide better control versus a regular buckle collar.
A head halter can be helpful for those struggling with a large powerful dog like a Rottweiler. However, these need an introductory, adjustment period.
As tempting as it may be to use choke collars or prong collars, these can cause more problems down the road, not to mention, veterinarians are now discovering how they can harm the dog's thyroid gland and delicate neck area.
Training your Rottweiler to wear a muzzle is also important if you are concerned about your Rottweiler biting. Below is a video on how to train that.
How to Train Your Rottweiler to Wear a Muzzle
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Adrienne Farricelli
FlourishAnyway from USA on March 06, 2021:
I’m glad you spent so much time discussing how problems often develop and what you can do to avert trouble. Excellent article. I have a fear of large dogs, as I was bitten in the face by one as a child and never quite got over it.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2021:
I use to own a Rottweiler, along with two other dogs, and I have always liked them. This is another excellent article about the way to raise our dogs and how to treat any problems we might encounter. Thank you for sharing, Adrienne.