Rottweiler Behavior Explained

Gorgeous adult Rottweiler

So, what is normal Rottweiler behavior? What character traits spring to mind when you think of this breed?

Well, I don’t know what you answered here, but it’s perfectly possible that the ones you’re thinking of are not part of the true Rottweiler temperament at all!

Did the words ‘guard dog, aggressive or mean’ come to mind? Or even ‘big, slobbery or scary’?

Now, how about replacing those with ‘intelligent, calm, devoted, adaptable, confident’….. they’re actually a much more accurate description of the Rottweiler breed.

Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of Rottweiler behavior, and that’s because every dog is an individual with his/her own unique personality.

But any well-bred Rottweiler should display certain recognizable behavioral characteristics.

After all, apart from the obvious physical differences, these are what makes him/her a Rottweiler rather than a Labrador Retriever or a Boxer.

 

The Official Rottweiler Temperament

Rottweiler head in profile

The ADRK (Allegmeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub) is the German governing organization for the Rottweiler breed.

It’s also responsible for setting, maintaining, and updating/revising the Breed Standard at an international level.

This is the organization that ‘gave birth’ to the Rottweiler breed and is the ultimate authority when it comes to the integrity of the breed.

The ADRK Breed Standard describes Rottweiler behavior and temperament like this….

‘… good natured, placid in basic disposition and fond of children. Very devoted, obedient, biddable and eager to work… self assured, steady and fearless….’

 

Here in the USA, the AKC (American Kennel Club) Breed Standard characterizes the correct Rottweiler temperament in this way…..

‘Calm, confident and courageous, with a self-assured aloofness… an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability, with a strong willingness to work…’

 

These descriptions give you a good idea of what to expect from an adult Rottweiler who is well-bred and has been raised correctly.

It’s important to know that Rottweiler behavior should never include indiscriminate aggression, or appear vicious, ‘sharp’, fearful or nervous (skittish).

Unfortunately poorly-bred, poorly-socialized and improperly raised Rottweilers (and there are a LOT of them), may carry these personality traits. Be aware of this and choose your puppy or dog carefully. If you’re purchasing your Rottie, only buy from responsible and reputable breeders.

 

Rottweiler Behavior – What It Means For You

Rottweiler adolescent peeking over wall

Rottweilers are very loving, affectionate dogs. They prefer to be ‘where the action is’ and are only really happy when they’re a part of the family.

Your pup/dog will probably want to stay close to you whenever possible, and will bond closely with ‘his/her’ humans.

No matter how big your ‘baby’ gets, climbing into your lap for a cuddle will always seem perfectly reasonable to her!

One aspect of Rottweiler behavior that’s often misinterpreted as ‘growling’, is their habit of ‘rumbling’ down deep in their throat. Although rumbling is the best way I know to describe the sound, it’s definitely not an expression of discontent – quite the opposite!

Rotties make this noise sort of the way cats purr. They most often do it when they’re being petted, or they’re happy, or just as a way of communicating with their people. I love the sound, and it’s a rumbling, grunting sort of noise that is so endearing.

BUT people unfamiliar with the breed, and who may be nervous around them due to their ‘reputation’, often think the dog is growling at them or threatening them. If your new puppy makes this sort of noise don’t worry about it, it just means that he’s happy.

Growling is quite different, and is usually accompanied by body language that shows fear or aggression such as lip curling, snarling, ears back, hackles raised and so on. You will probably recognize this quite easily!

Of course, being natural guardians, Rottweilers are a protective and territorial breed. No matter how calm and gentle your dog is with the people she knows and trusts, she will undoubtedly use her considerable strength and abilities to protect ‘her’ people if she feels that they are in danger or being threatened.

This is normal Rottie behavior, but it can translate into a dog who refuses to let anyone they don’t know set foot in ‘their’ yard or home, or who tries to protect family members from threats that aren’t really there.

For example, if your child is screaming and laughing because daddy is tickling her, your Rottie may think that she’s being hurt… and take measures to protect her. You can see how this could end, and it clearly demonstrates why proper socialization, training and ‘ground rules’ are so important when raising a Rottweiler puppy.

Socialization and interaction with a wide variety of people, places and situations helps a Rottweiler to learn to distinguish between ‘normal non-threatening’ people and behavior, and the kind that spell danger.

They’re a surprisingly sensitive breed, and although they can be inclined to be dominant, Rotties readily recognize and respect authority when it is presented in a confident, fair and calm way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pro’s & Con’s of Rottweiler Behavior

All dog breeds have their own special quirks and traits, it’s what makes them so special and individual.

It’s also what makes them suitable, or unsuitable, for certain people, environments or situations.

Rottweilers are big, strong, intelligent dogs and I wouldn’t recommend them for first-time dog owners, small/frail people or those who aren’t confident around dogs or have little canine experience or knowledge.

Although they’re usually wonderful with children, Rotties are powerful and can be clumsy and uncoordinated when adolescent.

For this reason I personally think that a family with children under 3, or frail/elderly members, would be better choosing another breed!

The Positives:

  • Intelligent, with a huge capability to learn
  • Confident, calm and self-assured
  • Loving, affectionate, devoted and loyal
  • Adaptable and versatile. A great ‘all-rounder’
  • Protective without being indiscriminately aggressive
  • Tolerant, loving and protective of children

 

The Negatives:

  • Needs lots of space to grow, develop and play
  • Can be clumsy, uncoordinated and rambunctious as a puppy
  • Strong willed, with a tendency to dominate and display stubbornness
  • Inclined to herd children or animals, and to ‘bump’ or lean against people
  • Naturally wary of strangers, territorial and protective
  • This is a breed with it’s fair share of health issues and a relatively short life-span
  • They need the X-L size of everything…. and that can get expensive!

 

You’ll notice that the negatives, or ‘cons’, of Rottweiler behavior are often the flip-side of the positives, and it is up to you as owner and ‘parent’ to shape these traits correctly.

For example…. Rottweilers are very intelligent, and this intelligence can be a ‘double-edged sword’.

If a pup is treated with love and patience, and is consistently shown the correct ways to behave. If she’s trained as she matures, with positive methods, and she gets the opportunity to use her intelligence in a sport or activity such as obedience training, tracking, agility and so on, she’ll be happy and well-adjusted.

BUT, if she’s ignored or ill-treated, not trained or given a chance to learn, she’ll quickly become bored. This can lead to destructive behavior, and she’ll turn that smart little brain of hers to ways of escaping, causing damage, or ‘bucking the system’.

She will be extremely creative, and not in a good way!

If you’re considering a new dog, take all the time you need to research different breeds before coming to a decision.

A dog is a big commitment, and when that dog is a Rottweiler it’s even bigger!

 

There are many great books that you can use to learn more about this amazing breed. I own at least a dozen, and I’ve learned something new from every one of them.

Here are just a few of the ones I’d recommend…..

 


9 Comments

  1. Hello, my friend owns a Rottie names Rocky. I was around him a couple time while he was in his early puppy stages. Even when he grew full size he was still sweet to me and even seemed to love me more than my friend. But slowly, he started to avoid me and even growl when I pet him. At first I thought well maybe he just doesn’t like being scratched in certain areas. But eventually he started showing aggression, he’d raise his tail at me and growl as he stared at me. What I’m wondering is why he suddenly changed? Before, we’d cuddle and play but now it’s like he absolutely hates me. Like he was slowly forgetting who I was and eventually came to the conclusion that I was just some random person entering his domain. I really loved that dog and I don’t understand what I did wrong. I never hit him or scolded him for anything since he was always so kind. Now my friend and her family keep him away from me because he always looks like he’ll attack me at any minute.

    • Rotties need a ton of socializing in the first two years of life. They need to be exposed to every possible scenario, with varying degrees of interaction with people. I have worked diligently with my female, taking her to large scale adult social events, children’s social events, outdoor concerts, motorcycle rally’s, you name it, if dogs were allowed, she was taken there. My former Rotties (which had been all males) were rescues, not coming to me until after the age of 2 years old. Males are more territorial than females, and without the extensive socialization during puppyhood, they can exhibit behaviors like you’ve described above. This does not mean all hopes of rekindling your relationship with the dog are lost. It just means the owner, or whomever the pack leader is, would have to spend time with you and the dog, until the dog recognizes you as a member of the pack once again.

    • As you know Rotties are very protective; as many breeds are. However, Rotties are more so than some breeds. They are not only intensely attached to their families but in an odd way, they think they own us.! At some point, you may have made the dog jealous. He somehow, saw you as a threat. In his intense Rottweiler mind, he felt he was in competition with you, for the affections of his ‘ parent ‘ or his charge. Maybe you spent too much time with your friend in his dog mind. To sum it up, you may have made him simply jealous! ” This is my friend! ” Remember just how territorial and possessive they are!

  2. I can only speak from my experience. I have had my Rottie now for 9.5 years. There were several people he knew as a pup that now he barks down when they enter my home. I put my Rottie through several rounds of training. Ultimately, I realized that he was partially socialized and as a pup needed more time with other dogs, children, and adults in order to be fully sociable and comfortable. Around two years of age his territorial and protective instincts kicked in and unless you were around him as a babe and stayed around him you were no longer on his “okay” list. In my mind he had determined the members of his pack. I am guessing that your friend’s dog has done this as well.

    This display of protectiveness is one of the reasons Rotties are so awesome but there is a flip side and you are experiencing it. You have to respect and now accept this behavior. Honestly, even though I have a Rottie and his is my big old baby, when I am in the presence of someone else’s Rottie I respect their space. For the safety of my dog and anyone I let into my home I keep my Rottie in his own space. As an owner it is the responsible thing to do.

    Your friends are being responsible. Don’t be offended and realize it is the right thing to do. You could always get your own Rottie if you miss your friend’s dog. 🙂

  3. My sweet puppy seems to have a switch in her brain. We have had 6 Rotties and never have we had this issue. Yesterday in puppy class she suddenly turned on me and attacked. As fast as the behavior started it was gone and my little girl was back.
    She has had the best of care. There just seems to a switch in her brain. We are going to another trainer for an evaluation.
    I was assured by the breeder that her dogs had excellent temperaments. She knew we want a pup to train as a service dog because mine had recently passed away.
    We have spent thousands on this dog and the really expensive training has yet to begin. I don’t care about the money as long as the pup is stable. At 4 months she weighs 35 pounds and the biting, lunging and sneak attacks are becoming more and more damaging to me.
    She doesn’t dig or destroy anything but people. I am heart broken and worry about the puppy’s future. She certainly is not a good ambassador for her breed.

    • It sounds like you need to find her trigger. Rottweilers being so intelligent usually have triggers that we don’t even pick up on or think about. Unfortunately it can also be so easy to encourage them without realising by giving them the desired reaction, luckily this can be trained out of them. I have a 5month old bitch, and she has displayed this behaviour with my partner as well, but as soon as I picked up on it, I found her trigger and I am working with her to solve it and she has made fantastic progress. Training dogs takes time and patience, don’t feel bad or doubt your trainer because you asked for another trainers help, i, myself am a professional dog trainer and I regularly work with other trainers as sometimes they just use a different method your other trainer didn’t touch on yet or i find it can even come down to personality or the trainer that your dog may not like. I’m sure you will make great progress, I wish you the best of luck.

  4. Helena, your description of “a switch in her brain” describes our 6-month female Rottie puppy. She has become such a threat to my husband, (biting him at least four times where it pierced the skin,) that he no longer wants her around him. She goes from behaving perfectly to aggression very quickly with him. I am two weeks into an obedience class with a very experienced trainer which I have used for two other dogs. This is our second female Rottweiler, and we didn’t have these kinds of issues with our first one. Your situation sounds similar to ours, and I wish you good luck with resolving it.

  5. We have a male Rotty. He just turned three in March 2018. Couldn’t have a better dog. When my wife is home, he follows her everywhere in the house. When she’s not around I’m the second in command. He loves his belly scratched and meet one of the kids at the school bus with me. He will greet me and my wife at the door with his happy growlmand some form of trophy in his mouth if he can find something. Rawhide or sometimes a tea towel. He will trade for a treat. On occasion he has taken clothing and pillows and shredded them. This behaviour is something we don’t like. We do know from some of his puppy training he is wanting attention or frustrated because he is upset over something. Anxiety perhaps. That is the only thing we are still dealing with. BUT.. I love this dog. Best I ever had. I trained him to call me Papa to get a treat which is basically a two syllable bark which he can also do like a whisper. He will walk to me, turn with his back to me and I can wrap my arms around him and hive him a hug and scratch his ears or neck. We can have him sit, lay down, give paw and high five. I can put a treat in one hand, put it behind my back, then bring my hands forward and have him guess which hand the treat is in. I ask for a hug and he jumps up with a grumble and I hold him against me. I can walk him with a harness but the liesh is loose because he walks close and beside me, never pulls. He rarely barks. My child is now 10, and he can get the dog to do tricks too. This dog is not aggressive. He will put a small growl even if he has something and will only give things back to my wife or I and he chooses who depending what it is. He is now about 125 pounds and is not neutered. We akso have a female Golden Retriever. She is the boss of him. He won’t sleep until he’s had treats and fun and a belly rub. He comes to the bed and we each have to put our arms around his neck and hug him before he lays down to sleep on the floor by the bed. Love this breed. Love this dog. Get one. They give lots of love back,

  6. I have been dating a guy off and on since March 2017. He has a female rottie that’s about 3 yrs old now. Shes adorable and I love her as if she was mine. He says that she likes me because she always wants to be around me whenever I visit his home. Sometimes she’s playful but occasionally when he touches me, she intervenes. One day I was sitting in her spot on his sofa and she went around the other side and laid her entire body on my lap. My friend came in and made her get down.So I got up to give her her favorite spot and she didn’t want to sit on the sofa at all. My friend came back and sat next to me in his spot on the sofa. She stayed close to me while we both were watching a movie. After watching tv for a while we decided to go to bed as it was getting late and we both had to work the next day. He got up and stood in front of me and extended his hand to help me up and she growled and knocked his hand away from mine. Is she being protective of him or me? It has been about 9 months since she saw me. I wonder if she even remembers me? If she doesn’t like me, I may have to rethink pursuing the relationship.

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