Breed Group:
Working Dogs

Middle Age: 4 years

Senior Age: 4 years

Geriatric Age: 7 years

Life Span: 8 to 11 years

Health Issues Associated with this Breed:

Rottweiler Breed Info/Background:

  • Around 50 BC, thousands of Roman troops trekked northward over the Alps in search of new holdings, bringing with them cattle plus dogs to control the cattle. The dogs were Molossians, which were used for livestock control since classical Greek days and probably descended from Tibetan Mastiffs and other large Asian breeds. The Romans left encampments and also settled in existing villages along their route, leaving cattle and dogs. One such place grew into the town of Rottwil (eventually Rottweil), which means red villa after the town’s red tile roofing.
  • Even when the town fell from Roman rule the dogs persisted, evolving in the job as all-around cattle dogs: controlling cattle in the butcher’s yard, pulling the butchers’ meat-laden carts around town, and driving cattle from town to town. The dog’s job wasn’t done once he had delivered a herd to market. A lone drover walking home with a pocket full of cash was easy prey for robbers. Lore has it that they solved the robbery problem by tying the money in a leather purse around the dog’s neck; no robber dared make a grab for it. As Rottweil continued to grow as a cultural and trade center, more visitors began to admire and acquire the Rottweil metzgerhund (butcher’s dog), as they were called.
  • Rottweil often traded with Switzerland, and the Rottweil butcher dogs probably interbred with prototypes of Swiss breeds such as the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Entlebucher, and Appenzeller. Other local farm, hunting, and fighting breeds may have also crossed with the butcher dogs to create a dog that could also hunt boar.
  • The Rottweiler continued performing its duties relatively unchanged until the mid 1800s. With the advent of railroads, cattle could be more easily moved, and public outcry against the abuse of draft dogs cost them that job as well. Now jobless, by 1900 only one Rottweiler was left in Rottweil.
  • Dog enthusiasts gathered the best remaining Rottweilers from around Europe in an attempt to save them. In 1910 the Rottweiler became one of the first breeds adopted by the German Police Dog Association. In the 1920s the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK) determined that any Rottweiler must first prove itself as a working dog before being awarded a German Championship.
  • The first recorded Rottweilers in America came with German immigrants to New York in the late 1920s. Only in 1935 did the AKC grant official breed status to the Rottweiler.
  • The breed was obscure in America until the 1970s when it began to rise in popularity. By the mid 1990s, the AKC was registering more than 100,000 Rottweilers each year, placing it as the second most popular breed in America.
  • Rottweilers were irresponsibly bred and owned, and many attacked people. They became the target of breed specific legislation making ownership difficult. By the end of the decade registrations had dropped to just over 37,000. The breed is now back on the rise in popularity.
  • Family: AKC places the Rottweiler in the Working group. It is a member of the mastiff family.


  • The Rottweiler has a typical mastiff-type stocky body, with heavy bone and thick muscling. This is a dog built for strength and drafting ability, but also with the nimbleness needed to control unruly cattle.
  • The head is wide for greater muscle attachment to the jaws, and the muzzle is also wide rather than long, adding to its strength.
  • The ears are natural but the tail is traditionally docked close in North America. Docking is illegal in many other countries.
  • The color is always black and tan. Any other Rottweiler coat colors are not “rare and sought after” but incorrect and possibly the result of crossbreeding.

Rottweiler Temperament:

  • The Rottweiler personality is bold, protective and alert—they make ideal watchdogs and protection dogs.
  • They are also eager to please and biddable, but they can be stubborn. They are moderately easy to train.
  • They are not generally friendly to strange dogs or people, or even other pets. Rottweiler aggression is common.
  • The domineering nature and powerful physique means that this is not a dog for the novice owner.
  • Rottweilers tend to “bump” people, a behavior that was helpful when they had to bump cattle hard to keep them in line back in their drover days. But bumping children and elderly people can knock them down and cause injuries or make them vulnerable, so precautions should be taken.
  • Before pit bulls took their place, Rottweilers held the number one spot for attacks leading to serious injuries and fatalities against humans. Conscientious breeders have worked hard to improve the breed’s trustworthiness, but many breeders still emphasize the breed’s aggressive tendencies. Many attacks have come from dogs that were raised and trained by the book. Rottweilers should only be obtained from known sources who breed for conformation and temperament. While those from shelters may or may not make great companions, some risk is inherent as their background is probably unknown.
  • A survey by the Rottweiler Health Foundation found that aggression toward other dogs was reported in 10% of Rottweilers and toward people in 4%.


  • Coat care is simple, requiring only a weekly brushing.
  • Shedding is low to average.
  • They should eat a food designed for large dogs.
  • As the breed may not be good with other dogs, care must be taken to provide an escape-proof enclosure.
  • They have average cold tolerance but don’t like hot weather.


  • The Rottweiler is extremely versatile in its abilities. It thrives on both physical and mental challenges.
  • They need a long jog daily, supplemented by games such as fetch. They love to hike, but only the most trustworthy around other dogs should be let off leash if an encounter is possible. In addition, they may chase large animals if they see them.
  • They are not suited for dog parks.
  • Rottweilers excel in many competitions, including Schutzhund, ring sport, tracking and obedience. They are fairly good in agility. They also enjoy the sport of drafting.
  • They are excellent Search & Rescue dogs, and serve as guard dogs, police dogs, and contraband detection dogs.

Rottweiler Health and Longevity:

Typical Rottweiler life span is 8 to 11 years.

  • In a large study of the “oldest-old” Rottweilers—those 13 years or older—it was found that the female Rottweiler life expectancy is twice as likely to reach age 13 than males—but that this advantage only worked if the female was not spayed at least until age 4. Overall, there was a correlation between how long the females were left intact and how likely they were to reach age 13.
  • Additional studies are now implicating early spay and neuter in several disease in large dogs, including increased risk of urinary incontinence (females only), cruciate ligament rupture and hemangiosarcoma.
  • Elbow dysplasia is especially high in the breed, affecting 40% of Rottweilers. It causes front limb lameness.
  • Hip dysplasia is also a major concern, affecting 20% of Rotties. It causes rear end lameness.
  • Osteoarthritis affects 20% of Rottweilers, which is a higher percentage than most other breeds. This could be related to the hip and elbow problems, or simply to the breed’s larger size.
  • Cruciate ligament rupture occurs in 9% of Rottweilers, which is higher than most other breeds. While this condition does occur more often in large breeds it also appears to have a hereditary component.
  • Osteosarcoma (malignant bone cancer) is a major concern. It occurs more often in Rottweilers than any other breed, reported at a frequency of 7%. It occurs most often in the forelimbs of older dogs. It is almost always fatal.
  • Panosteitis is a problem of older puppies that causes intermittent lameness. It usually goes away by itself. About 5% of Rottweiler puppies are reported with it. They also have an increased risk of osteochondritis dessicans, mostly of the hock, but also of the shoulder and knee. It too causes lameness in young dogs. Treatment is with rest, or sometimes, surgery.
  • Food and inhalant allergies are reported in about 5% to 8% of Rottweilers.
  • Rottweilers have a much higher incidence of subaortic stenosis, a congenital heart defect that restricts the outflow of blood from the heart. It can cause symptoms from heart murmur to heart failure to sudden death. It can be diagnosed with a cardiac ultrasound.
  • Rottweilers, like most large deep-chested breeds, are at risk for bloat (gastric dilation volvulus) in which the stomach twists and traps gases. It can result in death within an hour of detection unless emergency veterinary care is provided.
  • Rottweilers are one of a few breeds that have a susceptibility to parvovirus. It’s believed that many of them do not form the proper immunity in response to standard vaccinations. Vaccinations should be administered by a veterinarian who understands this problem, and possibly followed up with titers.
  • This breed has an increased incidence (3%) of lymphosarcoma, especially that affecting the B-cells. Chemotherapy may be effective.
  • Other conditions that occur in Rotties at a slightly elevated rate include hypereosinophilic syndrome, metacarpal sesamoid disease, histiocytic sarcoma, wobbler syndrome, Addison’s disease, calcinosis circumscripta and sebaceous cysts.

Related Links:

National Breed Club

Health Information

Rottweiler Rescue