published January 2019
This month's breed -The Rottweiler.
Majestic in stature with its massive muscles, the Rottweiler can be a gentle giant or an intimidating canine depending on its training and breeding. With a natural instinct towards protection, early socialisation and consistent leadership will determine its temperament.
Rottweilers are a large dog and have developed an unfair reputation for viciousness as a "bully breed". Their protectiveness is often misunderstood as aggressiveness. Weighing from 38 to 61 kgs and standing between 30 and 60 cms, Rottweilers can look imposing. With a well recognised large head and distinctive black and tan markings, Rottweilers are great guard dogs, but can have a mellow and loving heart. Their personality often depends on their owner. You want a dog that is calm and watchful but not nervous or hyperactive.
They are slightly longer than they are tall with ears that are triangular and noses that are black and wide. Their lips and inside of their mouth are also black. Their eyes are almond-shaped and dark brown. The tail is customarily docked and dewclaws removed. Their fur is black with unique markings over their eyes, cheeks, chest, lower legs and under the tail.
Because of their size, even the gentlest Rottweiler can take down small children and the elderly who bump into them, so it’s important they be supervised. Because of their strength, Rottweilers make excellent police dogs, cattle herders and excel at tasks involving agility and endurance.
Although its exact origins are murky, Rotties as they are fondly known, are thought to descend from the Molossus dog of Italy, a Mastiff-type dog bred to fight lions in Roman amphitheatres, as well as being used by the Roman army on their campaigns. In the town of Rottweil, the dogs were used to herd cattle and get meat to the soldiers and butchers. One of the army marches led the dogs to Germany, where they were nicknamed Rottweiler Metzgerhund (or butcher dog). Because donkey carts replaced dog carts, Rottweilers were on their way to extinction until a resurgence in the 20th Century when they were recognised as potential police dogs for their intelligence, loyalty, and strength.
Rottweilers are bold and confident and can even be shy around strangers. However, if someone threatens its family, it can be prone to attack. How a Rottweiler acts on its protectiveness will depend on its training. If it has been well socialised around children, strangers and other pets, Rottweilers can be well adjusted and well behaved at home and in public settings. If its leadership is inconsistent and it has been trained to fight, Rottweilers can be very dangerous and seriously injure others.
Bark Busters dog trainers teach dog owners to establish themselves as the “leader of the pack” from the start. We have seen Rottweilers whose aggression can be dangerous to even the good guys and Rottweilers that are lovable family companions. The difference is in the leadership abilities of the dog owners – you want your dog to respect you not fear you. With a dog as powerful and intelligent as the Rottweiler, it is important you become the “Top Dog”.
Know that two Rottweilers from the same litter can be very different. One may have a lot of energy, while the other is content to be a lap dog. Never assume because your Rottweiler loves your children that he loves all children. Rottweilers should always be supervised around unfamiliar children, because if they are roughhousing, your dog may misjudge the sense of danger. Dogs don’t see children as miniature adults. They see them as unpredictable creatures with loud voices who pull on their tail and try to sit on them. Rottweilers are very territorial and will never let strangers near its family unless its pet parents welcome them.
Remember that dogs are not born mean. Despite some media reports, Rottweilers are not inherently vicious. Well raised Rotties can be gentle giants if properly taught. Many people will misjudge the breed and some cities have even banned it. Every Rottie dog owner who loves the breed can redeem its reputation by educating Rottweilers to obey and respect people.
Rottweilers have a double coat of medium length fur which is coarse to the touch. If you want its coat to be shiny, brush it once a week to penetrate the natural oils. Twice a year the Rottweiler will shed its coat heavily and may require more brushing. Unlike humans, Rottweilers require little bathing.
Always check your Rotties ears for wax buildup or infection. Always use a cotton ball – never a cotton bud. Keep a check on their teeth for tartar build up and gingivitis, and trim their nails regularly.
No two Rottweilers are alike, but there are some traits common to the breed. Some are very reserved while others will delight you with their antics:
If a well behaved Rottie is what you want, guidance and structure will be key. If possible, start training your puppy the minute he steps through your front door. Puppies are like sponges, eager to soak up all the information you provide. Socialising means not only introducing your dog to children, pets and strangers, but creating rules and boundaries for what is acceptable and what is not.
Many owners do not want to socialise their dogs for fear of it becoming too “friendly”. This is a fallacy. When your puppy comes home, it is important to start slowly by introducing it to family members. You can then introduce friends and even other dogs whose owners have like minded training philosophies. Make sure you only introduce your puppy to other dogs that have been vaccinated to prevent exposure to Parvo. Be wary of other dogs that are high energy because it may frighten an inexperienced puppy.
Socialising your dog does not have to be a chore. Running errands? If the weather is temperate, take the dog along. For the first couple of weeks, while you are housebreaking and teaching ground rules, you will need to spend more time with your puppy. Remember you want your dog to fit into your life, not the other way around.
Any dog, no matter how well socialised can start misbehaving and engaging in destructive behaviours if bored. Don’t put your Rottweiler outside and forget about him. A tired dog is a happy dog, so it’s important to keep your Rottweiler’s body and mind.
Rottweilers are large mighty dogs descended from the fighting Mastiffs used by Roman and other ancient armies. They are primarily working dogs, so like other working dogs, if you aren’t exercising their brains and giving them challenges, they will make up their own entertainment. This can lead to destructive behaviours like the stuffing from your couch spread all over your living room. Rottweilers can be independent and headstrong which means you need consistent training that is constantly reinforced. If you give them an inch, they will quickly be in charge. If you don’t teach them that answering the door is your responsibility, they will never calmly let anyone come into your home!
Rotties are smart, as are most working dogs, and will challenge you every day to test your mettle. A typical Rottie challenge might be to lay down when you tell him to sit. They just change things slightly to test if you are going to call them on this misbehaviour. If you don’t correct this behaviour immediately, getting their cooperation will become more difficult. However, if you do make them get up and sit, you will gain their respect and establish your authority. You will be tested daily -- if and how you respond to these tests matters.
As much fun as it would be to wrestle with your Rottweilers, Bark Busters strongly cautions against it. While many dogs can safely wrestle with their owners, some don’t know when to stop or who it’s not ok to wrestle with. Rotties are not a dog to make this mistake with so it is much better to be safe than sorry. It is never a good idea to get physical with any dog, but it is dangerous to get physical with Rotties. You need to teach them to respond so you are not left without an option. You do not want to grab their collar to get them off the sofa or bed.
While they are wonderful dogs, they might not be the right dogs for novice dog owners or for those who just want to love their dogs. Living with a Rottweiler can be a challenge but those who have become accustomed to this breed will have no other.
These dogs need a complete and balanced relationship with their human pack. This means mutual love, trust and respect. Problems occur when there are misunderstandings or miscommunications. Bark Busters' trainers are experts with Rottweilers and can teach pet parents to “speak dog” so you are correcting your dog in a language it understands.
The two predominant training issues that Bark Busters trainers are called in to address with Rottweilers are aggressiveness and overprotectiveness.
Despite this, Rotties are very trainable and are high on Bark Busters list of ‘easy to train breeds’. They don’t take well to unstructured environments, so you need to be the one in control or they will quickly take the lead. Before you know it your Rottie will be answering the door and frightening anyone who knocks or rings the doorbell.
Rottweilers by their size and breeding are naturally watchful and protective.
Any aggression or overprotectiveness in a Rottie is attributable to their ‘naturally inherited’ traits, developed when no rules or boundaries are present. They must see a ‘pecking order’ in the household.
We have a saying at Bark Busters: “if the top position in the household is vacant, the dog will apply for the job.” It’s in their DNA to have structure and they will try and create it, where none exists.
All dogs need consistency in their life to feel safe and secure. It’s up to you to ensure you provide this structure and set some rules to ensure your Rottie receives the very best education it possibly can.
Sometimes the only solution is professional training and Bark Busters are here to help if you feel that your dog needs some expert assistance.
For example, every time you approach a door the human should always be the first one to walk through the door and then your dog, but only when you say it’s okay to do so. Choose the same word every time to let your dog know when he can walk through. The word ‘free’ works best as it’s not a word you would use a lot during normal conversation. If your dog anticipates the ‘free’ word and rushes through the door before you have said it, then repeat the exercise. Your dog must learn to take direction from you and not be the one making the decisions.
This might sound like a trivial thing, but in the ‘dog world’, the leader always leads and this sublimely lets your dog know that you are its rightful leader.
Another example of what we are talking about here is, do you allow your dog on the couch? If you do, then what rules will you set? Will you only allow him on the couch when you invite him on, or can he hop up on the furniture anytime he likes.
If you are not going to allow him on the couch at all, even when you are sitting on the couch, then you have to ensure that this is a rule and that you consistently hold to that rule, regardless of what your dog tries to do.
A list of rules might be as follows:
Create your list of rules and stick to it as a firm plan and you and your Rottweiler will enjoy many enjoyable hours together.
If you are looking for a Rottweiler puppy, you can choose a reputable breeder or rescue a lucky dog from a shelter group. Contrary to opinion, shelters work hard to match the right owners with the right dogs. Most dogs are abandoned for the wrong reasons which usually lie with their owners. Shelters give their dogs health checks to make sure they are in good shape and up to date on vaccinations and will make you aware of any behavioural issues. Bark Busters trainers work with many local shelters to help overcome any behavioural issues before a dog is adopted.
A good breeder will try and screen out all the health problems inherent to the breed as much as possible. They should be happy to answer your questions about temperament and health considerations and should ask you questions about your lifestyle and goals. Many breeders are registered with the Australian National Kennel Club or Dogs New Zealand, where they abide by certain policies and screening.
No matter what route you decide, here are some questions to ask before you select a puppy;
Before you decide on a puppy, ask yourself if you would be better off with an adult Rottweiler that is lower maintenance and lower energy. Puppies are fun, but they are also a lot of work.
Whether you acquire a puppy or adult make sure you take your dog to the vet soon after adoption to identify and prevent any problems.
It is better not to choose two puppies from the same litter because of sibling rivalry. Likewise, it is better to have a female and male to reduce fighting.
Every dog has basic needs. A pet parent's job will last 15+ years so make sure you are ready for the commitment.
Rottweilers put on weight easily, so it is important you feed it a high quality diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Remember that dogs are carnivores, meaning meat should be an essential ingredient of their diet. Many commercial dog foods are high in grains because meat is more expensive. Many misbehaviours can be attributed to poor nutrition. When you feed your dog a healthy diet, they will be more energetic, have less health problems, and are less likely to become overweight. Your Rottweiler’s diet will need to change as it grows from puppyhood to adulthood.
Every dog needs a "den" a comfortable place to call their own. When life gets hectic, your Rottweiler can retreat to their space. Some pet parents prefer crate training. Make sure the crate is big enough for the dog to easily stand.
Rotties need a job and plenty of exercise. They not only need a couple of 10 – 20 minute walks per day, but mental stimulation is just as important. Rotties thrive on obedience competitions, competitive protection work, therapy work or herding. They love puzzle toys such as the GameChanger® by Bark Busters.
Even though they are working dogs, Rotties love to play. Although they don’t mind being left alone, they would rather be with you.
Hide and Seek
Hide a ball/treat/yourself throughout your home and encourage your dog to find where it is.
Fill a 1 – 3 litre bottle with water and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours. Your dog will love to play fetch, especially when it is hot outside.
This classic form of exercise is still great for Rotties.
In addition to physical entertainment, Rottweilers need to exercise their brain. A great interactive toy is the GameChanger® by Bark Busters. Not only is this toy safe (made of FlexaPure - durable non-toxic PBA-free polyurethane material), but it stimulates a dog’s natural desire to chew. You fill the toy with some small treats, and a Rottie must decide how to get the treats out through the small holes. It will keep it entertained for hours!
If you have ever lost your dog, you know that heart-pounding adrenaline of panic. The WaggTagg™ pet identification tag is unique in that it works off a QR code. Free to all Bark Busters clients’, the pet parent enters important dog information plus a picture. Whoever finds the dog can scan the tag using a mobile phone and contact you immediately 24/7. No waiting for vet offices to open and no renewal fees or any extra charges!
To help lost dogs and their humans become reunited, Bark Busters created the WaggTagg™.
This brightly coloured tag cannot be missed by a finder. The finder simply needs to scan the tag with their phone, which sends a text message directly to the dog owner and several other nominated people. One of your contacts could be your vet for cases where your dog might have a medical condition. The tag will not reveal any sensitive information to the finder because it protects the dog owner’s privacy.
Speak to your local Bark Busters trainer about our free WaggTagg™ that is included in all Bark Busters training. It will help keep your dog safe.
A Rottweiler’s massive size can have it pulling its pet parent all over on a lead. Without the proper training, lead walking calmly can be difficult for this breed. Fortunately, Bark Busters’ trainers often use a WaggWalker® dog harness that keeps your dog walking properly by your side. It puts less pressure on the dog’s body while walking and uses a unique flick and release motion to encourage your dog to "think" and “focus”. This will make your walk a pleasure.
As previously mentioned, early education is very important. From the start, your Rottie should learn to walk properly on the lead. Start with short walks and make them fun and educational.
Introducing the Lead
Many folks struggle to control their full grown Rottie when out walking. It just takes patience and know how.
Start when your Rottie is still a puppy and easy for you to control on the lead. Educate your puppy where you want it to walk, a few steps behind you. There should be no straining at the lead.
Bark Busters are often asked; why do dogs pull on the lead? A dog that pulls can be injured himself or injure you.
Introducing the WaggWalker®
This type of pressure (as shown above) on your dog's neck is not good for his trachea or his skeletal frame. It also places unnecessary pressure on your arms and joints. It benefits neither you nor your dog and is not fun. Yet we see this type of walking daily mainly because pet parents don't know there is a better way.
Dogs are natural pullers whenever the restraint is on their body, a collar or a harness that is attached to a tight lead. It's in a dog's DNA to pull against any restraint.
This is why you see dogs pulling sleds - they feel the restraint and naturally pull against the restraint. However, we can alter the dog's perception if we keep the dog on a loose lead, where it feels NO restraint.
The WaggWalker®, is a walking harness designed by dog trainers to communicate and educate dogs how to walk sedately on the lead.
For more info speak to your Bark Busters trainer or visit barkbusters.co.nz.