Rottweiler

Heather Newett, MPH, DVM
Written by:
Published: August 23, 2022
Rottweiler

Rottweilers are a large dog breed with broad heads, strong jaws, and wide-set eyes. They are working dogs that have been a recognized breed in the United States since 1931.

Purebred Rottweilers have a limited coat coloration that should be composed of a black base with mahogany, rust, or tan accents. Many Rottweilers appear to have a “bobtail,” which is rarely a natural occurrence. Most “bobtail” Rottweilers have had their tails surgically docked.

Rottweilers are 22-27 inches tall and weigh 80-135 pounds. They are at risk of becoming obese and may develop diseases such as arthritis if they become obese. With proper care, Rottweilers  live 9-12 years on average.

Caring for a Rottweiler

Caring for a Rottweiler requires knowledge about their health problems, grooming needs, and dietary, exercise, and mental health care requirements.

Rottweilers are loyal, protective, and slow-maturing dogs. Due to their genetic predisposition, they need exercise for at least 60 minutes a day. They are intelligent and therefore easily bored, so they must have regular stimulating activities to prevent unwanted behavior.

They have great teeth and are strong chewers, so dental maintenance is less intensive compared to other breeds.

Because they are prone to having many health problems, routine veterinary exams are important for keeping Rottweilers healthy.

Rottweiler Health Issues

Rottweilers are generally healthy dogs but have a few issues to look out for.

Obesity

The Rottweiler breed is prone to obesity, so pet parents need to be diligent about their dog’s mealtime and food portion size. Rottweilers need to consume 1,600-2,300 calories a day. Amounts vary for pets that are not spayed or neutered, have increased or decreased amounts of exercise, or are pregnant or nursing.

Your veterinarian can help you determine the best weight management plan for your dog. This includes monitoring their diet and exercise routines as well as their treat intake, and ensuring they do not eat table scraps or another pet’s food.

Canine Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Rottweilers are known to suffer from canine elbow dysplasia (CED) and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). These conditions affect the joints in the hips and elbows and can cause instability and pain. Both conditions can also lead to arthritis if not properly treated.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are difficult to manage. Surgical correction may be appropriate in some cases, and lifelong physical therapy and joint supplements are recommended. Keeping your dog’s body at a healthy weight is necessary to avoid further damaging diseased joints.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

A dog’s cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Due to their large size and high energy levels, Rottweilers commonly rupture their CCLs—just like humans tear their ACLs.

This injury is best treated with orthopedic surgery, followed by lifelong joint supplement administration and physical therapy.

You can reduce your Rottweiler’s risk of a CCL rupture by avoiding high-impact activities such as lurching and knee-twisting movements during play, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in low-impact exercise on a regular basis.

Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is a painful, metastatic, and aggressive bone cancer that Rottweilers are predisposed to.

If you see any signs of pain or lameness in your Rottweiler, take them to your veterinarian for an evaluation as soon as possible.

Osteosarcoma is usually easily diagnosed through a physical exam and radiography. It can be treated effectively if it is diagnosed at a very early stage.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Rottweilers are also predisposed to gastric dilation volvulus (GDV)—a severe case of bloat—because of their deep chests and relatively narrow abdomens. GDV occurs when the stomach bloats with gas or food material. Its swelling allows it to rotate, blocking flow of material into or out of the stomach.

The stomach will continue to swell as more gas and digestive fluids are produced, and there is a significantly decreased blood supply to the stomach during this process. GDV is fatal if not treated immediately.

A preventative surgical procedure, called a gastropexy, is often recommended by veterinarians to pet parents of at-risk breeds. If this procedure is not performed, always monitor your dog for abdominal swelling, non-productive vomiting, or prolonged difficulty to find a comfortable position.

Entropion

Entropion is a common eyelid condition in which the eyelids curl inward and the eyelashes point toward and rub against the cornea.

Unless this condition is surgically treated, it causes constant eye irritation and excessive tearing.

Entropion also increases risk for corneal ulceration and eye infections.

Subaortic Stenosis

Heart murmurs are abnormalities that a veterinarian may find during the routine physical exam of a Rottweiler. This condition may be caused by subaortic stenosis (SAS), which can lead to sudden death, especially in undiagnosed, untreated puppies.

If a veterinarian diagnoses your dog with any cardiac abnormalities, consult with a veterinary cardiologist as soon as possible. Some cardiac diseases can be managed with lifelong administration of oral medications.

What to Feed a Rottweiler

Feed your Rottweiler a food that matches their life stage. A puppy should be fed a puppy food, an adult dog should be fed an adult dog food, and a senior dog should be fed a senior dog food.

Choose a dog food that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Some pet food companies have even developed diets specifically for Rottweilers, and these are generally appropriate. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food option for your dog.

Grain-free diets are not recommended, as they increase the risk of developing heart disease, which Rottweilers are predisposed to.

How to Feed a Rottweiler

Rottweiler puppies should be fed at least 4 times a day because their blood glucose levels are far less stable than adults. They also require calories sufficient for growth and metabolism maintenance. Feeding a puppy diet is recommended until 12 months of age.

Adult Rottweilers can be fed one or two times a day. Since Rottweilers are prone to obesity, many pet parents use kibble from their dog’s food as treats. Kibble also counts toward their total daily meals to help maintain a healthy weight.

When they are 5 to 7 years old, Rottweilers should be fed a diet formulated for senior dogs. Senior diets are generally lower in calories per serving, contain omega fatty acids and joint supplements, and have easily digestible proteins.

How Much to Feed a Rottweiler

Appropriate caloric intake is important to keeping your Rottweiler at a healthy weight.

A rule of thumb is that Rottweilers should be fed 1,600-2,300 calories a day. This may vary for pets that have not been spayed or neutered, have increased or decreased amounts of exercise, or are pregnant or nursing.

A veterinarian will assess a Rottweiler’s body condition and can provide an individualized caloric intake recommendation.

Nutritional Tips for Rottweilers

It is important to consult a veterinarian regarding the best dietary supplements. Highly recommended supplements for Rottweilers include:

  • Omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acid supplements, which support joints, coat, and cardiac function.

  • Joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which help prevent arthritis.

 

Behavior and Training Tips for Rottweilers

Rottweiler Personality and Temperament

Rottweilers are gentle, fearless, and sometimes stubborn. They are fun to interact with, due to their eagerness to please humans.

They are very intelligent and trainable dogs. This intelligence means that boredom can lead to unwanted behaviors, so providing mental stimulation is important for a Rottweiler.

Early socialization and positive reinforcement are also recommended—especially when they are puppies. Positive interactions with strangers will help prevent or reduce separation anxiety, fear, and aggression.

Rottweiler Behavior

Rottweilers have very strong protective instincts, which is why they are commonly used as guard dogs.

However, that territorial personality can lead to barking habits and aggression toward strangers. It’s important to make sure that signs of possessiveness, aggression, and anxiety are addressed immediately.

Roughhouse play should be avoided with Rottweilers, especially when they are puppies, as it can cause them to become mouthy. They must be trained to have appropriate bite inhibition.

If there is concern that a Rottweiler may be a bite risk, professional intervention with a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist is advised as early as possible.

Rottweiler Training

Rottweilers learn new commands very quickly, which makes them excellent service or police dogs. Positive reinforcement is the recommended training method for these dogs, as it provides consistent and long-lasting behavioral memory.

Other training methods include negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. There are situations when these methods may be useful, but they should only be used under the guidance of a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.

Kennel training can also be helpful for Rottweilers. Providing a safe space for your dog to spend alone time in and rest helps them feel more secure in their home. Kennels can also help with managing potty training and preventing unwanted behaviors like destructive chewing and excessive barking.

Fun Activities for Rottweilers

Fun activities that you can enjoy with your Rottweiler include:

  • Running

  • Hiking

  • Camping

  • Dock Diving

  • Tracking

  • Agility

  • Obedience training

Rottweiler Grooming Guide

The grooming routine for a Rottweiler is fairly low maintenance, but they do shed quite a bit. So weekly grooming is recommended.

Tooth brushing at least three times weekly is required for maintenance of good oral health. Dental cleanings using anesthesia and under the care of a veterinarian are recommended annually after Rottweilers reach the age of 2 or 3.

Skin Care

A Rottweiler’s skin tends to be quite healthy, so it’s best to not bathe them more than once every two to four weeks, except for medical purposes.

Coat Care

Rottweilers have a medium-length coat that sheds a lot. This means that daily to weekly brushing might be necessary to help manage their coat health and control the amount of dog hair around your home.

Eye Care

Rottweilers do not require any specialized eye care unless they have been diagnosed with entropion eyelids. When doing your weekly brushing, check their eyes for excessive tearing or blinking, discharge, and irritation.

Ear Care

Regular ear cleaning is not advised unless it is recommended by a veterinarian for medical purposes.

Considerations for Pet Parents

If you choose to bring a Rottweiler into your life, consider several important factors:

Rottweilers are gentle creatures that can develop aggressive and territorial behaviors if not properly socialized or trained as puppies. They also require a lot of daily exercise, human interaction, and mental stimulation.

Rottweilers can have several serious health problems that may need lifelong management. Complying with your vet’s recommendations is imperative to keep these dogs healthy and happy.

US state and local governments enforce breed-specific legislation (BSL) that limits ownership of Rottweilers within certain municipalities. So be sure to check that Rottweilers are allowed not just in your state and community, but in your neighborhood and building.

Rottweiler FAQs

Is a Rottweiler a good family dog?

Rottweilers make great family dogs, but need to be trained from an early age to prevent mouthiness or aggressive behavior.

Are Rottweilers smart dogs?

Yes, Rottweilers are extremely intelligent.

What were Rottweilers bred for?

Rottweilers were initially bred to be herding dogs in Germany. Eventually the need for Rottweilers as herding dogs diminished, and they became working dogs.

They are used as guide dogs for sight-impaired people and also provide services to people with other disabilities. Rottweilers are also used as family dogs, personal guard dogs, police dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs.

References

American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Small Animal Topics: Canine Hip Dysplasia. 2022.

Featured Image: iStock.com/Ideas_Studio


Help us make PetMD better

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles

Connect with a Vet

Subscribe to PetMD's Newsletter

Get practical pet health tips, articles, and insights from our veterinary community delivered weekly to your inbox.