The Truth About Rottweilers

Three years ago I knew virtually nothing about Rottweilers; or more accurately I knew a number of things that weren’t true. For example, I pictured Rottweilers as very aggressive guard dogs that didn’t make good pets and weren’t “people” dogs. Then about three years ago while browsing the internet looking at dogs up for adoption, my daughter fell in love with “Jade”, a two-year old three-legged female Rottie at a shelter in Texas. A few weeks later we were on our way to Texas to adopt Jade — a move which would lead to a quick re-education on my part as to the truth about Rottweilers.

When we first met Jade my impression was of a large, lurching bear of a dog, tongue hanging out one side of her mouth and stub tail wagging furiously. She had lost her right front leg when she was hit by a car as a puppy; her owners paid to have her leg amputated but decided they no longer wanted her and dropped her off at the local animal shelter. Then an older couple adopted her to replace their dog who had died, but quickly decided Jade wasn’t the right dog for them. They ended up dropping her at another shelter — where we eventually found her.

Once we got back home with the newest member of our family a couple of things quickly became apparent. Rottweiler experts will tell you that you need to establish control over your Rottie early on or it will become very hard to manage. In Jade’s case establishing control was a real challenge. After spending half her life in a kennel, she had obviously decided that humans, although nice enough, weren’t to be trusted. It wasn’t that she was uncontrollable – it was more a case of Jade having developed a strong sense of independence. Getting her to do what you wanted took a certain amount of give and take.

I did learn several things about Rotties while we were working on getting more control over Jade. First of all, I did some reading and found out that Rottweilers were actually bred as herding dogs and were also used to pull small loads; only later on were they used as guard dogs. They are in fact “people” dogs and enjoy spending a lot of time with their humans. Rotties are strong, tough, loyal — and as subtle as a sledgehammer. By nature they tend to be loud (Jade has a snarl that could peel paint off a wall), suspicious of strangers (outside of the house at least), and patient (their ability to remain calm and not over-react to situations is one quality that makes them good guard dogs).

As mentioned, Rotties usually like to “hang out” with their humans, but it took several months for Jade to really warm up to us. She would spend most of her time alone in the bedroom and rarely got up and moved around except to go outside. She got so little exercise that she began to put on weight and, since it took a certain amount of effort for her to get up with only three legs, she even started to drag herself around at times rather than go to the trouble of heaving herself up on her feet. Eventually an improved diet of weight maintenance dog chow and green beans took most of the weight back off and a lab pup we rescued gave Jade someone to play with and got her to get up and moving.

Now, two years later, Jade is an integral part of our family and I’ve learned several more truths about Rotties:

  1. They say you need to brush your Rottweiler at least once a week to comb out the loose fur from their undercoat and that’s the absolute truth. Brushing Jade is a major operation — my wife usually spends 30 to 45 minutes brushing her and even uses an attachment on the vacuum cleaner to try to suck up all the loose fur (and by the way, Jade seems to enjoy being vacuumed).
  2. Rotties are also supposed to be sensitive to both hot and cold weather. Considering the thickness of her undercoat, Jade does have a problem with really hot weather. We only let her out for a short time during the day in the summer. As for not tolerating really cold weather, I’m not sure I entirely agree with that. I’ve seen Jade lie outside in the snow for several hours at a time and have to be coaxed back into the house.
  3. Another “truth” I’ve discovered about Rotties that you don’t read much about is the “gas” problem. Everyone I’ve talked to who has a Rottweiler seems to share this problem. You’ll be sitting there and suddenly your Rottie expels some gas. Within moments the room becomes enveloped in a haze of noxious gas. This room-clearing effect probably has something to do with improper diet, but none of the owners I know have found an answer for it yet.
  4. Experts caution you not to give your Rottie rawhide. Jade does get rawhide chips, but not large pieces. Besides which, Cole (our lab) generally steals them from her before Jade has a chance to consume much of the rawhide. Oddly enough though, Jade does have a passion for paper products; leave a Kleenix, paper towel or napkin within her reach and she’ll down it in one gulp.
  5. One thing I’ve found to be especially true is that you do need to be careful about strangers and other animals. Inside our house Jade is always happy to greet new people and even at the pet store she’s friendly enough to others. Outside our house though Jade becomes much more cautious and can be very aggressive toward strangers at times (although since Rotties consider a bull rush and chest bump as a proper greeting, sometimes it’s hard to tell hostility from enthusiasm). As for other animals, Jade gets along fine with our lab, our cats and our parrots, but you can never be quite sure how she’s going to react to a new animal.
  6. Finally, Rottweilers are surprisingly intelligent (the ninth-most intelligent dog breed according to a recent study). With their size, strength, and somewhat aggressive nature it’s easy to assume that they’re not too bright. Be aware though, inside that titanium steel skull is an active, problem-solving mind.

All in all, I’ve become very attached to our brute of a dog. Jade may drool, pass gas, shed and let out ear-splitting snarls, but she’s also a lovable, affectionate, sometimes clownish, sometimes sensitive, sometimes scheming, and always entertaining member of our family.