The Rottweiler is a multi-purpose working breed developed in Germany in and around the city of Rottweil. Although the breed was initially created for use as a cattle drover, the modern day Rottweiler is primarily used for personal and property protection, as well as companionship. In America, the breed is famed for its loyalty, willingness to work, and intense athleticism and power and has developed an almost legendary reputation as a guard dog. Unfortunately this breed has earned a somewhat unjust reputation for viciousness and aggression, and is subject to legal prejudices and even banning in some areas. Although these dogs can be sharp tempered, the breed’s negative reputation is largely the result of inexperienced or malicious handling and ownership rather than any inherent character flaw in the breed itself. When given the chance Rottweilers frequently become trustworthy, loving and playful family companions. The Rottweiler is also known as the Rottweil Metzgerhund, Metzgerhund, Butcher’s Dog, and Rottie.
The Rottweiler is one of oldest surviving herding breeds, with an ancestry that likely extends back to ancient Rome. This breed was created in an era when few were literate and next to no records were kept about dog breeding. As a result, almost nothing is known for sure about this breeds origins, although much is assumed. What is known for sure is that, this dog has been kept in and around the city of Rottweil since time immemorial, where it has long served as a cattle drover, herding dog, hunting dog, draft animal, and personal and property guardian. The Rottweiler is a unique breed, and does not appear to share a close relationship with any surviving breeds except Swiss Mountain Dogs. Although normally classified as a Molosser/Mastiff, this is highly disputed, and some place this breed with the Pinscher/Schnauzer family, in a group with other continental sheepdogs, or other groups.
Although there are no surviving records, it is almost universally assumed that the Rottweiler descended from dogs brought to the area by the Romans. By the 1st Century, the Romans controlled a massive empire, but many of its borders were unsecure. In an effort to stabilize their frontiers, the Romans wanted to extend their borders north to the Danube River. In the spring of 74 A.D., the Roman army conquered the region of modern day Rottweil. The Romans were not merely interested in conquest; they founded many settlements and fostered economic development in the areas as well. One of these settlements was named Arae Flaviae, in the present location of Rottweil. The Romans utilized a number of distinct dog breeds, but two of the most famous were the Molossus and a breed known to history as either the Short-Haired Herding Dog or the Roman Cattle Droving Dog. The difference between these two breeds is unclear, and some authorities believe that they may have been the same breed with different functions. The Molossus was the war dog of the Roman Army and a breed which they had acquired from ancient Greek and Illyrian tribes. The Roman Cattle Droving Dog also accompanied Roman armies, but was used to drive the massive herds required to feed the legions. In Roman times, most breeds were multi-purpose, and the Molossus was also used as a herding breed and the Roman Cattle Droving Dog as a war dog. The exact nature of the two breeds has been disputed. Many sources and experts believe that both dogs were of the Mastiff-type, or Molossers. Those ancient sources which do exist suggest that the Roman Cattle Droving Dog was most likely a Mastiff, but are unclear as to the Molossus. Recent reinterpretations of documents seem to suggest that the Molossus may actually have been a smaller, general purpose working breed similar to a Catahoula Leopard Dog or an American Pit Bull Terrier, or even a sight hound. Whatever the true nature of these breeds, they were both almost certainly brought to Rottweil or the areas immediately around it, where they continued to be used for their original purpose, although almost certainly crossed with native dogs.
In 260 A.D., the Romans were driven out of area around Arae Flaviae by the Alemmani, a Germanic tribe that originally lived north of the Danube. The Alemmani burned Arae Flaviae to the ground, but later rebuilt the town around a church. Like so many other towns in the south of Germany, it was known as a Vil, after the Roman Villa. This particular settlement became known as Rott (German for Red) Vil, because most of the town’s roofs were red, and eventually Rottweil. It would not be until the modern era that German-speaking lands would be united into one nation, prior to this they were composed of a hodge podge of kingdoms, duchies, free cities, and religious fiefdoms. For many centuries, Rottweil would be an independent city, although it closely aligned itself with the Swiss Confederacy. Rottweil would also become a major market center with an economy largely centered around beef production. Before the advent of technology, the only method of driving cattle from the farm to the market or the slaughterhouse was by the use of droving dogs. German butchers and herdsmen used the descendants of the Roman Cattle Droving Dog for this purpose. Called Metzgerhunds, or Butcher’s Dogs, these dogs were highly skilled and efficient at this task. Because most of the cattle were driven to Rottweil, the type of Metzgerhund used in the surrounding region became known as Rottweil Metzgerhunds, or the Butcher’s Dogs of Rottweil. The nearby Swiss also used large breeds for this purpose, notably the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog was so famed for its skill as a cattle drover that it was exported across Southern Germany, and likely greatly influenced the future development of the Rottweiler.
The cattle workers of Rottweil needed their dogs to be highly intelligent and trainable in order to drive the cattle. They also needed for them to have a strong herding instinct and these traits were highly favored. While English cattlemen preferred short breeds such as Corgis which are so low to the ground that cattle cannot kick them, German breeders preferred a dog that was large and powerful enough to physically push around reticent livestock. Over time, the breed also became adept at working sheep, goats, and especially pigs as well as cattle. Because it was expensive to keep these dogs, it was necessary for them to have a purpose when herding work was not available. German farmers and townspeople (especially butchers) began to use them as draft animals, pulling carts and heavy loads. This saved them the great expense of keeping a horse or a servant. Additionally the disunified nature of Germany made law enforcement difficult, and for many centuries large areas of the country suffered from lawlessness. Bandits and thieves would rustle cattle as they were being driven, or break into their pens at night. To discourage the taking of their stock, farmers also bred their dogs to be fierce guardians of stock as well as herders. At some point, these farmers realized that their highly trainable and protective dogs not only made excellent livestock guardians but also ferocious defenders of their homes and families as well. After a hard day of driving cattle, these dogs would be taken home where they would then protect the property as guard dogs. The most protective and territorial Rottweilers began to be favored, in addition to the most trainable and those with the strongest herding instincts. There is some written evidence that suggests that Rottweilers may have been used for hunting as well, but this is inconclusive. The painting Wolf and Fox Hunt by Peter Paul Rubens created the early 1600’s depicts a dog which is virtually identical to the modern Rottweiler attacking a wolf. If the Rottweiler was used to hunt, this mighty breed was likely sent in to attack a wolf or boar after it had been located by much swifter scent hounds.
For almost a thousand years, the Rottweiler and its ancestors served the people of Rottweil and surrounding areas providing a number of necessary services. However, the Industrial Revolution and subsequent changes in morality almost drove the breed to extinction. Beginning in the 1800’s, railroads began to transport cattle, and legislation outlawed the driving of cattle with dogs. Population increase and new weaponry had also driven large and dangerous wildlife into extinction, or at least far from settled lands. Animal welfare groups enacted legislation that banned the use of dogs as draft animals, although the automobile would have likely ended the practice anyway. Rottweiler numbers continued to fall, and the breed likely would have met the fate of many other ancient breeds, extinction. It is said that in 1905, only a single breed member could be found in the town of Rottweil. Luckily for the breed, a surprising high number of fanciers kept them many years after the breed was supposedly obsolete. It is very likely that most did so simply because they loved the breed that had served them and their families so well for so long. However, the breed’s protective ability remained quite strong and desirable in a changing time. Rising urbanization had brought with it increased crime, and few security systems deter criminals more than a Rottweiler. In the closing years of the 19th Century, German police agencies were doing serious research to determine the ideal breed for police work. Many of these agencies found the Rottweiler to be ideal for this purpose, as the dog has all of the characteristics one would want in a police dog: great intelligence, high trainability, intense loyalty, controllable aggression, power, size and the intimidation factor. By the time World War I arrived, the Rottweiler was undergoing a massive resurgence in popularity as a result of its new found job.
Initially, Rottweilers were considerably more variable in appearance than the present breed. The breed was somewhat smaller and leaner than the modern dog, as well as more variable in regards to skull shape and coat type. The greatest differences regarded color. At one point Rottweilers were found in red, tan, blue, fawn, coffee, and wolf grey, and had several different types of markings and masks. Because the breed had primarily been used as a working animal, efforts were not made to standardize the breed until the early 1900’s. The first attempt to create a breed club was made in 1899, when the animal painter Kull founded the International Club for Leonberger and Rottweiler Dogs. This club soon folded but in 1907, both the German Rottweiler Club and the Southern German Rottweiler Club were founded in the city of Heidelberg, the latter of which eventually became the International Rottweiler Club. The German Rottweiler Club and the International Rottweiler Club operated 1921, when they met to agree on a breed standard. This collaboration led to the merger of the two organizations in 1924, under the banner of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub (ADRK). The ADRK soon published the compiled studbooks of the German Rottweiler Club and the International Rottweiler Club.
Although it is unclear, the first Rottweiler is thought to have been imported to the United States in the 1920’s. The breed was first registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) as a member of the Working Group in 1931. In 1950, the United Kennel Club followed suit and granted the breed full recognition as a member of the Guardian Dog Group. Despite official recognition, the Rottweiler grew in popularity rather slowly and would remain relatively rare until the 1980’s. In 1973, the American Rottweiler Club (ARC) was founded to protect and promote the Rottweiler, eventually becoming the official parent club for the breed with the AKC. In the 1980’s, the Rottweiler experienced a meteoric rise in popularity in the United States. It was in that decade that the breed became the “fashionable guard dog.” Much like the Doberman Pinscher of the 1970’s (the time of the ‘Big Bad Doby’), the Rottweiler of the 1980’s became popular with a certain element of society that wanted a tough or vicious dog. The result was that by the end of the decade, the Rottweiler had become famous (or infamous depending upon ones point of view) throughout America for being a large and aggressive protection animal. This of course lead to the birth of a huge number of disreputable breeders who began to create Rottweilers solely for profit , without any regard for quality or temperament. An unfortunate number of these breeders actually attempted to create the most aggressive and even vicious Rottweilers possible. In 1992, the Rottweiler became the second most commonly registered breed with the AKC, a position it held for most of that decade. Many years saw the registration of more than 70,000 Rottweilers.
Because of poor breeding and malicious handling, the Rottweiler has earned one of the most negative reputations of any breed. This reputation has been greatly enhanced by a series of well-publicized attack incidents and the breed’s media portrayal. Some insurance agencies refuse coverage to Rottweiler owners, and some homeowner’s associations also ban the breed. Many localities across the United States put severe legal restrictions on the ownership of these dogs, and some ban their presence altogether. The Rottweiler is so feared that the breed is outlawed in entire countries. Surveys of breed specific legislation have found that the Rottweiler is easily the second most targeted (or persecuted) breed, after Pit Bull-type dogs. Breed specific legislation is highly controversial, and greatly opposed by most canine organizations such as the AKC and the UKC. Most dog experts agree that Rottweilers and other supposedly dangerous breeds are not inherently dangerous or vicious, but become so as a result of improper breeding, handling and ownership. However, many proponents of such legislation point to dog bite statistics which have shown that Rottweilers are responsible for more fatal attacks than any breed other than Pit Bull-type dogs. These studies themselves are greatly skewed, and are highly criticized for a number of reasons. Additionally, they do not take into account the relative population of various breeds. As the Rottweilers and Pit Bulls have populations which are many times the size of most breeds, it is logical that they would be responsible for more attacks. Many owners acquired these dogs without being prepared to properly care for or train them and as a result their dogs ended up becoming unruly or dangerous, and many were turned into animal shelters. Unfortunately, many breed members were also abandoned on the streets to care for themselves. Because of their dangerous reputation, most Rottweilers that end up in animal shelters are not adopted and end up being euthanized.
Unfortunately, a great deal of the Rottweiler’s bad reputation is the result of media portrayal. The news media is many times as likely to report a serious Rottweiler attack than a fatal attack by many other breeds, and the heroic actions of many Rottweilers are often completely unmentioned. It does not help that the Rottweiler is regularly portrayed as a vicious guard dog or fighting dog (which is highly inaccurate as almost no dog fighters use this breed) in many movies and television shows. It seems that whenever a dangerous or feared dog needs to be cast, a Rottweiler fills the role. This portrayal has likely greatly influenced the public’s perception of the breed, and hence its legal status. Fortunately, Rottweilers have also been portrayed in a more positive and gentle light, even heroically. Examples include the movie Lethal Weapon 3, the television program Entourage, and the Good Dog, Carl book series.
By the end of the 1990’s, Rottweiler populations had begun to fall dramatically. The reasons for this are slightly unclear. It is very possible the breed’s negative reputation eventually caught up with it. It is perhaps more likely that other breeds became more fashionable and that the Rottweiler found itself edged out of favor. Whatever the reason for its recent decline, the Rottweiler remains one of the most popular dog breeds in America and in 2010, the Rottweiler still ranked a very respectable 11th out of 167 total breeds in terms of AKC registrations. Unlike most modern breeds, Rottweilers have maintained most of their working abilities and drive. In America, Rottweilers are used for a number of purposes, including police work, search and rescue, therapy, service, obedience and agility, herding, and livestock guarding. However, most American Rottweilers are either companion animals or personal/property guardians (although many are both). Because of this breed’s many talents and huge number of fanciers (as well as its many detractors), the Rottweiler will likely remain one of America’s most popular and controversial breeds for the foreseeable future.
Thank to its great popularity and infamy, the Rottweiler is one of the most universally recognizable dogs in America. While certainly not one of the true giants of the dog world, the Rottweiler is certainly a very large breed. Male Rottweilers typically stand between 24 and 27 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 95 and 130 pounds. Females usually stand between 22 and 25 inches and weigh between 85 and 115 pounds. This breed does have a tendency to become obese with lack of exercise and many breed members are substantially heavier than average. Rottweilers are generally square in proportion, but are slightly longer than they are tall, with the ideal ratio being 10 inches long for every 9 inches tall. The Rottweiler is a powerfully built dog. Although a Rottweiler in good shape would never be described as bulky, they do tend to be thick-boned and deep-chested (the chest of this breed is approximately half as wide as the dog is tall). This dog is a tremendous athlete and should look the part; Rottweilers should be muscular and fit. The tail of the Rottweiler is traditionally docked to an inch or two in length, and the AKC requires this in the breed standard. While still very common in the United States, this practice is falling out of favor and is actually banned in some countries and is acceptable for UKC Rottweilers. The natural tail of the Rottweiler is of medium length and quite thick. The tails of most Rottweilers are heavily curved, but never curled.
The head of a Rottweiler sits at the end of a thick and powerful neck. The head itself is of average length, but great width, giving the breed the appearance of having a square head. The Rottweiler’s straight muzzle somewhat short, but nowhere near the extent of a breed such as an English Mastiff or Pug. Although short, the Rottweiler’s muzzle is wide and deep, giving the breed immense biting force. The lips of this dog are slightly pendulous, but do not form pronounced jowls. At the end of the muzzle is a wide, black nose. The eyes of the Rottweiler are almond-shaped, deeply set, and should always be dark in color. The ears of this breed are medium in length and triangular in shape. Set high on the head and far apart from each other, a Rottweiler’s ears should drop down and fold forwards. The overall expression of the Rottweiler varies tremendously with the dog’s mood. The same dog can look intense and intimidating one minute and playful and happy-go-lucky the next.
The Rottweiler is a double-coated breed with a short, soft undercoat and a coarse and flat outer coat. The outer coat should be of medium length, but closer to short than long. The hair is generally uniform in length but may be slightly longer on the breechings and tail and is typically shorter on the head, face, ears, and legs. The coat of many Rottweilers appears to glisten but this is not always the case. There is only one acceptable coat color for Rottweilers, black and tan. The base coat of a Rottweiler should be black, with tan markings on the cheeks, muzzle, chest, and legs, as well as over both eyes and underneath the tail. These markings should be clearly defined and as rich in color as possible. Occasionally a Rottweiler will be born in other colors, especially brown or red. While some breeder advertise these dogs as a rare type, most kennel and breed clubs greatly disfavor them and they are ineligible to compete in the show ring.
The Rottweiler has developed a very negative reputation and has become widely reviled and feared for viciousness, and even dangerousness. With the possible exceptions of the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Doberman Pinscher, no other breed has become as misunderstood in modern America as the Rottweiler. What all of these breeds share is popularity with a certain element of society who wants either a vicious or a dangerous dog. They also tend to share an intense loyalty and desire to please. If an owner trains a dog to attack, then that’s what that dog is going to do, whether it is a Rottweiler or a Cocker Spaniel. Similarly, if an owner does not expose a dog to other people it will not know how to react and may fear them.
In truth it is difficult to make generalizations about the temperament of the Rottweiler because so many disreputable or uneducated breeders have created dogs with very unstable temperaments. Some of these dogs are in fact unpredictable, but almost no dog is inherently vicious. It is also impossible to deny that the Rottweiler has been bred primarily as a guard dog for the past century, and has a very strong protective instinct. The vast majority of dogs which become dangerous only do so as a result of their owner’s negligence or malicious intent. When well-trained, most Rottweilers become loyal and discerning protectors that are no more or less dangerous than any other well-trained breed of the same size. For every Rottweiler villain responsible for a serious attack, there are multiple Rottweiler heroes which have saved the lives or property of others. Much is made of statistics that show that Rottweilers are more likely to be involved in fatal dog attacks than any breed other than Pit Bull-type dogs. However, this is greatly skewed by two factors. One is that Rottweilers are one of the most common dogs in America and thus are statistically much more likely to be involved in a serious dog attack. The other is that this breed is so much more powerful than most others that any Rottweiler attack is more likely to be serious.
Much to the surprise of the breed’s many detractors, Rottweilers are an incredibly people-oriented breed. With those it knows well, the Rottweiler is loving and playful, even clownish. This breed is renowned for its intense loyalty, and the average Rottweiler would lay down its life for its family without hesitation. A Rottweiler’s friend is a friend for life. Rottweilers want nothing more than to be in close and constant contact with those that they love. This can become a problem as many Rottweilers come to believe they are lap dogs, draping their 100 plus pounds of muscle on top of their owners. Although breed members would prefer to never be out of their owners’ sight, this dog can handle being left alone for a time and can be kept in an outdoor kennel. Even the most aggressive or defensive Rottweilers tend to be extraordinarily affectionate with their owners.
Stranger aggression is probably the most serious problem experienced by Rottweilers. These dogs have a strong protective instinct and are naturally wary of strangers. With proper training, most Rottweilers are very accepting and polite with strangers when in the presence of their owner; although very few will openly welcome them. Be aware that even the most well-trained Rottweiler will probably not tolerate the presence of an unknown stranger on its territory when its master is away, whether that stranger is a relative or a robber. Proper training and socialization is an absolute must for this breed for them to become a discerning guardian. Untrained Rottweilers often react negatively to the presence of essentially anyone they do not know well, and very often show substantial aggression towards them.
Rottweilers are not a breed that makes friends quickly due to their natural suspicions. However, most breed members will eventually accept a new person in their lives (such as a spouse or roommate) and form a close lifetime bond with them. The ever vigilant Rottweiler makes a peerless watchdog that will not let any approach go unannounced. The Rottweiler is so well-known and feared that the mere presence of one of these dogs will deter almost any wrongdoer, and a glimpse of one will convince most would-be criminals to do mischief elsewhere. This breed is most famous as a guard dog, and quite likely makes the best guard dog of any breed. Rottweilers are both highly defensive of their families and intensely territorial. These dogs will not let an intruder enter their domain unchallenged unless that intruder is very well known to them, and under no circumstances would a Rottweiler allow any attacker to harm a family member or friend. Contrary to their reputation, the natural inclination of the Rottweiler is to use violence as a last result, and these dogs typically try to drive off or corner an intruder before they attack. However, most breed members are very willing to use force if it deems it necessary.
Rottweilers are variable on their tolerance with children. When raised with them from a young age, most Rottweilers form very close bonds with their families’ children and become their devoted protectors. Rottweilers which have not been properly introduced to children may often mistake them for prey, with potentially disastrous results. Rottweilers are also variable in their tolerance for rough play; some will take any beating a child gives them, others will not accept the slightest transgression. Even the best intentioned Rottweiler may accidentally injure a child during play. For these reasons, many Rottweiler breeders recommend waiting until children are of school age (6 and older) to place a Rottweiler in the home.
This breed is known to have issues with other animals. As a breed, the Rottweiler is not exceptionally dog aggressive, but some individual members develop severe dog aggression issues. In particular, Rottweilers are intolerant of strange dogs entering their territory. Of greater concern for many owners is that many breed members show high levels of same-sex aggression, which is especially acute between males. For this reason, Rottweilers do best in a home with members of the opposite sex or offspring which they have known their entire lives. That being said, Rottweilers generally do very well with canine housemates which they have been raised with. This breed forms very close bonds with other dogs (much as it does with humans). This can create problems as Rottweilers are more likely to let pack instincts take over than many other dogs.
Rottweilers are unpredictable with non-canine animals. Most Rottweilers have a high prey drive as a result of their herding past, and will pursue and potentially attack strange animals. This breed is an infamous killer of cats and small creatures such as hamsters and rabbits. That being said, most Rottweilers only chase what comes their way and are not driven to hunt in the same way that an Akita or Redbone Coonhound is. While most Rottweilers will fully accept a family cat with which it has been raised, some never do. When their herding instincts are fostered, Rottweilers make exceptional stock dogs, capable of working with stubborn livestock that ignores other breeds. Rottweilers who work the same stock repeatedly often become very protective over their charges.
The Rottweiler is both very intelligent and highly trainable. Canine intelligence studies routinely place this breed in the top 10 most intelligent breeds, and many place the breed in the top 5. Devoted to its master, most Rottweilers live to please. With the exception of advanced scent tracking, there is essentially no task which any dog is capable of learning that this dog is not. Rottweilers both learn quickly and are highly obedient, and many experienced trainers find them a delight to work with. A well-trained Rottweiler that respects its master will rarely disobey. There are two caveats to the Rottweiler’s trainability. The first is that the dog will only obey those it respects. Although a natural follower, the Rottweiler will not follow those that are not in control. Rottweiler owners must make sure that they are in a position of dominance at all times. The second caveat is that Rottweilers take extra effort and time to properly socialize. It takes extra work to make a well-mannered and accepting Rottweiler. Owners must be aware that even the friendliest Rottweiler will not act the same outside of their presence.
Rottweilers are high energy dogs, and need a substantial amount of exercise. Owners must be prepared to provide their dogs with at least an hour of vigorous activity every day, but this breed can handle much more. Rottweilers are capable of working at full capacity for hours on end, and this dog will go for as long as its master asks it to. It is of the utmost importance that the Rottweiler is provided with proper outlets for its energy, otherwise it will find its own. This breed has a tendency to become destructive, aggressive, excessively vocal, and overly excitable when not exercised. That being said, most active families will be able to meet the basic exercise requirements of this breed with the proper dedication, and a Rottweiler is certainly no Border Collie or Jack Russell Terrier. While Rottweilers can accept getting their exercise through a daily walk, this breed greatly prefers either playtime or a job. Rottweilers are an incredibly playful breed, and love nothing more than to play fetch for hours on end. Rottweilers crave mental stimulation and are happiest when they have a job to perform, whether that job is herding cattle, shutzhund, obedience training, search and rescue work, or anything other activity that engages their minds. Because of the fear that they inspire as well as potential aggression issues, Rottweilers should always be kept on a leash when outside of a safely enclosed area, even though these obedient dogs are not especially likely to run off.
The short coat of the Rottweiler is very low maintenance. This breed should never require professional grooming; only a weekly or bi-weekly brushing is required. Other than that, only those maintenance activities that all breeds require such as teeth brushing and nail clipping are required. It is highly advisable that owners begin these procedures from a young age and introduce them as carefully as possible. It is very easy to train a 30 pound and curious Rottweiler puppy to accept a bath, but considerably more difficult to wash a 120 pound adult that is afraid of the running water.
It is almost impossible to make any generalizations about the health and life expectancy of the Rottweiler because of the vastly different breeding practices used by different breeders. The ARC has been one of the most proactive of all breed clubs in terms of health, and has worked closely with a number of canine health organizations for years to help eliminate genetic defects from the breed. Responsible breeders have followed these recommended practices and used genetic testing for several generations. Dogs from these lines tend to be very healthy, and freer from genetic health defects than most purebred dogs. The life expectancy for a well-bred Rottweiler is somewhere between 11 and 12 years, and these dogs frequently reach ages of 13 and 14. On the other hand, the large number of disreputable or inexperienced breeder have created dogs with very poor health. Many of these dogs succumb to cancer or other problems at very young ages, and many suffer from painful conditions for years before they die. The life expectancy for a poorly bred Rottweiler is somewhere between 6 and 10 years, depending on the line.
The most common problems experienced by Rottweilers are skeletal. This breed is highly susceptible to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. These conditions are caused by malformations of the hip and elbow joints, which causes the bones to connect improperly. Over time, this can result in arthritis, chronic pain, and even lameness. There are genetic tests available for these conditions, and responsible breeders have greatly reduced their prevalence from their lines. Unfortunately, these conditions are rampant in non-tested lines. Rottweilers also suffer from a number of skeletal growth disorders. The big bones of these dogs take extra time and nutrition to develop, and the lack of proper diet and exercise may result in lifelong skeletal issues.
Although it is virtually impossible to get accurate health surveys on Rottweilers for a number of reasons, essentially all which have been attempted have found that cancer is the leading cause of death in this breed. Cancer rates for Rottweilers are rising, likely as a result of continued poor breeding practices. Canine cancer is very similar to human cancer, and is caused by the rapid growth of abnormal cells. Treatment options vary depending on the type of cancer and its stage at the time of detection, but most are expensive and uncomfortable for the dog. Although Rottweilers are subject to a number of types of cancer, bone cancer and lymphoma are easily the most common.
Because skeletal and visual problems have been known to occur in this breed it is highly advisable for owners to have their pets tested by both the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). The OFA and CERF perform genetic and other tests to identify potential health defects before they show up. This is especially valuable in the detection of conditions that do not show up until the dog has reached an advanced age, making it especially important for anyone considering breeding their dog to have them tested to prevent the spread of potential genetic conditions to its offspring.
A full list of health problems experienced by the Rottweiler would have to include: