Are Rottweilers Good First Dogs?

rottweiler lying down in the forest

The Rottweiler is a popular breed in the United States, as it has been ranked in the top ten of dog breeds by AKC registrations for the past 8 years, but is it a good choice for a first time dog owner?  There are pros and cons to owning a Rottweiler, and I’ll explore those in this article.

Rottweilers are medium large, powerful dogs that are calm, confident, and courageous.  They require an owner dedicated to training them and providing for their physical needs in addition to offering them strong leadership, as they are intelligent dogs that are very powerful and oftentimes protective of their family and surroundings.  So long as you are willing to dedicate the time to training one, a Rottweiler can be an excellent choice for a first time dog owner.

If proper research is done before bringing a Rottweiler into your family, some of the negative aspects of owning one can be avoided.  They are adorable puppies, but without proper training and socialization, that cute puppy can grow up to be a powerful and possibly dangerous dog weighing over 100 pounds.  However, with just a few tips and some research before you bring your puppy home, that cute puppy can very well turn into a wonderful family companion for the next 10-12 years.

Set Yourself Up for Success!

Since Rottweilers are large dogs, it may be easier to bring a puppy into your home instead of a full grown adult.  It is important that you not be afraid of your dog – and it’s hard to be a good leader if you are fearful! Many people find that watching that cute puppy slowly mature into an adult helps avoid that issue. 

Like any breed, young Rottweilers require a lot of work.  You will need to set your boundaries with him as soon as he comes home.  If you don’t want a 100 pound dog climbing all over your furniture and jumping on your guests, don’t allow that cute 15 pound puppy to do those things either.  Rottweilers are smart, and they don’t appreciate rules being changed on them later in life.  Set your boundaries and stick to them.

Rottweiler heeling

Rottweilers were bred to work with humans, and therefore they MUST be raised in the house and not left outside away from the family.  In Europe, they were originally bred to pull carts and herd cattle, and they possess a strong desire to protect their humans and their environment.  This is not something that needs to be taught, it is their instinct.  However, this instinct might not work well when your dog decides to “protect” you from your daughter’s new boyfriend!    

It is important that you spend a lot of time introducing your puppy to people and teaching him that in general, people are good and not something to take as a threat.  If you start out by encouraging him to be suspicious of strangers, that will often turn into unwanted aggression in situations where it is not warranted.  On the other hand, if you teach him that people are wonderful – they pet him, offer him treats, and talk kindly to him…chances are good that should that rare situation ever arise where you do need him to be protective, that instinct will come back. 

If you are a first time dog owner, up for the challenge being a leader to your Rottweiler; chances are, you will need a leader of your own.  Purchasing your puppy from a reputable breeder will help with this!  Do your research, and buy from a breeder that socializes their puppies long before they go to their new homes. 

three Rottweiler puppies

A good breeder will basically be 24 hour “tech support” for you throughout the life of your dog.  They can help you select the right puppy for your home. As a first timer, you will want a “middle-of-the-road” temperament…not the most active, pushy puppy, but also not the shiest, quiet puppy either, as both of those extremes will be more work and perhaps better suited for an experienced home.  Your breeder can give you insight into the personality of the parents and other relatives of your dog and help direct you to the litter and puppy best suited for your lifestyle. 

Another valuable resource for you as you start out with your puppy, will be an experienced trainer to work with you.  Interview trainers BEFORE you bring your puppy home!  You want to find a trainer that has experience with Rottweilers (or at least other powerful, intelligent dogs) and uses a lot of positive reinforcement training (using rewards such as treats, toys, and praise for good behavior), yet is able to also help you establish leadership in a calm, confident way with your new puppy. 

I recommend that you find a trainer that is well established and near you, so that you are able to stay in contact with them throughout the life of your dog.  Rottweilers are not generally a breed that only need a six week group class as a puppy.  They need regular training sessions (both private and group lessons are preferable) for at least the first two years of their life. 

Rottweiler and veterinarian

Unfortunately, Rottweilers are prone to some health issues and a veterinarian that is comfortable with the breed and experienced with it, will be someone else to help you keep your dog happy and healthy.  It is important, as a first-time dog owner, that you have experienced people that you can learn from, as that is what will make your relationship with your first Rottweiler a good one!

Purchasing a puppy is not the only option if you want to add a Rottweiler to your home.  If you don’t have the time or energy to raise a puppy, perhaps an adult dog would be a better option.  While you do need to be very careful about adopting a full-grown Rottweiler, with some research and patience, you can find the perfect companion for you! 

As I said before, Rottweiler puppies are adorable.  And because of this, unfortunately some people do not do the research I have mentioned. Instead, they bring home a cute Rottweiler puppy not understanding the responsibility of raising one.  Because of this, many of those puppies grow up and are no longer wanted by their original families.  Sometimes that is due to aggression or bad manners, but many times wonderful Rottweilers end up in rescue organizations due to things like home owners insurance policies (many companies will not insure you if you own a Rottweiler, so make sure you check with yours BEFORE deciding on a Rottweiler), or other housing issues (many apartment complexes also have breed restrictions that include Rottweilers – again, make sure you will be able to keep your dog in your place of residence BEFORE you purchase your dog!). 

If you think you would prefer an adult Rottweiler as your first dog, your best option would be to go through an established rescue group that uses foster homes rather than a shelter situation.  A dog that is housed in a shelter environment often does not show their true personality until they are in their new home for a few weeks – and you do not want any negative surprises after you’ve adopted the dog! 

Rottweiler profile

A rescue group that uses foster homes should be able to give you a very good idea of which of their dogs would be a good match for you. For instance, if you have young children, you want to be sure that you adopt a dog that has already been exposed to young children and has shown a safe, positive reaction to them.  While an experienced owner may be able to rehabilitate a dog that didn’t have an ideal upbringing, as a first time owner, you want an adult dog that has no aggression issues and was very well socialized and trained as a puppy.  It may take a while to find that particular dog, but with some patience, it is definitely possible!

Other things to consider

If you still think a Rottweiler is the breed for you, great!  They can make wonderful companions!  They are intelligent and active enough to be your hiking buddy, participate in all kinds of dog sports (herding, agility, obedience, carting, tracking, etc), and still spend some quiet evenings at home with you watching television.  Although care must always be taken due to their size and power, they are often wonderful with children, and can be taught to co-exist well with other animals.

Before you bring either a Rottweiler puppy or adult into your home, make sure you ask yourself the following questions.

Do I have enough time to train my dog? Remember, this is at least a 2 year commitment to some sort of classes or private lessons if you are a first-time dog owner.  More experienced people may be able to do a lot of the work on their own, but even with an experienced owner, Rottweilers benefit greatly from regular, structured training.

Do I have an adequate place to house my dog?  This is a large breed – males tend to weigh between 95 and 125 lbs and the females are only slightly smaller, weighing between 75 and 95 lbs. Do you have enough space in your house and yard for a large dog?  Rottweilers can do fine in an apartment as well, so long as they get plenty of exercise (long walks and other outings) – however, many apartment complexes will not allow them due to insurance reasons.

Do I have enough money to support my dog?  As I mentioned before, they can be prone to some health issues.  Although purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder that health tests their breeding stock may help avoid some of those issues, it is never a complete guarantee. Rottweilers are prone to orthopedic issues (such as hip and elbow dysplasia as well as torn cruciate ligaments), heart issues (sub-aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy), as well as hypothyroidism, and cancer.  If your Rottweiler develops a health issue, are you financially prepared to provide the care he needs? 

Everything a large dog needs tends to cost more than things a small dog needs – from crates to medicine and especially food!  You can expect your adult Rottweiler to eat an average of 5-10 lbs of high quality kibble each week, which on average will cost you at least $10/week, plus treats and chews!  Don’t forget to add in the cost of training classes and boarding (also usually more for larger dogs!) if you need to leave your dog home while you go out of town.

Am I ready to be a strong leader for my dog throughout his life?  Taking on a Rottweiler is a big responsibility.  They are often highlighted by the media in a negative way, and because of this, they are often stereotyped as an aggressive dog.  Are you prepared to take the extra steps to make sure your Rottweiler is a good citizen and keep everyone around him safe and comfortable.  Because of this stereotyping, as a Rottweiler owner, you often need to go above and beyond the general expectations to convince people that you are in control of your dog.

If you are able to answer yes without hesitation to those questions, congratulations!  You just might be a great candidate to own a Rottweiler as your first dog!  If you do it correctly, you should be in for a great relationship with an amazing dog for the next 10+ years!

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