The Rottweiler Breed

The breed we share is only given to us in trust.  Every decision we make must be made with the objective of preserving it for generations to come. In the end, if the breed no more looks, works or thinks like a Rottweiler – what have we gained?

From the early struggles of their foundation through their dramatic rise in popularity, the Rottweiler has had a punishing journey.  Along the way they have given us knowledge and education, unquestioning loyalty and devotion.

History of the Breed

It is believed that the Rottweiler (pronounced Rott-vile-er) has developed from Roman cattle dogs which had accompanied the herds following in the wake of the Roman armies through Switzerland and into Southern Germany.  In the years 73 or 74 AD the 11th Legion of the Roman Empire laid out a camp on the bank of the river Neckar in the Wurtemberg area of Germany.

Many years later, the area grew into a little town whose small villas had roofs made of red tiles and the area became known as ‘das Rote Wil’ – the red roof tiles gave it the first half of its name ‘rot, while its origin as a Roman city gave it ‘wil’ for villa. Therefore, the city of red-roofed Roman villas evolved into the name ‘Rottweil’.

During the Middle Ages, the Rottweiler was used for bear hunting and subsequently as a cattle dog. In that role the dog had to guard the herd at night, prevent any cattle from straying and drive the herd long distances by day.  The need to control cattle, including dangerous bulls, meant that the dogs were bred to be strong and sturdy, similar to the breed we know today.

At that time there were many breeds endemic to the regions around Rottweil. These would probably have included the Bernese Mountain Dog and the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.  These local dogs would probably have interbred with the dogs brought by the Romans and the Rottweiler’s similarity to these breeds is very evident, although the Rottweiler should not carry any white on its chest.

In 1899 the International Club for Leonbergers and Rottweiler Dogs was formed in Germany and the first breed standard for the Rottweiler was produced by this club in 1901.  The Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub [ADRK] followed on and was formed in August 1921.   The ADRK is the governing body of Rottweilers in Germany and their motto still remains:  “Rottweiler breeding is working dog breeding”.

With the coming of the railways in the 19th century, cattle herding was forbidden by law and the Rottweiler was then without an occupation.  He became used as a draught dog by butchers, and even today when   he is no longer used for pulling these little carts, his name continues to be linked with that of the butcher.  He became known as Rottweil Butcher’s Dog and later this was shortened to Rottweiler.  The butcher used the larger dogs for pulling carts and the smaller ones for herding and driving cattle. After the driving of cattle was forbidden the Rottweiler population declined sharply and in 1905 there was only one bitch to be found in the whole of Rottweil.

A club was formed in Germany in 1907 devoted to safeguarding the purity and well-being of the breed, organising the keeping of breeding records to fix the standard of the breed, and to preserve its working qualities. Planned breeding was started and efforts to improve the external appearance carried out with much care and thought.

Today, Rottweilers are used in Germany by the Police, Customs and Army; in Denmark mainly for Police duties; in Switzerland by the Customs and in Norway some are used for mountain rescue work (their exceptional noses and hardiness making them very suitable for this) .  They are also used as border guards – their disposition to work silently being invaluable for such tasks.

The development of the Rottweiler in the UK

The first Rottweiler was imported into the UK in 1936 by Mrs Phil (Thelma) Gray of the Rozavel kennels. This bitch was called Rozavel Diana von der Amalienburg, born in May 1934 but she was not successfully bred from.   Mrs Gray continued to import more dogs, but due to the outbreak of World War II in 1939 they were sent over to Ireland for safe-keeping.  After the war, attempts were made to find them and return them to England but they had vanished without trace.

The first post-war Rottweilers were imported by Captain F. Roy Smith of the Royal Veterinary Corps in March 1953. They were Ajax von Fuhrenkamp and Berny von Weyher.  However, this breeding pair was unsuccessful in producing a litter.

After a time, many more Rottweilers were imported from Europe and a breeding pattern was gradually established. The Rottweiler was first registered by the Kennel Club as a breed in its own right in 1965.

Yearly registrations have risen steadily from about 48 in 1966 to 6,575 in 2006. By 2015, the number had dropped to 1,378. The Rottweiler had been little known to the general public until 1989, when the yearly registration hit a frighteningly high figure of 10,341.  The breed hit the headlines in the newspapers, suffering the most appalling persecution from the public and media alike. Thankfully, today the registrations are much lower and the breed is once more acceptable to the public.

UK Breed Standards

A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Breed section of the Kennel Club website. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure. However if a dog possesses a feature, characteristic or colour described as undesirable or highly undesirable, it is strongly recommended that it should not be rewarded in the show ring.

General Appearance

Above average size, stalwart dog. Correctly proportioned, compact and powerful form, permitting great strength, manoeuvrability and endurance.


Appearance displays boldness and courage. Self-assured and fearless. Calm gaze should indicate good humour.


Good natured, not nervous, aggressive or vicious; courageous, biddable, with natural guarding instincts.

Head and Skull

Head medium length, skull broad between ears. Forehead moderately arched as seen from side. Occipital bone well developed but not conspicuous. Cheeks well boned and muscled but not prominent. Skin on head not loose, although it may form a moderate wrinkle when attentive. Muzzle fairly deep with topline level, and length of muzzle in relation to distance from well defined stop to occiput to be as 2 to 3. Nose well developed with proportionately large nostrils, always black.


Medium size, almond-shaped, dark brown in colour, light eye undesirable, eyelids close fitting.


Pendant, small in proportion rather than large, set high and wide apart, lying flat and close to cheek.


Teeth strong, complete dentition with scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws. Flews black and firm, falling gradually away towards corners of mouth, which do not protrude excessively.


Of fair length, strong, round and very muscular. Slightly arched, free from throatiness.


Shoulders well laid back, long and sloping, elbows well let down, but not loose. Legs straight, muscular, with plenty of bone and substance. Pasterns sloping slightly forward.


Chest roomy, broad and deep with well sprung ribs. Depth of brisket will not be more, and not much less than 50 per cent of shoulder height. Back straight, strong and not too long, ratio of shoulder height to length of body should be as 9 is to 10, loins short, strong and deep, flanks not tucked up. Croup of proportionate length, and broad, very slightly sloping.


Upper thigh not too short, broad and strongly muscled. Lower thigh well-muscled at top, strong and sinewy below. Stifles fairly well bent. Hocks well angulated without exaggeration, metatarsals not completely vertical. Strength and soundness of hock highly desirable.


Strong, round and compact with toes well arched. Hindfeet somewhat longer than front. Pads very hard, toenails short, dark and strong.


Conveys an impression of supple strength, endurance and purpose. While back remains firm and stable there is a powerful hindthrust and good stride. First and foremost, movement should be harmonious, positive and unrestricted.


Consists of top coat and undercoat. Top coat is of medium length, coarse and flat. Undercoat, essential on the neck and thighs, should not show through top coat. Hair may also be a little longer on the back of the forelegs and breechings. Long or excessively wavy coat highly undesirable.


Black with clearly defined markings as follows: a spot over each eye, on cheeks, as a strip around each side of muzzle, but not on bridge of nose, on throat, two clear triangles on either side of the breast bone, on forelegs from carpus downward to toes, on inside of rear legs from hock to toes, but not completely eliminating black from back of legs, under tail. Colour of markings from rich tan to mahogany and should not exceed 10 per cent of body colour. White marking is highly undesirable. Black pencil markings on toes are desirable. Undercoat is grey, fawn, or black.


Dogs height at shoulder: between 63-69 cms (25-27 ins); bitches between 58-64 cms (23-25 ins). Height should always be considered in relation to general appearance.


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.


Previously customarily docked.

Docked: Docked at first joint. Strong and not set too low. Carried horizontally but raised slightly when alert.

Prior to 2007 the Rottweiler in the UK was a traditionally docked breed until the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Bill.  The practice of tail docking (or amputation of the tail) is now banned in most countries in Europe and Scandinavia.  The puppy-buying public were not previously aware that they had a choice of having a puppy with its tail left on, but many people believed that leaving tails on would soften public opinion of the breed and give it a more ‘approachable’ look.  Humans, as well as dogs, read a dog’s temperament by the position and carriage of the tail, as well as the head and ears.  So, a natural wagging tail is very reassuring.

Undocked: Strong. Thickness in proportion to overall balance of the dog. Set as a continuation of the croup, neither too high or low. Carried horizontally. May be raised slightly when alert. May be carried in a half moon or sabre fashion, not over the back. Can hang when dog is at rest.

Is the Rottweiler Right for You?

“The dark guardian of the family” was used, many years ago, to describe the Rottweiler and this is just as applicable today.  It is imperative that you understand the long-term responsibility you will undertake if you decide that the Rottweiler is right for you (and the breeder decides that you are right for it).   It is very easy to be captivated by an engaging litter of black and tan bundles of fun, but puppies, like children, grow up all too quickly.

When mature, the Rottweiler is a strong, very demanding, somewhat arrogant animal, with a highly developed guarding instinct. It is essential to understand that, once mature, a 40 kilos plus of muscle and sinew will need to be trained from an early age, to be under control.  This breed needs firm, sympathetic handling, is quick to learn, and so will learn bad behaviour unless corrected kindly but consistently.  It is all too easy for the inexperienced to try and make a Rottweiler “guard” but this is neither necessary nor advisable.

In the right hands the Rottweiler is easily trained, and his enthusiastic nature can be channeled into some form of obedience training; they love to chase balls, are a fun and playful breed but are also a loyal and dependable addition to the household.  The family environment is ideal for a Rottweiler as they relish human contact and are not happy left alone for long periods. They should not be left chained outside or alone in a kennel.  They want to be wherever you are, sharing your life and offering you companionship and protection.   On the down side, like any other dog they shed hair, slobber and leave muddy paw marks around the house.   Some of them have an unfortunate habit of standing on your feet!  Sometimes they push their head under your elbow to gain attention and this can be a bit annoying when you have a hot mug of tea in your hand!

The Rottweiler puppy is, and will continue to be for the first twelve months of his life, expensive to rear.  Reputable breeders will insist on satisfying themselves that you are able to feed and house such a large breed – and so you must not mind being put through the “third degree”.   If you do decide, after much soul-searching and interrogation, that you still feel up to the responsibility of owning a Rottweiler, then The SWRA will welcome you and do its best to help you.

Do you want a puppy or an older dog (or a very old dog)

Each year, many Rotties end up in Rescue Centers for no fault of their own: the owners have split up, the owners have poor health or the circumstances have changed.

Choosing a Breeder

A happy, healthy dog is a combination of early socialisation, genetic background and healthy parents which is the result of the breeder’s efforts. Due to increased popularity, often some breeders who advertise have had little experience with the breed.  Carefully investigate breeders before you buy a puppy; the conscientious have nothing to fear and will be happy to answer your questions.  Reputable breeders will have carried out health checks (Hips, Elbows, Hearts etc.) by having their breeding animals x-rayed through the KC/BVA Hip and Elbow scoring schemes and hearts tested by a qualified veterinarian.  Ask to see the health certificates.  Reputable breeders will be happy to show you copies of the test results. If they don’t produce them – walk away.

Not all private breeders are conscientious, but commercial establishments such as pet shops or dealers’ kennels seldom give the individual attention needed by puppies and new owners. Also, not all Kennel Club registered puppies are of good quality.  Never – ever – be tempted to buy from a puppy farm.  First-time owners of Rottweilers may need considerable help and advice with their puppy or adult. Another point to consider is that you should select a breeder with whom you feel at ease and who generates confidence in you.

Choose a breeder who will let you see the puppies with their mother
(not all breeders have the sire of the puppies on the premises as he is usually owned by another breeder).

Choose a breeder who supplies a complete back-up service after the purchase of your puppy, and that the breeder has the experience to help with any problems which may arise. Also the breeder should state they will happily take a puppy back if personal circumstances change and will help with the rehoming of a puppy bred by them.  Reputable breeders are available at all reasonable times to give help and advice. You should be given at least a four generation pedigree, KC registration form at the time of purchase of your puppy, or a promise to send it on later.  Most breeders will let the puppy go with a few days’ supply of the food it has been raised on, together with advice on correct feeding and rearing, a record of worming and any vaccinations. The will also provide a Contract of Sale which will include any registration endorsements and conditions for their removal. The contract should be signed by both parties prior to the new owner leaving with the puppy. It is extremely common for breeders to place life-long restrictions on the breeding of the puppies they sell. This means that should you breed from your adult dog/bitch without the breeders prior consent, you will not be able to register the little with the Kennel Club and therefore, the puppies will not have “papers”.


  1. Are Rottweilers safe around other animals?
    Generally speaking, they are tolerant of other animals if introduced in a sensible way.  There is of course an inherent desire to “chase” (as with all dogs), but this can be channelled into some form of obedience training, and should never be encouraged.  Many households share their Rottweilers with other breeds of dog, cats, rabbits and birds – even ducks!
  2. Are Rottweilers reliable with children?
    Mutual respect must be established between a Rottweiler and younger members of the family.  Provided children are encouraged to treat the Rottweiler with kindness and respect, and are not allowed to tease it, then yes, they are reliable around children.  However, the Rottweiler’s large size and exuberant nature can lead to them becoming boisterous if the children themselves are allowed to run around screaming and getting excited.  So it is up to parents to ensure this does not happen.  Any dog should not be left unattended with children or babies.
  3. Is it best to get a dog or a bitch?
    The male Rottweiler is bigger, heavier, stronger and more arrogant. He is sexually aware 365 days of the year, though this is not an oversexed breed. He needs a firmer hand than the female and is not suitable for those inexperienced with dogs of strong character. Many breeders will NOT sell a male to first-time dog owners or those who have not owned large breeds before.   Females are more amenable and are maternal with the younger and older members of the family without losing their essential guarding qualities. They come “on heat” once or twice a year.
  4. I have a busy household with strangers frequently visiting – how will a Rottweiler cope with that?
    A well socialised Rottweiler would have had lots of strangers frequently visiting and making a fuss of it, so will cope well. HOWEVER, one that has had little or no socialisation from day one will need to be secured in another room to avoid undue stress for the dog and a possible negative situation occurring, until the dog can be more socialised.
  5. How much exercise will a Rottweiler need?
    They are a very active breed and will relish as much exercise as you are able to give. They do enjoy walking with the family, so you should expect to give them at least a half hour walk twice a day (say, once morning and once evening).  The exercise will benefit you too!  Don’t forget your poop-scoop bag!
  6. Where is the best place to find out where to buy a Rottweiler?
    The Kennel Club will give names of Breeders who have a litter, but that does not mean that they are all experienced breeders. The Breed Clubs are the best way forward to give names of reputable Breeders who have a lot of experience and who follow the guidelines of good breeding, carrying out health checks, offer a back-up service and advice after a puppy is sold.  Go and see a lot of adult Rottweilers before even contemplating a puppy. A reputable breeder will ask a lot of questions about you and your lifestyle before you are able to take one of their precious puppies (please see Information page for Breed Clubs).
  7. At what age should a puppy be sold?
    8 weeks is the usual age for a puppy to go to his new home, and never less than 7 weeks.
  8. Should my puppy have a tail?
    It is now illegal for certain breeds to be docked. Very occasionally a puppy (of any breed) may be born without a tail. If you are offered a puppy without a tail you must ask for a certificate from a Vet to say the puppy was born without a tail.
  9. I have seen Rottweilers in the show-ring without tails.  Why is this?
    A ban on docking only became law in the UK on April 6th 2007, so any Rottweiler born before that date could have been docked legally. Other European Countries adopted the ban a few years later. Therefore we will continue to see both docked and undocked dogs in the show-ring for a while.
  10. Are Rottweilers best suited to the town or the country?
    The versatile nature of the Rottweiler means he will adapt well to either environment.  It is the quality of ownership which is the more important.  Provided a Rottweiler has been bred for good temperament he can be an excellent dog for city or country life.
  11. Should I get a rescue dog rather than a puppy?
    This is purely a matter of choice.  If you do not have the time to devote to training a young puppy, then an older dog who is already house-trained for example, would be an excellent choice.  There are so many in rescue kennels that need a permanent, caring home.
  12. What is the price one would expect to pay for a quality K.C. registered puppy?
    Between £800 and £950 is the current approximate price.
  13. What is it that makes them a rewarding breed to own?
    They are loyal, affectionate, trustworthy, easy to train and comedians as well – what more could you ask?

Please don’t get a Rottweiler if:

  • you are unwilling to train and educate your dog
  • you lack leadership or you are unassertive
  • you dislike regular daily exercise
  • you don’t value constant companionship and sometimes physical affection!
  • you are fastidious or a house-proud person
  • you think dogs should ‘run free’
  • you cannot afford proper food and veterinary care
  • you are not prepared to put in 100% supervision

Books to Read

  • A Dog Owners Guide to the Rottweiler Joan Blackmore
  • Know Your Rottweiler Dick Chardet (Dutch)       
  • All About The Rottweiler Mary MacPhail
  • The Rottweiler Today Judy and Larry Elsden
  • Rottweilers – An Owner`s Companion Les Price
  • Pet Owners Guide to the Rottweiler Mary MacPhail
  • The Ultimate Rottweiler Andrew Brace
  • Rottweiler  –  Best of Breed Series  Di McCann


This page has been reproduced with permission of the Rottweiler Club