If you have a rottweiler, or are considering getting a rottweiler for the first time then you may be interested to know what the the typical rottweiler character traits are, as there is a certain amount of media hysteria that surrounds this particular breed. I will tell you my findings as a dog behaviourist shortly. But the commonly expected traits are that a rotty will be: Stubborn, protective, calm, obedient, loyal, intelligent, loving… (and if you listen to the hysteria – aggressive) There is a quoted standard of breed behaviour which can be expected by the kennel club which includes the following:
Extremely strong and imposing, he is easily obedience trained and is, in fact, a dog that enjoys working. He has natural guarding instincts, but is not aggressive by nature. His expression is tranquil and kind, but when aroused, he will hold his own with any opponent.
From my experience of working with Rottweilers and their owners, and my knowledge of dog behaviour, I can agree that they are indeed strong and imposing while they are young and fit. That (when relaxed) they have a kind expression, and that they are capable of holding their own with any opponent (physically).
However, that is as far as my agreement with the generally accepted rottweiler character traits are concerned. The truth is that ultimately a rottweiler is a dog. They operate on canine instincts, in accordance with the circumstances they live in (i.e. our input) and their individual personality (one rotty can be totally different in nature to his brother or sister, as can us humans). Take Beau (below) his behaviour to date has been naughty, stubborn, mouthing, stressed, disobedient; both at home and on the walk.
This behaviour is not exclusive to Beau, or to rottweilers. Any dog is capable of behaving in this way, if that is what they think that they need to do. I have helped protective toy poodles and terrified German Shepherds before. I’ve also helped families with Rottweilers with totally different characters’ to Beau. I’ve had owners on the phone to me in tears because the Golden Retriever they researched so much before buying has turned out to be an extremely determined, challenging dog.
Sadly the media have made a lot of noise surrounding the breeds of the dogs involved when there have been awful incidents that have occurred. The difference is the physicality of the dog. A Rottweiler, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, German Shephard, Pitbull or whatever other breed they are demonising get the bad reputation because they do more damage. A dog with a smaller, softer mouth couldn’t have the same impact, so the report wouldn’t be as dramatic. The issue is really what the dog understands about the situation, and then decides to do accordingly. This comes down to personality (rather than breed) and training.
Ultimately, the dog’s breed is only a small fragment of what affects their behaviour. Please don’t read into their breed too much. With several years of experience helping owners overcome problems with their dogs, one thing is very clear to me: as owners we should never rely on our dogs behaving a certain way, in accordance with it’s breed – nor let it get away with behaving in a way that is a “breed characteristic”. It is our responsibility to lead the way, and show our dogs what is correct and acceptable behaviour. And let them know that they are allowed to relax day to day too! If you need any help establishing this with your dog, or if you’d like any advice before choosing your next dog, please get in touch.