The Breed History
This Mastiff-type breed is thought to originate from the large drover dogs of Rome. The name of the breed derives from the German "das Rote Wil", a name meaning "the red tile", a reference to a building tile used in Roman structures which in addition to the Rottweiler dogs, were left behind in Germany. In the town named Rottweil, the breed thrived until cattle droving was outlawed. In the late 1800s there were few dogs left to represent the breed. Early in the 1900s breed resurgence was correlated with their new use as a police dog. The first stud book was put together in 1924. The first AKC studbook entry occurred in 1931.
Breeding for Function
These willing, dependable herding and guarding dogs were used by the Roman armies during their extensive war campaigns. Endurance, sure-footedness, strength and willingness to work characterized these dogs. Today, they are valued as companion dogs and police dogs.
Height at Withers: female 22-25" (56-63.5 cm), male 24-27" (61-68.5 cm).
Weight: females 80-100 lb (36.5-45.5 kg), males 95-135 lb (43-61.5 kg).
Coat: There is only one coat color for the breed; black with rust marking. The inner coat is found on neck and the thighs, the outer coat lies down close to the skin and is hard and glossy. It is a dense coat, of medium to short length, with straight hairs.
Longevity: 12 years
Points of Conformation: Robust, compact constitution and black coloration with standard well-demarcated tan (rust to mahogany) markings characterize this breed. Males are distinctly more massive than females. This breed also has a characteristic long, swinging trot. The skull is very broad and somewhat arched between the ears, the head is large with heavy broad jaws, and the stop well defined. The eyes are dark brown, medium-sized, moderately deep set, and almond shaped. Ears are triangular, pendant and moderately sized so that the tips lie against the masseter muscle. The black nose is large and the lips are black. The neck is moderately short in length, well muscled and slightly arched without throatiness. The topline is level. The thorax is deep and broad, and the ribs well sprung. Slight tuck up in the abdomen is standard. In North America, the tail is normally closely docked. The tail is carried slightly above horizontal while moving. Limbs are straight and heavily boned. Feet are compact, and round with well-arched toes. Dewclaws may be removed. Nails are black and the pads are thick and tough.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed traits include: Intensely developed guarding instinct, protective of family and home, high intelligence with aloof, self-assured attitude, calm, though some lines have tendencies to aggressiveness or shyness. Regular grooming needs and moderate tendency to shed characterize this breed. Moderate exercise needs. Good for country or city. Moderate barking tendency, and a low digging tendency unless bored. They possess a mild tendency to drool. Slow to mature. Early and thorough socialization and obedience training is essential. High trainability is notable. Males are more likely to exhibit dominance or inter-male aggression. Need mental stimulation and close human contact to prevent boredom vices.
Recommended for an experienced dog owner. Tolerance towards children is variable. Some do not recommend the breed for homes with toddlers or for the elderly or infirm. One reason is that the breed tends to "bump", a behavior left over from the drover days, when the dog would use a body check to move livestock. A full-grown dog can knock even an adult down. Tend to obesity. If let off leash, should be in a securely fenced enclosure (6’ recommended). Tolerates cold weather but not heat.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Fragmented coronoid process is a common finding in the breed. Reported 36.1x odds ratio for fragmented coronoid process, 27.4x odds ratio for ununited anconeal process forms of elbow dysplasia, and 174x odds ratio for elbow osteochondrosis versus other breeds. OFA reports 40.3% affected. Elbow dysplasia has an estimated heritability of 0.34-0.39 in the breed.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 20.3% affected. Dorn reports a 1.94x odds ratio versus other breeds. Another study reports a 6.5x odds ratio versus other breeds. Hip dysplasia has an estimated heritability of 0.38 in the breed.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. OFA reports 1.2% affected.
Osteoarthritis: Rottweilers have an increased incidence of arthritis. Dorn reports a 3.82x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 20.0% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Aggression: Towards other dogs reported at a frequency of 10.4%, and towards people at 3.6% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Rupture: Traumatic tearing of the ACL in the stifle, causing lameness and secondary arthritis. Treat with surgery. Dorn reports a 2.19x odds ratio versus other breeds. Affected dogs have a significantly greater tibial plateau angle (TPA). TPA measurements may be helpful to screen prospective breeding dogs. Reported at a frequency of 9.1% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Cataracts: Posterior polar cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 8.22% of Rottweilers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Possible autosomal dominant inheritance, with incomplete penetrance. Reported at a frequency of 6.6% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Rottweiler with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 7.7% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 7.2% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Osteosarcoma (OSA): Malignant bone cancer. Rottweilers are a breed with a predisposition for developing osteosarcoma versus other breeds. Mean age of appendicular OSA in the breed is 8.3 years, with preference for the forelimbs, and a breed frequency of 5.3%. Affected Rottweilers tend to have an increased immunohistochemical expression of p53 protein, and breed specific tumor chromosomal changes. Reported at a frequency of 7.3% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Panosteitis: Self-limiting disorder of intermittent lameness involving the diaphyseal and metaphyseal areas of the tubular long bones in young dogs prior to skeletal maturation. Reported at a frequency of 5.0% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Food allergy reported at a frequency of 5.0%, and inhalant at 3.2% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Sebaceous Cysts: Benign skin cysts filled with sebum. Reported at a frequency of 4.7% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Osteochondritis Dessicans/Osteochondrosis (OCD): Rottweilers have an increased incidence of hock OCD due to cartilage lesions in the lateral trochlear ridge of the talus, as well as shoulder and stifle OCD. Treatment with rest, or surgery in severe cases. Dorn reports a 3.35x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported 206.2x odds ratio for hock OCD, 66.3x odds ratio for stifle OCD and 22.8x odds ratio for shoulder OCD versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 3.6% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Subaortic Stenosis (SAS): Congenital narrowing of the aortic outflow tract from the heart, causing a murmur, endocarditis, left heart failure, or sudden death. Diagnosis is by doppler ultrasound. Rottweilers have a 19.3x odds ratio for the disorder versus other breeds.
Multicentric Lymphoma (Lymphosarcoma): Malignant cancer of lymphocytes, expecially B-cells in the breed. Studies show an increased prevalence in the breed, with a 6.01x odds ratio versus other breeds. Treatment is with chemotherapy. Reported at a frequency of 3.3% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Polygenically inherited, life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. There is a 3.9% lifetime risk of developing GDV in Rottweilers. Risk of death from GDV after prophylactic gastropexy decreased 2.2x fold. Reported at a frequency of 2.6% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Umbilical Hernia: Congenital opening in the body wall from where the umbilical cord was attached. Correct surgically if large. Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)/Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE): Immune mediated inflammatory disease of the intestines resulting in malabsorbtion. Rottweilers can present with a severe form of protein-losing enteropathy due to lymphoplasmacellular enteritis, with lymphangiectasia and eosinophil infiltration. Affected dogs present with chronic diarrhea, anorexia and weight loss, and a 1 year survival rate of 47% despite treatment with immunosuppressive drugs. IBD is reported at a frequency of 2.1% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Survey.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 2.0% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Demodicosis, Generalized: Overgrowth of demodex mites in hair follicles due to an underlying immunodeficiency. Causes hair loss and inflammation. Reported at a frequency of 1.9% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 1.42% of Rottweilers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cryptorchidism: Retained testicles. Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 1.3% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Expulsion of disc material into the spinal cord causing pain, and spinal weakness or paralysis. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 1.3% in the Rottweiler Health Foundation Health Survey.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and generalized retinal dysplasia with detachment are recognized in the breed. Can progress to blindness. Reported in 1.05% of Rottweilers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Corneal Dystrophy: Rottweilers can have an epithelial/stromal form of corneal dystrophy. Identified in 0.98% of Rottweilers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Entropion: A rolling in of the eyelids that can cause corneal irritation and ulceration. Reported in 0.73% of Rottweilers CERF-examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Dorn reports a 1.53x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina resulting in blindness. CERF does not recommend breeding any Rottweiler with PRA. Undetermined mode of inheritance in the breed.
Susceptibility to Parvovirus Infection: Rottweilers have a 6.0x odds ratio for parvovirus enteritis versus other breeds. This is assumed to be due to an inherited immune impairment.
Hypereosinophilia: Rottweilers are a breed found with higher frequencies of hypereosinophilia. Causes include pulmonary infiltrates with eosinophils, gastrointestinal disease, meningoencephalitis, and idiopathic hypereosinophilic syndrome (IHES).
Metacarpal Sesamoid Disease: Young Rottweilers have a propensity for lameness due to forelimb sesamoid inflammation. Lameness resolves with rest. Many Rottweilers have subclinical sesamoid disease based on X-rays.
Histiocytic Sarcomas: Rottweilers are a breed at increased risk for developing disseminated histiocytic sarcomas of the eye, synovium, subcutis, extremities, spleen, lung, brain, nasal cavity, and bone marrow. Histiocytic sarcoma should be considered as a differential diagnosis when a soft tissue mass is associated with a bone lesion on radiographs or myelography in Rottweilers over 5 years of age, or with aggressive periarticular, vertebral, or proximal humeral bone lesions.
Cervical Spondylomyelopathy/Vertebral Instability (Wobbler Syndrome): Presents with UMN spasticity and ataxia. Imaging studies suggest that the primary lesion is foramenal stenosis and intervertebral instability at C6-7. MRI is superior to myelography in determining site, severity, and nature of the spinal cord compression. Seen an an increased frequency versus other breeds. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Hypoadrenocorticism (Addison’s Disease): Immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal glands. Cited as a breed at significantly higher risk. Treat with life-long medication. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Juvenile Nephropathy: Young affected Rottweilers present with severe polyuria and polydipsia, and progress to chronic renal failure. Histopathology included immature glomeruli and/or tubules, and persistent mesenchyme. A type IV collagen defect is suspected. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Calcinosis Circumscripta: Calcinosis circumscripta is an uncommon syndrome of dystrophic, metastatic or iatrogenic mineralization of calcium salts in soft tissues. Lesions usually occur on the hind feet or tongue in 1-4 year old dogs. Thirteen percent of canine cases occur in Rottweilers.
Bronchiectasis: Rottweilers in Brazil have been reported with severe diffuse bronchiectasis with a history of chronic cough, respiratory distress, and progressive weight loss. Radiographic signs include lung lob consolidation, mild pleural effusion, and bilateral, diffuse saccular bronchiectasis.
Neuronal Vacuolation and Spinocerebellar Degeneration: Rare, inherited disorder of Rottweilers presenting with generalized weakness, ataxia, and laryngeal paralysis starting at six weeks of age, and progressing to severe placing deficits, knuckling, severe ataxia, and quadraparesis by eight months of age. Pathology includes intracytoplasmic neuronal vacuolation in the cerebellar roof nuclei and extrapyramidal system, and symmetrical spinal cord axonal degeneration. Undetermined mode of inheritence.
Neuroaxonal Dystrophy: Rare, inherited disorder of Rottweilers presenting with progressive four limb ataxia and head tremors of several months to years duration. There is no weakness associated with this disorder. Pathology shows neuroaxonal dystrophy, and immunoreactivity shows disruption of axonal transport. Undetermined mode of inheritence.
Spinal Subarachnoid Cysts/Pseudocysts: Studies show Rottweilers under 12 months of age can have a predisposition to form cystic lesions in the subarachnoid space that can compress the spinal cord causing weakness and ataxia. Diagnosis with CT or MRI. Treatment is with surgery.
Leucoencephalomyelopathy: Rare, inherited disorder of Rottweilers presenting with progressive ataxia and paresis from 1.5 to 3.5 years of age. In most dogs the forelimbs were affected prior to the hind limbs. Pathology reveals demyelinating lesions in the cervical spinal cord and brain stem. Undetermined mode of inheritence.
Juvenile Distal Myopathy/Muscular Dystrophy: Rare disorder observed in multiple Rottweilers with decreased activity, plantigrade and palmigrade stance and splayed forepaw digits. Electromyography reveals a primary myopathy. Pathology revealed myofiber atrophy of the distal muscles.
Distal Sensorimotor Polyneuropathy: Rare, slowly progressive paraparesis that progresses to tetraparesis, spinal hyporeflexia and hypotonia, and appendicular muscle atrophy in 1.5 to 4 year old Rottweilers. Histopathology suggests a dying-back distal sensorimotor polyneuropathy.
Brachygnathism, Ciliary Dyskenesis, Deafness, Hemivertebra, Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy, Incomplete Ossification of the Humeral Condyle, Leukodystrophy, Lymphedema, Microphthalmia, Oligodontia, Prognathism, Seasonal Flank Alopecia, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Ulcerative Keratitis, Vasculitis, Vitiligo, von Willebrand’s Disease, and Wry Mouth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Aortic Bulb/Valve Mineralization: Seven of 20 affected dogs were Rottweilers in one study. The mineralization is visible radiographically, but does not cause clinical signs.
Narcolepsy: Case report of a one year old female Rottweiler with narcolepsy and cataplexy responsive to imipramine.
Congenital Holoprosencephaly/Otocephaly: A stillborn Rottweiler puppy was born with severe craniofacial malformations including absence of the eyes, upper and lower jaws, mouth, teeth and tongue. Repeat breedings of the parents produced similarly affected pups.
Tests of Genotype: None
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip and elbow radiographs, CERF eye examination, and cardiac evaluation. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org). Recommended thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Rottweiler Metzgerhund (means butcher dog) Rottie, Rottwieler.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 14 (13,059 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: American Rottweiler Club (AKC parent club): amrottclub.org
Rottweiler Club of Canada: rottclub.ca
The Rottweiler Club (UK): therottweilerclub.co.uk
United States Rottweiler Club: usrconline.org
Rottweiler Health Foundation: rottweilerhealth.org
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