Do Rottweilers change personalities as they age?

by Ashley A
(Ohio )

My rottweiler Rufus Von Dufus is three and a half years old, I’ve raised him since he was seven weeks old and he a great dog except for recently. Rufus has always been very vocal but not in an agressive way, he would talk while being petted, playing and even in his sleep. It sounds more like grunts, sighs and soft growls…everyone who knows Rufus knows he’s just an over grown lap dog.

Rufus is very smart, it took me no time at all to train him to do the basics along with roll over, jump through a hoop, fetch, heel and play dead. I pretty much kid proofed him from a young age, I can lay on him, completely squish him, pull on his ears, stick my hand in his mouth, even stick my face in his mouth. He’s such a pushover and pretty much lets me do anything to him, I can roll him over, push him around on the tile floor, vacuum him, brush his teeth and even paint his toe nails if I so choose. He’s never had a problem with obeying a command from me but for my boyfriend who has been around since day one, he simply ignores him which my boyfriend sees as a problem but I don’t.

My boyfriend and many of my guy friends rough house with Rufus and I think Rufus doesn’t see him as his master but more as a play mate. But That is where the problem stems I believe, Rufus growls… it could be considered talking but recently it sounds worse and I’ve seen his lip curl several times. He does this when eating and a cat or dog approach him, when my boyfriend tries to punish him, when sleeping and the cat or dog tries to lay with him and even started guarding his toys.

To correct the behavior I’ve hand fed him but his problem isn’t with me it’s with the cats and our other dog so I feed him in a different room and wait till he’s done to retrieve the bowl because he’ll also guard his empty bowl. I’ve also noticed he wants to guard his water bowl which i just down understand because he’s always shared his water bowl with at least three other animals.
The sleeping thing is harder to understand and I’m just at a loss of what to do with that one because it really could just be him talking.
And the guarding I simply just take the toy away and set it aside.

I’m worried that Rufus’s growling could turn to snapping and I’ve always said that if he snaps at me or anyone that he will be put down and I’d hate to have to do that to him. So I guess what I’m asking is if Rottweilers behaviors change while they age and if the talking should or can be stopped.

Hi Ashley
Rufus is adorable, and from what you say it sounds as though he has an excellent temperament overall and that you’ve trained him well so far.

He’s now an adult and sometimes behavior can change subtly as a dog matures, but growling with a curled lip is a clear warning signal and you need to give Rufus credit for issuing that warning. He’s trying hard to show that he’s not comfortable with something but without resorting to snapping or biting. Although you may have ‘always said that you’ll have him put to sleep if he snaps’ but that is totally unfair and realistic. From what I read in your submission you don’t have an aggressive or dangerous dog, but one who is having some ‘issues’ which it is your responsibility to deal with and help him overcome, and the sooner the better.

Obviously Rufus regards you as the ‘boss’, and you may not see a problem with him not seeing your boyfriend the same way but there is one. Your dog needs to defer to all humans, not just you, and your boyfriend needs to become more proactive and involved in Rufus’ care on a daily basis – with your help and blessing. No more rough-housing or being a playmate, he needs to be an authority figure. But only ever in a positive, loving way – no harshness etc.

I’d recommend starting to split the caregiving tasks such as feeding, grooming, walking, training etc. You may need to be with your boyfriend to help things along at first, but the aim is for him to be able to interact with Rufus in every way you do, without issue.

The resource guarding needs to be dealt with and I’d also recommend that your boyfriend hand feed Rufus to make sure he doesn’t become a target. With the other dog and cats it’s more difficult and you may need to simply separate them for now when it’s feeding time until his behavior improves overall.

I’d also recommend using some basic strategies to help Rufus realize that his position in the family is a lowly one! It may be that he’s just giving himself a little too much authority here and you need to take him down a peg or two right now.

The best way to do this is to start making him ‘work’ for everything… treats, walks, games, meals etc. Ask him to ‘sit’ or make him do a ‘down’ or ‘sit-stay’ or ‘down-stay’ and don’t reward him until he obeys. Be calm, but firm and start easy and slow – a 5 second ‘sit’ for example and work up. Also, don’t allow him to sit or sleep on furniture, beds, top of the stairs, in doorways or block corridors etc.

Don’t allow Rufus to control your actions with his, ever. Dogs can be very clever about this. For example he comes up and nudges you for some attention and you turn around and start petting him… who’s in charge here? Rufus! Don’t let him whine for his supper, push you around when playing etc. etc. All these things mean power in the dog world.

I don’t think you have a bad dog at all, just one that’s testing the waters a bit and needs to be reassured where his place is and how he should behave. AND always correct him firmly with a verbal ‘NO’ if he growls or acts as though he is objecting to something that you feel is necessary for him to accept – obviously within reason and fair though.

I’d recommend also getting him enrolled in a basic obedience class so that you can get help from a professional dog trainer. Hands-on help is invaluable when problems like this arise. A dog behaviorist is also an option if you find that you can’t reshape his behavior yourself. However it sounds as though the relationship between you and your Rottie is a good one, and strong, and with patience and understanding you should be able to get past this ‘sticky’ phase. Rufus needs your understanding and help to feel secure and happy.

I hope this helps and wish you all the very best of luck.

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Oct 05, 2016

2.5 year old Gunner NEW
by: TR

Hi reading all the comments help I am pretty firm and so is my Husband with our Gunner, recently he has been very aggressive in lots of ways growling twice showing us teeth started when a family party someone rubbed his ears. Now yesterday I rubbed his back leg where is had a few months ago had hip issue. That being said he growl I took this as he liked it was unsure of sound as gunner loves me I feed and do it all he is not aggressive with food or his rawhide bones with me. I taken him to his trainings when he was younger to many classes to understand sit stay down and walking with me on lease and hanging in yard by me. Well my head my head down by his side I gave a scratch on his lower back and *** well HE REACH AROUND GROWLED SO LOUD FELT LIKE I FELT HIS TEETH BUT BELIEVE IT WAS THE WAY HE WHIPPED AROUND – I was upset shaken stood up and said NO.. Now I called the vet to bring him in to see if he has pain that’s what I truly believe because I would hope this isn’t a change in him as I wouldn’t be able to handle him at 145 lbs and I love him way too much. Please give me some advise to help me understand what to do or if they change as they age. We had one in the past that was only my husbands he was very AGGRESSIVE and couldn’t be around others so this time we wanted to make sure he was around people, not everyone likes them as they are afraid of their size and name which is sad

Jun 19, 2012

Do Rottweilers change personalities as thy age NEW
by: Anonymous

My Rottie who is now seven, did similar behavioural things as rufus. Be patient, he is just pushing the boundaries and his luck. Be firm and consistent. Say no to bad behaviour. The advice given was good. My boyfriend came into her life at four. He took over feeding and we walked her alternately. We shared her care. Initially she would ignore one or other of us and defer to the other,, almost playing us off against each other. Rotties are very clever. She is a darling, affectionate and obedient to us both. She adores my boyfriend who has always been very firm with her. But also shows her great affection. Discipline is easy. Reward good behaviour with affection, play or treats. , punish bad with a firm no and depending on the severity of the crime by ignoring him/her for a short period of time, he/she will soon learn. They work it out pretty quickly! I think she got confused over her role, thinking she was In charge. She is much much happier no longer trying to be leader of the pack. Be patient, it will be worth it.

Feb 19, 2012

A Few Ideas NEW
by: Scott

I’ve had Rottweilers for over 20 years now, the one thing you’ll always want to do is stay in the “Alpha” position. Rottwielers will try to assert their power, kind of, “yea-make me” just make sure you follow through. The other person had a good idea with your boy friend taking charge in walking, feeding and obedience… especially if he is going to be a perminant fixture in your dogs life.
Your dog will be comfortable as his limits stay firmly established he might be feeling the change in his life.
God Bless you in your efforts – don’t give up on your dog… just stay on top.

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About The Rotty lover 2159 Articles
My name is Dr. Winnie. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University, a Masters of Science in Biology from St Georges University, and graduated from the University of Pretoria Veterinary School in South Africa. I have been an animal lover and owners all my life having owned a Rottweiler named Duke, a Pekingese named Athena and now a Bull Mastiff named George, also known as big G! I'm also an amateur equestrian and love working with horses. I'm a full-time Veterinarian in South Africa specializing in internal medicine for large breed dogs. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 2 kids and Big G in my free time. Author and Contribturor at SeniorTailWaggers, A Love of Rottweilers, DogsCatsPets and TheDogsBone