In This Article You Will Read About
So, what are normal Rottweiler behaviors and temperaments? What behaviors and quirks should you be prepared for if you want a Rottweiler? And are there specific behaviors that make Rottweilers different from other dogs?
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of Rottweiler behavior, and that’s because every dog is an individual with their own unique personality. But we surveyed over 40 Rottweiler owners on Reddit and referred to Rottweiler expert, Margaret Holowinksi, to compile a list of Rottweiler behaviors unique and common to the breed.
Naturally, we expect certain features in Rottweilers, like being dominant, strong-willed, and protective. We often warn inexperienced owners against getting Rotties as a pet because of their power and strong personalities. But in this article, we decided to delve into those special little eccentricities that only Rottweiler lovers will truly understand.
Rottweiler Temperament: How do Rottweilers behave?
Rottweilers are typically dominant toward other dogs but loving toward humans. They are protective, love kids, are emotionally intuitive, and love to follow their humans everywhere. They are famous for rumbling or “purring” when happy, leaning against people, howling, and doing a little dance when they get butt scratches.
There is confusion over the difference between the “Rottie Rumble” of pleasure and an actual growl of aggression. So to help people understand when Rottweilers are truly aggressive, we will discuss and show the difference. We also look at other idiosyncratic Rottie behaviors like the “Rottie Lean” and their tendency to “eat water.” New owners, be prepared!
But before we get into what the Rottweiler is like, let’s look at what the Rottweiler breed standard aims for in the ideal Rottweiler temperament.
The Official Rottweiler Temperament
Depending on where you look, you will find slightly different expectations of the Rottweiler temperament of a Rottweiler. But in general, most kennel clubs around the world have pretty much the same ideal temperaments for the Rottweiler.
The ADRK Rottweiler Breed Standard
The ADRK (Allegmeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub) is the German governing organization for the Rottweiler breed.
It’s also responsible for setting, maintaining, updating, and revising the Breed Standard internationally.
This is the organization that ‘gave birth’ to the Rottweiler breed and is the ultimate authority regarding the breed’s integrity.
The ADRK Breed Standard describes the Rottweiler’s behavior and temperament as:
“… good-natured, placid in basic disposition, and fond of children. Very devoted, obedient, biddable and eager to work… self-assured, steady, and fearless…”
Check out this article for more information about the German Rottweiler.
The AKC Rottweiler Breed Standard
Here in the USA, the AKC (American Kennel Club) Breed Standard characterizes the correct Rottweiler temperament as:
“Calm, confident and courageous, with a self-assured aloofness… an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability, with a strong willingness to work…”
These descriptions give you a good idea of what to expect from an adult Rottweiler who is well-bred and has been raised correctly.
It’s important to know that Rottweiler behavior should never include the following:
- indiscriminate aggression,
- or appear vicious,
- fearful, or nervous (skittish).
Unfortunately, poorly bred, poorly socialized, and improperly raised Rottweilers (and there are a lot of them) may carry these personality traits.
Be aware of this and choose your puppy or dog carefully. If you’re purchasing your Rottie, only buy from responsible and reputable breeders. Otherwise, you could find yourself with one of the ‘mean’ Rottweilers you’ve heard about.
Always meet your puppy’s parents. While training and socializing your puppy correctly as they grow is essential for a well-behaved and reliable dog, it is only one part of the equation. Unfortunately, genetics do matter when it comes to a dog’s temperament, and traits like aggression, fearfulness, and anxiety can be passed down.
11 Common Rottweiler behavior traits you may find in your Rottie
Usually, Rottweilers are very loving, affectionate dogs. They prefer to be ‘where the action is’ and are only really happy when they’re a part of the family.
Your dog will probably want to stay close to you whenever possible and will bond closely with their humans.
No matter how big your ‘baby’ gets, climbing into your lap for a cuddle always seems perfectly reasonable to them! But here are some of the most famous Rottweiler behaviors you may encounter in your Rottweiler.
Rottweilers rumble when they are happy (also called the grumble or purr)
One aspect of Rottweiler behavior that’s often misinterpreted as ‘growling’ is their habit of ‘rumbling’ deep in their throat when they are happy. This is sometimes also called purring or grumbling. Although rumbling is the best way to describe the sound, it’s definitely not an expression of discontent—quite the opposite!
Rotties make this noise sort of the way cats purr. They most often do it when they’re being petted, playing, happy, or just as a way of communicating with their people. I love the sound, and it’s a rumbling, grunting sort of noise that is so endearing.
But people unfamiliar with the breed, and who may be nervous around them due to their reputation, often think the dog is growling at them or threatening them. If your new puppy makes this sort of noise, don’t worry; it just means they’re happy.
Rottweiler’s growl to communicate displeasure
The problem with the Rottie Rumble is that even Rottweiler owners can confuse happy purring with actual aggressive growling. And Rotties do growl to communicate when they are unhappy with something. Growling is quite different and is usually accompanied by body language that shows fear or aggression, such as
- lip curling,
- Teeth (including back molars) showing
- Stress yawns,
- Stiff body posture,
- Ears pinned back,
- Raised hackles,
- Visible whites of the eyes.
You should probably recognize this quite easily! However, since Rotties are known for growling when they are happy, a dangerous trend has started where aggression is mistaken for affection. For reference, we will use this video:
Keep in mind that any dog will growl or act aggressively in certain situations, no matter how well they’ve been trained and raised. Growling, like the dog in this video, is a warning. We can see behaviors like
- a stiff body,
- moving his head higher than his owner’s,
- a full display of teeth.
This dog is clearly communicating that he is unhappy about something, most likely his paws being handled as the owner mentions nail clipping. Rotties, particularly male Rotties, sometimes hate their paws being handled.
The problem with this behavior is the misconception that this is normal Rottweiler behavior because of the famous Rottweiler rumble. For one thing, this is not a Rottweiler sign of affection, the way a rumble is. This dog is communicating clearly that he does not like something and he is highly agitated.
Will the behavior in this video escalate into a bite? Not necessarily, but possibly. It’s likely been happening for a while without an escalation thus far. And it’s possible that the dog will never escalate beyond this display of aggression, but it would be a mistake to ignore the problem.
If a dog displays this level of agitation over something, then a good handler needs to dial things back and begin desensitizing the dog to the issue. Growling over nail clipping or showing food aggression is a common trait amongst many dogs, but it can be eradicated with training.
Not all Rottweiler growling is defensive either. It is possible, as we mentioned above, that Rotties with bad genetics may develop fear aggression. Below is a video of an “aggressive “ Rottweiler” who is reactive, or acting out a sense of insecurity.
Have you read this post yet, A Brief History & Overview of the Rottweiler from Rome to Modern Times
Rottweilers are protective
Of course, being natural guardians, Rottweilers are a protective and territorial breed and most of them will try to defend their family in an attack.
This is significant because most pet dogs, no matter the breed, will not defend their owners
in an attack without training. However, Rotties are among the few breeds that often have an extremely high defense drive and will act to protect their people even if they have no training. Here is a video of Rottweiler protecting his owner despite having no training as a protection dog:
This is normal Rottie behavior, but it can translate into a dog who refuses to let anyone they don’t know set foot in ‘their’ yard or home or who tries to protect family members from threats that aren’t there.
For example, if your child is screaming and laughing while playing, your Rottie may think that she’s being hurt… and take measures to protect her. You can see how this could end, and it clearly demonstrates why proper socialization, training, and clear ground rules are so important when raising a Rottweiler puppy.
Socialization and interaction with a wide variety of people, places, and situations help a Rottweiler to learn to distinguish between normal, non-threatening people and behavior and the kind that spells danger.
They’re a surprisingly sensitive breed, and although they can be inclined to be dominant, Rotties readily recognize and respect authority when it is presented in a confident, fair, and calm way.
Rottweilers love children
All of this may leave you wondering whether you should have a Rottweiler around your children. The short answer is that you need to know your dog. It is actually part of several breed standards that Rottweilers should love children, and most of them do.
A dog that comes from a good home or breeder and that you raise from a puppy is generally going to be the best option for your family with children. These dogs have been treated well, and they’ve been with you and your children for a long time.
Older or adopted dogs may have a little more trouble adapting to families with children. Or dogs that have been mistreated may not be suitable to have around a child because these dogs could be more aggressive.
That said, no dog should be left unsupervised with children, and children and dogs need to be taught how to interact with one another. Leaving a toddler to play in a Rottweiler’s food bowl when the dog is food aggressive is asking for trouble. Dogs with behavioral issues may also be dangerous around children, so there is an element of common sense involved here.
A Rottweiler can be a great dog for a family with children because they are loyal, fun, calm, good-natured, and quite fond of children. Check out this article about Rottweilers and kids. But as with any dog, you should make sure you understand your dog’s temperament before you let them too close to children.
This is especially true since both dogs and children can be unpredictable and impulsive at times.
Rottweilers are velcro dogs (they never leave you alone)
You will never go to the bathroom alone again with a Rottweiler. These dogs love to be as close as possible to their people and will follow you everywhere. They typically choose their one favorite family member and become this person’s shadow, sometimes following so closely their nose may touch your leg as you walk.
Rottweilers “lean” on you or sit if they can
Another common Rottie behavior is leaning against you and sometimes even leaning on strangers. This usually seems to be something they do out of affection, and although they are wary of strangers, if they like someone new, they may just lean on them too.
The next step to leaning is sitting and lying on you. Rotties love affection and closeness, and they will put as much of their weight on you as they can when it comes to snuggles.
Rottweilers are empathetic
Despite their reputation for being tough, Rotties are usually very in tune with human emotion. They will go straight to any person crying and try to offer comfort. They will defend people who are anxious, even if they aren’t sure what the danger is (if you’re scared, there must be danger, and they’ll be ready to fight it!). These dogs actually make excellent emotional support animals.
Working Rottweilers can have A-type personalities
This is certainly not true for every Rottweiler, particularly many pet dogs who tend to have extremely sweet and docile personalities. However, Rottweilers that come from certain working lines tend to be what we call “a lot of dogs.” This means they are:
- they often have a high prey drive,
- They often do not like other dogs very much,
- They enjoy working and training and will give their all,
- They can be quite intense,
- They are not easily intimidated,
- They can “go up the leash.”
“Going up the leash” is a term used with working dogs (like police or military dogs) for redirected aggression. It happens when a dog is in a high state of arousal and under pressure, and to be clear; it’s usually a handler mistake.
As the dog’s energy and need to expel their aggression builds, they may direct it at their handler if they can’t get at the “bad guy.” This means they “go up the leash” or redirect their frustration at their handler.
This is not really something to worry about in everyday life (unless you are trying to break up a dog fight, where you need to be aware the dog could bite you in the scuffle). The point is that when Rottweilers have strong working genetics, they have a lot of drive to do their jobs. These dogs make excellent sporting or protection dogs, but these bloodlines aren’t the best for novice owners.
Rottweilers “eat’ water
If you want a Rottie, be aware that because of the shape of their nose and their thick flews (upper lips), they often struggle to drink water gracefully. This means many Rottweilers “eat” water or, at least, have a very messy time drinking. Make sure to put a mat down under the water bowl!
The Rottweilers dance when your scratch their butt
Rotties are well-known for wriggling their bums when they are happy. But they especially love getting scratches on their bums and will often do a butt dance to show their pleasure. Just see this adorable video:
Rottweilers stare to intimidate
Finally, Rotties are a defense breed, and so many have perfected the “Rottie stare.” This means that they can give strangers or anything else they don’t like a hard stare. Their bodies are typically very still, their ears may be slightly alert, and their mouth is closed and tight.
The hard stare is usually reserved for intruders on their territory. If it fails to ward off the threat, it can escalate into a low growl, and we hope any intruder at that point will get the hint.
The Pros & Cons of Rottweiler Behavior
All dog breeds have their own special quirks and traits, making them so special and individual.
It’s also what makes them suitable or unsuitable for certain people, environments or situations.
Rottweilers are big, strong, intelligent dogs, and I wouldn’t recommend them for first-time dog owners, small/frail people, or those who aren’t confident around dogs or have little canine experience or knowledge.
Although they’re usually wonderful with children, Rotties are powerful and can be clumsy and uncoordinated when adolescents.
For this reason, I personally think that a family with children under three or frail or elderly family members would be better to choose another breed.
- Intelligent, with a huge capability to learn
- Confident, calm, and self-assured
- Loving, affectionate, devoted, and loyal
- Adaptable and versatile. A great ‘all-rounder’
- Protective without being indiscriminately aggressive
- Tolerant, loving, and protective of children
- Needs lots of space to grow, develop and play
- Can be clumsy, uncoordinated, and rambunctious as a puppy
- Strong-willed, with a tendency to dominate and display stubbornness
- Inclined to herd children or animals, and to ‘bump’ or lean against people
- Naturally wary of strangers, territorial and protective
- This is a breed with its fair share of health issues and a relatively short life-span
- They need the X-L size of everything…. and that can get expensive!
You’ll notice that the negatives, or ‘cons’, of Rottweiler behavior are often the flip-side of the positives, and it is up to you as owner and ‘parent’ to shape these traits correctly.
For example, Rottweilers are very intelligent, and this intelligence can be a double-edged sword.
If a pup is treated with love and patience and is consistently shown the correct ways to behave. If she’s trained as she matures, with positive methods, and she gets the opportunity to use her intelligence in a sport or activity such as obedience training, tracking, agility, and so on, she’ll be happy and well-adjusted.
But, if she’s ignored or ill-treated, not trained, or given a chance to learn, she’ll quickly become bored. This can lead to destructive behavior, and she’ll turn that smart little brain of hers to ways of escaping, causing damage, or bucking the system.
She will be extremely creative, and not in a good way!
Make the Right Choice
If you’re considering a new dog, take all the time you need to research different breeds before coming to a decision.
A dog is a big commitment, and when that dog is a Rottweiler it’s even bigger!
There are many great books that you can use to learn more about this amazing breed. I own at least a dozen, and I’ve learned something new from every one of them.
Have a look at this article for a list of books I recommend.