My family has two: a male and a female, both neutered. Neutering has little effect on a male as far as we can tell. Shadow still learned to heist his leg when peeing and he still has the famous male Rottie attitude - I'll do as I please, thank you very much - firmly in place.
At first, I was concerned about my daughter's ability to control such powerful animals. However, we educated ourselves on how to raise dogs in general, and it paid off. Our Rotties know and enjoy their place as numbers 4 and 5 in our "pack." The way you raise a Rottie is the key to enjoying a safe and friendly pet. The monks of New Skete, that's right - monks as in monastery - wrote a book that's a great tool for learning how to raise your Rottweiler.
If you want a Rottweiler, learn how to raise it first! If you don't get these dogs off to the right start, you may never be able to control them, and they will be a constant danger to you, your family, and others. With a bite strength roughly 25% greater than a German Shepherd, they must be trained - it isn't optional. If you do learn to do it right, you will own one of the best and safest pets it is possible to own.
Rottweilers are people dogs. If you don't want to spend a lot of time with your pet, do not get a Rottie. They attach themselves to a family member and stick like glue, at least until they re-attach themselves to a different pack member later. Although they do pick a favorite to be their special person, they easily fill that need for any family member. They become whoever's dog they are with at the time (within the family) - a wonderful quality.
Our male believes that my daughter belongs to him. He makes no bones about it. He prefers her over anyone else, but if she's unavailable he is quite content to tag along with any of the rest of us. A Rottie will follow you from room to room. Get a Rottie and you're going to have a dog near you. We like it. ;-)
Attitude Pound for pound, Rottweilers may be the strongest dog breed. They are down-home tough and intensely loyal. While aggressive in protecting their territory, they're friendly in other situations. They are people-friendly and animal-aggressive. Do not trust your Rottie around strange animals, small or large. They may seem uncaring one minute, and have your neighbor's cat in their jaws the next.
Be cautious when introducing your Rottie to strangers, even though Rotts are friendly by nature with people. The breed can be aloof around people they don't know. Contrary to popular opinion, the one trait in our Rottweilers that we value most is their calm. These dogs don't get upset easily, they don't over-react and are very, very patient.
One thing to keep in mind about Rottweilers is that they will not be intimidated. I have seen my 115 pound male immediately take the dominant role when playing with my sister's 200 pound Newfoundland. This simply means that you must be aware of the tendency. Training is everything. A Rottie who obeys his master is a Rottie who never hurts anyone. Not to mention that a Rottie is no match for some other breeds and obedience can protect your Rott from getting hurt.
Obedience Rotties must be obedience trained. Bred to be working dogs, they love to train with their masters. Proper training sessions are pure joy to these dogs. They are just too strong and curious about everything under the sun not to be properly controlled by their master's voice at all times. This is not optional. Besides, they are so smart you can train them to do the coolest stuff!
The Monks' book gives two methods I found incredibly useful: the "watch me" and the "dominance down." Miss Molly, our female, was a vicious puppy who literally attacked people when only 2 to 3 months of age. She was so aggressive that my wife wanted to sell her back to the breeder! She is now so friendly that neighbors treat her like she is their own dog whenever they see her. She is obedient and eager to please. Our vet says Miss Molly has made a 180° turn-around and is a different dog.
We did not beat her or any such thing. Hitting a Rottweiler is stupid. The New Skete method did the trick for us. Here are a few tips until you can read the book:
Submission & Dominance The Dominance Down teaches the dog his place in the "pack." These are stubborn dogs and the point needs to be made in a way HE will understand. Hitting a Rottie won't teach him anything except how to chomp you when you least expect it. Take a little time to understand the "pack" order dogs use naturally, and you can use his own instincts to get him to behave perfectly - with very little effort on your part (once the housebreaking is done <lol>).
Routine dominance downs must begin when the dog is a little pup - because he won't be little very long.
This procedure - the "Dominance Down" - will become a a routine thing for your dog if you do it just twice a day throughout his puppyhood. Do it once in awhile after he is grown as well. Apply this any time he disobeys and a simple correction doesn't get him back in line. He will come to accept this as your right to do to him.
This is not a punishment!. This is how wild dogs in a pack establish dominance among each other so that no real fights have to take place. It is the canine way of keeping the peace - establishing who is boss before a fight occurs. This establishes and maintains a strict social structure. Our male does this to our female every time my wife gets home from work during the week. It's a ritual he never fails to do - and our dogs have never been in a real fight with each other.
My wife had problems getting Miss Molly to break challenging eye contact during Dominance Downs. Linda finally wrapped her teeth around Miss Molly's throat and bit down lightly. Miss Molly recognized that signal all right, and has given my wife no more challenging looks. Submission is better than possibly getting your throat ripped out by a crazy housewife. <g>
Your Rottie should hold a Dominance Down until you give him a special word to let him know he can get up. He should remain totally motionless until hearing that word. If he does not, re-straddle him and stare at his eyes until he re-submits, as many times as it takes. Use the same word every time. We use the same word that we use to free our dog from a stay, but remember that a Dominance Down is not an obedience command. It is a social behaviour. This is a non-violent, non-cruel way to be sure your dog sees his place in your pack as lower than yours. Most discipline problems come from a dog thinking he is higher in the pack structure than his owner thinks he is!
Every human in your pack must do this Dominance Down routine correctly, even the kids. That way, the dog knows he is lower down the pack structure than any of the humans. This results in a non-aggressive dog toward family members. He understands his place and is happy with his rank. This should never be used as a punishment. The point of the behaviour is to establish and maintain the pack "pecking order."
Kids Rotties are great family dogs. They love children. These are not "one man" dogs. They belong to whichever family member they are with at the time. No one will feel left out. Be prepared though - if given their way, they will spend most of their time with the kids; They really love kids. For those with small children, remember: NEVER leave a young child alone with any dog for any amount of time!
House Pets Rotties love to lounge around the house and soak up love and laziness with their masters. They enjoy being "house dogs" as long as they have a yard in which to play and plenty of attention from their master. Rotties tend to follow their masters around the house from room to room, settling in wherever you do. They are part teddy bear, part ornery best friend, part draft horse and part guard dog, all in one truly beautiful package. They love to be handled and you should get them used to having their mouths and paws handled to make your vet's job easier down the road. This is really important - they should allow you to handle any part of their body without stiffening up or getting stressed. Keep gently doing it until they get used to it.
More Than One? Having two Rotties is great fun and they provide each other extra exercise. If you want two, I strongly recommend getting a male and a female instead of two males. Males are far more aggressive and ornery than females and if they get in a fight, they are going to be badly hurt, possibly killed. I also recommend getting your dogs neutered after they reach 6 months of age. This does not reduce their effectiveness as watch dogs and males will still learn to pee with their legs raised.
Intelligence Rotties are incredibly intelligent. Ours learned to turn light switches on and off, open fence gate latches and open sliding cabinet doors. These are things they learned on their own! We have taught them tricks in addition to the standard obedience commands. They are really fun dogs. They actually plan complex diversions to distract the other Rottie's attention while they steal the desired toy. <g> Think ahead if you want to be their boss because Rottweilers are problem-solving smart.
Crates Get a crate and use it! This is the place your dog will go when he doesn't want to be disturbed. Respect that - always. Never try to pull him out of his crate for anything, including punishments and treats. His crate is his one place that you must respect. It is also the place you will put your dog when you don't want him to disturb you. He won't mind. After all, it's "his place."
I do not recommend having the dog's food and water dishes in his crate unless absolutely necessary. Because Rotties have such warm coats, I strongly recommend wire frame crates instead of the plastic ones. The extra ventilation is very important. Wire crates have the added advantage of folding for transport.
Grooming and Maintenance Rotties only need to be brushed once a week. A slicker brush is good. Of course, you can brush them as often as you like, but only bathe them about twice a year. Over-bathing will dry out their skins and their coats. They are clean smelling dogs and their coat should not develop any odor unless something is wrong.
Because they have folded-over ears, you should clean their ears once a week. You can buy a solution at a pet store or from your vet for this. I prefer a one-step solution. You put your dog in a down-stay, straddle him, and squirt solution into an ear until it is about to overfill. Then stick a regular cotton ball in the ear to keep the fluid in, and fold the ear down. Hold his ear against his head to keep the cotton ball and solution in. Repeat for other ear and then hold their ears shut for 10 full minutes; then release and remove the cotton balls. Some dogs don't mind it and some hate it but it really needs to be done once a week.
Trimming toe nails is really not hard with good sharp clippers, some practice and a regular routine. I do it every 2 weeks. If you start all these routines when your Rottweiler is a little puppy (8 to 10 weeks), they are much easier to do when he is grown. That way he just accepts them as the routine order of life.
The Vet Get a good one, and keep him! Work out a written schedule of shots and HeartGuard for heart worm protection, and stick to it like glue. We use an animal hospital that treats farm and zoo animals, including tigers and such. This helps us know that the vets there are experienced and stay on top of medical advances, but are also practical minded.
Rottweilers' immune systems tend to over-react to shots (vaccinations) and drugs. Expect your Rottie to feel under the weather for a day or two after getting a shot or series of pills. Usually, this is not a problem, just something of which to be aware
Food Feed your Rott a high quality food if possible. One reader suggests making sure your dog's food contains the amino acid taurine to avoid heart problems. Read the ingredients on the dogfood bag and talk to your vet and local breeders about this. If your dog needs weight control, I suggest controlling portion size instead of going to a lower protein-lower fat dog food.
Guard Dog Or Pet? You do not need to train a Rottweiler to protect you and your family. It is a strong instinct in them and is absolutely trustworthy. Trust me. Here are some examples from my own experience:
Read The Book! Go to your local library and get the oldest available copy of the Monks of New Skete's book - "The Art Of Raising A Puppy," follow their basic techniques, and your Rottie will never let you down - and you will never let him down either. If your dog is already an adult, they still have a book for you - "How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend."
The Monks' latest books have gone politically correct and gotten away from their earlier strength, which was observing natural dog behavior and using it to teach humans how to be part of their own "pack." Think about it: Non-domestic canines (dogs and wolves) use the dominance down constantly to maintain pack order while at the same time avoiding real fights. If it's awful, why do dogs do it and why does it work for them? I strongly recommend trying to find an older version of this book at a local library. The older books are more factual and straightforward.
Enjoy that Rottweiler!