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Rottweiler Temperament: Maligned and Misunderstood

Many people are fearful of dogs, especially large, intimidating-looking breeds who have historically been used in guarding and protection-oriented contexts. This causes many people to suspect the worst of some breeds, including pit bulls, Dobermans and Rottweilers, among others.

However, most of these negative perceptions are misguided. In truth, these breeds – and Rottweilers in particular – are often lovely animals, who are undeserving of the reputations with which they’ve been saddled. Read on to learn about Rottweiler temperament and personality.

Rottweiler History and Development

The Rottweiler is an old breed, whose history is not completely understood. The breed is thought to have descended from Roman driver dogs, who were used in the 1st Century to help herd cattle. These dogs were massive, mastiff-like dogs, who had the strength, intelligence and bravery to skillfully control large and dangerous bulls.

During the Middle Ages, breeders living in and around the German town of Rottweil began using these dogs for different purposes. Instead of driving cattle, the dogs were tasked with pulling butcher carts and protecting the butcher from thieves. Around this time, the dogs began to assume the physical traits and the basic Rottweiler personality that characterizes modern members of the breed.

Rottweilers waned in popularity over the next few hundred years before experiencing a resurgence around the beginning of the 20th Century. The first Rottweiler breed club was established in 1914, and the breed began increasing in popularity shortly thereafter. Throughout the remainder of the 20th Century, the breed was used in a variety of situations, including conformation, agility trials, obedience training and protection contexts.

And, of course, they also became popular pets. Currently, the AKC (which began recognizing the breed in 1934) rates the Rottweiler as the 8th most popular breed in the United States.

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Rottweiler Personality

Rottweilers have very strong personalities, which are fairly consistent among different individuals. Some of the terms most commonly applied to the breed include:

  • Intelligent
  • Loving
  • Affectionate​​​
  • Driven
  • Brave
  • Protective
  • Confident
  • Loyal
  • Sensitive
  • Alert

We’ll examine a few of their more noteworthy personality traits below.


Sensitivity is an important part of the Rottweiler personality. In fact, most people are shocked at how sensitive these somewhat-imposing dogs are. Despite their bravery and impressive size, they can become quite distraught by harsh treatment or training methods. Instead, Rottweilers should be trained using positive reinforcement techniques, as most are very eager to please their owner.

However, their sensitivity is generally limited to the members of their families, as Rottweilers are typically aloof and reserved around strangers. While they are rarely aggressive toward unfamiliar people, they remain cool and detached, yet willing to act, should the stranger present a danger.

Affectionate and Loving Nature

Rottweilers are incredibly loving dogs who are absurdly affectionate with their families. Akin to extra-large lap dogs, Rottweilers love to snuggle and lounge about with their people, and they’ll often lay directly on top of their owner if allowed to do so.

Because of this affectionate nature, Rottweilers often bond strongly with their families. This can lead to problems with separation anxiety if they are left alone for long periods of time. Rottweilers do not want to be separated from their families, and they are not well-suited to a life chained up in the back yard. Rottweilers are eager to join their families on adventures, even if these adventures are nothing more than trips to the store.

Brave and Confident Dogs

Although they can be sensitive, Rottweilers rarely back down from a challenge. Instead, they meet perceived threats head-on; often, while putting on a ferocious barking-and-lunging display. However, properly trained and bred Rottweilers should not be outwardly aggressive with either people or other animals.

Their bravery and protective instincts are part of the reason Rottweilers are commonly used in guarding and protection-oriented contexts. In fact, they are one of the most commonly used breeds by military personnel, police and private guard-dog trainers.

They tend to be extraordinarily protective of their families, and they will often position themselves between a family member and a threat. Many Rottweiler owners even report that their dogs will place themselves between quarrelling family members, even when such disputes are playful in nature. They appreciate familial harmony and are happiest when receiving love and affection from the whole family.

Intelligence and Drive

Most authorities consider Rottweilers to be one of the most intelligent breeds in the world (generally they are placed among the top 10). Rottweiler owners will surely confirm this, noting that they not only learn things quickly, but that they are exceedingly clever about manipulating owners into providing them with the treats, affection or playtime they desire.

Most Rottweilers respond very well to obedience training. But this isn’t just a byproduct of their intelligence, it is also the result of their incredible work ethic and drive to please their people. In fact, Rottweilers are usually happiest when given a job to do. They do not like to sit idly all day, and may become destructive if deprived of the opportunity to flex their intellectual muscles.

Comical and Clown-Like

One of the things many Rottweiler owners are pleasantly surprised to learn is that these otherwise-serious dogs often become absolute goofballs when playing with their families. They often love to play “tag” with their owners, and they frequently engage in play bows and emit humorous vocalizations when feeling relaxed and playful.  

Rottweilers are typically playful and gentle with children in their families, but because of their large size and exuberance, caution is warranted. They may inadvertently injure children by knocking them over or running into them.

Challenging Nature

Despite the fact that Rottweilers are loving and eagerly engage in training activities, they can assume the dominant position in families lacking a strong “alpha” personality. Because they are such large and imposing dogs, this can lead to problems with obedience. Accordingly, it is always important to maintain a strict pecking order in the family, with your Rottweiler occupying the lowest level of the ladder. 

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Are You a Good Match for the Rottweiler Temperament?

Anytime you consider adding a dog to your family, you must be sure to select a breed and individual which will mesh well with those living in your home. And, although things like love, loyalty and sensitivity are all parts of the Rottweiler personality, these dogs are not well suited for all owners.

First-time dog owners, for example, will usually find the Rottweiler personality to be a bit more than they can handle. Indeed, this is not a breed with which to cut your dog-training teeth. They are better suited for experienced dog owners, who already understand the basics of dog care and training.

Rottweilers are also a poor choice for families that spend long periods of time away from the home. Rottweilers love to be with their families, and they’ll often develop destructive chewing behaviors and personality problems if left alone for lengthy periods of time. It is also important that would-be Rottweiler owners are interested in a dog that will want to become a true member of the family, rather than a dog that merely lives in the same house.

Because of their considerable size and strength, Rottweilers are also a poor choice for those who lack the size or physical ability to keep up with them. Even well-trained Rottweilers can pull their owners around easily when they see a squirrel or something else that catches their interest. Similarly, homebodies and those with mobility issues will likely find it difficult to take their Rottweiler to the park as often as necessary.

But, for those who have experience caring for dogs, are interested in adding a new member to the family and ready to provide them with the stimulation and exercise they require, Rottweilers are a great choice. Rottweiler owners often become very devoted to the breed and find them to be wonderful companions.

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Have you ever owned a Rottweiler? How would you describe the Rottweiler personality and temperament? Did you find your pet easy to train, or was he too much to handle? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

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