The intelligent, loyal and protective Rottweiler is a familiar breed of protection dog to many and is of particular interest to people interested in protection dogs who are known to be excellent at guarding both people and property. The sturdy Rottweiler is considered a working breed, so it makes sense that these dogs are happiest when they have a job to perform. They are extremely well suited to being police or protection dogs, but their stable temperaments and affectionate natures also make them wonderful therapy dogs, service dogs, obedience competitors, personal protection dogs, and loving companions for families.
Even though the exact origin of the breed is unknown, ancient Roman records indicate that it is highly probable that Rottweilers are descended from the indigenous herding (also called drover or cattle) dogs of the time. These dogs accompanied the Roman armies as they invaded and conquered widespread parts of the Roman Empire including southern Germany and Switzerland. Drovers have been described as Mastiff types that were most likely descended from the extinct Molossus guard dogs, and they were tasked with guarding the food-producing herds that accompanied the armies as well as providing protection to the soldiers when they slept.
Around 74 AD, the 11th legion of the invading Roman Empire army was in the Wurtemberg area of southern Germany, making camp on the banks of the Neckar River. There they founded the town they called Rottweil (named “rot” for the red tile roofs of the town and “wil” for villa). Sometime around 200 AD, Germany managed to beat the Roman army back, and as the army retreated, many of their guard dogs were left in the Roman provinces of southern Germany. There they interbred with the local dog population. Although the dogs were Roman in origin, it was the local Germans who named the interbred drover dogs and their descendants “Rottweilers” after the area they lived in.
There were several other large working breeds that were already common in the area. So it’s likely that the short-coated Greater Swiss Mountain dog, its long-haired cousin, the Bernese Mountain Dog, and the only slightly smaller Entlebucher were among the local breeds that interbred with the Roman herding dogs, and the resemblance among these breeds is notable. It is because of this interbreeding that today’s Rottweilers can have differences in coat length and thickness, depending on what bloodline they come from. The occasional white spot on the chest or foot is a result of that interbreeding as well.
Over the centuries Rottweilers became well known for their ability to drive cattle to market towns to be butchered; farmers also used them to protect the money they made from sales by keeping the money in pouches the dogs wore around their necks. Cattle herding was outlawed in the 19th century due to the development of railways that could be used to transport herds. As a result, the Rottweiler – who always needed a job – became the Rottweil Butcher’s Dog because of his new occupation: a draught dog who pulled butcher’s carts loaded with meats. Although the name has been shortened again to Rottweiler, this is the same sturdy, dependable guardian.
After the need for butchers’ draught dogs diminished, the breed became nearly extinct, and by 1900, only one breeding female Rottweiler was to be found in Rottweil. With Germans determined not to allow the breed to die out, this female was bred to other protection dogs with mastiff-like qualities and conformation, and within a few years, there were enough foundation studs to begin to repopulate the breed.
In 1907, the DRK (Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub) was started, and within a few months a second club called the SDRK (Suddedeutscher Rottweiler Klub or the Southern German Rottweiler Klub) was formed. This was to become the IRK (International Rottweiler Klub). At the time of its founding, the DRK had about 500 Rottweilers in the club and had the goal of producing working protection dogs that would be suitable for police or military use regardless of conformation or shape.
The IRK, which had about 3000 Rottweilers in its club, was more concerned with producing dogs that met the conformation standards of the breed and were far more homogenous in appearance. These clubs eventually merged to become the ADRK (Allegmeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub), and Germany became and still is the internationally recognized country of the breed, with the sole ability to set, revise and maintain the breed standard.
This owner-country rule is clear in the history of the docked tail. In 1935, the AKC recognized the Rottweiler as a docked breed, which was its classification in the ADRK and FCI as well. This was due to the existence of undocumented, historic photographs that show the Rottweiler with a docked tail. It wasn’t until 1997 that the ADRK revised the breed standard to include the natural tail, but the AKC did not comply with the new standard and has kept the docked tail classification for the breed. Canada and the U.S. are now the only two countries that still dock the Rottweiler’s tail.
The smart, alert Rottweiler continues to be an extremely popular breed of protection dog that is outstanding at a variety of different jobs. They are used in Europe, Scandinavia, and the U.S. for police work, customs work, and in the army, as well as for mountain search and rescue work. They are excellent border guard dogs and bomb- and drug-sniffing dogs. And of course, they are outstanding as both personal protection dogs and as great family dogs.
These rugged companions are very affectionate and devoted to their owner and/or family, but Rottweilers are both too large and too protective to allow to be untrained. The Rottweiler owner has to make sure that his or her pet has been socialized to other people and to other dogs. This intelligent breed needs training and reinforcement to understand that you are the leader of the pack, and once he or she does, you will be rewarded with a best friend who is loyal, loving, and obedient.