Whether a newcomer to the breed or a Best-In-Show Judge, reading the breed Standard and attending breed seminars is something that of course is a must for anyone serious about the Rottweiler. However, “parts is parts”, and the Rottweiler Breed Standard uses much of the same general language regarding structure, angles, proportion, and other phrases that can be found in many breed Standards. Despite similarity in the language used, the Rottweiler and many of those breeds share very little in common in real life. To truly understand the breed you need to get to know the Rottweiler in person, up close and personal so-to-speak, whether you are adding a new puppy to your home or brushing up on the breed for an upcoming assignment. In addition to reading the breed Standard try looking at the Rottweiler from a different perspective. Namely, look at the various functions the dog serves then ask yourself, “do the dogs I’m looking at represent animals that have qualities the Rottweiler should possess?” To know the Rottweiler is to love them!
The focus of the next few pages will not be on charts and diagrams, angles and lines, but the adjectives used in the breed Standard and what those really mean if you want to know the Rottweiler for what it really is – the best all-around companion and working dog on the planet. Our focus will be on some keywords in the Standard such as: Strength, Powerful, Calm and Confident, Quiet and Self-assured, Intelligent, Agile and Efficient with Endurance. These attributes are as much a part of the Rottweiler as height to length ratios and counting 42 teeth!
In addition to a brief discussion of these attributes in the Standard, this article will also include some discussion of recent Standard changes abroad and how the American Rottweiler Club, Standard, for the most part, already addresses those and the concerns raised, particularly with “overdone” heads or any extremes in exhibits you might see.
Brief History of the Breed
For those who have been around the breed, the stories of the Rottweiler’s roots are varied depending upon whom you ask. Two Hundred years ago it would have been very difficult to find a dog in South Central Germany that resembled anything close to the modern day Rottweiler. The breed’S heritage of course derives from ancient Mastiff-type drover and working dogs, but the dogs in the Rottweiler pedigree in ancient times would not have been recognizable to us today as the black and tan athlete that lovers of the breed adore. Where people have had a need for working animals, they have developed dogs in their area to suit those needs then called them their own. It is no different with the Rottweiler. Hailing from and around the town of Rottweil in Southern Germany, the modern Rottweiler’s ancestors are likely remnants of dogs left by the Roman legions and others crossing the Alps who used their four-legged “friends” as draft dogs, cattle drovers, and for other working tasks on their travels and conquests across Europe. From these ancestors, the local population developed dogs for draft purposes to pull butcher carts, milk carts, and anything else that would be needed around the farm to substitute for horses or cattle as draft animals. Draft work, along with the Rottweilers’ older jobs of driving cattle, made it an all-around dog suitable for farm work. Enough history for now. There are numerous well-written books discussing at length the origins of the breed and the development of the modern day Rottweiler.
So what’s so different about this article, you ask? What really makes a Rottweiler a Rottweiler? Is it general language of build and overall construction or is it the heart and soul of the breed in the package described in the Standard? All one needs to do is witness the Breed in action to understand what functions create the form we desire!
The Rottweiler Breed Standard goes into great detail using descriptive language of the dogs’ overall appearance, attitude, temperament, and function. One word repeated numerous times in the Standard is “strength”. The impression you get when seeing a Rottweiler built for correct function will make you think, “That is a strong dog!” The breed can even excel at weight pulling (over 2000 pounds as pictured above) given the proper training and motivation. Strength means the physical attributes and correct structure so that the dog can function, whatever task it is given—completing the task without hesitation. A dog that is too slight or too bulky in appearance certainly doesn’t give the impression of “strength” which has a great deal of emphasis in the breed Standard description.
Power is a trait the Rottweiler must possess both in appearance and action. The word “powerful” is used in the Standard several times to describe the overall impression of the Rottweiler and its functional abilities that demonstrate the form we know today. Power and strength are not necessarily the same thing. Strength can represent brute force while some see power as utilizing that strength in bursts or sustained activities that are impressive to the eye and awe-inspiring to those witnessing this attribute. The “form” described elsewhere in the Standard for the structure of the dog, must and will result in a dog with the power
To balance the strength and power of the Rottweiler the breed must also be calm and confident. What good in the service of mankind is a dog that is powerful and strong, if that cannot be channeled into a useable form, a form with which we can live peacefully in modern society? The Rottweiler’s calm, the confident attitude must be on display and in equal proportion to the power and strength, this breed possesses. The calm and confident nature of the dog is a job in itself and the responsibility of the breeder and owner to help instill through training and socialization. From a young age these strong and powerful dogs must be reared first by their mother and siblings, then the breeder, in an environment of exposure to a great number of stimuli and settings. The Rottweiler is an inherently calm dog, not one prone to erratic behavior or sudden unneeded action. Growing up in a family setting with family members knowing how to care for and train these young animals provides the balance for the strength and power they inherently possess.
Intelligent? Without a doubt! The Rottweiler Standard specifically mentions a dog of great intelligence. Considering its history and function through the ages, even before it gained its modern look, the Rottweiler’s heritage is one that would have required an intelligent dog to survive the rigors of cross-continent cattle driving, guarding and adapting to perform any tasks its owners asked. Even more so in the modern Rottweiler, I believe intelligence is a trait that breeders have done an exceptional job developing and presenting to you, the general public, and dog show judges. Whether it be tracking which requires the dog to think in conjunction with use of its exceptional olfactory senses, advanced obedience, or police/military function—smart dogs figure it out, and in the process make our
Agility is something often overlooked in the breed. You cannot sacrifice agility solely to gain power and strength. A dog must be strong and powerful but at the same time agile and constructed in a manner to allow all these attributes to shine in performing what we ask of the Rottweiler. Of course, what better way to demonstrate “agility” than in agility exercises? Make no sacrifice when looking at the Rottweiler and asking yourself if the dog can perform. An agile Rottweiler is essential to function. Does this dog look agile?
Efficiency in movement creates endurance in function. If the Rottweiler you are looking at is not efficient when it moves (whether trotting, loping, or in a full sprint) the dog will break down and will not be able to function as intended and described in the Standard. An efficient mover creates the endurance that was necessary in the breeds’ ancestors for sustained work on the farm, driving cattle, or pulling carts, sometimes with very heavy loads. You can read the Standard on how the dog is to be built, but looking at pictures and understanding that the form requires this to result in efficient movement that creates endurance is a different way of looking at the same Rottweiler.
The word “noble” is not actually in the Standard, but many Rottweiler owners, breeders, and lovers will tell you that the overall impression of strength, power and agility in a calm, self-assured package results in a dog that creates a “presence”—one of nobility. Whether looking at the dog’s headpiece or the overall picture of the dog in the way it interacts with others around them, you should have the feeling that there is something special about the Rottweiler, both in attitude and construction.
Recent Issues of Interest and Concern
The Parent Club, particularly through the Board of Directors, stays abreast of changes in the breed, both as to written standards and structure, domestically and abroad. This past year the parent club for the Rottweiler in Germany “ADRK” as well as the governing body overseeing the ADRK, the FCI, made some significant revisions and clarifications to their breed standard. While some of those are subtle and not of particular interest to judges or owners in this country, others have had an affect overall on the breed, both domestically and in other areas of the world. Of particular interest was the FCI’s addition to the standard of a specific muzzle to skull ratio of 2 to 3. This ratio has always been discussed and identified in the American Rottweiler Club Standard, but the club does feel there needs to be emphasis on not rewarding “exaggerated” heads or those that look like some other breed of a more massive construction. For purposes of education, the American Rottweiler Club directors would like to refer judges and potential judges to the judges’ education website where there is a detailed discussion of head type and how to avoid extremes of either the “overdone or underdone” head type. In the last twenty years there has been a trend both in the United States and elsewhere for a shortening of the muzzle below that desired in the standard. This is a trend that will hopefully be reversed with continuing judges’ education here as well as more specific definition in the
Other issues that the parent club would like judges to focus on is overall, proportion of the dog as well as temperament. Recent changes in the FCI Standard have emphasized what has always been discussed in the AKC Standard, namely that dogs that exhibit shyness should not be rewarded. Additionally, height and length proportions are critical in setting breed type, avoiding dogs that lack leg or are too long in body.
Finally, the issue of undocked or “natural” tails in the breed is continuing to be addressed. There have been many undocked championed Rottweilers finish in recent years. The club consists of members that have both docked and natural-tailed dogs. It is the position of the American Rottweiler Club that owners of both are welcomed as members of the parent club. Because of the number of dogs with tails being seen in the ring, the American Rottweiler Club judges’ education committee recently recommended, and the board unanimously approved, additions to judges’ education materials showing the type of tail that might be seen in the ring by judges. The board also passed a motion in September as follows:
“The set of tail is what is important and should be judged. If a natural tail is presented, only the set of the tail should be judged or faulted”.
This has been added to the power-point and written materials for the American Rottweiler Club judges’ education packet to supplement the language and the breed standard that “the set of the tail is more important than length”. While the majority of the exhibits will continue to be docked, the club is aware that undocked dogs are appearing in greater numbers in the AKC ring. The club will continue to resist efforts in this country to forbid the procedure of docking to the extent that it negatively affects members who continue the practice for their dogs.
I hope that as a judge or new owner you will take the time to look at these pictures again and remember there is more to this breed and celebrating its many qualities than a piece of paper called The Breed Standard. While those elements are certainly important in creating the modern Rottweiler, the heart and soul of the breed are the tasks and services that it can and willingly will perform for us as loving owners and trainers. A strong, powerful, agile, calm, intelligent and self-assured dog in a black and tan package is surely one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves in life. Meet a Rottweiler, and celebrate these wonderful dogs today.