The Rottweiler Survey

We reached out to people from the Rottweiler community to get their insight on the noble breed.  From the December 2018 Issue of ShowSight. Click to Subscribe.

Pictured above (clockwise from top left) Karen Bang, Daviann Mitchell,  Lew Olson, Thom Woodward, Diane Voss, DVM


Karen Bang

Owner/Breeder—Bang Rottweilers, has been involved in the breed for the past two decades, showing and breeding them for almost ten years. Her first two Rottweilers, Bonnie and Xena were rescue dogs who she lost at 13+ years. Karen and Bonnie spent seven years working as a therapy dog team. In 2008 she purchased her first AKC show prospect from Donna Anderson and Joan Rosemier of Hemlock Rottweilers. This “purple” puppy went onto become her first AKC Champion & Platinum Grand Champion, her first Best in Show winner, her first Westminster Kennel Club Best of Breed Winner, her first AKC National/Eukanuba Best of Breed Winner and her first #1 Breed Ranked Dog. “Trapper” was not only her heart dog, but also the first dog she titled in AKC Obedience and Rally.

Showing dogs came naturally to her having spent 20 years showing horses competing in Hunters and Jumpers. Over the past five years, Bang Rottweilers has produced 13 AKC Champions, several Grand Champions, many with working and obedience titles. In addition to her time with her dogs, Karen enjoys managing her own business, Travel by Karen where she helps those with wanderlust plan their perfect business or vacation journeys.

Where do you live and what do you do outside 
of dogs?

I live in a small farm in Northeast Ohio. I enjoy managing my own travel agency, Travel by Karen, specializing in high-end luxury vacations and business travel. Running my own business gives me the flexibility I need to share quality time with my family, dogs and also actively participate in dog sports. What do you mean “outside of dogs”, there is life beyond dogs?


In 1982, I acquired my first Rottweiler, Michener’s Michael CD, Certified Police Service Dog (“Mick”) and established Nighthawk Rottweilers. While Mick met all of my hopes and expectations, his hips unfortunately did not, and right then, I was introduced to the harsh realities of the breed. I neutered Mick and proceeded to purchase seven-week old CH Einmin Lanneret v Rottdan CD, AD, TDI, Police Service Dog Mountain View PD, MRC Honor Roll (“Hawk”). This dog, Hawk, later became the basis for the kennel name 
“Nighthawk Rottweilers.”

My philosophy on dog breeding is embodied in the term “INTEGRITY.” I believe that while a dog may not have any disqualifying fault and has a CHIC number, this alone does not mean that it is breeding quality. We must breed the total dog, which is type, temperament and structure. I feel that we should not only strive to be successful with our dogs in the conformation ring, but to be equally successful with our dogs in the working arena whether it be agility, obedience, rally, herding, tracking, schutzhund, barn hunt, or therapy—or any other working activity!

To date, I have bred over 85 conformation champions, and bred and/or owned numerous Top Ten conformation as well and Top Ten working dogs. I have either bred, owned or owed the stud dog to several #1 American Rottweiler Club breed dogs and bitches. I have also personally bred/trained/handled several National, Regional and/or local specialty winners, bred/trained/handled several obedience and agility dogs as well as bred/trained/handled several Schutzhund dogs, up to and including Schutzhund three. Over 35 years of breeding Rottweilers, I have only personally bred approximately 25 litters; however, Nighthawk has co-bred 
approximately 33.

I am currently a member of the following clubs: American Rottweiler Club, Medallion Rottweiler Club, Colonial Rottweiler Club, Western Rottweiler Owners, and The Rottweiler Health Foundation—Past President and Director.

I am a past member of the following organizations: Associated Rottweiler Fanciers of Northern California – Past Director, United States Rottweiler Club—Past Breed Warden and Past Apprentice Judge Applicant, The American Rottweiler Verein, United Schutzhund Club of America and the Los Angeles Rottweiler Club—Past President.

I have judged Rottweilers in conformation Sweepstakes at the Nationals, Regional and local Specialty levels.

I currently live in Santa Clarita, California, with my husband Brent Braun and my daughter Mary Ann and my Rottweiler and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel family.

Outside of our passion for dogs, I am a full time Los Angeles County Superior Court judge and I currently preside over a felony long-cause criminal calendar. Prior to that, I was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney assigned to the Hardcore Gang Unit and a Police Officer working patrol for the Sacramento Police Department.

I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Zoology from University of California at Berkeley and Juris Doctorate degree from Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles.

My passions include my family, my dogs, dog sports and a healthy lifestyle.

Lew Olson

I live about 35 miles North of Houston, Texas. While dogs are my main hobby, I also enjoying traveling and exploring history in the cities I visit. That includes the United States and overseas. Gardening has been my passion all my life, with both vegetables and flowers. I also research canine nutrition and health issues, and share my results in my writings and on line. I wrote a book on Canine Nutrition, “Raw and Natural Nutrition for Dogs”. I am retired and worked as an MSW mostly doing psychotherapy. I also have a PhD 
in Nutrition.

Thom Woodward 

I started showing my Rottweilers in 1976 and I whelped my first litter in 1978 under the Von Siegerhaus name. Seventeen of those years, there was a dog or bitch sired or bred by Von Siegerhaus ranked ARC Top Ten. In 1999 I continued breeding using the Neu-Rodes prefix and since then I have bred over 80 AKC Champions. More than a dozen of my breeding have been awarded ARC Gold/Silver/Bronze producer awards and I have had two girls named ‘producer of the year’. During this time, I have continued to breed and own many nationally ranked Top Ten specials and produce many Top ranked dogs in Performance venues, my dogs excelling in carting. It is important to me that my dogs are not just pretty but also versatile, biddable, sound, and enjoy and excel at ‘working’ with their humans.

Where do you live and what do you do outside 
of dogs?

I live in Battle Ground, Washington. Outside of dogs? Hmm. I like to build things like carts, but that brings me back to the dogs. Does this count? I spend most of my free time maintaining my motor home and other vehicles and doing yard work.

Diane Voss

My name is Diane Voss, DVM. I have bred Rottweilers for over 30 years under the registered “Ivoss Rottweilers”. I’ve been fortunate enough to breed dozens of champions, multiple Best-In-Show and Top 20 dogs. I very much enjoy handling my own dogs whenever possible. I own a full-time veterinary practice and live in South Florida.


Q & A

1. Your opinion of the current quality of purebred dogs in general, and your breed in particular.

KB: Overall I’m very pleased with the current quality of purebred dogs, especially in Rottweilers. There are a number of good, ethical breeders out there who are dedicated to preserving the health, structure, and temperament which shows in the quality both inside and outside of the ring.

DM: I feel like our purebred fancy is on the upswing. I have been working in the breed for nearly 40 years and enjoyed the early years with our breed where people would ask you “What kind of dog is that?” We survived the “baby boom” of the 90s after the movie “The Omen” and the influx of very extreme head types. I am now seeing a trend back to the “traditional Rottweiler” with balanced conformation, temperament and type. So welcoming I say!

Recently, it seems that our all-breed as well as breeder judges are getting back to basics and not awarding the biggest head or most extreme head they see at the expense of the rest of the dog. Today there seems to be more consistent recognition of balance, type and powerful movement. Our dogs are working dogs, who must be able to endure both physically and mentally. To be able to perform physically with some of these extreme types is often difficult because they cannot breathe properly and their structure cannot be maintained with prolonged gaiting. Their bodies break down at no fault of their own as their desire overrides their physical capabilities, thus limiting their ability to perform.

The Rottweiler breed is a working breed, and I am personally thankful that we are moving back to proper structure and type with appropriate temperaments. I believe our breed has improved over the past 10 years thanks to our breed clubs educating our judges, most often resulting in the judge’s awarding the dog with sound structure, balance and type. Equally important, I believe our breed clubs’ public education and breeders’ emphasis on breeding sound minds has greatly improved temperaments. While our breed is a guarding breed, they are first and foremost family pets and must act appropriately under all situations and personal and public safety is critical.

In conclusion, I think we are moving in a positive direction in our breed both physically and mentally.

LO: I find that hard to evaluate at times, because I am constantly working at learning more about dog structure, type and genetics. So I find sometimes I am ‘harder’ on how dogs look and are constructed as I was years ago. The Rottweiler is a very hard to breed consistent type. It takes some knowledge in genetics, and knowing the background of the sire and dam (phenotype and genotype) to keep consistency. I think in the days where breeders could own more of one breed and breed more often, better quality was obtained. That is hard to do in today’s world, and people get criticized if they have ‘too many dogs’. So it is important for breeders of any breed to truly understand the background of the dogs in their breeding program and have a good understanding of genetics, in what is recessive, what is dominant and what are the hardest traits to obtain and keep. This is so important if you only have one or two breeding bitches.

TW: I feel like the quality of our breed remains pretty consistent at the shows with a few good ones, a lot of mediocre ones and a few not so worthy of points. Unfortunately, the sport of showing and competing with Rottweilers is declining in general. In the 80s and 90s every show I went to on the West Coast had an average of 60-90 Rottweilers competing on any given weekend. Now it only takes a handful to make a major and big entries are few and far between even when Specialties are offered.

DV: I appreciate being asked to give my opinions on the breed. I feel that overall the quality of dogs in this country is still good, though outstanding specimens are not as common as they once were.

2. The biggest concern you have about your breed, be it medical, structural, temperament-wise, or what.

KB: One of the main concerns I have about Rottweilers is that we continue to produce dogs of sound temperament, health, and structure.

DM: My biggest concern as it would be for any breed is breeding to the extreme. Whether it be in type or temperament or a particular stud dog. If we continue down the path of the “popular” type which often includes extreme heads and structure, we end up with heads that resemble a cross between a Bullmastiff, Pug and Rottweiler where the dog’s ability to breathe and perform under physical stress is greatly diminished, thus jeopardizing the dog’s health and longevity. This serves no purpose and hurts our breed in every way possible.

If we breed extreme temperaments, we risk either having a potentially dangerous dog if in the wrong home, an unsound temperament, or we can end up with a dog so soft that they are potentially dangerous because of shyness and they often become fear biters.

In today’s society, we cannot afford to have any of these extremes. Breeders must recognize and take responsibility for the temperaments of their dogs, breed for proper temperament, sound health and place their puppies accordingly. We must all breed for a balance of working drive, willingness to please, and a friendly and stable dog, not a dog with so much drive it is not safe with the average pet owner or family, or so sharp or shy, that they are potentially dangerous if placed in the wrong home.

LO: I wish that anyone who owns Rottweilers, would do some form of performance with them. I feel this helps keep good Rottweiler temperament and character. This could include obedience, schutzhund, tracking, rally, carting, herding or any work that involves mental and physical activity. Our breed is a working breed, and needs to be mentally challenged and have good physical conditioning to continue our breeds legacy. It is not a breed meant to live on a couch, or worse, in a kennel run with no mental stimulation or physical conditioning.

TW: My biggest concern is probably true for most breeds, the lack of honesty among stud dog owners and breeders. So Many dogs currently in the Top rankings have either not had health testing done, or have not chosen to disclose the non passing results. The only way we can improve the breed is to make good decisions in breeding and this is done through sharing and honesty of what has been produced or is in the genetics of each dog.

DV: My biggest concern with the Rottweiler, at the present time, is a fairly high rate of cancer. This is an issue I take very seriously considering my veterinary practice and knowledge of these issues. I always try my best not to breed to these known problems whenever feasible. Although I do line-breed, I will not do so if health issues are discovered in that particular line that could be compounded by line breeding.

3. The biggest problem facing you as a breeder.

KB: I think one of the biggest problems facing breeders today is finding enough responsible show and pet homes for future litters. With a working breed like a Rottweiler, matching the right puppy to the right family who will dedicate the time to train and socialize them can sometimes be a challenge.

DM: Finding the right homes with owners willing to listen and learn and raise their puppies to be good citizens in today’s society. I also try to emphasize to new owners the benefits of participating in dog sports on some level and the joy only you will know for you and your dog when you train and accomplish your goals together whether it be conformation, obedience, rally, agility or any other dog sport. Any owner can obtain a Canine Good Citizen certificate or do Trick Dog and it is fun for all.

LO: Consistency. I find this breed is hard to get consistency in litters, or even find much consistency in the breed ring. Some of this might have to do with Popular Stud Dog Syndrome, or may be due to people not really being able to evaluate their bitch, and search for the best stud dog to complement their female. Large to small doesn’t begat medium size. Over angulated to under angulated doesn’t bring correct angles, only some of each. While there are a lot of Rottweilers in America, it is hard to find good diversity in pedigrees.

TW: Finding worthy stud dogs who have been fully health tested according to the code of ethics set by the American Rottweiler Club.

4. Advice to a new breeder? Advice to a new judge of your breed?

KB: As a relatively new breeder myself, I can suggest the best thing to do when first starting out is to find a mentor who has a history and experience with the breed who will candidly provide sound advice. Never assume you can know everything, there is always something to be learned from each other.

Judges should learn and study the breed standard and participate in hands-on judges education briefings and seminars where possible. When learning about a new breed, go to the specialty shows such as American Rottweiler Club National, Colonial Rottweiler Club, Medallion Rottweiler Club, Seminole Rottweiler Club, Associated Rottweiler Fanciers of Northern California, Golden State Rottweiler Club, Mile High Rottweiler Club, etc and reach out to the clubs to connect with members who have volunteered to be ringside mentors. In addition to knowing the breed standard, learn to examine for dentition, to recognize lameness and never be afraid to withhold a ribbon or award if what you see in the ring is disparate to breed standards.

DM: Advice to new breeder: Find a great mentor! Try and find a person in our breed who has proven themselves as a breeder over time, not a flash in the pan, and who has proven herself/himself to be a responsible breeder, all the while keeping in mind our breed standard, health and temperament.

Follow our breed clubs breeding practices and always place every dog on a contract where the terms protect you as a breeder and the public as the consumer. Outline all the terms of the agreement so there is no confusion later, even with your best friend. If you do not make the terms of the agreement clear, pet or show, spay or breed, ownership or co-ownership, there will be hard 
feelings later.

Study our standard, be open to the opinions of others and always be a good sport and supportive of our breed.

Understand your dog’s strengths and weaknesses and always breed to improve. Focus on long term goals, health being a top priority.

When looking at health clearances, don’t stop at the particular dog’s clearances, look at the vertical as well as horizontal health clearances—Ask yourself: What are parents and grandparents’ clearances? What health clearances have they produced? What are the clearances of siblings and half siblings of the dog and the same for two generations back?

For me personally, I start with pedigree supporting complimentary genotype and health clearances, and then I look to see if they are phenotypically complimentary. 
I always keep my ideal Rottweiler in mind and continue to try and breed towards that standard.

Be honest in your puppy evaluations, and always remember, a championship or working title and hip clearances do not make every dog a breeding dog. There are many champions that should not be bred and not every dog being shown as a “special” aka in Best of Breed competition, is truly special. Those dogs are few and far between.

Advice for new judges: Please study the breed standard and understand the purpose of the standard and that our breed is a working breed.

Please find a mentor with those who are well respected in our breed and remember with every person with whom you speak, you will learn something, whether it be good or bad, you will always learn something.

Put in your mind what you believe to be the “ideal Rottweiler” and look for dogs in the ring that fit that overall picture. When you look at each animal, do you think to yourself, “Now that is a Rottweiler!” While there are big, small, more athletic, less athletic, tails, no tails, all in 
one ring, your winners should all exude overall Rottweiler type, be strong powerful movers with purpose, possess proper structure and have correct 
Rottweiler temperament.

For me, since our breed is a working breed that was originally bred to drive cattle, strong powerful purposeful movement is very important. This does not mean the flashy dog on the end of the lead showing like a Sporting dog. It is a dog who has powerful drive with a converging gait where they do not overdrive in the rear because 
they over angulated in the rear with sickle hocks or 
hackney in the front because they lack upper arm or 
balanced angulation.

Balance is critical. Showmanship is always desired and keep focused on proper head type. There are many good educational videos done by some very excellent Europeans such as Anton Spindler and Gerard O’Shea where they talk about type and structure. Our own American Rottweiler Club has some excellent presentations on the breed as well.

Don’t be moved by the “fad” unless that dog meets your ideal of the Rottweiler standard.

Always be patient and kind to the exhibitors and most importantly, to the dogs themselves.

LO: To new breeders, I would tell them to start with the BEST female they can find. Both in structure, breed characteristics and pedigree. Don’t start with second best! That only produces the same.

For judges, I ask them to remember this is a working breed. They needs to look as though they could trot and work in the fields all day. That means balanced front to rear, that shows strength and endurance along with conditioning and muscling. At a medium trot, not a flying trot! Fastest isn’t best.

TW: To a new breeder: begin studying dogs of the past and what they have produced before making decisions to move forward. Find a mentor who can help you attain this information.

To a new judge: pay attention to the standard and the key words. Remember what the Rottweiler was bred to do but don’t lose sight of type: compact, robust and powerful. Rottweilers should not be weedy or long. A correctly proportioned dog (9:10) will appear square; they should be equal in distance from withers to elbow and elbow to ground. Don’t be afraid to use the dog that looks different if you feel that matches the description the best. And please remember that reversal of sex characteristics is a serious fault. You should be able to tell what sex a dog is by looking in its face.

DV: My advice to new judges would certainly include making sure you count teeth! Missing pre-molars and molars are common in some exhibits. More than one missing tooth is a disqualification. The other most common “fault” I see is a lack of overall balance. The primary problem is a short upper arm that does not match overly angled rears resulting in very few dogs that actually use the rear to drive. Additionally, I would ask that judges not reward “overdone” wet, wrinkly heads that resemble a Bullmastiff more than a Rottweiler.

5. What’s the most common fault you see when traveling around the country?

KB: Some of the more common faults I see in rings around the country for Rottweilers include; Pink mouths, flat feet and overdone “wet” heads.

DM: The most common fault I see around the Country is extreme heads or incorrect gait.

With the use of a very small gene pool in conformation and particular stud dogs being used excessively, we have seen our breed change quite a bit over the last 20+ years. It seems to be moving back now, but I would caution people to not breed to the “fad” dog. I have had breeders say that they breed to the “fad” dog because he is a top show dog or he is a top sporting dog or a top whatever because they “need to sell puppies.” Frankly, if you do not have potential homes for your puppies, then you should not be breeding at that time. You should not have to rely on marketing to sell puppies. The dogs are not a commodity to produce income to support your hobby, they are living, breathing animals who require a responsible pet owners who is in the position to care for the dog emotionally, physically, and financially.

Bottom line, if that “fad” dog is not producing healthy sound dogs, or his pedigree is not complimentary to yours, do not breed to him, even if that restraint makes selling puppies more difficult. Keep the breed in mind, not your pocket book.

LO: Right now, it is over angulation in the rear, with being too straight in the front. It seems all breeds move to this at some point. While it can look flashy in the ring, or while stacked, this is not a dog who would have endurance. Our breed is not meant to over angulated in any fashion. Mostly, they need to be balanced in angulation, front to rear, with a level, strong top line.

TW: Different areas have different prevalent faults. In general, the Rottweiler seems to be losing correct front assemblies. Many have too steep of shoulders, are lacking upper arm, or are simply easty-westy at the pasterns. It also seems like they tend to be longer in back. There is an area influenced with very Mastiff-like head styles, with big lips, short muzzles and round eyes. This is not correct Rottweiler type.

6. Anything else you’d like to share—something you’ve learned as a breeder, exhibitor or judge or a particular point you’d like to make.

KB: As I mentioned before never assume you know everything, never stop learning or studying your breed. Connect with others in your breed who are knowledgeable and passionate about maintaining health, structure and temperaments. As a breeder, breed with your head and not your heart. As an exhibitor always remember to have fun with your dog.

DM: Be true to yourself. Always try to be kind. Always always be honest with yourself and with others. Be ethical in all you do. Treasure and protect our breed. Love our breed and recognize they are not for everyone. Be thankful for your blessings always and honor those who helped get you there. Don’t forget your beginning in the breed . I always say, “Pay it forward!”

LO: I would ask that anyone in the breed, just starting out or that they have been involved for many years, please continue to learn. Ask questions, talk to other breeders, and always have a mentor. Questions always come up and we all need somewhere we can go to get answers and/or discuss these concerns. If you are truly a Rottweiler fancier, breeder and exhibitor, understand you can never quit learning, it is something you pursue all your life. And remember, learn about other breeds too, it only helps you learn more about your own.

As for judges, and being a judge, I ask judges to be forgiving. There is no perfect dog. We all strive to breed a dog as best we can to the standard and improve what we have had. Find the dog that has the most attributes, to help carry on and continue these strengths. All will have faults, but some will have wonderful things to help make our breed better.

TW: The standard says, “The Rottweiler is to be exhibited in the natural condition with no trimming”. This means as an all breed handler, you do not need to take off whiskers or shave the back end. It means as a judge, if this is the dog you like you should tell the handler or owner that you can’t use it but to bring it back to you when the hair has grown in.

DV: Another concern with the breed is the general public perception at this time regarding rescue vs. purebred dogs. This issue transcends the Rottweiler, but it affects us as there are many Rottweilers in rescue. I’ve tried to be helpful in my practice to encourage people to see the benefits of specific breeds and purebred dogs generally. I find it disturbing that many rescues are shipped from one area of the country to another without proper health checks, clearances or quarantines to protect the safety and welfare of animals.

7. And for a bit of humor, what’s the funniest thing that you ever experienced at a dog show?

KB: A few years ago my husband was holding a dog ringside for a friend. The bitch slipped her collar and went running to join her “mom” in the ring…however my husband ran after her and dove through the air like a baseball player running to home plate, missing her of course, before she got in the ring.

DM: Well, while not at a show, I might have as well been at one. When I was campaigning my Rottweiler bitch GG to #1 bitch, GG and her handler and one of my closest friends, Sarah Janner were down in Florida showing at the Ocala circuit in November 2017. I was in the middle of trying a jury trial case in my courtroom in Los Angeles and during my lunch break , my handler texted me a photo of a Group 1 blue ribbon. I was excited as this was on the heels of a Best in Specialty Show win. Keep in mind the three-hour time difference.

After lunch, I was back in trial and not able to receive any message until our next break. At that break, I received the cutest photo ever and no text. To say I was over the moon is to put it mildly! I couldn’t contain myself, but I had to go back right away into trial. I did not have time to call Sarah, and I could not appropriately walk in court and announce my excitement that my 
bitch just took an All-Breed Best in Show and only a 
handful of Rottweiler bitches have ever done this in the history of our breed… I had to keep this all to myself until the end of the day when I all I could think about was wanting to jump up and down and shout it out to 
the world!

This day, this bitch, and this team was every breeder’s dream—to have a bitch several generations of your breeding program out of your own personal top stud dog (who notably had been gone for many years and we did frozen semen breeding) win an All-Breed Best in Show, win numerous Best in Specialty Show wins and have multiple Group 1’s and be the #1 bitch all systems and OFA Excellent and all clear health clearances. Doesn’t get better than that! Well maybe, to be blessed to have one of your best friends on the end of the lead, well that is surely the icing on the cake!

LO: Years ago, after judging an outdoor specialty, I had a long line of handlers waiting to shake my hand. I was baffled. They all laughed and thanked me for getting done before it was dark, they said I was the first judge to do that in many years!

TW: One time I took a bet and I walked in the ring showing one of my own Rottweilers with a big pink boa around my neck. The funny part was when the late Ron Buxton claimed from the other side of the ring that he could pull off that look while wearing five inch heels. He had everyone in the ring including the judge and most of the spectators in stitches that day. 


with karen bang, daviann mitchell, lew olson, 
tom woodward pha, & diane voss

rottweiler q&A


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