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The Rottweiler, or Rottweil Metzgerhund, is a large dog breed originating in Germany as herding dogs. It is a hardy and very intelligent breed. Early Rottweilers worked as beasts of burden, carrying wood and other products to market. During the first and second World Wars, Rottweilers were put into service as war time guard dogs. Currently they are frequently used as guard and police dogs. The Rottweiler was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1931.
The breed is an ancient one, whose history stretches back to the Roman Empire. In those times, the legions traveled with their meat on the hoof and required the assistance of working dogs to herd the cattle. One route the army traveled was through Württemberg and on to the small market town of Rottweil. The principal ancestors of the first Rottweilers during this time was supposed to be the Roman war dog, local sheepdogs the army met on its travels, and dogs with molosser appearance coming from England and The Netherlands.
This region eventually became an important cattle area, and the descendants of the Roman cattle dogs proved their worth in both driving and protecting the cattle from robbers and wild animals. However, by the end of the 19th century, the breed had declined so much that in 1900 there was only one female to be found in the town of Rottweil. The build up to World War I saw a great demand for police dogs, and that led to a revival of interest in the Rottweiler. In fact, in the mid 1990s, the popularity of the Rottweiler reached an all time high with it being the 2nd most registered dog by the AKC.
From that time the breed has become popular with dog owners, and in 1935 was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. In 1936, Rottweilers were exhibited in Britain at Crufts. In 1966, a separate register was opened for the breed.
The first Rottweiler club in Germany, named DRK ("Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub" — German Rottweiler Club) was created the 13 January 1907, and followed by the creation of the SDRK ("Süddeutscher Rottweiler-Klub" — South German Rottweiler Club) on the 27 April 1907 and became the IRK (International Rottweiler Club). The DRK counted around 500 Rottweiler, the SDRK 3000 Rottweilers. The goals of the two clubs were different. The DRK wanted to produce working dogs and did not emphasize the morphology of the Rottweiler. The main stud dog of this club was Lord von der Teck. The IRK tried to produce a homogeneous morphology according to their standard. One of the main stud dogs of this club was Ralph von Neckar.
In the hands of a responsible owner, a well trained and socialized Rottweiler can be a reliable, alert dog and a loving companion. Rottweilers that are well trained and cared for can be as well behaved as any other dog and, in general, quick to learn. The Rottweiler is a working dog that is also good for guard duties.
The Rottweiler is a steady dog with a self-assured nature, but early socialization and exposure to as many new people, animals, and situations as possible is very important in developing these qualities. The Rottweiler also has a natural tendency to assert dominance if not properly trained. Rottweilers' large size and strength make this an important point to consider: an untrained, poorly trained, or abused Rottweiler can learn to be extremely aggressive and destructive and, if allowed to run at large, can pose a significant physical threat to humans or other animals. They can be strong-willed and should be trained in a firm and consistent manner. The owner must be perceived by the dog as the leader. If the owner fails to achieve this status the Rottweiler will readily take on the role. Aggression in Rottweilers is associated with poor breeding, poor handling, lack of socialization, natural guarding tendencies, and especially abuse. The Rottweiler is not usually a barker. Male dogs are silent watchers that notice everything before they attack. When the male attacks, he tends to go very still, makes no warning growl or movement and is often quite stoic. Females may become problem barkers in order to protect their den. An attentive owner is usually able to recognize when a Rottweiler perceives a threat. Barking is usually a sign of annoyance with external factors (car alarms or other disturbances) rather than a response to actual threats.
In recent years the breed has received some negative publicity, possibly related to the fact that in the US, the Rottweiler is the number two breed of dog named in fatal human attacks from 1979 to 1998 in a report by the CDC. Rottweilers are a powerful breed with well developed genetic guarding and herding instincts, and prey drive. Dangerous behavior in Rottweilers potentially results from irresponsible ownership, abuse, neglect, or lack of socialization. This tendency may extend towards other animals as well. Because of their size, power and weight, an aggressive rottweiler can cause a higher level of damage than a smaller, weaker dog. Often injuries and maulings occur when an owner or passerby tries to separate fighting dogs, or unintentionally triggers a guarding behavior in a dog. The portrayal of Rottweilers as evil dogs in several fictional films and TV series, most notably in The Omen, has added to their negative publicity and popularity among backyard breeders. Rottweilers are banned in many municipalities, some scattered countries, and are sometimes targeted as dangerous dogs by legislation, such as in the Netherlands. Many owners of Rottweilers are forced to obey state leash/muzzle laws, as in Germany, France and Venezuela. Rottweilers are not recommended for people who have little experience with dogs or understand little about dog psychology and responsible canine ownership.
The Rottweiler was ranked by Dog Fancy Magazine in 1997 as the second most popular companion dog, after the Labrador.
Rottweilers are also prone to ear infections, the infections often going away and then coming back even more serious.
Rottweilers are extremely prone to parvo virus.