Written by Dr. Marcelle Landestoy, DVM
Rottweilers were bred to be working dogs, and they could make excellent additions to high-energy households.
However, this breed also has a reputation for being aggressive, particularly to other dogs.
Rottweilers can be aggressive toward young children, strangers, and other animals. Because they’re large, muscular dogs, this aggression can result in serious injuries. However, proper socialization and training can prevent most forms of aggressive behavior in Rottweilers.
Before adopting a Rottweiler, you’ll want to consider this reputation and educate yourself on the Rottweiler’s potential for aggressive behavior.
After all, Rottweilers can make excellent protectors, but only if they understand the difference between aggression and defense. Read on to learn more!
Are They Aggressive to Humans?
Rottweilers aren’t naturally aggressive toward their pet parents. They’re incredibly affectionate and loyal dogs. After all, like all modern dog breeds, Rotties were initially bred to assist humans.
However, they do adhere to social hierarchies.
As such, any household member that they view as lesser could become a target for aggressive behavior.
Younger children are especially prone to occasional growls or nips, as they may unintentionally frustrate or annoy adult dogs.
Rottweilers can form close bonds with their human family members, especially adults and teens.
This breed is known for its hardworking nature and being loyal to its pet parents. But there are some limits to its patience.
When bringing home an infant, it’s crucial to remember that Rottweilers are jealous dogs.
They may see your baby as a new family member that needs protection.
Still, they might also view them as a potential plaything or a threat to its resources.
Give your Rottweiler lots of affection and cuddles so that they don’t feel left out.
Toddlers and young Rottweilers can get along quite well together.
But adult Rottweilers can quickly become annoyed by your little one’s curious fingers and rough touch.
As such, you’ll need to keep a close watch over your toddler’s interactions with your Rottie.
Older children can get along well with Rottweilers, primarily if they’re taught to be gentle and respectful toward dogs.
That said, parents should continue to keep an eye on their Rottweiler’s interactions with their children.
They can be fiercely protective, and if your pet feels your child is threatened, they’ll jump to their defense.
Rottweilers tend to get along with adults better than any other age group.
That’s because adults are often viewed as pack leaders.
However, pet parents that have never owned a dog before may struggle to keep their Rottweiler in check.
After all, this breed is highly intelligent and physically active.
If you cannot provide enough exercise, mental stimulation, and training, your pup can begin to exhibit unwelcome behaviors, including biting or growling.
While Rottweilers can get along well with adults and older children, they’re often wary of strangers.
To keep your Rottie from growling at your guests, you’ll want to introduce them to a wide variety of people when they’re still puppies.
In Your Home
Rottweilers are territorial, so your home is very much their property as well.
As a result, they may become defensive or aggressive when having friends or family members over.
Fortunately, proper socialization and training can ensure that your Rottie never attacks guests.
When guests arrive at your home, your Rottweiler may initially show some signs of aggression, such as barking or growling.
However, they can quickly calm down after meeting your guests and giving them a quick safety sniff.
Keep in mind that dogs are very good at sensing their owners’ emotions.
The happier you are to see your visitors, the happier your Rottweiler will be.
Well-behaved pups may still bark or growl at intruders. That’s because Rottweilers are fiercely protective of their human family members, and they’re also territorial.
So if someone’s sneaking around your house late at night, your Rottweiler won’t hesitate to defend their home.
Outside Your Home
When taking a Rottweiler outside for a walk, they may bark or growl at strangers that they see, especially those that come too close.
Proper obedience training and socialization can help prevent this behavior.
Pet parents should still implement harnesses to prevent their pup from charging or becoming overly aggressive.
A leash and harness can also help prevent attacks on outdoor animals, such as squirrels and cats.
Are They Aggressive to Other Animals?
Now that we’ve discussed the Rottweiler breed’s potential aggression toward humans, it’s time to touch on their aggressive tendencies toward other animals.
Remember, when adding a new dog to your household, it’s crucial to consider whether they might harm your current four-legged family members.
Other Animals in Your Household
Rottweilers are incredibly possessive of their owners, making it challenging for them to get along with other household pets.
For example, a jealous Rottweiler may not think twice about nipping at other family dogs or cats that might be receiving praise or attention.
This possessiveness extends past the Rottweiler’s pet parents and includes their home.
It’s not uncommon for Rottweilers to:
- Bite to protect their food bowl, bed, or favorite napping spot
Rottweilers tend to be relatively tolerant of most cats, especially older kitties that primarily sleep throughout the day.
But they may chase after or bite playful cats, resulting in severe or fatal injuries.
Additionally, adult Rottweilers can become aggressive toward overly friendly or hyper dogs, as well as energetic puppies.
That’s because young pups or curious dogs may get within a Rottie’s personal space bubble.
Rottweilers can take this as a sign of disrespect and bark, nip, or bite to show their displeasure.
And while proper socialization from a young age can deter these unwanted behaviors, they may not stop your Rottie from barking, growling, or chasing after animals they encounter outside.
Animals They Encounter Outside
This breed’s protective and loyal nature can make trips to the dog park a little stressful.
But proper socialization and training can help your Rottweiler feel more relaxed when meeting new animals on walks or trips to the park.
However, Rottweilers that aren’t adequately socialized from a young age can bark at, bite, or attack dogs they encounter while outdoors.
This breed was also occasionally used for hunting purposes, and this honed instinct persists in many Rotties.
As such, you shouldn’t be surprised to see your Rottweiler chase after animals that they perceive to be prey.
These can include:
- Small dogs
Ensuring that your Rottweiler doesn’t harm any outdoor animals means supervising their outside playtime and training them to treat cats and small dogs gently and with respect.
Are Female or Male Rottweilers More Aggressive?
Male dogs tend to be more aggressive than females, though nursing females can attack when defending their litter. Still, unneutered males tend to be the most aggressive. That said, Rottweilers of any sex can become aggressive if neglected, abused, or poorly socialized.
What Can Cause Aggressive Behavior?
There are several potential causes behind aggressive behavior in Rottweilers.
Putting a stop to further aggression often means identifying this cause.
After all, if a dog is attacking because they’re in severe pain or seriously ill, no amount of obedience lessons will help.
As such, the most common causes of aggressive behavior in Rottweilers are:
- Resource restrictions
- Prey drive
- Illness or injury
Giving affection to other household pets can spark some jealousy in your Rottweiler, which is why pet parents should ensure they spend plenty of one-on-one time with their Rotties.
Unfortunately, this breed can also become possessive and territorial over resources, including food.
Providing separate food dishes for each of your pups is a great way to reduce resource-related aggression.
It’s also a great idea to offer dedicated toys, beds, and other supplies for each of your dogs to prevent any jealousy or territorial aggressiveness.
Rottweilers also have an active prey drive that causes them to chase small animals, including tiny dogs or household cats.
While this behavior isn’t typically aggressive (as the Rottie views these animals as play items or potential meals), it can be problematic for pet parents.
Proper obedience training and socialization are crucial to preventing serious injuries or accidents involving Rottweilers and smaller animals.
The same can be said for preventing attacks against humans.
If your Rottweiler is seriously injured or ill, they may growl or bite whenever they’re approached.
This type of aggression requires immediate veterinary attention. If you cannot discern the cause of your dog’s aggressive behavior, always seek veterinary assistance before attempting other solutions.
Is Your Rottweiler Being Aggressive or Protective?
One of the reasons why Rottweilers are such a popular breed is their protective instincts.
These dogs are often utilized as family watchdogs and protectors. But this natural loyalty can cross over into harmful aggressive tendencies.
Consequently, pet parents will want to learn how to differentiate aggressive behaviors from protective ones.
Fortunately, figuring out how to tell these behaviors apart is reasonably straightforward—You have to consider the context.
For example, if your Rottie is barking late at night because they hear a potential intruder or uninvited guest, that’s protective behavior.
This type of behavior shouldn’t be punished, as it’s their way of showing loyalty and attempting to defend you.
But if your Rottie is charging after friendly pups at the dog park, growling and attempting to bite, you’ll need to consider professional training and obedience lessons.
After all, when a Rottweiler becomes aggressive toward a passive or friendly human or animal, it’s harmful behavior.
Learn To Recognize the Signs That Your Dog Is About To Get Aggressive
One of the best ways to curtail unwanted aggression is recognizing its warning signs.
Knowing when your Rottweiler is starting to get aggressive can help you immediately remove the cause, preventing potential attacks.
Some of the most common signs of aggression include:
- Retracted ears
- Wide-body stance
A Rottweiler that feels threatened or defensive is likely to growl, revealing their teeth.
If the threat isn’t removed, this growl can turn into a snarl or series of barks.
Before attacking, they may pull their ears back toward their neck, flattening them against their skulls.
A wide-body stance that’s low to the ground is also a sign of imminent attack.
If you spot any of these signs, be prepared to remain calm.
What To Do During an Aggressive Episode
Controlling an excited or aggressive Rottweiler can be nearly impossible, as this breed is known for physical strength and a determined demeanor.
- The most important thing you can do when your Rottie is in the midst of an aggressive episode is to keep your calm.
- If possible, remain still and speak to your Rottie in a soothing, slow voice. Moving quickly can trigger your Rottweiler to attack, so it’s crucial to move slowly if staying still isn’t possible.
- After avoiding any panic, you’ll need to assess the situation. What’s causing your Rottweiler’s aggression? In most cases, your dog won’t suddenly react without some form of stimulus. Perhaps they see another pup or a chattering squirrel. Or maybe someone is knocking at your door.
- If possible, remove the cause or wait for it to pass. After all, your Rottie may not respond to your commands while in attack mode. Therefore, you might need to wait for the triggering factor to remove itself before addressing your dog’s behavior.
When To Get Professional Help
If you’re adopting an older Rottweiler, there’s a chance that they may have some aggressive tendencies.
After all, not all pet parents are equally capable of providing exceptional care.
Rottweilers raised in abusive or neglectful environments may have a tough time learning appropriate behaviors and forming bonds.
They’ll require extra patience and affection to overcome pre-learned habits and master suitable social interactions.
This breed isn’t the best choice for first-time pet parents due to intensive training needs.
If you’ve never raised a dog, you may want to seek professional help to ensure your pup receives proper obedience training.
Of course, if you’re unsure how to train and socialize your Rottie, you’ll want to seek help from canine behavioral experts.
You may also want to consider taking them to a veterinarian.
In some cases, your Rottweiler’s aggression may stem from painful health conditions or injuries.
What Does the Rehabilitation Process Look Like?
Aggressive Rotties that undergo behavioral rehabilitation typically attend daily or weekly obedience lessons. Their appropriate behaviors and responses are reinforced during these lessons using positive reinforcement.
For example, if your Rottweiler sits when commanded, they’ll earn a treat.
If they remain calm and non-aggressive when another pup is brought into the room, they’ll earn another treat and a little affection.
In this way, your dog’s behavior is slowly altered by encouraging their friendly and obedient habits.
Negative reinforcement is never the answer to a poorly-behaved pup.
Acting out violently or aggressively toward your Rottie is only bound to make them distrust you, and it may reinforce their aggressive tendencies.
Never yell, hit, or punish your Rottweiler for acting out. Doing so isn’t only cruel, but it can also be dangerous.
If you’re unfamiliar with obedience training techniques, your Rottweiler’s behavioral expert can offer some helpful tips and tricks for at-home training.
Your veterinarian may also have a few valuable suggestions to help you mindfully train and socialize your pup.
Rottweilers are brilliant, loyal, and affectionate dogs.
However, they’re one of the dog breeds that’s most associated with aggression.
These dogs can become jealous of other household pets and attack animals they perceive as prey.
Additionally, the protective and territorial nature of the Rottweiler means that they may attempt to attack guests, especially if those guests pose a potential threat.
Therefore, socializing Rottweilers from a young age and providing top-notch obedience training is crucial to preventing unwarranted aggression.
- American Kennel Club: Rottweiler
- Hill’s Pet: Rottweiler Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits
- Purina: Rottweiler
Learn more about this breed on my one-page Rottweiler guide
Veterinary Hospital Director at UCE
Dr. Marcelle is a general veterinarian with a Small Animal Medicine Specialty | Director of the UCE School of Veterinary Medicine | Certified by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society