Whenever you meet with Rottweiler enthusiasts no matter where they are from the conversation is soon directed to the state of our breed today. Is Rottweiler still a working dog? How has the breed changed in recent years and what does the future hold for the Rottweiler in today’s world. I asked Oliver Neubrand of the prestigious German vom Hause Neubrand-kennel to share with us his thoughts on today’s Rottweiler. Oliver is a trainer, helper, competitor and a handler renowned worldwide. In the last few years he has held numerous training seminars around the globe and can therefore offer a sweeping perspective on the subject. But let’s allow Oliver to tell the story…
It has been 30 years since my family began breeding Rottweilers under the prefix ‘vom Hause Neubrand’ in 1976. Finding information on breeding of dogs was not as easy in the mid-70's as it is today. There was no Internet and not many books to learn from so the learning was done by doing. That was also the case with my parents. Our first litter was born in a building that was actually used to raise pigs! Back then there were no animal protection laws or restrictions on how to handle and care for pets nor was there much general knowledge on the subject for that matter. The mentality in breeding litters was pretty much based on natural selection of “eat or die”, as brutal as it sounds today. Puppies were not socialized the way that we now know they need to be socialized and in fact, many breeders thought that the more aggressive the dog was the better it was. Most of the people wanting to buy a Rottweiler wanted a guard dog, not a dog for show or working or even for a family pet. Breeders in those days did not need to be licensed and the selection of a stud dog was more often than not based on the driving distance rather than the dog’s suitability for the breed bitch. Bitches of even HD+ hips were used for breeding as no HD ratings were required. Weren’t those the days…
Things have really changed since then. Today, national breed associations and local breed clubs set the standard for breeding through various restrictions and requirements for breeder licenses, litter checks, breed tests, working results etc. There are laws to protect dogs, to define kennel sizes and boarding conditions. There are limits as to the use of stud dogs and the number of litters a bitch can produce in a lifetime and so forth. To be successful today, a breeder really has to take care of his dogs! Puppy buyers of today know their pedigrees and what they want placing demands on breeders to provide guarantees on health, HD/ED results, eyes and teeth; some even want guarantees that the puppy they are buying is going to be a top show dog or next to unbeatable in working. People do not want just any Rottweiler anymore - they want a big dog, black mouth, dark eyes, strong bones, big head, a social character, high drives, lots of energy and drive consistency.
In Germany, there are also problematic issues concerning the breeding of Rottweiler these days. With a limited number of approved stud dogs available and the growing demand for German Rottweilers overseas our gene pool continues to get smaller and smaller. For us the use of a stud dog after it has been sold overseas is not an option. As the quality of a producer can only be viewed through his products we’re left with a lot of guessing work with most of the males being sold before we ever get to see the actual product. Modern techniques such as DNA or shipping of semen are currently prohibited in Germany as is using bloodlines worldwide.
In today’s world of breeding dogs, the breed dogs are very valuable animals who breeders take very good care of to ensure their well-being. This includes the use of premium pet foods, the best veterinary services available and overall care of the dogs. In the “old days”, people would have put away a dog with a broken ligament for example. Now it is natural that it be fixed!
CONFORMATION AND SHOWS As far as conformation goes, I think that shows have truly gone through evolution from the very first Klubsieger show held in1971 to the Klubsieger held in 2006! Whereas in 1971 we only had approximately 10 foreign exhibitors, in 2006 the German exhibitors were a minority at 30% of total entries.
The total number of entries had also grown 4 times the amount of the first show with the Klubsieger becoming the most important and prestigious Rottweiler event of any given year. The requirements of the show Rottweiler have somewhat changed along the way also; whereas eye color and pigmentation used to play an important role in the past and it was unthinkable to present a dog with pink spots in the corners of the mouth in a show, judges today will consider it pure cosmetics. There was more weight on the correct structure (rather than freaky looks), a good topline and movement. Interestingly enough, temperament used to not really be an issue and aggressiveness was not a reason to disqualify a dog as it is today.
Today, the emphasis is on stylish, powerful looks, big size, top condition and excellent presentation. No dog can win in the ring unless it is presented well. The importance of a good head and good color and coat too often shadow other really important factors such as powerful free movement. As a breeder and trainer, I would extend a wish to any judge judging a Rottweiler in a show ring that there must be a difference made between a strong and powerful looking Rottweiler and a Rottweiler resembling rather a Mastiff or a Saint Bernard! We have a very precise breed standard from which we should try not to stretch too far from to any extreme directions. A Rottweiler should not be too heavy and big, but also not too thin or without substance.
When considering the entire Rottweiler world, I think that German breeders have a hard time keeping ahead of many of their international counterparts on the conformation front as the rules imposed on them by the ADRK are possibly the strictest in the world. Those rules are made not only to ensure the breeding of a nice looking Rottweiler, but to secure the preservation of the complete Rottweiler – one that has the looks for show AND capability for work. In some countries there are no requirements even for hip dysplasia X-rays let alone working results. All these requirements ensure the specialty of the German Rottweiler. It is my opinion German Rottweilers will dominate the show rings in the future as they are being presented as complete working dogs with breeders aiming for the balance of temperament and looks. Achieving this balance should be the cornerstone of Rottweiler breeding anywhere.
Prohibition of tail docking has also changed the look of our Rottweiler quite a bit as the tail naturally affects the topline. In fact, it is the croup of the dogs that are a bit different from what they used to be. The reason being that if the dogs still would have a very straight croup the tail would be setting incorrectly and the carriage of tail would not be the way we want it to be. The trend in backline is leaning towards a slightly falling croup that allows the tail to set correctly without rolling over the back of the dog. I personally prefer a dog with a tail. In fact I love a Rottweiler with a tail and would not like to have it changed back to the docking days. I also think that there are so many positive things that come with the tail; people are able to read their dogs better, even those of us that are not dog people and the dog gets a more friendly look overall. Beside all that the dogs move much better in balance with a tail; they are more flexible, faster in corners and hence better for the work.
The competition in shows is a lot harder now than it was maybe 30 years ago. It is a challenge for the judges to be able to pass judgment on dogs without letting their own personal feelings play a part in judging. It is essential however that any such feelings and sentiments be put aside when passing a judgment for a dog in the ring.
HEALTH AND CHARACHTER
Perhaps the most talked about health issue with the Rottweiler as with any other large breed is the HD/ED issue. I find it unbelievable that there still are countries that do not require HD/ED X-raying of their breeding material! Problems with the hip dysplasia can quite often be tracked back to improper care, insufficient nutrition and incorrect (either too little or too much) level of exercise of puppies. While I cannot speak for the results of any other country than Germany I can say that our statistics on HD are quite good. This is largely due to the work that ADRK has done in promoting this matter over the years.
A few years ago we also started X-raying the elbows of our dogs. This is still a learning process as we try to specify potential risks as to certain lines. I think however, that the elbows do not present such a big problem within our breed as long as there is no actual dysplasia occurring. In my opinion the dogs should be X-rayed prior to the start of serious training as the strain of training e.g. protection work, playing with the ball, jumping and such does take its toll on the physics of the dog.
For health requirements on breeding material I find it sufficient that both dogs have acceptable HD/ED results. One of the other main health problems of the Rottweiler that has raised its ugly head in recent years is the ligament problem. However, there is no real solution to fix this problem with breeding selections alone. The only way we can correct and hopefully eliminate this problem is to be honest and open about it when making selections for breeding.
Sometimes you hear old Rottweiler owners claiming the Rottweiler is not what it used to be. I think that this claim actually has not much substance as what has actually changed instead is the way that we care for and train our dogs. Puppies are being socialized and familiarized with handling at a very early age and training methods have developed a great deal. Along with training methods and the information that we know that the old “kick-ass” method simply does not work and does not bring about the desired results. Public focus on certain “dangerous” breeds and the problem dogs that have led to headlines has emphasized the need for socialization and proper training. Personally I find that the Rottweiler today has an improved temperament; when you think about it, it can’t be too bad when our dogs can work in high levels of IPO and at the same time be social and friendly.
In the past, there were many dogs that bit immediately if a person got close to them or they came too close to someone no matter whether it was a grown up person, a child or another dog. Our own product Brando vom Hause Neubrand was like that. Owners used to be proud of their strong and dangerous dogs, an attitude that is not at all acceptable or even possible in today’s world. There is a story of one the first breed tests where a handler got so badly bitten by his own dog that he had to be taken to the hospital. No reason to disqualify the dog, however, as a friend came to the rescue and handled the dog (now wearing a muzzle) for the measurements. A dumbbell was placed in his mouth so that someone could check his teeth and bite. The protection in those days was perhaps harder than it is now due to the use of the stick and untrained helpers, but as it was, no “out” was required.
I like to tell a story of my own SchH 3 trial dog UNKAS VOM HAUSE NEUBRAND that has travelled with me several times to seminars and competitions to different corners of the world. He has walked through airports with me and stayed at hotels. There was an incident last year when I had just finished doing protection with him at the IFR WC in Florida and a young family walked by asking whether they could pet the dog. I said it was okay and these little kids came to this big Rottweiler and pet him – and this was right after he had earned the highest protection points of that particular trial!
The Rottweiler is changing in character with the times as we the people do. Modern society sets it’s standards and requirements as it brings along new challenges and opportunities. It is an evolution that the Rottweiler lives through along with us. And that’s how is should be.
THE WORKING ROTTWEILER
The demands on today’s working Rottweiler are far and many. It should be faster, it should be more correct and it should appear more upbeat when working, it could also have better sense of courage; in too many cases judging works against our breed as the qualities that Rottweiler has to offer in dog sports go unappreciated. So then what are the qualities that a Rottweiler can compete in dog sports against his lighter and faster counterparts with? I’d say first and foremost it is his nerves. Rottweiler by nature is a very steady and self-confident dog with a strong mind, calm appearance and generally a good food drive. Once a handler finds the key to turning those qualities into his advantage the Rottweiler will rock! He will have exact exercises in obedience and strong guarding, full hard grips and dominating work in protection and an intense calm tracking. Our problem on the other hand is the obvious; speed and not least his plain old physical size. When you think about it, a 50 kg Rottweiler has to be in an excellent physical condition to stand the heat and physical strain of trialling in a midsummer heat in black fur. No matter how good a Rottweiler is, it will never be as fast as the Malinois or the GSD. In today’s trials where speed seems to be just about the most desired quality, the Rottweiler does not stand a chance even when he gives all that he’s got. For the sake of the Schutzhund sport and, of course, the Rottweiler, judging should take into consideration differences in breeds. In many all-breed trials helper work has been changing from what it should be (in accordance with the rules) to a style more suitable for the modern working breeds such as the Malinois. With differences in breeds as opposite to each other as the Rottweiler and Malinois it is obvious that the Rottweiler will suffer in the hands of this new way of helper work.
Rottweiler is a serious dog that needs serious, clear helper work in o r d e r t o function at full capacity; the threat and pressure has to be “real” for a Rottweiler to respond. When a helper moves to the side instead of d i r e c t l y towards and over the dog in re-attack, the Rottweiler may not take him seriously and as a result he will lose points in trial. Or in driving the dog the way that Rottweiler uses his whole body to fight against pressure does not earn him the points the way that another breed may earn just for holding on to the sleeve with a full bite while running alongside the helper. Many other such examples can be seen taking place at all-breed trials. We will either have to start training our Rotties in a new way to keep up with these changes or as in too many cases switch to another breed to gain success in dog sports. We have already lost many talented handlers to other breeds and that is a shame as I am convinced that the working qualities of the Rottweiler still do exist!
Meanwhile, there have been a couple of great working Rottweilers that deserve to be mentioned here: Ken vom Sternbogen and Torro vom Zimmerplatz were both very impressive at work and have passed on super temperaments to their offspring. This temperament is still being seen in this stable line of working dogs that now have Ken or Torro in the 4th or 5th generation. It is actually funny that these dogs should be considered the foundation for some “working lines” as they’re both also famous for their conformation. Nevertheless these dogs were great because of their special quality mixed with good handlers, helpers and successful training. This is the required package for a success in dog sports. A good dog alone will not win trophies, neither will a good handler. Schutzhund has always been and still is very much a team sport where all the pieces must fall into place.
Personally speaking and based on my experience as a trainer and helper I must stress the fact that the material for good working Rottweilers is still there. From Finland to the USA, from France to South America, there’s plenty of good working material there. The thing is, how to get it all out in the open? In many locations the problem lays with the helpers, trainers and handlers who either have no experience in working the Rottweiler or by choice prefer to work other breeds. A Rottweiler is a dog that matures slowly and hence must be trained with patience, with consistency and by taking him forward step-by-step. He needs to be trained with a strong yet fair hand and understanding of how to keep up his drive and motivation while demanding him to be exact, correct and precise. In obedience the dilemma seems be that either the dog is trained only to play where it will never develop the endurance for serious trialing or then he is trained with such harsh hand that he stops working altogether!
In training the motivation should be kept up to certain degree with an element of surprise as the Rottweiler in his big mind will soon figure out the routine and yawn at the thought of doing the same thing over and over again. In competitions and trials it is sad to see a Rottweiler often mispresented so as if he was a lazy, weak dog with no drive as that is definitely not the case! It is important for our working breed that his working qualities are cherished and maintained in breeding. We should not try to breed Rottweilers with a Malinois temperament nor should they be allowed to turn into black & tan Labradors Retrievers. The qualities that we need to look for to ensure that the Rottweiler remains a working breed are; high prey drive together with stable nerves; self-confidence sans too much dominance; hardness without being impossible to handle; balanced drive areas (between prey and defence); health and strength; a will to work! Having emphasized the need for maintaining the working qualities we must naturally also ensure that the Rottweiler will look like a Rottweiler also in the future. When you see a dog on the street that you have to wonder whether it is a Rottweiler or Dobermann you’ll know something has gone wrong. A Rottweiler can and it should look like a Rottweiler even when used for work.
Owning a big dog comes with a responsibility – we must remember that a Rottweiler is still not a dog for everyone and can cause trouble when placed in wrong hands. One negative headline is a headline too many for our breed that is already in the list of potentially dangerous breeds in some countries. Socialization and training of dogs and education of puppy buyers and owners is a key to dispersing prejudices held towards the Rottweiler and to preventing the negative image laid on him in some places. Local and national organizations should try to work hard to cut down wild uncontrolled breeding as well as the use of dogs not meeting the standards of breeding requirements. It could be concluded that the Rottweiler should be bred, handled and trained with the demands of the modern society in mind. That is the only way for us to be able to continue enjoying this wonderful breed.
The Rottweiler can have a great future as the breed is popular all over the world but what we the owners, trainers, helpers, handlers and breeders must ensure is that the popularity is of the right kind. It would be in everyone’s interest if we could have more cooperation in the world of Rottweilers – cooperation between different national clubs and organizations as well as the trainers, helpers and handlers that work their Rottweilers on the training fields every day. International seminars and training camps are a great way to promote this kind of cooperation. I would also gladly see the IFR (International Friends of the Rottweiler) play a bigger and more important role in the enhancing of the breed in all aspects including shows, working trials, breeding and education. The more people we had pulling together for our breed the stronger we would be and the bigger the benefit for our breed. As I look into the future of the Rottweiler, I see ever-growing interest in conformation as the breeding in many countries is concentrated solely in show material. At the same time there are upcoming breeders in countries that one could not just a while ago have imagined to have many Rottweilers let alone have them being bred there. The market for the top quality dogs is growing and people are willing to invest in a dog that has the capability for work and the looks for show. With some big shows being held annually around the globe the competition keeps getting tighter. In almost every country one can find a Rottweiler that could win at any show any day with very little nuances making the difference. That’s what we have achieved with globalization. It is a shame, however that the working Rottweiler people still remain very much a minority in the Rottweiler world and within their respective countries. I am very much aware that there is a lot of interest in some countries for working the Rottweiler for Schutzhund sport. It is unfortunate that this interest is too often dampened by the sheer impossibility as there may not be enough qualified helpers and trainers around that understand and appreciate the qualities of our breed. Nevertheless, those handlers that take the training seriously are willing to drive long distances to train, learn and educate themselves. Organizing of both national and international seminars held by accomplished trainers is also a great way to spread the awareness and to exchange thoughts on the state of the Rottweiler and getting some good training done on the side!
There are only a few countries that have the rules and regulations set by their national breed associations to help achieve and maintain the complete Rottweiler. To preserve the complete Rottweiler should be the common goal for the Rottie-people worldwide.
Bones Muscle Power
By Steve Wolfson
If one were to take a survey asking, “Why did you purchase a Rottweiler”, “Why this breed over others”, it would certainly elicit intriguing answers. I cannot say for sure what the attraction others had to the Rottweiler when first encountered, however for me, it was his raw masculine appeal, his unique head and the impressive musculature and power he exuded. From his appearance, one could easily understand that this was a serious dog! Not alone in this view, many other Rottweiler aficionados have recognized this hallmark of the breed and expressed a similar perspective as well. After all, is not the “look” of a dog that makes the first and lasting impression? Surely, his breed type is what makes the Rottweiler unique
The Germans understood the Rottweiler’s distinction when they came together to codify the standard at Heidelburg, Germany in 1907. They were deliberate when articulating and fixing the appearance of the Rottweiler, which is why the standard uses detailed language in its description of this essential aspect of breed type. The standard was modified since 1907, but the general appearance of the Rottweiler has not. Reading the current standard, one finds the word “powerful” written 6 times, “bone” mentioned 3 times and “muscle” mentioned 5 times. No other words have such repetition when describing the details.
Excerpts from the standard:
“The ideal Rottweiler is a medium large, robust and powerful dog - Dogs are characteristically more massive throughout with larger frame and heavier bone than bitches - His bone and muscle mass must be sufficient to balance his frame, giving a compact and very powerful appearance - Neck- Powerful, well muscled - Loin is short, deep and well muscled - Legs are strongly developed with straight, heavy bone - Upper thigh is fairly long, very broad and well muscled - Lower thigh is long, broad and powerful, with extensive muscling - His movement should be balanced, harmonious, sure, powerful and unhindered, with strong forereach and a powerful rear drive ”
Despite his distinctive breed type and the words used in the blueprint to describe it, a negative, subtle change has occurred over the years, which ultimately is disastrous to his appearance.
Currently in the US, which is observable both in the show-ring and out, is a great loss in the general power of the breed’s masculine design. Now, a rarity and an oddity, the once major factor in the breed’s appeal, its power and substance, were put on the “back burner” in many breeding programs. One must look carefully to find this trait; the breed has lost its distinction.
On the street, we encounter Rottweilers that are a poor representation of once was. They possess “pin heads”, narrow, snipey, muzzles, and spindly bones, no muscle mass and shallow frames. To the knowledgeable, these Rottweilers appear to be a mix breeding, although they are not. To the unknowledgeable, they appear to be correct!
In the show-ring, this problem has crossed the boundaries. One should expect poor examples of the breed on the street since they are comprised of non-show dogs. However, the show ring should be the exception. Presently, many exhibits share the same problem of their street cousins and are only a notch or two above. Many exhibits that enter the show-ring are constructed well but are also as weak in substance, spindly in bones and musculature as their pet counterparts are. Now, when a dog or bitch that is in the ring with correct breed type, exuding power and substance, it appears as the “odd man out”. A strong masculine dog or powerful bitch seems strange among exhibits with spindly frail bodies and Doberman-like heads. To the newbie's and unknowledgeable judges, it is untypical and put at the end of the line. Often, I have heard that a female, which possesses strong bones, muscle and a powerful head, is now deemed “too strong” and considered a “doggy bitch”. What was once correct and typical is now abnormal. The dogs, which should embody power and masculinity, are now so weak in type they can be considered “beautiful females”!
WHAT ARE CORRECT BONES AND MUSCLES?
The standard does not give a numerical value for the appropriate bone mass or muscle, only a verbal guide. Therefore, to state a formula, “Dog x must have y amount of bone and muscle to be correct is not possible.” To understand what is appropriate for the correct amount for these attributes, one must refer to the blueprint. From the standard: “His bone and muscle mass must be sufficient to balance his frame, giving a compact and very powerful appearance.”
A reasonable guide when assessing an exhibit, one should ask, “Does this exhibit exemplify a powerful appearance”? - “Is the bone and muscle mass substantial, so that its appearance exudes power”? One should be impressed with the overall appearance for power, muscle and bones.
A. BONE MASS
Bones mass should be thick enough in width so that it appears to support the frame of the dog in a substantial and powerful manner, without being refined, elegant, too massive or grotesque.
The place to visually assess the bone mass on a Rottweiler, correct or incorrect, is the thickness in the radius/ulna and humerus. When making an evaluation, the dog is presented “head on” so that the full width of the chest (from East to West) can be seen. If a numerical evaluation for the thickness of the bones is desired, it is measured by using a tape measure and wrapping it around the circumference of the pastern (see Fig.1). Here is where the least amount of skin, muscle and tendon can be found. Correct bone mass is correlated to the height. The taller the dog, the more bone mass it should possess, compared to dogs of lesser height. Additionally, bone mass should always be proportionate and balanced to the frame of the dog. “Out of balance” is not correct. Good examples of this are the extremes. They are exhibited when a tall dog possess long, fine bones of the radius/ulna and humerus, giving the appearance of spindles, or when a short dog possesses too strong bone mass appearing like “tree trunks”. These dogs are “out of balance”. The Rottweiler is not a St. Bernard or a Dobermann.
B. MUSCLE MASS
The general muscle mass should be substantial, well defined and in proportion to the frame of the dog so that it exudes strength, masculinity and athleticism. The muscles should be apparent, yet not overpowering, like the Bull and Pit Bull Terriers’. The muscle groups that comprise this “appearance” are the muscles of the front and rear assembly.
In the front assembly, the muscles of the shoulders, the upper arm and forearm should be well developed and obvious. These muscle groups are the Deltoids, Biceps, Triceps and the Extensor muscles of the radius/ulna. In the rear assembly, the muscles of the Gluteus and Biceps Femoris should be well developed and defined. Viewing the rear muscles from the back, the depth and width of the Biceps Femoris and Gluteus should be full, supporting the Femur (see Fig.2). Here is where all forward locomotion begins.
C. THE CORRELATION OF MUSCLE AND BONE
With human body-building, the muscles can be developed, shaped and improved, with discipline, hard work, good nutrition and much sweat. However, improvement has limits, since body-building is dependent upon the size, mass of the muscle groups and bone substance. In essence, “you are what you inherited”. The thin framed, fine boned man or woman will always work harder and strain longer to build bulk and definition in the muscle tissue. With this body type, a major factor is bone mass! Strong bone mass is supported by thick muscles. The same principles hold true for the Rottweiler.
Dogs and bitches that are fine boned possess muscles, which are light in their mass and often show little or no definition. This type, will always work very hard to make strides improving and developing what it inherited from the pedigree. Conversely, there are those dogs/bitches, which impress us with their natural well-developed musculature and powerful bone mass. Their musculature is correlated to their robust bone mass.
BREED TYPE IS A STEPCHILD
Why is the great majority of Rottweilers here in the states, (especially in the show ring), not uniformly masculine in type with powerful muscle and bones, which is specified in the standard? Why have they become slight in bone, shallow in substance, and soft in appearance? The answer is breed type has become a stepchild.
In the US, the accent is on the best possible construction demonstrated by superior gait. Those dogs, which display this attribute, are the ones that win in the show-ring. Placing the accent on this attribute is both good and problematic. It is good since all concerned breeders have this as one of
their goals in mind when planning their next litter. Sound construction, in accordance with the breed standard is essential. All exhibitors want to win in the show-ring; therefore, many breeders make superior gait their only goal. With this as their prime directive, many breeders have made a detrimental detour; they traded breed type for locomotion. This is problematic.
Often, at ringside, one can hear spectators and breeders alike say, “Oh that dog moved beautifully with great reach and drive”, “It was well put together.” Yes, that could be said however, the dog looked more like a Doberman than a Rottweiler. Excellent construction with outstanding gait is not breed type. These two attributes are separate entities in a breeding program and are not mutually interchangeable or should be misconstrued for breed type.
Over the years, the masculinity of the Rottweiler, here in the states, has slowly eroded. Its masculine power and substance, clearly specified in the standard, has been oozing away. Spindly, fine bones with narrow long muzzles and smooth body lines have replaced broad top skulls, wide, short muzzles and powerful bones and muscles. Working character has also eroded and replaced with many Rottweilers that are shy and lack confidence in their temperament. This is a negative and detrimental trend. Once set in motion, it is extremely difficult to reverse. One only has to see our European and International counterparts by comparison to understand the differences in breed type and working temperament. In the international community, the accent is placed on breed type and working temperament.
Some would argue there is nothing to improve. All is well within the Rottweiler and breed type is where it should be. That is a myopic view. It is valuable and healthy for all concerned to step “out of the trenches” and obtain an international perspective by making comparisons with our domestic breeding program and our international counterparts. Exchanging ideas and methods to improve genetics and techniques will benefit all. Additionally, it is extremely important to promote and make available more breed seminars in all Rottweiler clubs. There, is where real progress is achievable in an open dialog exchanging opinions and ideas. The benefactor of this is the Rottweiler.
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler Klub, Powerhorn Press, 1978
American Rottweiler Club Standard, May 1990
Dog Anatomy-Illustrated, Way Robert VMD, MS Dreenan Press 1974
Der Rottweiler, Korn Hans 1939
The Rottweiler Pyramid
by Steve Wolfson Correct breed type is disappearing!
The powerful bone substance and definitive masculinity of the Rottweiler we once apprized is now hard to find. Replacing these traits are pinheads, fine bones, distilled facsimiles. Not only is breed type on the decline, so is correct working Rottweiler temperament. In its place we now have, shy, soft, little to no “willingness to work” temperaments. Few Rottweilers in the show-ring and outside it could make the transition from that to the working arena. At the conformation/working spectrum, with rare exception, what we encounter are the extremes; they are beautiful show specimens either with no working temperament or on the working side, great working temperaments with poor structure and marginal breed type. How did this happen?
When enthusiasts decide to purchase a new puppy or a breeder selects breeding partners for their future litters, they draw conclusions and evaluate their choice from a narrow perspective using only a specific aspect of the breed as their criteria. For example, some breeders only seek to use the construction of the Rottweiler as their mark of excellence. They demand only the best angulated, the most correct fronts and rears as their guide for breeding partners omitting other important aspects that comprise the whole picture. Some only use health certifications as their guide. They will only breed or keep dogs that have attained all the necessary certifications such as OFA, heart and CERF clearances, dismissing from the formula, breed type, construction and gait. From a long-term breed viewpoint, this single-aspect criterion is myopic and disastrous. Is there a guide to facilitate a comprehensive approach to the breed without sacrificing one aspect for another?
The answer is yes.
Euclid, the Greek mathematician, stated in his axiom, “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts.” Despite this being of mathematical relevancy, we can apply this statement to help guide us in a more complete understanding and evaluation of the Rottweiler. By using a “Rottweiler Pyramid”, where each element of the Rottweiler is prioritized in a hierarchal order of importance, Breed Type, Temperament, Construction, Locomotion, one can view each part on its own merits. Once a thorough understanding of these related elements is achieved, a complete and balanced picture results. It should be the goal of every breeder to incorporate all of these aspects into a breeding program.
(Note: For this essay, I have distilled the topics down to their basic, large block ideas. I also have omitted health clearances from the pyramid, since they are a prerequisite for breeding, showing and training. It would be foolish to pursue a show/sport career with a dog that possessed dysplasia or other serious health issues further than as a personal companion)
1. Breed Type
Number one in the pyramid is Breed Type. The description of it comprises 85% of the standard, its major and defining aspect. Its correct understanding is the foundation of any breeding program, evaluation for judgments in the conformation ring and the first rung on the ladder for the complete understanding of the Rottweiler.
In this area, some prefer to take shortcuts by reinterpreting the standard and taking liberties with its translation, instead of traveling the more difficult path by reading and completely understanding its blueprint. Without a thorough and broad perspective about breed type (or any other segment of the standard), one can only build a house of understanding that is incomplete. This argument, that many do not understand or know what “correct” breed type is, can easily be proofed with the fine boned, narrow muzzles, pinhead, absence of masculinity exhibits we now encounter in the show ring and obviously on the street. An excellent and easy test for “knowledge of breed type” is asking the simple question, “What is Breed Type?” Many have great difficulty with the answer. When asked this question exhibitors and owners have articulated breed type as “excellent gait”. Some say it is “correct temperament”.
Yet others define it as “performance on the working field”. None are correct. Breed Type should be defined as “the essence of characteristics that distinguishes it from others."(1) In simpler terms, it is the appearance of the breed, which separates it from others. Is that not what first attracts us to the Rottweiler?
In the show ring, where we should see only the best examples of type, save for a small percentage that is not, we see the lack of correct breed type abundantly demonstrated. Currently here in the states, many exhibits do not possess the minimum essentials in head and body type. In fact, many heads and bodies are at best, only sufficiently correct and do not possess the implied masculinity of the breed. The most defining aspect of correct breed type, the Rottweiler head, the breed’s icon, should have great prominence. The standard devotes detail to its description with its “Broad between the ears, broad muzzle at the base, moderate arch of the topskull, pronounced stop, zygomatic arch and specified 3 to 2 skull to muzzle ratio.” In essence, the head is powerful, substantial and impressive. Yet, so many exhibits now possess the opposite of what is correct, a long, soft in appearance narrow muzzle, shallow zygomatic arch and stops. This creates a head type, which recedes in to the body having no prominence. The power and strength specified in the standard for the muzzles and topskull is not there; the heads are hound-like.
In correlation with the details of correct head type, are the details of correct body type. The standard specifies, "His bone and muscle mass must be sufficient to balance his frame, giving a compact and very powerful appearance." The standard is direct with its specifications on body type with the key words of compact, powerful and muscle mass. The bone should be ample in proportion to the size of the body, the muscles mass should be strong and well defined and the body length should appear to be short and compact. There should be not doubt in appearance concerning the amount of bone mass, muscle mass and compactness of the body. However, what we encounter are fine and spindly bones, long bodies, little to no muscle mass and definition.
The underlying theme in the standard for the Rottweiler is masculinity. Correct breed type requires it. The standard does not specifically mention this word; it is implied. Even the bitches should possess power and substance without weakness. Softness, slight in build, refined, feminine are not words to use when describing or having a mental picture of the breed.
The second tier on the pyramid and essential aspect of the standard is temperament. Without correct temperament, all other aspects or traits, even if they are of superior quality, have little value! It is important to understand what correct temperament is and how to evaluate it. From the standard, “The Rottweiler is basically a calm, confident, courageous dog… A Rottweiler is self-confident and responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment.
He has an inherent desire to protect home and family, and is an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability with a strong willingness to work, making him especially suited as a companion, guardian and general all purpose dog.”
What is correct temperament? How can we recognize it?
We must take our template from the standard. Ideally, he is a calm, confident, courageous dog of extreme hardness and adaptability with a strong willingness to work. Few Rottweilers fit the ideal of the standard, which can demonstrate all of its positives. More likely, they measure up or down in differing levels. Because he is working dog, we must test and evaluate these differing levels of temperament through his work.
Albeit, the show ring is largely popular here in the states and in the international community, many rely solely on a dog’s behavior within the show ring as a demonstration of temperament. This is dangerous because it does not give us any keen insights to the complete spectrum of temperament; its main purpose is to evaluate conformation. Some would say that the show ring does give us a window into the dog’s nature. However, exhibiting and gaiting in the conformation ring can only demonstrate the extreme problems in a dog’s temperament, such as the inability to stand for an examination, shy, nervousness or viciousness. It has extremely limited value when assessing the complexity of temperament.
The Germans use the term “Belastbarkeit”, a dog’s capacity, whether high, medium or low, to sustain its drive, tractability and nerve under the conditions and pressures of work. In Germany, they place a high value in the dog’s level of courage and its ability to deal with stress. There, the minimum test is the Zuchttauglichkeitsprufung (breed suitability test where the dog is tested for its courage and stress level); one cannot breed their Rottweiler unless it has passed the “Ztp”. They also believe that the attainment of a working title is a demonstration of Belastbarkeit.
By putting a Rottweiler through its paces in its attainment of a working title, be it a CD, CDX, Tracking, Sch, etc., we gain valuable information about the strengths and weakness of its temperament. In some countries, the attainment of a working title is so highly prized, that a conformation championship title is only awarded when a working title has been previously achieved. Assessing character, the dog’s ability to deal with corrections, stress, and its level of enthusiasm while working, tells us much about its mind-set. Without this knowledge of temperament, one cannot have a complete picture for a breeding program.
Third in the pyramid is construction, a balanced, harmonious musculo/skeletal system in accordance with the blueprint of the standard. Understanding the construction of a Rottweiler is analogous to the building of a house. The builder (breeder) must adhere to the architect’s design (the standard), maintain a stable foundation and alignment of walls (the skeletal system), while creating continuity so that all the segmented parts of the house work together harmoniously (the locomotion of the dog).
As a breeder, owner or exhibitor, it is important in the complete understanding of Rottweiler construction, to acquaint oneself with the skeletal anatomy of the dog.
The standard dictates how the proportions and ratios, angles and layout of the skeleton should be so that the Rottweiler can gait with the highest efficiency in harmony with its breed type. This insures that its architectural design will best suit the Rottweiler for its task as a multi-purpose working/guard dog.
A house must have structural integrity. Walls must be plumb, materials used in the construction must have strength to withstand ware and tear, and parts must work. This applies to the Rottweiler as well. Front and rear legs must be balanced, strong and straight, the back must be firm but flexible, angulations must be ample enough to support proper reach of the front and drive of the rear. There should be symmetry and harmony of the working parts as well as a defined amount of muscle mass to support the skeletal frame.
Like temperament, correct construction is the by-product of a thoughtful, careful, breeding program. A Rottweiler cannot develop good construction from within. With the exception of building stronger or larger muscle mass via a weight gaining and conditioning program, when a dog possesses an incongruity or imbalance in the skeletal system, it cannot be corrected. A short upper arm, long in the back, shallow sternum, east-west feet, low pastern, poorly angulated croup, etc. impedes efficiency. These problems are inherited from the pedigree. We have often heard exhibitors and breeders say, “Don’t worry, he’ll out grow this or grow into that.” Unfortunately, ugly ducklings do not become swans! Problems related to the skeletal structure are indelible and take many generations to improve or correct. The most direct path for correct construction is to breed with pedigrees that possess it.
Fourth in the pyramid is locomotion. Because the Rottweiler was used for driving cattle, its modality for locomotion is demonstrated in the trot. Unlike the other aspects in this pyramid, construction and locomotion have inexorable linkage in that; exemplary gait is the result of outstanding structure. When a Rottweiler is correct in construction, according to the blueprint of the standard, this balanced skeletal architecture produces an unrestricted, harmoniously flowing powerful gait.
Unfortunately, few Rottweilers possess construction with such a high degree of balance and harmony that they move with this ideal effortless grace. Similar to the levels of temperament, locomotion has differing levels of efficiency dependent upon the correctness of construction or conversely, the amount of imbalances within the dog. The more “imbalances” or incorrect construction the dog possess in its angulations and ratios, the more impedance occurs to free flowing gait.
The best perspective to assess locomotion is to view the dog, going away, coming towards and in the side gait. When the dog moves going and coming, we assess its lateral displacement, which has influence on the lateral center of gravity. A correct front and rear assembly stabilizes the dog and prevents him from excessive side-to-side movement, similar to the effect of torsion bars in a car. Incorrect construction such as, out at the elbow, east–west feet, crossing over, moving wide and fiddle fronts etc., destabilizes the center of gravity. These incongruities produce impedance, which requires more energy, puts stress on the bones and muscles and leads to fatigue.
In the side gait, we assess all the moving parts working together. Once in the trot and at a reasonable speed, not to fast or slow, the mechanics of the musculo/skeletal structure is set in motion. Here, we can observe the reach, the drive of the rear, spring of step, amount of ground covered, and temperament in the dog’s “willingness to perform,” an important element. Within the side gait, we observe many examples of locomotion from exemplary to the unharmonious.
Occasionally, we encounter a dog that appears to be sound in structure when standing still, but during the examination of the side gait, they show a short stride of the front legs and rear legs, or a mix of this with a correct front stride, but short rear drive. Here, a problem may exist that does not easily reveal itself. That is why gaiting in a small ring or by moving the exhibits once around does not do justice for the complete assessment. Adding to this mixture is the exhibit that is pushed or cajoled around the ring. Outwardly, the dog appears good in construction and theoretically should gait correctly but for some reason it has “no willingness to perform.” This is one example of how temperament plays a factor in gait.
The field of canine gait is complex and requires a good knowledge of anatomy, mechanics, breed type and purpose. It is important for the concerned breeder and student of the breed to gain at least a proficient knowledge of these topics to understand Rottweiler locomotion.
1. The Priority of Breed Type in the Rottweiler, Wolfson, Steve, Steve Wolfson publisher, 2003
2. The Dog in Action, Lyon, MacDowell, Howell Book House publisher, 1982