The Rottweiler is an old breed, tracing its origins back to the mastiffs of ancient Rome. It is believed to have begun its working history with the Roman armies, driving their cattle over the Alps and guarding their camps, hence its rugged body and protective nature. Its name derives from the German town of Rottweil, which was founded on the site of one of these camps. The farmers of Rottweil used the powerful dogs to drive their cattle to market, earning them a name as the "butcher dogs of Rottweil." After a successful day at market, a farmer tied his sack of money to the neck of his faithful dog for the return trip, thus ensuring the security of his proceeds.
With the emergence of railroads, dogs were no longer needed to drive cattle except in remote locations. Therefore, the sturdy and courageous Rottweiler found a new calling in police work. Its calm nature and great self-confidence, as well as its loyalty and desire to protect, made it a welcome companion to defenders of public safety. Of course, its intimidating presence helped secure its position as well!
The Rottweiler, like all working breeds, is a physical dog and enjoys exercise. If kept confined with little activity, it can become bored and destructive. Frequent romps in a park or long walks around the neighborhood serve the triple purpose of giving the Rotty the exercise it craves, allowing it to build a strong and loving relationship with its owner, and introducing it to a variety of people and other dogs, with the end result being a healthy, loyal, and well-socialized representative of the breed. Taking obedience classes further strengthens the dog-master bond, as well as provides the discipline the strong-willed Rottweiler needs.
Why The Stigma?
The Rottweiler's strong protective instinct, while making him popular as a guard dog, requires some caution when in the dog's presence. Unless he is used to a variety of noisy, rough-and-tumble interaction between humans, he may easily mistake a playful jab or enthusiastic bear hug as a valid threat to his master. He has a strong sense of territory; thus, he will defend his family's home and possessions without prejudice. While he is not likely to bite unless provoked by some action he deems threatening, he is likely to corner and detain anyone who ventures onto the property without his master present; this can be terrifying to any visitor, welcome or not. If socialized properly from an early age, however, the Rottweiler can learn to accept friendly strangers. He is a very loyal pet, although he has been known to test authority by "bullying" his owner or others. This is merely a bluff, but the dog's strength and size makes it a startling experience; an owner who exhibits fear, or fails to exert the authority that all dogs need, will only reinforce this negative behavior. Obedience training is a must for the often stubborn Rotty. Incidents and accidents occur when a large, strong, protective dog such as this is placed in the hands of an inexperienced or irresponsible owner who fails to acclimate it to a variety of people and social situations, train it to obey commands of restraint, and earn its respect through firm but gentle dominance.
Sources: American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, American Rottweiler Club