Three years ago I knew practically nothing about Rottweilers; or more exactly, he knew several things that were not true. For example, I envisioned Rottweilers as very aggressive watchdogs who were not good pets and were not “people” dogs. Then about three years ago, while browsing the Internet looking for dogs for adoption, my daughter fell in love with “Jade,” a two-year-old three-legged Rottie at a shelter in Texas. A few weeks later, we were on our way to Texas to adopt Jade, a move that would lead to a quick re-education on my part as to the truth about Rottweilers.

When we first met Jade, my impression was of a huge, wobbly dog, with its tongue hanging out of the side of its mouth and its tail wagging furiously. She had lost her right front leg when she was hit by a car as a puppy; her owners paid to have her leg amputated, but decided they no longer wanted her and left her at the local animal shelter. Later, an older couple adopted her to replace their dog who had died, but quickly decided that Jade was not the right dog for them. They ended up leaving her in another shelter, where we finally found her.

Once we returned home to the newest member of our family, a couple of things quickly became apparent. Rottweiler experts will tell you that you need to establish control over your Rottie early on or it will be very difficult to handle. In Jade’s case, establishing control was a real challenge. After spending half his life in a kennel, he had obviously decided that humans couldn’t be trusted, even though they were kind enough. It wasn’t that she was uncontrollable, it was more of a case where Jade had developed a strong sense of independence. Getting her to do what you wanted required a certain amount of give and take.

I learned various things about Rotties as we worked to gain more control over Jade. First, I did a little reading and found that Rottweilers were actually bred as sheepdogs and were also used to pull small loads; only later were they used as watchdogs. In fact, they are “people’s” dogs and enjoy spending a lot of time with their humans. Rotties are strong, tough, loyal, and as subtle as a sledgehammer. By nature, they tend to be loud (Jade has a growl that could peel paint off a wall), distrustful of strangers (outside the house at least), and patient (their ability to stay calm and not overreact to situations it’s a quality that makes them good watchdogs.)

As mentioned, Rotties usually like to “hang out” with their humans, but it took Jade several months to feel really good about us. She spent most of her time alone in the bedroom and rarely got up and moved except to go out. She exercised so little that she began to gain weight, and since it took some effort to get up on just three legs, she even began to crawl at times instead of bothering to gasp. standing. Finally, an improved diet of weight maintenance dog food and green beans took most of the weight off her and a lab puppy we rescued gave Jade someone to play with and made her get up and move.

Now, two years later, Jade is an integral part of our family and I have learned several more truths about Rotties:

  1. They say that you should brush your Rottweiler at least once a week to remove the loose fur from the undercoat and that is the absolute truth. Brushing Jade is a major operation – my wife usually spends 30-45 minutes brushing her and even uses a vacuum attachment to try and vacuum up all the loose fur (and by the way, Jade seems to enjoy being vacuumed).
  2. Rots are also assumed to be sensitive to both hot and cold weather. Considering the thickness of her undercoat, Jade has a problem with really hot weather. We only let her out for a short time during the day in summer. As for not tolerating really cold weather, I’m not sure I fully agree with that. I’ve seen Jade lying in the snow for several hours straight and I have to convince her to go back to the house.
  3. Another “truth” I’ve discovered about Rotties that you don’t read much about is the “gas” problem. Everyone I have talked to who has a Rottweiler seems to share this problem. You’ll be sitting there and all of a sudden your Rottie expels some gas. Within moments, the room is engulfed in a haze of noxious gas. This room cleaning effect probably has something to do with poor diet, but none of the owners I know have found an answer yet.
  4. Experts warn you not to give your Rottie rawhide. Jade gets rawhide chips, but not large pieces. Also, Cole (our lab) usually steals them from her before Jade has a chance to consume much of the rawhide. However, oddly enough, Jade has a passion for paper products; Leave a Kleenix, paper towel, or napkin within reach and he’ll swallow it in one gulp.
  5. One thing that I have found to be especially true is that you have to be careful around strangers and other animals. Inside our house, Jade is always happy to greet new people and even at the pet store she is friendly enough with others. Outside of our house, although Jade becomes much more cautious and can be very aggressive towards strangers at times (although since Rotties consider a bull and a blow to the chest as a proper greeting, sometimes it is difficult to distinguish hostility from enthusiasm) . As for other animals, Jade gets along well with our lab, our cats, and our parrots, but you can never be sure how she will react to a new animal.
  6. Finally, Rottweilers are surprisingly smart (the ninth smartest dog breed according to a recent study). With their size, strength, and somewhat aggressive nature, it’s easy to assume they aren’t too bright. Keep in mind, however, that within that titanium steel skull is an active, problem-solving mind.

All things considered, I have become very attached to our dog beast. Jade can drool, pass gas, spill and let out deafening growls, but she’s also a lovable, caring, sometimes clownish, sometimes sensitive, sometimes intriguing, and always entertaining member of our family.

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