The Rottweiler dog is a popular choice for individuals and families around the world. In the United States, the Rottie, as devotees call this dog, is the eighth most popular dog breed in the nation.
But Rottweilers are large, powerful, athletic dogs that come with some special care considerations. These dogs need a lot of exercise to stay healthy and happy in the life of a companion canine.
Rottweilers also need a great deal of early and ongoing socialization and training. This is a requirement so these dogs can learn how to manage their innate guarding and protection instincts around other people and animals outside your family.
One of the big questions new prospective Rottweiler owners often have about these dogs is whether or not you can trust a Rottweiler off-leash. Are Rottweilers good off-leash? That is exactly what we will talk about in this article.
Understanding the Rottweiler Dog’s Six Main Instincts and Traits
As the American Kennel Club (AKC) explains, sometimes it takes owning a Rottweiler dog to truly understand how these dogs are wired.
The Rottweiler will come genetically inclined to act in certain ways. These instincts will just get stronger once a Rottie has bonded with “their” human family – you!
Some people choose a Rottweiler precisely because they want the traits that these dogs are bred for. But other owners can be unpleasantly surprised to discover they have selected a high-energy canine athlete instead of a chill couch-loving canine.
So let’s take a quick look at the instincts and traits the Rottweiler breed is known for:
1. Smart and sensitive
According to Science Alert, the Rottweiler scores in the top tier of canine intelligence.
In a ninth place out of 79 purebred dog breeds, what this tells you is that the Rottweiler can learn quickly and retain what they have learned.
While there are many types of canine intelligence, this test specifically measured the type where a dog breed can master a new command in five tries or less and is willing able to readily repeat it 95 percent of the time.
This is important to know if you want to train your Rottweiler to go off-leash. Your dog can learn this skill easily – the trick is to make sure the five percent of the time they may not obey doesn’t cause danger to your dog or others.
2. People-pleasers to their core
Rottweilers are smart enough to have a mind of their own when “on the job” guarding, herding, or protecting people and animals, but they are instinctively people-centric dogs.
This means a Rottie is eager to please their people and very willing to engage in training that employs positive reinforcement (praise, pats, playtime, treats).
Off-leashing training (and any training) will go most smoothly when you keep this in mind.
3. High prey drive
Rottweilers have an instinctively high prey drive. As Michelson Found Animals nonprofit explains, a “prey drive” is a drive or instinct to give chase.
Your Rottie loves to chase things! Balls, frisbees, squirrels, lizards, cars, bicycles, joggers, you – if it moves, your dog is probably going to instinctively chase after it.
This is often the most difficult issue to overcome in a Rottweiler if you want to be able to let your dog off-leash safely. Can you trust your Rottweiler not to give in to such a strong instinct to give chase? This is not an easy question to answer.
4. Working and service
Rottweilers are working dogs through and through. The American Kennel Club (AKC) classifies them in the working group of purebred dog breeds.
Rotties have a long and noble history doing all kinds of important jobs alongside people. The breed was originally a drover and herder breed that guarded livestock and people.
Rottweilers are also very popular for K-9 work, guard dog and service dog work, search and rescue, nose work, guide dog work, tracking work and so many more jobs.
And they are incredible canine athletes that excel in everything from agility and dock diving to swimming and obedience.
So if being able to let your Rottweiler safely off-leash is important to the kind of work your dog will be doing, it is very important to know how to get good results every time!
5. Guarding and protection
Earlier in this article, we mentioned that Rottweilers are talented guard and protection dogs. They are popular choices for military and police work, personal protection, and private guard dog work.
Many individuals and families choose this breed because they feel safe having a dog with a high guarding and protection instinct looking after the family.
But these are also two of the most difficult instincts to train and manage in a companion canine. This is particularly true when it comes to being able to let your dog off-leash safely.
After all, you need to know that your dog can tell the difference between a friendly person or animal and a genuine threat.
6. Herding and droving
Finally, it is important to know that Rottweilers have been herding and droving dogs from their earliest breed days.
Your Rottweiler is going to want to herd you and your family members and may “lean” on you or bark at you or even push at you to get you to go where your dog thinks you should go to keep you safe.
The instinct here is purely about keeping you together and safe. So if you let your Rottweiler off leash and your dog perceives any kind of threat, you can expect to see the herding and droving instinct out in full force.
6 Biggest Risks to Letting Your Rottweiler Off-Leash
As Preventative Vet points out, the key to training your Rottweiler to go off-leash safely is to understand each risk you are taking every time you unsnap the lead.
1. Your Rottweiler may run away
The high prey drive – the instinct to chase – that you learned about in the previous section here is a real risk whenever you let a high prey drive dog like the Rottweiler off-leash.
2. Your Rottweiler may attack someone
Because your Rottweiler has a naturally high protective and guarding instinct, if your dog decides you are at risk, it is very possible they may attack someone who approaches you.
3. Your Rottweiler may get hurt
Your Rottweiler may get hit by a car, bit by a wild animal (or another domestic animal), or get injured by an animal trap or something they encounter in an unknown area.
4. Your Rottweiler may get into a dog fight
Rottweilers that are well-trained on a leash may act quite differently off-leash if they encounter another dog that seems threatening or aggressive towards them or you.
5. Your Rottweiler may eat something dangerous
From rat poison to animal traps to toxic plants, there is always a risk your Rottie may find something dangerous, toxic, or poisonous and ingest it before you can stop them.
6. Your Rottweiler may get reported or picked up
If your Rottweiler does get loose, there is a danger that your dog may get reported by a frightened stranger or may even get picked up. You may incur fines and may even risk losing your dog or having your Rottie put down.
Are Rottweilers Good Off-Leash? The Truth About Off-Leash Rotties
A better question to ask here is actually “are you good when your dog is off-leash?”
The real key to being able to trust your Rottie in an off-leash situation is knowing what to do to keep the situation under control.
For example, what will you do if your Rottweiler suddenly starts chasing something or someone? Will you know to turn away instead of towards your dog to redirect the prey instinct towards the herding and guarding instinct?
How will you respond if your Rottie encounters an aggressive dog? Do you know what to do to safely break up a dog fight?
What will your reaction be if your Rottweiler runs away and you can’t call your dog back? Do you have your command words at the ready and have you trained your dog to obey no matter what?
And if your command words don’t work or your dog is already too far away, have you had your dog microchipped, and have you updated your contact information on the microchip database and your dog’s tags?
While there is never any guarantee when you let any dog off-leash, taking the appropriate steps to prepare your dog will reduce the risks.
In summary, before you ever let your Rottweiler off-leash, it is smart to make sure your dog is well-trained, carries all the right identification, and has had plenty of off-leash practice in controlled environments like large parks and fenced fields.