German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler has become a big debate in Rottweiler dog circles. Some people believe these are two completely separate dog breeds.
Other people think that German vs American Rottweiler is just a matter of opinion or even simple semantics.
Is there a true difference between a German Rottweiler and an American Rottweiler? If so, how can you tell the two dog breeds apart? We are about to dive into this complicated and emotional topic!
German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler
There is only one Rottweiler dog breed. Ultimately, the Rottweiler breed did originate in Germany.
This means all Rottweilers can be considered German Rottweilers, even if modern American Rottweiler breeding practices emphasize traits that were not important to the original German Rottweiler breeders.
Learn About the German vs American Rottweiler Dogs From a Breeder
In this short YouTube video, you can meet a professional Rottweiler breeder and learn about what differentiates American vs German Rottweiler dogs.
The Rottweiler breeder highlights important things to watch for when choosing a new Rottweiler puppy. These details are especially critical if you are planning to show or breed your Rottweiler in the future.
A Brief History of the German Rottweiler Breed
The modern dog breed that is known as the Rottweiler got its start in Germany.
But according to von der Musikstadt Rottweiler breeders, the precursor to the dog we know as the Rottweiler may have originated in none other than ancient Rome!
The original pre-Rottweiler dog was a drover dog. Drover dogs were tasked with herding and guarding large herds of livestock that moved alongside armies.
These herds of livestock provided essential milk, food, and materials for the soldiers. The dogs were responsible for keeping the animals safe night and day from human poachers and wild animals. The dogs had to be strong, brave, and vigilant.
Historical records also indicate these early Rottweiler prototype dogs may have fought alongside the Roman soldiers, taking on tasks so dangerous that they were beyond human capabilities.
When not fighting or herding, the dogs guarded the soldiers’ camps at night.
So Rottweilers have been bred and trained to be tough, courageous, strong, and tireless right from the start.
Their sturdy body, intimidating appearance, and powerful bite have all been very desirable traits in a Rottweiler for as far back as the breed history stretches.
So when did the modern Rottweiler dog breed begin to take shape? And what led to the controversy over the German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler?
We will tackle these questions in the next sections here.
Understanding the Current Rottweiler Dog Breed Standard
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Rottweiler dog is currently the eighth most popular purebred dog breed in the United States.
Since the AKC has nearly 200 dog breeds on its roster, this is no small feat!
But as a working dog with strong territorial and protective instincts, the Rottweiler dog has a less easy time acclimating to the life of a family pet.
These dogs are strong and powerful and can easily cause harm if not properly trained and socialized.
And this is what makes the Rottweiler breed standard so vital when you are trying to understand what a true-to-the-breed Rottweiler dog should look and act like.
According to the official breed standard filed with the AKC, a Rottweiler that is well-bred, well trained, and well socialized will be calm and confident, protective of their people but not aggressive without just cause.
A well-bred Rottweiler may be aloof or guarded with strange animals or people, but will typically behave like a big lap dog with family and friends. It is this trait that has so endeared the Rottweiler to families around the world.
When you are shopping around for a Rottweiler puppy or rescue dog, it is important to understand both the appearance and temperament of Rottweiler breed standards for a true Rottweiler so your new dog meets your expectations.
Appearance Differences Between the German and American Rottweiler
Vanaheim Rottweilers breeder highlights a common issue that dog breeders encounter when talking to puppy buyers.
Rottweiler dog lovers often assume that if two Rottweiler dogs don’t look or act the same, this means they must be different breeds altogether.
But genetically speaking, all Rottweilers being bred today are still sufficiently similarly in their genes to belong to the same dog breed.
The reason that so-called American Rottweilers and so-called German Rottweilers don’t always look the same is due to disagreements about the preferred look for Rottweiler dogs today.
American Rottweiler breeders tend to favor a leaner, slimmer appearance, especially in the head and neck, than do German Rottweiler breeders.
German Rottweiler breeders lean towards the thicker necks and heads that characterize the original Roman drover dogs from which modern Rottweilers are descended.
The reigning official Rottweiler breed standard actually doesn’t originate with American Rottweiler breeders or the American Kennel Club. It comes from the German Rottweiler breed association, Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub e.V.
The German Rottweiler breed association is careful to explain that there is only one true Rottweiler breed – the “correct” one.
Appearance Differences Between a German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler
We touched on some appearance-based differences between a German vs American Rottweiler dog in the previous section here.
As Guardian Rottweilers breeder explains it, the ongoing disagreement about the correct appearance for a well-bred Rottweiler dog has led to certain obvious differences in conformation.
German Rottweiler breed standard
These are the appearance or conformation characteristics prized by proponents and breeders who stick close to the original Allgemeiner Deutscher Rottweiler-Klub e.V. breed club standards.
- Broad skull and strong head.
- Thick short neck.
- Shorter stocky legs.
- Slightly shorter in stature.
- Straight back.
- Stocky, solid chest.
- Massive and muscular-skeletal frame.
- Dark eyes and gums.
- Clear and distinctive dark markings.
American Rottweiler breed standard
These are the appearance or conformation characteristics that are closely associated with Rottweilers bred in America – aka American Rottweiler dogs.
- Longer, thinner legs.
- Slightly taller dogs.
- Thinner necks.
- Thinner more chiseled faces.
- Shorter muzzle.
- Pale eyes and gums.
- Swayed or curved back.
- Muddy or dilute markings.
As you can see, there are some significant appearance-based differences that characterize Rottweilers that are bred true to the original German Rottweiler breed standard versus Rottweilers that are bred to a looser Americanized breed standard.
But is this really due to a departure from the classic breed standard or simply due to careless or less knowledgeable breeding practices? Let’s find out!
Health Differences Between a German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler
Breeders and dog breed fans can argue all day over differences in how two dogs from the same breed might look.
But where the comparison becomes more serious is when breeding for certain appearance traits begins to affect overall dog breed health.
Rottweilers are not alone as a dog breed is suffering from certain well-known breed-specific genetic health issues. But Rottweilers today have shorter life expectancies than ever before due mainly to a higher incidence of several heritable health issues.
Many Rottweiler breeders who stick closely to the original Rottweiler breed standard attest that German Rottweilers are healthier than American Rottweilers.
Here, there is only one way to back up such a claim, and that is with genetic testing.
According to the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), the Rottweiler dog breed can suffer from the following well-documented heritable (genetic) health concerns.
- Hip dysplasia (hip joint malformation).
- Elbow dysplasia (elbow joint malformation).
- Eye problems.
- Cardiac problems.
- Juvenile laryngeal paralysis and polyneuropathy (JLPP).
The CHIC database is maintained through voluntary contributions from ethical dog breeders who willingly submit genetic test results for dogs in their breeding stock.
The more that is known about breed-specific health issues, the more can be done to avoid passing such issues along. Conscientious dog breeders pre-test parent dogs for all known heritable health issues before allowing mating to take place.
This produces a much higher incidence of healthy puppies and is the ultimate benefit to the whole Rottweiler breed line.
So then why is there such a disparity in the appearance of Rottweilers today? How did the American and German Rottweiler dispute even take shape?
Learn About Backyard Rottweiler Breeders and Puppy Mills
Backyard breeders and puppy mills are two terms that are often used interchangeably in the world of puppy breeding. But these two terms are not referring to the same thing
Backyard breeders definition
The term backyard breeders is typically used to describe casual breeders or even accidental dog breeders. A casual Rottweiler breeder might be someone who owns an intact male or female Rottweiler.
Maybe they allow their dog to mate occasionally, selling the puppies here and there to generate a little extra cash.
Or maybe their Rottweiler gets pregnant (or knocks up the female dog next door) by accident. Then they give away or sell the puppies when the time comes.
In this case, there is no real study or science to choosing or health testing breeding pairs. Puppies may or may not receive their shots and pest treatments. They may be released from the mother and littermates earlier than is recommended.
Often, Rottweiler puppies from backyard breeders are not bred true to standard in either appearance or temperament. These breeders do not know or care or simply lack the means to give the puppies the very best start in life.
Puppy mills definition
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there may be more than 10,000 puppy mills in active operation in America alone.
Puppy mills differ from backyard breeders and true breeders. They are in it purely for profit.
Rottweilers that are bred through puppy mill operations are frequently fed sub-standard food, taken from the mother and littermates far too soon, and deprived of the necessary health checks, vaccinations and pest treatments that could protect them from harm.
These Rottweilers may or may not look like “real” purebred Rottweilers, but they are even less likely to act like a true Rottweiler dog. They may also grow up to be smaller and thinner than a true Rottweiler owing to early dehydration and malnutrition.
And new owners are often caught by surprise when their puppy mill Rottweiler puppy starts to exhibit aggressive or shy behaviors or develops serious emotional or physical health issues.
Choosing a Healthy German Rottweiler vs American Rottweiler Puppy
According to the American Rottweiler Club, resources exist to help interested owners locate reputable Rottweiler breeders to buy a puppy.
Different Rottweiler owners buy their Rotties for different purposes and goals. Some people want to show their Rottweilers. Other people want to start their own Rottweiler breeding program. Still, others want a service dog or protection dog.
But most Rottweiler owners are simply looking for a lovable, friendly, and affectionate family pet who will also guard and protect the family as needed.
It is important to let your Rottweiler breeder know your goals for purchasing a Rottweiler puppy. Knowledgable and experienced Rottweiler breeders will know their dogs well enough to match the right puppy with the right family.
Reputable breeders of Rottweiler dogs will also happily share information about their parent dogs and breed line.
For example, if acquiring a Rottweiler puppy from a traditional German Rottweiler line is important to you, this will be important information to ask for.
Genetic testing can also help you learn more about your Rottweiler puppy’s genetic history and breed line. Genetic testing may also be beneficial to answer some questions if you are thinking about rescuing a Rottweiler dog of uncertain parentage or history.
Ultimately, unless you aspire to the show ring, dog temperament trumps appearance in the German vs American Rottweiler debate. A happy, healthy Rottweiler is a friend for life.