Are Rottweilers Aggressive Dogs?

As a veterinarian, a pet owner, and a member of society, I have certainly observed that Rottweiler aggression – as well as dog aggression generally – can be a major problem. And, whilst any dog has the potential to be a dangerous dog, it’s believed by many that Rottweilers are more dangerous, and more aggressive, than your average canine. It’s also an obvious point that the size and power Rottweilers possess means that in the event of an outburst of aggression, Rottweilers have the potential to inflict more harm compared to smaller breeds.

Whilst I totally agree with the latter point (I mean, really, who could argue this? It’s common sense), the former – that Rottweilers are intrinsically more aggressive than their counterparts of other breeds – doesn’t quite ring true for me. Let’s take a look at why.

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Are Rottweilers Usually Aggressive?

It’s a common myth that the Rottweiler breed has especially aggressive tendencies. In fact, research has shown that Rottweilers are relatively unaggressive when compared to other dogs. For example, it’s been reported in the scientific literature that Rottweilers are actually less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Cocker Spaniels, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Akitas, Springer Spaniels and Greyhounds [1]!

In reality, the majority of Rottweilers are loyal dogs who have been well socialized from an early age and who thrive on and enjoy close human companionship. Many Rotties live in harmony with other pets and with children, despite being large dogs with extreme power. If asked, I suspect the vast majority of Rottweiler owners would consider Rotties the absolute best dog!

In my opinion, it’s unfair to describe this breed as aggressive; whilst it’s worth noting that Rottweilers have the potential to be dangerous, so too does every other dog breed if proper training and socialization are not provided at an appropriate age. The Rottweiler breed is not innately more volatile than other dogs, although of course, like the pit bull, German Shepherd and American Bulldog, Rotties do have the potential to cause more harm if they do exhibit aggression than say, a Chihuahua!

Do Rottweilers Have Behavior Problems?

In my experience as a vet, Rottweilers are not more prone to behavior problems than other breeds. So long as a Rottie pup is well socialized and well trained, and so long as adult Rottweilers are treated with respect and provided with adequate mental stimulation, behavior problems are relatively uncommon. If you are concerned that your Rottie has developed a behavioral issue the best place to start is by discussing things with your veterinarian. He or she will also be able to refer you to a trainer or behaviorist as appropriate.

Observe and Identify the Source of Aggression

The first thing Rottweiler owners will need to do in order to address aggressive behavior in their canine companion is to identify the source of the aggression. If it’s practically and financially possible, I strongly recommend that you seek the services of a CAAB accredited (USA) or APBC accredited (UK) pet behaviourist to help you achieve this goal, as the source or sources of canine aggression can be complex.

For example, fear, pain, frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, resource-associated aggression and/or a lack of adequate socialization can all contribute to aggressive tendencies. And whilst proper training can certainly help when it comes to managing your Rottie’s behavior, ultimately many causes of aggression run deep in the psychology of the individual dog.

You should think of a dog trainer as somebody who can help with obedience training, enabling your Rottweiler to respond to your commands and so improving your ability to stay in charge of your dog at all times. Whereas pet behaviorists are effectively pet psychologists. They will identify and help you tackle the underlying sources of your dog’s aggressive behavior, rather than simply improving obedience.

Ultimately, both are helpful and so long as it’s safe, affordable and practical to do so, I would recommend you ideally work with both an experienced dog trainer and an accredited behaviorist if your Rottie is having issues with aggression.

What to Do if a Rottweiler Attacks You?

Oh boy, this is not a situation any of us ever want to be in! Like pit bulls, the Rottweiler is a hefty dog with notoriously powerful jaws. And, whilst most Rotties are sweet, loving and well behaved, when not properly trained or socialized they certainly are potentially dangerous dogs. Since a number of Rottweiler owners use their Rotties as guard dogs, some will also have been trained to attack intruders. These dogs may be at increased risk of harming humans or other animals if they inadvertently become loose.

In the event that you find yourself under attack from a Rottweiler, the following advice can help minimize harm:

Whilst of course, it’s incredibly difficult, you must try and stay as calm as possible. Turn your body to the side if possible, and use anything you can as a barrier between you and the dog (for example, a jacket, bag or bicycle). If the dog knocks you down, you should protect your face, neck, and abdomen by curling into a ball and covering your head with your arms.

Avoid eye contact with the Rottweiler since direct eye contact will be interpreted as threatening by many dogs. If you’re standing, in most instances, you should stand still or retreat slowly since running will trigger the prey drive in many dogs, meaning they may chase you with more enthusiasm [2]. If you’re able to do so, move towards a barrier such as a building, car, or tree. Dogs can jump but they can’t climb, so if you can climb a tree or fence to escape, you should do so as soon as possible.

In some cases, dogs involved in dog attacks do nonetheless have some basic degree of obedience training, so it’s worth attempting to use commands to stave off the attack. In a calm but very firm voice, instruct the Rottweiler to “stop it!” You can also try the commands “sit” and “stay” since these are typically the first commands dog owners teach their dogs. If the Rottweiler is familiar with the commands, they might be momentarily distracted, giving you time to retreat.

Of course, you should also try and get help if possible. If there are bystanders, ask them to call the police and animal control. After the attack, as well as seeking medical attention immediately, it’s also very important to report the attack to the appropriate authorities, again including the police and animal control, as the Rottweiler involved in the attack poses a threat to public safety.

What to Do if Your Rottweiler Growls at You?

If a Rottweiler – or any other dog breed for that matter – growls at you, it’s important to know what steps you can take to maximize your safety and reduce the risk of being attacked. For starters, remain calm; maintaining a neutral demeanor will help prevent exciting or agitating the dog further, and may help it to lose interest in you. You should immediately give the Rottweiler space and avoid approaching or otherwise attempting to interact with them. Retreat slowly without turning your back, and – like in the case of a dog attack – avoid eye contact.

If it’s your own Rottweiler who is doing the growling, be aware that you should not punish your dog for growling. Doing so may successfully teach your Rottie not to growl, but if you remove a dog’s willingness to growl then you leave them with a more limited repertoire of ways in which they can communicate that they are feeling overwhelmed, scared or territorial. This means that the next time they have growled, they may well resort straight to biting instead, without giving warning!

In my opinion as a vet, growling is a great thing. It allows your dog to communicate how they are feeling and is an incredible warning signal when it comes to preventing bites and dog attacks. The last thing we want to do is teach our dogs not to growl!

Is a Rottweiler a Good Family Dog?

Whilst some may consider Rottweilers to be most recognizable as guard dogs, as dog breeds go, Rottweilers tend to be relatively gentle giants. Most Rottweilers are not dangerous dogs but rather have good behavior and manners, and live peacefully with their human parents, as well as sharing their space with other animals.

Since they have historically been working dogs, Rottweilers are also considerably easier to train than many “companion” breeds; this too can help their case when it comes to choosing a family dog. That said, due to the size and power of the breed, only experienced owners with ample time for training should choose this breed.

What Causes a Rottweiler to Be Aggressive?

A wide variety of factors can cause a Rottweiler to behave aggressively, including (but not limited to):

  • Pain
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Anxiety
  • Resource Guarding
  • Territorial behavior
  • Overwhelm/excessive excitement
  • Lack of adequate socialization when young

If you are concerned that your Rottie is exhibiting aggressive behavior it’s important to seen professional help without delay.

Are Rottweilers More Aggressive Than Pit Bulls?

Let’s face it: the Rottweiler breed gets a bad rap. One of the more interesting facts about the breed is that they are less likely to try and bite you than Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Jack Russell Terriers [3]! Whilst Rotties can be aggressive in certain instances, so too can any dog; it’s certainly not the case that the breed is born dangerous. As mentioned, most Rotties are gentle and the breed is generally easy to train.

Pit Bull terriers are also popular family pets across much of the USA, and many owners are keen to publicize their dog’s good behavior and gentle temperament across social media: we’ve all seen those cute videos of a Pit Bull playing with a child on our Instagram feed, right?

I’ll be honest, as a vet, these videos give me chills, and not in a good way! No dog should be trusted 100% around children, who are unpredictable and can behave badly (the kids, not the dogs!) Statistics show that kids are considerably more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults [4], for these very reasons. Even dogs who are well-behaved and have never shown aggression, should not be left unattended with children – but I digress!

Back on topic: whilst many Pit Bulls are much-loved family dogs living happily alongside their humans without issue since the breed has a long history of selection for aggression, it does seem likely from a biological perspective that the Pit Bull breed is likely to have a certain innate predisposition to aggressive behavior.

One study has reported that more than 20% of Pit Bull dogs may display serious aggression toward unfamiliar dogs [2], and there have been several cases where a fatal attack involving the breed has occurred. Overall, in my opinion, I would argue that yes: as a broad and general rule (from which there will be many exceptions), Pit Bulls are likely more aggressive as a breed than Rottweilers.

Do Rottweilers Ever Turn on Their Owners?

Even the most placid and well-behaved dog has the potential to bite in certain circumstances; as a vet, I can personally vouch for the fact that dogs who are in pain, terrified, overwhelmed, or feeling the need to protect their loved ones may behave aggressively even if normally they are of pleasant temperament.

Rottweilers may turn on their owners if they are experiencing severe pain (such as in the event of being hit by a car); if they are very scared (eg, during fireworks for a dog with a noise phobia); or if they are suddenly startled (perhaps by a child suddenly jumping on them when they are sleeping). Owners should be aware of this potential for Rottweiler aggression and should take every reasonable step possible to ensure the safety of everybody in the household.

How Do I Make Sure My Rottweiler is Not Aggressive?

The Rottweiler is a working dog with a long history of cohabitation with humans dating back to Roman times. This works in their favor, as the breed is generally easy to train, and responds well to socialization as puppies. To help avoid Rottweiler aggression, you should start socializing your Rottie pup as soon as you bring them home, making sure they are carefully and repeatedly introduced to strangers, children, cats, and any other pets with whom they will share the home. You should also begin obedience training your Rottie soon after you adopt them into your family.

If you have a puppy or older Rottweiler who is exhibiting aggressive behavior, it’s important to address this without delay; these are large dogs which can be dangerous. Even experienced owners will benefit from enlisting an accredited pet behaviorist to help them identify the source of their dog’s aggression and work towards a solution.

Rottweilers are naturally quite protective and can have a particular tendency to react aggressively towards strangers. Training your dog to respond consistently to the commands “stay” and “leave it” is important. Owners concerned that their Rottweiler puppy or adult dog is excessively protective, or is exhibiting dangerously territorial behavior, should seek expert advice.


  1. Hammond, A., Rowland, T., Mills, D.S. and Pilot, M. (2022) ‘Comparison of behavioural tendencies between “dangerous dogs” and other domestic dog breeds – Evolutionary context and practical implications’, Evolutionary Applications, 15(11), pp. 1806-1819.
  2. Animal Friends Pet Insurance (2024) What to do if a dog attacks.
  3. Duffy, D., Hsu, Y. and Serpell, J.A. (2008) ‘Breed differences in canine aggression’, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 114(3-4), pp. 441-460.
  4. Jakeman, M., Oxley, J.A., Owczarczak-Garstecka, S.C. and Westgarth, C. (2020) ‘Pet dog bites in children: management and prevention’, BMJ Paediatrics Open, 4(1).
Do Rottweilers Have Behavioral Problems

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Are Rottweilers Aggressive Dogs?