How to Train a Rottweiler to Not be Aggressive

How to Train a Rottweiler to Not be Aggressive
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-12 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Throughout history, Rottweilers have been relied upon to herd cattle, guard property, protect people, and even be family companions. Despite their history and skill-set of being great working dogs, many people report the Rottweiler breed as one they would consider unfriendly or potentially dangerous. Despite their appearance and stereotypes, this breed is known by owners and those familiar with them as lovable, sometimes goofy, cuddlers. 

If you're worried about your Rottweiler being or becoming aggressive based on its pedigree alone, then you should know that dog breeds commonly associated with aggressiveness - Pit Bulls, Dobermans, and German Shepherds - are not inherently so. Many canine behavioral researchers and experts agree that an aggressive dog became that way solely through negative life experiences, lack of training, and/or isolation. It's safe, in fact helpful, for you to set these fears aside. The key to raising and owning a non-aggressive dog is to socialize them as puppies and give them plenty of love, attention, and training as adults. The more boundaries and rules you can set for your Rottweiler, the less likely it will be that he exhibits aggressive behavior. 

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Defining Tasks

Training a Rottweiler puppy to not be aggressive simply calls for you to accept the time, effort, and responsibility it will take to properly socialize them. Puppies who are not properly socialized may grow into reactive, aggressive, perpetually anxious, and unhappy adult dogs. Because our domesticated pals are still animals, they work with a small set of skills when it comes to perceiving threats around them, and so an unfamiliar sound or people they do not know could cause an adverse reaction derived from fear. This can easily lead to growling, snarling, barking, and possibly even biting.

In addition to basic socialization or desensitization methods, you will also need what is called 'counter-conditioning', which reroutes how a dog thinks about and reacts to different things in the world. These training methods can take anywhere from just a few months to a full year, so it may take some time to see results. However, with enough time and patience, and by starting as early as possible, you can prevent your Rottweiler from developing aggressive habits. 

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Getting Started

Before you begin to train, you may want to invest in a few tools to assist in your training method. This can include items such as: 

  • A harness
  • High-reward treats¬†
  • A clicker
  • Patience and faith
And lots of it! Whether it's a young, older, or senior Rottweiler that you're working with, the journey to non-aggressive behavior can be a long one that's full of ups and downs. You should be realistic about what you want to achieve. There is no overnight success when helping to train your pet to be more relaxed and friendly. They will look to you for both guidance and reassurance and the more calm and patient you can be, the more likely they are to be successful. 

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The Socialization Method

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1

Teach simple commands

The easiest way to cultivate a relationship and feed it is to learn together by way of teaching your Rottweiler some simple commands, such as 'Sit' and 'Stay'. An added bonus is that these two tricks will show up time and again while preventing or rerouting aggressive behavior.

2

Ask for participation

Once you get a consistent response to 'Sit' or 'Stay', ask for this behavior around distractions. This could mean in front of an audience, or it could just mean randomly requesting the command from him when he least expects it. With distractions present, be it people, a twittering squirrel, or zooming cars, you're now asking for learned behavior in a more challenging environment.

3

Take trips

Bringing your pup along with you while running daily errands is part of socialization. Furthermore, this gives him the opportunity to discover the joys of car rides.

4

Walk

While on these walks, your Rottie will come across people of all sizes, shapes, colors, other dogs and animals, and loud noises. All of these experiences are necessary for your dog to get used to. Exposure to the world is the most efficient preventative measure against aggressive behavior.

5

Facilitate one-on-one meetings

Chaperone a doggy date with the help of a friend or family member that owns an older, more mild-mannered dog. This is best done at a distance at first and can be worked up to playtime, depending on the severity of the dog or puppy's fear or aggression against other dogs. For safety, an older, non-socialized dog should be kept on the leash and not feel restrained. Once it is obvious the dogs get along, the leash can come off for free play.

6

Explore the world

Whenever possible, whether by foot or in a vehicle, take your pet with you. The more differing environments they experience, the better off they will be.

7

Keep yourself in check

Dogs can sense tension when leashed and sense our gripping or tightening of a leash, which are signals to them to be on alert. A dog on alert is more likely to experience a potentially aggressive reaction to whatever is around them, so maintaining a stress-free hold on that leash is important.

The Positive Association Method

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Introduce your dog to training

In a space that they are comfortable and not easily distracted, gain your Rottie's attention. With your clicker in hand and bag of treats within reach, click the clicker. Directly after clicking, give your dog a treat. Do this 10-15 times, clicking, immediately treating, and repeating. You can also use this time to introduce him to his harness by introducing it slowly.

2

Trial run

At a place of your choosing, in an environment your Rott is already familiar with, find a means to expose your dog to the stimuli at a distance. Every time your dog looks at the stimuli, treat your Rottweiler extensively, clicking, treating, and repeating.

3

Use treats as a tool

Immediately stop treating your Rottie when the stimuli disappears. This teaches him that the reason why he was getting so many yummy treats was because that stimuli was present. Eventually, he'll come to desire the presence of that stimuli which is the key to positive association.

4

Work slowly

An important distinction between positive association and desensitization is that your Rottweiler is being treated no matter what. That means, even if he's still exhibiting aggression, at least in the beginning of the process, he is still receiving treats.

5

Decrease distance

Keep decreasing the distance of the stimuli each and every time your dog behaves well in order to slowly acclimate to the presence of the frightening object or person.

6

Repeat

Repeat the trial run as many times as you can. Rottweilers are an intelligent breed and it's likely that with these tactics, he could become less aggressive towards his stimuli within as little as a few months. Never test your Rott's vulnerability because one negative experience with his stimuli could set him back in a major way.

7

Try new things

Within the first few months of this counter-conditioning process, you should try to take your Rottie on as many walks outside the home, and even neighborhood, as possible. If you're willing to put in the work on a consistent basis, your dog will overcome his aggressive tendencies.

The Desensitization Method

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Acknowledge your Rottie's enemy

On your next walk around the block, really try to focus on what exactly is causing them to misbehave. What may seem commonplace to us could be seen as a threat to your pet. Take a week or two to make notes of these slight differences in environments to really pinpoint what it is that sets your Rott on a barking spree.

2

Introduce the enemy

Take appropriate measures to desensitize your Rottie to his stimuli. Introduce him to whatever bothers him at a slow pace. Use a clicker to mark good non-aggressive behavior and reward him. Always practice caution with your Rottweiler during meetings with other dogs and make sure everyone involved is on board.

3

Desensitization

Slowly and consistently introduce these stimuli to your dog, increasing its difficulty or severity in small increments each time. As always, with desensitization, baby steps are of the utmost importance.

4

Know your dog's pace

If ever you feel your dog taking steps back in his journey to non-aggression, slow down. Stop and reassess. Whatever it takes for your Rottie to successfully become a well-adjusted pet should be your top concern and objective.

5

Reward good behavior

You should be rewarding good behavior. Most dogs enjoy treats, whereas others may not be food-motivated. Find out what makes him go 'Oh, wow! Now this is a reward!' and shower him with it whenever he encounters his stimuli without exhibiting aggression.

Written by Candice Littleton

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/15/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bella

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Rottweiler

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10 months

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Question

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How do I keep my rottweiler from being mean when I give her a bone she gets really mean and try to bite you

Feb. 27, 2023

Bella's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would stop giving all bones until this is addressed. Second, I would hire a professional trainer who is very experienced with aggression, including resource guarding, and comes well recommended for their success working with aggression by their clients. Third, I would desensitize him to wearing a basket muzzle. Fourth, I would practice obedience commands with safety measures, having pup obey commands before giving him what he wants, practicing structured heeling walks, things like Place and Down and Wait, and generally building his respect and trust for you without direct confrontation through obedience practice and structure. Fifth, give your trainer's help, I would counter condition pup to your presence around things like bones, with safety measures like a back tie leash, a fake hand, and other tools that allow for distance between you and pup while working. I would start this training with objects pup doesn't like as much and very very slowly progress to things pup likes more as pup improves, AND shows with their body language that they are actually relaxed and happy about you being around and trading items with you carefully. I don't recommend doing this on your own. Resource guarding can easily become worse if someone doesn't know how to address is effectively or read the dog's body language well, and resource guarding very often will lead to an actual bite and not just a warning because of the strong instincts related to things like food and bones. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

March 1, 2023

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Azem

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Rottweiler

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One Year

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Question

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I love my Azem but he gets in these weird phases where he will be calm and collected for our walk or even at obedience class then all of a sudden he just snaps and gets growling and wants to bite people. On our walks it happens sometimes when people are walking towards us and at class it always happens when it comes to the stand for examination. If I didn’t have a good hold on the leash and able to pin him down he would bite the person.

Jan. 25, 2023

Azem's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend working with a private trainer (not a class instructor) who specializes in aggression to work on desensitizing and counter conditioning him to the things he finds threatening. It sounds like he might be reacting defensively toward certain things that he expects to be unpleasant or be a threat, and he is trying to get rid of the perceived threat before it bothers him too much. He might also simply not like certain situations and experiences, which is partially an issue of fear, but he might have learned that he can use aggression to control situations and be using aggression to protest what he doesn't like, not because he is super fearful but because he is controlling the situation. A basket muzzle and working him through the situation might be needed in addition to counter conditioning and desensitizing in a case like that, but I don't recommend you work on this without a trainer who is very experienced with aggression overseeing and guiding, and with the use of a basket muzzle for safety. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 26, 2023


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