How to Train a Rottweiler to Not be Aggressive

Medium
4-12 Months
Behavior

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. 

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. 

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. 

The Socialization Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Positive Association Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Desensitization Method

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Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Willa
Rottweiler
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Willa
Rottweiler
10 Weeks

I’m having a lot of difficulty with my new rottweiler puppy. She’s exhibiting very aggressive behavior and is unresponsive to negative feedback. She is very bitey and jumps at people faces. We grab her by the scruff and lay her down on the ground and hold her till she calms down. She does not respond to this and will go back to her behavior even when it is performed consistently and frequently.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am going to send you information on the nipping/biting, as well as jumping. Both of these behaviors are attention seeking/play engaging behaviors. The best you can do for both is to completely ignore. But I am sending information with much more detail than that! Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment. Jumping: Teach your dog that they receive no attention for jumping on you or anyone else. Teach your dog to do something that is incompatible with jumping up, such as sitting. They can't sit and jump up at the same time. If they are not sitting, they get no attention. It is important to be consistent. Everyone in your family must follow the training program all the time. You can't let your dog jump on people in some circumstances, but not others. Training techniques: When your dog… Jumps on other people: Ask a family member or friend to assist with training. Your assistant must be someone your dog likes and wants to greet. Your dog should never be forced to greet someone who scares them. Give your dog the "sit" command. (This exercise assumes your dog already knows how to "sit.") The greeter approaches you and your dog. If your dog stands up, the greeter immediately turns and walks away. Ask your dog to "sit," and have the greeter approach again. Keep repeating until your dog remains seated as the greeter approaches. If your dog does remain seated, the greeter can give your dog a treat as a reward. When you encounter someone while out walking your dog, you must manage the situation and train your dog at the same time. Stop the person from approaching by telling them you don't want your dog to jump. Hand the person a treat. Ask your dog to "sit." Tell the person they can pet your dog and give them the treat as long as your dog remains seated. Some people will tell you they don't mind if your dog jumps on them, especially if your dog is small and fluffy or a puppy. But you should mind. Remember you need to be consistent in training. If you don't want your dog to jump on people, stick to your training and don't make exceptions. Jumps on you when you come in the door: Keep greetings quiet and low-key. If your dog jumps on you, ignore them. Turn and go out the door. Try again. You may have to come in and go out dozens of times before your dog learns they only gets your attention when they keep all four feet on the floor. Jumps on you when you're sitting: If you are sitting and your dog jumps up on you, stand up. Don't talk to your dog or push them away. Just ignore them until all four feet are on the ground. Please let me know if you have additional questions. Thank you for writing in!

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