When you think of the quintessential farm dog, your mind probably goes immediately to Border Collies, Rough Collies (like Lassie), and any dog with that has the words ‘sheep’ or ‘shepherd’ in them.
You would be right; these are all excellent working farm dogs. But did you know that Rottweilers got their start as livestock drovers?
Rottweilers were bred as livestock drovers and are instinctive herders and protectors, but you still need to socialize and train your Rottweiler. Once trained, their natural size, strength, energy levels, endurance, and protective instincts make them ideal for an active and working lifestyle on a farm.
Rottweilers make it onto almost every list of the best farm dog breeds. That’s great to know, but what makes them so good at farm life, and what roles are they suited to specifically?
Rottweilers: A History Of Livestock Herding And Droving
In learning about a dog breed, it is often very informative to look at its history. After all, every official dog breed you can get was bred for a purpose and so possess traits and characteristics suited to that purpose.
Even dogs who were initially bred just to be companion lapdogs display traits suited to that job.
So, what is the history of the Rottweiler breed?
Way back, when the Roman Empire was conquering the known world, their legions would travel widely and bring livestock herds with them for food.
They used ancient Asian mastiffs to develop the first ancestors of today’s Rottweilers, and the purpose of these dogs was to move with the legions and herd and protect the livestock.
Over time, the Roman Empire collapsed, but the drover or herding dogs that they had developed were not lost.
They got a new gig as drovers and herd protectors in a German town called Rottweil, and here they received their official name.
Specifically, they worked to herd and protect cattle as they were moved to the market.
To suit their purpose, Rottweilers were bred to be strong, durable, good with livestock, protective, and good at working with people.
It was only when rail cars were developed, and Rottweilers were no longer required to herd livestock to market, that they were introduced to police, protection, and service work.
The characteristics that were bred into them were perfectly suited to this new type of employment.
Rottweilers’ Size And Strength Are Suited To Farm Life And Work
Rottweilers weigh an average of 80 to 135 pounds and stand 22 to 27 inches tall. Males are bigger and heavier than females, but both genders are heavily muscled to support their large frames.
In most respects, living on a farm is physically more demanding for both humans and dogs.
With this size and degree of muscle, you can imagine how well-suited and capable they are of working and coping with almost constant activity.
A Rottweiler’s size and strength also make little differences. They are less likely to slip through fences, get lost in fields—you’ll easily spot their massive, black and tan forms—get injured by livestock, etc.
Keeping Your Rottweiler Safe On A Farm
Even though the size and strength of Rottweilers mean that they are less likely to be injured on a farm than smaller dogs, you have to be aware of the possible dangers that exist on a farm.
This will help to ensure that your Rottweiler is safe when working or keeping you company as you go about your chores.
For example, you shouldn’t let your Rottweiler:
- Wander off alone
- Interact with bigger animals without supervision and training
- Have access to rivers, dams, and reservoirs
- Be near operating farm equipment without being trained in obedience and having supervision
Additionally, as they are out with you, they might not have access to water, so you will need to make sure that you can keep them hydrated during the day.
This can mean specific rehydration breaks when you return to the house, or it may mean carrying a water bottle with you.
A great solution that is lightweight and easy to pack is the lesotc Pet Water Bottle for dogs. From its lightweight design, to the leakproof seal, we love everything about this product.
Their size can be a bit of a problem as well if they do get injured while out working with you. You can’t just pick your Rottweiler up and carry them home if they sprain a muscle or get kicked by a cow.
Make provisions for such situations, such as bringing a cellphone or walkie-talkie with you so that you can call for help.
Rottweilers’ Protective Instincts Are Suited To Farm Life And Work
You may be looking for a dog to protect the livestock they herd, or you may be looking for a companion who will function as a personal protection dog to you as you work alone on the farm.
In either case, a Rottweiler’s natural protective instincts recommend them to this purpose.
You will have to train your Rottweiler, however, as they can become pushy and want to be the alpha as well as protector, so you will have to make sure that you remain pack leader.
You also have to be able to control your massive Rottweiler, so training is vital.
Training Your Rottweiler For Farm Life
Socialization usually occurs when dogs are puppies, and it is a crucial factor in rearing well-mannered and well-adjusted dogs.
Socialization is the process of exposing a dog to various sensory stimuli, situations, people, and animals so that they know how to deal with all of these things.
If you want your Rottweiler to be a working herder, you will have to socialize them with cattle, sheep, or whatever other animals you raise.
You don’t want your Rottweiler to be scared or aggressive around the animals with which they will be working.
Obedience training is vital for all dogs, but on a farm, it is arguably even more important.
Good recall is needed for when your dog is out in the field or in possible danger from farm equipment or animals. You also need to be able to control them when they are protecting you or their herd.
Commands like ‘stay’, ‘jump’, and ‘go home’ are also very useful on a farm.
Rottweilers have natural herding instincts—they have even been known to try and herd the children in their families—but these need to be honed, and your dog needs to learn how to work with you.
Without proper training to tamp down their natural herding instincts, while cute and enjoyable to watch, things can get out of hand.
For this reason, it is important to look past the entertainment factor and get serious about mitigating herding behavior.
Rottweilers’ Energy And Endurance Are Suited To Farm Life And Work
Rottweilers who are properly conditioned should be able to keep up with you throughout the day as you do all the maintenance work that a farm requires.
In fact, they are relatively high-energy dogs who need plenty of daily exercise, and life on a farm is a great way to ensure that they receive the right amount of physical stimulation.
They also have the capacity to build up enough endurance to handle long cattle drives, etc., just like their Roman drover ancestors.
One thing you have to be cautious about is preventing a young Rottweiler from straining its developing muscles and joints.
As a large breed of dogs, Rottweilers take longer to mature physically and may only be ready for a full day’s work after two years.
You can still take your Rottweiler out with you for short times so that they can get used to the activities, but you will also have to enforce rest times until your Rottweiler is fully matured.
Are Rottweilers Good Livestock Guardian Dogs?
There is a difference between livestock herders and livestock guardian dogs.
Herders are bred with a prey drive to chase the animals they are herding and to work closely with their human handlers. Guardian dogs are bred to be more independent and have a low prey-drive.
Rottweilers are too human-orientated and have too high prey drives to be left alone with herds.
Whether you just want a companion while you go about doing your daily chores on your land, or you are looking for a hard-working farm dog, then the Rottweiler is a great choice.
They are big and strong, energetic, durable, and protective. Rottweilers were bred to work with livestock and human handlers and will be very happy to work and spend their days with you.