Rottweilers and Dobermans: What’s the Relation?


Two of the most iconic guard dogs are without question the Rottweiler and the Doberman Pinscher.

Their large size, strength, and intelligence make them striking and imposing dogs.

Very similar in appearance and other characteristics, one may wonder-are the two breeds related?

Rottweilers and Doberman Pinschers were both developed in Germany. They share many striking similarities because the two breeds are closely related. The Doberman breed was developed by crossing Rottweilers with Smooth-Haired German Pinschers, Black and Tan Terriers, and Old Shorthaired Shepherds.

Learning about how dog breeds were created and why can give a lot of insight into their nature.

The reason that Rottweilers and Dobermans are such excellent guardians is that they were purpose-bred for this role.

If you are considering getting a Rottweiler or Doberman puppy, it is a good idea to learn about the origin of these dogs.

The History of Rottweilers

Rottweilers are one of the oldest dog breeds. Their story goes all the way back to the ancient Roman Empire.

They are descended from the Molossus, a Mastiff-like dog. These powerful dogs contributed to the success of the Romans in conquering most of Europe.

Live animals had to be kept and transported to feed the legions on their long journeys.

Rottweilers were bred as working dogs to herd, protect livestock from predators, and pull carts for the Romans. Were it not for them, the Romans may not have survived their conquests.

For more on Rottweilers as farm dogs, be sure to check out: Are Rottweilers Good Farm Dogs?

Rottweilers were used as messenger dogs, guard dogs, and herding dogs during the Middle Ages.

In Germany, in the small town of Rottweil, butchers used these dogs to drive their cattle into town and to pull their meat carts.

After selling their livestock, butchers would tie their money bags around their dogs’ necks for safekeeping. This is where Rottweilers got their name!

When the railway expanded and cattle began to be transported to market, Rottweilers almost became extinct. This was also largely due to many smaller dog breeds being developed that were easier to keep.

The breed was rescued from extinction in the late 1800s. A few breeders who were devoted to Rottweilers kept the breed alive. However, due to the genetic bottleneck, Rottweilers today look a bit different than they used to.

Breed History of the Doberman Pinscher

Dobermans can be traced back to one particular man in Germany around 1890. His name was Louis Dobermann, and he was a tax collector.

At the time, Germany was politically unstable and in a state of civil unrest. Many people were antagonistic towards the Tax Man.

Dobermann, who was an experienced dog breeder, wanted to develop a breed that could accompany him in his work and protect him. He wanted the breed to look impressive and daunting.

By crossing Rottweilers with Smooth-Haired German Pinschers, Weimaraner, Beauceron, Black and Tan Terriers, Old Shorthaired German Shepherds, and Great Danes, Dobermann developed the Doberman Pinscher. It was officially recognized as a breed in 1900.

Rottweiler and Doberman Shared Characteristics

Both these dog breeds are big, black, and brainy. Rottweilers range from 70 to 135lbs, while Dobermans grow to between 70 and 100lbs.

Females are generally smaller than males. Their coats are most often black with tan markings on their legs, chest, snout and above their eyebrows. Dobermans can also be red, fawn, or blue.

Traditionally, Dobermans have their ears cropped so that they point straight upwards. Rottweilers, on the other hand, have large ears that flap down.

The practise of ear cropping has become controversial, with many owners opting not to have the cosmetic procedure done.

When left natural, Dobermans also have big, flapped down ears.

Both breeds are highly intelligent with a natural aptitude for training. They are able to anticipate threats, patrol their territory, and calculate levels of danger.

Their large size, strength, hard-working attitude, and strong bite force meant that these were popular breeds for military and police dogs.

Rottweilers and Dobermans have gained a bad reputation for being aggressive and have even been banned in some places.

6 Reasons Why Rottweilers Have a Bad Reputation

However, the accusations do carry some validity, as these dogs are powerful and have strong instincts to guard their owners. With improper training or neglect, they can be dangerous animals.

However, with proper training, Rottweilers and Dobermans can make devoted and loving pets.

Dobermans are exceptionally loyal and people orientated. They make brilliant therapy and assistance dogs.

Well trained Rottweilers are known for being very gentle with children and are considered great family pets.

Differences between Rottweilers and Dobermans

Although Rotties and Dobermans share many similarities, there are some significant differences between the two breeds, such as:

  • Body shape: Rottweilers are solid, stocky looking dogs, whereas Dobermans have a slenderer, more compact shape.
  • Size: Dobermans are slightly taller than Rottweilers, but the latter is heavier.
  • Temperament: Rottweilers can be more independent, whereas Dobermans generally need companionship.

    While Rotties are very loving to their owners, they do not develop separation anxiety as easily as Dobermans, who need companionship.
  • Energy levels: Both breeds should get at least an hour of intense exercise daily to keep them healthy and out of mischief. Dobermans are the slightly more energetic and intelligent breed, requiring more mental stimulation.
  • Life expectancy: Dobermans live to be 10-12 years old, and Rottweilers tend to have slightly shorter lifespans of 8-10 years.

Final Thoughts

Rottweilers and Dobermans are closely related breeds. The Rottweiler is the older breed and was used to create the Doberman Pinscher.

This is why they share so many striking similarities in their appearance, strength, intelligence and guarding abilities.

However, there are also many differences between the two breeds. Rottweilers are slightly shorter and stockier than Dobermans.

The latter can run faster and is a more high-energy dog than the Rotty.

Dobermans are very people orientated dogs who are intensely loyal and affectionate to their owners. If they are left alone and do not get enough physical and mental exercise, they develop separation anxiety.

Rottweilers, on the other hand, are slightly more independent in nature but still extremely loving to their owners.

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds and a variety of other large and medium breed dogs for over 20 years now - Labradors, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bull Terriers - just to name a few. Myself, along with my team of highly experienced canine professionals, strive to bring you the best and most useful information to help you raise your dog the right way. Read my story here.

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