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Should You Get a Rottweiler or a Doberman? Buyer Beware!

Choosing the right dog breed is critical for a long and happy partnership between the owner and dog.

Choosing the wrong breed results in, at best, a disappointed owner and, at worst, a dog that must face the trauma of being rehomed.

Rottweilers and Dobermans are two breeds that appear very similar on the surface.

There are, however, some crucial differences you must understand when considering if you should get a Rottweiler or Doberman.

Rottweiler and Doberman together

Rottweilers are large, powerfully muscled dogs. They are dominant territorial and excellent watchdogs. Their physique is ideal for power sports and activities. Dobermans are large athletic dogs with high energy levels. They excel at high energy, intense sports, jobs, and personal protection.

In this article, we will supply you with some information on the differences between Rottweilers and Dobermans and their needs.

If you are undecided on which bred to get, carry on reading.

Physical Characteristics Of A Rottweiler Vs. A Doberman

Dobermans and Rottweilers are related and share a common history. Although they developed side by side, there are some physical differences.

When deciding on a dog breed, you need to know the physical dimensions of the dog as this affects the space they need and the amount of food they eat.

Sadly, many dogs are rehomed because owners did not expect their adult size.

Height males24 – 27 inches26 – 28 inches
Height females22 – 25 inches24 – 26 inches
Weight males95 – 135 pounds88 – 99 pounds
Weight females80 – 100 pounds71 – 77 pounds
CoatDouble layered but shortShort fine coat with minimal undercoat
Coat colorBlack and tanBlack, red, blue, and fawn
Top speed25 miles per hour32 miles per hour

Rottweilers are slightly shorter dogs with a sturdy, muscular build. Dobermans are taller with a lean athletic build.

Rottweilers will only be able to maintain a burst of speed for a few hundred feet as they are not built for sustaining top speeds.

Dobermans can maintain their top speeds over a much longer distance. They are the ultimate athletes in the dog world.

Both dogs have short coats, which are easy to manage. A weekly brush is sufficient to keep the coat looking good.

Rottweilers may need grooming more often when they shed their winter coat.

Owners can manage Rottweiler and Doberman coats at home, and professional dog grooming is unnecessary. 

The short coats of both these breeds make them unsuited to coping with icy conditions. They need protection from the cold.

Source: DPCA, AKC

Rottweiler and Doberman sitting together
RottweilerSturdy, muscular dog. Short coat requires minimal grooming.Large size can be difficult to manage. Shed twice a year. Cannot cope with cold weather.
DobermanAthletic large dogs. Short coat with minimal grooming needs.Short coats do not protect from the cold.

What Is Their Behaviour Like? 

Behaviour is critical in whether the dog breed is right for you and your family. Rottweilers and Dobermans are both wonderful dogs, but they have some behavioral differences which can influence your decision.

It is important to look at all aspects of behavior. How they are with other pets, how they behave with children, and how much attention and training they need. 

Dobermans and Rottweilers are both large intimidating dogs that some people have bred irresponsibly to be overly aggressive.

When looking at puppies, you should be aware of this trait and try to avoid it.

The following descriptions relate to Doberman, and Rottweiler temperaments in dogs bred responsibly.   

What Is the Behavior And Temperament Of A Rottweiler?

Rottweiler standing in grass

Rottweilers were bred as an all-purpose farm dogs. They protected the farm, herded cattle, and even pulled small carts.

They needed to be calm, level-headed, confident dogs to fit this function. Correctly bred Rottweilers should still show these characteristics today.

Rottweilers bond strongly with their family and are quick to protect them if the need arises.

Some Rottweilers are lovable clowns with their families, while others have a more serious approach to life. They score ninth in a listing of dog breed intelligence.

They are territorial dogs and bark loudly if unknown people enter their yard.

They will bite if they perceive the threat warrants it. Rottweilers must be well socialized from young to avoid them being indiscriminate in the protection of their territory.

Rottweilers thrive in the company of their family. Their common-sense approach to life allows them to tolerate the owner’s absence without becoming anxious.

They can become destructive or dig craters in the garden if they are not stimulated or do not receive enough attention.

They are loyal to their owners but can be aloof with strangers.

Some Rottweilers consider themselves lap dogs and will attempt to climb on your lap.

Rottweilers enjoy being part of the family activities and are happiest in the company of their owners.

Young Rottweilers are exuberant, boisterous dogs that can easily knock over children or old people.

They are enthusiastic chewers, and it is essential to provide them with chew toys if you do not want your garden destroyed.

They are late to mature, and you can expect the puppy stage to last until about two years.

What Is The Behavior And Temperament Of a Doberman?  

Doberman sitting in grass

According to Stanley Coren, a canine psychologist, Dobermans rank fifth in dog breed intelligence.

They are quick to learn and, like most intelligent dogs, are sensitive and must be carefully trained.

Positive reinforcement works best when training Dobermans. They do not tolerate harsh training and can become overly anxious or aggressive if the training is punitive.

Dobermans are dogs of extremes. They can be your best friend, but you do not want them as enemies.

Loud noises such as thunder and fireworks are often a problem for Dobermans.

The kennel clubs regard this as a fault and will disqualify dogs showing this trait. Careful breeders should try to eliminate the behavior, but it is present in many Dobermans. 

Dobermans take loyalty to their family to the very top levels.

Some Dobermans will only bond with one person. They are very protective of their people, making them top-notch personal protection dogs.

The video below does an excellent job of highlighting the different aspects of both the Rottweiler and Doberman that make them both excel as protection dogs:

You may also like: Top 5 Best Guard Dogs to Protect Your Home and Family

Dobermans are often aloof with strangers and will regard them with suspicion. This has caused them to get an undeserved reputation as unpredictable, dangerous dogs.

A well-socialized, trained Doberman will learn to tolerate and accept visitors, depending on the owner’s reaction to the strangers.     

Dobermans are not dogs that can be left alone for long periods. Many develop separation anxiety if their owners are absent for lengthy intervals.

Their athleticism allows them to jump fences and walls if they are unhappy. They are clever enough to learn to open doors and windows to escape, becoming a danger to themselves.

It is critical to ensure that your Doberman is as balanced as possible to allow you to leave it for short periods.

Dobermans are high-energy dogs and need both mental and physical stimulation to keep them happy.

Are Rottweilers Good With Children And Other Pets?

Rottweiler in sand with little girl

Well-bred Rottweilers are generally good with children and small animals if they are socialized when they are young.

It is critical to teach children to respect the dog as often children may wish to sit or ride on the Rottweiler because of his large size. This should not be allowed.

It is important to know how to manage Rottweiler’s that play roughly, especially if you have children.

Certain techniques and training methods can make it safer when this large, powerful breed gets boisterous and wild in play. 

Rottweilers are often difficult with other dogs of the same sex due to their naturally dominant disposition.

It is critical to match the dogs carefully if you want a multi dog household. T

he Rottweiler will probably end up as pack leader. Keeping multiple Rottweilers together should only be done by an experienced dog owner.   

Rottweilers were bred to be farm dogs, so if they are trained correctly, they should be tolerant and protective of livestock. 

Are Dobermans Good With Children And Other Pets?

Doberman and Yorkie together

Dobermans are large, strong dogs that must be socialized with children, dogs, and other household pets. They have heightened loyalty to their family members and can serve a useful function in protection.

Dobermans should be included in activities involving children from the start so that they develop positive associations.

Many owners make the mistake of excluding their Dobermans when they bring a new baby into the house.

Dobermans may be aggressive to dogs of the same sex. They can benefit from having a canine companion as it can ease separation anxiety if the owners are out.

It is critical to teach Dobermans to accept other dogs as they can become over-enthusiastic in protecting their owner, which can lead to dog fights.  

Dobermans should be introduced to cats, birds, and livestock as puppies to prevent problems as the dog matures. 

Temperament Summary

Gets along with childrenYes, if socializedYes, if socialized
Behavior with other dogsCan be aggressive to same-sex dogs due to dominance. Can live with other dogs, but socialization is important.Can be aggressive to same-sex dogs due to dominance. Can benefit from a canine companion.
Can live with other speciesYes, if socializedYes, if socialized
Protective rolesTerritorial and makes an excellent guard dog. Will protect property and family.Bonds closely to family and is an ideal personal protection dog
Can cope with periods by themselvesUsually, confident dogs that can deal with separation for appropriate intervals. Thrives on family time.Can develop separation anxiety due to extreme bonding. It is essential to work on keeping the Doberman well-balanced.

Source: UK Kennel Club, The Rottweiler Club

Who Is A Good Owner For a Rottweiler?

Most Rottweilers are dominant, particularly the males, and training is best started at an early age.

Obedience training is essential as Rottweilers are not above taking a leadership position if they feel the top spot is open.

Firm, kind training, and handling are essential. They are not good dogs for people who are indecisive or very gentle.

These strong-minded dogs respond well to confident owners who are assertive without trying to bully the dog.

Generally, Rottweilers are not good for first-time dog owners due to their dominance.

If the first-time dog owner is a confident, assertive person willing to work and learn from trainers, they may be a good owner for a Rottweiler.

A good owner for a Rottweiler will be committed to training. These are enormous dogs that must learn to respond to commands.

An untrained Rottweiler will tow its owner on the end of a leash, and visits to the vet will be a nightmare.

Who Is A Good Owner For A Doberman?

Dobermans are not good dogs for first-time dog owners. Their intensity, high energy levels, and need for training are best suited to someone experienced with dogs.

If you wish to leave your dog out in the garden all day and spend five minutes patting it, do not get a Doberman. Dobermans flourish when they can be with their owner for most of the day.  

All training with Dobermans should be done using positive reinforcement. They are sensitive dogs that do not respond well to negative reinforcement and punishment.

Dobermans that are harshly trained can become aggressive towards their owner or overly anxious.

When dealing with a Doberman in a family situation, it is imperative to ensure that it is stable.

Dobermans can become so attached to one family member that they growl at others who come near.

Dealing with these complex dogs requires a confident, kind owner, not prone to bullying.

Some owners are flattered by the Doberman’s attention and subconsciously or subversively encourage the dog in overdependence on the owner.

Dobermans are wonderful dogs when chosen carefully and handled correctly.

They are a loyal and protective member of the family, and they excel at obedience and learn quickly.

Pros And Cons

RottweilerIntelligent and learn quickly. Respond well to confident leadershipDominant, powerful dogs are not typically suited to first-time or indecisive dog owners. Need training to manage large size.
DobermanHighly intelligent and sensitive. High energy levels. Bond closely with owner and family. Learn quickly.Not for first-time dog owners. Must be trained to be emotionally balanced. Can develop separation anxiety.

How Much Space Does A Rottweiler Need?

Rottweilers do best in homes with large yards that allow them to exercise and prevent boredom.

They are intelligent dogs that enjoy the stimulation of being exposed to the natural wildlife and activities in a garden.

Rottweilers do not cope well with extremes of temperature. Their coat is not thick enough to keep them warm in freezing conditions.

Extreme heat can lead to Rottweilers suffering heat stroke as their shortened muzzles make heat dissipation through panting less efficient.

Rottweilers can be kept in apartments if they have owners committed to daily exercise and mental stimulation.

Apartment living is not suitable for young Rottweilers as their energy levels are high, and they will cause a great deal of destruction.

You may also like: Can a German Shepherd Live in an Apartment?

Rottweilers are large dogs, and living in an apartment may not be ideal because of their size. Find out how big Rottweilers get.

How Much Space Does A Doberman Need?

Doberman arms spread funny looking

Dobermans are best suited to large properties. They are intelligent, busy dogs that require a great deal of mental and physical stimulation.

Some of this stimulation can be acquired when the dog plays out in the yard.

This playtime lessens the burden of stimulation on the owner. This is not to say that a Doberman can be left out in the garden to entertain itself with no other input.

That is a recipe for disaster as Dobermans will find ways to entertain themselves, which the owner may not appreciate.

They are not dogs that are generally suited to apartment living. 

Pros And Cons

RottweilerWell-suited to large homes. Adults may live in apartments if the owner commits to exercise.May be too large for small apartments. Puppies and young dogs will be destructive in apartments.
DobermanSuitable for large properties. Get stimulation from outside play.Not suited to apartment living.

How Much Exercise Does A Rottweiler Need?

Rottweiler on lead

Rottweilers need about thirty to sixty minutes of structured exercise a day, depending on the dog’s age.

Some dogs are more active than others, and individual energy levels must be taken into account.

Rottweilers were cattle herders and walked behind the cattle moving them from one place to another.

Cattle do not generally move fast when they are moved as a herd. This was slow, steady exercise for the dog, and it is a good rule to follow when exercising your Rottweiler.

Rottweilers are heavy dogs and do not have the stamina to run long distances. They are prone to overheating when exercised vigorously for too long.

It is much better to take a Rottweiler for a walk or several walks a day than to try and tire it out by running a long distance.

Find out how much to walk your Rottweiler according to its age.

Rottweilers are good at power activities such as carting and tug of war. They combine their physical strength with intelligence in activities such as scent tracking and Schutzhund. 

How Much Exercise Does A Doberman Need?

Dobermans are high-energy dogs that need at least two hours of intense exercise daily. These dogs are exercise addicts and happily accompany their owners on any form of physical activity.

They are capable of running for long distances. Physically active owners that like to run or cycle with their dogs are ideal for Dobermans.

It is important to remember that young dogs should have limited exercise until they have fully grown and their growth plates have fused. Over-exercising any young dog can cause health problems.

Dobermans need mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. An activity combining both, such as scent tracking, will provide much better energy absorption than just physical exercise alone.

Dobermans excel at agility, flyball, skijoring, rally and Schutzhund. Any high-energy activities are perfect for Dobermans.

Source: American Rottweiler Club, PDSA

Pros And Cons

RottweilerNeed slow, steady exercise – walking is best.Do not do well with running long distances.
DobermanEnjoy fast, intense exercise such as running. Ideal for active sporty owners.High need for physical and mental exercise. Will become destructive and unhappy if these needs are not met.

Common Health Problems

An unfortunate fact in the modern world of dogs is that almost all breeds have developed health problems.

These problems may be due to genetics, the conformation or structure of the dog, or a mixture of both.

When choosing a dog breed, it is critical to know about the health problems inherent in that breed.

This knowledge will help you decide on the breed and allow you to choose responsible breeders who work to exclude the health problems from their dogs. 

Common Health Problems In Rottweilers

A common problem found in Rottweilers is elbow and hip dysplasia.

This condition occurs when the bones in the legs and joints grow abnormally, causing weakness and instability of the elbow and hip joints.

In a large dog such as a Rottweiler, the condition can be difficult to manage and usually requires expensive surgery.

Arthritic changes occur early in the affected joints and can considerably lessen the dog’s quality of life due to pain.

Rottweiler at veterinarian's office

Another bony problem that Rottweilers may develop is osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). The cartilage in the joints does not attach to the bones.

Cartilage acts as shock absorbers in the joints. When the cartilage is not functioning properly, it causes pain and inflammation. Surgery is required to correct the problem.

OCD commonly occurs in puppies that grow too quickly and over-exercise.

Puppy growth in Rottweilers must be carefully managed by diet. Puppies should not be vigorously exercised until their joints and growth plates have matured.

Rottweilers are at risk of developing eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy (Pra).

This is an inherited disease where the retina degenerates, resulting in blindness by four or five years old. A genetic screening test should be done on breeding dogs to exclude Pra.

Early-onset cataracts and eyelid deformities, namely entropion, and ectropion are also seen in Rottweilers. Entropian, ectropion, and cataracts can be surgically corrected, but it is usually expensive.   

Rottweilers are prone to subaortic stenosis, which refers to narrowing the major blood vessel taking blood from the heart to the body.

It may initially present as a heart murmur. It is a common cause of sudden death in Rottweilers.

A distressing condition sometimes seen in Rottweilers is Wobbler’s Syndrome.

This is a neurological condition where the spaces between the neck vertebrae are narrowed. The spinal cord becomes compressed, causing neurological symptoms such as stumbling, tremors, and gait instability.

Rottweilers have a higher incidence of cancers than some other breeds.

Osteosarcoma is commonly seen. It is aggressive and can progress rapidly, making it difficult to treat.

Lymphoma is another cancer seen in Rottweilers, but it is a more treatable cancer with a better prognosis than osteosarcoma.

Rottweilers may also have Addison’s disease, a condition where the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones to keep the body functioning.

It can be tricky to diagnose as it can mimic other diseases and, if left untreated, is fatal.

Von Willebrand’s disease is a bleeding disorder found in some Rottweilers’ genetic lines. These dogs have low levels of clotting proteins, making them prone to excessive bleeding, which can be fatal.

Glomerulonephropathy is a degenerative kidney disease in Rottweilers that results in kidney failure at an early age. Early detection allows this disease to be managed. 

Inflammatory bowel disease in Rottweilers is a condition where the lining of the intestines is compromised, affecting digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Frequent bouts of vomiting and diarrhea characterize this condition. It is managed with diet and medication.

Bloat and gastric torsion are life-threatening conditions in many large breed dogs, including Rottweilers.

Common Health Problems In Dobermans

Doberman at veterinarian's office

Dobermans have health problems that potential owners should be aware of. In common with most large breeds, they are prone to bloat and gastric torsion.

They are vulnerable to a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. The heart enlarges and weakens until it eventually fails.

Dobermans have a few bleeding disorders prevalent in the breed, one of them being Von Willebrand’s disease.

They may also get hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia, where the immune system malfunctions and attacks red blood cells and platelets.

Hepatitis, a chronic liver disease, may develop in middle-aged Dobermans.

Another liver disease seen in Dobermans is copper hepatopathy. Copper builds up to toxic levels in the liver. The result is jaundice and liver failure.   

Glomerulonephropathy may also sometimes occur in Dobermans.

They are also more likely to develop diabetes mellitus than some other breeds. Diabetes is a lifelong metabolic disease that can be managed with diet and medication.

Dobermans can suffer from intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), which is a painful condition. The discs in the spine displace or rupture, putting pressure on the spinal cord.

Surgery, rest, and medication are used to treat IVDD. Maintaining your Doberman at the appropriate weight helps prevent this disease.

Panosteitis is sometimes called growing pains in young Dobermans. It is inflammation of the long bones in the legs and is usually seen at eight to ten months.

Fortunately, rest and medication help, and the dog does not suffer lasting effects.

Hypothyroidism resulting in dry skin and hair loss is seen in Dobermans. This is managed by supplementing thyroid hormones.

They can also be susceptible to other skin infections and irritations. 

Source: Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, Carson Vet

Final Thoughts

Rottweilers are powerhouses equipped for guarding property and family. Dobermans are intensely loyal athletes that are perfect for personal protection dogs.

Both dogs are best suited to experienced owners, although Rottweilers are the easier of the two breeds.

Both breeds are intelligent and learn quickly. The potential owner must decide which dog best fits their lifestyle and activity level.