Nature gave the wild forbears of our dogs not only the physical, but also the mental and spiritual powers which they needed in the struggle for existence. With domestication the urge and the occasions for the use of these powers grew less, under the influence of the human will. This unquestionably brought about a change in the mental attributes of the dog in the course of many thousands of years; the basic elements have remained the same, but their character and their functional capacity and intensity have been altered in a greater or lesser degree. For example, the instinct of flight was immensely more important among the primitive ancestors of the dog than it is today among breeds in which for a long time other instincts, e.g. the fight instinct, have been preferred. Another example is offered by our hunting dogs, which possess characteristics which are in part quite contrary to those of their forbears which hunted for their living. The nature of the dog was formed, stabilized and up to a certain point made uniform, according to the wishes and needs of man, by breeding, selection, and rejection. We may therefore speak rightly of the specific qualities of character of a breed by which they are more or less distinguished from other breeds.
The account given here of the character of the Rottweiler in its essential features is based upon many observations and comparisons in every kind of situation, upon exchanges of experience and opinion with those best qualified to judge, and last, but by no means least, in the knowledge that there are always gaps between those qualities which are generally present and the ideal, which is the aim of responsible and conscious breeding to close so far as possible. For it is upon the preservation of his good character that the Rottweiler must depend if he is to retain his circle of faithful adherents. His place is where mere external, elegant, or grotesque exaggeration of form do not set the standard, but when a dog with particularly well-marked qualities of character is desired and esteemed. This is not only nor in the first place a question of the use of the Rottweiler as a working dog, but also and above all, the question of the dog as a domestic pet in the home, in businessm and in the workshop - the watchdog, companion and guard dog. To this sphere the Rottweiler, as a result of long domestication, brings a great measure of trustingness, loyalty, and adaptability, qualities which greatly ease his absorption into the course of domestic life, his adaptation to the customs and procedures of business, etc. Distrust is a quality which is not very strongly marked in the character of the Rottweiler as with all courageous dogs. He remains, however, always reserved and watchful towards all newcomers and strangers, though mostly not to an excessive degree and without unnecessary barking. His ability to learn and especially his capacity for adapting himself to his enviroment is very great and is much prized by professional dog handlers. That a breed which has so long been bred for use, possesses an exceptional willingness to work is as self-evident as the Rottweiler's capacity to retain what he has learned in the course of training. It is not for nothing that trainers who are familiar with other breeds are often heard to say, "When the Rottweiler has once grasped a thing, it sticks." A quality which is particularly striking in such robust and courageous dogs is their tractability both in and out of doors, generally combined with patience and with cheerfulness which is hardly ever disturbed. He is, so to speak, always in a good mood. Consider for example, the way in which this strong and valiant fellow puts up with children or how tolerantly he lives with other domestic animals once he knows them.
The Rottweiler is a tough dog. This applies not only to his physical needs, but also to his mental disposition. By a tough dog we mean one that soon forgets unpleasant or painful experiences and does not allow himself to be influenced by them in his subsequent behaviour. Despite this toughness, most Rottweilers are very tractable, i.e., they easily subordinate themselves and are exceptionally obedient. The Rottweiler's reaction to external stimuli is generally deliberate and seldom hasty. He has a certain moderation of temperament, a quality which is both desirable for a working dog and for a pet. Nothing can cause more disturbance or annoyance, if not serious danger, than a dog with a very highly strung or excitable temperament. The Rottweiler behaves calmly and peacefully in the family, at home, in public and in traffic. He does not bark on every insignificant occasion and when left alone readily accepts the inevitable. He does not need an undue amount of exercise and for this reason he is a quite good dog to keep, even in a town. Moreover, he is easily house trained and does not push himself forward or make a fuss. Where there is an opportunity to let him run about free, one need have no hesitation in allowing him this pleasure, because when let out alone he has little inclination to fight, pays little or no attention to what goes on around him, and is not much given to chasing things.
The diminution of certain instincts as a consequence of domestication is in many ways a good thing, but it has it's limits, e.g. good nature should not degenerate into stupidity and lack of resolution; calmness and peaceful temperament should not change into laziness and undue love of comfort. The decline of the tracking instinct must also be avoided in the interests of the working qualities of the dog and the preservation of a harmonious character. The Rottweiler still possesses exceptional powers of scent and often gives proof by his ability to track. The preservation of these valuable qualities undiminished must be the task of breeding, supported by practical work and careful judgement of each animal.
How stands it with the Rottweiler in regard to the quality called sharpness, a quality of the working dog which even today is often misunderstood and wrongly interpreted? By sharpness we mean (Following the definition of Dr. Menzel) the constant readiness of the dog to react most rapidly and in a hostile way to external stimuli. If one reflects upon this definition, one is led to the conclusion that in working dogs, whatever the purpose for ehich they are used, a very high or exaggerated degree of sharpness is not a desirable thing. Jean Sir, the well known expert on working dogs, considered for example, that a guard dog should possess normal sharpness and that this, as far as practicable, should not be exceeded. This requirement, the validity of which has been demonstrated a thousand times in practice, is fully satisfied by the Rottweiler. Dogs which are too sharp can easily cause uproar and danger without any serious reason. Such dogs often possess little or no courage; they flare up, but do not stand their ground in the face of danger.
The courageous dog is one which meets resoultely and without fear the dangers which threaten it and its human companions. Courage is a quality which is unmistakable in the Rottweiler. This fact is of inestimable value for only a courageous dog possesses the true instinct to guard, i.e. readiness to protect his master against dangers without being compelled and without regard for his own safety. The firmer a dog's courage is, the more pronounced is his instinct to guard and the more reliable his performance as a guard dog.
Now we often observe dogs whose qualities of courage and sharpness cannot be denied, but which only show moderate readiness to guard and ward off danger. These dogs lack the impetus to attack: the fight instinct. A dog with strong fighting instinct takes up the fight without regard for pain and danger and sees it through whatever may befall. The Rottweiler is well endowed with the fighting instinct; without this valuable quality he could not have survived or have been able to fulfill his tasks, which were often connected with fighting. The important task of preserving and strengthening the established nature of the Rottweiler was fortunately recognized at an early stage by breeders. The qualities of character are taken fully into consideration and no Rottweiler is used for breeding unless he has been thoroughly tested.
Let us once again sum up the character of the Rottweiler and it's principal features: He is a faithful and obedient dog, loyal to home and master, possessing medium temperament and sharpness; a bold and fearless dog who keeps the peace for a long time, but in case of need attacks swiftly and without regard for consequences, who combines joy in battle with readiness to guard, but soon changes to a peaceful mood and possesses firmness of nerves in all situations, that is the Rottweiler.
There is one thing that he is not: he is not a dog to be kept in captivity or on a chain. Naturally one can occasionally keep even a Rottweiler in captivity or tie him up for a short time, but if this is done all the time his character will be ruined. The more he can be in the company of men, the more intimate the family relationship, the more firmly does he attach himself to man, and the more do the good, useful and aimable sides of his character reveal themselves. Thus there arises as Paul Eipper has so well expressed it, "A beautiful relationship based on reciprocity which may grow and deepen in an unimaginable degree."