Cause of Unexpected Rottweiler Aggression

We are having problems with some Rottie aggression. We took a 1 year old Rottie from the rescue 3 years ago….we’d had an older Labrador who died at 17 last summer. They had become great friends. The Rottie protected his territory at the back of the house and we had a secure space there where they slept. It’s a busy centre here with maybe 15-20 people for most of the time. He bonded closely with me particularly after the Lab died. He enjoys his meals – balanced meat/biscuits and has plenty of exercise. Over the past couple of months he’s begun snapping at people he knows, both at the back of the house and in the garden. Several times I’ve seen him nuzzling up, being stroked where he likes it under his head and behind his ears and suddenly with no warning he snaps then withdraws….He’s a loyal, obedient and lovely dog and we don’t want to have to put him down but we’re desperate and frightened that he’s going to hurt someone badly. Any advice that might help with our hottie aggression problem would be very welcome,

Many thanks,

Tim (Cambria UK)

Three possible reasons for Unexpected Rottie Aggression

Dear Tim,

In my experience if a dog has had 3 consecutive years of exemplary behaviour (no aggression) and it suddenly starts snapping at people, particularly people it knows and the owner has no idea why the first consideration is an underlying health issue and I advise them to take the dog in to the veterinarian for a complete workup. That workup would be a minimum of a thorough examination of ear canals, eyesight, and x-rays of neck, spine, hips, elbows, teeth etc as well as a full blood panel. When the blood panel is completed, because of the aberration in behaviour, I would make a distinction between something being within the norm and being well within the norm. If some element is slightly within the norm I wouldn’t accept that as necessarily being indicative as normal for the specific dog.

You may unearth an underlying physical issue that is directly or indirectly impacting your dog’s behaviour. By indirectly I mean that if the dog’s overall threshold for stress is being compromised he might be somewhat more reactive. By directly, I had a case many years ago of another Rottweiler with two inexplicable bites in. He two had a perfect track record and had bitten two people from whom he was accepting some normal head scratches. X-rays revealed some damage to his neck which I believe caused pain when he stretched his neck out towards the person when they withdrew their hand. I think the dog felt the hand that was scratching a second before then “pinched” him and he reacted in keeping with his breed’s genetics.

The second reason behind this sort of thing is usually tied into dots that the dog owner has yet to connect and those dots are related to a change in the dog’s life outside of what might be obvious to the dog owner. Events that are from the dog owner’s perspective peripheral to the dog’s existence can still have an impact on their behaviour. A change in a work shift, significant other etc. any routine alteration can alter a dog’s behaviour.

In your case, I’m wondering if the other dog’s death isn’t a possible underlying factor. Not so much (although possibly) the lack of companionship has thrown him off but perhaps the other dog had a more direct influence on his behaviour then you realized. Some dogs do act as a stabilizing factor on the other dog or dogs around them and without their acting as a governor and without a human stepping in to doing so their baser instincts can get out of hand.

Here’s a link to someone with a similar rottie aggression problem.


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