I read your column all the time and love it. Just a quick question. I have a Rotty/Shepherd mix that’s just over a year old. I’ve had him since he’s nine weeks old. Since I got him, I and the family has given him nothing but love, tons of socialization to everything and everybody, quick corrections with praise right after when he listens. He’s honestly never been a problem. Not destructive, he’s friendly and sociable. He lays down when other dogs approach on the leash and waits for them to sniff him before rising politely to sniff them. I had read that this was a puppy behavior, and he’d probably grow out of it, but he hasn’t, and I haven’t discouraged it. He walks extremely well with me on lead and is right beside me most times. My question is, due to the fact he’s still rather young, am I being lulled into a false sense of security? Will he at one point ‘change’ upon reaching adulthood? I ask this, as he’s a fairly big dog, and you always hear of those stories of dogs lashing out and everybody’s saying “It was such a friendly dog, you’d never think that he’d do that” etc. Thanks for any reply you can send my way. 🙂
That’s a smart question and one I wish more people should ask themselves, particularly with certain breeds. Back when Rottweilers were in their heyday, meaning people with more money then brains were buying them as identity accessories as opposed to a living creature with hard-wired genetic pre-dispositions, the average lifespan of a male became about 3 years of age because their owners lost control of them and had them killed.
These were the people that bought them without any research other than fashionable public opinion and usually from breeders interested in meeting demand rather than breeding for quality or finding qualified homes. These same people, not knowing any better, then treated them like they were Labrador Retrievers because most, in fact, do indeed behave like Labrador Retrievers; that is until they’re about 18 months of age. At that point, coming out of adolescence Rottweilers sooner or later catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror and say, “Hey, why didn’t anyone tell me I was a Rottweiler, and who are you telling to sit? You sit, lay down and roll over and let me see how fast you can do it!”
However, on the other hand, those people that bought a Rottweiler because they loved and knew the breed and raised them with a philosophy borrowed from my own father, “This is my house, you just get to live here.”, ended up with Labrador Retrievers that behaved like Rottweilers only when asked to.
When any breed of dog hits young adulthood there’s going to be a change in behavior. Some calm down, others get serious. The powerhouse breeds like Shepherds, Rottweilers etc. can catch dog owners off guard if they don’t lay a strong, “I’m the teacher, you’re the student.” foundation while the dog is young. Temperaments vary from a genetic perspective and your dog’s seem pretty easy going which combined with your handling diligence makes it likely that he’ll end up being a great pet so I wouldn’t worry too much. Just keep him on his toes and always in mind as to who has the opposable thumbs.