Dog Training Smartest Dogs

Are Rottweilers Smart Dogs? – Here’s How They Compare in Dog Intelligence

Rottweilers are smart dogs. In fact, they're the 10th most intelligent dog breed.
Written by Richard Jeng

If you’re planning to bring home a Rottweiler, then there’s a lot of things you’ll need to consider. Puppy vaccinations, diet, training, temperament, among other things are important. But how about a Rottweiler’s intelligence?

So, are Rottweilers smart? Yes, Rottweilers are extremely smart dogs. In fact, they’re the 10th smartest dog breed according to canine psychologist, Stanley Coren. Though they excel in obedience, they’re known for having high adaptive and instinctive intelligence.

But what exactly makes these dogs so smart? To understand the intelligence of Rottweilers, we first must examine the criteria in which Coren used for his trial tests. 

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How We Measure a Rottweiler’s Intelligence

We measure how smart a Rottweiler is based on Stanley Coren's two criteria.

Psychology professor Stanley Coren received both criticism and praise for how he conducted his trials on dog intelligence. There was a lot of controversy surrounding his methods.

We don’t think his criteria is absolutely accurate in measuring dog intelligence. However, it’s a great starting point. Plus, it’s really all we have at this moment.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Stanley Coren had the help of 199 obedience trial judges for his research and trials. Using his criteria, the North American trial judges evaluated and ranked individual dog breeds.

Only dog breeds recognized by the AKC or the CKC were tested in Coren’s tests. In addition, only breeds with at least 100 responses were qualified for his final list of smartest dogs.

Coren’s Intelligence Tests Were Based On 2 Factors:

  1. The number of repetitions it took for the dog breed to learn a new command. Dogs capable of learning with fewer repetitions were “more intelligent.”
  2. The percentage that a dog breed successfully obeys a known command on the first attempt. A higher success rate meant that the dog was more obedient and intelligent, according to Coren.

The purpose of the criteria is to measure the ability of the dog to learn a command and how well they retain their knowledge following the learning process. 

How the Rottweiler Performed

Based on Coren’s test criteria, the Rottweiler performed extremely well. On average, a Rottweiler is able to learn a new command with just 5 repetitions or less!

Equally impressive, Rottweilers are able to obey a known command on the first attempt with a 95% success rate (or higher). If you think about it, this is quite amazing! Who knew Rottweilers were this obedient?

With the stellar performance, Rottweilers scored among some of the “smartest” dog breeds in the dogdom. In fact, they’re in the top class for canine intelligence – the top 10!

Other breeds such as the German Shepherd, Border Collie, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever and the Doberman Pinscher are also in this class. 

Given how all those dogs play such a vital role in police work, herding, search & rescue and other various canine jobs – being grouped with this class is nothing to scoff at. 

Rottweilers vs. Average Dogs

A dog with “average” intelligence is able to learn a new command with 25 to 40 repetitions. In other words, the average dog needs at least 5 to 8 times more repetitions to learn a command.

Additionally, average dogs will obey a known command on the first try with just a 50% success rate. Not nearly as impressive as the Rottweiler, but not too bad either. 

There’s nothing wrong with being average. Some of the most popular dog breeds in the world are considered “average.”

For reference, popular dog breeds in this category include the Siberian Husky, Australian Shepherd, Boxer, Great Dane and Dachshund.

Owners: Is Your Rottweiler Smart?

We surveyed real Rottweiler owners and asked them, "is your Rottweiler intelligent?"

Now that we know Rottweilers are exceptionally quick learners and obedient dogs, what do Rottweiler owners think? We think this is the best method of gauging a breed’s true intelligence.

For this section, we decided to survey real Rottweiler owners from the popular Rottie sub Reddit and other forums. Here’s what they had to say to the question: 

1. Wrath4771 says [YES]: “Rotties are great with other breeds…They’re an intelligent breed that likes to keep busy. Having another dog around will definitely keep them entertained.”

2. Laichas says [YES]: “They’re very smart, my Rottie can open the latch on his crate (simply because he saw us do it). Make sure that you not only physically exercise them (going outside is mental stimulation for them) but also that you stimulate their minds with puzzles, toys, and regular training. If they get bored they will break stuff!”

3. Monoxide211 says [YES]: “I’ve had them my whole life and have enjoyed everyone of them. Smart, protective, highly trainable and loyal! They just want to be part of the team.”

4. Jnnytoronto says [YES]: “We’ve had [our Rottweiler] for only 5 days and he sure is smart, a little stubborn, mischievous, but an awesome dog!”

5. Theglorybox says [YES]: “They’re very smart, and very loyal. Mine picked up on things quickly even as a puppy. Just be careful, because they will also try to outsmart you! As long as they know who is the boss (you) they’re amazing dogs.”

6. A_cat_farmer says [YES]: “They are so smart! My Rottweiler is 12 weeks old and can already sit, stay, come, lay down, go to bed, shake, up/down, as well as dramatically play dead!”

7. Denniepie says [YES]: “Training a rottie is a two-edged sword at first. They are so smart, they sometimes have the idea that they really don’t need your input. But once they get the plot, working with them is a dream.”

8. Rugger81 says [YES]: “They are great dogs and very smart, eager to please their owners, and are very well balanced dogs if trained properly.”

9. Dreamsofglasswolves says [YES]: “Rottweilers are indeed very intelligent and there’s no reason you couldn’t train him to the same standard…” 

10. 9grendel9 says [YES]: “You couldn’t choose a better dog to spend your life with. Smart, playful and loves there peeps more than any pup I have ever been around.”

11. Jacktomothy says [YES]: “I have had 3. Mine were all smart, loyal, fearless, and doofus’s. I love how they always keep an eye on you. They make you feel secure. They really are more human than dog.”

Other Reasons Why Rottweilers Are Intelligent

Rottweilers are intelligent in other ways. They're more than just obedient dogs.

According to Stanley Coren’s intelligence trials, Rottweilers are fantastic leaners and very obedient dogs. However, I would argue there’s more to Rottweilers than just tricks and bids.

Though measuring how fast a dog can learn can correlate with high intelligence, it doesn’t tell the full story. Obedience and working intelligence is just one component of a dog’s true IQ.

As a matter of fact, there are three dimensions to dog intelligence. The other two are instinctive and adaptive intelligence. Both of which, are probably more important.

Smart Guardians

Instinctive intelligence refers to the ability or special skill that the dog breed was bred for. Nearly all dog breeds were bred for a purpose, whether it be herding, companionship, protection or retrieving.

For example, Australian Shepherds were bred to be herding dogs. The fact that they’re able to instinctively push and move livestock requires instinctive intelligence. They were not taught this ability.

In the Rottweiler’s case, they’re famously known to be some of the most protective and loyal dog breeds ever. As such, they were bred to be some of the most feared guardians in all of the dogdom.

Because they were originally developed to be drovers, or protectors of livestock (cattle), they have an inner instinct to protect and defend. This is the Rottweiler’s instinctive intelligence – and, they’re some of the best.

Make no mistake, there are many great guard dogs in the world. Most of them are big and vicious dogs. But what make Rotties arguably the best is an unbelievable understanding of the environment and situation.

In other words, they’re smart enough to accurately interpret who is a threat and who isn’t. For this reason, Rottweilers make great guardians for children. Or at the least, another set of eyes to keep them away from trouble.

High Adaptive Intelligence

The last dimension of dog IQ is adaptive intelligence. It refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. Dogs with high adaptive intelligence are better at solving problems and learning from mistakes.

Individual dogs within a breed have relatively the same instinctive intelligence. However, adaptive intelligence can vary amongst individual dogs.

There’s no objective way to measure adaptive intelligence. Still, we can gauge this type of intelligence from the stories of the dogs.

For example, one Rottweiler owner tells us:

Rotties are smart…The first time I was throwing a stick, my other dog kept stealing it. My rottie looked at me and I said ‘get me a stick.’ I had never used the word before but he figured it out and got a stick. He got one so huge the other dog couldn’t carry it so he wouldn’t steal it.

– Ciaran668 (Reddit)

This owner’s Rottie was able to “figure it out” by observing the other dog grabbing the stick. If this isn’t a sign of high adaptive intelligence, I don’t know what is.

Another Rottweiler owner explains:

My rottie is super sharp at figuring out what we plan to do. Every time we grab our sunglasses or the doggie bags, he patiently waits next to the leash because he knows were going for a walk.

– Emerson K. (Rottweiler owner)

Through years of experience, Emerson’s Rottweiler was able to figure out the “hints” that led to different situations. Again, a clear indicator of high adaptive intelligence in Rotties.

We understand that these are just two examples. But if you asked any Rottweiler owner, they would likely have plenty of stories just like these.

Does Owning a Smart Rottie Matter?

The truth is, you don't really need a smart Rottweiler.

Does it really matter if you have a smart dog? The truth is, there really is no need to have an “intelligent” dog breed. Nearly all dogs are capable of providing you with what you need.

Unless you’re looking for a breed with a specific skill set for a complicated task/job, you’ll be okay with just about any dog breed.

Perhaps the only benefit of owning a breed like the Rottie is their ability to learn quickly. If you’re big on tricks and obedience, then Rottweilers aren’t a bad choice.

Is the Rottweiler Right for You?

Despite their tough appearances, Rottweilers are actually very affectionate dogs. Additionally, they’re sensitive and highly intelligent.

All of these factors are the reasons why they develop such close attachments with their owners. So much so, that Rottweilers tend to develop separation anxiety. 

A huge part in forming a wonderful bond is having good communication. Rottweilers are smart enough to understand what their owners want and figure out a way to communicate what they want.

Not all dog breeds are capable of this, but the Rottweiler certainly is. 

So instead of asking whether Rottweilers are smart, it’s better to ask if the Rottweiler’s personality and temperament is right for you. At the end of the day, you’ll want a dog that can fit your needs. 

If this is what you’re looking for, then I would definitely recommend the Rottweiler. There are few large dog breeds as great as the Rottweiler. 

Do you own a Rottweiler? Is your Rottweiler smart? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd. Read More.

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