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Rottweiler vs. Doberman Pinscher – A Comparison of Germany’s Finest Dogs

A detailed comparison between the Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher.
Written by Richard Jeng

Picking a dog is hard, especially if you’re choosing between two of Germany’s most iconic breeds. Both the Rottweiler and Doberman have similar qualities that make them great family pets. But they differ in temperament, traditions, physical qualities and more.

So how do these two breeds compare? The Rottweiler and Doberman are both big black dogs built with a muscular frame and powerful core. As such, both breeds have strong work ethics and are famously known for their loyalty – making them formidable guard dogs. While Dobermans are more vigilant, Rotties have a more playful nature.

Of course, there’s many more similarities and differences when comparing the two German breeds. Whether you’re picking between the two or just curious, we’ll examine all the unique characteristics of each dog.

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Breed Comparison Chart

A brief comparison chart of the Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher. Let’s take a quick look at the numbers, statistics and basics of the two dog breeds.

 RottweilerDoberman
Height:22 - 27 inches24 - 28 inches
Weight:80 - 135 pounds60 - 100 pounds
Group:WorkingWorking
Lifespan:9 - 10 years10 - 12 years
Coat:Short double coatThick and short double coat
Bred for:All-purpose farm dogs: guarded livestock, pulled carts, herding.Guard dogs, search & rescue, police and military dogs, therapy canine.
Temperament:Loyal, Affectionate, Brave, PlayfulLoyal, Courageous, Vigilant, Alert
Intelligence:9th smartest dog breed5th smartest dog breed
Grooming:Lots of potential for shedding, especially during shedding season. Short coat makes it easy to groom.The dense coat of the Doberman has a lot of fur. Basic grooming like brushing is required.
Exercise:A lot of exercise. Rotties are recommended to have 2 hours of daily physical activity.The Doberman needs roughly 1 to 2 hours of physical activity each day.

The Doberman Pinscher

The black and rust (tan) color Doberman Pinscher is the most popular and common variation.

Doberman Pinschers are large, powerful dogs with a sleek physique. They’re dignified dogs and will proudly assume their roles as the guardian and protector of the pack.

Prior to the widespread use of German Shepherds among K9 police units, Doberman Pinschers were once the breed of choice for these canine squads.

In the 1960s, Dobermans were primarily used for crowd control during riots. These dogs were inherently vicious and the aggressive tendencies were encouraged by the force. Furthermore, they were not well trained.

The problem with those dogs [Dobermans] is you never knew when they were going to turn on you, even on their own handlers.

Mike Johnson (President of American Police Canine Association)

This dog/human work relationship didn’t work out in the end, as they were replaced by German Shepherds shortly after. Though they still work in police forces around the world, they’re mainly companions and family dogs today.

The fact is, when properly trained and socialized, Doberman Pinschers are as sweet and affectionate as any other dog breed. According to Hills Pet, these dogs are people-oriented and love their owners like no other.

In the right family environment, they’re special dogs with a surprising affinity towards children. And although they’re great in large families, they usually have a strong bond with just one member of the pack.

The Rottweiler

Rottweilers are some of my favorite dogs. They’re powerful dogs with a muscular and meaty frame. Always calm and collected, Rottweilers are not usually aggressive. Rather, they’re a bit aloof.

But when you get to know a Rottie, their silly and playful nature really shines through. As endearing as they can be, they also know when to be serious and alert.

Thanks to their high adaptive intelligence, they’re some of the best at judging the threat level of a stranger or whatever else intruding on the family and property.

Rottweilers were derived from the Molossus dogs, which are essentially mastiff-type breeds. Some researchers speculate that they descended from the Italian Mastiff, whereas other believe they came from Roman drover dogs.

However, we do know for certain that they’re an old and ancient dog breed. As a matter of fact, Rottweilers are known for being the companion dogs of ancient Rome. During the Roman Empire, these dogs would be used as herders, guardians and messenger dogs.

Because of their history as premier working dogs, Rottweilers are still just as versatile today. They just don’t have as many opportunities to show their full set of skills.

Similarities: Doberman & Rottweiler

The reasons why Dobermans are even smarter than you think.

Both the Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher have a ton of similarities. All of which, make them both outstanding companions and that much more difficult to pick between.

We examine everything from their origins, to their temperaments, appearance and more. With that said, here are all the similarities between these two iconic dog breeds.

Made in Germany

If you don’t already know from the title of the article, the modern-day Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher were originally bred in Germany. At least, that’s who we give credit to.

Yes, both dogs are German dog breeds. However, the origin stories and history of how the two dogs originated in Germany are very different.

Though the ancestors of Rottweilers were working companions during the Roman Empire, the modern Rottie was the result of further crossbreeding.

Specifically, they were developed by crossing the Roman dogs with the local dogs of a small southern town in Germany, called Rottweil. Hence, the name: Rottweiler.

Oddly enough, the Doberman Pinscher was developed by a German tax collector named Louis Dobermann in 1870. It’s believed that he developed this breed by mixing various cattle dogs and shepherds.

However, the Doberman we know today was gradually refined in later years. For example, breeds like the Manchester Terrier and Greyhound were later introduced to the bloodline a few decades later.

Protective Guardians

No matter how many lists of “best guard dogs” you find, the Doberman Pinscher and Rottweiler will always top the list. That’s because they really are some of the finest guardians.

Both dog breeds are internationally respected for their loyalty, which is a quality found in all of the best guard dogs in the world. For this reason, they’re both naturally adept guardians. Their focus is on protecting the home.

One Rottweiler owner describes his dogs, saying:

I have two Rottweilers and they both alert me when they hear or see someone or something outside while we’re in the house. It’s almost to the point of being annoying sometimes.

– Rottie_boston_daddy (Reddit User)

Another Doberman owner explains how her dog loves people, but only those that he trusts:

My Dobie loves people but I’m his favorite. They can get guarded and standoffish if they think you’re being threatened or around someone they don’t trust.

– Jacquiep (Reddit User)

Other qualities of a highly capable guard dog are the alertness and vigilance of the dog. Both of which, are commonly found in these two dog breeds.

To be able to sense any intruders on their territory requires a special skill and instinctive intelligence that few dogs have. And those that do have it are prized as the top protectors of the dogdom.

Classic Black & Tan/Rust

Both dog breeds have a wide variety of coat colors. In fact, the Doberman Pinscher has at least 9 color variations (though only 4 are standard colors).

And while the Rottweiler has far less color variations, they have just 3 recognized standard colors. But the similarity is in the most iconic coat color for both dogs: black and rust.

Sometimes referred to as black and tan, this color combination has a base of solid deep black. Additionally, you’ll find tan (with a dark reddish hue) markings on the dog’s muzzle, chest, legs, bottom and tail.

Nearly every Doberman or Rottweiler will have this color combo (or a slight variation). This is especially true with the Rottweiler.

Technically, there’s no “black and tan” standard for the Doberman, but many refer to that as black and tan in the Dobie community. However, the Rottweiler has both “black & tan” and “black & rust.”

But no matter which official color you get, the coat colors of both dog breeds are very similar to the untrained eye.

Tradition of Tail Docking

Canine tail docking refers to the surgical procedure of removing a large part or all of the dog’s tail using medical-grade scissors. According to PetMD, this infamous procedure is also called “bobbing” a dog.

Of course, this is all done during the first week of the puppy’s life, usually between day 3 and 7. In addition, there’s been a lot of controversy and debate on the necessity and pain regarding this procedure.

Unfortunately, both Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers usually get their tails docked. There’s a long-standing belief that a docked tail leads to a safer working environment. And since both breeds are working dogs, they’ve been subject to docking for centuries.

The AVMA mentioned that there is currently no substantial scientific evidence to support these theories of a safer working environment for the dogs.

Today, tail docking has become a procedure for cosmetic purposes. Because a docked tail is how the Rottie and Dobie are supposed to look, breeders still choose to do so. It has become the standard and a tradition for these dogs.

Highly Intelligent Dogs

We believe that all dogs are smart in their own unique way. However, when it comes to obedience & working intelligence, Rottweilers and Dobermans rank among the best.

Really – both dogs scored in the top 10 category, making them some of the smartest dog breeds in the world.

While the the Doberman Pinscher was ranked the 5th smartest dog, the Rottweiler just barely cracked the top 10 as the 9th smartest breed. This puts them in a league of their own.

Dog breeds in the top 10 most intelligent category are able to learn a new command with fewer than 5 repetitions. That’s some quick learning!

What I find even more impressive is that these dogs are able to obey a known command on the first attempt with an unbelievable 95% or higher success rate. Dogs don’t get more obedient than that.

In addition, both dogs have extremely high adaptive intelligence, which refers what the dog is capable of learning for itself.

And because we already know they’re some of the best guard dogs, it’s a clear indicator or high instinctive intelligence.

Double Coats & Shedding

Potential dog owners who aren’t fans of grooming – we have bad news. Both breeds have a short double coat, which means more shedding than their single-coated counterparts.

Though Rottweilers almost always have a double coat that’s both short and coarse, the Doberman will sport a harder and thicker coat.

Double coats are fairly self explanatory. They’re coats with two layers of fur. The undercoat is a dense wooly coat that helps keep the dog warm.

In contrast, the top coat is comprised of “guard hairs” and has a rougher exterior that’s meant to protect the dog from external elements.

With that said, double coats usually mean double the amount of shedding, especially during shedding season.

All dogs shed more during spring and fall, but the Rottweiler and Doberman’s excessive shedding will be more noticeable come this time. Either dog, expect to deal with tons of shed fur.

Differences Between Rottweilers & Dobermans

Although Rotties and Dobies share many similar characteristics and qualities, they’re also very different in many ways. Here’s everything that’s different between the two dog breeds.

Ear Cropping

If you’ve seen enough Doberman Pinschers in your life, you know that their facial features stand out. Specifically, the ears.

With their long, pointy and erect ears, Dobermans were not born like that. Instead, their ears were cropped sometime in puppyhood – usually between weeks 8 and 12.

According to the Spruce Pets, this procedure must be done by a licensed veterinarian. Plus, the procedure requires general anesthesia. The post recovery process takes around 1 to 2 months.

Ear cropping is similar to tail docking, in the sense that it’s a surgical procedure done mainly for cosmetic purposes. In other words, to achieve a specific look of the breed standard.

And while both Rotties and Dobermans usually have their tails docked, only Dobermans have their ears cropped. It’s worth noting that not a lot of dog breeds get their ears cropped.

As a matter of fact, it’s just the Doberman, Boxer, Great Dane and the Schnauzers.

Popularity in America

You can certainly make an argument that both Rottweilers and Dobermans are popular dog breeds, at least in the United States. However, the Rottie is far more popular than the Doberman.

In the American Kennel Club’s ranking of most the popular breeds, the Rottweiler has consistently made the top 10. In fact, more often than not, they’re at the number 8 spot for popularity.

On the other hand, the Doberman Pinscher isn’t as popular, but still within the top 20. What’s interesting is that from 2012 to 2018, the Doberman Pinscher fell 6 places, from the 12th spot to the 18th spot.

So while Dobermans may be slowly losing in popularity, Rottweilers have remained consistent at worst.

This doesn’t really mean that Rottweilers are better family companions than the Doberman Pinscher. It’s just something interesting we’ve observed.

Difference in Temperament

Dobermans and Rottweilers share a lot of similar temperament qualities, such as loyalty, which both are famously known for. However, they differ in other ways.

The biggest different in temperament is that Dobermans are more serious dogs. Sure, they can be affectionate and loving, but they’re consistently alert, vigilant and always observing the environment.

My dobie struggles between taking naps and being vigilant. Someone once told me that Dobermans sleep with one eye open. Now I know what they mean.

– Grandala (Reddit User)

There’s a reason why Doberman Pinschers are so great at anticipating threats and potential danger. They didn’t become one of the world’s best guard dogs by being carefree and laid back.

The Rottweiler is alert as well, but not to the degree of the Doberman. Rather, they’re not as serious and more playful with a bit of a silly side.

In addition, Rottweilers are typically more docile than Dobermans. They’re more laid back and aren’t always surveying their territory. However, when it’s time to be serious, they quickly become different dogs.

When it comes to personality and temperament, individual dogs can vary quite a bit. Not all Dobermans and Rottweilers will have the same generalized temperament. Still, this is what we hear from the owners.

Physical Build & Size

Both dog breeds are big, muscular dogs. Even so, the frame and build of the two dogs are very different.

Rottweilers are considerably bigger, coming in at 80 to 135 pounds. Furthermore, they can stand as tall as 27 inches. Doberman Pinschers weigh just 60 to 100 pounds, but can grow up to 28 inches in height.

So while Dobermans are slightly taller, Rottweilers weigh a considerable amount more. That’s because Rottweilers are built with a more stocky and heavy frame. Dobermans are much more lean with a thinner frame.

The Dobie’s body is more compact and square, which some believe say looks more noble and graceful. In contrast, Rottweilers have a typical heavy-bone frame that you see with most mastiff-type breeds.

Other than the coat color, the appearance of both dog breeds are drastically different.

Rottweiler or Doberman?

Are Dobermans good with children? Let's investigate how great these dogs are with kids.

After taking a deeper look at the similarities and differences between the two, which do you pick? Both dogs have their own charm and there really is no easy choice.

For a companion or guard dog, you can’t go wrong with either. They’re both some of the most loyal dogs with a great aptitude for protection.

With that said, you should pick a dog based on their temperaments and your current situation. For example, Dobermans are known to prefer one owner. Though they can still thrive in large families, they tend to have a special bond with just one person.

And for families with older children, a Rottweiler might be the perfect playmate for them. Because they’re great with kids and have a playful nature, Rotties can keep them entertained for hours.

So there really is no wrong choice. Just make sure you provide your dog with the love and attention they need for a happy and healthy life.

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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.

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