Rottweiler: A misunderstood species

A huge rottweiler charges towards your dog. A million questions race through your mind. Is it going to rip my pet apart? Tear its throat out? Maul it like a rag doll? With bated breath, you await the helpless cries of the victim. Your baby yelps. But wait, the yelp rings of joy, not fear. The big, black hound’s not swiping, but pawing playfully. It’s not biting, just nipping gently. The rottie’s not on a death chase, it’s in a frolicsome jog.

The rottweiler a natural born killer? No, it’s not.

Not all of us share the same sentiments. A recent report in The Straits Times announced proposed rules for owners of rottweilers issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). One has to fulfill several conditions: leashing and muzzling the dog in public; implanting a microchip in the animal; taking up an insurance policy of at least $100,000; putting up a banker’s guarantee of $2,000, which is forfeited if the dog strays, bites a person or is reported lost; and sending the dog for obedience training.

This Breed-Specific-Legislation (BSL) that the AVA seems so intent to pass, means one will incur insanely high costs to have one.

But really, are the dogs to blame? Are they as ferocious, menacing, and aggressive as they are made out to be? The statistics speak for themselves. According to The New Paper (TNP), there are 323 rottweilers in Singapore. 60 dog-biting cases take place every year. Out of the 60 cases, 3 of them involve this breed. That’s 5 per cent. And due to the negative reporting of this 5 per cent of rotten apples, the entire community is under public scrutiny, fighting off biased, vicious comments thrown their way.

The Strait Times article was headlined with “AVA to take the bite out of rottweilers”, portraying them as “potentially dangerous dogs” even before the reader gets past the byline.

However, according to TNP’s report, the rottweiler is made out by the American Kennel Club to be a “calm, confident and courageous dog that chooses friendships carefully”. It also harbors a strong “desire to protect home and family, and is an intelligent dog with a strong willingness to work”. We don’t see any of these qualities emphasized in certain reports.

Instead, rottweilers are often portrayed as being bred to kill. Strong words such as “mauled”, “tore” and “ripped” are used, and the viciousness of the bite is often played up. According to the 2002 Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, the top 4 dog biters are, in order of prevalence of occurrence: the German shepherd, cocker spaniel, rottweiler and golden retriever. Shocking? You probably didn’t see “cocker spaniel” and “golden retriever” coming, because they are often depicted as gentle, family dogs.

Why is there a disparity in the treatment of rottweilers? As TK Haw, 31, owner of two rottweilers puts it, “For every vicious attack you hear in the media… there are hundreds if not thousands more [of the dogs] that work every day beside responsible owners that engage their dogs mentally and physically.”

Bear is the older of the duo but is distinctively smaller in size. He is the disciplinarian whereas Bruno is the fun-lover

TK’s Rottweilers, Bear and Bruno train with the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) Search and Rescue Unit. Their scope of work includes locating victims trapped under rubble, in burning buildings as well as forested areas. They are also qualified Therapy dogs.

Being qualified Therapy dogs, Bear and Bruno often visit old folks’ homes and mental institutes to aid the patients there in their recovery. Therapy dogs have to possess characteristics such as being highly confident and calm. This is due to patients screaming and shouting, even rough-handling the dogs unexpectedly.

During the interview, this UrbanWire reporter was introduced to Bear and Bruno. Both rottweilers mingle easily with adults and children alike. They interact freely with other dogs too, at times taking on the protective brotherly role. So why the bad reputation of rottweilers when there are 2 exemplary specimens right here?

TK explains, “Rottweilers are big, strong intelligent dogs… As they are pretty big, many owners fail to even bring their dogs out for walks, much less allow them to interact with the outside world. Imagine putting your own child at home and protecting him until he is 18, then asking him to get out and fend for himself. He will be scared, skittish, and probably be in a very bad mood. This is exactly how the rottweiler, or any other dog that is penned up all day in the same area with little or no stimulus, would be…”

The fault it seems, lie with the owners. However, by punishing the owners through fines and compulsory policies, rottweilers, indirectly, will be affected too.

TK offers an alternative solution. “The problem is really about educating existing and new dog owners what exactly constitutes to having a dog. The responsibilities and the basic knowledge of dog keeping should be taught to them. The knowledge is readily available, but the main issue is really to just have dog lovers actually agree on a course syllabus.”

Will educating owners help eliminate, if not, reduce the discrimination towards rottweilers? UrbanWire certainly hopes so. The road might be a long and arduous one, but perhaps one day, they will shake off the stigma associated with them, and we will realize the immense potential this breed has to offer.

About Eileen Kang

Eileen is an eccentric, anal individual who has profound interest in Johnny Depp and the likes of similarly charming men, blogging, poetry, fashion (or at least what makes her look good) and writing. She harbors the intention of becoming either a journalist or a copywriter (of which both, please note, are very anal retentive people), and seeks to publish a book detailing her colorful life when she is nearing her deathbed, or at least when she can't brandish her mascara wand with fervor anymore. She personally loves to write, but likens the writing process to taking a dump. You struggle to expel all that goodness, heave a sigh of relief when it's all done, but feel slightly empty after that. In other words, UrbanWire will be her main form of release, following which, once overflowing with sh... goodness she means, her blog will be another outlet she turns to. Told you she was eccentric. :D
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  • Eugene

    This comment is probably coming too late. However, for owners of larger or “dangerous breed” dogs deserve some immunity. To start with, to own such breeds, owners have to be living in a private property. And if our “buddy” is simply wanting to protect us from intruders, they deserve similar rights as some other nations where trespassers can be “prosecuted”.

    They are simple “pals” who like any close friends or family will do anything to protect their family. However, in Singapore, even if it’s your “own land”, an attack on a burglar will still result in them being put down. They are innocent “family members” who put the home first, and why should they be punished in such a manner?

  • Refilwe

    Hi I’m Fifi,
    I own a Rottweiler and, for the sake of my dog and others that suffer because of bad owners, I wouldn’t mind implementation of a Breed-Specific-Legislation. Obedience training and leash in public I agree with. But I think the money requirements and insurance stuff is a bit much. I own a dog, not chemical weapons

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  • I like Caws’ comment that ” If you are considering getting a rottweiler, do go to obedience training but understand it is for YOU and not the dog.”. A dog training is like a parenting /communication workshop. A spoil brat child shows a parent who does not instill proper discipline. There are no bad dogs, only lousy dog owners.

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  • CAW

    I know my comments are a long time after this article was written but I have only just moved to Singapore with my rottweiller. My dog is 9.5 years old and I agree entirely with the article and TK that the problem lies with the owner.

    It is a great responsibility and priviledge to own a dog…any dog and especially to own a rottweiler. For those who have owned this breed will know that they are loyal and kind.

    The basis of good dog ownership is realising that all dogs are pack animals and that there will be a leader of the pack. We brought them into the domestic world – a world and set of rules which is foreign to them – and therefore, we have the responsibility to be the pack leader and teach our dog confidence and control.

    Excercise and intellectual stimulation is key as is setting the ground rules early.

    It breaks my heart to walk my beautiful dog who is not violent at all and has grown up with children and other dogs but now has to be muzzled in public. It is upsetting to watch people cross the road to avoid us. All the while, owners of smaller dogs allow any behaviour in the parks and dog runs and simply pick their dog up when they cannot control them. It is lazy and potential dangerous dog management. What are those owners going to do if they dog misbehaves and they are not around to pick it up?

    Anyway, I have ranted enough. If you are considering getting a rottweiler, do go to obedience training but understand it is for you and not the dog.

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  • DN

    It is sad to read Kyle’s comment. I have personally seen dogs of smaller breeds like chihuahua and poms charging towards people, kids, or anything that moves and their owners helplessly screaming like a nut case chasing after them. Imagine the damage a small dog could do to a 1-year old baby. Owners of small breeds in Singapore are ridiculous and helpless when it comes to training and controlling their dogs. The loudest dogs in the neighborhood I stayed in are always small breeds or the ever popular Golden Retrievers.

    A note to everyone reading this. Earth is not just a planet for humans. We share it with other animals as well. We are not the landlord so be patient, generous with our thoughts and stop blaming others when we ourselves could have done something in the first place to prevent “shit” from happening.

    Aside to Raymond, you can easily get information and tips via Google if you are really interested to find out. Put some effort and don’t expect to be spoon-fed when you claim to really want to keep the pup. Ask yourself first before asking others.

  • Raymond Onyekachi

    my parents purchased a rottweiler puppy. I have been mandated to find out about the breed. We have heard so many reports about this breed my mum really wants to return the dog but I want to keep it.What do I need to know about this breed.

  • TK

    dear Kyle,
    Interesting comment.
    You mentioned that when your dog gets angry, you get scared of it?
    Unfortunately that should not be the case one bit. It is rather obvious to me that you and your dog should be trained how to interact. I am also rather confident in saying that you are probably not the “alpha” nor the one that actually feed your dog.

    Your breif comment clearly shows a lack of research and understanding to what constitutes to rearing a happy, well trained dog. I will be more than happy to help you understand your dog better and how to communicate successfully with him.

    It is unfortunate that it is exactly this lack of understanding that creates ill-informed opinions and owners, which would than create the problems we have today.

  • Kyle Sim

    I have a dog, and when it gets angry, i get scared of it. so i can imagine how people feel when they have a crazed rottweiler attacking their dog. although attacks are the exception than the norm, adequate precautions must be taken by the authorities to protect those of us who want to keep our pets safe.

    a brilliant perspective piece by the writer. however, its is better to protect the majority by inconveniencing the few, than to have powerful dogs who are governed by ANIMAL INSTINCTS rip to shreds little chihuahua’s.