The AKC Rottweiler Standard

What is a standard? Standards are talked about in school, business, and sports, but when it comes to dogs, the concept might be a bit perplexing. You might think that the standard has to do with the quality of your puppy. After all, shouldn't your rottweiler be the very best you can buy?

When talking about dogs, a standard is a kind of blueprint for the breed. A dog is said to conform to the standard when he meets the requirements for that standard. Dogs that closely conform to the standard of their breed are considered show quality. The AKC adopted its first rottweiler standard in 1935.

No rottweiler actually conforms 100 percent to the standard. The standard is the idealized form of the dog — that is, what the experts have decided about how the rottweiler should look and behave. The American Rottweiler Club draws up and approves the rottweiler standard, which the AKC then approves. When you go over a standard, you'll read about toplines, withers, scissors bite, and various other terms. The Complete Dog Book, by the AKC, can give you definitions of these terms.

How is show quality different from pet quality?

A show-quality dog is one that conforms more closely to the breed standard. A pet-quality dog is in no way inferior to a show-quality dog. However, the dog may have a physical fault or disqualification that prohibits him from being shown in the conformation show ring.

How important is the standard? Well, without a standard, a rottweiler might eventually end up looking nothing like a rottweiler at all! Given his background, he might start looking like a mastiff, or he might come out as just an average mutt. Because the rottweiler has been extremely popular, you'll find that many people breed rottweilers for profit, without any regard to the standard. This is why you may see rottweilers that don't look quite right or that have temperament problems. Reputable rottweiler breeders produce dogs that look and act like rottweilers. These breeders have an eye on producing quality puppies for pets, for show, and for work.

The official breed standard, according to the American Kennel Club, for the rottweiler is as follows:

General Appearance

The ideal Rottweiler is a medium large, robust, and powerful dog, black with clearly defined rust markings. His compact and substantial build denotes great strength, agility, and endurance. Dogs are characteristically more massive throughout with larger frame and heavier bone than bitches. Bitches are distinctly feminine, but without weakness of substance or structure.

Size, Proportion, Substance

Dogs: 24 inches to 27 inches. Bitches: 22 inches to 25 inches, with preferred size being mid-range of each sex. Correct proportion is of primary importance, as long as size is within the standard's range.

The length of body, from prosternum to the rearmost projection of the rump, is slightly longer than the height of the dog at the withers, the most desirable proportion of the height to length being 9 to 10. The Rottweiler is neither coarse nor shelly. Depth of chest is approximately 50 percent of the height of the dog. His bone and muscle mass must be sufficient to balance his frame, giving a compact and very powerful appearance.

  • Serious Faults — Lack of proportion, undersized, oversized, reversal of sex characteristics (bitchy dogs, doggy bitches).


Of medium length, broad between the ears; forehead line seen in profile is moderately arched; zygomatic arch and stop well developed with strong broad upper and lower jaws. The desired ratio of backskull to muzzle is 3 to 2. Forehead is preferred dry, however some wrinkling may occur when dog is alert. Expression is noble, alert, and self-assured.

  • Eyes — of medium size, almond shaped with well-fitting lids, moderately deep-set, neither protruding nor receding. The desired color is a uniform dark brown. Serious Faults — Yellow (bird of prey) eyes, eyes of different color or size, hairless eye rim. Disqualification — Entropion, ectropion.

  • Ears — of medium size, pendant, triangular in shape; when carried alertly, the ears are level with the top of the skull and appear to broaden it. Ears are to be set well apart, hanging forward with the inner edge lying tightly against the head and terminating at approximately mid-cheek. Serious Faults — Improper carriage (creased, folded, or held away from cheek/head).

  • Muzzle — Bridge is straight, broad at base with slight tapering towards tip. The end of the muzzle is broad with well developed chin. Nose is broad rather than round and always black.

  • Lips — Always black; corners closed; inner mouth pigment is preferred dark. Serious Faults — Total lack of mouth pigment (pink mouth).

  • Bite and Dentition — Teeth 42 in number (20 upper, 22 lower), strong, correctly placed, meeting in a scissors bite, lower incisors touching inside of upper incisors. Serious Faults — Level bite; any missing tooth. Disqualifications — Overshot, undershot (when incisors do not touch or mesh); wry mouth; two or more missing teeth.

Neck, Topline, Body

  • Neck — Powerful, well muscled, moderately long, slightly arched and without loose skin.
  • Topline — The back is firm and level, extending in a straight line from behind the withers to the croup. The back remains horizontal to the ground while the dog is moving or standing.
  • Body — The chest is roomy, broad and deep, reaching to elbow, with well pronounced forechest and well sprung, oval ribs. Back is straight and strong. Loin is short, deep, and well muscled. Croup is broad, of medium length, and only slightly sloping. Underline of a mature Rottweiler has a slight tuck-up. Males must have two normal testicles properly descended into the scrotum. Disqualification — Unilateral cryptorchid or cryptorchid males.
  • Tail — Tail docked short, close to body, leaving one or two tail vertebrae. The set of the tail is more important than length. Properly set, it gives an impression of elongation of topline; carried slightly above horizontal when the dog is excited or moving.


Shoulder blade is long and well laid back. Upper arm equal in length to shoulder blade, set so elbows are well under body. Distance from withers to elbow and elbow to ground is equal. Legs are strongly developed with straight, heavy bone, not set close together. Pasterns are strong, springy, and almost perpendicular to the ground. Feet are round, compact with well arched toes, turning neither in nor out. Pads are thick and hard. Nails short, strong, and black. Dewclaws may be removed.


Angulation of hindquarters balances that of forequarters. Upper thigh is fairly long, very broad, and well muscled. Stifle joint is well turned. Lower thigh is long, broad, and powerful, with extensive muscling leading into a strong hock joint. Rear pasterns are nearly perpendicular to the ground. Viewed from the rear, hind legs are straight, strong, and wide enough apart to fit with a properly built body. Feet are somewhat longer than the front feet, turning neither in nor out, equally compact with well arched toes. Pads are thick and hard. Nails short, strong, and black. Dewclaws must be removed.


Outer coat is straight, coarse, dense, of medium length, and lying flat. Undercoat should be present on neck and thighs, but the amount is influenced by climatic conditions. Undercoat should not show through outer coat. The coat is shortest on head, ears, and legs, longest on breeching. The Rottweiler is to be exhibited in the natural condition with no trimming.

  • Fault — Wavy coat.
  • Serious Faults — Open, excessively short, or curly coat; total lack of undercoat; any trimming that alters the length of the natural coat.
  • Disqualification — Long coat.


Always black with rust to mahogany markings. The demarcation between black and rust is to be clearly defined. The markings should be located as follows: a spot over each eye; on cheeks; as a strip around each side of muzzle, but not on the bridge of the nose; on throat; triangular mark on both sides of prosternum; on forelegs from carpus downward to the toes; on inside of rear legs showing down the front of the stifle and broadening out to front of rear legs from hock to toes, but not completely eliminating black from rear of pasterns; under tail; black penciling on toes. The undercoat is gray, tan, or black. Quantity and location of rust markings is important and should not exceed ten percent of body color.

  • Serious Faults — Strawcolored, excessive, insufficient, or sooty markings; rust marking other than described above; white marking any place on dog (a few rust or white hairs do not constitute a marking).
  • Disqualifications — Any base color other than black; absence of all markings.


The Rottweiler is a trotter. His movement should be balanced, harmonious, sure, powerful, and unhindered, with strong forereach and a powerful rear drive. The motion is effortless, efficient, and ground-covering. Front and rear legs are thrown neither in nor out, as the imprint of hind feet should touch that of forefeet. In a trot the forequarters and hindquarters are mutually coordinated while the back remains level, firm, and relatively motionless. As speed increases the legs will converge under body towards a center line.


The Rottweiler is basically a calm, confident, and courageous dog with a self-assured aloofness that does not lend itself to immediate and indiscriminate friendships. A Rottweiler is self-confident and responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment. He has an inherent desire to protect home and family and is an intelligent dog of extreme hardness and adaptability with a strong willingness to work, making him especially suited as a companion, guardian, and general all-purpose dog.

The behavior of the Rottweiler in the show ring should be controlled, willing, and adaptable, trained to submit to examination of mouth, testicles, etc. An aloof or reserved dog should not be penalized, as this reflects the accepted character of the breed. An aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs should not be faulted.

A judge shall excuse from the ring any shy Rottweiler. A dog shall be judged fundamentally shy if, refusing to stand for examination, it shrinks away from the judge. A dog that in the opinion of the judge menaces or threatens him/her, or exhibits any sign that it may not be safely approached or examined by the judge in the normal manner, shall be excused from the ring. A dog that in the opinion of the judge attacks any person in the ring shall be disqualified.


Faults — The foregoing is a description of the ideal Rottweiler. Any structural fault that detracts from the above described working dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation.


Entropion, ectropion. Overshot, undershot (when incisors do not touch or mesh); wry mouth; two or more missing teeth. Unilateral cryptorchid or cryptorchid males. Long coat. Any base color other than black; absence of all markings. A dog that in the opinion of the judge attacks any person in the ring.

Approved May 8, 1990
Effective June 28, 1990
©1999 by the American Kennel Club. Reprinted courtesy of the American Rottweiler Club.

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