One of the most important and commonly neglected components of dog ownership is exercise. It is also one of the best solutions to many problems, as it serves so many functions besides just wellness of health. And because the rottweiler is a large breed that was bred to work, regular daily exercise it not just an option, it is a must.
At Old World Kennel, our dogs are exercised every day, 365 days a year. And when we say exercised, we are not talking about letting the dog merely roam in a fenced backyard by himself for a few hours a day. Unlike many other breeds, a well bred rottweiler is not a nervous dog. He is not the type that is inclined to run laps around an open area, until he has burned off his excess energy. A rottweiler also requires daily interaction with the family, and if he doesn't get it he will most likely take out his stress in some form or another. If you want to own a rottweiler, you must be willing to commit the necessary time each day to exercise him. Otherwise, there will most likely be a big price to pay.
As a minimum exercise program, our dogs are all walked twice a day. We try to space it out with 12 hours between each walk, and only take our dogs where they are free to roam off leash with us. The places that we take them vary from day to day, but we typically seek out isolated places with natural footing instead of concrete. This allows our dogs to exercise at their own pace, and also avoid the injuries caused by walking or running on a hard and abrasive surface. They are never out of our direct eyesight and voice control, and their own energy level governs whether they feel like walking, running, or playing with one another. Places that we frequent most often are wooded areas with creeks. This way the dogs can stop for a swim if they like, or get a drink of water along the way. It should be mentioned though that we do not allow our dogs to drink from stagnant water such as puddles or small ponds, because to do so would be an invitation for parasites like giardia and coccidia. But if the body of water looks clean and flowing, the likelihood of parasite infestation is reduced immensely. And swimming is great form of low impact exercise, which is great for dogs of all ages.
One question that we get asked frequently is how long we walk our dogs. Typically our adult dogs walk with us for 1.5 miles in the morning, and another 1.5 miles in the evening. Three miles a day seems to be a good general maintenance program for a healthy adult rottweiler, and the schedule does not have to be broken down exactly the same way that we do it. Some people prefer to take their dogs for only one long walk each day, and that is fine as well. However, one major benefit to walking twice a day is that our dogs almost never use the bathroom in their kennels. This isn't even something that we have to train them for, because they naturally prefer to avoid eliminating near the place that they sleep. Even dogs that come to us temporarily for training or breeding typically catch on to this habit within three or four days. Once they do, we normally don't have to clean up any messes in their kennels either.
Most dog owners know that a regularly exercised dog behaves much better around the home. They bark less, are less destructive, and are also much easier to train. What many people don't fully grasp are the many health benefits which are also the direct result of daily exercise. Of course everyone knows that exercise will increase stamina, maintain muscle tone, and generally make the dog feel better. But a very important reason that is commonly overlooked is that regular exercise serves to form a healthy skeletal structure. Hip dysplasia is a common condition in our breed, which many people believe is mainly hereditary. But the most recent studies done in Germany do not support this theory at all. The testing proved that in most HD cases, the condition was more frequently brought on by improper diet, injury, or the infrequency or absence of exercise. In agreement with this study, we believe that the old saying "form follows function" is definitely true. In other words, in order for a joint to form properly, it needs to be regularly and intelligently worked. The femoral head, or "ball" as it is more commonly referred to, needs to be deeply set into the acetabulum (the cup of the hip joint). Daily low impact walking will most definitely help the ball to work its way deeper into the cup, resulting in less laxity and a tighter hip socket. And for anyone who has ever had to watch their dog suffer from the pain of hip dysplasia, this argument to support regular exercise is the strongest of all. And for the record, in the 30 plus years that we have been breeding and owning rottweilers, we have never had a single dog that we raised end up with bad hips. True, we are also extremely conscientious about the health background behind our planned breedings, and fanatical about the diet that we give our dogs. But we truly feel that daily exercise is just as important to sound joint formation as those other two aspects, and strong and equal attention to all three areas has certainly worked well for us.
I would also like to mention a few more types of exercise that we do with our dogs in addition to our daily walks. Several times a week we work our dogs in schutzhund, which is an excellent form of exercise. We sometimes will also jog or bike with a dog that we are getting ready to show, but this is only done occasionally. This is due to the potential injury that can result if the pounding on a hard service is overdone. We do not agree with weight pulling as a form of regular exercise, again because it seems to be the cause of too many injuries. Some occasional cart pulling, however, can be a lot of fun for both dog and owner.
Exercising with your rottweiler can also save you money. You will both be healthier when you exercise, and as a result will spend less money at the vet or doctor's office. Your dog will be less likely to get hip dysplasia, which could help you eliminate the need for a very expensive surgery. And of course, a dog with a lot of penned up energy has a tendency to take out his frustration on your home and property, which can also cost you a ton of money. But one of the best reasons to exercise with your dog every day is because of how it will build the bond between the two of you. A walk in the woods can help you plan your day in the morning, clear your head after a busy day, or simply tune out the problems of every day life. Don't neglect this simple and very effective way to increase the bond between you and your dog, while at the same time investing in the good health of both of you.