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One is the fourth most popular dog breed in America and for good reason—they’re super-sweet, highly intelligent, naturally athletic, gentle with kids, and to top it all off…they look like living sunshine. The other is the strong, quiet type—calm, courageous, and built like a muscle-bound bouncer. These two dogs might seem like polar opposites, but in this edition of Animal Facts, we’ll take a closer look at the differences and similarities between the Golden Retriever and the Rottweiler to help you decide which one is your “top dawg.”
The first Golden Retrievers were developed in the Victorian Era by Lord Tweedmouth, Dudley Marjoribanks (try saying that three times). Tweedmouth’s endgame was to create the quintessential gundog to retrieve game at his estate in the Scottish Highlands.
Tweedmouth crossed the dog known as the “Yellow Retriever” with the Tweed Water Spaniel and further down the line, he added the Bloodhound and Irish Setter to the mix, thus creating the genetic foundation of the Golden Retriever we know today.
The modern-day Goldie made its debut in 1908 at a British dog show. Soon afterward, the breed made its way to America and was the new darling of the dog world, coveted by sport hunters, show enthusiasts, and animal-loving families. Although the Golden Retriever was sought-after from the start, its popularity surged in the 1970s when President Gerald Ford introduced his dog, Liberty, to America.
Fun Fact: President Ronald Reagan also owned a Golden Retriever, Victory, during his presidency.
The Rottweiler is an ancient herding breed that is thought to be a descendant of the drover dogs of ancient Rome. Drovers were strong, reliable, Mastiff-type dogs that were used to herd and guard cattle used by Roman soldiers for food. Eventually, the Romans made their way into southern Germany, and the Drover dog became an essential part of the cattle trade and remained so, even after the Romans were forced out of the area. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, these dogs were used by travelling butchers to guard money pouches that were tied to their necks, and herders would use them to protect and move cattle from pasture to market in the town of Rottweil—the town that gave them their name.
The Industrial Age saw a decline in the breed, as railroads became the most efficient means of getting stock to market.
The demand for police dogs during World War I spurred a resurgence of the Rottweiler. They served as messengers, ambulance and guard dogs, as well as in search and rescue operations—a duty that they still perform today. In 1931, the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, and today the Rottweiler is the eighth most popular dog breed in the U.S.
Size and Appearance
In terms of appearance, the Golden Retriever is the “beach babe” or “surfer dude” of the canine world.
The average height and weight for male Goldies is 22 to 24 inches and 65 to 75 pounds, and females range between 20 and 24 inches and 55 to 65 pounds.
There are three types of Golden Retriever: British, American and Canadian. British Goldies have a broader skull and their muzzles are more defined than the other types. They also have more muscular forequarters than the North American varieties.
The breed takes its name from the thick, wavy, double coat that comes in various shades of yellow, from cream to gold. Typically, the British coat is lighter in color than those of the American and Canadian. The eyes are dark and round, while the others’ eyes are almond-shaped.
American Goldies are less muscular than the other subgroups. They tend to have lighter eyes and darker coats that are slightly feathered, and range from a deep yellow to a reddish gold. Canadian Goldies usually have shorter, thinner coats and can be as much as two inches taller than their counterparts.
If the Goldie is the “surfer dude” of the canine world, then the Rott is the “muscle head.” The Rottweiler is a medium to large breed dog with a large head and broad muzzle. It is deep-chested and thickly muscled from its head to its hindquarters. The average male stands 24 and 27 inches at the withers, and weighs between 110 and 132 pounds. Females typically stand 22 to 25 inches at the withers and weigh anywhere from 77 to 105 pounds.
Its short, dense, double coat is black with distinct brown markings on the brow, cheeks, snout, chest, and legs.
Fun Fact: Unlike other breeds, the colors and markings of a Rottweiler do not vary from dog to dog. They will always be black with brown patches that come in one of three shades—rust, mahogany and tan.
Temperament and Family Life
Goldies never meet a stranger and are treasured for their gentle, yet confident demeanor. They also tend to be calm, trusting, and eager to please. All of these qualities make them the ideal family pet, especially if you have school-age children. On the other hand, these same attributes render them basically useless as guard dogs. Oh well…you can’t have it all.
It takes about three to four years minimum for a Golden Retriever to mature. Until then, they’ll have the lively, silly, playful temperament of the puppy you first fell in love with. Some of them never lose their youthful charm, and “suffer” from Peter Pan syndrome well into their later years.
Fun Fact: Two Golden Retrievers have had their achievements documented in the Guinness Book of World Records. One holds the record for the loudest bark at 113.1 decibels and the other for the most tennis balls held in the mouth—five.
As is typical of most “big dog” breeds, Rotties carry themselves in a quiet, confident manner but they tend to be big softies when interacting with their people. Although they’re known for their alertness and protective instincts, they love to let their guard down and clown around with family.
Since Rottweilers have a natural inclination to be territorial, they make excellent guard dogs. They tend to be aloof with strangers, but will warm up to new people or environments if given a little time. It is imperative to properly train and socialize your Rottie as a pup, so that you won’t have an exceptionally strong, aggressive bully on your hands.
Trainability and Intelligence
Due in part to its mild temperament, strong desire to please, and exceptional intelligence, the Golden Retriever is one of the easiest breeds to train.
The Goldie is a working breed, so it always needs something to do, and in recent years it has become the most popular service dog. The combination of intelligence, agility, patience, and docility are the “perfect storm” of qualities that are desired in an assistance, therapy, search and rescue, or emotional support animal.
Also, Goldens are the most forgiving dog to novice trainers with their innate desire to please their human companions.
The Rottweiler may be built like a bulldozer, but it’s more than just a “muscle head.” According to canine psychologist, Stanley Coren, the Rott is the 10th smartest dog breed in regards to trainability…and that’s a good thing, because its size and strength combined with its territorial instincts can make for a rather destructive loose cannon.
Rottweilers can also be stubborn, so be sure your personality is strong enough to handle one. This is a dog that is best suited to someone who is assertive, and can be firm and consistent when giving commands. If you let your Rottie take the lead, it will be more than happy to train you.
Professional training and socialization is recommended for all Rottweilers, especially if you are a first time Rott parent.
True to their working roots, this is a breed that needs something to do. Since they rank highly in obedience training, they often serve in the military, law enforcement, search and rescue and as customs inspectors. They are also frequently used as therapy and guide dogs.
Fun (or not so fun) Fact: Rottweilers have a bite force of 328 pounds.
There’s nothing that a beach babe or surfer dude loves more than fun in the sun and true to form, the Golden Retriever loves nothing more than an action-packed romp in the great outdoors.
To curb boredom and weight gain, your Golden boy or girl will need at least an hour of exercise each day, which can be split into two 30 minute sessions. Since they were bred to retrieve shot waterfowl—they have a soft mouth that is ideal for grasping game without damaging it—a vigorous game of fetch is always a great way for them to stay in tip top shape. Take your buddy for a brisk walk or jog in the park or neighborhood, or for a change of scenery and more challenging terrain, check out a hiking trail. Since Goldies were developed to recover aquatic birds, it’s only natural that they love swimming. It’s a great way for you both to stay cool in the summer, and for them to have fun in the winter. They’re not very sensitive to cold because their top coat is water repellent, and their undercoat, which helps cools them off when it’s hot, also keeps them warm when it’s chilly.
Other forms of exercise that are good for Goldies include agility training, dock diving, tug-of-war, and “hide and go seek the treats”—a game that will not only give them a great physical workout, but a fantastic mental workout as well.
Just like any well-sculpted bodybuilder, your Rottweiler will need a workout regimen that will keep their muscles tight, toned, and flab free, burn excess energy, and bust boredom.
A healthy Rott requires at least 45 minutes to an hour of exercise each day. The foundation of any dog’s exercise routine should be a daily walk or two at a brisk pace. Your Rottweiler will be no different in this regard, but how long the walk lasts will depend on your stamina—not theirs.
Walks should last a minimum of 30 to 45 minutes, and be supplemented by activities that build muscle. Stair climbing, swimming, tug-of-war and weight pulling are great for overall conditioning. Want to kick your fetch game up a notch? Play weighted fetch. Instead of tossing a ball or a stick around, use a lightly weighted item like a small, plastic dumbbell or sand-filled water bottle.
Since Rottweilers have well-developed chests and shoulders, it is important that the muscles in their hips and hindquarters develop properly.
Doggy squats (which are very similar to human squats) are a great way to strengthen the thighs, and having your pup walk into a narrow space and walk backward to get out of it, will work the hip extensor muscles.
Don’t forget to work your dog’s “main muscle”—the brain. To stimulate mental activity, add chew toys, new tricks, and puzzle, scenting, and nose games to the mix.
Health and Lifespan
The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 10 to 12 years. We know…not long enough for these gentle pups, or any dog for that matter.
Although they are a generally healthy breed, there are certain diseases and infirmities that Goldies are particularly susceptible to. Hip and elbow dysplasia, cataracts, allergies, progressive retinal atrophy, and OCD—no, not that OCD, but osteochondrosis dissecans, a condition caused by overgrowth of joint cartilage are some of the chronic ailments that are manageable, but can affect the quality of a Golden Retriever’s life.
Some life-threatening illnesses that Goldies are prone to include subvalvular aortic stenosis (a heart condition that can cause fainting or sudden death), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), bloat, and hemangiosarcoma (a cancer that originated in the blood vessels), and Von Willebrand’s Disease (canine hemophilia).
The average lifespan of a Rottweiler is eight to ten years—again, not long enough. So, it’s a good idea to focus on making sure your dog’s quality of life is the best it can be. A great starting point is to be aware of the health conditions associated with the breed.
Like most large-breed dogs, Rotts are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, bloat, and dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart becomes enlarged. Osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer, is another disease that large-breeds like Rottweilers are susceptible to. Treatments such as amputation and chemotherapy can substantially extend the life a dog with this form of cancer.