Rottweiler breeding is a little harder than breeding other dogs. Here, you are dealing with a strong breed that requires training on top of the usual pedigree analysis and health checks. We asked Dana McMahan, knowledgeable Rottweiler breeder from the notorious Vom Bösen Blick line, and she told us how to breed rottweilers.
Dana knows about the breed, the lines, the dogs, the show and Schutzhund worlds, the health concerns, the morphology, the temperament, and so on. Having such an all-encompassing insight in such a popular breed made it really exciting for us to ask the questions we had on our minds.
Make yourself a cup of coffee and start reading!
Why breeding Rottweilers?
I got my first Rottweiler in 2001 after studying the breed for many years. I spent time apprenticing under several experienced dog breeders and learning as much as I could about pedigrees and the breed standard. I was very impressed with the ADRK breeding standards and I had started getting involved in the sport of Schutzhund and I wanted to be able to say that the dog I competed with was bred, owned, and handled by me. To me, training and competing at the highest level with a dog from my own breeding is my ultimate accomplishment.
Any opinion on American Rottweilers vs German ones?
Personally I do not think there is much difference between an American Rottweiler and a German Rottweiler except that the ADRK mandates much stricter breeding controls than we do here. More often than not, the “German” Rottweiler label is a sales pitch breeders use to charge more for their puppies, even though there may not be any imports for 2-3 generations or worse, I’ve had clients duped into buying a “pure German” puppy and I have to point out that half the pedigree is actually Serbian dogs. If someone is truly interested in having a “German” Rottweiler, then the only way to do that is to import the dog from Germany — one that is bred following ADRK standards.
The show versus working Rottweiler is also a hot sales label and many breeders will advertise a puppy as “for show and work” and yet they themselves have never trained and titled a dog. My advice is to research the pedigree yourself and research your breeder:
- How long have they been breeding Rottweilers?
- How often do they compete with their dogs?
- Do they go to one show a year but have 5-6 litters that year?
- What qualifies them to state a puppy has show or working potential?
- Have they gone to seminars on breeding and structure?
Don’t just trust what a breeder says; triple check everything and only believe what you can see for yourself.
In your opinion, what are the top three mistakes Rottweiler breeders make?
One of the most concerning trends with Rottweiler breeders is that there are a lot of ‘overnight’ dog breeders. You will see someone at a Sieger show and then find out they are on their 5th or 6th litter. They never produce anything worthwhile, and within 5 years you never hear from these breeders again. Breeders need to spend more time learning about the breed, about their pedigrees, and learning about structure and temperament before ever putting a litter on the ground. They should have a breeder with 20+ years of experience who they are being mentored by.
Another mistake I see breeders make is not health testing their dogs completely. I know it is expensive but every dog should have not just the Hips and Elbows checked but also the eyes, heart cleared by Echo, and be tested for JLPP. These should be the bare minimum that all buyers require before dropping $3000-5000 on a puppy.
The third mistake I see breeders make is not placing their puppies in suitable homes. I work as a professional dog trainer in Orange County and many breeders refer their puppy buyers to me for help with basic obedience training. Unfortunately, I see puppies placed with owners who have no business owning a powerful breed like the Rottweiler, or they are given a dog with too much drive for them to be able to handle.
Breeders need to make sure owners have Rottweiler experience or don’t place a puppy with someone unless you follow up on its training. I’ve met too many owners who are in over their heads with a dog on the verge of being aggressive because the breeder placed a dog with too much drive in a home that wasn’t prepared to handle it.
What does a day with Vom Bösen Blick look like?
I personally have two young children so our day starts very early.
Every dog gets individualized time a minimum of 5 times per day, which may be a social time in the yard, house time, swimming, or training. My competition dog goes with me at least 4 days a week to training and I always try and bring an extra dog along for the ride. If I have pet dog clients I need to meet, oftentimes I bring a dog or two with me for distraction training.
For day to day stuff, every dog is on a different feeding regime so twice a day I am mixing food, supplement, and medications. I don’t have litters often but I try and make sure as soon as they are mobile they are outside in a play-enriched area. And then obviously there is lots of kennel cleaning that comes with owning dogs which I typically do in the afternoon and last thing at night.
How do you decide on the price of each one of your puppies?
I personally was mentored to believe that the price of a puppy is the price of what a well-bred companion should be. At 8 weeks we have clues on which puppy may excel in the show ring or in work but there are no guarantees between 8 weeks to 2 years that a dog will pass its health clearances or mature the way we think they will. So rather than price some puppies higher as a “pick of the litter”, I personally price all dogs the same, and “picks” are based on what puppy best matches that family or individual.
You can pay $2,000-3,000 more for a “pick of the litter” but that won’t change the fact that the puppy may end up with hip dysplasia, an overbite, or else, down the line. If you price every puppy at the price of a well-bred companion, then as a breeder you can focus your attention on making placements based on what dog is the best fit for that family or this individual.
What are the specimens, lines, and breeders, that you particularly appreciate?
I focus my own breeding program with the goal being I want to produce a dog that can do high-level IPO training. I’ve spent 15+ years showing dogs in conformation and I appreciate good shoulder layback, a well defined zygomatic arch, strong top line, great reach, drive, etc. But at the end of the day, my goal is to win the IPO World Championships in Rottweilers. So I am making deliberate sacrifices in the conformation of my dogs and looking strictly for strong Rottweilers that excel in the work.
Since I do have a background in showing Rottweilers, I do appreciate certain breeding programs out there. One of the best Rottweiler breeders I believe in the world is Ann Felske-Jackman and Mike Jackman of Esmond Rottweilers located in Canada. They have really perfected having dogs that are correct examples of the breed, have good health and longevity and are also excelling in multiple disciplines (e.g. Schutzhund, herding, agility, etc.)
Another breeder I strongly admire is Adrienne Dehaas of vom Eschenhagen Rottweilers. I’ve gotten to work with several of her dogs for titles and find that they are a really nice balance of working ability, clear and social temperament, good health, longevity, and correct conformation.
For individual dogs, I’m a big fan of dogs going back to Max vom Turnleberg. He is a dog who is consistently in the pedigrees of the top dogs at the IPO championships. I have a Max granddaughter right now who I am preparing to compete within a few weeks. One of the strongest Rottweilers I’ve ever seen was Max’s son, named Zeus vom Turnleberg.
How do you decide and organize your future breedings?
I personally have a very small breeding program — I am not in a rush to put out a lot of litters as I do a lot of breed rescue and see that there isn’t a huge market of qualified Rottweiler homes. So breeding a lot has never been my goal. I have bred 3 litters in the last decade, using external studs twice. I have frozen semen stored on my old competition dog I plan to use sometime down the line when I find a bitch that will fit with his pedigree/temperament.
I think the important thing is for breeders to not be kennel blind to their dogs and their faults — have a plan not just for the breeding you are doing now, but for what your next steps after that may be. Don’t just breed to a big name dog or a dog with a pretty head. For myself, even though I was in love with my old competition dog’s abilities, I am not blind that there may be better working dogs out there than him so I’ll always strive to look for the very best working and producing dogs to better my lines.
Right now, there are not very many breeders in the world breeding strictly for working ability so I pay close attention to who is breeding to which dog, and how those puppies are working out. Since I do not breed often, it’s a benefit to learn from others’ successes and failures.
What do you think about linebreeding and inbreeding Rottweilers?
I think linebreeding and inbreeding can be good things when done correctly. Some of the best producers in our breed have come from careful line-breeding decisions and I’ve seen successful inbreeding done as well. It’s really important to know the dog you are line breeding on though as I see a lot of breeders make a big deal about line breeding on a certain big-name dog and they have never seen or put their hands on that dog.
There is one dog in particular who was a big name stud dog but he was a sharp and slightly nervy dog which is evident in videos of him, but people line bred on him for his pretty head type and then are surprised they get puppies that are sharp and slightly nervy.
For me, my litters have all been outcrosses just because I had other goals in mind with those breedings. I am not opposed to carefully done inbreeding or line breeding, but I would caution breeders to make sure if you are doubling up a dog in your pedigree, that you know everything there is to know about that dog (and its parents and littermates.)
How did you find your very first forever homes?
I have been lucky that I have gotten a lot of referrals for puppy homes through referrals from other breeder friends. I have done a small amount of advertising through my website or Rottweiler forums, but generally, I try and maintain an informative Rottweiler website whether I have puppies to sell or not.
For new breeders, if you put in the time and find a good mentor, network with other breeders and establish a name for yourself in the Rottweiler community then it should be no problem placing your puppies in good homes.
How do you make sure your puppies are well-socialized?
I do think early socialization is so important for Rottweiler puppies so I kind of go overboard trying to show them as many experiences as possible when they are young.
My son was 2 years old for our last litter of puppies, so he was responsible for handling and playing with the puppies every day. Additionally, my puppies have an indoor and outdoor area so I make sure both have plenty of enriching activities like tunnels, ball pit, puppy play gym, ramps, teeter-totters, kiddie pool, etc.
I do weekly temperament testing to try and figure out which puppies will excel in different activities. For new owners, since I work as a dog trainer I offer free dog training with every puppy I sell to try and ensure they are all good citizens and learn at least basic obedience and manners. I’ve been really lucky to have some amazing homes who keep me up to date on their puppies and the adventures they are having.
You can follow Dana on her kennel’s Facebook page!