The perfect way to describe me is as a sentinel: strong, calm, and imposing. I have a natural protective instinct and can be vicious in certain situations, which is why we work as police and military dogs. But I’m not a real meanie; with family I’m gentle, playful, and loving, even with kids—though of us some may not tolerate them.

I should be socialized early to accept new people and situations. Pesky puppy behavior can cause real problems when I grow to full size and strength. Rotties are individuals; some may be mellow and others domineering, some friendly and others shy. We’re generally loyal companions, but we’re not an easy breed. Good training is critical; inexperienced dog owners should consider another option. Take me on a few brief walks a day for exercise.

Originally bred in Germany to herd cattle and pull loads, I’m a powerful animal with a large head and jaws, standing 22 to 27 inches tall and weighing 80 to 135 pounds. My coat is black with markings ranging from rust to mahogany. Brush me weekly with a bristle brush, more often during shedding seasons. Watch my food—I can overeat and put on pounds. And please know that I do snore.

With good diet and proper care, you’ll be able to enjoy one of the country’s most popular breeds for 8 to 11 years. Major health issues to note are hip and elbow dysplasia, gastric bloat, bone cancer, and SAS heart murmur. Lesser concerns are lame joints, bone inflammation, vWD, and eye problems.