Rottweiler puppy check list uses AKC Standards format, guides breeder step by step in evaluating type, temperament, balance, etc., works for grading litters in all breeds.
ROTTWEILER PUPPY EVALUATION SHEET
by Ann Maurer, based on her AKC Gazette Rottweiler column
Years ago I had written three articles on evaluating Rottweiler puppies so when Jan Cooper suggested I do puppy evaluations for TheDogPlace, I agreed.
Long ago I devised an evaluation form for my own use and it has evolved with every litter. My goal has always been to keep it to a page in length, with enough adjectives to make a thorough description of each puppy. I prefer to evaluate Rottweiler puppies between 7 and 8 weeks of age. I have discovered that a ‘raw fed’ litter should be evaluated about a week later than I would normally do.
We will begin with GENERAL APPEARANCE…
Proportion: Balanced (square); Rectangular (long in body or short on leg). I like to see an 8 week old Rottweiler puppy that appears square to the eye. When this pup is measured he will be very close to the desired 9 is to 10 proportion that is called for in the standard (very slightly longer than tall).
Skin: Tight fitting; Loose. A puppy has a little extra skin, but if you can lift a couple of inches or more before lifting the puppy – that’s loose! We have all seen those dogs that have skin rolls over their shoulders. Sometimes it is not incorrect shoulder placement, but loose skin that causes it.
Coat: Correct; Short; Fluffy; Long. A correct Rottweiler puppy coat is thick and very slightly fluffy. A very short tight coat results in a Doberman type coat as an adult. A fluffy coat often ends up as an ‘open coat’. If you find wavy hair on the ears, a very long fluffy body coat, and ‘feathering’ on the legs, chances are he will be long-haired as an adult
Markings: Small; Medium; Large. I like to see relatively small clear markings over the eyes and on the chest. I have found that large eye spot markings usually result in an adult with large markings.
Color of markings: Dark; Medium; Light; Muddy; White spot. Look for the eventual adult color on the tip of the muzzle. Those with very muddy markings can sometimes develop into adults that lack facial and chest markings. If the pup has some white on the chest, separate the hair to see if it is bright white at the base. A few white hairs will disappear when the puppy sheds to his adult coat.
On to HEAD
Shape: Excellent; Good; Lacks muzzle width and/or depth; Excessively short muzzle; Definite stop; Sloping stop; Good fill; Lacks fill. I believe the ideal Rottweiler puppy head should very closely resemble an adult, with a ratio of 60% to 40% for skull to muzzle length. The muzzle should be broad, with the flews just covering the lower jaw. Ideally we want a definite stop and good fill under the eyes. Bite: Scissors; Loose/Tight scissors; Overshot; Undershot; Wry. I prefer to see a scissor to loose scissor bite.
Alignment: Canines___; Pre-molars___; Molars___. Check these to see that they are aligned as they should be. Lower canines fitting just forward of upper, pre-molars (if present) offset, like pinking shears; first lower molar just forward of upper. If the side bite lines up with teeth meeting one another, instead of offset, and the puppy has a slightly overshot bite, it may correct. Some breeders suggest nipping off the top of the lower baby canines if they are imbedding themselves in the flesh of the upper jaw.
Lip Pigment: Dark; Medium; Light. Mouth Pigment: Dark; Medium; Light. Both the outside lips and roof of the mouth should be as dark as possible. An 8 week old is not going to have a black mouth, but should exhibit a nice dark gray/charcoal on the roof of the mouth.
Ears: Small; Medium; Large; Well set; Low set. Check the size by folding the ear forward on the side of the head to see where the tip lies. An ear that comes to the inside corner of the mouth is large; to the mid-cheek area – medium; a little below the corner of the eye – small. Correctly set ears are held with the top of the ears in line with the top of the skull, just as they are in the adult.
Ear Leather: Heavy; Medium; Light. Feel the leather at the crease. Heavy and medium leather have less tendency to fold incorrectly (rose ear) when the puppy goes through teething. Some puppies even at this young age indicate a tendency to fold – keep a close eye on them! They will probably need to be taped at teething time.
Eyes: Almond; Slightly round; Round; Well set; Set wide apart; Protruding. A correct eye has almost almond shaped lids. A slightly round eye is not too objectionable, as long as the color is dark. Some round eyes can also be protruding, and coupled with a light color – quite unattractive!
Eye Color: Dark brown; Medium brown; Light brown; Excessively light (yellow). Another reason for waiting until 8 weeks is the chance of reading the eye color correctly. Younger pups can still have a lot of the ‘baby’ blue-gray color in them. Look at the eyes in good natural light. Make sure there are no flecks of gold in the iris. This coupled with a light brown eye can indicate a chance of a very light adult eye. I have noticed that if there is a very deep ring of dark brown on the outer circumference of the iris, that it may eventually develop into a passable color. Those with light brown to medium brown sometime end up with an auburn-brown color of eye.
Neck: Long; Medium; Short; Dry; Slightly throaty; Throaty. Though I hate to say a hands width (everyone’s hand is different!), I do check neck length by folding my hand around the puppy’s neck, fitting it between the base of the skull and the top of the shoulder blades. If my hand fits comfortably I consider it to be medium in length. If I have to squeeze my hand to make it fit – short. If I can spread my fingers slightly – long. You may be surprised to find a puppy with a longer neck than you thought, just because he has a heavy coat that makes his neck appear short.
Shoulder: Well laid back; Moderate layback; Straight; Good lay on; Wide between blades. This is where your assistant baiting the puppy is of utmost importance. The puppy must be standing naturally to read the angle of the shoulder correctly. Just as in the adult, the pup should have a good layback. Moderate angles are acceptable, but straight will stay straight. Feel for the lay on. There should be a gap of about a finger width between the blades. Stroke your hand down the puppy’s neck and across the shoulders. A Rottweiler will not have the smooth fit of a Doberman or similarly structured dog, but your hand should not hit an abrupt brick wall when it encounters the shoulder blades!
Upper arm: Excellent angle; Moderate angle; Straight. As in the adult, you want to see an upper arm that has good layback. Again, straight will probably stay straight
Legs: Heavy bone; Medium bone; Light bone; Straight; Bowed; Elbows out. The puppy’s boning should look heavy at this age. Lift the puppy and make sure he feels heavy for his size. Boning can be deceiving, a pup that appears heavy boned but feels light, shows that he has very little density of bone. As he grows his bone will become moderate to light. From the front the puppy should have straight legs, no bowing and the elbows should fit tight to the body.
Pasterns: Correct; Weak; Bent out (fiddle front). Length: Medium; Short; Long. The pasterns should resemble those of an adult. Look carefully at the point where the pastern joins the foot. If there is a break, the puppy may go down in the pasterns (especially when teething). Perhaps a candidate for some extra supplements while growing? I find the length of the pastern should be about ¼ the total leg length. I have noticed that a long pastern (and hock) many times results in a ‘leggy’ dog.
Feet: Tight, High toes; Slightly loose, Moderately high toes; Loose, Flat toes. Toes in; Toes out. The feet should ideally be tight with nice high (well arched) toes. A large pup with heavy bone will not exhibit a really tight ‘cat’ foot, but if the toes are high the foot will probably develop well. Gently lift the puppy at the chest and place him down on the table several times. The front legs should drop straight and the toes point forward.
Chest: Broad; Moderate width; Narrow. Apply gentle pressure with your fingers at the elbows. A nice broad chest will hold the elbows in place with no give. If the pressure results in a slight turn out at the feet, the chest in moderate in width. If the elbows touch and the toes point outward from side to side, the chest is very narrow.
Forechest: Pronounced; Adequate; Lacking. Look at the puppy in profile. You should see a distinct forechest. If it is barely there, we could call it adequate, if it is flat or concave it is definitely lacking. Chest depth: To the elbow; Below the elbow; Above the elbow. I like to see the chest right at the elbow at this age. Watch the puppy that has a chest depth well below his elbow. These dogs usually appear short legged in profile as adults. A chest well above the elbow will never develop enough to give the dog the correct well-bodied appearance as an adult.
Topline: Excellent; Slight dip behind withers; Soft; Roached. A correct puppy topline is totally flat. Feel with your fingers right behind the withers. If you feel a depression, this dog will have a tendency to have a ‘hole’ in his back if he is not kept in good condition. A soft back at this age will be a challenge to keep from breaking down. Make sure you do not condemn a puppy for having a roach if he is not happy about being on the table. Put him on the floor and see how he holds himself.
Ribs: Well sprung; Slightly lacking; Slab-sided; Barrel. Long; Medium; Short. A puppy of 8 weeks will not have the spring of an adult, but should exhibit a gentle roundness. If he is narrow, in combination with a chest above the elbow and lack of forechest, I’m afraid he has little chance of ever developing into a ‘wow’ dog!! Barrel chests are very unusual at this age. I like to see a good length of rib at this age. Loin: Short; Medium; Long. Again, you must use your hand. For myself, if I can fit three fingers between the last rib and the forward point of the pelvis, I consider this a medium length of loin. If I have to squeeze my fingers together to fit – short; if I can spread my fingers apart – long. As with an adult, we want to have a nice short loin. Those with a medium length will probably be alright (especially if paired with good to almost too much angle in the rear). The long loin can be a problem. Many times the dog appears to be ‘as long as a train’. If the rear angulation is extreme, the dog may almost need that much loin to fit his stride, but for me this would be an incorrect look for the ideal Rottweiler.
Croup: Flat; Slightly sloping; Dropped. Broad; Narrow. Long; Medium; Short. With an 8 week old, I like to see a perfectly flat croup. A pup with a slightly sloping croup may develop into an adult with just a little too much drop for most judges. A dropped croup at this age will stay. The croup should be broad – as broad as the shoulders. A narrow croup gives the adult dog a ‘pear’ shape (all front and no rear).
Angulation: Excellent; Moderate (slight lack); Over-angulated; Straight. Although the Rottweiler should certainly not possess the angulation of a German Shepherd, I like to see a nice bend of stifle at this age. Not so much as to look as though his hind legs are standing way back behind his body (over-angulated), but with a nice curve at the stifle. If there is a slight curve, I call the puppy moderate in angle. The straight stifle will probably stay that way into adulthood.
Upper and Lower Thighs: Well developed; lacks muscling; Equal in length or ___. I like to feel some muscling when I place my fingers around the thighs (both upper & lower). Fold the hind leg up under the body and check to see that the upper & lower thighs are of equal length. A lower thigh much shorter than the upper will give the adult dog a lack of drive on the move. An excessively long lower thigh will give the dog a German Shepherd-like appearance and the rear movement will likely be loose and ‘hocky’.
Hocks: Straight; Hocks in; Slipped; Bowed. Length: Medium; Short; Long. Look at the puppy from the back. The hocks should be straight and strong. Put slight pressure with your fingers on the top back of the hocks to see if they are inclined to bend forward (a ‘slipped’ hock). At times in Rottweilers, we see a rear that looks quite good until we get to the foot and find that it turns out, a lot of folks refer to that as a ‘duck foot’. I find the length of the hock should be a little less than 1/3 of the total leg length (to the backline) to be called medium.
Feet: Tight, High toes; Slightly Loose, Moderately high toes; Loose, Flat toes. Toes in; Toes out. Just as in the front, the feet should be tight and the toes well arched. Even though the Standard states that the rear feet are slightly longer than the front, that was from some years ago and now it is very unusual to see rear feet a different shape than the front.
I know most breeders have their puppies temperament tested at 7 weeks, but I would suggest that the evaluator should note the behavior of the puppy while on the table. All puppies are a bit squirmy, but you do not want to see a puppy that throws a major tantrum and refuses to calm himself, nor one that is so frightened that he tries to ‘hang on’ to the table with his toenails and sink down when you try to stand him even after a big cuddle and some assurance. A baby with self confidence will tolerate all of your silliness!
An 8 week old Rottweiler puppy should hold a good topline and show some reach and drive. He will come toward you a little wide, but with his elbows tight to his side and his footfall straight. Going away his rear will be a little wide with the hocks straight and the toes pointing forward. The true ‘showman’ will flaunt his attitude. Head up, with that ‘look at me’ bearing that will stay with him forever - as long as his owner works with him correctly and nurtures that love of life!
I hope that the above will help folks with their next litter. May they all be Show Dogs!
Want to see this puppy evaluation in live action? The show is located at:
and the website that accompanies the show is located at:
I promise that the show will hold the interest of the novice to the experienced Rottweiler owner.
Ms. Ann Maurer started showing her parents Irish Setters in Junior Showmanship in the early 50's. She began successfully evaluating Rottweiler litters for breeders in the mid-60's. Ms Maurer has traveled coast to coast critiquing litters for over 40 years. She was editor for the American Rottweiler Pictorials from 1976 – 1983 (out of print and highly collectible) and co-edited the ARK newsletter for 7 years.