A Different Perspective: Rottweiler vs Labrador

Rottweiler vs Labrador

Labs and Rottweilers are both high energy breeds that need plenty of exercise and thorough training. If you are not sure which breed will suit your family best, then the most important factor for you is going to be temperament. Differences in coat, color and size are likely to be a lesser consideration.

I’m not going to give you detailed comparisons of Rottweiler vs Labrador color, size and weight. We will look at the differences in power between these breeds, but you already know what they look like!  

What I am going to do is give you my honest opinion, as to which breed is likely to be the best fit for you and your family. And plenty of information on which to base your decision.

Differences And Considerations

As a breeder and trainer of Labradors I know the breed well but I have also, from time to time, shared my home with a Rottweiler and it’s a breed that I like and respect. To decide which breed will suit you best, you need to think about what you hope to gain, when you bring a dog into your life..

It’s not unusual for people to buy a Labrador, for example, as a kind of all purpose pet/hunting companion/family guard dog. And for those people to be disappointed to discover that their Lab has an open house policy when it comes to screening visitors. In other words, everyone is welcome.

This is unlikely to be a problem with a Rottweiler whose guarding instincts are usually well developed. It really all depends on what you want from a dog.

What Do You Want From A Dog?

Few dogs fulfil every role that dogs are traditionally known for. These roles include

And for the vast majority of people, the last of those: companionship, is going to be the primary role of their dog.

The second role that many people have in mind when they are looking for a dog, is that of a guard dog. They want to feel safe and protected in their homes. 

And this is where problems can sometimes arise. Because guarding instinct can be difficult to ‘turn off’ and because the dogs that make the best companions, often lack those instincts. We’ll look at that a bit more closely in a moment.

Rottweiler Vs Labrador As Guard Dogs

The Rottweiler wins this game hands down. Very few Labradors will guard your home or your person with the same courage and tenacity as a Rottweiler.  

Many Labs will not guard it at all, and most of those that will, are easily distracted by an intruder bearing food, or overcome by an intruder who is armed and unafraid of dogs. A Rottweiler is a very different prospect.

Labradors and Rottweilers As Herding Dogs

Historically, the ancestors of the Rottweiler were used to herd and guard livestock*. However, the modern Rottweiler is not usually considered the best choice when it comes to herding. Nowadays we have various pastoral breeds such as the Border Collie that are better suited to that purpose. 

Rottweiler vs Labrador

Likewise, Labradors are not suited to herding, though both breeds will be useful around a farm or homestead and can be trained to carry out simple tasks that will assist you. Keeping watch over an open gateway for example.

Labradors Vs Rottweilers As Hunting Dogs

Both Labs and Rottweilers are smart dogs that are capable of finding and flushing live game animals. And both can be taught to retrieve. But hunting and retrieving is where Labradors really come into their own. 

The popularity of the Labrador Retriever as service and therapy dogs is in good part due to the skills bred into them that make Labs such good hunting companions. Including their willingness to co-operate with a human companion, and ability to learn to follow instructions at a distance. And generations of breeding Labs as hunting companions has created a dog that excels at finding and retrieving shot game. 

So if hunting is important to you, this is a role best suited to the Labrador. 

Lab Vs Rottweiler As Companions

Labradors and Rottweilers are both popular companion dogs and they have some attributes in common. 

Both need a couple of hours of exercise each day. This doesn’t have to be all through walking, if you have space at home you can give a dog a great work out with retrieving games. And two or more dogs that play together on a daily basis will also get quite a bit of exercise through that activity. But in general, you need to be thinking of around two hours of your time, that’s an hour or so each morning and evening, spent exercising your dog. 

Both breeds have short, easy care coats. Both breed shed, they are not hypoallergenic, and so won’t suit people that are allergic to dogs. 

But the attribute that matters above all others in a dog that is going to share a place in the heart of your family, is temperament. And while both are loyal and affectionate, quick to learn, and relatively easy to train, in other respects their temperaments are very different. 

Labrador Vs Rottweiler – differences in temperament

The Labrador’s easy going, open friendliness is legend. I have to say that not every Lab lives up to this reputation. There are Labs that are nervous or reactive, and this kind of nervousness can lead to aggression. 

However, on balance, you stand a good chance of getting a friendly dog if you buy a Lab puppy and socialize it appropriately

Rottweilers have strong guarding instincts and tend to be wary of strangers and quick to be defensive of the resources they value. Which may include members of your family, your property and sometimes individual items within it. 

If you are nervous about intruders and feel vulnerable inside your home or when you are out and about, a fearless and potentially aggressive companion may seem like a great idea. But managing a large, powerful and potentially angry dog can be challenging.  

Will Socializing Fix That?

So, you may have heard that fear of strangers and aggression are caused by lack of socialization. And that if you socialize your Rottweiler thoroughly you won’t have any problems in that respect. 

At one time it was believed that friendliness and general good temperament in dogs was all about genetics. Over the last few decades the importance of socialization in creating friendly dogs has become more widely understood and adopted. To the point where there is currently, in some doggy  circles, almost a denial of the role in genetics in determining the temperament of our dogs. 

My own view is that genetics is maybe a little less important than our ancestors thought, but a lot more important than mainstream opinion is currently acknowledging.

So while complete lack of socialization may cause problems in Labrador puppies, sloppy or not very thorough socialization is less likely to be an issue than in breeds that are naturally less friendly and outgoing. 

More importantly,  in those naturally less outgoing breeds, there is a limit to what even the most thorough socialization can achieve. 

In other words, you can’t turn your Rottweiler into a Lab by simply putting more effort into socializing them. And let’s face it, none of this would matter so much if Rottweilers were smaller! But they are not.

Rottweiler vs Labrador Size

The average Rottweiler is a large, well built dog, with heavier bone and more muscle than a Lab. There’s a fairly wide range of average of course, and while Labs can be quite large dogs, there is no comparison with the size and strength of a Rottweiler.

The average adult lab is a medium to large dog weighing around seventy pounds and standing around twenty-two inches tall at the shoulder. An adult male Rottweiler is likely to top the scales at over a hundred pounds. Rotties are taller too and can reach over twenty-five inches at the shoulder.

These are very powerful dogs. And when that power is combined with aggression, reactivity, or impulsiveness, it raises questions about control and safety. And we’ll look at those in a moment. Let’s just quickly touch on health and lifespan. 

Health and Longevity of the Lab Vs Rottweiler

Like most purebred dogs, Rotties and Labs are prone to a range of different diseases. Some of these can be screened for and if you are buying a puppy from either breed, its important to buy from a breeder that thoroughly health checks their breeding stock.  The latest test requirements for each breed can be found on the American Kennel Club website. 

Lifespan of both breeds is around a decade though some individuals with live much longer than this. 

So, there really is not a lot to choose between these dogs when it comes to health. But what about the impact of these dogs on the health and safety of those around them?

Rottweiler vs Labrador - Compering dog breeds.

Safety around Labs and Rottweilers

The most common hazard I see with large dogs is lunging and pulling. If a dog weighing over a hundred pounds suddenly charges forwards, it can easily pull the human on the other end of the leash off their feet. 

So if you own a large dog, training them to walk nicely on a leash is a top priority. This can be a much harder task if the dog is reactive or aggressive. Not to mention the risk to others if you lose control of the dog. 

The other risk around a powerful dog, and the one that tends to hit the headlines, is the potential for aggression. One of the problems in keeping a guard dog, is that it can be difficult for dogs to discriminate between bona fide visitors and unwanted intruders. Sadly, another problem is that sometimes aggressive dogs direct this aggression towards family members. From 2005 to 2017 sixteen percent of all dog bite fatalities involved a babysitter, grandparent or relative watching a child or looking after the dog.

Many people get bitten by dogs each year, especially children who struggle to accurately judge when a dog does not want their attention. 

In 2023 75% of all dog bites were accounted for by just three breeds, Pitbulls, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds.  And between 2005 and 2019 Rottweilers were responsible for just under ten percent of all fatal attacks on humans by dogs. Second only to Pit Bull Terriers.  Labradors were responsible for two percent of fatalities despite being a more numerous breed. 

Now of course, most Rottweilers live peacefully with their families and never bite anyone. But it must be acknowledged that the potential for serious injury exists. And that this risk is far lower in the Labrador Retriever. 

For this reason alone, I would urge you to consider very carefully whether you are knowledgeable or experienced enough to ensure the safety of your family and the wider public once you are responsible for an adult Rottweiler. Even if you are ready for that responsibility, is it worth it? Or would you and your family really be better off with a Lab.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

Labrador Or Rottweiler? How To Choose

If you are looking primarily for a companion dog, or a hunting companion, the Labrador is almost certainly your best choice. 

If you want a dog that will protect you and protect your property, then a Rottweiler is more likely to fulfil that role. But remember that you will be responsible for ensuring that your dog is under control and not a risk to the general public, to your family, or to innocent visitors to your home. 

Training a protection dog is a specialist skill and you’ll need an experienced protection dog trainer to advise you and teach you how to manage your dog more safely. Even then there are no guarantees and while we do sometimes know what triggers a dog attack, in many cases we do not.  

Rottweilers are amazing dogs, beautiful, intelligent and fearless. But they are also a specialist breed that in my view, the vast majority of people don’t need and probably should not have. 

Obviously, we all have our preferences, and my preference for a family dog is the Labrador Retriever. But I’m happy to hear from those who disagree and well as those who don’t! Whatever breed you choose, enjoy your dog, train them well, and don’t forget to leave a comment!


The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. We have a special needs non-verbal autistic daughter. Rottweiler I feel was the best choice. He goes with work to me all the time, visits new clients, and is a big clown at home. We need a dog to be her voice and a deterrent. At 10mos and 110lbs, “Tank” has proven to be just that. Loveable enough to be good with people in general, protective enough to scare the crap out of someone who may try pull anything with my daughter.

    Training includes inhibition training (which is why hand play is so important!), playing rough, working on release commands.

    He’s smart, brave and a lover of our family and two cats. A gentle giant. I love labs, but can’t see a better fit moving forward. Happy we have him!

  2. I prefer rotties. I honestly think it’s because so many people are afraid of them (I have always been drawn towards anything controversial).

  3. I disagree with your comment about English v American labs. We have show and working labs here. Show dogs are heavier, not athletic like our workers. We have always had gun dogs and our present one is slim, breed standard height of 24″ and very intelligent. The most obedient and easy to train lab. Ours came from a working kennel where all dogs go shooting and retrieving, except when breeding. my son had a show dog, much slower, heavier and stubborn. Friendly and great with kids but useless on a drive or picking up out shooting.

  4. We have had many rotties, as well as two black labs. Our rotts got along great with our other dogs, cats and kids. All the rotts were obtained when they were “older” -over 2- except for our first two who we took home when they were little pups. We also took home the two black lab brothers when they were about 8 weeks old. One lab was always mellow and easy going however the other was extremely skittish and as he grew older, he became aggressive toward his brother and other pets and in the household. Despite trainers, behaviorists and numerous attempts to work with him, we had to rehome him to my sister (he was the only pet and lived down the block) Everyone was surprised that it was the lab in the “family” who was attacking everyone (he was neutered, lived inside always etc. was almost 4 years old and healthy…had vet check him out).

  5. Hi you article is very informative but I still have this feeling that I made a wrong decision. I already have a 4 year old female Lab and just yesterday i bout a 3 month old male rottie. i have 3 cats and 3 shihtzu at home. im affraid that one day I go home that something happened to my little pets. It came to my mind that maybe I might need to rehome the rottie. Can yougive me some advice?

  6. I used to have both a pure Lab and a 3/4-Rottie+1/4-Lab. And I would have to say that I agree with most everything in this article. Although my Rottie was fixed, she topped out around 115 lbs. I got her at 6 months old and she was a very loving dog. She had one aggressive incident, but that was likely more due to my leaving for military training and not choosing an appropriate caretaker. She was very loving to everyone while I was around. Both dogs tended to want to run a lot, and would go out the door and run around the neighborhood. Both dogs were very attached to their “pack.” She passed away in May 2016 from an apparent heat stroke after about 9 months of arthritis problems. She was 12.5 years old. My lab passed away shortly after his 15th birthday last fall. He had been having arthritic problems for almost a year. He topped out at 105 lbs, but had since slimmed down to 85 lbs. I learned things from losing her that I could incorporate to make my remaining time with him last as long as possible, namely more regular exercise. I now have a 4 month old lab puppy, who I am doing my best to train correctly, make him a good dog and keep him fit so that I can hopefully have as many good years as possible with him.

  7. I own a Rottie. She is six. 110 pounds of love. Great with kids and other dogs. But l was aware of her power and she is not my first dog. The breed l would not recommend to first time dog owner. Even tho people meet her and want one just like her. Hard work. Stubborn. But so worth it!