There can be a lot of media-perpetuated fear surrounding the aggressiveness of certain breeds. It’s important to note that the goal of this article is not to perpetuate some of this fear-mongering. In truth, any dog can become aggressive in certain situations. There is a strong argument for the aggressiveness of any individual dog having more to do with nurture than it does with nature.
With that said, there are breeds with a higher propensity for aggressive tendencies, whether that is due to breeding practices, instincts, or simply anatomy. Care must be taken to properly socialize and train these breeds under the direction of a confident handler that can assert their dominance. These breeds can flourish into loving and gentle companions given the proper environment.
Most Aggressive & Dangerous Dog Breeds
Before we get into the breeds labeled the most “aggressive” or “dangerous,” we want to point out that in almost every case of an aggressive dog, the owner is responsible for the accident. While some breeds may look scarier than others, poor training, socialization, and improper rewarding of problem behaviors will give any dog the lack of structure it does not desire to be a well-balanced canine. Lack of leadership and lack of physical stimulation means that any well-intentioned dog can end up displaying aggressive behavior.
The breeds listed below are breeds that have either been known to “bite” or are in the top 10 of all breeds that caused fatalities from 2005 to 2021. Causation does not imply representation. It just so happens that many awful dog owners end up owning breeds that are strong-willed. This can cause behavioral problems in their environment, leading to undesired aggression. There has long been debate over dog breeds considered aggressive, and in some areas, certain breeds may be regulated or prohibited.
We truly believe at Love Your Dog that all dogs can be trained properly and live a happy, meaningful life. But the bottom line is some breeds have a reputation. Those reputations have been handed down somewhere along the line. Let’s look at the 21 most likely breeds to be labeled as “dangerous” or “aggressive.”
The tiny Chihuahua may not have the formidable stature of some of the others on this list, but that shouldn’t have you underestimate their ferocity. Weighing, on average, under 10 pounds, this lap dog can sometimes be treated more as an accessory than an animal. They are typically built with an apple head or a deer head, and the head type doesn’t really make them more or less aggressive.
By not giving this breed proper boundaries, obedience training, and socialization, they can easily become highly territorial. Chihuahuas won’t hesitate to snap or bite at any unwanted visitors. This behavior is likely a method of self-preservation. When you are as tiny as a Chihuahua, you need to know how to stand your ground and defend yourself. However, owners that spoil this breed exacerbate this instinct, leading to unwarranted aggression.
The Chihuahua likely inflicts more bites per breed than just about any other dog breed other than the Pitbull. This has little to do with their genetics. It has far more due to the fact that many owners with small dogs do not correct problem behavior early. Chihuahua aggression will often go unchecked or even encouraged because owners think it’s “cute.” This results in owning a small dog that is every bit as aggressive as the most feared Pitbull or Rottweiler.
Pitbull Terriers have a bad reputation. They were once considered the “nanny dog” by many families in the United States during the mid-1900s after World War II. They fought with soldiers during the war and were considered to be great family protectors.
There are actually 4 different types of dogs that fall into the Pitbull breed family, which gives more opportunity for something bad to be credited back to this misunderstood breed. It’s not uncommon that many mixed Pitbull breeds are classified as purebred Pitbulls after an attack. Despite many insurers having a problem with this breed, they can be some of the sweetest dogs you’ll ever meet. Unfortunately, plenty of bad actors have given them a poor reputation by teaching bad behavior habits and dogfighting.
These irresponsible owners have unfortunately caused a lot of harm to a very sensitive breed. Because there are so many fatalities accredited to this breed, they make the list of the most aggressive dog breeds. We do feel that regardless of this “label,” most Pitbulls are perfect family companions and do extremely well when placed with the right owner.
The wildly popular German Shepherd is a beautiful and powerful breed that has become a favorite working dog for militaries and police forces, along with being a top choice as a beloved family companion. These canines are agile, smart, and fiercely loyal. They are also a highly trainable breed and can perform a wide variety of tasks, which is why they are a popular choice as working dogs.
If they feel their owner is threatened, they will defend them ferociously. This makes the German Shepherd an excellent guard dog. However, they can become territorial and aggressive if not socialized. They also can act out aggressively if they do not receive enough exercise and have pent-up energy to spare.
The Shar Pei is a Chinese breed with a short, wrinkled coat. They remain somewhat of a rare breed, ranking 64th in popularity by the American Kennel Club. Unfortunately, this breed has been the desired choice for dog fighting rings in China. They were, and sometimes still are, bred for their aggression.
A trait that has been passed down through the generations. Shar Pei is a naturally independent, strong-willed, and territorial animal. They require firm, kind, and consistent training with an owner who is both patient and dedicated to properly socializing them. Just because a breed is built well for fighting does not mean they will fight, nor should they.
The Chow Chow is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous breeds in the world. This perception is mainly due to the fact that they can sometimes turn on their owners – a trait many other pups on this list do not exhibit. It’s important to remember any animal has a level of unpredictability.
Those who are familiar with this breed say that their aggression usually stems from boredom. Therefore, it is especially important to properly exercise and socialize a Chow Chow. They require a confident handler that can assert themselves over this dominant breed.
The Cane Corso is a very intimidating-looking dog with a large and thick muscular body. Due to their formidable appearance and trainability, they are becoming an increasingly popular breed amongst police forces. Ironically, this breed is considered generally quiet and calm.
However, they can become aggressive if not trained properly by an experienced owner. Therefore, this breed should not be a choice for first-time dog owners. If given the proper environment and socialization, this pup is likely to have a scary appearance but nothing beyond that.
The Rottweiler is a popular breed choice for those looking for a powerful, loyal breed. They are exceptionally capable guard dogs. This breed certainly has a perception in the media of being a highly aggressive dog. If you own a Rottweiler, it is likely that you are accustomed to people crossing the street when they see you coming. In truth, a well-trained and socialized Rottweiler can make a wonderful family companion.
However, socialization from a young age will be especially important to curb their instinctive territorial aggression. If they are shown kindness, love, and consistent training, you will have an affectionate and devoted pup that is not likely to pose a threat to you or anyone else.
This one may surprise people. Believe it or not, the Husky isn’t always just a ball of fluff that loves everyone it comes into contact with. Huskies are ranked in the top 10 dog breeds that caused fatalities from 2005 to 2017. It’s hard to know if these were all purebred Huskies or just some type of husky mix that was responsible for the fatalities.
While this number is not nearly as high as other breeds, it’s still high enough to land them on the list of the most dangerous dog breeds. If properly socialized, the Husky is an amazing companion. But if they are not socialized properly, they can become protective of their family.
With a name like Wolfdog, it’s not surprising that this canine strikes the mind with images of violent wolf packs hunting innocent prey. It is certainly true that this breed has an exceptionally high prey drive. They must be exercised extensively to help burn off excess energy, which can lead to a Wolfdog engaging in their own “hunts.”
Experts claim this breed still exhibits much of the wild tendencies of their ancestors, which can lead to quite a bit of unpredictability from a Wolfdog. This is not a breed for first-time owners, and they require a strong leader and consistent training. There are plenty of other dog breeds that look like wolves with milder temperaments if wolfy looks are your thing.
The Bull Terrier is a smart and stocky breed that has a lot of power behind them. Bull Terriers are known for being devoted companions and can be quite affectionate and playful. They are also considered one of the most aggressive dog breeds in the world.
They require consistent, life-long training and socializing coupled with ample exercise to maintain a balanced, happy, and friendly dog. With too much time on their paws, they can act out in destructive and aggressive ways. Bull Terriers do best with owners who are experienced with their breed and can give them proper discipline and love!
Boxers have been known to affectionately “box” with their front paws, which is what got them their name in the first place. But did you know that they are often considered one of the more aggressive dog breeds, and some homeowners insurance companies won’t insure you if you own one?
While most boxers are sweet, there are some that have landed on the top 10 list of fatality-causing breeds from 2005 to 2017. For this reason alone, they make our list of the most aggressive and dangerous dogs.
The Dogo Argentino is a stunning dog: all white and all muscle. This canine is as powerful as it is beautiful. Historically, the Dogo Argentino was bred for big game hunting. They have the capability to take down game such as wild boars. Despite these intimidating accolades, most Dogo Argentino owners report a happy and affectionate pup who is very loving and devoted.
Unfortunately, countries like the UK have banned this beautiful breed because of perceptions that they are overly aggressive. It is certainly true that a Dogo Argentino should be trained by an experienced handler, or else they can show signs of aggression, but that’s no different than many other breeds. However, bans such as these perpetuate the idea that certain breeds are innately “bad.” This is certainly not the case for the Dogo Argentino – or any pup, for that matter.
When asked to picture an intimidating dog, many will conjure the image of a Doberman Pinscher. Makes sense, as this breed has been bred for generations to be menacing guard dogs and has become almost synonymous with our cultural idea of an “aggressive breed.”
The loyal Doberman has perhaps gotten a bad rap, as they are not spontaneously violent dogs. They will, however, loyally protect their families if they perceive danger. Extensive socializing and consistent training by experienced owners will produce a well-behaved Doberman Pinscher that is not likely to be more aggressive than any other dog.
Shiba Inus are known for their seemingly endless energy and somewhat “cat-like” dispositions. They are often aloof and independent. Female Shibas can be especially territorial with other animals. One should be vigilant when headed to the dog park with a Shiba to make sure she doesn’t start any fights.
They have a high prey drive and prefer to be dominant in the pack. Therefore, they need a strong leader who enforces boundaries and socializes them regularly. Make sure to frequently exercise a Shiba Inu, as with many dogs, if they have too much energy, they are likely to get into trouble.
Rhodesian Ridgeback is an exceptionally impressive canine. This powerful dog was originally bred to hunt lions and protect African farms from predators. There’s no doubt this dog is capable of being ferocious and brutal. They are known for their speed and prey drive and are considered by some to be quite a dangerous breed.
However, many Rhodesian Ridgebacks are beloved family companions whose owners report being gentle and loving. Still, they need quite a bit of training and exercise to get there, so anyone looking to adopt a Ridgeback should be willing to make that commitment and should probably not reside in any sort of confined space.
This adorable and fluffy toy breed is perhaps a surprise to see on a list of the most aggressive dog breeds. However, this cute pup can be quite feisty behind all that fluff. The Pomeranian is one of the most popular dog breeds in the US, coming in 23rd in AKC’s popularity ranking. They are notorious for being expensive for such a small package.
Pomeranians are also known to be territorial and act suspiciously and even aggressive toward strangers. They are especially notorious for their bark – this breed will certainly alert you if someone is approaching. However, as with most other dogs, the Pomeranian’s defensive and aggressive tendencies can be mitigated by introducing them to many different places, people, and animals while they are still young.
Saint Bernards are not violent dogs because they have the desire to be aggressive. In fact, these pups are known for being gentle giants with a calm and even timid disposition. However, these massive canines are notoriously hard to train. With an animal this size that can be spooked easily, the possibility of accidents where someone gets hurt is much more likely.
A Saint Bernard’s danger is not with their temperament but with their size. That’s why it’s important to raise this breed with plenty of positive reinforcement training and socialization to encourage them out of their shells. When done right, this giant breed is nothing but love!
Crazy that the Labrador Retriever would make this list, isn’t it? Really for the Lab, it comes down to a numbers game. Labradors are some of the most highly owned dogs in the United States. Bigger populations of certain breeds mean that you’ll have a higher chance of someone getting bit, injured, or maimed by that breed.
While most Labradors are sweet family dogs, just like any breed, they can become hostile if not trained, socialized, and given the proper attention early in their puppyhood. There are also many Labrador mixes that fall under the breed credit of “Labrador,” which makes some dog bite statistics even more unreliable.
The Bullmastiff is a breed that has been around for over 100 years now, after having a Mastiff crossed with an English Bulldog. Because of their English Bulldog heritage, these pups can become very defensive of their immediate family, which is not much different from the English Mastiff.
If they are not properly trained early on in life, they can become wary of strangers or even friends of the family that come to your home. Since most dog bites happen with someone that “knows” the dog, it’s not uncommon for a Bullmastiff to find themselves amongst the plotline of statistics when it comes to dog bites. They are also challenging to train and are known for being less intelligent than other breeds.
Akitas are known for being very independent dogs. They are a dominant and powerful breed that needs a skilled and experienced owner to guide them. Without proper structure, an Akita is likely to lash out, sometimes aggressively. Due to their dominant personalities, Akitas are known to pick fights with other dogs of the same sex.
It is not recommended owners keep two Akitas of the same sex for this reason. However, some may find it surprising that Akitas are actually known for being very gentle with children and can make wonderful and protective family companions. It is still not recommended to leave an Akita with children unattended, especially young kids. However, in the right environment, Akitas are sure to be devoted to your family and a loyal protector.
“Small but mighty” is the perfect expression for the bold Dachshund. These little dogs have big personalities. They were originally bred to kill vermin, especially those dwelling in tunnels. Generations of breeding Dachshunds to hunt have resulted in a modern-day pup with a very high prey drive.
They are also known for being quite feisty and territorial over their beloved person, to whom they are fiercely loyal. Don’t underestimate this little dog. They have a lot of spunk and can be a handful if not given proper boundaries and training.
Things To Remember With Aggressive Dog Breeds
Some breeds are inherently more aggressive than others. In some cases, aggressiveness can be a combination of nature and nurture. Pitbulls are always at the top of the list for dogs that have bitten or attacked the most people. These pups get a bad reputation due to owners that train them to fight or do not socialize them properly. According to Statista.com, dogs are the third most deadly animal to humans worldwide as of 2022 data. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs every year. This is only in part due to canine aggression. Many times, bites happen because of irresponsible pet ownership.
Owning any dog breed is a huge responsibility, and that goes double for a breed that is known to be dangerous, is labeled aggressive, or has aggressive behaviors. Keep in mind that owners are responsible for how their dogs behave and need to prove proper care and obedience training to avoid aggression from getting out of control.
Tips Manage Canine Aggression
- Owners can prevent bites and aggressive behavior by properly training their dogs from a young age. Seek out the assistance of a trainer early in the process to ensure things are being done properly and not in a way that will encourage this behavior.
- Properly socialize dogs young and instill obedience training and expectations.
- Educate family members, neighbors, and those that are around the dog about aggression and how to engage with the pup in a non-threatening way.
- Avoid risky situations by keeping your dog on a leash, not letting them outside unsupervised, and constantly modeling expected behavior.
- Pay attention to your dog’s surroundings, mood, and body language. If you notice your pup getting his guard up, it is time to engage in calming behaviors, even if that means removing yourself and your pup from a situation.
Remember that there are several types of canine aggression. Most dogs on this list are not simply just aggressive all the time. Leash aggression, fence aggression, social aggression, pain-induced aggression, frustration, learned behaviors, fear-motivated aggression, redirected aggression, resource guarding, territorial or predatory aggression, and protective aggression are all things every dog breed can experience. While some may have a genetic predisposition to it, always remember that any dog can become aggressive if they feel afraid, threatened, or mistreated.
Always pay attention to aggressive behavior and what was happening at the time, and look for changes in your dog’s behavior. Many times, canine aggression is caused by environmental factors, not a genetic or inherent desire or need to behave that way. If you are concerned about aggressive behavior, it is best to talk to both your veterinarian and a dog behaviorist to prevent things from taking a sad or scary turn. This is best for both your dog and you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most aggressive dog breed in the world?
Wolf hybrids are the most aggressive breed on record. Wolf hybrids are considered to be any animal that is a direct or mixed descendant of a wolf and a domestic canine. These animals, even several generations out, retain many of their wolf-like characteristics, instincts, and behaviors. They have a high prey drive and can attack humans. This breed can become more docile and domestic, but they will always retain a level of unpredictability.
Are all aggressive dogs dangerous?
Not all aggressive dog breeds are extremely dangerous. For example, the Chihuahua is aggressive but very small, so will do less damage. Some aggressive breeds can be trained to be less feisty and, with lifelong obedience training and proper socialization, can be very loving family pets. Other breeds will always retain some level of aggressiveness. Some of this will depend on the dog’s training, environment, and specific genetics.
What dog breeds bite humans the most?
In 2019 data from DogsBite.org reveals that Pitbulls were involved in 60% of fatal dog attacks. Mixed breeds were next at 13%, followed by Rottweilers at 8%, Boxers, Australian Cattle Dogs, German Shepherds, and unknown breeds all tied at 4%.
What is the best way to handle an aggressive dog?
Always handle aggressive dogs with caution and care. Anytime a dog is riled up, on alert, or seems aggressive, owners need to be careful not to escalate the situation. The best way to deal with an aggressive dog is to socialize them, get professional help with obedience training, and work on instilling better behavior habits. Aggressive breeds will need lifelong training reminders and refreshers. Work on desensitization training. Additionally, strict leash training is important.
When trying to calm an aggressive dog, owners can speak to the dog calmly, try to remove the dog, or whatever the immediate stressors are, and allow the dog time and space, alone in a safe place, to work through things. Work to keep your dog away from stressful situations or triggers.
For dogs that seem to get aggressive suddenly or concern you with their behavior, talk to your vet and work to rule out any underlying medical cause. You can also look for the help of a professional trainer. Your dog may also be put on medication to help control aggressive behavior.
There are many reasons why someone might want to adopt a breed that has a reputation for aggression. Perhaps you are looking for a guard dog to make you feel safer, or you’d like to provide structure and love to a breed that is often stigmatized. You might also be reading this list right now in order to learn what breeds not to adopt. It’s important to be diligent and make the right choice for yourself and your family.
If you feel you can’t handle a breed that has been known to show signs of aggression, you certainly should not adopt one. However, I hope this article has proven that these breeds are not “bad” or “evil.” Oftentimes they are simply mistreated, poorly trained, under-stimulated, or misunderstood. As with all animals, there is always a level of unpredictability for any dog. But if you are willing to dedicate the time to train these special breeds, the rewards can be endless!
February 21, 2022 at 9:54 am
I know this article is based on the breed's reputation but this is my experience. I had a 5lbs female Chihuahua and a 130lbs female Rottweiler at the same time. The Chihuahua was the boss of the house and she ran the show! Haha.. My Rottweiler was the friendliest girl. She loved children, was welcoming to strangers that came to my house, and never showed any sign of aggression. My Chihuahua, on the other hand, was loving to my family and people she had known since she was a puppy but any stranger was on her hit list! It was funny because when I would walk them, passerbys would sometimes ask if they could pet them and I would let them pet my Rottweiler but advise them not to pet the Chihuahua. Lol. And in all of my experiences with dogs, it's always the smaller ones with the attitude. But, it is my fault for my Chihuahua acting like that because she was my first dog and I did baby her a lot. :/ So, I completely agree that the owner is usually to blame for a dog's bad behavior. You live and you learn!
July 15, 2021 at 2:34 pm
I own Dachshunds. They have to be highly trained and socialized. They can and will bite if they feel threatened, and by that it might mean just a friend visiting your house. They are smart and loyal, but not the sweetest with outside people.
July 15, 2021 at 5:18 pm
Thanks for commenting and sharing, Lauren! Doxies are great dogs, but we completely agree - they need to be trained and socialized early!
June 16, 2021 at 2:42 am
I had two boxers in my long life and they were the sweetest, lickiest, waggy hot water bottles on the planet. They do need careful socialization with other dogs, not so much because of their aggression but they have to learn that their stance can be seen as threatening by other dogs, so they have to learn to mitigate their play with other dogs who do not enjoy being boxed.
The best way to train boxer dogs is to utilize their play drive they love having fun. As they tend to have a tendency to jump to lick your face I trained them to jump on command only, thought visitors were sometimes surprised when upon passing the threshold to my house were handed a hula hoop, the dog jumped through the hoop a few times then sat politely and offered a paw in welcome.
June 17, 2021 at 10:41 pm
Sounds like some amazing pups, Kasia! Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience with the breed. Keep in mind, much of this is a generalization based on the overall dog population. There can always be amazing dogs of every breed, just like your two pups. We appreciate you stopping by the site!