I am a firm believer that any dog can make a wonderful companion regardless of its breed if it is raised by the right owner. Even the most aggressive dog breeds can make loyal, loving pets if they get what they need and are properly trained. The most aggressive dogs we hear about from so called ‘trouble breeds’ often lacked something while they were growing up or lacked proper training. This can often be attributed to a lack of knowledge on the owner’s part. While there are breeds out there I personally would avoid, I would only avoid them because I know and understand my limits as an owner. I don’t think of a dog as a status symbol or as a way to make a statement. My dog is a German Shepherd/Doberman mix and she’s the sweetest, kindest girl I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing time with. She was not that sweet, kind girl when she came to us though. She had a serious problem with barking and tearing things apart. Through careful training and by offering her lots of exercise and fresh air, she’s settled in beautifully.
Before I get to the list, I want to point something out. While big dogs are often thought of as aggressive or intimidating, many of the most aggressive dogs are from the smaller breeds. Many dog behavior experts believe this aggression is related to their size. Smaller dogs are more likely to become frightened or feel threatened or cornered than large dogs although many small breeds are also known to bite for no reason. Speaking out of personal experience, the worst dog related experiences I’ve ever had were with smaller breeds. That isn’t to say that the most aggressive dogs are all small dogs. It just means that one shouldn’t assume that little dogs can’t be just as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than the big dogs.
Again, I would like to note that a dog does not have to become aggressive just because it’s part of one of the most aggressive dog breeds. If you do your homework before you get your dog, find out what it needs and if it is at risk for aggression and ensure you train it properly from the time it is a puppy, you can have a wonderful companion. I also don’t subscribe to the old “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” rule. If you take in a dog with behavioral problems but are willing to invest time, patience and lots of love in the dog, you can help iron out those behavioral problems. It’s all about knowing your dog and knowing what your dog needs. This article is intended to be informational. The most aggressive dog breeds on this list can still be great pets as long as you take the time to understand what they really need. If you’re not sure how, talk to a trainer or look for information on line. Do the research beforehand so you can do what’s right for yourself, your family and for your dog. If you don’t think you have the time, patience or energy to properly care for the dog, choose another breed or you could wind up with an aggressive dog and a lot of trouble. One final note before we begin talking about the most aggressive dog breeds: this list is in alphabetical order. It is not in order by the aggressiveness of the breed. Okay, enough talk. Let’s talk dogs.
10: The Shar Pei
The Shar Pei is recognized by Guiness World Records and Time magazine as the rarest breed of dog out there but it is also widely recognized as one of the most aggressive dog breeds – something many people don’t realize as they look at their cute little faces. Seriously, if I had to pick a “cutest breed”, I’d have to go with the Shar Pei. Cuteness aside though, this breed needs to be socialized early, especially if it will be in a home with small children because they can become quite aggressive. They are, sadly, often used as fighting dogs because of their natural aggression. With careful training and a lot of work on socializing the dog, they can make wonderful pets though.
09: The Pit Bull Terrier
I was so hesitant to include Pit Bulls on this list because they really don’t deserve the bad reputation they have. While Pit Bull attacks are covered more frequently in the media than attacks by other breeds, we can’t just blame the media for their bad name. They are an especially aggressive breed – certainly one of the most aggressive breeds out there – but they can also be warm, loving and loyal companions; assuming, of course, that they are raised properly. One must be very careful when training their Pit Bull. Rewarding good behavior will get you a lot further with any dog but especially with a Pit Bull than punishing bad behavior. If a Pit Bull feels threatened it will defend itself. For that reason, it is your job to make sure your Pit Bull feels as safe, secure and loved as possible. Make sure it gets lots of exercise as sometimes, a bored Pit Bull will become aggressive, especially with smaller animals. Most importantly, don’t allow yourself to become violent with your Pit Bull. If you hit it, it will fear you. You don’t want your Pit to fear you. You want it to respect and love you. A Pit Bull that has been abused or mistreated in some way is far, far more likely to become aggressive than a Pit Bull that has been treated with respect and care.
Another note about Pit Bulls before we move on because I’m especially passionate about this breed: if you cannot handle a Pit Bull, do not get a Pit Bull. If you can not ensure your Pit Bull will be properly secured when it is outside, do not get a Pit Bull. If you have family members or friends who do not understand how to properly treat a dog, do not get a Pit Bull. If you cannot resist teasing your dog or playing in an aggressive way with your dog, do not get a Pit Bull. Pit Bulls should always be comfortably secured when they’re outside. Make sure they have ample room to run around and play. Make sure they have bones to chew on and toys to play with. Make sure they have fresh water and food. Make sure they are chained with a sturdy chain that doesn’t hurt them and still allows them ample mobility. If zoning allows, have a fence. These measures don’t just keep your dog happy, they keep it safe. Often, there is a reason behind a Pit Bull attack. Someone was teasing the dog or make the dog feel threatened in some way. Sometimes, though, there isn’t a reason other than boredom or basic animal instincts. Making sure your dog is secure is the best way to protect it and others from harm. Failing to properly train a Pit Bull or not giving this naturally aggressive breed what it needs to be happy increases the chance of attack and only adds to the stigma attached to what can really be a gentle, loyal and loving friend. Okay, rant done. Moving on.
08: The Papillon
The Papillon is a beautiful dog – one of my favorite smaller breeds – but it is also one of the most aggressive dog breeds out there and breaking them of that or preventing them from becoming aggressive can be extremely difficult. Their aggression comes from the strong sense of loyalty they feel for their owners. While this is a lovely trait, it can quickly become trouble if a stranger, or if someone the dog isn’t familiar with, comes calling. They’re also very possessive of their owners which can make introducing new, unfamiliar people a problem. This is especially worrisome if your Papillon becomes attached to one member of the family more than others.
07: The Old English Sheepdog
I was surprised by this one because in my lifetime, I’ve known many Old English Sheepdogs and they’ve all been lovely animals. They’re a lot of work in terms of caring for their coat but I hadn’t considered that they may be aggressive. When I think about it now, it makes perfect sense. They are very protective of their owners and have been known to become extremely aggressive when/if someone gets to close to their owner. You can combat this by socializing them from the time they’re puppies. Help them get used to having people around them and having people around you. Reward them for being more social and less possessive. Encourage their positive behavior. It will be much easier to get them to respond positively to people they don’t know if you start young with them.
06: The Llasa Apso/The Chihuahua
Now, the aggressive label is a bit unfair when it comes to the Llasa Apso. They can be aggressive, yes, but they are primarily aggressive with children. This breed does not make a great family dog or a great dog if you often have children in or around your home. If you really know what you’re doing with dogs, however, you can help them be a little more comfortable around children but it will take work. Socializing them with children when they’re still puppies can help but only if the children are well behaved and don’t frighten them. It can be hard to teach a child that a puppy isn’t the same as a stuffed animal so they aren’t always their most gentle with puppies. Getting frightened by a child or being handled roughly by a child as a puppy will only reinforce a Llasa Apso’s natural suspicion of children and will only make the aggressive issue worse. The Chihuahua has made this list for the exact same reasons as the Llasa Apso so everything that we’ve just said about the Llasa Apso applies to the Chihuahua as well.
05: The Jack Russell Terrier
Jack Russell Terriers are fantastic little dogs but they’re also feisty little dogs that can become aggressive if they aren’t trained properly early in life. Digging is also a common issue with Jack Russell owners but that can be nipped in the bud with early training as well. These dogs have a lot of energy so you’ll need to make sure they get for walks on a regular basis and have lots of toys to play with. I would recommend against the Jack Russell if you’re especially busy and don’t think you’ll have a lot of time for proper training when you first bring your puppy home. If you have the time and patience to put into proper training though, you can have a great little buddy in the Jack Russell.
04: The Giant Schnauzer
I would highly recommend avoiding the Giant Schnauzer unless you are willing to put a lot of time and effort into training and have a lot of experience dealing with stubborn pups. These guys can be great pets, sure, but they really do need an experienced trainer to make sure they don’t become aggressive. They are dominant, commanding animals who have been known to challenge human beings – sometimes even their owners (although most often strangers) – which makes them quite different from the average domestic dog.
03: The Dachshund
The Dachshund is by far my favorite breed of dog. They’re spirited, full of energy and far more adorable than anything on this planet should be allowed to be. They’re also very impatient and prone to becoming aggressive at the drop of a hat. Early training is vital with the Dachshund but it may not be enough. If you choose a Dachshund, you should be prepared for a long road and a few battles along the way but it can well be worth it. A properly trained Dachshund given everything it needs can be an amazing companion.
02: The Cocker Spaniel
Who would’ve imagined the Cocker Spaniel would make the list of the most aggressive dog breeds? I suspect anyone who has ever had a Cocker Spaniel with “rage syndrome” wouldn’t be all that surprised. This genetic disease can cause the dog to become not only dangerous to strangers but family members as well, which is of special concern to families with young children. If the dog is free of the disease there is little to worry about aside from the neurosis commonly associated with the breed. The problem lies in the fact that it can be difficult to determine whether or not the dog does have the disease. Before you choose a Cocker Spaniel speak with the breeder and specifically ask about the condition. A reputable breeder will have all of that information. If you go with a Spaniel from a shelter, ask about its history. If it has rage syndrome the shelter will likely know something about it or at least have some idea. If you have a Cocker Spaniel that does not have rage syndrome it is still important to make sure the dog is socialized from a young age. This often wards off any aggressive or neurotic behavior. They are a sensitive breed but they can make wonderful pets, as long as you do your homework before you bring your new puppy home.
01: The Chow Chow
With chow chows you need to focus on making sure your dog knows the difference between right and wrong right away. They’re known for being very temperamental and are prone to rather nasty bites without any sort of warning. They are often considered ‘one man’ kind of dogs because they’re not good with a lot of people around them. They can also be especially suspicious – and therefore, more likely to attack – strangers. If you start teaching your chow chow that biting is wrong and is not behavior you tolerate, you may be okay but in general, chows are a better option for someone who has a lot of experience with dogs and really knows how to raise a dog properly.
Let’s end this with a brief conversation about dogs that are generally very gentle animals but have gotten a bad reputation for one reason or another. Now, as I mentioned in the intro, even the most aggressive dog breeds will can make great pets if raised properly. The same can be said for the reverse. If a dog – any dog – is not raised properly, it can become aggressive and destructive. If you abuse a dog, there is a good chance it will become aggressive and mean. That is true of any breed, including the breeds on the following list, which could contribute the the bad reputation some of these dogs have.
- Boxers: Despite the images their name may bring to mind, Boxers are great with kids and can make great watch dogs which is why so many dog behavior experts believe they make such excellent pets for families.
- Bulldogs: I’m not sure how Bulldogs got the bad reputation they have but it is entirely unwarranted. Bulldogs are often playful, gentle dogs that can make great family pets if they’re introduced to children when they’re puppies.
- German Shepherds: Perhaps Shepherds having a bad reputation is a generational thing. When I was growing up, I heard nothing but good things about German Shepherds but my husband (who is ten years older than me) clearly remembers when Shepherds were given the same treatment Pit Bulls get today. This is entirely unjustified. German Shepherds are far less aggressive naturally than most, if not all, of the other dogs on our list and when properly raised, can be amazingly loyal, gentle, affectionate companions that won’t just be gentle with its owners but with guests as well.
- Great Danes: Great Danes are huge animals which is probably a big part of the reason people sometimes assume they’re an aggressive breed. That isn’t true. Great Danes are kind, loving animals who are also incredibly affectionate. Some even go as far as to say there is no more loyal, loving breed out there than the Great Dane.
- Mastiffs: Like Great Danes, Mastiffs prove that size does not equal aggression. Mastiffs have long had a bad reputation but there is absolutely nothing to back that up. They’re extremely quiet, docile dogs that make amazing pets and amazing companions. If I were to ever get another dog, I’d want to go for a Mastiff.