If you’ve read my post, Breed Stereotyping – Why It’s Harmful, and Why We Need to Fight It, then you know that I am firmly of the belief that there is no such thing as an inherently “bad” breed of dog. Sadly, though, some dog breeds have really bad reputations, and are even believed to be prone to turn on their owners. Owning one of these breeds can earn you a world of grief. I don’t really think that any breed of dog is prone to “turn,” but some people will insist that they will. They’re wrong, but even so, their wrong-headed opinions can give perfectly good breeds of dogs a very bad name.
Just as an example, a friend of mine has just been told that she has 30 days to get rid of her dog, or find another place to live. Why? Well, because her landlord has decided that her sweet, gentle Doberman might be a danger to the neighborhood kids. This is despite the fact that this dog is best friend to a six-month-old child, and has never shown any aggression toward anyone at all.
Another friend who owns a Boston Bull Terrier was recently denied home owner’s insurance, again because of a perception of the breed as being dangerous. For that matter, my friend, Neila, who owns and breeds Rottweilers, has been living without insurance on her home for years, for the same reason. If anything goes wrong at her house, she’s going to be without insurance, simply because of her choice of canine companions.
It breaks my heart when I think of people having to give up their dogs, or being discriminated against because of their breed of choice. It happens over and over, though, and some breeds are indisputably targeted. The following are 15 dog breeds that have really bad reputations, mostly undeserved. I’m presenting them in the order that, as far as I’ve been able to determine, represent the most to the least dangerous of the supposedly dangerous breeds.
Sometimes, I wonder about the people who make up these lists. Where do they get their facts? Do they go with simple bite counts, or do they actually do any research? I’d have to go really deep and do a lot of very time-consuming research if I wanted to determine which breeds are really the most dangerous, and honestly, I just don’t have enough time to do that. So I’m compiling this list based on other lists that I’ve been able to find.
I expect that many of you will be outraged to find your dog on the list. I’d just ask you not to go after me, because I’m just as outraged as you are. I’d encourage you, too, to leave a comment stating why your dog shouldn’t be on this list.
For that matter, I don’t censor comments, so if you want to say “Right on, Breed X is dangerous!” I’ll post your comments, as well. This is a subject that should be discussed.
Here we go.
The AmStaff makes the number one spot on the list of 15 dog breeds with really bad reputations simply because the breed makes headlines all the time. I think that this is often due to the fact that really bad people acquire these dogs and use them for illegal purposes, like dog fighting and guarding drugs.
Dog fighting is, of course, illegal, and yet it’s still common – same with drug dealing. The illegality of these two activities, though, doesn’t seem to stop people from wanting to get large dogs, and then torment them to the point that they become vicious. So, American Staffordshires get a reputation for attacking kids, elderly people, and even their owners with very little provocation.
Properly trained and socialized, an American Staffordshire Terrier isn’t a threat to anyone. But because of “bad actors,” an insurance company will probably deny you coverage if you have a dog of this breed. At the very least, they’ll make you pay a higher premium.
If you’re considering an Amstaff, I have to tell you that it’s not a breed for everyone. You will have to be an assertive owner. Staffies can be stubborn, and they need a firm (but kind) hand. Properly socialized, they make wonderful pets.
The German Shepherd comes in at number two on the list of 15 dog breeds that are believed to be aggressive, and in fact, the German Shepherd ranks in the top five dog breeds that are most likely to bite.
I think, though, that this likely has less to do with ill nature in the dog than it does with the fact that there are so many German Shepherds. The breed is very popular, and any time that there are large numbers of a certain breed, more bites will be attributed to it.
Are German Shepherds aggressive?
Well, yes, they can be. They’re very confident, protective dogs, and because of their size and strength, it’s very important that they be properly socialized.
German Shepherds can also be excitable, and it’s easy enough to make the leap from excitement to aggression. So again, socialization is vital.
The Rottweiler is a very old breed, dating back to the Roman Empire, where it worked as a herding dog and later as protection for tax collectors.
My friend, Neila, has placed Rottweilers in homes with small children and never had one single report of a problem. Of course, she also vets potential homes very carefully. She knows that Rottweilers are very strong dogs, and that they can be aggressive, so she only places puppies in homes where the owners have experience with large breeds.
If your heart leads you toward a Rottweiler, then I applaud that. I would suggest, though, that you need to understand that these are very strong dogs, and that you should be constantly vigilant. A bite from a Toy Poodle or a Yorkie isn’t a big deal, but a bite from a Rottweiler can be traumatic to the point where surgery is needed.
Also, never, ever buy a Rottweiler from a puppy mill. That’s just a disaster waiting to happen.
Most Dobermans look pretty scary, particularly if they’ve had their ears cropped. It’s a shame, though, that the breed shows up over and over on lists of 15 dog breeds that could be dangerous, because most Dobies are complete marshmallows. They love their humans, and they’re generally cordial with visitors.
A badly trained, badly socialized Doberman, though, can be a very dangerous animal. They’ve been known to bite humans, and attack other dogs. If you’re considering a Dobie, you’ll need to make sure to work on socialization. You have a large dog that can be a huge threat if he’s not properly trained.
See Wolves and Wolf Hybrids as Pets for more information.
I know that I’ve said that there’s no such thing as a bad dog. And I’m not saying that wolves and wolf hybrids are “bad,” just that they’re very, very dangerous. They’re responsible for more attacks than any breed of domesticated dog, and quite simply, they can’t be trusted, even in the hands of the most assertive owner.
Wolves and dog/wolf hybrids are so dangerous that they’re among the most likely breeds to have to be euthanized. They will almost always become dangerous, and then something has to be done – usually, it’s euthanasia.
The Bull Mastiff isn’t what I’d call a potentially vicious dog, by any means. It makes the list of 15 dog breeds with bad reputations purely because of its size. Properly trained, a Bull Mastiff can be a wonderful, loving companion, but if not properly trained, he could be an accident just waiting to happen – knocking over children and elderly people. Bull Mastiffs aren’t typically aggressive, but if you do end up with one that has a very dominant nature, he could be a danger to you and your family.
This breed is known for its hunting and guarding ability. Cane Corsos are very muscular, usually bond to one person, and if not socialized, might attack a stranger. If that happens, you can bet that there will be no good outcome. This is a very big dog with a huge set of teeth.
Most experts believe that the Cane Corso is not a good choice for people who aren’t familiar with large, aggressive dogs.
The Tosa Inu is a comparatively rare breed, and was originally developed for fighting. This is a big dog, weighing up to 135 pounds, and can be very aggressive.
In some jurisdictions, the Tosa Inu is banned. The breed is not welcome in Australia; residents of the United Kingdom are required to obtain special permits before they can own a Tosa Inu, and they are completely illegal in Dublin and Hong Kong.
The trouble with the Tosa Inu is the same as it is with other dogs that have been traditionally bred for fighting: people acquire a Tosa Inu and assume that the dog is going to be much the same as any other household pet. Then, the worst happens, and a badly socialized Tosa bites someone, and the owner says, “I don’t know what went wrong; he never did anything like that before!”
With a breed of this size, and with such powerful jaw pressure, socialization is vital. Bringing a dog of this breed into your home and not socializing him is actually very much like leaving a gun with all chambers loaded and the safety off laying around, and assuming that nothing will go wrong.
Here is another comparatively rare breed that looks extremely scary. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you’re considering a dog for protection, you don’t exactly want burglars to say to themselves, “Oh, look at the pretty dog; I think I’d like to pet him!”
The American Bandogge is a descendant of the American Pit Bull and the Neapolitan Mastiff, and is very muscular. The breed is known to be aggressive, especially if not properly socialized.
One thing you need to know about the American Bandogge is that if you’re the sort of person who wants to rescue an abused dog, this might not be the best choice. With this breed, abuse aggravates the tendency toward aggression, and a rescued American Bandogge can be very dangerous.
With this breed, too, it’s absolutely vital that you be the alpha in the relationship. Anyone else in the household should also be willing to take on the role of alpha in your absence. It’s not unheard of for American Bandogges to be perfectly compliant when the alpha is present, and then turn into holy terrors when left alone with other members of the household.
Simply stated, this is not a breed for just anyone.
The Dogo Argentino is a powerful dog, bred to hunt puma and wild boar. This breed looks dangerous, and it can be every bit as dangerous as it looks. In fact, it’s very much like the American Bandogge in that it might be quite cooperative in the presence of the alpha, but when the alpha isn’t present, the Dogo might decide, “Okay, I think I’LL be the alpha now!”
Training – vigorous training – is absolutely vital with this breed. You want to make sure that he’ll obey anyone in your household, at any time, even if circumstances occur that cause him to become agitated.
With the Dogo Argentino, you might never have a problem if you train him properly. On the other hand, if you don’t, you could end up saying, “I don’t get it – he was just fine until he ate my neighbor’s kid!”
This is a very muscular dog that has definitely earned his position on this list of 15 dog breeds with bad reputations. The Presa Canario is massive and strong, and requires strong leadership. If not properly trained, he can be a time bomb waiting to go off.
As is the case with the American Bandogge and the Dogo Argentino, if problems are going to occur, they generally will when the alpha is out of the house. The Presa Canario looks to the alpha for leadership, and if that leadership is not present, the dog might be very unruly, and even unstable, around other members of the household.
It’s worth mentioning, too, that this is not a breed of dog that’s known to be fond of children. I would not recommend a Presa Canario for people who have small kids. If you’re considering this breed, wait until your kids are into their teens and able to understand how to be a kind “boss” in their relationship with the dog.
This is another fighting breed that can be hard to control. The Gull Dong is a Pakistani breed that is often favored by people who want to protect themselves, and their property from criminals. Unfortunately, criminals also want to own Gull Dongs for very bad purposes, including dog fighting and intimidating other humans.
If you’re considering a Gull Dong, I’d advise obtaining a puppy. Older dogs can be pretty risky, because you really have no way of knowing what (if any) training they’ve had. Properly trained, Gull Dongs can be loving and loyal, but if not properly trained, they can be dangerous.
The Chow Chow is a very pretty dog, with his fluffy fur. The dog makes the list of 15 dog breeds with really bad reputations, though, because the Chow Chow can have a really nasty attitude. Despite their cuddly appearance, Chow Chows can react very badly to people who tick them off.
The key with the Chow Chow is, as I’ve pointed out in regard to other breeds, to socialize early. You’re dealing with a breed that’s prone to dominant behavior, and one that, if it feels it’s been provoked, might lash out.
Chow Chows are also not typically good with stranger. This makes them great guard dogs, but not necessarily ideal if you like to do a lot of entertaining.
That’s not to say that these dogs are ill-mannered. It just means that if you’re a passive owner who doesn’t want to be the alpha in the relationship with your dog, the Chow Chow might not be the right breed for you.
These are beautiful dogs, but they can be a bit hard to handle. They can be great pets, but keep in mind that of all the different breeds of dogs, this is the one that’s closest to the wolf. It’s actually the dog that’s most often chosen by people who want to breed wolf/dog hybrids, which I’ve already pointed out is a pretty bad idea.
Siberian Huskies are independent, and don’t tolerate “pestering” easily, so they’re not always the best dogs to have around kids. If you are considering a Siberian Husky, you’ll have to be very vigilant about training early if you expect to have a good family dog. Otherwise, you could end up with a very dominant animal that can be snappish at best, and dangerous at worst.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a South African Dog that was previously used to keep lions at bay. This should give you an idea of the tenacity of the breed, and also help you to understand why some people are a little timid around them.
This is a big dog, usually weighing in at about 80 pounds. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is aggressive, and not overly fond of strangers, so the breed makes for outstanding guard dogs.
That said, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can make a very good companion if socialized early.
I’m not making any representations here as to which dogs really are among the 15 dog breeds that are the most dangerous. As I said in the beginning, I don’t think that any breed is inherently dangerous. Some might be naturally aggressive or dominant, but I think that any breed of dog that’s properly socialized can be a good companion for adult, if not necessarily for children.
The problem with almost any breed of dog isn’t the dog; it’s the owner. The person who’s new to dogs and ends up with more dog than he can handle, or the person who can’t be bothered to train and socialize. The dogs I’ve included on this list will probably challenge you, but if you’re up to it, good on you. If you’re not up to it, find another breed. You won’t be doing yourself, or your dog, any favors if you take on more than you can handle.