If you’re a regular reader, right now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Has my favorite dog blogger gone completely nuts? What’s up with this ‘dangerous dog’ list?”
Well, the last time I checked, my sanity wasn’t any more in question than it’s ever been. And as to “what’s up,” the genesis for this post occurred, as often happens, at the dog park. We’ve had a few newcomers lately. Some have come back, and I think they’ll probably end up being regulars. But I’m pretty sure that the guy I encountered a few days ago is going to be looking for somewhere else to exercise his dog.
As is usually the case, I noticed the dog before I did the person. He had a beautiful Chocolate Lab, but he seemed reluctant to let the dog off leash. He seemed to be eyeballing Janice and Leroy. So I figured I’d introduce myself. I called my two back over to me and put their leashes back on – just proper etiquette when approaching another person with a dog who’s still on lead. As I came closer, the man snapped, “Keep those two away from my dog!” A bit of conversation ensued, with me trying to find out if maybe the Lab had some issues, and finally, it culminated with the new arrival telling me, “Boxers are dangerous dogs! They’re on every dangerous dog list.”
Seems he read that on the Internet. Of course, I was stunned. I’m pretty sure that my babies don’t even know that their teeth could have a use other than eating and picking up squeaky toys! So when I got home, I started Googling, and it turns out Mr. Unsociable was right – boxers actually are on those lists. They’re on list after list, in fact.
Regular readers know that I am dead-set against breed-specific legislation (BSL), and that I don’t believe there is any such thing as a naturally vicious dog (see The Truth About Dog Bite Statistics and The Real Truth About Pit Bulls). If a dog is likely to be dangerous, there are reasons. So, keeping that in mind, I’ve looked at tons of different lists, and tried to identify the breeds that appear most often. I’m leaving out dogs that are so obscure you’ve probably never even heard of them, and I’m presenting them in no particular order – with one exception. I’m giving the American Pit Bull the number one spot, not because I think these dogs are inherently dangerous, but because more problems are reported with Pits than with any other type of dog.
1. American Pit Bull
It’s hard to believe that the dog that was advertised in the 1970s as the ultimate family pet, and referred to as the “Nanny Dog” because of its gentle manner with children, has become the most reviled breed in the United States. And it’s true, over the past decade or so, Pits have been responsible for more serious attacks, and even fatalities, than any other breed. Pit Bulls are banned in many jurisdictions.
What cannot be overlooked, though, is that this breed is highly prized by the criminal element. Drug dealers often choose this type of dog to protect their inventory. They also abuse individual dogs to make them mean, and practice inbreeding with the specific intention of creating psychotic dogs. A dog with the strength and jaw pressure of a Pit Bull can be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands.
The Doberman originated in Germany, where it was commonly used by police forces. This is a very strong dog, weighing up to 90 pounds, and possessed of a very protective nature. In fact, a friend of mine rescued an abused Doberman, and the dog was so fearful that he would urinate if someone shouted in his presence. Despite that, any time he perceived a threat to my friend, he’d be all teeth.
Perhaps you have heard that Dobermans are known to “turn” on their owners. This is definitely not a common occurrence, although in 2011 a 71-year-old woman in Cooke County, Texas, died after being attacked by her Doberman. Reportedly, the dog had been imported from Hungary, and trained to protect humans. It’s not known what went wrong.
The Boxer also originated in Germany, as a hunting dog. They are highly intelligent, and very curious. They are also energetic, and need an owner who can keep up with them. They are also possessed of amazing jaw pressure, so even though they are not naturally aggressive, you can expect that if you are bitten by a Boxer, the wound will be serious.
In 2013, an Arizona man was killed while trying to stop a fight between his Boxer and his Cocker Spaniel. The Boxer in this case weighed only 40 pounds. The problem, from my perspective, is that the man had far too many dogs – four others joined in the fray. This likely has more to do with a really bad mix than it does any individual breed. And yes, I am biased.
Malamutes are probably best known for their athletic ability as sled dogs. They need a lot of intellectual stimulation, and have a very high energy level. They don’t usually do well off-leash, because if they see something of interest, they’re going to want to check it out.
The thing with Malamutes is that they’re more closely related to wolves than many other breeds. This means that they can be hard to train, stubborn, and possessed of a very high prey drive. There have been three fatalities in the United States, attributed to Malamute attacks, since 2005. In the grand scheme of things, that’s not really much (see my conclusion for a really scary statistic!).
The PresaCanario was bred in Spain, by farmers, to keep predators like wild boars away from their stock. This is a very powerful dog, and can weigh more than 120 pounds. It has a muscular body, and a ton of power. Sadly, the PresaCanario is also popular among lowlife who operate dog fighting rings.
PresaCanarios are banned in Australia and New Zealand, and in fact, there have been horror stories in the news of PresaCanarios that have launched seemingly unprovoked attacks on humans. They are very protective of their “pack,” and can be good family pets if properly trained and socialized.
6. Great Dane
I know, Scooby Doo, right? Well, Scoob’s not the kind of dog that you would think of as dangerous, and in fact, most of the time the only danger from a Great Dane is due to their incredible size and weight. A female Dane can weight up to 150 pounds, and a male up to 170. That’s bigger than most people.So they can knock you over.
Now, having said that, if you’re the kind of person who wants to adopt a rescue dog, think twice before considering a Great Dane. Any dog who comes from an abusive situation can be dangerous to its next owner, and when that dog is bigger than you are, it could be a recipe for trouble.
If you think a Great Dane is big, then consider the Tosa. It’s a Japanese breed, usually docile, loyal, easy to handle, great with kids, and friendly toward strangers. However, it was bred originally as a fighting dog, and can weigh up to 220 pounds.
With this type of dog, it’s nature versus nurture. As I’ve pointed out, Pit Bulls were not bred originally for fighting – they just ended up being corrupted by horrible humans. The Tosa, though, was bred for the purpose. So, if you devote a lot of time to training and socialization, you may do very well with a Tosa. But you still have to consider what’s in their DNA. Tosas are banned in many countries.
8. Bull Mastiff
Bull Mastiffs have their origin in England, where they were bred to keep poachers off estates. To say the least, these are intimidating-looking dogs, weighing up to 130 pounds and possessed of a stocky body and large head. The main trouble with the Bull Mastiff (unlike his much larger cousin, the up-to-240-pound English Mastiff) is that he can be short-tempered.
On the other hand, Bull Mastiffs can be possessed of incredible loyalty. If you have children, though, you might consider an English Mastiff instead. The easily-annoyed Bulls could pose a threat, and have been responsible for attacks on children.
9. German Shepherd
As you could imagine from the name, the German Shepherd originated in Germany, and was used for herding sheep. Many people refer to them as “Police Dogs,” because they are often used as K9 dogs. The German Shepherd is fearless, confident, and incredibly loyal.
The main danger when it comes to German Shepherd’s is that it has a very strong bite, and can be prone to be snappish. If you are considering this type of dog as a family pet, then you are going to have to make sure that the dog is properly socialized, and that you are always the alpha in the relationship (see Boot Camp for Alpha Dogs).
10. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are one of the most popular breeds when it comes to pet dogs. However, like the Malamute, it is very close to its wolf ancestry, and was originally bred as a sled dog. The Siberian Husky is a very strong dog with a high prey drive, and not suitable for people who may not feel comfortable handling a naturally assertive breed.
Note, please, that I said “assertive,” not “aggressive.” Huskies are usually good with their owners, and also with strangers who may come to visit. However, if you are considering a Siberian Husky as a family pet, then you will need to be vigilant. Most of the time, you will have a good friend and protector, but if not properly trained and socialized, the Siberian Husky can be a dangerous dog.
Look, don’t get me started. It’s a bad idea. In fact, if I were doing this list in what I consider to be real order instead of random, I’d put these animals well above Pit Bulls. Not in terms of the number of attacks, because Pits still take the number one place – because there are far more Pits than wolf dogs. They’re nearly impossible to train, and if you own one, you’d better be ready to be the uber-alpha, 24/7. And as to fatalities, I broke it down in Wolves and Wolf Hybrids as Pets by pointing out that wolves and wolf hybrids are responsible for 1.25% of the dog-caused deaths in America, as oppose to 0.11% caused by every other breed of dog.
So are there inherently dangerous breeds? You bet there are! But they’re not dogs the way we typically think of dogs. Dog/wolf crossbreeds are dangerous and unpredictable, and if you think it’s cool to own one, you’re an idiot.
I’m sure that my friend Neila is going to stop talking to me right about now. Her babies have made my “dangerous dog” list. But hey, Neila, so did mine! Again, though, I think the issue doesn’t really have so much to do with the nature of the dog as it does with the jaw pressure. A Rottweiler is a strong, aggressive, muscular dog, but if it’s properly trained (as Neila’s are), it can be a wonderful family pet. I’ve seen Neila’sRotts with kids, and it’s just a huge love-fest!
That said, though, if a Rottweiler is mistreated (by someone who wants to use it for criminal purposes, for instance), then it will most definitely present a threat. The sad fact is that Rottweilers are responsible for about half of serious or fatal dog attacks. And 99.9% of the time, it’s bad people, not bad Rotts.
13. Saint Bernard
And now Al is going to stop talking to me, because his Hannah is the sweetest, most gentle dog that ever lived. The trouble is, that if a Saint Bernard is not properly socialized, it can be very hard to handle. Some Saints have even been known to attack their owners. This could be because they are very, very territorial.
Properly socialized and well-trained, though, a Saint Bernard can be a good family dog. Because of their size, though, Saints can accidentally cause injuries to children or the elderly, so you’ll have to be vigilant.
Many people believe that the DogoArgentino was bred for fighting, but this is not true. His courage, though, has led him to be popular among pond scum who enjoy watching dogs fight to the death for their own amusement. The DogoAgentino was actually bred for hunting big game like wild boars and pumas.
If you want a DogoArgentino, you need to be an alpha, and you need to train him before he reaches his full size, because at that point, he could easily overpower you. DogoArgentinos have a very powerful bite, and have been banned in some countries.
15. Chow Chow
How could anything that looks like a pretty, fluffy lion be dangerous? Trust me, the Chow Chow can be. This breed requires very early socialization if it is going to be any kind of a family pet. Adolescence can be a particularly problematic period. It’s almost a given that a Chow Chow is going to want to be dominant, and if you don’t deal with it early, you’re going to have problems.
With an assertive trainer, and lots of attention, a Chow Chow can be a good companion. But honestly, I wouldn’t recommend one for a home with children.
16. Rhodesian Ridgeback
The Rhodesian Ridgeback originates in South Africa, and was actually bred to fight lions. They can grow to be over 80 pounds, and they are incredibly strong and intelligent. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is also sometimes referred to as the African Lion Hound.
Now, as is the case with most breeds, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a good family dog if properly trained and socialized. They are amazingly loyal and protective. However, this also means that they might be aggressive with strangers. If you choose this breed, make sure to introduce your dog early on to a variety of people – the last thing you need is a dog of this size responding to what he sees as “stranger danger.”
17. Cane Corso
This Italian-bred dog is not to be trifled with. He’s got a big head, and a huge bite. Bred in Roman times, this is what Shakespeare meant when he penned the words, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”
Today, the Cane Corso is used tor assistance when hunting big game like wild boar. And, unfortunately, for pit fighting. He is strong, alert, beyond protective, not to be messed with, and not for any owner who has the least little bit of doubt as to whether he or she can maintain the alpha position.
The Newfoundland dog is a large, long-haired, mastiff-type breed. Often prized as a watchdog, the Newfoundland is also believed to have accompanied Lewis and Clark on their explorations. He is a great protector, and fiercely loyal.
The Newfoundland requires a lot of mental stimulation, though, and a great deal of exercise. In other words, he wants a job. This could mean pulling a sled, hauling a cart, or even just waking up your kids in the morning. If you have a Newfoundland, give him something to do, and you’ll have a happy companion.
Who hasn’t seen these pretty, spotted dogs in Disney movies or in pictures where they’re on fire trucks? The Dalmatian comes from Croatia, where he was used as a border guard. Today, he is a beloved American family pet.
But… Dalmatians can be irritable, and in some cases, they have been known to harm people. In 2003, a Dalmatian attacked a child. The wounds were not fatal, but did require stitching. Dalmatians typically need a lot of training, and they can be destructive.
20. French Mastiff
The French Mastiff, or Dogue de Bordeaux, is a working dog dating back to the 14th century. Farmers used the French Mastiff to haul carts and guard their herds. Today, many people use the French Mastiff as a guard dog, and because of its ability to deliver a nasty bite, it is banned in some jurisdictions.
The French Mastiff will not usually obey you without question, and is often suspicious of strangers, so it’s important that you work hard to socialize him properly. The French Mastiff loves to work, so give him a job to channel his aggression.
The Akita is a very bold, assertive dog, and will never back down from a challenge. Improperly handled, they can be very dangerous. Most of the time, an Akita will not be receptive to strangers, so you’re going to have to work really hard on socialization. An Akita will also not obey blindly – you have to give him a reason to want to obey you.
If you have an Akita, give him a job. Make him pull a cart, or haul bales of hay for your horse. Akitas are always happiest when they have something to do. If the Akita’s need to work can be properly channeled, he can be a good family pet.
So, what did you notice about my descriptions of the most dangerous dogs? There’s almost always a caveat. In most cases, the dog could be dangerousunless certain needs are met. None of the dogs that I’ve talked about are inherently dangerous; they’re just kind of like loaded guns in the wrong hands. I’ll say it right now, and I’ll stand by it – the only dangerous dog is the one who has a dangerous owner. Vicious pit bulls? Oh as if! Vicious Rottweilers? Tell that to Neila with her cuddle-muffins going nappies with their stuffed toys. Vicious Cane Corso? Only if some a**hole has it in a pit fighting other dogs!
Every single dog breed I’ve talked about above can be a wonderful family pet. There are no naturally vicious dogs. Only horrible, dangerous people.
And a Footnote
You might also be interested to know that many of the dogs that showed up on the “dangerous breed” lists also had a place on a “Best Dogs for Families” list or two. Sometimes, I guess it’s just a matter of opinion.
And my opinion is that Janice and Leroy are good dogs, and no one better try to tell me otherwise!