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These 11 of the Most Aggressive Dog Breeds May Surprise You

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Odds are you’ve come across the phrase “banned breed” a time or two. It’s the polite phrase for breeds insurance companies, and landlords feel are too aggressive. You know the dogs they mean, too. Maybe you cross to the other side of the street when you see them walking. Is the reputation fair, though? Why do the most aggressive dog breeds have that status? We’ll examine the details a little closer.

Nature vs. Nurture

First of all, there’s no such thing as a “bad dog.” Every breed – no matter how calm – has the potential for aggression.

Many dog breeds held essential jobs in their ancestry. They served as guards and hunters. Aggression was encouraged to help them perform those jobs to the best of their ability. Some level of that aggression still exists in their genetic code. However, blaming the breed is shameful.

Aggressive traits develop for a lot of different reasons, and all of these results come from the actions of OWNERS:

  • Abuse
  • Encouragement of poor behavior
  • Improper puppy socialization
  • Inadequate or improper training
  • Lack of exercise
  • Starvation

Children and Dogs

People want to bring dogs into their families. Unfortunately, they don’t teach their children proper behavior around dogs. When the dogs react, they find themselves on the most aggressive dog breed list. It’s an unfair reaction. You can prevent this from happening by teaching your children to behave around their new puppy.

  1. No pulling, poking, hitting, or riding. But, unfortunately, even the calmest dog breeds have their tolerance limits.
  2. Going face-to-face is a confrontation in the dog world. While you may think it’s cute, your dog feels threatened.
  3. Watch for uncomfortable body language: tail down, ears pinned back, lip lifted. If your child isn’t paying attention, YOU need to.

Many of the most aggressive dog breeds earned a reputation from poor parenting. However, respect starts on both ends. While you’re teaching your puppy, you need to teach your children at the same time. This can head off any possible incidents before they start.

Defining “Aggression”

The most aggressive dog breeds earn their title through temperament testing. Testing examines common behaviors many people deem “dangerous.” Breeds that rank highest on the tests exhibit the behaviors immediately when approached by different stimuli and either continue them or escalate them. The stimuli get divided into three categories: friendly, neutral, and threatening. Unfortunately, the most aggressive dog breeds fail to differentiate between the three.

The aggressive behavior list includes:

  • Growling
  • Showing teeth
  • Snarling
  • Snapping
  • Charging the stranger
  • Biting
  • A “muzzle punch” (if they’re wearing a muzzle)

It’s important to remember that ALL dogs, regardless of whether they’re considered one of the most aggressive dog breeds or not, provide warnings before they bite. Choosing to overlook those warnings falls on you, NOT the dog.

Most Aggressive Dog Breeds: Small Dogs

When people think of aggressive dog breeds, they immediately conjure up images of imposing, muscled hounds. Yet, surprisingly, many small breed dogs fail the temperament testing. And the fault lies with the owners. People find the Napoleon Complex amusing, so they do nothing to curb the aggressive behaviors. A six-pound dog growling and snapping doesn’t seem frightening. However, take those same behaviors and move them into a SIXTY-POUND dog. Now, it’s not so funny. ALL aggression should be taken seriously and trained appropriately. It’s NEVER funny.

  • Chihuahua: Chihuahuas have dominant personalities. Many people love their loyalty, but it results in these tiny powerhouses snapping at anyone other than their chosen people. They DON’T like children, and they may not even tolerate your spouse. So early training is crucial if you don’t want to end up with a pint-sized tyrant.
  • Dachshund: Applied Animal Behaviour Science ranked Dachshunds as the most aggressive dog breed. People often refer to these little dogs as “carpet crocodiles” due to their penchant for going for the ankles. They’re intelligent and stubborn, and early socialization and training are a MUST. It’s important to remember Doxies started as badger dogs, and they’ve retained that fierce demeanor.
  • Jack Russel Terrier: JRTs took third place in that Applied Animal Behaviour study. They need a firm pack leader (that would be you) to prevent them from taking over the household and turning aggressive. Originally bred in England for fox-hunting, they’re quick and active little dogs. Start training as a puppy to establish firm boundaries.

Most Aggressive Dog Breeds: Mid-Sized Dogs

The larger dogs get, the more people tend to get nervous. Proper socialization as puppies eliminates a lot of the problems owners face with aggression. If you choose to rescue one of the most aggressive dog breeds, ask for their history. You may need to connect with a professional trainer to help your dog integrate into the household. Remember: there’s no such thing as a bad dog – only bad owners.

  • Chow Chow: First-time owners need to skip Chow Chows. The dominant breed served as guard dogs, a function they work well at today. However, their peripheral vision’s terrible, and they startle FAST as a result. If you haven’t started training from day one, establishing yourself as the boss, you’re sunk.
  • Dalmatian: 101 Dalmatians created an image that doesn’t live up to reality. (Never trust a movie for your breed choices) Serving as guard dogs since the 18th century, Dalmatians have HIGH energy demands. If you don’t meet their activity needs, they turn destructive. They also get jealous if you don’t pay them enough attention, translating into inappropriate aggression.
  • Pit Bull: No one’s ever surprised to find Pit Bulls listed as one of the most aggressive dog breeds, but they overlook the fact this breed is often TRAINED for that aggression. The flipside is also possible. Pit Bulls make loving canine companions.
  • Shar-Pei: Shar-Peis served as fighting dogs in China. That aggressive tendency can persist, something that doesn’t do well with their natural inclination towards territoriality. You need a firm commitment to training and socialization with a lot of patience. They have a stubborn streak you’ll need to overcome in the first place.

Most Aggressive Dog Breeds: The Big Guys

When you watch the movies, these are the dogs Hollywood features as the most aggressive dog breeds. They’re the dogs you see villains keeping around. It’s an undeserved reputation. (Remember, Dachshunds have the top spot on the list!) These breeds have the most bulk and muscle. They’re often also the biggest puddles of love when in the hands of the right owners. So before you turn and run in the other direction at the dog park, talk to their owner. You might find yourself surprised.

  • Boerboel: Boerboels originated in South Africa. That bulk comes from a need to protect farms from lions and leopards. They’re fiercely loyal, but that loyalty translates into one of the most aggressive dog breeds. They still work farms in South Africa today, but they’re making their way around the world. So you need early socialization and a reminder that the lions and leopards AREN’T a threat in the backyard.
  • Dogo Argentino: Bred in Argentina for hunting boar and puma, Dogos have a fierce reputation. In fact, their aggressive tendencies have them banned in the entire United Kingdom! They’re gorgeous, and they bond with their owners, but they’re not suited for city living or families.
  • Rottweiler: Rottweilers serve as the ultimate guard dogs. They analyze situations with a calm, collected mind before reacting. However, the sheer bulk of their size and their powerful jaws earn them a reputation as one of the most aggressive dog breeds. You need to start training and socialization early to prevent problems.
  • Wolfdog: As you might guess, Wolfdogs come about from mating a wolf and a dog. The resulting offspring are HIGHLY inconsistent. Some pups end up laidback and relaxed, while others lean towards the wild side. The aggressive concern happens when they reach sexual maturity. In the wild, wolves begin to challenge the alpha members of the pack at that time. And guess who the alpha is? (That would be you) They can change personalities entirely, becoming overly aggressive. It’s a risky gamble.

Bad Owners

The most aggressive dog breeds have earned unfair reputations. Some may work as guard dogs, police dogs, or military dogs now, but most are family dogs. The breeds get tarnished with the actions of dogs treated poorly by owners.

Aggression is NEVER humorous and should NEVER get encouraged. You’re responsible for the dog in your care. If you allow such behavior to persist, you’re accountable for the results.

Get your dog the training they require. Invest in proper socialization techniques. And stock up on your patience. You’re going to need it.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her husband, three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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