A dog's inclination toward aggression depends on a wide array of factors, including whether they're in pain or suffering from a lack of physical and mental stimulation, a victim of previous trauma at the hands of irresponsible or abusive owners, neutered or intact, or carrying certain genetics.
There are many different types of canine aggression, but does breed play a role in aggressive behaviors? The stats show some patterns, and so-called bully breeds are often no bueno where home insurance is concerned.
In the 1990s, the CDC looked at the dog breeds involved in fatal maulings over 17 years. During the studied period, the most deaths—60 to be precise—were caused by pit bulls or similar dogs like the American Bully, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
When pit bulls are trained and socialized early and treated well, they're unlikely to be overly aggressive or violent. But it's also important to check the provenance of your future dog. Banned in the U.S. since 2008, dog fighting was widespread in the 19th century, and pit bulls were bred to fight animals like bulls and bears. Illegal dog fighting still occurs today, and, sadly, a puppy could be from a litter bred for combat.
Number 2 on the CDC's list, Rottweilers accounted for 29 lethal bite incidents. These powerful dogs used to herd cattle and hunt bears; today, they serve as guard dogs and police dogs in K-9 units.
Rottweilers make affectionate pets that can get along with other animals in the home, but they can get highly aggressive when protecting their family members if they have not been appropriately trained. Rotties are also used in the illicit dog fighting industry, where they are trained to be aggressive.
Akita Inus are gorgeous, large, Japanese-origin dogs with fluffy coats that may belie their strength. These canines were bear hunters once upon a time. They're not keen on strangers or other animals, particularly other dogs of the same sex, but they love their human owners and children in the family.
Because of their aggression toward strangers when not socialized, Akitas are mentioned in some countries' dangerous dog laws.
Dachshunds are a small breed that may surprise you with their fierceness. They can become aggressive with humans and other animals, and there's a reason for this explosive potential. These dogs were bred to hunt badgers, who aren't pushovers. Because of this predatory history, you'd do well not to bring a dachshund into a home with small pets such as hamsters or guinea pigs. Training is essential to ensure your pup doesn't bark or snarl at every passerby.
Chow chows sure are cute with their squashed faces, furry manes, and fluffy double coats. They're also often unsociable and stubborn. These Chinese dogs often bond with just one person, and they can become possessive.
Chow Chows may also display aggression towards kids and other animals, although early training can prevent resource guarding and other dominant behaviors. Some home insurers in the U.S. include chow chows in their banned lists.
Like Chow Chows and other large dogs, mastiffs are often given up and linger in shelters without being adopted. They're considered a bully breed with the potential to attack if they are unbalanced. Bullmastiffs are fearless and large, and that combination can be deadly. Other mastiff types, such as Neapolitan, English, Tibetan, or Spanish, also present risks.
Dobermans were on the CDC's notorious list, as were mastiffs. The former has a potentially aggressive temperament and should be treated with caution if you have children. Dobermans of yore were more dangerous, but selective breeding has reduced aggressive traits over the years. These athletic dogs are great guard dogs and fantastic companions but require a lot of attention and exercise.
Ask almost anyone with a German shepherd, and they'll tell you their dog just looks mean and is actually a total sweetheart with puppy dog eyes and gentleness around little kids. Be that as it may, German shepherds account for a not insignificant number of lethal attacks.
Between 2005 and 2017, they made the top 3 for fatal incidents in the U.S. The breed is protective, so training is necessary to prevent injuries to strangers.
We couldn't put dachshunds on this list and not include the famous chihuahua. This toy breed is a favorite among celebrities and may fit in a handbag, but like the mini poodle and mini schnauzer, it's known for snarling and snapping. The aggression is likely fear-based due to its size, but that doesn't make it any less startling for the unsuspecting newbie.
Don't let the tiny hounds fool you into thinking they're innocent. They need a fair bit of training to learn to chill.
Siberian Huskies have a lot going for them in the looks department, which is why they're a popular choice. But how do they fare when it comes to behavior? They have a placid temperament, but huskies were on the CDC list and caused 13 mauling deaths during the period under study.
These large working dogs are very active and need physical stimulation, and they have high prey drives. They're also a little wild and can be unpredictable. Ownership comes with a responsibility—you must socialize them early and keep them away from small children, or they may unintentionally be too rough.
Like many other dogs on this list, tosas are massive, and they have a robust set of jaws. The breed is banned in some countries due to a history of dog fighting—tosas were bred to fight silently, which is disconcerting. With firm but not unkind handling, the tosa will obey.
Lovable Disney dogs wouldn't hurt a hair on you, would they? Actually, Dalmatians are working dogs who don't like being cooped up or bored, so there's no saying for sure. For a while in the 18th century, spotted Dalmatians were carriage dogs, known for guarding goods and travelers. These protective instincts can sometimes prove dangerous.
It's time for another gotcha. Once upon a time, the adorable Pekingese was a companion to Chinese royalty. These days, you'll find them in laps all around the world. They get moody and don't tolerate other dogs or toddlers. This breed also has a rep for being a reliable watchdog who'll alert you to anything amiss. Of course, that can get annoying without boundaries.
Firstly, the Ovcharka, AKA the Russian Bear dog or the Caucasian shepherd, can get huge and dwarf its owner—its size comes with immense strength. Secondly, it is super territorial, and if it perceives a threat, it's hard to control this animal if you haven't previously exposed it to obedience training. Ovcharkas can be strong-willed.
Saint Bernards are a giant breed known for being gentle. But their sheer size means that you shouldn't let your guard down around one, even if they're known as nanny dogs. Saint Bernards are muscular and imposing, and accidents can happen, so be sure to supervise all interactions with little kids and children the dog is less familiar with.
Puma and boar hunters in another lifetime, your Dogo Argentino may still exhibit some aggressive tendencies. For this reason, the breed is banned or restricted in places like Australia, New Zealand, parts of Scandinavia, and the UK. Wary of dogs of the same sex, this dog can also turn on its owner without puppy classes to set it straight.
Boerboels hail from South Africa and are generally bred to protect farms. This dog can weigh up to 200 pounds and has been described by some as a "pitbull on steroids". It's a force to be reckoned with, and if treated poorly, would fit right into Ramsay Bolton's pack of killers in Game of Thrones. But, if raised well and from good stock, the Boerboel can surprise you with tenderness and devotion.
You don't want to mess with a boxer. These dogs can have a vicious side, and it may come out if provoked or if they become frustrated in some way. The boxer's bite is no joke, but you can train them not to bite hard or not to bite at all, even when it's an adult.
The Kangal, a Turkish shepherd dog, is known for its bite force, which is more powerful than the average lion's. Kangals are also more agile than their big cat counterparts, and they've been protecting humans against predators for centuries.
Although categorized as a dangerous dog by some and subject to muzzling laws, you may have the opposite experience with this loyal and nurturing breed.
We don't recommend getting a possibly feral wolf-dog hybrid because owner experiences have been mixed. This is real life, not a fantasy world full of dire wolves, and even though you may bond with your hybrid, even someone without extensive dog-owning experience may struggle to get a handle on a creature that's very different from a husky or Alaskan Malamute. Hybrids can be ferocious, not to mention illegal, depending on where you live.
The Neapolitan Mastiff's massive frame and vigilant gaze contradict its tender, familial nature. Traditionally, guardians of homes, this large dog breed can appear intimidating. However, with the proper training, they reveal a serene temperament. Owners should harness their protective instincts through positive reinforcement and ensure ample space to roam and play.
The Presa Canario, a muscular breed from the Canary Islands, is known for its assertive personality and protective behavior. This powerful, high-energy breed thrives with an owner who respects the canine hierarchy and can provide consistent leadership. With a heritage in guarding, they are not inherently aggressive but require clear, structured training.
The Basenji, a unique breed with a quiet demeanor, is independent and intelligent. They may not bark, but they communicate their spirited personality through other vocalizations and actions. Early socialization and patient training are crucial when the goal is to integrate them into your family life and curb any stubborn tendencies.
Originally bred to track lions, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a noble breed combining strength and loyalty. This handsome breed can act reserved around strangers, but with their families, they are affectionate. Consistent training from a young age helps them become well-adjusted adults, balancing their protective nature with gentle companionship.
The Cane Corso, an Italian breed, is as loyal as it is majestic. With a natural inclination to protect, they require an owner who can guide them with confidence and care. Proper socialization and early training are crucial to developing their respectful and affectionate side, ensuring they become a well-mannered family member.
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