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The 20 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds
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The 20 Most Aggressive Dog Breeds

Critter Culture Staff

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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.

1

Pit bulls

Close-up of pit bull terrier looking away Dan Baillie / 500px/ Getty Images

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.

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2

Rottweilers

Gorgeous and regal Rottweiler sitting in the grass Rachel Lodin/ Getty Images

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.

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3

Akita Inus

Japanese Akita Inu Dog Winter Portrait Lunja/ Getty Images

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.

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4

Dachshunds

Portrait of a puppy miniature Dachshund, short haired black and tan with a beautiful shiny glossy coat outside on grass in the sunshine CBCK-Christine/ Getty Images

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.

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5

Chow chows

A big fury chow chow with his tongue out. He has orange fur and blue tongue. The photo was taken outdoors with natural light. Thais Almeida/ Getty Images

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.

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6

Mastiffs

Breed dog English Mastiff DevidDO/ Getty Images

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.

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7

Dobermans pinscher

Side View Of Doberman Pinscher At Park Tara Gregg / EyeEm/ Getty Images

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.

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8

German shepherds

young german shepherd sitting on grass in park and looking with attention at camera, tilting head diego_cervo/ Getty Images

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.

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9

Chihuahuas

Chihuahua is sitting and happy smile. Phanuwat Yoksiri/ Getty Images

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.

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10

Siberian Huskies

portrait of siberian husky dog lying on the grass at the park on sunny day Elayne Massaini/ Getty Images

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.

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11

Tosas

Show,Dog,Portrait,-,Tosa,Inu

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.

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12

Dalmatians

Cute portrait of a dalmatian puppy sitting in the arms of young woman. Natalia Ruedisueli/ Getty Images

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.

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13

Pekingese

dog breed Pekingese on a green grass DevidDO/ Getty Images

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.

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14

Ovcharka

Kavkazskada Ovtcharka, dog marefoto/ Getty Images

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.

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15

Saint Bernards

Tired Saint Bernard Dog Relaxing Indoors Purple Collar Pet Photography/ Getty Images

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.

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16

Dogo Argentinos

young dogo argentino in the field with beauty sun Rafal Rutkowski/ Getty Images

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.

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17

Boerboels

Closeup portrait of a beautiful dog breed South African Boerboel. EstrellaBuena/ Getty Images

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.

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18

Boxers

Boxer dog portrait Ryan Murphy/ getty Images

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.

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19

Kangal

Kangal Shepherd dog standing on a meadow isabela66/ Getty Images

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.

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20

Wolf-dog hybrids

Closeup of a furry wolfdog lying in grass in a forest Wirestock/ Getty Images

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.

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