Roughly 4.5 million individuals are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, with nearly 20% requiring medical attention.1 Sadly, children and the elderly are more likely to get injured. And even more surprising is that the animals are often familiar to the victims. The actual number of biting incidents is likely underreported, particularly if it didn’t involve a trip to the doctor or ER.
Scientists have researched canine aggression, categorizing it into several forms: toward strangers, owners, and other dogs. Differences exist between the various targets. The fact remains there are no bad dogs, only irresponsible owners. Any animal can bite if teased or hurt. That likely explains why children are the object of aggression so frequently.
The 10 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds in the World
1. Pit Bull
The Pit Bull is probably the most maligned for a dog that isn’t a breed. “Pitbull” is a generic term that describes pups that fit this physical profile. Dogs included under this umbrella include the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Boxer, and American Bulldog. Nevertheless, the stats support its inclusion on our list based on data from many studies.
The myths about Pit Bulls may bias the general public. However, the “breed” is implicated in more fatalities caused by dogs. Confirmation bias undoubtedly is also a part of the story. Pit Bulls are the current bad guys. German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers have also had their share of time in the spotlight of infamy.
The Rottweiler probably gets a sinister reputation partly because of their history as a guardian for the Romans. The dog certainly would present a formidable challenge to anyone attempting to steal from a herd of livestock. This is a muscular pup, and males can weigh up to 135 pounds. It’s worth noting that the breed came in second for fatalities between 2005 to 2017.2
A review of studies by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) came to a similar conclusion. On the flip side, the Rottweiler is a loyal pet that is easy to train, a desirable quality in a guard dog. They are affectionate with family members but not as open to strangers. That makes early socialization imperative with this dog.
3. Gull Dong
The Gull Dong or Pakistani Bull Dog might not be a household name in the United States. This pup hails from Pakistan, where enthusiasts selectively bred the pup for dog fighting and bear hunting. That’s enough to tell you this dog has a dangerous side. They have the classic profile of a Pit Bull; their body is robust and all muscle, and males can weigh up to 140 pounds.
No official organization recognizes the pup as a breed. The dog is well-known in India and Pakistan but is obscure everywhere else. They are known to be fierce and loyal protectors. They’re inappropriate for novice pet owners because of their strength, size, and temperament.
4. German Shepherd Dog
The German Shepherd Dog is a regal pup with an unmistakable stance. While they started life as herding animals, their courage and loyalty made them destined to become much more. Few breeds are as intelligent and trainable as German Shepherds. That made them ideal companions on the battlefield for Germans and Americans. The dog continues to find work in the military and law enforcement.
The breed’s intelligence and valor came into the spotlight with celebrity pups, such as Rin Tin Tin. Mental stimulation is imperative for German Shepherds, and boredom can fuel aggression in an otherwise loyal and affectionate breed.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher started life as a working dog. Louis Dobermann selectively bred this pup to accompany him on his rounds as a tax collector. He needed an animal that would be a formidable deterrent to anyone questioning his authority. The dog succeeded in this task. Enthusiasts recognized the breed’s abilities and used them in similar roles.
Doberman Pinschers fought alongside our military in the battle for Guam as the Devil Dogs.3 They are remarkably intelligent, which makes them suitable for several roles. Add their fearlessness and staunch loyalty, and you have a dog you don’t want to cross. The Doberman isn’t too high on the list of canines causing fatalities, and we have the utmost respect for them.
6. American Bulldog
The American Bulldog is solid for a pup that only measures 25 inches at the shoulders and weighs up to 100 pounds. While they’re friendly toward their family, they’re not as open to strangers or other dogs.
The American Bulldog is a working dog, often filling in as a watchdog and guardian. This pup is a survivor. The breed is sensitive to harsh words, although they’re easy to train. They need an experienced owner who knows how to handle them in public places.
7. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso served as a hunting dog and fought some of the most vicious prey, such as the wild boar. A pup has to be one tough animal to tangle with them. As you may surmise by their looks, the Cane Corso also excels as a guardian and watchdog.
The Cane Corso’s history goes back to the Romans and ancient Greeks. They’re no strangers to fighting on the battlefield and have the courage to back it up. If you want a dog that will stand up to any challenge, the Cane Corso is ideal. They’re a relatively rare breed, yet they have enough enthusiasts to put them at 21st on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) list of the most popular breeds.
The Akita might strike you as more cat-like than many other dogs. They are an aloof breed that can be standoffish to strangers. They’re incredibly loyal, and if you want a guardian to protect you, the Akita is for you.
They’re sensitive, which isn’t surprising for a dog that bonds closely with their family. The pup is independent, which can make training challenging. They also have a strong prey drive and wanderlust potential, which requires an experienced dog owner.
9. Siberian Husky
You may find the placement of the Siberian Husky on this list surprising. However, consider several facts. This is a highly energetic dog that must have a job to do. A bored animal can take out their energy inappropriately if this need isn’t fulfilled. Their place on the list of dangerous canines is high in Canada, where they’re more prevalent than in other areas.
This Husky is usually a friendly animal with other dogs and their family, including kids. They have a high tendency for mouthiness, which adds another wrinkle to the mix. However, issues with them are usually due to the owners not meeting their activity and mental stimulation needs.
The Chihuahua may surprise you unless you’ve met one. They sometimes act like they’re the biggest dogs in the world, which isn’t uncommon with small breeds. People often dismiss them, which can egg on their aggressiveness. Research has shown they can be aggressive toward unfamiliar humans and dogs.
The Chihuahua is affectionate with their family but not as friendly to kids. Perhaps they see them as a competitor for their owner’s affection. They are protective of their caregiver, which isn’t surprising in a companion dog. That also explains the breed’s tendency to bark. It’s the best way to alert their owner to potential threats since they don’t have the body size to take down an enemy.
Factors That Affect Dog Aggression
Many factors affect whether a dog will be aggressive. Behavior has a genetic component, which selective breeding exploits for good and evil reasons. A pup’s early life, socialization, and training also play a significant role. Canines go through two fear-impact periods in their development. Unpleasant experiences that occur when a puppy is 8–12 weeks old can have a profound impact.
A puppy that leaves their mother and littermates under 8 weeks old is also vulnerable to behavioral issues later in life. Even the amount of exercise a dog gets can determine if they will become fearful or develop anxiety issues. Perhaps the most critical factor determining canine aggression is the animal’s owner. One study found a compelling correlation between criminal behavior in owners and vicious dogs.
Many municipalities have responded reactionarily by enacting breed-specific legislation (BSL). Currently, 1,160 US cities and 40 counties have passed laws targeting certain breeds. Unfortunately, they present a false sense of security because they don’t address the real problem: irresponsible pet ownership. They’re also expensive and difficult to enforce.
The AVMA and the AKC are among several organizations opposed to BSL. Moreover, agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) no longer track breeds. Research has shown it can be challenging even for experienced individuals to identify dogs by breed correctly. The fact remains any dog can bite if provoked.
Many breeds have a reputation for aggression. Often, individuals have selectively bred dogs for tasks where it is an asset. Other times, the animals were pawns in nefarious endeavors, such as bull and dog fighting. The fact that some pups are labeled dangerous underscores the importance of proper training and early socialization. Pet ownership is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.