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12 Scary Dog Breeds: Sweet Canines with Rough Appearance (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Dark sable longcoated DDR german shepherd dog lying on the grass

Over the decades, dogs have been developed to perform various tasks, but guard dogs are among the oldest and most significant breeds. However, they are also the scariest.  Some were bred for hunting and guarding, while others were first bred from wild types to be used as war dogs.

These breeds, when provided with appropriate training and guidance can behave like any other dog, and demonstrate themselves as devoted and gentle companions. Regrettably, their unjust reputation for having aggressive or dangerous temperaments stems from the fear they instill in both intruders and predators, a consequence of their imposing presence often utilized for guard duties.

Whether they are scary for having the strongest bite, an intimidating appearance, or simply for having a loud bark, they often make the best protectors for our homes and families. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the scariest dogs by breed, along with details on what makes them good friends beyond their propensity to scare off intruders.


How Are Scary Dogs Classified?

Some dog breeds are considered scary because of their intimidating appearance. They often stand tall, are muscular and alert, and may have a loud bark that wards off anyone with the intention of entering private property. They are typically breeds bred for hunting and protecting and are often trained for guard duties and police work.

These qualities and characteristics have unfortunately given several dogs a bad reputation, and they are often labeled “scary” dogs. However, most breeds are loving and gentle when given proper training and socialization.

Just because a dog appears scary doesn’t mean they are inherently more dangerous or aggressive than any other breed. Breeding dogs for protection duties requires a dog that appears dangerous but has a gentle and loyal temperament to protect family members and livestock.

Like any other breed, they need early and regular socialization, specialized training, sufficient exercise, and mental stimulation to curb aggressive and troublesome behaviors. They can make wonderful, well-behaved pets with the right training and care.

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The 12 Scary Dog Breeds

1. American Pitbull Terrier

white american pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Airwolfhound, Flickr
Height: 17–19 inches
Weight: 30–85 pounds
Lifespan: 12–16 years
Temperament: Intelligent, loyal, protective, courageous, playful, affectionate

Unfortunately, Pit bulls have a reputation for being aggressive, which is why they are considered scary dogs. However, their unjust reputation is related to their involvement in dog fights. Although they’re muscular and powerful, they are not any more harmful than other breeds, and the public is becoming more aware of the true nature of Pitbulls and how they make loyal and loving family pets. They have even been called “nanny dogs” because of how gentle they are around children.

They are not suitable for everyone, especially for those who are unable or unwilling to devote sufficient time to training and socialization and to giving consistent, firm direction. However, The American Pit Bull Terrier is a fantastic playmate for kids when nurtured with the right socialization and training. They are gentle, friendly, and extremely intelligent. They are full of life and enjoy being involved in family activities.

2. Cane Corso

Brindle Cane Corso lying on the grass
Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock
Height: 5–27.5 inches
Weight: Proportionate to height
Lifespan: 9–12 years
Temperament: Intelligent, eager to please, loyal, versatile

The Cane Corso immediately comes to mind when talking about scary canines. It’s understandable since they are large, strong, and intimidating dogs that some may find quite terrifying. Cane Corso’s can be frightening animals at first glance, measuring almost 28 inches at the shoulder and frequently weighing more than 100 pounds.

They also have a huge head, an alert expression, and muscles showing behind their short, stiff coat. The Corso’s origins date back to the Roman era, and the Latin name of the breed translates to “bodyguard dog.” Their first line of defense against intruders is their intimidating appearance. However, they are affectionate and often known to be large couch potatoes.

They are not particularly dangerous, but if they are not adequately trained, their size and power might cause some issues. They need to be introduced to dogs frequently to teach them suitable behaviors because they can be wary of strangers, especially strange dogs. They make excellent guard dogs since they are territorial and protective. Cane Corsos are incredibly loyal to their humans, intelligent, eager to please, and wonderfully affectionate.

3. German Shepherd

Image Credit: adamikarl, Shuttertsock
Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 50–90 pounds
Lifespan: 7–10 years
Temperament: Confident, protective, intelligent, courageous, loyal, loving

German Shepherds are large, powerful dogs. They are often used in the police force and seen in airports and high-profile events and often play guard dogs in movies and TV shows, which gave them a reputation as scary dogs. They are often aloof and guarded with strangers and have a naturally high prey drive and defense drive.

However, the German Shepherd is unquestionably a dog lover’s dream dog because of their loyalty, assurance, bravery, and dependability. Out of the 195 purebred dog breeds registered in the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) claims that the German Shepherd is the second most popular pet dog. German Shepherds are exceptional guard dogs when properly bred, socialized, and trained. They aren’t frightening unless they feel the need to be. German Shepherds in the right care can be wonderful, devoted, and loving family dogs.

4. Rottweiler

rottweiler standing
Image Credit: Ricantimages, Shutterstock
Height: 22–27 inches
Weight: 80–135 pounds
Lifespan: 9–10 years
Temperament: Confident, courageous, calm, protective, loyal, gentle

Rottweilers are often kept as guard dogs because of their confident and intimidating appearance. The shoulder height of a male Rottweiler ranges from 24 to 27 inches; females are a little smaller and lighter. Their glossy, short black coat with attractive rust markings and heavily muscled hindquarters further enhances the impression of imposing strength.

Most misconceptions about Rottweilers are due to unfavorable human interference and a lack of early socialization. They have strong protective instincts and a high prey drive and are a hard-working breed originating from the Roman armies’ mastiffs, who were extremely strong.

A well-bred and properly raised Rottweiler makes a gentle playmate and is calm,  brave, and an affectionate family companion. They are highly intelligent and loyal and will protect their family with the utmost devotion.

5. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher
Image Credit: DragoNika, Shutterstock
Height: 24–28 inches
Weight: 60–100 pounds
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Temperament: Protective, loyal, intelligent, affectionate, brave

Doberman Pinschers are wildly stereotyped as aggressive dogs, and their intimidating appearance makes it not hard to understand why they may be considered a scary breed. Dobermans are robust, muscular, and compact dogs that stand between 24 and 28 inches tall at the shoulder. They have a piercing gaze and sharp, erect ears that project a fearless and hostile demeanor.

Their strong relationships with their human companions and general reserve towards strangers contribute to their reputation as one of the scariest dogs in the pack. They also have a strong bite that can break bones with enough pressure.

Doberman Pinschers are among the best protective breeds in the world. If socialized and trained correctly, Doberman Pinschers are considered people-oriented dogs that are loving and wonderful with people. Although some Dobermans only form close bonds with one person, they are devoted to their owners and good with kids.

6. Great Dane

male great dane dog on grass
Image Credit: belu gheorghe, Shutterstock
Height: 28–32 inches
Weight: 110–175 pounds
Lifespan: 7–10 years
Temperament: Protective, calm, gentle, loyal, affectionate

The Great Dane is one of the world’s largest dog breeds, measuring up to 32 inches tall at the shoulder and taller than most people when standing on their hind legs. Despite being initially bred as hunting dogs, the mere sight of these gentle giants is enough to deter intruders. They may have large bodies and a terrifyingly loud howl, but they are not as frightening as they appear to be.

Don’t be too fooled by their size. The typical Great Dane, known as the “gentle giant,” would be content to sleep all afternoon. They are exceptionally gentle with people and other animals and only need moderate exercise. However, they tend to be assertive, so setting up a training regimen that establishes clear limits from a young age is essential.

7. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois in the forest
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock
Height: 22–26 inches
Weight: 40–80 pounds
Lifespan: 14–16 years
Temperament: Confident, Intelligent, loyal, obedient, playful, affectionate

Belgian Malinois are frequently used as guard dogs, much like German Shepherds, and may deter intruders and spark fear just by appearance alone. They can outrun a fleeing burglar because of their strong muscles and swift running speed. They have a strong prey drive and territorial instincts, and issues arise when they are mistreated and underutilized. Belgian Malinois are alert, proud, and well-built herders that stand between 22 and 26 inches tall.

The Belgian Malinois is a highly intelligent and obedient dog. They require substantial early socialization as well as firm but kind discipline. Belgians are innately protective, so it’s important to socialize and train them carefully from an early age.

They need lots of exercise, preferably alongside their beloved owner, to be happy and thrive. If they don’t get enough exercise, they may chase vehicles and engage in unwanted behaviors due to boredom. A well-bred Belgian Malinois is a dependable, affectionate, and friendly companion.

8. English Mastiff

English Mastiff
Image Credit: Waldemar Dabrowski, Shutterstock
Height: 27–32 inches
Weight: 120–230 pounds
Lifespan: 6–10 years
Temperament: Protective, loyal, reserved with strangers, loving, gentle

The English Mastiff is a courageous, enormously strong, and heavy-boned dog. A male can outweigh fully grown men and stands at least 30 inches tall at the shoulders. They have a colossal stature and a deep, powerfully muscled rectangular body.

A direct run-in with this large, intimidating breed can be frightening. They also have a low, deep bark, which enhances their fear factor. However, along with an intimidating appearance, their faces also show an alert and friendly expression. Mastiffs make kind, patient guardians and companions who respond well to gentle discipline.

Mastiffs are devoted to their family forever, and because they are naturally wary of strangers, early socialization and training are crucial. Mastiffs make lovely pets, but getting a strong, giant-breed dog requires a serious commitment. Well-socialized English Mastiffs are affectionate and gentle pets.

9. Boxer

female boxer dog on the sand
Image Credit: Photobac, Shutterstock
Height: 5–25 inches
Weight: 65–80 pounds
Lifespan: 10-12 years
Temperament: Intelligent, loyal, affectionate, playful, alert, high-spirited

Boxers are protectors, and when they are on guard, they can appear rather frightening. Along with their stocky, muscular bodies, they often have dark faces with eyes that can stare deep into your soul, which makes them easily perceived as scary dogs. Boxers are descendants of extinct Bullenbeisser breeds that were mixed with Mastiff, Bulldog, and perhaps even a Terrier or Great Dane. They were created in Germany in the 19th century as dogs for bull baiting and later as butcher’s assistants to manage cattle in slaughterhouses. This history also gives the Boxer a reputation as an aggressive breed.

However, for a long time, the Boxer has been one of America’s most popular dog breeds. They are cheerful and amusing and often great with children. They take their roles as family protectors and watchdogs seriously, and they face danger bravely. Like all dogs, they behave best when socialized early and trained correctly.

10. Boerboel

Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock
Height: 22–27 inches
Weight: 15–200 pounds
Lifespan: 9–11 years
Temperament: Intelligent, confident, calm, obedient, loyal

Protecting distant South African homesteads from vicious predators is where the Boerboels learned their craft as discerning guards of houses and families. They are commanding and self-assured, and their no-nonsense air about them and appearance alone puts them into the category of scary dogs.

The Boerboel can grow as tall as 27 inches at the shoulder and weigh as much as you do. It is clear from their large head, strong jaws, and heavy muscles from the neck to the rump that they are a member of the ancient Molosser dog family, which served as the ancestor of modern mastiff-type breeds.

The powerful Boerboel is committed to safeguarding their home and family. Early socialization and training are essential to prevent a Boerboel pup from developing into a dominant adult. This breed is adaptable and trainable and loves to be around their favorite people. A Boerboel, however, can be challenging for a new owner to handle.

11. Newfoundland

newfoundland dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: PH888, Shutterstock
Height: 26–28 inches
Weight: 100-150 pounds
Lifespan: 9–10 years
Temperament: Patient, sweet, loyal,

The enormous Newfoundland is a strong working dog with heavy bones and a noble stance that is rather intimidating. The most significant single characteristic of the breed and a favorite trait of the Newfie is their gentle demeanor. The calm and alert Newfie is known for being an affectionate companion and is often used as a “nanny dog” for children because of their pleasant temperament.

Newfoundlands are trainable and trusting, and they respond well to positive reinforcement. These magnificent dogs are among the largest dogs in the world, and getting a pet that weighs more than you can be challenging to train.

12. Dogue de Bordeaux

Dogue De Bordeaux
Image Credit: Waza_67, Pixabay
Height: 23–27 inches
Weight: 90–110 pounds
Lifespan: 5–8 years
Temperament: Loyal, courageous, protective, affectionate, calm

The Dogue de Bordeaux is a very muscular guard dog resembling a mastiff. Males can weigh 110 pounds and stand up to 27 inches tall. Their enormous head has an undersized jaw comparable to a Bulldog, expressive eyes, and a severely creased brow. They have the largest head in the canine kingdom in terms of proportion.

Their body is stocky, muscular, and positioned close to the ground, so it’s no surprise that all these characteristics give the Dogue de Bordeaux a scary and intimidating appearance. A well-bred Dogue de Bordeaux has a sweet, calm, and sensitive nature. Although they are loyal to family members of all ages, they can be stubborn and will dominate those who do not give them firm training when they are young.

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When it comes to the height, weight, and muscle mass of large and intimidating breeds, our instincts may lead us to believe that they are somewhat scary and potentially aggressive. This is a natural and typical response, but to get past it and realize that the dogs are not necessarily dangerous despite their size, we need to learn about their temperaments and history and debunk the myths that come with their reputations.

We should clarify that just because a dog has an intimidating appearance, it doesn’t automatically make them more dangerous than other breeds. Like other dogs, these breeds require early and regular socialization, specialized training, sufficient exercise, and mental stimulation to curb aggressive and troublesome behaviors. They may make wonderful, well-behaved pets and exceptional guard dogs with the proper training and care.

Featured Image Credit: Sebastian_Wolf, Shutterstock

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