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Dog Breeds Often Labeled 'Aggressive'
By: Trupanion Staff / Updated June 9, 2023
There are a lot of stigmas and misconceptions attached to different dog breeds. After all, it can be easy to convince yourself that the cute little fluff ball at the pet store is the right puppy for your family, or that the muscle-bound hulking dog at the shelter should be avoided. However, the truth is often more complex than appearances. It is important to research whatever breed you’re considering before adopting. It's also crucial to know that looks can be deceiving when it comes to canines.
That's not to say there isn't some truth to the notion of "aggressive" dog breeds. While this may not be the best (or most accurate) terminology, some dogs are indeed more likely to be active or pushy, and they require extra firm training in order to not act out. As a result, they may not be the best choice for timid owners or families with young children.
10 aggressive dog breeds
Any kind of dog can be aggressive, and you can't always tell a pup's personality (or genetic makeup) just by looking at them. Even dogs of the same breed can have wildly different temperaments, so it's important to never make assumptions. That said, certain breeds have displayed tendencies to be rougher than others. Ten dog breeds often labeled as aggressive include the following (listed in no particular order).
This large, Japanese breed is often used as a police or guard dog in its homeland due to its protective nature. As pets, Akitas are often wary of strangers and can make overly vigilant watch dogs. They can be aggressive toward other dogs and may attack if not well-socialized at a young age to help them learn to differentiate safe animals and people from legitimate threats.
2. American Staffordshire Terrier/American Pit Bull Terrier
Dogs of these breeds are typically referred to as Pit Bulls, and they have gained a somewhat undeserved reputation. It is true that Pit Bulls are tenacious, determined dogs, and these qualities led to their use as fighting dogs. Pit Bulls who have been brought up to fight are typically dog-aggressive and wary of strangers.
Pit Bulls who have not been trained as fighters, however, tend to be loving, affectionate family pets who are not naturally aggressive. Many Pit Bulls who are rescued from dog fighting rings are rehabilitated to become good, loving, trustworthy family pets, but not all can forget their early training.
3. Cane Corso
The Cane Corso is a giant mastiff breed that was originally bred in Italy to hunt big game and guard property. It takes its role as a devoted guard dog to the extreme, and even well-socialized puppies are unlikely to become comfortable with strangers. Cane Corsos have a high prey drive, and must be strictly confined to prevent them from harming smaller neighborhood pets, such as cats and small dogs. Cane Corsos require a firm and consistent owner and should also work with an experienced trainer for early obedience and socialization skills.
There's a common and dangerous misconception that small dog breeds are not (or cannot be) aggressive ones. The truth is that Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with big attitude. They often form a strong attachment to one family member, and they can be fiercely protective of their chosen person.
Although Chihuahuas are not as big as other breeds, they can land a nasty bite if they decide a stranger is a threat to their beloved owner. Chihuahuas tend to be intolerant of boisterous children and are often nippy, so they may not be a good choice for a family with small children.
5. Chow Chow
Don’t let this breed’s teddy bear appearance fool you. Most Chow Chows are highly territorial and will act aggressively in response to other dogs or strangers who venture onto their property. Originally bred in China as an all-purpose dog for hunting, herding, and guarding, the Chow also tends to bond with one particular family member. It is highly protective of its family, but is not typically an affectionate dog. Early socialization and training are imperative for a Chow to become a family pet.
6. Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinschers are among the most intelligent dog breeds, and their keen intellect has led to their frequent use as police and guard dogs. As pets, they are friendly and affectionate to their family members, and can be good family pets if they are properly socialized as puppies. Unsocialized Doberman Pinschers tend to be highly suspicious of strangers and may respond accordingly if they feel their home or family is threatened.
7. German Shepherd
German Shepherds are also highly intelligent working dogs, and they have fulfilled a variety of roles as police, guide, and search-and-rescue dogs. Their regal stature and intensity can make them appear intimidating, and they can be wary of strangers. German Shepherds are naturally protective, but can make safe, loving family pets if they are exposed to different people and animals at a young age.
8. Perro de Presa Canario / Canary Mastiff
This giant mastiff breed was bred in the Canary Islands as a herding dog for cattle and pigs, and as a herd protector to drive away threatening animals. The Presa Canario, or “Canary mastiff” should be owned by a firm, experienced dog owner only. They require constant training and socialization, and must be confined by a six-foot fence to prevent them from preying upon neighborhood animals.
Rottweilers can be loving, affectionate family dogs or aggressive protectors, depending on their upbringing. Their thick, stocky frame can top 150 pounds, and they are naturally protective and territorial — qualities that can be exploited. In the hands of a dedicated owner, however, rottweilers can be well-socialized and trained to become docile family pets.
10. Siberian Husky
Siberian Huskies are best known for their athletic stamina exhibited during Alaskan sled racing. As pets, their endless energy and intelligence require daily physical and mental stimulation, or they may become frustrated and act out aggressively. They may go after small neighborhood animals, and caution should be taken with other household pets. Siberian Huskies can have unpredictable personalities, and children and strangers should be cautious when approaching them.
Should you avoid an aggressive dog breed?
If you are considering adopting any dog, early socialization and consistent training by a firm owner is critical to ensure your pet learns to distinguish normal interactions from threatening situations. Most individual dogs of so-called aggressive breeds can make good pets with proper training. However, some dogs’ aggressive tendencies may never be fully overcome, and they may not integrate well into certain households.
A dog of any breed can have aggressive behaviors, and there are individual dogs of the following breeds that can make wonderful pets if they are owned by determined owners who are willing to invest time and effort into intensive training and establishing clear rules and boundaries. Before adopting a dog of any breed, consider whether you are able to provide the necessary discipline and attention.
No matter which dog you gravitate to, do your research and consider asking local veterinarians and pet trainers for their input. You'll also want to protect any dog you get with pet insurance in case of any accidents or injuries that affect their health.