Are you looking to buy a puppy as a family pet, but don’t know which breeds may be best for children? After doing this research, I discovered that different organizations and “experts” seem to disagree on what breeds are “most aggressive.” Below are the 10 breeds that most sources agree are aggressive.
Definition of Canine Aggression
The term dog aggression refers to dog behavior that is aggressive towards another individual (like a person or another dog). There are various aggressive behaviours such as barking, biting, lunging, snarling, etc. These behaviors can be caused by defensive or protective behaviours, as well as fear and anxiety.
Identifying the most dangerous dog breeds
In the American Temperament Test Society’s temperament test, the ten breeds listed below had some of the lowest passing rates overall. The breeds are listed in order from lowest to highest percentage of individual dogs that passed the test.
During the test, dogs with the lowest passing percentages often displayed extreme shyness, aggression, and panic.
Despite the fact that there are breeds with lower passing percentages than those in this article, I have chosen to focus on the 10 breeds most commonly ranked as highly aggressive (i.e., breeds most commonly considered aggressive or dangerous or those included in legislation pertinent to the breed).
In the sections below, we discuss each breed in more detail, including its overall passing rate.
The 10 “Meanest” Dog Breeds
- Chow Chow
- Doberman Pinscher
- Jack Russell Terrier
- German Shepherd
- American Staffordshire/Pit Bull Terrier
- Siberian Husky
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog in the world. This breed is considered a “toy” dog and can often weigh between four and six pounds. They can also have different hair colors, a solid color, a streaky color, and a combination of colors.
Originating in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, the breed is one of the oldest in America. Christopher Columbus introduced it to Europe for the first time
Chihuahuas are generally very devoted to their owners and loyal to one or two people in the household. These dogs can become jealous and may bite or snip at those who come too close to their owner.
Temperamentally, they are described as being unfriendly towards children. Since they are not very friendly to strangers, they bark a lot, making them a good alert “watchdog.”
Dachshund (Standard Smooth)
Dachshunds are classified by the American Kennel Club as “hounds”. Their weight ranges from eight pounds to 32 pounds, and they have short or long hair of just about any natural color.
In the 17th century, they originated in Germany and were used primarily for badger hunting. After World War I, these dogs were on the cusp of extinction, but populations have recovered since and now are among the most popular dogs in America.
It often tries to compensate for its small size with a large attitude, a condition known as “small dog syndrome.” This can lead to a variety of behavioral problems. Despite not enjoying rough play, very early socialization helps them develop a positive relationship with children. It is best to avoid small pets, like mice, rats, and hamsters, as Dachshunds have a natural hunting instinct.
Chow Chows are classified by the AKC as medium-sized dogs in the “non-sporting” category. Weighing between 45 and 70 pounds, they have thick, long coats that can be red, black, blue, cream, or cinnamon in color.
Chow Chows are believed to have originated thousands of years ago in China or Mongolia and were used primarily as hunting and herding dogs. Calvin Coolidge kept one as a pet during the early 20th century, making them popular in the United States.
Chow Chows have strong personalities and can be assertive at times. Because of their assertiveness, they are not recommended for first-time dog owners.
For a Chow Chow to grow into a dog that is well-mannered, it requires great guidance and firm training. Their poor peripheral vision can also cause them to be startled easily, so they are susceptible to being startled.
The AKC classifies the Doberman Pinscher in the “working” group as a medium-sized dog. They range in size from around 70 to 90 pounds and have thick, glossy, short-haired coats that come in red, black, blue, or fawn colors.
German Shepherds are credited with being developed by a man who goes by the name of Karl Louis Doberman. He worked as a tax collector and it was imperative he had a companion dog with him while traveling in dangerous regions.
Dobermans have long been used for security and police work, as they are highly intelligent dogs. Despite their strong protective instincts, they can get along with children as well as other dogs if they are raised by strong leaders.
The AKC classifies the Dalmatian as a medium-sized dog in the “working” group. The dogs weigh between 45 and 60 pounds and have short, dense coats that are glossy, black or brown with white spots.
The exact origin of the Dalmatian has not been determined. There are paintings found on the walls of some Egyptian tombs showing dogs running behind chariots in a similar form. Historically, they have been used to guard passengers and cargo since the late 18th century.
The Dalmatian puppy must be socialized from a very young age. They are good with children, but if not given enough attention by their owners, they can become destructive.
As highly energetic dogs, they need frequent opportunities to release this energy through play and exercise.
A Rottweiler is categorized as a large dog in the “working” group. The dogs can weigh anywhere from 85 to 130 pounds and have a short, dense coat that is usually black with rust or mahogany markings.
The Rottweiler takes its name from a town in Germany. Originally called the Rottweil butcher’s dog, the name Rottweiler was shortened later. Early on, they were used to herd cattle and hunt bears, among other things. Later, they became popular in the United States as guard dogs, and many were used by the army and police.
Rottweilers can be rather aloof and tend to have difficulty getting along with strangers. Generally, they are very loyal to their owners and very protective of their home areas. In spite of their good natures, they are not recommended for families with infants or toddlers due to their size and sheer energy.
Jack Russell Terrier
The AKC does not recognize the Jack Russell Terrier breed due to opposition from the breed’s parent society, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA). As a result, the Parson Russell Terrier has been recognized instead. Although Jack Russells and Parsons Terriers look similar, there are some subtle differences between them.
Jack Russells are small-sized dogs that weigh between 14 to 18 pounds and bear predominantly white coats with black or tan markings. Their coats can be short, long, or broken. Typically, a broken coat has both long and short hair.
Originating from England, the Jack Russell has been used for fox and groundhog hunting, as well as badger hunting.
Russell Terriers are usually very active and stubborn dogs. In general, they show little patience or are not known to be patient with children. Most dog experts recommend choosing another breed for families with young children, especially for those who are first-time dog owners.
The German Shepherd belongs to the “herding” group in the AKC. Typically, they weigh between 70 and 85 pounds, and their fur is a mix of brown, gray, black, and tan.
Originally from Karlsruhe, Germany, the breed dates back to the 1800s. Both the German and French armed forces used them as military dogs during World War I. They were the first dogs to serve as guide dogs for the blind and are extremely intelligent. In addition, they are often used as police dogs and search-and-rescue dogs.
German Shepherds have become one of the most popular dogs in America. Their tendency to dislike strangers makes them excellent guard dogs. The dogs appear on many lists of “aggressive dogs”, but my observation and experience make me believe that they are good with children.
I personally do not consider German Shepherds to be an “aggressive” breed as long as they are not trained as guard dogs.
American Staffordshire/Pit Bull Terrier
An American Staffordshire Terrier, also known as the American Pit Bull Terrier, is a medium-sized dog belonging to the “terrier” group. They usually weigh between 55 and 65 pounds.
They originated in the Staffordshire region of England, hence the name. This breed was originally bred to be used as guard dogs and for dog fighting, which meant they had to have a stockier frame. The second strain of this breed developed in America after dog fighting was banned. This new variation possessed a milder temperament and was smaller-framed. Newer strains of pit bulls called American Pit Bulls are very loyal and protective of their owners and families.
In addition to this, they are usually very patient and good with children. If you are uncertain of a pit bull’s pedigree, do some background checks before you choose a pet to keep as a family pet.
Siberian huskies are medium-sized dogs classified by the AKC as “working” dogs. Their size ranges from 35 to 70 pounds, and they have medium-length hair and a double coat. Typically, they are red and white, black and white, gray and white, or silver.
Originally from Siberia, these animals were used to haul sleds over distances in cold climates. Furthermore, they are commonly used for rescue work.
My research – and my own experience with four Siberian huskies – does not prove Huskies are aggressive, but they have appeared on numerous lists of aggressive dogs, so that’s why they are here. Husky tends to be territorial and can get along poorly with other dogs, but they are usually okay with children.
Understanding the Results of the Temperament Test
Since the number of dogs tested per breed is not the same, the American Temperament Test Society’s percentages should be viewed cautiously. For example, when conducting the aggression test on the Rottweiler breed, over 5,000 Rottweilers were tested, while only 46 Chihuahuas were put through the same test. As the size of the samples differs dramatically between breeds, the resulting percentages may not fully reflect their aggression levels.
How the Test Is Conducted
ATTS focuses and measures different aspects of a dog’s temperament, including independence, shyness, aggression, and friendliness, in addition to its instinct to protect and/or defend its handler.
This test simulates a walk through the neighborhood where the dog is exposed to neutral, friendly, and threatening situations. The handler is approached by a series of strangers, and unexpected noises are heard from hidden locations. The test is designed to see how the dog responds to people, noises, and its surrounding environment.
How the Passing Rate Is Determined
Percentages under each breed indicate the number of dogs that passed the temperament test divided by the total number of dogs tested. Chihuahuas were tested 46 times, but 14 failed. The passing rate for Chihuahuas, therefore, is the number of dogs that passed (32) divided by the total number of dogs tested (46), which is 69.9%.
Failure is determined when a dog shows any signs of the following:
- Unprovoked aggression
- Panic without recovery
- Strong avoidance
Potential Shortcomings to Consider
- The ATTS test may not be able to adequately measure aggression alone since it considers “strong avoidance” a failure.
- Accordingly, the sample size does not remain consistent throughout the study due to the large variation in the number of dogs tested by breed.
- It is possible that passing rates of breeds that had larger sample sizes tested are more reliable than passing rates of breeds that only had relatively small samples tested.
What Is the Most Dangerous Dog Breed?
Many dog trainers refuse to name a specific breed as the most aggressive when asked. Cesar Milan, a well-known dog behaviorist, is one such opponent of breed labeling. According to Milan, the most dangerous dog in the world is the one that has been bred to be that way.
In his view, finding truth beyond numbers and statistics is imperative. When raised with love and care, pit bulls are gentle, if not overly affectionate, despite their reputation as being vicious.
Dogs reflect the environment in which they were raised and their training. In other words, if any breed is thought to exhibit an aggressive style, this could point to the type of person that usually owns the breed (e.g., German Shepherds are often trained to protect property, hence their hostile behavior towards strangers).
A Takeaway: Dogs Are Not Inherently Vicious
I obtained the information in this article from a number of sources and from my own experience. Even if a breed is listed on this list, it does not mean that it would not make a good family pet given the proper care and training.
A background check on an animal is always recommended before adopting it. since some types of training (or lack thereof) can have an enormous impact on its personality.
Owners’ response to this list.
Here are some of the comments from the pet owners. I can not disagree with them because I know training, as well as the environment, plays an important role in this. Read these comments from the verified pet owners.
Resources and Further Reading
- Annie Klacks, “The Most Aggressive Dogs? An Unexpected Answer”, Natural News Blog, 15 February 2014.
- Catey Hill, “11 Riskiest Dog Breeds for Homeowners and Renters,” Forbes.
- “Common Dog Behavior Issues: Aggression,” ASPCA
- Dr. Polsky, “Dog Expert Opinion on the Most Aggressive Dog Breeds,” Dog Expert.
- “Most Aggressive Dogs,” Sound Defense.