There’s a saying among some dog fanciers: “There’s no such thing as a bad dog breed.” By that, they mean that no type of dog is dangerous by its very nature. If adopted by a loving family, they say, even the most notorious dog breeds will become friendly and peaceful.
We really don’t want to wade too far into the nature versus nurture debate about aggressive dogs. It’s worth noting, though, that often both nature and nurture are pulling in the same direction. Some people choose their pets because of the breed’s reputation for being edgy, dangerous dogs. The owner then acts in a way to reinforce the dog’s popular image, deliberately or unconsciously training the dog to be aggressive. The result: a dog that further meets the stereotype of a “bad dog.”
We should also pay attention to actions taken by experts in dog training and management. Lawmakers across North America have passed what’s called “breed-specific legislation” to regulate (and sometimes ban) the sale of certain types of dogs. Some insurance companies will refuse to cover households that contain specific dog breeds. If these authorities are convinced some breeds pose extra dangers, we should probably be extra cautious around those animals.
10 Potentially Dangerous Dog Breeds to Be Aware Of
Every expert has his own list of the most dangerous breeds, of course. Our list reflects injury records, fatality reports, and conventional wisdom.
These are large dogs originally bred for hauling loads. From their ancestors, they retain a strong drive to pursue and capture prey. Sometimes this manifests as attacks against other pets; sometimes, attacks against children. Five deaths were attributed to Malamute attacks in the United States between 1966 and 1980.
These are compactly built dogs known for their strong protective instincts. Despite their small size, they can be ferocious; a historical analysis found them in the top eight breeds responsible for dog bite-related fatalities.
Dalmatians originated as war dogs and hunting animals. Today, they have a reputation as loyal and friendly companions to their human owners, but as wary or even short-tempered with strangers. Add in the fact that the Dalmatian is a large breed, and that becomes a recipe for fearsome attacks.
The Doberman was originally bred to be a personal protection dog; traits such as independence, intelligence, and aggressive behavior were encouraged and reinforced. Although breeders have tried to tone down the aggression in recent decades, today’s Doberman will often react to strangers with hostility.
Also known as the Alsatian, this is the second-most popular breed of dog in the United States. Poor training or poor socialization can make them prone to attack humans and smaller dogs, and their considerable jaw strength can exert over 300 pounds of biting force.
Despite the name, this breed originated in Germany from boarhounds and other large hunting dogs. It is distinguished by its size—up to 200 pounds!—and strength. Its reputation is for gentleness and low aggression. However, the breed is so powerfully built that attacks by poorly socialized Great Danes often result in horrible injuries.
Pit Bull Terriers
Probably the most notorious breed on this list, the pit bull has a reputation for unpredictability and aggression, even against its owner or his family. State and local governments have been vigorous in restricting ownership of this dog with breed-specific legislation. They were originally bred as fighting dogs, and the breed is still known for strength, aggression, and persistence in attacking. Pit bulls are responsible for most fatal dog attacks on adults aged 21 to 54.
Rottweilers were bred to have strong herding and guarding instincts and unusual strength. The breed is known for taking aggressive action when a Rottweiler believes its owner or his family is threatened or when there is an intrusion on its territory. Rottweilers are the second-place breed for causing dog attacks in the United States.
A relative of the Spitz, the Husky is known for its athletic temperament. It retains an instinct for being part of a pack, and owners find it a hard breed to train. Huskies often destroy property and escape from enclosures. Their predatory, unruly natures may cause them to attack other pets or even small children.
The idea of deliberately crossbreeding wolves with dogs was an unfortunate one. The behavior of these animals is often unpredictable. While some breeders report that hybrids tend to be timid around people, others say that the animals usually retain the predatory instincts of the wolf. Wolf hybrids were responsible for 19 deaths between 1982 and 2014. The Humane Society of the United States considers wolf-dog hybrids to be wild animals. There is also no assurance that the standard canine rabies vaccination will be effective on a wolf hybrid.
Any Dog Can Bite
Of course, any animal can attack a human; dog bites are not limited to these dangerous breeds. A dog from a normally friendly breed can maul your infant daughter or bite your leg if it’s been mistreated, is poorly socialized, or is just out-of-sorts on a particular day.
If you, a friend, or a member of your family has been injured in a dog attack, we invite you to learn more about how you can respond by reading our free book, Dog Bite Report: The Hidden Facts. Then, if you’re interested in pursuing a fair recovery for your losses, call us at 1-800-253-5537 for a free, confidential discussion of your legal options. There is no reason you should suffer in silence for the injury an animal inflicted on you.