Dogs are loyal, friendly and often called man’s best friend. In fact, many of these loving animals devote themselves to protecting us from perceived threats. As a result, they may act hostile in the presence of strangers. In some cases, they may attack.
However, not all dog breeds on this list are truly dangerous dogs without exception. In addition, there are reasons why some dogs bite more often than others. Some dog breeds just have a higher tendency of exhibiting aggressive behavior.
We didn’t put together this list to deter you from owning one of these dogs. Rather, it’s to help educate owners and people about the potential dangers of interacting with an unfamiliar dog. There are several factors, other than dog breed, that determine how dangerous a dog can be.
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By the Numbers: Dangerous Dogs
So how exactly do we measure the “dangerous-ness” of a dog breed? And what factors should we be looking at? There is no correct method or 100% accurate way of measuring how dangerous a dog is. But, here’s what the data says.
We measure these dangerous breeds based on two statistics:
- How many human fatalities (deaths) caused by this dog breed
- How many attacks from this breed have been reported
Aggressive dogs and their attacks on human have been a heated controversial topic ever since the start of dog domestication. And in the 1990’s, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) decided to examine the data on these attacks.
They discovered that the Pit Bull was the most dangerous breed in the United States (between 1979 to 1996). In fact, Pit Bulls were involved in 60 fatal incidents, which is over double the number of incidents of the second place Rottweiler (29 incidents).
But of course, there are always exceptions in addition to many external factors that can play into this. We are also not trying to generalize all dogs in a breed as dangerous or aggressive. This is simply objective data and facts we can use to measure how dangerous dogs are.
Fatal Dog Attacks: The Report
Of course these dog attacks haven’t stopped since the 1990’s. Picking up where the CDC left off, the non-profit DogsBite.org also conducted an investigation on fatal U.S. dog attacks (from the years 2005 to 2017).
Not only did they record the attacks, but also: victim’s age, number of dogs involved and consequent punishment (if any). What’s alarming is that the Pit Bull accounted for 66% of all fatalities in the 13-year span. That’s 284 deaths from 2005 to 2017.
The second place Rottweiler accounted for less than 11% of fatal attacks with a mere 45 deaths. The story is in the data. And the data tell us that the Pit Bull is very likely, the most dangerous dog breed in the country (and possibly the world).
10 Most Dangerous Dog Breeds Ranking
Note: This dangerous dog breed list does not include breeds that aren’t officially recognized by the AKC. In other words, there are plenty of other aggressive dogs everywhere. Furthermore, there isn’t sufficient or accessible data on dog attacks in some countries.
10. Akita Inu
Highlights: Courageous, Proud, Loyal
The Akita Inu is one of the most fearsome guard dogs to originate from Japan. They’re perhaps second only to the Tosa Inu, which were bred as fighting dogs. Even today, the Akita Inu has remained as the national dog breed and symbol of Japan.
They’re the most common guard dogs among Japanese families and have been used as gifts from Japanese royalty. For example, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gifted puppy Akitas many times.
They’ve been gifted to everyone from Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s no secret: the Akita Inus are a big deal in Japan.
These dogs are confident, independent and bred for world-class protection of any family or home. On the flip side, they can be suspicious and aloof around strangers. They’ll sometimes perceive unfamiliar people as “dangerous,” whether they are or not.
As a result, their protective instincts tend to kick in and they will probably attack to defend. A dog with the physical strength and size of an Akita can do a lot of damage. And in many cases, they could easily kill or severely hurt a human being, whether intentional or not.
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9. Doberman Pinscher
Highlights: Vigilant, Devoted, Brave
The Doberman Pinscher is a fearless dog from the working group. They have a long history as being top guardians and protection dogs. In fact, they were bred to guard. It’s why they’re outstanding aid for the police force and regarded as top guardians of homes.
Dobermans tower over other dogs at 28 inches tall and can weigh up to 100 pounds. Without a doubt, these dogs are powerful creatures. And because they have so much strength, they need to be trained as early as possible.
The biggest concern with raising a large dog breed is the ability to properly execute obedience training. Sure, they are in fact intelligent dog breeds. However, their dominant nature and size make them a bit difficult to train for the first-time owner.
Many owners will describe their Dobie as loyal, obedient, energetic, alert and courageous. And all these traits are true if they were properly trained and socialized. Failure to do so could result in a destructive and consequently, a dangerous dog.
All potential and new owners need to know that keeping a Doberman requires extra attention. Those that failed to do so are probably the ones with the Dobermans that contributed to the fatalities.
But then again, this Doberman that tragically mauled its family’s baby was described as “sweet and kind” – so you never know. Always keep small kids far away from big dogs no matter how much you trust these dogs. It can quickly turn into a dangerous situation.
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Highlights: Bright, Social, Energetic
Most Boxers are dominant dogs and show aggression towards other same sex dogs. In fact, they may show aggression towards human too. However, Boxers are not aggressive by nature. But they do have a lot of energy and a strong prey drive, which can lead to aggression.
Many of the Boxer attacks involve small children because kids simply don’t know how to act around these dogs. It is crucial that kids know how to respect an active and muscular dog such as the Boxer. Training for both the kids and dog are needed.
Without proper handling of this breed, things can quickly escalate into something dangerous, and even fatal. Owners will tell you that their Boxer is friendly, cheerful, loyal and playful. While this may be true with most Boxers, this doesn’t always apply to dogs with bad owners.
Poorly trained or bred Boxers can potentially inflict a ton of damage to a human being, especially with a small child. Furthermore, these dogs were originally bred in Germany to hunt game and participate in dog fights. So you never know when their natural instincts will kick in.
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7. Labrador Retriever
Highlights: Friendly, Energetic, People-loving
The Labrador Retriever isn’t as dangerous as the numbers make them out to be. While the number of Labrador bite fatalities is high, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of Labradors. In fact, they’re the most popular dog breed in the United States (and for several years now!).
For example: the city of Los Angeles has more criminal cases than the suburb of Pasadena, CA. Well, of course. If you’re comparing a city of 4 million people to a suburb of 150,000 people, the larger city is bound to have a lot more cases despite being considered “safer.”
The thing with attack statistics on these dog breeds is that they don’t account for the population of the breed. There are hundreds of thousands of Labradors in America at a given time. And while were not saying Labs aren’t dangerous, the numbers don’t tell the full story.
I mean, they’re the stereotypical “family dog.” To see them on this list of most dangerous dogs would shock most people. However if you consider how many of them there are, then landing the number 7 spot actually seems kind of low, doesn’t it?
6. Siberian Husky
Highlights: Playful, Active, Loyal
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you may have seen funny memes of an evil husky circulating the web. Sure, they may look “evil” with their sinister-looking eyes and the black fur that surrounds it. But, are they really that dangerous or aggressive?
Most huskies are friendly and social creatures. They simply love people. Most owners will tell you that the Husky is intelligent, alert, and gentle to all creatures. However, the problem is that Huskies are always full of energy and extremely active, which may lead to aggressive tendencies.
Looking into isolated incidents, I can tell that many of these fatal attacks by Huskies involved small kids. It’s not generally a great idea to let large dogs play with small children, especially if the dog is energetic and aren’t familiar with the kids.
But regardless of the victim’s size and age, the Siberian Huskies are indeed dangerous breeds according to the bite fatality statistics in America. Though when properly trained and socialized, these dogs can still be lovable and playful dog companions for any home.
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5. English Mastiff
Highlights: Good-natured, Brave, Proud
An English Mastiff is, by nature, docile and gentle – at least, for the most part. However, like with all big dogs, the Mastiff can become aggressive for a variety of reasons. For instance, neglect and bad training will do the trick.
The Mastiff is naturally aloof with strangers. So, it’s very important for Mastiffs to receive socialization training early on. According to trainers, it’s the only way they can learn to read normal behaviors of “the good guys.”
But without socialization, it’s quite possible they will become suspicious of everyone outside the family. In addition, the protective instincts of the Mastiff will kick in and they may be over-protective, which often leads to dangerous situations.
This type of “mindset” in the Mastiff often leads to unusual shyness and aggression with people. Both of which, are behaviors that can be dangerous with a dog of this size. Weighing up to 230 pounds, they can do a lot of damage.
If they want to attack, they will do it with relative ease. And if you are an owner looking to keep a Mastiff, you’ll have a lot of responsibility training this strong-willed dog.
Highlights: Friendly, Brave, Calm
The Bulldog has received its fair share of criticism and controversy. For example, they’ve been (unfairly) named the dumbest dog breed in the world. As a result, many people ask: do their low intelligence have anything to do with their aggressive behavior?
Personally, I feel that they’re just misunderstood. Owners interpret their reluctance to comply with any commands and obedience instructions as a lack of intelligence. But in reality, they’re just really stubborn and independent dogs.
In actuality, this falls on the owner side. A Bulldog won’t do your bidding or obey your commands if you aren’t a firm and consistent leader of the pack (or family). Needless to say, these dogs aren’t the best for novice dog owners.
The fact that these dogs are so difficult to train and control raises an issue. But let’s consider this. Perhaps the fact that Bulldogs occasionally attack humans is because the owners couldn’t adequately train their dog.
Bulldogs are often described as friendly, social and docile dogs. However there is a lot of work and attention when it comes to these dogs. If properly socialized and trained, there should be no reason for them to attack a person for no apparent reason.
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3. German Shepherd
Highlights: Intelligent, Loyal, Brave
German Shepherds are the bread and butter of any reputable K-9 Unit. Many people believe the GSDs are synonymous with police dogs. But because they’re so dependable for fighting crime, if put in a bad situation, they can become dangerous.
The typical family-owned German Shepherd believes it has one job and purpose – to protect the family. With this kind of mentality and dedication, accidents can potentially happen.
As long as your German Shepherd perceives someone as being dangerous to the pack (your family), they will attack and defend. And not many people can withstand a German Shepherd attack.
The fact that they stand tall at 25 inches and weigh in at 80 pounds of pure muscle, the attack can be brutal and in some cases, fatal. Even if they don’t intend to, they can accidentally hurt a small kid with a simple whip of the tail.
The German Shepherd is by far the most popular family-owned guard dog in the United States. In fact, second only to the Labrador Retriever, they’re the most popular dog breed in America, period.
With the brute force, protective instincts and prevalence of the German Shepherd, are you really that surprised they rank so high on the dangerous breed list? We didn’t think so, either.
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Highlights: Loyal, Protective, Loving
The Rottweiler, or “rottie,” isn’t just one of the most expensive dogs, but also one of the most dangerous breeds. To own a Rottweiler means you’ll have to pay a premium. But in return, you get one of the fiercest guard dogs that this world has to offer.
Make no mistake – Rottweilers have been slowly gaining popularity, going from the 10th to 8th most popular dog breed in a few short years. With an increase in the number of this ferocious guard dog, means an increase in the number of potential dog attacks.
Although the Rottweiler is generally a good-natured dog, they will do whatever it takes to protect the pack. Most owners will describe them as loyal, fearless, courageous and confident. All of which, are fantastic temperament traits of the perfect family guard dog.
In all fairness, the Rottweiler dog is a surprisingly calm dog breed. I’ve met many rotties in my life and they aren’t as vicious as they appear to be. My guess is there may be external factors and reasons for such a gentle dog to rank so high on this list.
For example, maybe all the fatalities were of robbers trying to break in the house. In that case, they were just doing their “job.” Whatever the reason, the numbers don’t lie – Rottweilers are still one of the most dangerous dog breeds.
1. Pit Bull Terrier
Highlights: Playful, Protective, Confident
I have always been warned by adults about Pit Bulls as a kid. For example, i’ve been told that once a Pit Bull bites down, their jaws can lock with brute force. The term for this was “lock jaw.” With these horror stories, there is an undeniable stigma attached to Pit Bulls.
But what i’ve realized is that all of that was exaggerated. The reality is, the media and people like to put this bias on generalizing these dogs based on bad people’s actions. There are plenty of good Pit bulls that will never make the news.
There are no inherently “bad dogs.” But there are bad people that may treat these dogs in a manner that they tend to develop aggressive behavior, thus becoming “dangerous.”
But if were looking at straight statistics, the Pit Bulls are considered to be the most dangerous breed. Despite earning the title as “most dangerous dog,” a Pit Bull can actually be a sweet dog.
They’re loyal, friendly and really do love people. If socialized and trained properly, a Pit Bull can be one of the best companion dogs. Unfortunately, many Pit Bull-related attacks are believed to be from dogs with irresponsible dog owners.
It’s not easy to properly raise a Pitbull. Some people use abusive behavior towards their Pit Bulls or specifically train them to attack. And because of their long history as bull baiting dogs, they need even more socializing and training to keep their instincts in check.
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Other Dangerous Dogs
These are the dangerous and aggressive dog breeds that didn’t make it onto the mainstream version of this list. It’s either because there is too little data in the U.S. or were listed as unknown breed in reports. In other words, these are the “honorable mentions.”
1. Chow Chow
Highlights: Dignified, Proud, Serious
The Chow Chow is a Chinese dog breed most known for their blackish blue tongues and lion-like mane. Like the other dogs on the list, they have been the subject of many reported cases of attacks.
In fact, aggressive behavior is relatively common with Chow Chows. They tend to show natural aggression towards dogs of the same sex. Furthermore, smaller dogs and cats can draw out their innate hunting instincts.
The best way to avoid any mishaps with your Chow is through early and consistent socialization as a puppy. Always bring people over and have your dog interact with them as often as possible.
Even then, small children should avoid interaction with Chow Chows. These dogs are impatient and being teased by small children will probably not end well.
This dog breed is loyal, independent-minded and quiet. However, they’re naturally protective and sometimes possessive as well. If this behavior is left unchecked, aggressive behavior in adulthood is a real possibility.
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2. Tosa Inu
Highlights: Brave, Confident, Dominant
The Tosa Inu is the prized fighting dog breed originating from the country of Japan. These dogs were bred to fight and protect – not much more.
But why would these fighting beasts not make the list of most dangerous dog breeds? Mostly, the Tosa Inu is not a very common dog breed. Even in their motherland (Japan), Tosa Inus are difficult to find.
So, it’s not too surprising they don’t make this list that’s based on numbers of dog attacks. There just aren’t enough of them. On the other hand, the Akita Inu is a far more popular breed than the Tosa. More dogs means a higher chance of an attack.
But make no mistake, the Tosa Inu is truly a dangerous and aggressive dog. In fact, they’re so dangerous that they’ve been banned in many countries.
In addition, other countries require owners to apply for a permit to keep a Tosa. Even some prefectures of Japan have banned the breeding of these dogs, which is a big reason there are so little left.
If you plan to keep a Tosa, you must be very careful. They’re only recommended for the most experienced dog owners and trainers. There are very few things scarier than this 150-pound “Japanese Mastiff” charging at you.
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3. Bully Kutta
Highlights: Alert, Active, Responsive
The nickname of the Bully Kutta, “Beast of the East,” says it all. They were originally bred to be great hunters and guardians. However, their massive size and aggression made them popular fighting dogs in India and Pakistan.
They stand at around 30 to 44 inches tall and can weigh up to 170 pounds. Unfortunately, these dogs still participate in illegal dog fights around India today.
The only way to manage a Bully Kutta is to expose them humans and dogs very early on. Extensive socialization and training with a firm hand is required for this dog breed. But even socialization with other dogs may be risky at a certain age.
They may seem playful at first, but “play fights” with other dogs can quickly escalate into something fatal. They will tear apart other dogs or die trying. As long as other dogs submit to them, they will leave them alone. However, other fighting dog breeds are not submissive either.
It’s safe to say, you should be cautious around a Bully Kutta. Children are a definite “no” and it’s probably better for other dogs to stay away as well.
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4. Alaskan Malamute
Highlights: Diligent, Playful, Loving
The Alaskan Malamute is like a much larger, stockier version of the Siberian and Alaskan Husky. They’re generally not aggressive dogs. Most owners will even tell you they’re good with people, and especially with kids.
However, the main problem is that the Malamute, like with the Husky, has a ton of energy that needs to be directed towards productivity. Failure to do so can potentially lead to aggressive behavior.
What causes the Malamute to exhibit aggression is probably neglectful owners. These dogs need both physical and mental stimulation in order to maintain healthy living – both mind and body.
Not being able to release pent up energy usually leads to destruction behavior, including attacking strangers. These dogs can weigh up to 100 pounds, so encountering an aggressive Alaskan Malamute can certainly prove to be dangerous.
Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991
Sometime in the 1990’s, the United Kingdom saw an increase in dog attacks. Some of which, led to serious injury and death. In response, the Parliament decided to step in and enact the Dangerous Dogs Act to reduce these attacks.
However, rules were applied to only a handful of aggressive dog breeds. The Parliament also applied strict bans on certain dog breeds, making it illegal to own these “specially controlled breeds” in the United Kingdom.
Dog Breeds covered in U.K.’s Dangerous Dog Act:
- Tosa Inu
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Fila Brasileiro
- Dogo Argentino
Not only are these specific purebreds covered in the Act, but also any dog crossbred with one of the four listed breeds. Consequently, the Dangerous Dog Act has stirred up a lot of controversy and has been heavily criticized for discriminating against dogs based solely on “breed label.”
Any dog that looks like a mix or possess similar characteristics of the four breed is considered “dangerous.” And unfortunately, whether a dog falls into the Dangerous Dogs Act is determined by the United Kingdom court system.
Dangerous Dog Breed Legislation
The United States followed in the footsteps of the United Kingdom, enacting the breed-specific legislation. The legislation is different in each state jurisdiction.
However, it ranges from outright bans to restrictions on ownerships of dangerous and/or aggressive dogs. On the other hand, some state governments have prohibited this breed-specific legislation.
Dogs affected by the legislation:
- Mix breed of the following:
- Dogo Argentino
- Canary dog
- and more…
For more information on the restrictions of dangerous breeds in your state, visit this page. Currently, the only states affected by the legislation includes: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
So, do I actually think dogs are inherently dangerous? Yes and no. On one hand, there are dog breeds that are more aggressive than others because of their natural instincts – or what they were bred for in the past.
For example, a canine breed specifically developed for fighting and protecting ( see: Tosa Inu), will obviously have a better chance at displaying aggressive tendencies than your average dog. And of course, aggression can certainly lead to dangerous situations.
However, at the end of the day, whether the dog actually gets into a dangerous situation is in the hands of the dog owner. In my opinion, most of the fatal attacks with these dogs in the USA are from neglectful owners. Either from poor socialization or irresponsibility.
For example, if owners are too lazy to take their large active dog for walks, it will drive them crazy. Their pent up energy may cause them to dig up a hole in the backyard, thus escaping. A large and crazed dog roaming around your neighborhood is just asking for trouble.
Dogs generally get along well with humans, regardless of breed. It’s important that all owners take responsibility of their dogs and give them the proper training socializing. With a little more care and effort, we may be able to reduce fatal dog attacks all around the world.
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