There is a large difference between being the most aggressive dog breed and the most dangerous dog breed, and in no way should the two be conflated. In fact, according to The Atlantic one of the most aggressive dog breeds (more on that later) is the Chihuahua, but hardly anyone would classify them as the most dangerous dog breed.

Which are the most dangerous dog breeds and what makes a dog dangerous?

The list of the most dangerous dog breeds

The list differs depending on the country or area, but there are certain breeds that simply stand out. But before we go into the list, consider the idea of self fulfilling prophecy.

Certain people pick dogs based on their personality and what they wish to project onto others. If you want you or your dog to be feared, then according to dangerous dog ownership studies listed on dogsbite.org you’ll most likely choose the scariest dog breed possible. In fact according to LA Times pit bull terriers are and have been for a long time the preferred breed for drug dealers and other criminals. Remember, if you train a dog to be vicious they will be vicious. 

The list of the most dangerous dog breeds in not all that strict order (since these lists are county dependant):

And breeds that are rarer in the western world:

  • Chow Chow
  • Gull Dong
  • Tosa Inu
  • Akita

Please take into account that the numbers are also influenced by the commonness of the breed in a certain area thus making a definitive and statistically structured list almost impossible.

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What makes a dog dangerous?

For practical reasons in order for the dog to be dangerous they need to have an aggressive behavior and must also be large enough to do some damage, however in most countries there is also a legal definition of what a dangerous dog is.

The legal definitions of what a dangerous dog is differs depending on the area you’re in. In most countries for a dog to get classified as dangerous, they need to attack someone, the act needs to get reported and then it needs to be investigated – after which the classification is imposed upon the dog; or not.

In certain cases; depending on the laws, the dog will not be labeled as dangerous if they protected their owner, if they protected their property, if they were coerced/taunted into attacking,…

Countries may have several classifications of dogs, rather than just problematic or not. A dog that misbehaves, but that is not likely to attack might get a classification as a nuisance dog. The country’s relevant authority often prescribed what then happens to the dog. In certain cases dangerous dogs or nuisance dogs are ordered to be retrained, leashed, muzzled, confined, neutered or even euthanized.

In Denmark certain breeds, which have been identified as being the most aggressive dog breeds or the most dangerous dog breeds have been banned altogether. In Austria you need to do an exam in order to have a dog belonging to their most dangerous dog breeds list.

If you or anyone else (including your dog) is attacked by a dog the act needs to be reported. A dog that has attacked once is very likely to attack again. Dogs that are dangerous need to be contained, because every (future) attack reflects badly on other dogs and their owners.

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Are the most aggressive dog breeds born bad or is there more to it?

We really shouldn’t talk about the most aggressive dog breeds so generally. Aggression is not really inborn per se or the deciding factor, but it is rather an individual response to stimuli. If the dog feels threatened it will become angry and potentially aggressive. Being threatened means different things to different dogs depending on their upbringing and their size. Check our blog on Big Bangs and Panicky Dogs to prevent a situation where a dog might panic during fireworks.

If a dog has not been socialized or if it had been trained using strict and brutal training methods it will more likely respond in a violent manner to an action that the dog perceives as threatening or challenging.

Beating your dog, starving them or breaking their will by forcing them on their backs, is likely to result in a dog that will be resentful and angry and will most likely act out aggressively against anyone not their owner. Similarly chaining your dog and then not even walking them will result in a dog with excessive unspent energy; that can also lead to an aggressive dog.

Socialization is also very, if not the most important part of a dog’s behavior. A dog that has not been taught how to play with other dogs (hasn’t been properly socialized), will translate other dogs curiosity and playfulness as a potential danger and may act aggressively towards other dogs. A dog that has not been petted by people other than their owner can respond badly to another human’s touch – if the dog has been mistreated by their owner the problem is even worse. In other words lack of training and socializing makes the dog unpredictable and even have aggressive tendencies.

There are of course studies that prove that a certain amount of aggression is inborn, but that it is in fact smaller dog breeds which are more likely to aggressive breeds; probably owing to their small size and a feeling of vulnerability. It is of course possible to draw out that aggressive trait in a dog through training, but an attack Chihuahua doesn’t exactly strike fear into people.

There are of course studies that prove that a certain amount of aggression is inborn, but that it is in fact smaller dog breeds which are more likely to aggressive breeds; probably owing to their small size and a feeling of vulnerability. It is of course possible to draw out that aggressive trait in a dog through training, but an attack Chihuahua doesn’t exactly strike fear into people.

The myth of dominant dogs being aggressive is also quite wrong. Dominant dogs are stubborn and refuse to obey orders but not necessarily aggressive. Strong willed dogs tend to misbehave in other ways rather than simply being aggressive.

To conclude, some of the aggression is inborn, but it is not a decisive or even a major factor; even the Pitbull can be a nice family dog. But dogs can be and occasionally are unpredictable and that’s when we come into the dangerous dog breed territory.

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How can we prevent dog bites and dog attacks?

Let us for the moment forget all about aggressive or dangerous dog breeds and simply focus on the situations where bites might occur. The situations described are to be taken into consideration both from the position ,of someone who does not want to get bitten, as well as from someone who does not want his dog to bite someone else.

  • Do not approach fenced in dogs or dogs who are chained. Doing that in the same as invading their territory. Responsible owners will also put up signs that alert people who might enter, of the presence of a dog. 
  • Never corner a dog or approach dogs which are let loose. As an owner you should leash your dog if you are around people or dogs whom your dog does not know. 
  • Always consult the owner before petting a dog. Owners know their dogs best, and they can tell you if the dog likes to be petted by strangers or not. As an owner if you give permission for the dog to be petted you should stay close in case if the dog misunderstands the action (especially children might be less than tactful). Be gentle with the dog when you’re touching them. Tell children not to pull or tug on the dog’s tail or ears.
  • Let the dog check you out and sniff you before you pet them. Do not hug a dog (unless you’re “a member of the dog’s family”) because it’s very possible that the dog might misunderstand the action and also bring your most vulnerable part of the body (your neck) very close to his most dangerous part of the body (the teeth). 
  • Don’t annoy dogs which are sleeping, eating, chewing or playing with their toys.
  • Dogs are protective of their young; do not try to touch newborn puppies without the permission of their mother (you’ll know). 
  • Treat injured or sick dogs with extra care. Use gloves or other heavy fabric to prevent bites in case the dog needs to be moved as they might try to bite. In extreme cases, cover the dogs head with some fabric (never use a plastic bag!) so they can’t see and bite. One person should hold the head, while another should hold the body while transporting the dog.
  • In case if your dog is involved in a violent altercation with another dog do not try to pull the dogs apart by placing your hands anywhere near their heads. Try these wikihow’s how to break up a dog fight  techniques. If possible put the dogs into separate rooms and close the door, making their eye contact impossible.

Treat your dogs well and they will most likely treat you and others well. Most of the dog’s aggression arises due to fear and as a response to aggression. Lists of most aggressive and most dangerous dog breeds are to be considered, but they shouldn’t be the only factor in choosing a dog. Check our blog on Dog Breeds, Their Needs, and Finding Which Dog Fits to learn more about dog breeds.

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