Certain types of dogs have a reputation for being overly aggressive, be it their intimidating size or shape or the frequency with which they see red. Aggressive dog breeds really do vary, however, and even the smallest Jack Russell Terrier has the potential to be as aggressive as the most fearsome Wolfdog hybrid given the wrong upbringing and a threatening scenario.
The most aggressive dog breeds need extra care and attention when being raised and trained, but just because a particular breed has this aggressive nature in them doesn't mean it's going to show. Aggression isn't just down to breeding, but down to the love (or lack of love!) that these dogs receive from their owners, it's down to their character and personality traits, and it's down to the way they are raised.
This article explores why dogs can become aggressive and describes the most aggressive dog breeds you could keep as pets.
Why are the most aggressive dog breeds so aggressive?
Like the Pitbull or the Rottweiler, some breeds are known the world over for their aggressive streaks. The truth is, though, that all dog breeds have some level of aggression inside them - it doesn't matter if they are a cute little Pomeranian or a potentially dangerous seeming dog like a German Shepherd.
But while some breeds are known to naturally be the most aggressive animals, a large part of their behavior is down to upbringing. Dogs are always going to be a reflection of their owners, and while a Rottweiler might have the capacity to be one of the most fearsome dog breeds out there, it's ultimately down to how they are raised and trained.
The most aggressive dogs tend to be sadly abused or neglected throughout their lifetime, and this maltreatment can turn a naturally 'aggressive' dog into one of the most dangerous dogs.
There are several key instances of mistreatment that can quickly lead to aggressive behavior in dogs, thanks to the way the owner raises them. These include the following:
- Physical abuse
- Encouraging aggressive behavior
- A lack of training as a puppy
- Inadequate diet or exercise regime
This sort of dog temperament isn't the result of the dog's innate aggression (although, in these scenarios, that doesn't help) but the result of the owner mistreating their pet.
Why do dogs become aggressive?
It's important to understand that dogs aren't aggressive for the sake of being aggressive. Their breeding and aggressive tendencies can exacerbate their temperament when combined with poor handling by the owner, but their aggression will always be a response to something.
Even wild animals won't attack for no reason (only humans seem capable of that), but what we see as 'aggression' is often a defensive measure. Even the friendliest dog breeds can become aggressive in many scenarios, including the following:
- When approached by strangers (human or animal)
- When in packs or social settings (dogs can become aggressive towards one another)
- When defending territory
- When defending their owner or family
- When facing a dog rivalry
Dog aggression in these situations can vary from one breed and one individual to the next. Seriously mean dogs might attack, but this dangerous behavior is rare - and needs to be stamped out immediately.
The most aggressive dog breeds exhibit the following behavioral traits when confronted by danger or when they are aggressive:
- Baring their teeth
- Pulling on the leash
- Lunging or charging
If you're worried that your dog is a potentially dangerous dog, then seek out expert advice from a professional dog therapist or trainer. Even the most dangerous dog breeds respond well to training and a little more love and affection.
The most aggressive dog breeds
The following dogs are well known for the 'mean' streak and aggressive behavior, but remember, they are only aggressive when they are taught to be aggressive. Many of these pups are just misunderstood!
The tiny Chihuahua might need a bed ramp for dogs to get up on the sofa, but that won't stop this dog from being hyper-aggressive when the time calls for it. Chihuahua's are tiny, but they are fierce, and a large part of that is down to their independent nature.
A common question asked by owners is: 'why are Chihuahuas so mean?' More often than not, their meanness is down to a lack of attention from the owner or fierce jealousy towards other dogs or even people (Chihuahuas are famously loyal!).
#2 Pit bull terrier
The pit bull terrier is one of those dogs that just have a reputation for aggression, but like many of these dogs, it's often a reflection of the owner's attitude and behavior. The breed was bred to be a working dog, and their aggression came in handy chasing down animals or predators on the farm.
However, this side of them isn't as natural as you might think. They are also well known in dog-loving circles as 'nanny dogs' because they are gentle and affectionate around children. Raise these pups the right way, and they'll show love rather than a mean streak.
#3 German shepherd
The German Shepherd is one of the most well-known working dogs in the world, and their size and potential for aggression ensure they are often feared, too.
German Shepherds are highly intelligent and fiercely loyal, and they are often trained to be attack dogs by the military and police. This aggressive streak is there, but again, it has to be trained into the dog from a pup. When they attack, they are doing so to defend their handler, not because they are inherently evil!
Rottweilers are large, intimidating dogs that may not be well for families or first-time owners. These dogs are strong, and they are powerful - get on their wrong side, and they'll let you know.
Rottweilers are excellent working dogs, as they are incredibly territorial and naturally wary of strangers. They make for great guard dogs and often work for the police or military. However, they need to be well trained and handled. Show them a little love, and they'll reward you with their loyalty and protection.
Boxers are famously angry dogs that have that look of aggression bred into them. They are fierce, powerful, and large, but they are actually just lovable pups underneath all that.
Boxers can be trained to be guard dogs or attack dogs, but they'd rather just run in the park or cuddle on the sofa. Treat this dog with respect, and they'll give you their loyalty and a lot of affection in return.
The Wolfdog is one breed of dog that is potentially dangerous and isn't always legal. That's because this breed is actually a hybrid. It's a cross between a wolf and a dog, and it's large, wild, and difficult to handle.
That being said, there are some other breeds of Wolfdog that are really just large puppies. During the Cold War, the Czechoslovak military started breeding dogs with wolves, and the resulting Czechoslovak hybrid had none of the aggressive tendencies they were looking for - it's now a famed working breed, known for its quiet and affectionate demeanor!
Aggressive dog breeds: the final say
While some dog breeds are naturally more aggressive than others, the biggest deciding factor in the levels of aggression shown by a dog are down to their upbringing, individual character, and the situations they find themselves in.
Dogs are always aggressive for a reason, and with expert training, handling, and love, and affection, even the 'meanest' Rottweiler can be a lovable pooch. However, if you're raising a pup to be around kids, there's no sense bringing in large or angry dogs that can be scary into the home - stick to well-known friendly dogs instead!
If you're considering your next puppy, then why not bookmark our guide to the most aggressive dog breeds?