The most dangerous dogs are fearsome indeed, but what makes them so dangerous? And what do you need to do about it? Clearly you don’t want that adorable puppy to turn into a monster. Understand the factors that make a dog dangerous and you’re well on the way to avoiding disaster.
What Makes The Most Dangerous Dogs?
All dangerous dogs are the sum of their parts, and the most obvious factor is the strength of their bite. If you have ever heard your dog cracking through a bone, you know there’s some power in a dog’s bite.
Fearsome Feature #1 – A Big Bite
There have been a number of studies that attempted to measure the strength of domestic dogs’ bites, but it is difficult to do reliably. How do you ask a dog to bite as hard as they can?
All studies have agreed on a simple fact – the bigger the jaw, the stronger the bite. This holds true generally across the animal kingdom. Crocodiles and alligators sit at the top of the list, for example, and hippos, great white sharks, bears and some great cats help fill out the top ten. (Ref: sciencefocus.com)
The shape of the jaw has some impact but size matters most, so no surprise this is our first fearsome feature. (We don’t care how aggressive that chihuahua is, they just can’t do much serious damage).
So, what can you do about it? Totally avoid big dogs with big jaws? It’s not that simple.
Remember, the most dangerous dogs are the sum of their parts, so just because a dog has a huge jaw doesn’t make him instantly dangerous. He could be a gentle giant.
Fearsome Feature #2 – Bred To Hunt or Fight
The same is true of our second feature which is all about breeding. Just because a dog is a certain breed doesn’t automatically make them dangerous, but it is a factor. Dogs have been selectively bred over countless generations to enhance certain characteristics. The traits that we’re focused on for our dangerous dog discussion are hunting and fighting.
We have to break up the hunting category as not every hunting dog was bred to attack its prey. Some like the retrievers had quite different hunting roles (e.g. retrieving), but others were bred to hunt and to kill. We’ll call them the Assistants and the Hunters.
Hunting Dog Categories
The Assistants (Not a Fearsome Feature)
Water Dogs (includes Poodles)
These are often grouped together as ‘Gun Dogs’. The guns kill the game, not the dogs themselves. They just find it, flush it out, and retrieve it. Therefore, these breeds won’t be part of the most dangerous dogs list.
The Real Hunters (A Fearsome Feature)
Hounds (e.g. Whippet, Greyhound, Irish Woolfhound, Basset Hound, Bloodhound)
Fiests (includes Squirrel Dogs)
Terriers (anything with Terrier in their name)
Curs (also known as ‘treeing dogs’)
These Real Hunters have a characteristic that contributes to being amongst the most dangerous dogs, but remember it is the sum of the parts that matters. For example, the Dachshund was bred to hunt both above and below ground, but it hardly fits the Big Bite category. It’s a similar story with the Fiests and the smaller Terriers – they may have the breeding but they don’t have the big weapons.
Fighting Dog Categories
There is some cross-over between the hunting and the fighting lists, because humans have changed their use for dogs over time and continued to selectively breed for traits. We break the Fighting Dog category down further into three sub-groups, again with some cross-overs.
These dogs (and many more) have been employed as guard dogs, although some are more bark than bite!
|Airedale Terrier||Chow Chow||Leonberger|
|Akita Inu||Combai||Neapolitan Mastiff|
|American Bulldog||Doberman Pinscher||Maremma Sheepdog|
|Anatolian Shepherd||Dogo Argentino||Pit bull|
|Beauceron||Dogue de Bordeaux||Rajapalayam|
|Belgian Shepherd Dog||Dutch Shepherd Dog||Rhodesian Ridgeback|
|Black Russian Terrier||English Mastiff||Rottweiler|
|Bouvier des Flandres||German Shepherd||Shar Pei|
|Bull Terrier||Kangal dog||Standard Schnauzer|
|Cane Corso||Komondor||Tibetan Mastiff|
|Caucasian Shepherd Dog||Kuvasz||Tosa Inu|
Protective Shepherds (as distinct from herding shepherds)
These breeds often have Mastiff, Shepherd or Sheepdog in their name, but there are many more. Refer to the table below. They have been bred to fight off wolves or other predatory animals, so that breeding makes them potential candidates for the most dangerous dogs.
|Abruzzese Mastiff||Karst Shepherd|
|Anatolian Shepherd Dog||Kuchi|
|Armenian Gampr dog||Kuvasz|
|Australian Shepherd||Majorca Shepherd Dog|
|Bucovina Shepherd Dog||Perro Majorero|
|Cão de Castro Laboreiro||Polish Tatra Mountain Sheepdog|
|Carpathian Shepherd Dog||Pyrenean Mastiff|
|Caucasian Shepherd Dog||Rafeiro do Alentejo|
|Central Asia Shepherd Dog||Sage Koochee|
|Estrela Mountain Dog||Šarplaninac|
|Gaddi Kutta||Slovak cuvac|
|Georgian shepherd dog||South Russian Ovcharka|
|German Shepherd||Spanish Mastiff|
|Great Pyrenees or Pyrenean Mountain Dog||Tibetan Mastiff|
|Karakachan Dog||Vikhan Sheepdog|
Sadly, humans at one time thought it was a sport to pit one dog against another, so they cross-bred dogs, mainly Mastiffs, Bulldogs and Terriers, to create new breeds suited to dog-on-dog combat. Some breed names show their heritage, like the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Pit Bull Terrier.
|Akita Inu||Brazilian Mastiff|
|Alano Español||Georgian Shepherd Dog|
|American Pit Bull Terrier||Guatemalan Dogo|
|American Bulldog||German Shepherd|
|Armenian Gampr dog||Kangal Dog|
|Bully Kutta||Korean Jindo Dog|
|Caucasian Ovcharka||Perro de Presa Canario (Canarian catch dog)|
|Central Asian Ovcharka||Perro de Presa Mallorquin (Ca de Bou)|
|Cane Corso||Staffordshire Bull Terrier|
|Dogue de Bordeaux||Tibetan Mastiff|
Bred to fight, smile or no smile.
There is one final category of born hunters, and these are the wolfdogs, or wolf and dog hybrids. Humans have bred domestic dogs with wolves in the past to improve their hunting abilities, and this cross-breeding continues in places today. Unless you are a certified expert, stay away from these hybrid dogs. They are a bit too close to the wild. After all, wouldn’t you include wild wolves with the most dangerous dogs?
When you combine the hunters, fighters and wolf hybrids, you get a large number of potentially dangerous dogs. After we eliminate the smaller breeds, it’s still quite a list. But they’re only potentially dangerous.
So, what can you do about that? Avoid them all? No, most of these dogs can make wonderful pets. Some like the Great Dane have been bred back into a more placid animal. There’s hope for most of these, depending on how they are treated.
Which leads us to the final two features of the most dangerous dogs.
Fearsome Feature #3 – Aggressive Temperament
A huge dog from a fighting or hunting breed isn’t dangerous if they have zero motivation to bite anyone. But if they are also aggressive, they could be very dangerous.
What makes a dog aggressive? As usual, it’s not just one thing.
In any litter of puppies (with only one sire), you can quickly see the different personalities develop. Every dog’s personality is different, so this can always play a part.
Dogs that have been mistreated as puppies are a risk. Likewise for dogs not properly socialised with people and with other dogs. Their aggression often arises directly from fear.
Generally speaking, dogs specifically bred for fighting tend to ‘fire up’ into aggressive behavior when provoked faster than other breeds.
A dog in pain will often lash out, even if they are normally quite gentle. Always take great care around an injured dog.
Misplaced Territorial or Protection Drive
If your dog thinks they are the pack leader and protector of your household, they will take on all sorts of responsibilities regardless of the risk. That includes driving off threats and generally defending their turf.
If you let a large, hunter/fighter dog think that they are the pack leader, you are running a grave risk.
We cover dog aggression in more detail here: The Most Aggressive Dog Breeds
Bark Versus Bite?
Barking doesn’t always equal aggression. You’ve heard the saying ‘more bark than bite’, so if that’s your dog go to our article on Dog Barking.
Fearsome Feature #4 – Trained To Attack
Dogs are marvellously trainable animals. It’s just a matter of what you are training them to do.
This fourth feature is the icing on the cake. Imagine a large, hunter/fighter that is quick to anger. Imagine that it has also been rewarded for its aggressiveness over time, and trained and encouraged to bite. That’s the MOST dangerous dog.
So, what can you do about that?
Without attack-training a large, irritable fighter can still be a very dangerous dog. But the opposite can also be true. Proper obedience training can turn a beast into a beauty.
This is why there are often heated debates about certain breeds. One side say’s they’re too dangerous and should be banned. The others say their dog is a gentle, loyal and loving part of their family.
At DIY Dog Projects, we often say that training is always the answer, and it’s never more true.
Is your dog dangerous? Is it potentially dangerous?
If your dog has any of the fearsome features of most dangerous dogs, if it has any of the traits that can make it a dangerous dog, it’s your responsibility to train it properly.
If you have a puppy from one of the hunter/fighter breeds, it’s your responsibility to raise it properly.
For the safety of yourself and others, you must ensure that in no way does your dog think they are the pack leader. They must be socialised correctly with people and other dogs.
You don’t need to be a professional dog trainer to do these things, but you do need professional advice. Doggy Dan the Online Dog Trainer (below) has all the answers you need to perform this important task.
His method establishes you as the pack leader without any need to resort to physical domination or other old-school methods.
If you have a potentially dangerous dog, click through to Doggy Dan and take up his 3 day offer so you can see how effective his training methods are.
If you know someone who has a potentially dangerous dog, please share this article with them.