The Most Aggressive Dog Breeds: An Expert Ranks the Top 15

A word many of us try to avoid in the dog world is “aggression.” In most cases, a dog showing aggressive behavior isn’t a dangerous dog, but rather fearful and anxious or lacking proper enrichment. Behaviors like resource guarding, reactivity toward other animals or people, and growling/baring teeth, are rarely signs of a truly aggressive dog, but rather a pup needs an environmental and psychological change. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds

However, there are some dog breeds that—after two decades in the pet industry—I can say regularly display aggressive behavior more often than other breeds. While I am hesitant to call these “aggressive dog breeds,” each breed on this list requires an experienced dog owner and must be socialized and trained properly to achieve a balanced personality.

Unfortunately, many inexperienced dog owners choose the wrong breed of dog for their lifestyle and find themselves without the proper tools or knowledge to manage their dog’s instincts like high prey drive, guarding, etc. In the wrong dog owner’s hands or the wrong environment, these fifteen varieties of dogs are the most aggressive dog breeds based on personal observations, dog owner experience, and—believe it or not—science

While you read through this list, keep two things in mind: 

  1. No dog is inherently aggressive or bad. Some breeds have a higher tendency towards using aggressive behavior as a tool, but not all examples of these breeds will use aggression inappropriately. All dogs are good dogs, but not all dog breeds are right for every human, every environment, or every family. 
  2. Every dog breed on this list can be an amazing, loving companion and family dog

1. Akitas

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Akitas

Akitas are Japanese spitz-type working dogs originally bred for hunting large game—including massive brown bears native to Northern Japan. Once strictly owned by members of the imperial court, Akitas later became loyal and fearless family guardians who dutifully protected their humans from intruding people and animals. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Akitas

Notoriously one of the least dog-friendly, kid-friendly, and stranger-friendly breeds, the Akita is wary of strangers, has an extremely vigilant and protective nature, and are quick to react with aggression when faced with a perceived threat—real or not. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Akitas

According to the Akita Rescue Mid-Atlantic Coast, “issues for Akitas are often centered on pack hierarchy and sociability. Assertive behavior that may tip over the balance over into aggression is directed most at children, especially those outside the family, and next most at people outside the dog’s immediate family.” 

2. Basenjis

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Basenji

The Basenji is a hound variety native to the African continent. Considered one of the world’s oldest domesticated dog breeds, it lived semi-feral alongside humans until the late 1800s. The Basenji is a mildly social breed, and while it does exhibit some territorial behaviors, is more focused on self-preservation than the family pack. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Basenji

“Basenjis have turned the act of begging for food into an art form…Some Basenjis can get quite aggressive around food so always keep this in mind when you are teaching them manners and correcting them,” says a guide to Basenji care from Basenji Rescue and Transport. “Keep in mind that Basenjis are [also] sometimes gender aggressive. You will have more success introducing a male and a female than you will introducing two dogs of the same gender. Additionally, take care when introducing a Basenji to a very small dog that may be perceived as prey.” 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Basenji

For Basenjis, aggressive behaviors are often based on resource guarding, high prey drive, and uncertainty/anxiety. For example, many Basenjis are leash-aggressive and may feel uncomfortable with confinement. Aggression surrounding food and treats is also common for this breed. 

3. Border Collies

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Border collies

Border Collies are one of the most well-known members of the herding group of dog breeds, and are considered one of the most intelligent breeds in the world. Highly selective, Border Collies may be fearful and reactive towards dog breeds or animals they don’t recognize. Hard-working, constantly thinking breeds like Border Collies are independent and will react to protect themselves or be protective of their families when they feel no one else is in charge. Border collies are prone to frustration which can quickly turn into redirected aggression

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Border collies

“Frustration and induced hyperactivity in Border Collies often leads to outbreaks of [redirected aggression…where the recipient is not the cause but is, unfortunately, the victim by being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says a Border Collie profile written by Border Collie Rescue. “The dog may be frustrated due to the way it is housed and handled and restricted from expressing its normal behavior or it may be wound up and excited due to the proximity of other dogs or people it wishes to play with or scare away but is unable to.” 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Border collies

Because the Border Collie is so smart and active, this is not a breed for the average family. 

4. Chihuahuas

Aggressive Dog Breeds: chihuahuas

As is the case in the vast majority of cases of dog aggression, dogs like the Chihuahua are most often aggressive due to fear and anxiety. The smallest dog breed, Chihuahuas are often accused of having “little dog syndrome” but are seemingly hyper-aware of how vulnerable their small size makes them. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: chihuahuas

Beyond this fear-aggression Chihuahuas are also prone to being territorial and protective and often act like little watchdogs for their humans. Keen to understand the pecking order in any situation, Chihuahuas are quick to take on the role of enforcer when they see an opening. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: chihuahuas

Unfortunately, small dog breeds like the Chihuahua often lack proper socialization and training, since uneducated dog owners assume they will act like little stuffed toys. In truth, Chihuahuas need early and regular socialization to avoid becoming dog-aggressive and reactive towards strangers

5. Chow Chows

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Chow chows
Sources: @LifeOfPabloChow, @AmericanKennelClub

Another of the world’s oldest dog breeds, the Chow Chow originates in China where they were bred as companion dogs to nobility and guard dogs, hunting dogs, and hauling dogs. A serious, independent, and intelligent breed, the Chow Chow is also known for having an uneven temperament, especially when poorly bred. According to the Animal Health Clinic, these Chow Chows may be prone to excessive barking, hyperactivity, and aggression towards strangers. Chow Chows are also notoriously impatient with children, partly because they enjoy their personal space. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Chow chows

6. Doberman Pinschers

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Doberman
Sources: @Loki_The_Doberman_12, @ArloTheDoberman_

Doberman Pinschers were bred from the start to be guard dogs and family protectors who would defend their own and diligently perform canine jobs. A breed commonly used in military and police work thanks to its tenacious, fearless, and alert attitude. Excellent working dogs, Doberman Pinschers require an owner who has ample experience with working breeds and the ability to provide their dog with tons of physical and mental exercise. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Doberman

Active and prone to boredom, Dobermans can be destructive and impatient and may develop intense separation anxiety. A high-strung nature can make the Doberman fear aggressive, meaning they may try to intimidate, scare, or physically repel whatevermakesg them nervous. Similarly, some Dobermans can be over-protective, making them aggressive towards strangers and territorial of their environment. Some Dobermans are also dog aggressive, most commonly towards dogs of the same gender

7. Dogo Argentino

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Dogo Argentino
Sources: @Balu.Dogo.Argentino, @Dogos_Max_And_Tilly

A formidable and physically impressive breed, the Dogo Argentino is a working breed native to Argentina and bred to hunt large game—namely wild boar and pumas—in packs. Intelligent, independent, and strong, the Dogo Argentino is a muscular dog, even without regular exercise. Because they were selectively bred for fiercely high prey drive and a loyal temperament that makes them excellent guard dogs, Dogos can be quite reactive toward strange people and animals

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Dogo Argentino

A study performed by researchers in Italy showed “aggressive and fear-related behaviors with a prevalence greater than 10%” meaning that around 10% of the Dogo Argentinos 94 they observed demonstrated aggression. The study also found that “aggressive behaviors shown by the Argentine Dogos…when away from their territory were directed mainly toward other animals, whereas aggression toward people was shown mainly inside the dogs’ house.” 

8. German Shepherds

Aggressive Dog Breeds: German Shepherd
Sources: @Strider.GSD, @Sir.Remington.GSD

One of America’s favorite breeds of dogs, aggressive? The German Shepherd is listed among the dog breeds most likely to show aggressive or territorial behavior towards humans and other animals. Though originally bred to herd sheep, the intelligent and hard-working German Shepherd later became a favorite of law enforcement and military officers and is now one of the most common breeds used as working dogs. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: German Shepherd

Working dogs and guard dogs like the German Shepherd are not inherently aggressive, but their instinct to guard and protect their “flock” can quickly turn to reactivity when not properly monitored and managed. Additionally, German Shepherds are known to have a strong prey drive and are often reactive or aggressive towards small animals like cats.  

9. Pembroke Welsh Corgis

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Corgis
Sources: @BiscuitTheLittleNugget, @SpoiledTato

The Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a small herding breed from Wales that has gained enormous international popularity as a family pet. While the Corgi is adorable and can be a wonderfully playful dog, Corgis also have a very high prey drive and absolutely love to chase anything that runs—including children. Bred to keep sheep in line, Corgis will also try to do this to their people and may nip at children and other animals in an attempt to herd them. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Corgis

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are also prone to anxiety, which is often a symptom of inadequate socialization and stimulation. For some Corgis, this fear can turn into redirected aggression, resource guarding, and reactivity like excessive barking and lunging. 

10. Poodles 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: poodles
Sources: @StandardPoodleBo, @Gracie_The.Mini.Poodle

One of the world’s most intelligent dog breeds, the Poodle, is also one of the breeds most prone to anxiety-based aggression. Poodles—miniature and toy Poodles, in particular—can quickly become anxious, restless, and frustrated when they aren’t given adequate physical and mental stimulation. In these cases, Poodles can express redirected aggression wherein they lash out at members of the family or strangers to release some of their pent-up emotional energy. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: poodles

Standard Poodles—though they too can experience fear-based aggression—are more prone to dominance-based aggression. “A Poodle exhibiting dominant behavior might try to assert control over their owner or other dogs by…growling, baring teeth, or snapping,” says an article from The Poodle Club. “Poodles can also be protective of their owners or territorial about their space. This behavior, though usually well-intentioned, can result in aggression if a perceived threat encroaches.” This can also look like resource guarding

11. Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Sources: @Cody.The.Ridgeback, @MittsTheRidgeBack

A member of the hound group bred for big-game hunting in Southern Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a fearless dog breed that will defend its home and family without a second thought. Often used as guard dogs for farmers and ranchers, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is unique among the other breeds on this list for one key reason: a love of children

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Considered quite trustworthy around children, aggression from the Rhodesian is typically directed toward other animals, and they are considered primarily dog-aggressive and territorial. Of course, like all breeds, Rhodesian Ridgebacks should always be supervised with small children.

12. Rough Collies

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Rough Collis
Sources: @Mocha_The_Rough_Collie, @Rocky_RoughCollie

It may surprise you to know that the dog breed that brought you Lassie is actually among the world’s most aggressive dog breeds! A study published by Scientific Reports on aggressive behavior in dogs found that “from all the studied breeds, Rough Collie had the highest probability of aggressive behavior. Rough Collies also commonly suffer from another behavior problem, fearfulness.” 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Rough Collis

As with most dogs, fear and anxiety can take over for the Rough Collie, and the instinct for survival—fight or flight—takes over. For this reason, Rough Collies need very experienced owners with extensive herding dog knowledge. 

13. Miniature Schnauzers

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Miniature Schnauzers
Sources: @LifeWithKenjiJoy, @Gus.The.Miniature.Schnauzer

Another small breed, the Miniature Schnauzer is a member of the terrier group, sometimes affectionately called “terrors” since they can be prone to reactivity and a strong sense of independence, high prey drive, and a tendency for resource guarding and territorial behavior. The perfect storm! We could easily have included other members of the terrier group on this list, but Miniature Schnauzers have been noted as particularly prone to aggression. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Miniature Schnauzers

14. Shar Pei

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Shar Pei
Sources: @Winston.And.Lisa, @Lia_Blue_SharPei

Shar Pei are a Chinese dog breed that originates in the southern provinces of China. A versatile breed, the Shar Pei was owned by everyday people and used as a multi-purpose working breed including herding, hunting, and livestock guardianship. A territorial dog breed, the Shar Pei is often wary of strangers and reactive to animals outside of their households. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Shar Pei

Some people say that Shar Pei are difficult to read and unpredictable, which can make it seem as though their bites, growls, or lunges come out of nowhere. It takes a trained and attentive eye to understand the Shar Pei, and this breed is not appropriate for the vast majority of dog owners. 

15. Siberian Huskies

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Huskies
Sources: @Siberian_Husky_Rocky, @SiberianBlitz

Siberian Huskies are not particularly territorial, but they can be prone to resource guarding and food aggression. Some Huskies can also be “moody” when understimulated, and may redirect their frustration by nipping, growling, and physically intimidating humans and other dogs. Like many dogs labeled aggressive, Siberian Huskies are also prone to boredom and anxiety which can cause frustration and reactivity. Many Huskies also have a high prey drive and are unreliable and sometimes dangerous around small animals. 

Aggressive Dog Breeds: Huskies

Dog Aggression FAQ

Looking for an answer to an important question about aggression in dogs? Take a look at these quick facts about dogs who show aggressive behavior. 

What qualities make dogs “aggressive”?

Aggressive behavior in dogs looks like excessive barking, growing, baring teeth, snapping, lunging, and biting humans or other animals. 

Can training help an aggressive dog?

Yes! Training, and more importantly behavioral intervention can help a dog reduce their fear, anxiety, and overstimulation and become less aggressive and reactive. 

Does raw meat make dogs aggressive? 

No. Raw meat and raw diets do not cause aggression or behavioral issues in dogs. 

What dog breed has the strongest bite force? 

The Kangal is currently considered the dog with the strongest bite force which measures 730+ PSI. Never heard of a Kangal? The Kangal Shepherd is a Turkish livestock guardian breed, similar to the Anatolian Shepherd. 

KangalSource: @Kangal.TV

What dog breeds are considered the least aggressive? 

Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have been found to have the lowest odds of showing aggressive behavior. 

Related Articles:

Top Rated Dog Treats Every Dog Will Love

Jerky - Made in USA

Good Dog Chews