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10 dog breeds that are often labeled ‘aggressive’

It can be easy to convince yourself that the cute little fluff ball at the pet store is the right puppy for your family, or that the muscle-bound hulking dog at the shelter should be avoided, but it is important to research the breed you’re considering before adopting. Some breeds may be more likely to be aggressive, and may not be the best choice for timid owners or families with young children.

A dog of any breed can have aggressive behaviors, and there are individual dogs of the following breeds that can make wonderful pets if they are owned by determined owners who are willing to invest time and effort into intensive training and establishing clear rules and boundaries. Before adopting a dog of any breed, consider whether you are able to provide the necessary discipline and training.

Here is a list of 10 dog breeds often labeled as aggressive:

Akita dog breed

1. Akita

This large, Japanese breed is often used as a police or guard dog in its homeland due to its protective nature. As pets, Akitas are often wary of strangers and can make overly vigilant watch dogs. They can be aggressive toward other dogs and may attack if not well-socialized at a young age to help them learn to differentiate safe animals and people from legitimate threats.

Staffordshire bull terrier dog breed

2. American Staffordshire Terrier/American Pit Bull Terrier

Dogs of these breeds are typically referred to as pit bulls, and they have gained a somewhat undeserved reputation. It is true that Pit Bulls are tenacious, determined dogs, and these qualities led to their use as fighting dogs. Pit Bulls who have been brought up to fight are typically dog-aggressive and wary of strangers. Pit Bulls who have not been trained as fighters, however, tend to be loving, affectionate family pets who are not naturally aggressive. Many Pit Bulls who are rescued from dog fighting rings are rehabilitated to become good, loving, trustworthy family pets, but not all can forget their early training.

Cane Corso dog breed Trupanion

3. Cane Corso

The Cane Corso is a giant mastiff breed that was originally bred in Italy to hunt big game and guard property. It takes its role as a devoted guard dog to the extreme, and even well-socialized puppies are unlikely to become comfortable with strangers. Cane Corsos have a high prey drive, and must be strictly confined to prevent them from harming smaller neighborhood pets, such as cats and small dogs. Cane Corsos require a firm and consistent owner, and should also work with an experienced trainer for early obedience and socialization skills.

Chihuahua dog breed Trupanion

4. Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with big attitude. They often form a strong attachment to one family member, and are fiercely protective of their chosen person. Although Chihuahuas are not as big as other breeds, they can land a nasty bite if they decide a stranger is a threat to their beloved owner. Chihuahuas tend to be intolerant of boisterous children and are often nippy, so they may not be a good choice for a family with small children.

Chow Chow dog breed Trupanion

5. Chow Chow

Don’t let this breed’s teddy bear appearance fool you. Most Chow Chows are highly territorial and will act aggressively in response to other dogs or strangers who venture onto their property. Originally bred in China as an all-purpose dog for hunting, herding, and guarding, the Chow also tends to bond with one particular family member. It is highly protective of its family, but is not typically an affectionate dog. Early socialization and training are imperative for a Chow to become a family pet.

Doberman pinscher dog breed

6. Doberman pinschers

Doberman Pinschers are among the most intelligent dog breeds, and their keen intellect has led to their frequent use as police and guard dogs. As pets, they are friendly and affectionate to their family members, and can be good family pets if they are properly socialized as puppies. Unsocialized Doberman Pinschers tend to be highly suspicious of strangers and may respond accordingly if they feel their home or family is threatened.

German shepherd dog breed

7. German shepherd

German Shepherds are also highly intelligent working dogs, and they have fulfilled a variety of roles as police, guide, and search-and-rescue dogs. Their regal stature and intensity can make them appear intimidating, and they can be wary of strangers. German Shepherds are naturally protective, but can make safe, loving family pets if they are exposed to different people and animals at a young age.

Perro de Presa Canario dog breed Trupanion

8. Perro de Presa Canario

This giant mastiff breed was bred in the Canary Islands as a herding dog for cattle and pigs, and as a herd protector to drive away threatening animals. The Presa Canario, or “Canary mastiff” should be owned by a firm, experienced dog owner only. They require constant training and socialization, and must be confined by a six-foot fence to prevent them from preying upon neighborhood animals.

Rottweiler dog breed

9. Rottweilers

Rottweilers can be loving, affectionate family dogs or aggressive protectors, depending on their upbringing. Their thick, stocky frame can top 150 pounds, and they are naturally protective and territorial—qualities that can be exploited. In the hands of a dedicated owner, however, rottweilers can be well-socialized and trained to become docile family pets.

Siberian Husky dog breed Trupanion

10. Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies are best known for their athletic stamina exhibited during Alaskan sled racing. As pets, their endless energy and intelligence require daily physical and mental stimulation, or they may become frustrated and act out aggressively. They may go after small neighborhood animals, and caution should be taken with other household pets. Siberian Huskies can have unpredictable personalities, and children and strangers should be cautious when approaching them.

If you are considering adopting a dog, early socialization and consistent training by a firm owner is critical to ensure your pet learns to distinguish normal interactions from threatening situations. Most individual dogs of aggressive breeds can make good pets with proper training; however, some dogs’ aggressive tendencies may never be overcome, and they may not integrate into a household well. No matter which dog you gravitate to, be smart and learn more about Trupanion’s dog insurance to keep him protected.

Interested in protecting a particular breed with medical insurance?

We love informed decisions. See our policy for full coverage details.