9 Large & Small Aggressive Dog Breeds

Updated July 19, 2021
Rottweiler Running On Field

A dog of any breed can be aggressive, especially if they haven't been properly socialized. The list below indicates the breeds that are most likely to be aggressive, but any of them can be a terrific addition to your family if their personality matches yours and you're prepared to put in the time and effort to ensure they are a well-rounded dog. Before adopting any dog, familiarize yourself with the breed's characteristics and get to know the dog individually.

Chow Chow

A sitting black Chow Chow puppy

The Chow Chow breed, known to be aloof and independent, requires a lot of attention as well as adequate and consistent training. Because Chow Chows have a distinct distrust of strangers and are very protective of their owners, socialization is crucial for them, preferably beginning as a young puppy. Chow Chows also require a lot of exercise to avoid becoming irritable and unpredictable. That's not to say they aren't meant for families, as Chows who have been raised with children will consider them one of their own pack. However, this breed is better suited for older children who know how to maintain their distance when necessary.

Pit Bull

Two Pit Bulls

Pit Bulls are often misconstrued as being aggressive regardless of the individual dog. What you may not know is these dogs were actually considered 'granny dogs' because, when raised properly, they are one of the best breeds with children. It's also important to note, 'Pit Bull' is an umbrella term referring to several breeds of dog, including the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Here's where the stigma comes in; unfortunately, these dogs have been raised to fight by irresponsible dog owners due to their powerful strength and extreme loyalty. Dogs who have been in fighting situations will likely show aggressive tendencies as that's how they were raised. If you are looking to adopt a Pit Bull, fully understanding his or her background and getting to know the dog as an individual is critical. Early socialization is also key with this breed. Since they are protective of their families, they can show aggressive tendencies if not permitted to be around people, children, and other pets.



The Bullmastiff is one of the largest dog breeds and can be labeled aggressive by many solely due to their intimidating size. This breed is extremely loyal to their owners, so if you're looking for a loyal dog, this could be the right dog for you. Due to their extreme loyalty, this breed can become overprotective when surrounded by strangers or unknown surroundings. They may also be aggressive toward other dogs if they come near their 'pack' (AKA their family). Early socialization is important with every breed, but this breed is particularly prone to developing aggressive tendencies if not socialized sufficiently.


Rottweilers On Field Against Sky

The Rottweiler is a powerful dog originally bred for herding and protection. Neglect, abuse, and irresponsible pet ownership can cause this breed to show aggressive tendencies, and that's why they have landed on this list. Despite their aggressive reputation, Rottweilers may make terrific family dogs, and when cared for and socialized properly, they are tolerant and caring with children. Socialization is necessary to ensure that your Rottie gets along with other dogs, people, and pets.

Doberman Pinschers

Doberman Pinscher On Field

Doberman Pinschers are a loyal and alert breed that make excellent guard dogs. Due to their tendency to attack when provoked, in addition to their intimidating appearance, loyalty, and intelligence, they have been used in the military and in police work. That being said, also due to these traits, they can easily develop aggressive tendencies if not socialized properly by an experienced dog owner. Like other breeds labeled 'aggressive,' this breed can be an excellent family dog when raised around adults, children, and other pets. Socialization is necessary from a young age to prevent aggressive tendencies from developing.


Papillon Dog Looking Away

Although the Papillon appears to be cute, cuddly, and laid back, this isn't the ideal breed if you're looking for a dog to lounge on the couch. This breed has a lot of energy and is more likely to be running around the house, being destructive, and showing aggressive tendencies without the right amount of mental and physical stimulation. They're considered great watch dogs, as they do have extreme loyalty to their owner, but this comes with being overprotective and showing aggressive tendencies with strangers when not properly socialized.


Dog During Autumn

Dachshunds are a breed that many families with children own, so you may not have expected them to make this list. Dachshunds were developed to hunt small game wildlife such as badgers and rabbits, and they have a stronger-than-average prey drive. Due to their high prey drive, they do have a tendency to bark and nip if they become extremely enthusiastic during rough play. They're also highly protective of their home. Even if the other dog shows no signs of aggression, Dachshunds are known for chasing other dogs and small animals out of their yard. Due to the long length of their back, dachshunds must be handled gently and are not recommended for homes with young children. Rough handling, also common with young children, can result in nipping which is another reason these dogs are more suitable for homes with older children and adults.


Dog Against Pink Wall

Chihuahuas are small dogs with a 'big dog' mentality. This breed appears to be completely unaware of their small size, and they are quick to take a stand against larger dogs. They frequently create a close bond with a single family member and are extremely protective of that individual. Despite the fact that Chihuahuas are not as large as other breeds, they are capable of biting if they believe a stranger poses a threat to their owner. They can also become snappy around hyper children. Even when socialized properly, due to their small size and nippy behaviors, this breed is most suitable for adults.

Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terrier playing on the backyard

Jack Russell Terriers are small dogs with a lot of personality. This breed requires an experienced dog owner and early socialization and handling. When handled roughly, or not in a manner they are enjoying, they are known to display aggressive behaviors, including biting, barking, snarling, and nipping. That being said, they are extremely intelligent and can make excellent companions. However, they are not recommended for households with young children.

What Does Aggression Mean in Dogs?

Aggression is a broad topic in the dog world that encompasses a wide range of canine behaviors. In other words, you won't know the actual behavior of a dog labeled as 'aggressive' until you get to know the individual dog. Aggression can range from a mere growl to a vicious bite. A dog that has been classified as aggressive is likely to exhibit one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Still and rigid stance
  • Growling (light or heavy)
  • Lunging forward
  • Muzzle punching (the dog hits someone with his nose)
  • Showing teeth
  • Snapping
  • Nips that don't leave a mark (and nips that do)
  • Biting

Early Socialization Is Critical with Any Breed

Early socialization means introducing different surroundings, sounds, smells, sights, and people to a dog when they're still a puppy. A well-run puppy class can be an excellent tool for early socialization. Puppies are introduced to a variety of new situations in most puppy classes- especially in classes like Puppy Kindergarten. It's also a good idea to introduce your puppy to other pets at a young age, which can also prove beneficial. Puppies acclimate easily, similar to how young children acclimate easier to new environments. If you have an adult dog who needs socialization, this must be done slowly with caution -- introducing new sights, smells, and people one step at a time. If you're unsure how to go about socializing your dog, speak with your veterinarian or a Canine Behaviorist to develop an action plan.

Do Your Homework Before Adopting a Dog

It's tempting to cast judgment merely on the basis of breed, especially if you've already heard that a particular breed is aggressive or friendly. What you may not realize is, an aggressive breed might be the best dog for your family, while the cute and fluffy breed might be the one with aggressive tendencies. Without doing your homework and, more importantly, understanding the specific dog, you won't know which is best.

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9 Large & Small Aggressive Dog Breeds