The Top 8 Scariest Dog Breeds

Written by Emily Wolfel
Updated: September 14, 2022
Image Credit Sbolotova/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points

  • There are some dog breeds considered “scary” because of their intimidating looks and/or bark.
  • These animals were often trained for guard duties since their powerful appearance often intimidated intruder and predator alike.
  • This has had the unfortunate side effect of giving them a reputation for aggressive or dangerous personalities.
  • In reality, most of these breeds are loyal and gentle pets when given the proper training (like any dog).

Dogs have evolved alongside us to fulfill many types of work over the generations, but guard dogs rank among the earliest and most important types of dogs. The scariest-looking dogs are the most effective at intimidating potential intruders. Having the scariest-looking dogs on the block can prevent conflict before it ever occurs, and there are many big and wild dogs that fit the bill. Whether they’re scary for having the strongest bite or just for having a big bark, these are the types of dogs that you want to have by your side. Some were first bred from wild breeds to serve as war dogs, while others developed out of a need for a powerful workhorse on the farm.

We should clarify that just because a dog breed looks scary doesn’t mean that it’s inherently more dangerous than any other breed. In fact, breeding dogs for guard duties often required the breeding of dogs that look the most dangerous but are gentle around the family or livestock they’ve been assigned to protect.

Like any other type of dog, these breeds need early and frequent socialization, tailored training, and adequate exercise and mental stimulation to dissuade aggressive and problematic behaviors. With the proper training and care, they can make excellent and well-behaved pets.

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Here are 8 of the scariest dogs by breed, along with information on what makes them valuable companions apart from their ability to keep away intruders.

1. The Scariest Dogs in Pop Culture: German Shepherd

Scariest Dogs
German Shepherds will assertively stand their ground and are suited to be either watchdog or guardian, whichever the situation demands.

BIGANDT.COM/Shutterstock.com

You can at least partially blame Hollywood’s portrayal of German shepherds on film and TV. The heroic Rin Tin Tin is arguably both the most famous German shepherd in the world and the first big animal movie star, but German shepherds are more likely to be portrayed as vicious and barely restrained beasts — and German shepherds being trained to attack police officers as part of their training is a trope that’s played both for laughs and to establish a sense of danger. While it’s true that these dogs are often employed by the military and police, that’s thanks to their general competence as working dogs rather than their reputation as some of the scariest dogs around. Because while a German shepherd’s big frame and bark may keep intruders at bay, these dogs are highly intelligent, quick to train, and incredibly loyal to their human families.

If you’re looking to shed more misconceptions about the German shepherd, you can do so here.

2. The Strongest Bite of Any Breed: Kangal

kangal laying in grass by flowers
Kangals make great companions and need a lot of activity to stay happy and healthy.

shodography/Shutterstock.com

As the national dog of Turkey, the Kangal is another dog whose specialized breeding as a herding worker has also earned it a reputation as both an excellent dog for keeping away intruders and one of the most powerful breeds in existence. In their native country, Kangals are generally kept as outdoor dogs, but their gentle dispositions actually make them prime candidates for family pets. Loving and gentle in the home, Kangals also tend to adjust well to being left alone for long periods of time. But their reputation as one of the most aggressive breeds can be traced back to their bite strength. Thanks to both their big size and the design of their skulls, these dogs possess a bite strength of over 700 pounds per square inch. That’s only a fifth of the strength of a crocodile‘s bite, but it’s still enough to qualify the Kangal as one of the most powerful breeds.

They may be scary-looking dogs, but you’ll fall in love with the Kangal after you get to know them here.

3. The Most Wild and Unpredictable Dog: Wolfdog

Scariest Dogs
Wolf dogs are strong, highly intelligent, and independent creatures.

gloverk/Shutterstock.com

Many dogs get a reputation for being most dangerous or intimidating because their history as working dogs has benefited powerful and burly canines, but the wild unpredictability of the wolfdog may actually be earned. Not a breed in its own right, these intimidating dogs are the result of breeding together dogs and wolves. The most dangerous are going to be those with an especially high percentage of wolf blood, but the vast genetic differences between these two subspecies can produce some unpredictable results even after a few generations of breeding. But these dogs actually tend to be shy around people and would rather hide than give their most dangerous bark.

If you’re looking for a dog with wolf heritage but are worried about the danger a wolfdog poses, you should check out the properly domesticated Saarloos and Czechoslovakian wolfdogs here and here.

4. The Most Restricted Dog in the United States: American Pit Bull Terrier

Scariest Dogs
Pit bulls are probably the most feared dogs in the U.S. They’re associated with dogfighting, attacking people, and serving as guard dogs for drug dealers.

iStock.com/VictorRicoFoto

The pit bull’s name comes from the fact that it was originally used in the bloody sport that could take the form of either bull-baiting or dogfighting. Due to this reputation as one of the most aggressive and most powerful breeds available, legislation banning or restricting the breed has been pushed through in nearly a thousand cities in the United States. But many of those restrictions are being reconsidered as public awareness grows about the actual risk of raising a pit bull. They may have some of the strongest bite strengths out of the various dog species, but they haven’t been proven to be any more dangerous than other breeds. That said, their history as fighting dogs means that they don’t always do well with other dogs in the house.

Like any breed, pit bulls need proper exercise and socialization to be well adjusted, which you can learn more about here.

5. The Strongest Breed: Rottweiler

Rottweiler standing in field with tongue out
The Rottweiler was originally bred to herd livestock and pull carts.

iStock.com/Ideas_Studio

Rottweilers have some of the strongest bite strength out of all the dog breeds, but they’re also just one of the strongest dog breeds in general. That’s by design. Rottweilers were frequently used as companions to butchers, and they handled everything from herding livestock to the slaughter, putting down any large bulls that might pose a danger, and pulling heavy carts filled with meat to market. That certainly explains the breed’s enormous necks, stocky frames, and powerful bite strength. A properly trained rottweiler can be a loyal, playful, and friendly companion — but their big and powerful frames mean that they can sometimes be clumsy as well. And as quintessential working dogs, they’re at their happiest when they’re presented with tasks to perform.

Learn more about what makes the rottweiler such an effective working dog here.

6. The Fastest Guard Dog Around: Doberman Pinscher

Scariest Dogs
Doberman Pinschers were once common as guard and police dogs, and thus have a reputation of being intimidating and aggressive, especially towards strangers.

SasaStock/Shutterstock.com

When properly trained, the Doberman pinscher can be one of the most loyal companions around — but that shouldn’t be surprising when you consider that they were bred with the explicit purpose of serving as guard dogs. More specifically, they were bred to protect game like elk and deer on country estates from poachers. Part of their reputation as the scariest-looking dogs has to do with the fact that they build very close bonds with their human companions and are otherwise standoffish to strangers or acquaintances. But if their reputation isn’t enough to keep away intruders, the fact that they can run at speeds approaching 35 miles per hour should do the job just fine. They’re also known for being one of the smartest breeds around, and that means that they can learn a variety of commands rather easily.

Training a Doberman is a necessity but not that difficult. Learn some of the important tricks here.

7. The Biggest Dog in the American Kennel Club: Great Dane

Scariest Dogs
Great Dane purebred laying in a fall field. Despite their daunting size, Danes are highly affectionate and social.

iStock.com/gsagi

The Great Dane easily ranks among the largest dog breeds on Earth, and one of its members has earned the honor of tallest dog in the world. Freddy towers at an incredible seven and a half feet standing upright, but he’s actually a big and docile giant. That’s actually the standard for this breed. While they may have big bodies and a terrifyingly deep howl, these dogs require only moderate levels of exercise and are prone to being exceedingly gentle with both humans and other pets. Originally bred to be hunting dogs, the average great Dane would be just as happy spending all afternoon napping. But they can sometimes have a tendency to be bossy, so establishing a training routine that sets up clear boundaries is critical from an early age.

If you’re considering bringing a majestic great Dane into your life, you can find all the fundamentals here.

8. The Most Intimidating Dog With the Biggest Heart: Cane Corso

Scariest Dogs
Originally bred as a hunting dog, Cane Corso is a large dog breed from the outside but is very soft and affectionate to both humans and other dogs.

Sbolotova/Shutterstock.com

With a history that dates back all the way to the days of ancient Greece, the Cane Corso has often been treated as one of the most aggressive dogs throughout history. And while it’s true that they were once bred to be war dogs, these Italian mastiffs have since mellowed with age. In fact, Cane Corsi has a reputation for being specially tuned in to the feelings of their companions. They were bred to serve a whole variety of tasks on the farm, but they’re now just as likely to be serving as therapy or emotional support animals. As far as its family is concerned, the Cane Corso is loyal to a fault. That means that proper training may be necessary to keep them from becoming too territorial.

You can learn more about this ancient dog breed here.

Scariest Dog Breeds Summary

While some dog breeds may appear more intimidating than others, dog behavior is often down to the animal’s training and socialization. Here is a summary of the dog breeds most often perceived as the scariest:

RankDog BreedKnown As
1German ShepherdThe scariest dog in pop culture
2KangalThe strongest bite of any breed
3WolfdogThe most wild and unpredictable breed
4American Pit Bull TerrierThe most restricted dog in the U.S.
5RottweilerThe strongest breed
6Doberman PinscherThe fastest guard dog around
7Great DaneThe biggest dog in the American Kennel Club
8Cane CorsoThe most intimidating dog with the biggest heart

Up Next…

Ready to learn more? Check out these great resources next!

Best Big Dog Breeds – Discover the best giants of the dog world.

What Were Pit Bulls Bred For? Are They Fighting Dogs? – Learn more about one of the most controversial dog breeds in the U.S.

Top Dogs That Look Like Wolves – Find out which dog breeds most closely resemble their wild counterparts.

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

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About the Author

Emily is an editor and content marketing specialist of five years. She grew up in rural Pennsylvania where you can regularly encounter anything from elk to black bears to river otters. Over the years, she raised livestock animals, small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, which is where she learned most of what she knows about various animals and what allowed her to work as a dog groomer and manager of a specialty pet store. She now has three rescue cats and two high-needs Pomeranian mixes to take up her love and attention.

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