Top 10 Meanest Dogs

Written by Krishna Maxwell
Updated: October 14, 2023
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Key Points

  • All dogs can become aggressive when defending themselves or their human pack. However, dogs are not born mean, they become that way when mistreated or forced into it by bad circumstances.
  • Some genetic mutations and diseases can cause a dog to act aggressively.
  • Many aggressive behaviors are the result of a lack of exercise and training.

Dogs are known for becoming very attached to their owners. Some breeds are very outgoing, friendly, and loving to family, strangers, and other dogs. These happy, sweet pups occur in every breed. Others, however, are those you don’t want to mess with, especially if they haven’t had proper socialization and training. Here are the top 10 meanest dogs around, whether they’re the most dangerous dogs, the most aggressive dog breeds, or both.

#10 Cocker Spaniel

Some Cocker Spaniels have a genetic disorder called rage syndrome.


The Cocker Spaniel was once considered the ultimate family dog. However, they became so popular that unethical breeding and inbreeding became a serious problem for the breed. As a result, unwanted genetic mutations began to appear.

This affectionate, loyal, and somewhat needy breed is a wonderful family pet and was originally bred to be a hunting dog. However, there is a downside as the Cocker Spaniel has developed something called Rage Syndrome. This is a genetic disorder in which the dog turns into a biting frenzy with no recognizable trigger or stimulus. The dog may attack strangers and even owners. There is no clear cause for this behavior, but it is thought to be a symptom of epilepsy or schizophrenia. It is especially common in solid-colored, red, or gold-colored Cocker Spaniels, putting them among the most aggressive dog breeds. Motley-colored spaniels, however, do not have this issue as often. While it can happen in any dog, it is most common in dogs who have been abused or who were raised in a puppy mill.

A socialized and trained dog is a wonderful companion and not only loves its owner but is friendly towards other people, and even other dogs and animals. Certain breeds are wary of strangers and even act mean to anyone other than their owners, or may lash out even toward their owners. Some have a natural tendency to be mean based on inbreeding or genetic deviation that is closer to their wild ancestry, while others are mean due to insecurity over small size or abuse and neglect. It is important to remember that such dogs are not always hostile, only when provoked. Regardless, these breeds have developed a reputation for being the meanest dogs the most dangerous dogs or the most aggressive dog breeds.

#9 Beagle

Beagles are a very stubborn dog breed.


The Beagle was developed to be a hunting dog that used its excellent sense of smell. It is another breed that is renowned for its even temperament. As a result, these are the dogs of choice for medical and scientific testing – because they put up with a lot of abuse. However, the Beagle tends to get fixated on smells and tends to not listen to its owner when stuck on a scent. It can even become violent. Beagles will lash out if they feel threatened. A child staring into a Beagle’s eyes is a bad idea as it is seen as aggression and may provoke the dog into biting if the child ignores all the signals the dogs give to back off. This is true of all dogs, which is why children should be supervised around pets and taught how to behave appropriately around animals.

#8 Dachshund

Dachshunds are difficult to train and tend to bite children.


Most everyone has heard of the so-called “wiener dog” which was originally bred to hunt down burrowing animals. They are long and slim so that they can fit down a hole in the ground and attack their prey in the den. While we think of the Dachshund as long and cute, with short legs, long ears, and big eyes, it was bred to be a fierce fighter. They are tenacious and often become aggressive if they feel pushed. They have a very strong prey drive. However, because these dogs are thought of as cute little hose pets, they seldom get as much exercise as they need. This leads to frustration and impatience which can also lead to it turning aggressive toward other dogs, strangers, and even its owner. These tough fighters can be difficult to train and may bite strange children. Hence, it’s a bad idea to let children play around it.

#7 Wolf Hybrids

Because wolf dogs have wolf genes, they automatically have a reputation to be mean.

©Marek Rybar/

Some of the most dangerous dogs or most aggressive dog breeds are the various wolf hybrids, or wolf dogs, that exist. The higher amount of wolf genes, the wilder, more dangerous, and more prone to wanderlust the hybrid is. Hence, they need early training and socialization by very knowledgeable and experienced handlers. They tend to take well to family but are wary of strangers and some are not recommended around small children. The wolf hybrids among the existing 15 which have the highest tendency towards restless, destructive behavior without early training and socialization, and regular exercise are:

#6 Chow Chow

Chow chows tend to have an awful temperament when they do not get what they want.

©Firefighter Montreal/

An old dog breed, the Chow Chow is a large dog with a thick, soft double coat and a cuddly appearance. Seemingly aloof, it is attention-seeking, stubborn and independent. This is another breed that shows behavior problems caused by too much inbreeding. These tend to be one-person dogs and they can have an awful temperament when it doesn’t get what it wants. Even with training since puppyhood, it can remain overprotective of its owner and doesn’t like other dogs or pets. It is not a good choice for a first-time dog owner because it is one of the meanest dogs and most aggressive dog breeds.

#5 Toy Poodle

Toy Poodles have “Small Dog Syndrome.”


The Toy Poodle is simply the miniature version of the Standard Poodle. Like the many other small dogs that have been marketed as low-maintenance pets, these dogs seldom get the exercise they need. They are also a shrunken version of the Standard Poodle, which is an active hunting dog. These little guys have all the drive of their larger cousins without the outlet. These are sensitive dogs that are very prone to separation anxiety, which often leads to aggression. The Toy Poodle can not only become restless and aggressive when left alone for long periods, but it also has “Small Dog Syndrome” — the dog version of the human Napoleon complex. This behavior from anxiety and insecurity is particularly learned and encouraged in small dogs.

#4 Terriers

Terrier dog breeds are known to act hostile towards people and other dogs.


Terriers are some of the toughest dogs. That’s because they were bred to hunt rodents and other vermin, especially small and medium-sized ones. Such an instinct does not go away, and without proper training and socialization to constructively channel that instinct, a terrier is known to act hostile towards people and other dogs. Some examples are the Manchester Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier, Boston Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, and Skye Terrier. Given plenty of exercise, proper training, and a job to do, these can be wonderful dogs.

“Terrier” is a dog group of several breeds with common features and includes larger breeds that were developed to be all-around farm working dogs or hunting dogs. The Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and Bull Terrier are examples of “bully” breeds, that were also bred to bait and pull down bears and bulls.

#3 Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apsos have a tendency to bite people it doesn’t recognize.


Looks can be deceptive, and the Lhasa Apso is no exception. The fluffy, small dog is difficult to train and handle, being stubborn and independent. It can also get aggressive with strangers approaching it. Even if your friends approach you in public, that doesn’t mean your dog will recognize that you know them and is likely to bite them, making it one of the meanest dogs around.

#2 Chihuahua

While Chihuahuas are considered one of the meanest dog breeds, they are also considered one of the most popular.

©Piotr Wawrzyniuk/

Although it’s one of the most popular dog breeds and one of the smallest, the Chihuahua is famous for being one of the meanest dogs. Owners tend to coddle them and neglect training or disciplining them because of their small size making them believe they can handle them, which exacerbates their bad behavior. They tend to be very possessive of their owners and have no problem barking, snapping at, or even biting other people and dogs several times their size. While not able to do serious damage, a dog bite, even from a Chihuahua, can turn into a potentially severe infection and require hospitalization.

#1 Basenji

Because the Basenji is one of the most difficult dogs to train it is also one of the most aggressive.

©Grisha Bruev/

The Basenji Dog is an active hunting dog. They are intelligent and usually bond very tightly with one person. As a result, they tend to be aloof toward other people. This Central African dog is a sighthound, and with a high prey drive, it will give chase to any small animal moving nearby. Aloof and reserved towards strangers, they require a lot of socialization to convince them to tolerate other people. A dog trainer who is experienced with this specific breed is the best qualified to deal with it. On the other hand, it is quiet and known to attack home intruders quickly and without warning.

beagle and owner

Most problems with aggressive dogs are due to lack of exercise, poor breeding, handling, and raising.

©Nina Buday/


While all dogs can become aggressive under the right circumstances, some are more prone to it than others. Unfortunately, most of these problems are the result of lack of exercise, poor breeding, handling, and raising. The best thing you can do for your dog is to make sure he or she gets plenty of exercise and appropriate training. If you are looking to buy a pup from a breeder, make sure that you do your homework and find a breeder who is dedicated to the well-being of their dogs. All good breeders will take a puppy back if necessary and will have given their puppies lots of socialization, exposure, and an all-around great start in life. If you would prefer to adopt a dog, the same should be true of any rescue organization you deal with.

Summary Of The Top 10 Meanest Dogs

RankDogMost Common Temperament
10Cocker SpanielGenetic disorder called Rage Syndrome
9BeagleFixation can lead to aggression
8DachshundsTenacious, can become frustrated which may lead to aggression
7Wolf HybridTend to have restless, destructive behavior
6Chow ChowTend to be attention-seeking, stubborn and independent
5Toy PoodleProne to separation anxiety, which can lead to aggression
4TerriersInstinct to hunt can lead to hostility
3Lhasa ApsoTend to be stubborn & aggressive towards strangers
2ChihuahuaTend to be possessive
1BasenjiTend to be independent, aloof & reserved towards strangers

Honorable Mention: Other Mean Dogs

Doberman pinschers are born with regular ears and tails but they are often cropped to make them look more fierce and intimidating.

©Taryn916, CC BY-SA 3.0 – License

While labeling an entire dog breed as mean may be stereotypical, there are certain breeds that are known to be a bit less-than-friendly. Perhaps not with their owners, per se, but with strangers, children, and other dogs. Each dog should be evaluated to see if they are a good fit for you or for a family before bringing them home.

There may be a few breeds that weren’t considered mean enough to make the top ten but perhaps deserve an honorable mention. They may be lovable and cuddly, but at times, they can demonstrate a protective trait which can often thought to be a mean streak. Here are a few contenders:

  • Rottweiler – this breed is known to be quite protective of its family although, in the wrong hands, they can be potentially dangerous due to neglect, abuse, lack of socialization and training. As they are an incredibly strong breed, if they aren’t trained, or treated properly, they can exhibit negative behaviors. They are quite often thought of as clowns with their loved ones but are also known to be very territorial.
  • Akita – fiercely loyal to their families, this breed is known to be reserved toward strangers, highly territorial, and reactive toward other dogs. In general, they do not tolerate unfamiliar dogs or dogs of the same sex. When trained properly, this large, dominant, and strong breed should be accepting of strangers who are not considered to be a threat so it is extremely important to have your Akita trained from a young age.
  • Doberman Pinscher – originally intended to be a guard dog, this highly intelligent breed is often stereotyped as an aggressive and ferocious dog. While it was bred to be fearless and intimidating, as well as willing to defend its owners against attacks, its aggression has been toned down which lends to its now good-natured temperament. They are extremely loyal, energetic, and obedient, and need proper training and socialization, although they are more likely than most breeds to show aggression toward other dogs and strangers.
  • Cane Corso – this well-muscled breed has a natural guarding instinct and although the breed isn’t thought of as aggressive, this temperament can result from a lack of socialization and training. It is generally reserved and wary of strangers, often times unfriendly to them as well, but while it may not act aggressively without a good reason, its strong guarding instant can at times lead it to protect its family a bit too much.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York which she shares with three dogs, four donkeys, one mule, and a cat. She holds a Bachelors in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching neighboring farmers about Regenerative Agriculture practices.

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