Top 10 Toughest Dog Breeds in the World

Written by Krishna Maxwell
Updated: October 30, 2023
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Key Points

  • Tough dogs come in all shapes and sizes.
  • Chihuahuas may be tiny, but they have big attitudes so they make the list.
  • As the saying goes, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight that matters; it’s the size of the fight in the dog that wins out.

It’s an interesting dichotomy. You see the scariest, seemingly toughest dogs in the world, a darn intimidating pooch that might do unfortunate damage. But the owner sees a lovable pup.

There are many tough dog breeds in the world, but these are our top 10!

Everything from a dog’s size to temperament has a lot to do with breeding and training. Each breed and each dog has its distinct characteristics. But being tough doesn’t make a dog something to fear. These dogs can be smart, loyal, humble, silly… and tough. Some owners like small canines — a doggy that’ll fit in a shoulder bag. Others want a giant — the largest cuddle companion that takes up most of the couch. But don’t let the size fool you. Either can be tough.

Tough dogs are protectors and workhorses. They’re stubborn and often intelligent. These animals are the strongest dog breeds yet fill all types of canines. If it’s a physical toughness, the dog’s going to need a lot of exercises. If it’s all bark and no bite, they still keep that intruder on the other side of the door.

Tough guy. A lug. Fighting pups. Gotta respect ’em. Here is pound for pound 10 of the toughest dogs in the world based on everything from being powerful dogs to having flat-out courage.

#10 Chihuahua

Chihuahuas make for great guard dogs despite their size.

©iStock.com/Lesia Kapinosova

It’s probably the last dog you’d expect to see in the company of the toughest dogs in the world, but lovers of this pooch know tough when they see it. The Chihuahua might get eaten, but she’d stand up to any dog on this list.

She may appear to be a nervous little critter with those big eyes, but the Chihuahua is ready to face off with anyone who crosses her path. That streak of loyalty makes her fiercely protective of loved ones. She’ll start yelling at the slightest offense and curiosity sends her bolting at almost anything, regardless of size. And we wouldn’t even think about petting her while she’s hugged up with her owner.

#9 German Shepherd

German Shepherds are considered the third most intelligent dog breed.

©iStock.com/jentakespictures

Among the most powerful dogs, this muscular pooch isn’t a member of law enforcement and the military for nothing. Smarts and bravery make them exceptional companions who take on danger. So, it makes sense that German Shepherds are some of the toughest dogs in the world.

Now, these traits don’t deter the German Shepherd from being kind and gentle or playful. Remember, while he competently defended the herded sheep against the scariest predators, these toughest dogs also knew how to keep the sheep docile and moving without aggression. German Shepherds are versatile, capable of scent work, rallying, agility, and therapy, and service work.

This is a reliable animal and we dare say anyone who sees this pooch running at them with fangs evident is going to wonder how high he can jump and stay up there!

#8 Newfoundland

Newfoundlands make for great water rescue dogs because of their webbed feet.

©iStock.com/rzoze19

Nothing is more intimidating than a Newfoundland. It’s believed she’s the strongest of all canines and, in fighting trim, will take down all other types of toughest-looking dogs. The dog hits up to 27 inches and weighs 150 pounds, so approach with caution. The largest Newfoundland got to 260 pounds and six feet nose to tail.

She combines one of the strongest dog breeds with a high level of endurance. Swimming great distances, this large canine saves drowning victims. She makes an impressive swimmer because her feet are partially webbed. The Newfoundland has an easy-going temperament but will protect its owner. This most powerful dog has intense stranger danger. And no one wants to find out if she bites.

#7 Boxer

Boxers are known as the “Peter Pan” of dog breeds.

©iStock.com/AprilCarlsonPhotography

The Boxer has an expansive history as a working dog. Part of the modern bulldog breed, the bulldog’s patient, protective, and pound-for-pound is one of the strongest dog breeds. That here-comes-the-punch face always makes us smile.

He’s part of a bright and often silly, but always courageous and adventurous, breed. His name’s inspired by the way he seems to throw up his paws like he’s in the ring. Whether it’s time to start fighting or manage livestock, the boxer is serious about getting the work done. The Boxer has been one of the country’s most sought-after dog breeds for generations.

#6 Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terriers were originally developed to hunt foxes in England.

©iStock.com/alexei_tm

Not everyone has room for the Big Red Dog. You may have an apartment or a small yard. But you still want a tough dog on your side. Enter the Jack Russell Terrier. In that corner, maxing out at 17 pounds, she’s pound for pound an all-out, get-it-done ball of energy. Not the largest dog out there, she’d get bored sitting in your purse anyway. And the baby isn’t prone to spend a lot of time in laps.

There are no records that show how hunter John Russell created the Jack Russell, but she’s thought to be a cross between Beagles and Bull Terriers. That’s a couple that reeks with what’s-that-let’s-go-see. She also loves to dig, so you don’t want her running free in the garden. But that’s part of the game. She was bred to locate.

#5 Great Dane

One of the world’s tallest dogs, the Great Dane, is known as a gentle giant.

©iStock.com/Earl-Wilkerson

He’s a lean beast and is noted as the world’s tallest dog. And the Great Dane is definitely among the toughest dogs. He’s an outstanding home guardian and a friendly oversized giant. The leggy animal needs a good amount of exercise. Two daily brisk walks and an opportunity to burn off energy will help.

Athleticism comes easy to the Dane through nibble agility and obedience training. All this is good because the Great Dane loves dog sports like weight pulls and tracking. Despite his imposing appearance, the Great Dane is affectionate and sweet doggies and, with training, is gentle with children.

#4 Siberian Husky

Siberian Huskies were once not taken seriously as racing dogs.

©Ksenia Raykova/Shutterstock.com

Sled dogs are a rugged, athletic breed, born with strength, stamina, and the capacity to dive in for the long haul. In a nutshell, that’s the Siberian Husky. Energetic, athletic, muscular, and capable of withstanding the iciest circumstances. Not many can say that and this creature’s happiest when she has something to do.

In the mid-1920s, a team of Siberian Huskies took the lead when an outbreak of diphtheria devastated a town of children. Swapping out dogs throughout the journey, the team traveled over 600 miles with a life-saving serum. One Siberian Husky, Balto, led the sled team on the last 53 miles. He was then honored around the country. A statue of Balto sits in New York’s Central Park.

#3 Presa Canario

Exercise is key with the Presa Canario.

©Presa Canario laying in the shade/Shutterstock.com

Docile and affectionate on the regular, especially around its family, when sensing danger, the Presa Canario is an aggressive and dangerous beast. Suspicious of strangers, breeders advise avoidance if you’re out for a family pet.

Bred for fighting and guarding, she was a go-to in the Canary Islands, her birthplace. The breed survived extinction in the 1950s. Crossbreeding saved it. Unfortunately, the breeding and training were more for sport than anything. Steroids and mistreatment created killers. That’s when the call for this breed quadrupled.

But like all tough dogs with a dark history, training can socialize these animals and an experienced, firm hand can manage the Presa Canario.

#2 Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound is the world’s tallest dog.

©iStock.com/Bigandt_Photography

The Wolfhound’s history includes hunting the ginormous Irish elk, which reached six feet in height at the shoulder. No challenge for the Irish Wolfhound. He can stand on his hind legs and make you look up. Poochy’s tall requires a hefty amount of exercise and has to run. Fast. Like a Greyhound, he has to have leashed walks and a fenced-in yard.

He has a natural wild coat of hair, potentially unkempt and shaggy if not combed, but no shedding. The Wolfhound prefers the cold and will skip the blanket or comfy bed you spring for to crash on a hard, frosty floor. Despite a peaceful demeanor, the Irish Wolfhound is a hunter at his core. Owners have to be vigilant when outdoors. He’ll bolt and may not respond to calls once on a mission.

#1 Mastiff

Mastiffs are known for being excellent guard dogs.

©iStock.com/marcelinopozo

Heavy-boned, massive, and weighing 200 pounds and up, the Mastiff is absotively one of the toughest dogs in the world. You’ll have to stay in shape to keep up with these toughest-looking dogs. She needs to walk at least a mile a day. If you have the space, maybe she can do it by herself. But this is also a big dog that can live comfortably in an apartment, maintaining a protective and loyal guardianship for her loved ones.

The dog is famous as the pooch from “Turner & Hooch” and she sure does drool, so keep a hanky or bib available. But like on-screen, the Mastiff is a lovable palooka. A palooka who can do some serious damage, even if it’s appealing watching it happen to someone else. But surely she’ll lovingly lick your face dry (or is that wet?) and a second later take a bite out of your worst enemy. It’s what she does.

Summary of the Top 10 Toughest Dog Breeds in the World

Dogs of all breeds can be tough as it is more about personality than it is about breed. Still, some breeds are tougher than others and some are tough about certain things while being very wimpy about others. These dogs all make the list of tough breeds.

NumberBreed
1.Mastiff
2.Irish Wolfhound
3.Presa Canario
4.Siberian Husky
5.Great Dane
6.Jack Russell
7.Newfoundland
8.Boxer
9.German Shepherd
10.Chihuahuas

Honorable Mention: Other Tough Dog Breeds

photo shoot with an english bulldog

English bulldogs may not be as large as other tough breeds, but their muscular bodies add to their strength.

©Kassio KM/Shutterstock.com

Strength is not always measured by size. As highlighted on this list, there are many tough small, and medium-sized dogs, some that are thought to even be tougher in spirit and personality than many of the bigger dogs. There are certain factors affecting a dog that may make them tougher, or gentler, and every dog, even from the same breed, may be different. A few of those factors can be their environment, life experiences, training and education, socialization, and of course their individual personalities.

These are a few additional dogs that, while they may have not made our top ten list, are still deserving of an honorable mention.

  • Rottweiler – this is a medium to large-sized agile, intelligent dog that has a bite force of 328 psi. They can appear rather intimidating due to their standoffish nature but around those they know, they can be gentle and good-natured. Also exhibiting fearlessness, obedience, and confidence, Rottweilers are muscular dogs that are known for their strength.
  • Doberman Pinscher – another medium to large-sized dog, this breed is originally from Germany. Due to its fierce loyalty, alertness, and high intellect, it is often used as a guard dog. They are frequently thought of as aggressive and mean dogs and were bred to be fearless and intimidating, but they also have good-natured personalities. However, there are certain breeds that may be more aggressive than others – it is said that the European Doberman are more like the original breed standard, while the American Doberan exhibits a friendlier demeanor.
  • English Bulldog – this medium-sized British breed is a mastiff type of dog that is well-muscled and can weigh anywhere from 40 to 55 pounds. They can be stubborn and have incredibly strong jaws which, should they exhibit any aggression, can be rather intimidating. However, they are also known to be rather docile and sweet-natured, which is a contrast to their determined expressions.
  • Cane Corso – this loyal, affectionate breed hails from Italy, and in addition to being a companion dog, it was often kept as a guard dog, hunting dog, and herding dog. This muscular breed has a bite force of 700 psi, which is even greater than a lion, and is known for their intelligence, loyalty, and protective nature. They are very easy to train and should be socialized at a young age.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Michael J Magee/Shutterstock.com

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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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