1/ Public Domain Pictures
With over 60 million dogs owned as pets in the United States alone, dogs are the most popular pets in America. It’s no secret that dogs are fiercely loved by their humans — so much so that one mention of a breed doing harm causes nothing short of uproar from loyal owners and fans. But while breed traits like loyalty, protectiveness, and strength are highly treasured by dog owners, those same characteristics can lead to aggressiveness and incidents of harm in certain situations.
The study of dog attacks is a difficult and highly-scrutinized area, but an analysis performed by the editor of ANIMALS 24-7 stands out as one of the most comprehensive and authoritative approaches to documenting and categorizing incidents of harm inflicted by dogs. Using press accounts, the report gathers attack figures in the United States and Canada over a 32 year period (1982-2014). The study focuses on dogs kept as pets, excluding attacks by guard dogs, police dogs, and dogs trained specifically to fight.
From this study, we've identified the dog breeds and types that had 10 or more instances of attacks causing bodily harm, excluding mixed breeds. It's worth explicitly noting the steep difference in severity throughout the list. For the first 11 breeds on our list, attack figures back out to less than two attacks per year. For the #1 dog type, average attack frequency reaches over a hundred per year.
It's important to caveat that this study focuses primarily on the sheer number of attacks; statistics for attack rates based on ownership figures are not available.
Every animal has unique facets to their temperament, and one dog’s actions don’t necessarily speak for an entire breed. However, this data provides insight into documented trends that can prove helpful when choosing your next member of the family.
2/ Danielle Brigida//Flickr
Attacks doing bodily harm: 10
Plott hounds are naturally very athletic dogs, requiring a lot of exercise and time spent outdoors. Though they can be very gentle with people, when they’re focused or at work (they’re used for coon hunting in some areas), they are laser-focused and relentless.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 11
Traditionally used as a shepherding aid, Aussies are extremely active, working dogs who don’t like to stay idle and without work. They are also fiercely protective.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 11
A favorite among many families, it may be surprising to find the golden retriever on this list, but the breed was shown to have caused harm in 11 attacks during the study period. Goldens are often friendly and good for active families but have been known to be aggressive when they lack socialization.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 12
Saint Bernards, very large and powerful dogs, can be aggressive and instinctively want to be dominant amongst other male dogs. A key factor in training is getting them to respect their owner.
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Attacks doing bodily harm: 15
Malamutes exhibit a natural dominant instinct and sense of pack hierarchy that can sometimes be problematic.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 20
As herding and baiting was the original reason why they were bred, dominance is innate in many English bulldogs’ temperament. They are less active, however, than many other breeds and have stocky, powerful bodies.
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Attacks doing bodily harm: 21
Cane Corso/Italian Mastiffs generally exhibit a good temperament, but when it comes to strangers they can be protective and suspicious.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 23
Dobermans were historically used for the military and police, making them loyal guard dogs that should not be messed with while on the job.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 28
Mastiffs should be well socialized to avoid aggression, fear and shyness — both traits that have the potential to be dangerous with such a large, powerful dog.
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Attacks doing bodily harm: 37
A sensitive breed, the great Dane is a breed that should also be familiar with meeting strangers and other dogs, as stress could, in some cases, bring on unwanted behavior if provoked.
12/ Max Pixel
Attacks doing bodily harm: 38
These lively and loyal cattle dogs should be well socialized and stimulated by their environment. Some have a tendency to nip at heels, which can turn into bad behavior over time if left unchecked. This breed consists of Blue Heelers, Red Heelers, and Queensland Heelers depending on their coloring and origins.
An earlier version of the story included Australian Blue Heelers and Blue Heelers as separate entries on our list. We have since summarized these figures into the Australian Cattle Dog breed.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 56
These usually mild-tempered, athletic dogs are one of the more popular breeds in America, so the instances of harm and deaths are expected to be higher than others.
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Attacks doing bodily harm: 61
The Chow is a very protective, aloof and territorial breed. For many Chows, their sunken eyes limit their peripheral vision, so they can be startled and disturbed more easily.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 64
Boxers are playful dogs that often like to play rough, romp and tumble, which, if they were to be provoked, has the potential to turn into aggressive behavior.
16/ Biser Yanev//Wikimedia Commons
Attacks doing bodily harm: 70
The Akita has a protective spirit that can be quickly triggered by a potential threat. As they have been known to quickly respond and react to threats, it is important to teach them to learn how to distinguish false alarms for truly high-risk situations.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 83
Many Huskies, who are working, pack animals by nature, do not do well if left alone for long periods of time, and can get anxious and agitated. It's worth distinguishing that most of the attacks listed in the study occurred in Alaska and northern Canada, where huskies are commonly kept in packs with limited supervision.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 85
Traditionally a pack animal that observes a hierarchy, some wolf hybrid dogs tend to want to re-assert their dominance when meeting other animals. But this has the potential to be dangerous if they exhibit this behavior with humans and try to jump on them — they are big, strong dogs with solid jaws.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 111
Many Bullmastiffs are fearless and confident, poised to protect families against any threats. Their devoted and protective nature, however, has, in the cases of these attacks, gotten them into trouble.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 113
The German Shepherd has been known to have a low threshold for stimulation. Coupled with its protective nature and size, this breed can be harmful if provoked and not trained properly.
Attacks doing bodily harm: 535
The Rottweiler is very territorial and can exhibit jealous behavior in its mission to protect its owner. Rotties are also so active that they can be bored and annoyed easily. Between 1982 to 2014, 535 harmful attacks were reported involving this breed and 85 attacks resulted in death.
22/ Ildar Sagdejev//Flickr
Attacks doing bodily harm: 3,397
Pit bulls are a dog type that encompasses several breeds such as the American Staffordshire Terrier and Bull Terrier. These dominant and powerful dogs, made headlines a staggering 3,397 times with harmful attacks resulting in 295 deaths over the 32 year period of the study.