Most of us have seen them – A dog that makes you want to run and jump in your mommy’s lap. What is it about scary dogs that make them so… well, scary? Their teeth? Behavior? Size?
Sometimes, all three categories are scary, and even if you’re not afraid of dogs (raising hand), these breeds could make you shake in your shoes. Although I’m not a fear-mongerer, it’s interesting to discover which breeds make you go, “I’ll be leaving now.”
We’ll talk about:
- WHAT makes dogs scary
- WHICH dogs are scary
- WHY they appear to be that way
So come along on this journey with us. You first.
What Makes a Dog Scary?
Let’s jump right in. What can make you think twice when you walk past a scary dog?
- Size – The bigger, the scarier.
- Behavior – If a dog is growling, snarling, or even giving you the side-eye, these can be behaviors of a scary dog.
- Reputation – If I say “Pit bull,” would you think ‘cuddly pup’ or ‘killer canine?’ Some dogs’ reputations precede them, which we’ll discuss, and it’s quite unfair to the dog.
- Color/Looks – Why is it that black dogs are most often passed over in an animal rescue or shelter? To some, they look scary.
- Breed – Do Doberman pinschers make the hair on the back of your neck stand up? This is closely associated with the reputation of the breed.
- Bark – I’ll admit, I’ve heard some barks (during 50 years of training and advocating for dogs) that would scare The Rock. I dogsit for a Great Dane who is as gentle as a Beagle, but he sounds like Cujo. Go figure.
Scary Dog Breeds
While every dog breed has its own unique charm, some are known for their naturally intimidating presence. Dive into our list of 17 breeds that are a force to be reckoned with.
1. German Shepherd
|Weight||50-90 lbs. (female to male)|
|Height||22”-26” (from floor to withers)|
|Qualities||Inquisitive, intelligent, protective|
German shepherds have a reputation for being guard dogs. (Envision one standing in a locked-up-tight car lot.) This breed doesn’t take any bull and lets you know if you’re stepping out of line, i.e., being aggressive, getting way too loud, or being sneaky. (A German shepherd dog, like many breeds, can sniff out intent.)
They don’t weigh as much as some of the dogs on this list, but they know how to get their point across.
Although most German shepherds are two-toned in color, they have a large amount of black on them, which may crank up “the scary.”
2. American Pit Bull Terrier
|Weight||40-70 lbs. (American Staffordshire terrier – “Staffies”)|
|Qualities||Loving, protective, loyal|
My best friend is afraid of pit bulls. She has no idea how docile and gentle they can be and has never even approached one to see their mushball-worthiness (if they’ve been well-trained and socialized).
And no matter what I say, she’s determined to hold this picture in her mind of them being extremely dangerous and the scariest dog breed. Let’s all just simmer down a bit about pitbull attacks, shall we?
|Qualities||fearless, highly energetic, high prey drive, territorial, and independent.|
This is the one dog on this list I would be scared of to even see in real life. Wolves, as much as I love them, are wild animals with sporadic movements. On top of that, we usually don’t know what breed they’ve mated with, and that question mark makes them scarier. What if it was a wild dog? The horrors.
Plus, they look like wolves, not the dogs you watch on Instagram at night. (Or at work, but who’s judging.) Wolves are natural predators, and just knowing that makes me feel like prey. Lupophobia is the fear of wolves and werewolves. It’d be safer if all of us had a healthy touch of this.
Note: Not trying to negate everything I just said, but as a lifelong dog rescuer, trainer, and advocate, I’ve been the guardian of a wolf/Great Pyrenees mix. To this day, he was the best, most loving wolf dog I’ve ever had. So, there are exceptions to the rule.
|Qualities||Sweet (they’re actually bred to have a sweet temperament), friendly, intelligent|
Newfies love to swim, they even have webbed feet, and also excel at:
- Dock jumping
This breed is cat-, dog-, stranger-, and child-friendly. If you ever need a nanny dog for your kids, you’ve got one in Newfoundland. (But never leave a small child alone with any dog.) Note: Giant breeds are more likely to develop orthopedic problems, so keep this in mind if you’re going to invite one into your home.
5. Great Pyrenees
|Qualities||Calm, affectionate, protective|
These working dogs (guard dogs bred to protect sheep) are crazy-powerful and needed to ward off bears, wolves, and the like. This dog breed was also used to pull carts in Belgium and France and to lead sleds.
Today, they still guard livestock and behave as incredible family companions if properly trained and socialized. Make sure you’re prepared to have such a large dog breed in your life. Their weight alone can work against you.
Remember that this breed can develop medical problems that you’d be responsible for financially. If you can handle it, the Great Pyr is a delightful family member.
|Qualities||Intelligent, courageous, protective|
This working dog is a moose. Not literally, but you get my drift. Rotties are often scary because they’re so large, mostly black, and have a nasty reputation.
This dog breed can be aggressive if not well-socialized or properly trained, so if you need the help of a professional, hire one. Another breed that loves the kiddos, Rottweilers need a job to do, so keep them busy. Be aware that inbreeding by nefarious breeders can cause health and temperament issues.
They still work in herding and security and are acutely aware of their surroundings. Rotties are excellent guard dogs. A wonderful dog to have, just don’t let them outsmart you.
7. Doberman Pinscher
|Qualities||Muscular, protective, fast|
Three reasons why Dobies are scary dogs:
- Black dogs
- Cropped ears
Have you ever seen a Doberman pinscher without his ears cropped? They look (almost) adorable. With bat ears, we would look scary. Some people realize the stigma put on dobies and try to perpetuate it. When people mention this dog breed, it’s almost always referring to a dangerous situation or rough, tight security.
The name “pinscher” means a short-haired terrier-like breed. This dog is a playful animal and sticks close to human family members and even their other pets.
8. Tibetan Mastiff
|Qualities||Obedient, quiet, athletic|
With a “mane” that looks fake but is very real, TMs can get quite close to family members. That said, strangers may need to keep their distance. This massive breed is the most expensive dog to ever be sold. In 2011, a red Tibetan mastiff named Big Splash was sold and went home with a Chinese multi-millionaire. I’d like to be his beneficiary.
These dogs may not be the best family dog breed due to their guarding instincts, but unless you’re a burglar sneaking up on their home, they’re mostly respectful.
9. Great Dane
|Qualities||Courageous, sweet, powerful|
I dogsit for a Great Dane who was warm and fuzzy from the get-go. When we met, I could feel his friendliness – Hardly scary. Their height and bark are two reasons why people shy away from them. Frankly, you could ride them (But never try it.), and their bark is low and guttural and sounds like two dogs.
Danes are susceptible to:
- Bloat (the #1 Great Dane killer)
- Hip dysplasia
- Eye disease
- Cardiac disease
- Autoimmune deficiencies
So be sure your breeder is on the ball and has observed the dane from birth. If this dog breed is a rescue, ask the guardians if they’ve had any signs of health issues.
This is certainly the tallest breed, along with the Great Pyrenees and the English mastiff.
10. Cane Corso
|Qualities||Easy-going, loyal, strong|
Pronounced Kah-nay corso, this is another dog breed that undergoes the painful habit of ear cropping. Cane Corsos can definitely be intimidating, and one of the scariest dog breeds around with those short, stand-up-straight ears. And although their reputation is of a dangerous and aggressive dog, know that these animals are protective watchdogs and adore their human families.
They’re often mismanaged and even abused to try and control the humongous dog. Regular, intense exercise (an hour per day) is necessary, especially mental gymnastics. They thrive on having a job to do due to their instincts and training for fighting boar and other prey.
The Cane Corso was also used as a guard dog for livestock, people, and property. They’re an intimidating breed, but get to know them. They might change your mind.
11. Caucasian Ovcharka
|Qualities||Courageous, alert, protective|
You’ve likely never heard of these feared dogs, but if you saw one, you might move to the other side of the street due to their large size. The Caucasian shepherd dog was bred to guard livestock.
Originally bred in Caucasia, the land between the Black and Caspian seas, they’re the most popular breed in Russia (and still shown at dog shows). “Ovtcharka” means “sheepdog” there. They require proper training from the beginning of their lives, and in the wrong hands, they would be scary, aggressive dogs.
12. Kangal (Turkish Kangal)
|Qualities||Powerful, calm, protective|
They get their name from the Central Anatolian town in Turkey. With their curled tail and precious face, these big dogs are hard to resist. Two caveats: Their size might be scary to some, and they’ll need to be well-socialized with people, pets, strangers, and children.
They can be a handful since they were bred to watch livestock independently with no human guardian. Unless you’re a professional trainer, this is probably not the dog breed for you. They’re extremely protective, and this dog breed definitely stands out as one of the scariest dog breeds.
13. Dogo Argentino
|Qualities||Fast, strong, energetic|
I’ll admit it… This breed is scary-looking with or without their ears cropped. They were bred to hunt wild boar, mountain lions, and other predators which, okay, is a bit of an intimidating reputation.
When the Dogo Argentino originated in the late 1920s, they were fighting dogs, but when their hunting talents were recognized, the goal changed. With a firm trainer and early socialization, these dogs will be great family pets and your best friend — Truly loyal companions.
14. English Mastiff
|Qualities||Protective, courageous, loving|
To say their size could scare the devil out of someone is an understatement, but just look at that face though – Hard not to swoon over. Excellent with children and their families, they’ll need socialization skills to get along with unfamiliar dogs and strangers. This, however, maybe the scariest dog breed on the list due to its size.
15. Presa Canario
|Qualities||Self-confident, obedient, territorial|
The Presa Canario’s name (full name – Perro de Presa Canario) means the “Canary Dog of Prey. This breed was developed to be cattle managers, farm guards, and wild dog killers. In no way is he the type of dog for an inexperienced guardian, you need to be trained in order to train them.
16. Fila Brasileiro
|Qualities||Protective, loyal, independent|
Also known as the Brazilian mastiff, these dogs have faces that say doh-dee-doh-doh. You gotta love ‘em. Originating from Brazil, they were large-game hunters and working dogs.
Even with their positive attributes, the breed has been banned in the United Kingdom under the Dangerous Dogs Act. I guess Fila Brasileiros won’t be packing their bags to go across the pond any time soon.
17. Bull Mastiff
|Qualities||Alert, affectionate, loyal|
Their name speaks for itself since mastiffs and bulldogs were bred to develop them around 1860 in England. Bullmastiffs were and are amazing guard dogs. Their main job was to catch intruders, specifically poachers.
Definitely a beauty, this breed will tackle an unwanted guest and hold him until his guardian arrives.
Known as “The gamekeeper’s night dog,” the bullmastiff was welcomed with open arms when dog shows in England were taking off. They’re the perfect family companion and need strong leadership and socialization.
What To Do If You Encounter a Scary Dog
Sometimes, a scary dog will get out of a yard or will be off-leash, and suddenly, you’re eye to eye. If this happens, follow the instructions below. I’ve encountered scary-looking dogs in my time and did everything I’m about to suggest.
- Don’t run.
- Make a ¼ turn away from the dog since facing him may appear to be confrontational.
- Try your best not to look him in the eye. This is considered to be a challenge to the dog.
- Try to pick up anything close, like a stick, slowly, just to hold in case things get worse. If there is nothing, hold your purse or backpack in between you and the dog so if he gets close enough to bite it, you can make your escape.
- Talk to him in soothing tones.
- Slowly back away and look for something to get behind or on top of.
Don’t forget: If you’re walking or riding a bike and a scary dog starts barking inside a fence, cross to the other side of the street so they’ll think their territory isn’t being invaded. And here’s to never encountering a scary dog.
What Is the Strongest Breed of Dog?
A mastiff can weigh up to 230 lbs. and has a bite force per square inch (psi) of 556. (For comparison, humans have a bite force of 162.)
What’s the Most Aggressive Dog?
The Chihuahua is the world’s most aggressive dog.
What Is the Most Fearless Dog in the World?
By now, you know that intense training and full socialization at an early age are mandatory with giant dogs. Otherwise, they can become destructive, dangerous, and yes, scary. But with the proper care and enough patience, you’ll be looking at one great partner.
Most dogs, known as gentle giants, are big lovers or can be trained to be. Plus, they can sense fear, so try your best to feel calm, confident, and in control when you’re around one. Scary dogs are often mishandled by scary people. And that’s something you can bite into.