People get dogs for a variety of reasons. Some want a lap warmer, while others want a companion for their kids.
Still others are looking for a running companion, and a few want their dog to perform some type of work- or hunting-related task.
Many people choose to get a dog for protection. In exchange for a warm place to sleep, a belly kept full and some regular haunch scratching, these owners expect their dog to protect them from nefarious types.
For most owners, what they really want is a scary looking dog – a dog that can keep strangers or unwanted guests away, regardless of their actual behavior.
Protection Dogs Vs. Dogs That Provide Protection
True protection dogs are exquisitely trained (read: expensive) four-footers, who can be taught to physically intervene against an attacker.
Such dogs are trained to use all of the tools at their disposal (strong jaws, bone-crushing teeth and powerful neck muscles) to stop an attack; some even received specialized training and learn how to restrain assailants until help arrives.
These kinds of dogs are used by K9 police officers, military units, potential kidnapping targets and others who may expect potential danger around every turn. But most people do not need or want such a powerful and potentially dangerous companion at their side – most simply need a dog as a form of deterrence.
Videos like the one below show just how well-trained true protection dogs can be, but this isn’t what most owners have in mind when they’re considering a dog for added security.
Just about any big dog will make the average criminal think twice – many bad guys will even avoid confrontations with small dogs, given their predilection to bark incessantly at any perceived threat.
Because of this, most average people are probably better served by acquiring an intimidating or scary-looking dog breed, who has been trained in basic obedience and little more – that’s really all most folks need for deterrence!
What Makes a Dog Scary or Intimidating?
Few trouble makers are going to try to identify your dog’s breed while sizing you up as a potential target. Rather, they are likely to note a few key characteristics when deciding his or her next move.
Most intimidating dogs exhibit the following characteristics:
In this case, bigger is definitively better. A 50-pound pit bull can be incredibly intimidating, while exposing his teeth, emitting one of the scariest barks in the world, and lunging at you, but a 200-pound Great Dane barely has to look at you to tighten your sphincter.
Some empirical data demonstrates that black dogs are more intimidating than those of other colors. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but it may have something to do with the use of Rottweilers, Doberman Pinchers, German Pinchers and similar, predominately black breeds in security, guarding and attack contexts.
However, it is important to remember that this is only one component of the overall intimidation factor of a given breed. Is a 175-pound Great Pyrenees more intimidating than a 95-pound Doberman? It depends on the mind of the person giving you the willies.
Things like a blocky head, large mouth, and broad shoulders tend to make a dog look more intimidating.
Consider, for example, pit bulls – one of the smallest breeds to make our list below. Part of the reason these dogs appear so intimidating – aside from the myths that surround this species – is the combination of their square head, big ‘ol mouth and shoulders that look strong enough to do one-armed pushups.
A dog with a rough and tough bark will be enough to make any potential intruder turn tail and run – even if the dog is deep down a big softy.
Have you ever noticed how an 8-pound Chihuahua can make a 200-pound grown man jump back? That’s the power of bluff, bluster, and swagger. And while a Chihuahua who weighs as much as a gallon of milk can occasionally intimidate jumpy foes, a 95-pound Rottweiler could probably intimidate a rhinoceros.
By contrast, the biggest black lab that ever lived would be more likely to lick your face than get his hackles up. The same could be said of numerous other, non-intimidating breeds.
The Scariest Dog Breeds: Dogs That Will Terrify Intruders
While this list is obviously subjective, we’ve done our best to cover a variety of intimating-looking dogs. We broke this list down into two different sections, each of which contains 7 breeds.
The first group includes the most intimidating common breeds – those you could find at a pet store or from any number of local breeders.
The second section covers intimidating breeds which are not seen as frequently. Although you can often find puppies of these breeds for sale, you’ll likely have to go to greater lengths (and pay more money) to do so.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Many of the breeds listed below are banned in some areas. Accordingly, you’ll always want to check out the legal environment for your area before adding one of these dogs to your family.
7 Common and Intimidating Dog Breeds
These are the most intimidating pups that are relatively common – you are probably already quite familiar with them.
1. American Pit Bull Terrier / American Staffordshire Terrier
Yes, I am once again lumping American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers into the same group – please feel free to let me have it in the comments.
But in this case, the distinction is not that important – in fact, pit-mixes are often just as intimidating as purebred individuals are. Most criminals will assume that any 50- to 70-pound dog that looks vaguely pit-like should be given a wide berth.
Of course, anyone who’s ever owned a pit knows that they are typically little bundles of tail-wagging, face-licking love — they’re not an aggressive breed as sensationalistic media headlines would have you believe. When raised in a loving family, they are among the friendliest dogs you could want. However, they are typically very protective of their home and family, and will gladly put on a ferocious display to deter those who come too close.
It is important to note that while many pit bulls are very protective, many professionals consider pit bulls to be too friendly to be used for proper protection work. Nevertheless, a pit bull running around your house will likely keep prowlers away.
Akitas aren’t the biggest dogs in the world – most weigh about 90 to 100 pounds. However, the combination of their large head and shoulders-forward posture can make them look quite menacing.
Akitas are instinctually driven to guard and protect their families. In fact, this is one of the primary purposes for which the breed was developed – protecting nobles and other VIPs during the feudal period of Japan (they were also used to hunt large game, such as boar).
Despite their fearless and sometimes protective nature, Akitas are often loving family dogs. However, Akitas are not one of the easier breeds to train, so they are not a good choice for an inexperienced owner. They need consistent, firm, respectful obedience training and regular socialization from an early age.
Rottweilers always appear on these types of lists, and it is easy to see why. They’ve got all the hallmarks of an intimidating breed: They’re pretty big, they’re clad primarily in black fur, they have incredibly muscular bodies, and they are often suspicious of strangers.
But Rottweilers aren’t only intimidating – they also make incredible companions, who are sensitive, loving and loyal. However, they don’t like being far from their owners, so they aren’t great family pets for those who spend a lot of time away from the home.
Additionally, they are amazingly intelligent and head-strong dogs, who require an owner who can lead them in a confident, yet loving manner.
Generally speaking, this ancient breed is not a great choice for inexperienced owners. However, females can be a bit easier for novices to control.
4. Doberman Pinscher
Dobermans are big dogs, but their ability to scare would-be-troublemakers exceeds their size.
Rarely exceeding 100 pounds in weight, Dobermans look bigger than they really are, thanks to their height (big males may stand 28 inches high at the shoulder), long necks, and (sometimes) cropped ears. Additionally, Dobermans tend to adopt a pretty impressive posture when facing something they deem a threat.
But underneath this impressive exterior, most Dobermans are as loving as the sweetest lab and probably more committed to their owner too. They share a number of similarities with Rotties, as they are also smart, sensitive, and incredibly loyal.
This well-known working breed isn’t the ideal choice for first-time dog owners, but Dobermans are probably better than many other breeds on this list for novices. In any case, they’ll need firm training, obedience classes, and plenty of socialization, beginning at a young age.
5. German Shepherd
Historically, German shepherds were one of the most common breeds to be used in military and police contexts (although they’ve largely been supplanted by Belgian Malinois in recent years). They’ve excelled in these roles thanks to their intelligence, fearless nature, and powerful presence.
German shepherds occasionally approach the 100-pound mark, but most are closer to 80 or 90 pounds. They often appear larger than this, thanks to their thick, long fur. They also have large ears, which further increase their apparent size.
Their protective instincts are easy to see, and a big German shepherd is surely one of the most intimidating breeds to encounter in a proverbial dark alley.
Although they are loyal companions who are one of the easier breeds to train, German shepherds are not ideal for homes that harbor allergy sufferers. Shepherds shed by the fistful, and they’ll quickly bury your belongings in an archeological layer of hair.
6. Great Pyrenees
One unusual, somewhat paradoxical breed on our list is the Great Pyrenees. These dogs often grow very large (some males exceed 150 pounds) and they have a very protective nature.
However, they also look like big teddy bears (which is actually by design, as it helps the sheep to feel comfortable with their canine companions). They’re coated in long, fluffy hair and they have roundish faces with cute ears.
However, the net impression of a Great Pyrenees can be quite intimidating, especially to those who are not comfortable with dogs. Great Pyrenees were originally developed to guard sheep and other livestock – that’s part of the reason for their fluffy appearance. They were tasked with not only monitoring their flock, but also protecting it from wolves or other predators – by physical means if need be.
The Great Pyrenees is one of the gentlest breeds on our list with respect to their families, but they aren’t a good choice for all owners. For example, Great Pyrenees do not adapt well to apartment life, and they are Olympic-caliber shedders. They can also be somewhat difficult to train and a bit stubborn.
7. Great Dane
Great Danes are absolutely huge dogs (big individuals may reach 200 pounds and stand nearly 3-feet-tall at the shoulder), who are able to intimidate many people by virtue of their imposing appearance alone (and their powerful bark certainly helps too!). Like so many of the other breeds on our list, Great Danes may look frightening, but they are the quintessential “gentle giant” breed.
In fact, Great Danes are typically sweet, affectionate, and very loving with their families.
But despite their warm-and-fuzzy personalities, Great Danes require proper training and socialization from an early age. Failing to do so can actually be dangerous, given the size of these immense beasts. Because of this, they are rarely appropriate for first-time owners or those who lack the desire to engage in a proper training regimen.
7 Less-Common Dog Breeds that Are Intimidating
You may see one of these breeds at the dog park from time to time, but you’re unlikely to encounter them as commonly as you would German Shepherds or any of the previously mentioned breeds.
While any of these can make loving, loyal family pets, all require very effective training and are unsuitable for novice owners.
1. Cane Corso
Although cane corsos may stand almost 28 inches tall at the shoulder, they rarely reach the weights of Great Danes or similar breeds; typically, they weigh between 90 and 120 pounds.
Nevertheless, cane corsos are easily some of the most intimidating dogs in the world, and their gaze alone will surely send shivers up the spine of even the most brazen criminal.
Cane corsos demand respect, and they should never be acquired on a whim or without serious thought, consideration and preparation. They require a large yard and will almost never be the kind of dog with whom you jaunt off to the dog park.
And because he has such a muscular body, you’ll need to provide your cane corso with sufficient exercise — these dogs were bred to chase and subdue big game, so they won’t be happy if they don’t burn off plenty of steam!
2. Dogue de Bordeaux
The Dogue de Bordeaux is a beautiful breed, but its stocky body, bulky musculature, and large head makes it one of the more intimidating dogs available.
While females usually reach about 90 pound or so, most males exceed 100 pounds and stand about 26 or 27 inches high at the shoulder.
DDBs (as they’re often called) are very confident dogs, who rarely back down from a threat. Though loving with their families (including children), DDBs are not what you would call welcoming to strangers. Though they have a short coat, which is easy to take care of, they do produce buckets of drool and have lots of loose skin, which turns off many would-be owners.
If you’re thinking that you’ve seen one of these dogs before, but you can’t put your finger on where, I’ll help you out: Hooch was a Dogue de Bordeaux.
3. Dogo Argentino
Dogo Argentinos look absolutely terrifying, but this prickly appearance actually belies their fun-loving personality.
Described by the AKC as cheerful, humble and friendly, Dogo Argentinos are big dogs with big muscles, big heads and big mouths. Everything about them simply screams power and strength, though it is important to understand that they do not have an inherently aggressive nature.
Reaching about 27 inches in height and 100 pounds in weight (females are slightly smaller), Dogo Argentinos — or Argentine Mastiffs, as they are also called – are powerful runners, who were originally developed to hunt big game. In deed, many hunters still use them in pursuit of feral pigs.
Dogo Argentinos require a lot of exercise to remain healthy, and they need plenty of attention from their family to avoid depression and the development of destructive behaviors.
4. Boerboel Mastiff
Boerboels were originally developed by South African pioneers in the seventeenth century to perform a variety of tasks, including hunting and livestock guarding – they were even expected to stand guard against predators as formidable as leopards and hyenas. Today, they are primarily companion dogs, albeit ones that easily deter any who would wish to do you harm.
With an athleticism that belies their size and bulk, Boerboels move confidently through the world, meeting challenges head-on.
They do not back down from challenges, and display a fearlessness that is uncommon among other breeds. They are very challenging breeds for novices to train and control, but experienced owners often find them delightful.
5. English Mastiff
The English mastiff is a gigantic dog that often reaches 150 to 170 pounds and stands nearly 3-feet-high at the shoulder. Yet despite their immense and intimidating size, they’re typically gentle, laid-back dogs who get along well with most people they encounter.
This doesn’t mean that they aren’t ready to protect their pack when necessary, but they don’t go through life with the suspicious attitude of a Cane Corso or some others.
Thanks to their calm and confident demeanor, English mastiffs are probably the most suitable of the less-common breeds for novice owners, but caution is still warranted. Even the gentlest 170-pound dog can cause serious injuries, and proper training and socialization are necessary to ensure they remain friendly.
6. Perro de Presa Canario
Perro de Presa Canarios (aka Canary Mastiffs) are large, intelligent, and protective dogs, for whom proper training is imperative (they’re also quite beautiful with their brindle coloring).
Often tipping the scales at up to 120 pounds, Presa Canarios are a mastiff-family breed, who were originally developed in the Canary Islands. Although affectionate with their families, Presa Canarios are rarely as syrupy sweet as English mastiffs or Rottweilers.
Presa Canarios are often very territorial dogs, who do not take kindly to strangers or unfamiliar animals. They do not adapt well to apartment life, and require a moderate amount of exercise to remain healthy and happy. Of all the dogs on our list, this may be the one least suited for first-time owners.
7. Caucasian Shepherd Dog
Caucasian Shepherd dogs are flock-guarding behemoths, who look even larger than they really are, thanks to their long, fluffy coat. Originally developed to fend off wolves, these dogs are very territorial and do not accept strangers – including people, dogs and cats — entering their world.
Caucasian shepherd dogs are frequently challenging animals, that will test the limits of their owner’s authority. Accordingly, they need firm, but loving leadership and consistent training from an early age to ensure they remain trustworthy and safe.
Can you think of any other intimidating or scary looking dog breeds we missed? Let us know which ones we’ve forgotten — and which breed you’d pick as a guard dog to keep your family safe — in the comments below.
We’d also love to hear your experiences with any of the breeds detailed above – particularly those on the uncommon list!