If I learned anything when doing the research for this article, it is that dog owners get very emotional when their pet’s breed makes it on to a “bad” list. There are generic comments such as “Any dog owner who leaves a child and a dog alone is an idiot” to the more sedate “If you train them properly, they are not bad dogs.” Both are true, and which dogs make the list is a sensitive topic for many people. So we tried to be objective. To make things clearer, a child is someone who is a pre-teen. (Yes, we know “eleventeen” sounds normal and natural, but less than 13 years old is the bright line here.) Though teens and adults do irresponsible things, they are also more aware of how not to behave around animals in general and dogs in particular. A 5 year old may be more likely to stick their finger in doggie’s eye accidentally.
The first dogs to make the list are dogs generally considered to be more aggressive than the rest. Dogs, being animals, will always be animals and even the best dogs tend towards aggressive behavior from time to time. We can never know what might cause a dog to go psycho on a child, so the more aggressive the animal, the more likely the possibility they will go nutso at any random time. A second characteristic is temperament. This is different than aggressiveness because not all dogs have a bad temperament, but most dogs are aggressive to one degree or another. These are the types of dogs that will snap or bite based on its genetic nature instead of poor training or having been abused. A dog with an attitude can be a good thing, but it must be kept under control, something that is easier said than done.
One final thing worth mentioning before the list. I was a dog owner for more than 20 years, and have been around everything from a Sheltie to a Rottweiler. My brother bred Samoyeds for show. The only dog I had a problem with was a mixed breed that got loose because the owner left the gate open. It nipped me on the back of the leg, but because I had a heavy pair of denim jeans on and because the dog immediately responded to its owner, I let the incident go. (OK, so she was Latin American hot as well. Sue me.) No bite marks, no breaking of the skin.
This list is in no particular order. There are videos to help you understand better, and you are likely to find a political connection or two among some of the breeds.
These dogs are the ones you see in movies like Legally Blonde where they are oh-so-cute and funny. If you stopped to watch the video, you will see why they are not good to be around children. The problem is they are what some experts call a “nervous” dog, so can be easily provoked without even knowing the reason why. These ankle nippers are so unstable they may not get along with everyone in the house. How will you know? You won’t, maybe ever. They are on most Top 10 or even Top 5 lists of dogs you don’t want around your or anyone else’s children – unless you have a sinister motive. Rumors from conservative sources claim that the Chihuahua was the precursor to invasion that led up to America’s illegal immigration problem.
2. Shar Pei
This is the dog that has been accused to being attacked by the Wrinkle Monster – and has never fully recovered. Referring to the video once again, you hear that the Shar Pei is a difficult dog to train, and she is a professional dog trainer! They are stubborn, not a good trait in a dog who was bred primarily to serve as a guard dog, and definitely not one to have around small children. Another dog that has a few conservative sources worried that the Shar Pei is yet another dog that poses a threat based on evidence that it was Life magazine that published its picture on the cover in 1979 and saved it from extinction. In less than 40 years they have managed to become the 61st most popular breed.
3. Chow Chow
If this sounds like another dog whose ancestry is in China, you are correct. The author of a dog training book very nicely says that Chow Chows do not normally like to be picked up and can be hard to train (see video). By the way, I had to go through 100 YouTube videos about how cute Chow Chows are before I got to one that told the full story about this dog. One of its in born tendencies is to want to dominate their territory, and unless the owner is very assertive and makes it clear that they own the dog and not the other way around, there are problems coming down the road. Unless you have a lot of time after first getting a Chow Chow to socialize it to normalcy, it will be an uphill battle for a long time to come.
Just because a dog has a German name (like the German Shepherd) does not mean it is created equal to one of the most popular breeds owned by Americans. There are 1,000 videos on YouTube showing how playful and friendly the Rottweiler is – and an equal number showing Rottweilers being involved in fights. That illustrates one of the dog’s biggest flaws in taking it in as a family animal – its temperament. What is weird is that the dog is the 8th most popular breed to own, yet is second only to the Pitbull in causing human fatalities. The question you have to ask yourself is if you want a dog that will change its mood within seconds, unexpectedly.
5. Pit Bull
Speaking of Pit Bulls, one of the most common arguments for owning a Pit Bull is that it depends on how they are bred and trained, that their reputation for being a danger to people of any age is overdramatized. This is understandable as the Pit Bull is an American creation, developed by breeding bulldogs and terriers together. More than a few call it an experiment gone wrong. Perhaps one ominous sign is that the American Kennel Club does not have a listing for it in its database. The aggressive nature of a dog is key in determining whether it is a good fit for a family, and the Pit Bull is highly aggressive.
These cute dogs have a definite loyal streak in them, so much so that they can present a danger to others they are not familiar with. That includes friends of your children, so unless your child lives in a bubble there are better choices of a canine companion available. The recommendation from professional trainers is that if an Akita has had a previous owner, particularly in a family situation, it will be considerably more difficult to get the dog comfortable in its surroundings, especially with people. Being a naturally stubborn animal, even Akitas that are brought into a family with no previous owner can be difficult to train.
7. Siberian Husky
Before you start complaining like the Husky in the video, there is a reason they made the list. The Siberian Husky is the 6th most popular choice of dog in the United States according to the American Kennel Club. It is a truly beautiful and magnificent animal introduced to the United States from Russia (so let the conspiracy theories begin). But this dog is on the list not because it is necessarily bad for children, but children can be bad for it. Pet ownership is a two way street. Siberian Huskies require a good amount of attention and activity, so if a family gets a Husky and expects to leave it at home and let it fend for itself, there will be problems. This has to be true not just for a few years, but for the dog’s lifetime.
8. Alaskan Malamute
For number 8 on the list we are going to stay in Alaska. Though it is not required, viewing the 46 second video can show you a lot about the potential problems children will have with them. While the Siberian Husky was brought to Alaska, the Malamute is native to the state. Like the Husky, they require a lot of attention and have a strong independent streak in them. But unlike the easily maintained Husky, the Malamute sheds constantly, which can present an allergy problem for children of any age. If deprived of its need for regular activity, it has a tendency to run away, which obviously can break a child’s heart.
9. Saint Bernard
There is always one selection on a list that qualifies as an “it depends” choice. The real world problems of owning a Saint Bernard are well-documented on YouTube. If you are interested in seeing it full range of behaviors (and problems) it’s worth spending some time surveying the collection. The dog can weigh over 180 pounds, so an initial consideration is if you expect to have to choose between feeding your children or feeding the dog. One trait that is unique to the dogs previously on the list is what experts call being “mentally immature.” For most people, we say it is a dumb dog. The biggest problem is perception. A big dog is thought to be as mentally mature as its physical size. Not so with the Saint Bernard, which makes it stubborn and sometimes difficult to train. But as was said at the beginning, it depends. Children over the age of 7 are likely to understand the accompanying responsibilities and recognize the potential dangers a 180 pound animal can bring. Younger than that, it is a risky proposition.
10. English Toy Spaniel
This dog is somewhat of an enigma and maybe is why it has made it on to the list. The AKC ranks it 130th in popularity among dog owners. Its size is small enough to apparently make it an ideal dog for children of all ages. So why isn’t it more popular? There is a problem called Small Dog Syndrome where children perceive the dog as a toy, and inanimate object, and treat it as such. This is not exclusive to the English Toy Spaniel, but if a child unintentionally mistreats the dog (its perception) then it, like the Chihuahua will possibly respond very violently. Part of the reason for this violent reaction is the English Toy Spaniel tends to have a dominating personality, a trait that must be brought in line quickly or else they will become consistently aggressive. As a final note on this breed, YouTube doesn’t have an abundance of videos for this dog, and what does exist is mostly about puppies. Maybe because its origins are from England?
These first 10 are the dogs most commonly found on the unique lists of dogs that are questionable for children. There really is no single trait they all share in common so making the case that there is no really “bad” choice of dog. The choice depends on a number of factors.
The selection of the final 10 will be more focused on temperament because any redeeming features of the dog will be significantly offset by its bad temperament. Maybe temperament can be brought under control by a professional trainer, but most people who own a dog don’t believe taking that step is necessary.
The issue of perception of a dog is a recurring theme in this list, and it continues with the Dachshund. In German, it means “badger dog.” They were used to move badgers out of their tunneled hiding places which accounts for their long sized body and shorter legs. As a potential pet, there are reported instances where it can be more violent towards people than a Rottweiler or even a Pitbull. This is a temperament a dog owner cannot have around a child.
A dog that once had been commonly known as the dog that goes along with firemen on emergencies back in the days when a fire engine was actually a fire wagon, its reputation as man’s best friend was picked up by Disney in its 101 Dalmatians movie that was remade in 1996. That resulted in its popularity by dog lovers across the country. But a movie dog and a real dog are two completely different animals. It has been described as “high strung” which is a huge problem for parents with small children because of the time demands. If they are not allowed to romp regularly, they will turn surly and become nasty and destructive. (The video is instructive as it shows the difference between the destructive tendencies of the dogs inside versus their curious nature outside.)
13. Cocker Spaniel
This was one of those “Huh?” moments when I discovered the problem with Cocker Spaniels during my research. It ranks 29th in popularity by the AKC, so what possibly could be the problem? The poop on the dog is that most have what is known as “rage syndrome.” Dogs with rage syndrome will violently lash out at someone or something for no good reason. Apparently, all the training in the world will not bring this tendency under control. What is also apparent is that many people don’t think this is a big deal. You will have to judge for yourself.
14. Bull Terrier
If Pit Bull and Bull Terrier sound like they have something in common – they do. Both were bred for their gladiator abilities, being thrown in the ring for fighting purposes. Fortunately for the Bull Terrier, the retail chain Target made it its company advertising mascot and the public perception is that it is just another friendly dog. . Those tendencies still remain, and in addition to this natural tendency they are also known to have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. A rarely heard of problem is the dogs can go deaf. When they do, what happens to all those verbal commands?
The late comedian Robin Williams once described the Pekingese as a dog who looks like it got hit in the face with a shovel. He is not the only one to express that sentiment. But the Pekingese has a different kind of temperament problem. Their background reeks of royalty, and so the dog expects to be pampered. The question is whether this fact makes it bad for children, and the answer is the expected “it depends.” The Pekingese may be the ultimate anti-cat personality, as it is always expecting attention whereas a cat could care less (unless it’s feeding time). Can you devote enough attention to both the children and the snobby dog? Even experts are divided on whether this dog is keen on children or not.
Basenjis are one of the most unique dogs because they are commonly known as the dog that does not bark. This trait may seem good for a number of reasons to get one as a dog for children. But in some ways they are like having another child in the house because they are naturally mischievous, creating an entire new set of problems for its owner. The dogs are difficult to train, as their combination of high energy and natural urge to be strongly independent present challenges for even experienced trainers.
17. Doberman Pinscher
The fact that Dobermans have part of the traits of the Greyhound and Rottweiler should be a warning sign about the temperament of this dog. Once upon a time, the Doberman Pinscher was the de facto dog to be feared. It was a popular guard dog and often seen in movies. It still maintains its popularity, ranking 15th on the AKC popularity list. But like other high energy dogs on this list, it demands both time and energy to remain stable and happy which may not be possible for people with small children. This is another dog that highlights the reality that dog ownership is a two way street.
18. Cane Corso
Though a breed that is unfamiliar to many canine enthusiasts, the Cane Corso is believed to be one of the more dangerous dogs around. One of the biggest reasons for this is its natural insecurity, making trust a critical issue for owners and to properly train it. Its pedigree history goes back to the days of the Roman Empire, when they were used in wars. As a domestic animal, they still require constant supervision, as trust will always be an issue, especially around strangers and other dogs. Even as an adult owner who has properly trained the dog, its natural aggression will always challenge your mastery.
19. Caucasian Ovcharka
The one word to describe this dog is huge. If the Pit Bull is to be feared, this breed is a great defender of its owner against any attack. While the pair in the video appear to be playing (not fighting) the size advantage is stunning. For potential owners with children, the temperament of the Caucasian Ovcharka – assertive and strong-willed – is not a good combination. If not properly trained and socialized into the family, they will assert their independence and become unmanageable. It makes one list as the world’s most dangerous dog.
20. Tosa Inu
We end this list with a dog that is actually outlawed in some countries – 14 total, including the U.K. They are allowed in the United States but the AKC home page has zero information on the breed. It makes this list because there are people who love unique animals, and the Tosa Inu may end up on their list. It is stressed that wannabe owners of this breed are not first time owners of a dog. You have to be very Alpha male in dealing with the dog as it can grow to as much as 200 pounds in weight. The dangers to children of any age are significant. If they are properly trained and domesticated, they are great to have around.