We’ve all heard the famous saying that you can’t judge a book by its cover, and the same is certainly true for dogs. Although a dog may look mean, the true test of its temperament is often defined by a few factors that may be determined by how a dog is raised, trained, and socialized.
With that said, genetics can play a role in your dog’s temperament as well, but there is still a lot of controversy surrounding what truly constitutes a “mean” dog breed.
With all that said, there are some dogs that may look mean even when they are not. Whether this appearance is due to their size, color, or reputation, these dogs have built a name for themselves as some of the more scary-looking dog breeds out there.
And that’s what today’s article is all about!
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The Meanest Looking Dog Breeds – What Is A Mean Dog?
Mean looking dogs are often not really mean. Instead, they often just look scary.
So, what is a mean dog, really?
Most people would define a mean dog as a dog that is aggressive, unpredictable, and dangerous. There are many dog breeds that fall under these categories, whether or not the assumptions about them are true.
Sadly, most of the meanest looking dog breeds are actually not mean at all, but their appearance alone has led to certain dogs being banned in some regions throughout the United States.
The dogs that are considered the meanest looking dog breeds often have a few things in common. These dogs are often quite large, dark in color, and have sleek coats. Some of the meanest looking dog breeds also come from a history of being used as fighting dogs, war dogs, or guard dogs.
Due to their appearance and reputation, mean-looking dogs are also less likely to be adopted or rescued from shelters, often leading to perfectly friendly dogs being put to sleep if they can’t find forever homes.
In reality, most experts agree that mean dogs don’t really exist. In fact, the majority of dogs are predisposed to be people-oriented, eager to please, and affectionate with their family members.
With that said, there are some factors that can contribute to dogs being less affectionate or family-oriented than others, but you can hardly tell these qualities simply by looking at a dog.
In fact, most of the meanest looking dog breeds on our list below are, at their core, friendly, affectionate, sweet, and highly trainable!
With that said, you should be aware that mean looking dog breeds can come with their fair share of pros and cons.
If you’re looking for one of our meanest looking dog breeds to call your own in the hopes of investing in a dog that will help with security, it’s very important that you take extra steps to ensure you’re raising a dog that is well-trained and properly socialized.
It’s also important to remember that a dog is so much more than his appearance, and investing in a dog (and especially a dog with a reputation as being mean) will require an extra layer of responsibility, nurturing, and care on your end.
We’ll talk more about this further down, but for now, it’s time to take a look at 10 of the meanest looking dog breeds, according to experts.
1. The American Bully
American Bully dogs are large, muscular Pitbull type dogs.
The American Bully may not be the largest dog on our list of meanest looking dog breeds, but he certainly packs a big dog in a small package. In fact, this dog was bred specifically to exhibit lots of strength and stamina in spite of his compact build.
Incredibly muscular and stocky, the American Bully stands between 13 and 20 inches and can weigh between 44 and 132 pounds. Most of this weight is muscle, which is what the American Bully is best known for.
This Pitbull type dog is not recognized as his own breed by major breed clubs like the American Kennel Club, but he was recently recognized in 2004 by the American Bully Kennel Club.
These dogs come in a variety of coat colors, and though born with floppy ears, many owners opt to crop their ears which can further exacerbate their mean-looking appearance.
In reality, the American Bully is known for being a friendly, obedient, and people-oriented dog. He is happy and loves to play, and makes a wonderful dog for families with children.
2. The Doberman Pinscher
Doberman Pinschers are German dogs known for their obedience and intelligence.
A German-bred dog, the Doberman Pinscher built his reputation as a war dog serving Nazis during World War ll. Sadly, this contributed to his addition to this list of meanest looking dog breeds, as many find this dog’s tall, lean body, cropped ears, and dark sleek coat to be intimidating.
However, much of what made the Doberman Pinscher an excellent war dog is what actually makes him an excellent companion dog today.
These dogs are devoted, protective, and family-oriented. They also have a sweet side to their serious nature and can do well in homes with families and other pets.
The Doberman Pinscher is a large breed dog, standing between 24 and 28 inches and weighing up to 100 pounds when fully grown. And while most Doberman Pinchers are famous for their sleek, black coats, they also come in other color variations including white, fawn, red and rust, blue and rust, fawn and rust, blue red, and black and rust.
3. The Rottweiler
The Rottweiler is a famous guard dog.
Large, black, and famous for their history as guard dogs, Rottweilers are German-bred dogs once known as butcher dogs and cart droving dogs. They are incredibly strong, which served them well as they pulled carts of meat through towns in Germany for their masters.
As bred guard dogs, Rottweilers are famous for their protective nature. This has been attributed to their reputation as dogs that are to be feared, but in truth, Rottweilers are highly trainable, friendly, sensitive, and sweet.
They are protected and devoted to their families, and are ideal dogs for families with an understanding of dogs with guarding instincts.
As with all of our dogs on this list of the meanest looking dog breeds, Rottweilers require early socialization and training to ensure they grow up happy, healthy, and well-rounded.
When properly raised and trained, Rottweilers make great dogs for homes with children and get along well with other pets.
4. The Cane Corso
Cane Corsos may be mean looking, but they are really mild-mannered dogs.
If you’re looking for the meanest looking dog breeds, then you certainly would not want to overlook the Cane Corso. This is an Italian-bred dog in the Mastiff family, bred solely for his fearsome looks as a guard dog and companion dog.
His intelligence also made him an excellent herding and hunting dog, though today the Cane Corso enjoys a more laid-back lifestyle with experienced dog owners who are able to dedicate time and attention to training and socialization to ensure this breed is happy and confident.
Because of its large size, the Cane Corso does best in homes with lots of space and with owners who can ensure he is properly exercised and kept mentally stimulated.
Standing an impressive 26 inches in length and weighing up to 110 pounds, the Cane Corso is known as a reserved, mild-mannered, quiet, and watchful dog.
5. The Belgian Malinois
These dogs are some of the most famous working dogs when it comes to police and military work.
Belgian Malinois are some of the most popular working dogs to date, especially when it comes to police and military work. These dogs, which resemble German Shepherds but are distinguished by their tan coats and dark muzzles, are highly intelligent and work-oriented.
Though they are on our list of the meanest looking dog breeds, these dogs are actually quite obedient and intelligent.
They often get the reputation of being mean simply because of the line of work they are often utilized for, though their intelligence and trainability are what makes them ideal for these positions, not their mean nature.
When properly raised, trained, and socialized, the Belgian Malinois makes a wonderful companion for more experienced dog owners.
However, these are true working dogs at heart, and they are not happy unless they have a job to do. Without staying properly exercised and mentally stimulated, and without the proper training and early socialization, Belgian Malinois dogs can be prone to behavioral problems.
6. The Dogo Argentino
Bred as a fighting dog, the modern day Dogo Argentino makes a good companion for the right owner.
Statistics show that the majority of people fear black dogs over lighter-colored dogs, but the Dogo Argentino is an exception to this rule when it comes to the meanest looking dog breeds.
This all-white dog comes from common dog breeds designed for blood sports, with ancestors including Bull Terriers, Bulldogs, and Mastin del Pirineo dogs. They stand up to 27 inches and can weigh over 88 pounds, adding to their impressive and somewhat intimidating nature.
Bred specifically for blood sports in the early twentieth century, the Dogo Argentino of today is known for his affectionate nature, especially for children in his family.
However, like many of our meanest looking dog breeds, the Dogo Argentino is a working dog at heart and enjoys having a job to do. He does best with owners who are dedicated and have a good understanding of energetic, working dog breeds.
7. The Persa Canario
Also known as the Perro de Persa Canario, the Persa Canaro is a mastiff type dog known for its large size.
The massive Persa Canario is another Mastiff-type dog on our list of meanest looking dog breeds, with an intimidating size. This dog stands between 22 to 26 inches and weighs between 83 and 140 pounds, making him one of the largest on the list
But it is not just his impressive size that brought the Persa Canario to our group of meanest looking dog breeds. This dog’s unique coat colors and massive head also help to make him look intimidating.
His coat is short and sleek, coming in brindle, black, fawn, silver fawn, red brindle, and fawn. His head is one of the largest in the canine kingdom, which can certainly raise the hair on the back of your neck.
The Persa Canario dog’s temperament is also not something to be taken lightly. While he is protective and devoted to his family members, this is a dog that is naturally suspicious and strong-willed. He requires a confident and experienced dog owner and does best in homes where he can be properly trained and socialized beginning at an early age.
8. The Tosa Inu
Tosa Inu dogs are illegal in many countries.
The Tosa Inu surpasses the Persa Canario when it comes to height and weight, standing up to 32 inches and weighing more than 130 pounds. A Japanese working dog, the Tosa Inu is a rare breed of dog that is not easy to come by in the United States.
In fact, in many regions and even countries, the Tosa Inu is considered illegal, as he is one of the only dogs in the world still sadly utilized for legal dog fighting in Japan. As such, his temperament has been described as aggressive, intelligent, fearless, and courageous.
Tosa Inu dogs come in four colors including black, fawn, red, and brindle. They have a lifespan of between 10 and 12 years and are best suited for experienced dog owners capable of implementing proper training, socialization, and care.
9. The Bull Mastiff
The Bull Mastiff is a large and intimidating dog.
Another massive dog on our list of meanest looking dog breeds, the Bull Mastiff is a mix of different British Mastiff-type dogs. He was bred specifically for guarding during the nineteenth century, and though he is a fearsome sight to behold, the Bull Mastiff has a loving, loyal, and calm disposition.
His large size means he is best suited for experienced dog owners with plenty of space to accommodate this breed of dog, and his potential to have guarding instinct means he will require proper training and socialization beginning at an early age.
The Bull Mastiff is famous for his incredible bite force, thanks to the large size of his jaw, with a bite force of 552 PSI.
10. The Dogue de Bordeaux
Stunning in color, this Mastiff type is a sweet-natured dog in spite of its mean look.
Last on our list of meanest looking dog breeds is the Dogue de Bordeaux. This beautiful dog, which comes in colors of red, fawn, or mahogany, is a large breed that stands between 23 and 26 inches and weighs up to 140 pounds once fully grown.
A Mastiff type, the massive Dogue de Bordeaux originated in France and was bred specifically for pulling heavy carts and guarding livestock.
His intimidating appearance is greatly attributed to his incredibly muscular body, but in truth, the Dogue De Bordeaux makes a friendly, devoted, and mild-mannered companion for experienced dog owners.
When properly trained and socialized, this dog can even make a wonderful companion for those with children and other pets.
The Importance Of Early Socialization And Training Your Dog
No matter what the breed of dog, training and socialization should begin at an early age.
Just like people, dogs are complex, emotional creatures that are impacted by a variety of factors in their lives including genetics, their environment, and how they are raised, trained, and socialized.
This means that regardless of if your dog is a tiny Chihuahua or a massive Great Dane, he could have the potential to be sweet and docile or mean and unpredictable depending on how he is raised.
With that said, genetics can play a role in your dog’s overall temperament. Working dogs are a good example of why genetics are relevant, as dogs bred for herding may be more energetic and intelligent while dogs bred for guarding may be more territorial and protective.
Dogs bred for companionship become very attached to their owners and are more prone to suffering from separation anxiety, while alert dogs tend to be more vocal and attentive to their surroundings.
All of these genetic traits should be taken into consideration when you’re considering a specific breed of dog, especially when it comes to the type of training and socialization each unique dog is going to require in order to thrive in your care.
This is especially true if you’re looking at obtaining one of the meanest looking dog breeds, as these dogs may be more prone to being feared by the outside public.
So, how can you make sure even the meanest looking dog breeds are predictable, obedient, and well-rounded?
When working with any dog, it’s incredibly important to begin training and socializing him at an early age. Training should begin during puppyhood and continue on throughout your dog’s lifetime. It’s also important to use positive reinforcement training methods like treats and praise, and avoid aversive methods like fear and scolding when training a dog.
Regardless of how big or “mean” your dog looks, dogs are sensitive creatures and will often shut down if they feel they have displeased you or if they become fearful of your training methods.
Zuke’s Mini Training Treats
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When you are training your dog, we recommend using quality training treats that are highly palatable and will hold your dog’s attention. We like Zuke’s Mini Training Treats because they are low in calories, made with natural ingredients, and are excellent for keeping your dog motivated.
They also come in a number of different flavors so you can pick the flavor that you know your dog loves and will be most motivated by.
You can also use training treats when it comes to socializing your dog. Early socialization is key to reducing behavior problems in dogs like fear-based anxiety that can turn into fear-based aggression.
The act of socializing includes introducing your dog to as many new experiences as possible at an early age and ensuring that these experiences are positive for your dog. This means you should avoid forcing your dog into a situation that is clearly frightening for him, and instead encourage him using gentle praise and, as we mentioned, treats.
Last, make sure you are keeping your dog properly exercised and mentally stimulated. Dogs are intelligent animals and need stimulation both mentally and physically in order to reduce pent-up anxiety that can lead to behavioral problems.
Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toy
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The Nina Ottosson Puzzle Toy is one of our favorite toys for helping keep dogs busy and active while their owners are away. These toys use treats as motivators to hold their dog’s attention and encourage dogs to use their nose to find the treats hidden in the little cubbies.
You can also use snuffle mats and even set up your own games of hide and seek to help keep your dog’s brain active and engaged.
Regardless of the methods or products you use, it’s important to make sure your dog is well-rounded, especially if he has the added implication that he might be a mean or aggressive dog just because of the way he looks.
And speaking of the meanest looking dog breeds, we now want to hear from you. Which of our above meanest looking dog breeds did you think was the scariest?