Consciously or not, people love stereotypes. Stereotypes help us make quick decisions and judgments. But because stereotypes are rarely 100% true, sometimes those decisions or judgments are unfair. Nowhere is that more obvious than when you start talking about dog breeds. All dogs need proper training and a loving owner, but many breed stereotypes are mean, harmful, and untrue. In fact, they rarely represent dogs of these breeds accurately.
Most dogs aren’t inherently dangerous or aggressive. However, people think certain ones are because of popular generalizations or media exaggerations of attacks by specific breeds. Not to mention, a few irresponsible owners (or breeders) can ruin the reputation of an entire breed.
Below, check out the dog breeds that have gotten an unfairly bad reputation.
16. American bulldog
The stereotype: These dogs are ferocious and dangerous.
The truth: Bulldogs make loving — and lovable — pets.
Many people stereotype the bulldog as ferocious and dangerous. But, as The Spruce explains, those labels are usually wrong. Media reports and people’s accounts of their own scary encounters with specific dogs shape public perceptions of certain breeds. While some irresponsible owners might neglect their dogs or teach them aggressive behavior, that doesn’t accurately reflect the innate personality of the breed. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop people from incorrectly labeling the bulldog as “dangerous.”
The American Kennel Club (AKC) characterizes the bulldog as “equable, resolute and dignified.” (Sounds a little less scary now, right?) The group also notes that the bulldog is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. Plus, the American Temperament Test Society, which administers a temperament evaluation for many breeds, found that 86.7% of bulldogs passed the test. That’s higher than the average overall pass rate of 83.4% for all breeds.
15. German shepherd
The stereotype: These dogs are mean and overprotective.
The truth: German shepherds are smart and steady.
German shepherds make great guard dogs, and they were used by the military during World War I and World War II. But that doesn’t mean that stereotypes about the breed’s excessive protective instincts are true. BarkPost notes that many people think of German shepherds as the kind of dog that’s going to bite somebody eventually. However, that’s typically not the case, especially with German shepherds who get proper training and socialization.
The AKC characterizes the breed as “smart, confident, courageous, and steady.” (“Steady” sounds like the exact opposite of the volatile nature you’d expect from a mean or overprotective dog.) Plus, the American Temperament Test Society reports that the breed earned an 85.2% pass rate on its evaluation.
The stereotype: These dogs are skittish, fearful, and unintelligent.
The truth: Poodles don’t like chaotic environments, but they are very intelligent and easy to train.
Some dogs deal just fine with chaos at home, like the best kid-friendly family dogs, for instance! The poodle, on the other hand, prefers a more peaceful and predictable existence. However, that doesn’t mean that stereotypes about the poodle’s skittish nature are true. People also stereotype poodles as dumb dogs, but that couldn’t get further from the truth.
The AKC characterizes poodles as eager to please. That makes this dog one of the most intelligent and obedient dogs, and also makes the breed easy to train. (There’s little merit to that “beauty with no brains” stereotype that the AKC mentions and discredits.) The American Temperament Test Society also reports that the standard poodle earned a pretty stellar 88.1% pass rate on its temperament evaluation.
13. Chow chow
The stereotype: These dogs are aggressive and have terrible attitudes.
The truth: Chow chows just act like cats!
Have you ever owned a cat? Then, despite all the stereotypes and rumors, you’ll have no problem with a chow chow. These dogs have famously cat-like personalities. All they need is some good training — and a confident owner — to tell them how to behave. The Spruce reports that poorly trained chow chows can act territorial and unfriendly. Unfortunately, that only serves to perpetuate the stereotype that these dogs are aggressive by nature.
The AKC characterizes the breed as “serious-minded, dignified, bright, and aloof.” However, the Spruce notes that a chow chow just “needs to know that you are the boss in the household.” The breed is also “independent,” which can make training a bit of a challenge. Nonetheless, the chow chow earned a respectable 71.7% pass rate on the evaluation by the American Temperament Test Society.
The stereotype: These dogs don’t have the same kind of personalities as purebred dogs.
The truth: Mutts make great pets, just like many kinds of purebred dogs.
Mutts aren’t a distinct dog breed. (Each mutt is a mix of different breeds, after all.) But these dogs are the subject of lots of unfair stereotypes, too. Unfortunately, many people look down on mutts because they don’t have a traditional pedigree. However, mutts typically make awesome pets. The Spruce reports that they may even be healthier than purebred dogs.
As for stereotypes about mutts having personalities that are somehow inferior? Slate explains, “most shelter dogs are rich mixtures of genetic influences, and just like us, their personalities are not dictated by the race of their ancestors.” Additionally, the American Temperament Test Society found that mixed breed dogs earned an 85.5% pass rate on the temperament test.
11. Great Dane
The stereotype: These dogs are aggressive with other animals.
The truth: With proper training and socialization, great Danes are friendly with people and animals alike.
The great Dane is often referred to as a gentle giant. Unfortunately, people who stereotype the dog don’t often hear that characterization. Many people are terrified of large dogs, regardless of their temperament. Even though most great Dane owners could probably tell you that their dogs are friendly and agreeable, the breed has gained a reputation as a dog who can intimidate not only people, but also other animals (specifically, other dogs).
PetWave notes that many great Danes do have protective instincts. However, these dogs, like any other breed, “should never be encouraged to be overly protective and certainly never to be aggressive.” Again, consistent training and socialization are important. These tactics are typically very effective, considering the breed earned an 80.9% pass rate on the American Temperament Test Society’s evaluation.
As for those worries about aggression toward other dogs? The AKC reports that the breed can spend time with other dogs, especially if you supervise. (Supervision is particularly important if your great Dane’s favorite playmate is a tiny dog!),
10. Saint Bernard
The stereotype: These dogs are dangerous and aggressive.
The truth: The saint Bernard is huge but friendly and affectionate.
The Spruce notes that saint Bernards are often stereotyped as dangerous dogs. And iHeartDogs notes that the breed is subject to so many generalizations that the breed “may equal rabid killer for some or slobber giant for others.” Of course, saint Bernards do get quite large (and slobbery). However, few display even remotely dangerous behavior. Remember, aggression is more often a product of a dog’s training and environment than of anything in his nature or genetics.
The AKC reports that the saint Bernard is friendly, patient, and outgoing. The breed gets along well with children. In fact, the AKC reports that the saint Bernard is “known as a great ‘nanny dog’ for kids.” If that isn’t a testament to the dog’s loving nature, we don’t know what is! Furthermore, according to the American Temperament Test Society, the breed earned an 84.9% pass rate on the test.
The stereotype: These dogs are aggressive and overly energetic.
The truth: Boxers are smart and loyal, though they’re definitely active dogs.
The Spruce notes that the boxer is commonly stereotyped as a dangerous dog. However, there’s little evidence to support people’s tendency to label these dogs as aggressive or difficult to control. Though some people might think of boxers as bullies, the AKC characterizes the breed as “fun-loving, bright, active and loyal.” What’s wrong with those qualities in a dog?
The Daily Treat adds that the breed “loves nothing more than quality playtime.” Plus, if you look at the statistics, boxers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. (All of those dog owners must be on to something!) Boxers have a lot of patience for children, and they also get along well with other dogs. Sometimes they’ll even befriend cats, too! On the evaluation by the American Temperament Test Society, the boxer achieved an 83.9% pass rate.
8. Siberian husky
The stereotype: These dogs are stubborn, aggressive, and destructive at home.
The truth: Huskies raised in the correct environment become loving, lovable dogs.
Huskies are popular — too popular for their own good, as the direwolf craze among Game of Thrones fans has proven. Puppy mills repeatedly flood the market with puppies when new Hollywood hits — like Game of Thrones — send fans searching for the dogs. So many are raised in poor environments, which can cause temperament issues later. Another cause of temperament issues and destructive behaviors? Failure to provide these active dogs with adequate training or exercise.
The AKC reports that the breed’s “agreeable and outgoing temperament makes it a great all-around dog, suitable for anything from sledding to therapy work.” The group adds that the husky’s personality is “friendly, gentle, dignified; alert, but not aggressive.” Additionally, the American Temperament Test Society reports that the breed earned an 86.8% pass rate on their test.
The stereotype: These dogs bite and bark like no other, and they’re often mean.
The truth: With proper training, Chihuahuas become loving (but lively) pets.
Lots of people refer to Chihuahuas as self-important “ankle biters.” Anyone who’s owned a Chihuahua can definitely tell you that these dogs think that they’re bigger than they are. However, they don’t live up to their snappy and yappy stereotype.
The AKC explains, “Inside each little Chihuahua is a miniature king or queen ready to rule their realms, so they need to be taught what is acceptable in human kingdoms.” So, of course, they need proper training and socialization to become an agreeable member of your household (and to keep their barking within reasonable limits). But if you do your best to give them consistent training, like you would with any dog, then you’ll have a lively and friendly companion for life.
They may not make the perfect pet for families with young children. But the AKC reports that they can get along with older children just fine, as the breed earned a 69.6% pass rate on the American Temperament Test Society’s evaluation.
6. Cocker spaniel
The stereotype: These dogs are snappy by nature and can’t be trained not to bite.
The truth: Cocker spaniels make gentle and happy pets.
The cocker spaniel has a reputation as a snappy dog that will bite anyone, even his owners. (Any dog, regardless of breed or genetics, can get snappy if you don’t properly train and socialize them.) But the stereotype for cocker spaniels couldn’t get any further from the truth.
The AKC characterizes the breed as “eager to please.” It also notes that most cocker spaniels have “Happy, smart, [and] gentle” personalities. While these active dogs do need regular exercise, an adequate amount of walks and playtime should keep any undesirable behaviors in check. Plus, the cocker spaniel earned an 81.5% pass rate on the evaluation by the American Temperament Test Society.
5. Alaskan malamute
The stereotype: These dogs are aggressive and possessive.
The truth: Alaskan malamutes just have a lot of energy, but they make loyal and playful pets.
Even though they look a little wild, Alaskan malamutes make great companions. Contrary to the stereotype that they have aggressive or possessive personalities, these dogs are typically very friendly. They just have a lot of energy and need plenty of mental and physical challenges to keep them from getting bored (and destructive) when you’re away.
The AKC explains that the Alaskan malamute has an affectionate and loyal personality, but possessive behavior isn’t the norm. Additionally, the breed is “playful but dignified.” If that’s not a lovable combination, we don’t know what is! The breed also achieved an impressive 85.2% pass rate on the evaluation by the American Temperament Test Society.
The stereotype: These dogs are mouthy.
The truth: They make great pets, with proper training.
Some people believe the stereotype that Akitas are mouthy dogs that can’t be trusted around children. But most potential dog owners don’t need to worry about those inaccurate generalizations. All dogs need to be trained and socialized to interact with people correctly. Many need to be taught not to mouth or nip, and the Akita isn’t any more prone to the behavior than any other dog breed.
The AKC explains that these dogs are typically “dignified, courageous, and profoundly loyal to their humans.” They also get along well with children, particularly if you supervise them. (Just note that they’re not recommended as an addition to a household that already has another dog.) Plus, the breed earned a 77.3% pass rate on the evaluation by the American Temperament Test Society.
3. Doberman pinscher
The stereotype: These dogs get aggressive, especially around strangers.
The truth: Doberman pinschers are loyal and trainable.
Even though Dobermans make great guard dogs, that doesn’t disqualify them if you want a happy, affectionate, and playful family dog. They make intelligent and athletic companions, and they usually aren’t prone to the kind of aggressive or intimidating behavior that people associate with them. In fact, Dobermans are typically eager to please their owners. However, they need a lot of physical activity, so owners who fail to meet their dogs’ needs can end up with problems (but that’s true with any active breed, not just with Dobermans.)
The AKC explains, “The properly bred and trained Doberman has proved itself to be a friend and guardian” to its owners (and also to their children, as the breed gets along well with kids). The group characterizes these dogs as “alert, fearless, loyal, and highly trainable.” That’s always a plus, in our book! And despite its reputation, the Doberman earned an impressive 79.1% pass rate on evaluations by the American Temperament Test Society.
The stereotype: These dogs are aggressive and difficult to control.
The truth: The Rottweiler has an even temperament and is typically reserved with strangers.
It’s true that Rottweilers are powerful dogs and excel as guard dogs. However, they don’t deserve their reputation as intimidating or vicious dogs. Any dog can be trained to be aggressive (or can become aggressive if he’s neglected or raised in an inappropriate environment). But Rottweilers, even though they’re big and powerful, typically have an even and reliable temperament.
The AKC reports that the breed is usually reserved with strangers, and they say that “the Rottweiler is self-confident and responds quietly and with a wait-and-see attitude to influences in his environment.” That doesn’t sound like an aggressive or reactive dog to us! Additionally, the American Temperament Test Society reports that the Rottweiler earned an impressive 84.5% pass rate on the temperament test.
1. Pit bull
The stereotype: These dogs are vicious and dangerous thanks to their background in dog fighting.
The truth: Pit bulls make loving and loyal dogs, and the attack statistics are unreliable.
The name “pit bull” sounds intimidating. However, discrimination against the breed is unfair — and based on bad information. First of all, “pit bull” doesn’t refer to a single dog breed, but to a whole category of dogs. The Huffington Post explains, “upwards of 30 individual dog breeds may currently fall in this broad category.” As you can imagine, the majority of “pit bulls” are nothing like their stereotypes.
You may have heard stories about pit bulls attacking people, but breed-specific dog bite statistics are unreliable. The media is biased to over-report dog bites and attacks when it comes to dogs labeled — correctly or incorrectly — as pit bulls because it draws clicks. Pit bulls, like any other big category of dogs, need proper training, appropriate socialization, and a loving home. But they aren’t inherently more aggressive or dangerous than any other breed.