Some dog breeds get persistently stereotyped as dangerous, aggressive, and threatening. Because of those stereotypes, many cities now ban specific dog breeds across the United States. (That’s despite the fact that scientists say any dog can become aggressive, regardless of breed.) On top of that, Snopes reports that bans don’t seem to prevent attacks, nor do they reduce the frequency or severity of dog bites. But fair or not, numerous states and cities have enacted breed-specific legislation.
Below, check out the most commonly banned dog breeds in the United States, according to legislation tracking by Dogsbite.org. (Just note that many experts don’t agree with the group’s claim that breed bans effectively prevent bites and attacks.)
17. Shar pei
Banned or restricted by cities in: Mississippi and Utah
The shar pei hasn’t been as widely banned as many other dog breeds. However, several cities restrict residents from owning these compact dogs. While the AKC characterizes the breed as “steadfastly devoted to loved ones, but standoffish and lordly toward strangers,” veterinarian Ann Huntington argued that “gentle shar peis are the exception, not the rule” and that “shar peis often have serious personality problems.”
That may explain why legislation targets the breed. The Nest reports that the breed can display territorial and standoffish behavior. Of course, you shouldn’t mistake an aloof personality for an aggressive one. However, owners who don’t properly train their dogs can end up with a dog with temperament problems. The Nest explains, “In the wrong hands, like any breed, the Shar Pei has the potential to become dangerous.”
16. Rhodesian ridgeback
Banned or restricted by cities in: Michigan and Wisconsin
Rhodesian ridgebacks have been characterized as dangerous both in the United States and abroad. But if you read the AKC’s profile of the “even-tempered” breed, you might wonder why. Your Purebred Puppy reports that these dogs “have an independent mind of their own.” The publication also characterizes the breed as “very trainable in the right hands.” However, “they can be willful or dominant (they want to be the boss). You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say.”
Nonetheless, occasional headlines about a bite or an attack by a Rhodesian ridgeback put many proponents of breed-specific legislation on the alert. Some cities ban the breed. And even in cities that haven’t considered a ban, some insurance companies and landlords restrict the breed. Similarly, landlords and homeowners’ associations may not let you move into a property if you own one of these dogs.
15. Alaskan malamute
Banned or restricted by cities in: Iowa, Louisiana, and Michigan
The Alaskan malamute has gained a reputation as an athletic and affectionate family pet in some circles, but it’s known as a dangerous breed in others. Some cities across the United States ban or restrict ownership of the breed. That may be because not every dog owner is prepared to meet the demands of this highly active dog. As the Alaskan Malamute Club of Victoria explains, “The more an animal is trained, the more his intelligence is developed. This can work to both good and bad results with the Malamute.”
Dogtime reports that, like other dogs with a strong prey drive, Alaskan malamutes “have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by — cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars — can trigger that instinct.” Attacks and bites by these dogs are rare. However, they scare people who are concerned about what happens when a child runs by (even if most malamutes will just want to join in the fun).
14. Bull terrier
Banned or restricted by cities in: Georgia, Michigan, and Washington
The AKC characterizes the bull terrier “as a three-year-old child in a dog suit.” The group promises that while “the bull terrier can appear unapproachable,” the breed is actually “an exceedingly friendly dog, with a sweet and fun-loving disposition.” However, the AKC does explain that the breed needs lots of exercise to prevent boredom and behavior problems. That’s likely where legislation and HOA bans come into the picture.
Another important factor? The bull terrier looks a little like a pit bull. In fact, PetHelpful names the bull terrier as one of the breeds most commonly mistaken for a pit bull. Of course, a bull terrier doesn’t really look much like a pit bull if you look closely. However, any similarity likely works against the breed in cities already biased against the many breeds called “pit bulls.”
13. Siberian husky
Banned or restricted by cities in: Iowa, Louisiana, and Michigan
Because of the direwolf craze among Game of Thrones fans, huskies have gotten too popular for their own good. Puppy mills have flooded the market with husky puppies. Thus, many grow up in poor environments, which can cause temperament issues later. Temperament issues also occur when owners fail to provide these active dogs with adequate training or exercise.
Dog Expert reports that Siberian huskies often end up blacklisted by companies providing homeowners’ insurance. That’s despite the fact that “few studies have ever shown that Siberian huskies are [a] breed possessing high tendencies to bite people.” Unfortunately, many people believe stereotypes. And because huskies look a little wolf-like, many people don’t have a hard time believing the worst about these friendly dogs.
Banned or restricted by cities in: Michigan, Washington, and Wisconsin
The mastiff — actually a group of related breeds — is a large dog that’s surprisingly well-suited for life in an apartment or condo, according to VetStreet. However, many cities ban these dogs, seemingly because of their large size. (In some apartment or condo complexes, the homeowners’ associations also impose weight restrictions to keep large dogs out.) In fact, some cities ban mastiffs altogether, ignoring their good nature and friendly disposition.
One city in Washington state — Wapato — specifically bans all mastiff types. That includes the English mastiff, Old English mastiff, American mastiff, Neapolitan mastiff, dogue de Bordeaux (or French mastiff), bull mastiff, Tibetan mastiff, Spanish mastiff, Pyrenean mastiff and Fila Brasileiro (or Brazilian mastiff). Abbotsford, Wisconsin, also bans all types of mastiffs. Of course, scientists have found little evidence that larger dogs are more dangerous or aggressive than smaller dogs. However, cities opposed to mastiffs don’t seem to have gotten the memo.
Banned or restricted by cities in: Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington
The Akita faces bans in many cities across the United States. According to the Akita Rescue of the Mid-Atlantic, these dogs “have a reputation for being aggressive.” So, “in any encounter with other dogs or uninformed people, whether your dog was the aggressor or not, expect the Akita to be blamed.”
Whether you own an Akita or another restricted breed, some cities don’t ban breeds outright, but they require you to handle the animal like he’s a “dangerous dog.” Animal Planet reports that in areas with such rules, you may have to muzzle your dog when he’s in public. You may also need to carry liability insurance, or display a “dangerous dog” sign at your home. Some cities require your pet to wear a tag that reads “dangerous dog.” They may even mandate that you micro-chip and spay or neuter the dog.
10. Fila Brasileiro
Banned or restricted by cities in: Colorado, Kansas, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin
PetHelpful reports that the Fila Brasileiro is often incorrectly called the “Brazilian fighting dog.” That inaccurate stereotype may explain why this large working dog, known as the Brazilian mastiff, gets banned in many cities. In fact, you can expect to encounter a lot of people who believe stereotypes about this historic breed. Like many other breeds, the Fila Brasileiro shouldn’t go home with a novice dog owner.
As PetWave explains, “They are 100% devoted to their family — affectionate, playful, incredibly loving with kids; but they are also fiercely protective of those who they consider to be their family.” The publication adds, “Fila owners agree that their dogs love everything that is ‘theirs’ and hate everything that is not. More than any other breed, Fila Brasileiros are intolerant of strangers. They make excellent guard dogs, but they should only be adopted into families who are experienced dog owners, who have the time to devote to proper training and socialization, and who have properly researched the breed and understand the potential liabilities.”
9. Cane corso
Banned or restricted by cities in: Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington
Pamper Your Pets blames widespread bans on the cane corso, also known as the Italian mastiff, on the dog’s imposing figure and large size. To be fair, these dogs need owners with dog training experience. Plus, they aren’t the best fit for a family with young children. Additionally, Pamper Your Pets reports, “They have a strong hunting drive and are very territorial. They have even been known to kill cats and small dogs, so having a solid, fenced in area with at least a 6-foot-high fence is a must if you don’t want the neighbor’s pets becoming his prey.”
Isolated reports of bites and attacks have played a role in legislation against this breed. Animal behaviorist Richard H. Polsky writes of the breed, “I believe the vast majority of Cane corsos have the potential to make great family pets. Cane corsos have the potential to become a welcomed member to any community. Nonetheless, when placed in the hands of an irresponsible owner, an individual can easily become ruined.”
8. German shepherd
Banned or restricted by cities in: Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, and Tennessee
PawCulture reports, “It’s hard to believe that the lovable, loyal Rin Tin Tin would be banned from anywhere, but several smaller U.S. towns and cities ban the breed.” BarkPost reports 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 not with German shepherds who get proper training and socialization).
Despite stereotypes that cast the German shepherd as dangerous, the AKC characterizes these dogs as “smart, confident, courageous, and steady.” The group also reports that the German shepherd gets along with children. They can also spend time with other dogs under supervision.
The New York Times cites bad breeding and over breeding as the source of German shepherds’ problems in recent years. As PBS notes, selective breeding — responsible or irresponsible — puts dogs at risk of a number of health problems that affect “both body and behavior.”
7. American bulldog
Banned or restricted by cities in: Arkansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia
The American bulldog isn’t technically part of the “pit bull” group. However, most people are unclear on whether the American bulldog and the pit bull are one and the same. The Nest reports that though “pit bull” refers to more than one breed, the American bulldog remains distinct. American Staffordshire terriers, American pit bull terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers all fall into the “pit bull” category and share the same lineage. American bulldogs, on the other hand, “come from mastiff lines and were a result of breeding bull mastiffs and other varieties of mastiff.”
Nonetheless, the American bulldog gets banned in many cities because many people stereotype the breed as dangerous. But, as The Spruce explains, those labels are usually wrong. Some irresponsible owners might neglect their dogs or teach them aggressive behavior. However, that doesn’t accurately reflect the innate personality of the breed.
6. Chow chow
Banned or restricted by cities in: Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas
The chow chow looks like a giant teddy bear, but you shouldn’t expect your neighbors to welcome the breed. PawCulture reports that you can’t own a chow chow in “many cities that have vicious dog bans in place, as well as military housing.” 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.
PetWave reports that “aggression is the biggest issue with chows, though it is a problem that can be avoided.” These dogs naturally show aggression “toward dogs of the same sex, and their hunting instincts can take over if presented with a small dog or cat.” As PetWave explains, “Chow chows need to be socialized very early and very often to allow guests into the home. They are naturally protective, and if that instinct is left unchecked can lead to aggressive behavior in adulthood.”
5. Doberman pinscher
Banned or restricted by cities in: Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin
The Doberman pinscher has become one of the most commonly banned dogs across the United States. But the reason why may have more to do with politics than with the nature of the breed itself. According to Snopes, the Doberman Pinscher Club of America has reported, “The reason that BSL [breed-specific legislation] and anti-dog legislation is allowed to stand and, more importantly, function as a class action suit, has a basis in the etiology of social conflict.”
Everybody knows of a neighbor, friend, or acquaintance who didn’t control their dog. For that reason, many people support bans and legislation. Thus, Snopes notes that specific dog breeds “become a stand-in for other, deeper problems: recessions, changing demographics, social inequality.” And this isn’t a new trend; PawCulture reports that Doberman pinschers have been targeted by discriminatory laws for decades.
4. Presa canario
Banned or restricted by cities in: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
As previously mentioned, insurance companies blacklist many dog breeds they consider dangerous, and they declare homes that contain these breeds “uninsurable.” These blacklists have many names, ranging from “excluded dog breeds” to “aggressive dog list” to “bad dog list.” (Where’s the eye-roll emoji when you need it?) As the publication explains, the lists are ostensibly based on (flawed) dog bite frequency statistics. However, “it seems as though any dog bite incident that receives wide media coverage can also land a dog breed on such a list.”
Take the Presa Canario as an example. Few Americans had heard of the breed “prior to the media coverage of a 2001 incident in San Francisco. The media luridly described how a woman was viciously mauled to death by two of these big dogs in the hallway of her apartment building.” Pyschology Today adds, “Although the Presa canario remains a quite rare breed in North America, it now seems to appear on every prohibited dog breed list issued by the insurance companies.”
3. Wolf dog
Banned or restricted by cities in: Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
Despite some very famous advocates, such as Kristen Stewart, wolf dogs remain a controversial topic among dog owners. The breed, part wolf and part dog, poses its own set of challenges to owners. The Spruce reports, “Wolf dogs can be difficult to manage if you are not prepared to tend to their needs and sometimes unpredictable behaviors. Sadly, many also end up being mistreated due to poor socialization and training.”
The wolf dog, previously known as a wolf hybrid, is routinely blacklisted by insurance companies. Plus, it’s also banned outright by cities across the United States.
Banned or restricted by cities in: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin
Like the German shepherd, the Rottweiler has run into problems because of irresponsible breeding. PawCulture explains, “Like the Doberman before it, Rottweilers earned a bad reputation when people started mass breeding.”
Also, VetStreet reports that certain breeds, including the Rottweiler, get “disproportionately chosen as personal protection dogs and are more likely to be raised and trained to be aggressive — often by dog owners who lack good training skills. This can lead to a dog who is aggressive out of fear, rather than by nature. Unfortunately, because people who want to raise guard dogs favor certain breeds, these breeds are often assumed to be naturally aggressive.”
1. Pit bull
Banned or restricted by cities in: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
PetHelpful reports that the pit bull is banned more frequently than any other breed — despite the fact that it’s not actually a singular breed. The term “pit bull” actually applies to several breeds and mixes of breeds, but all of them face stigmas as “aggressive” and “dangerous.” PetHelpful notes, “Every time there is a biting incident, especially if it is serious, a pit bull is blamed. It does not matter if the dog is not a pit bull, since no matter what the dog breed involved, if no one identifies the dog it is assumed to be a pit bull.”
Pit bulls get the blame not just because people have a bias against these dogs, but also because they’re biased against these dogs’ owners. The Washington Post reports that bans on pit bulls and other breed-specific legislation seem to surface in areas that experience major demographic changes; they write that these laws may “be proxies by which uneasy majorities can register their suspicions about the race, class and ethnicity of the people who own those dogs.”