Not for Newbies: Veterinary Experts Choose 15 Most Challenging Breeds for New Pet Owners
Many dog lovers believe there’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad training. And while we don’t disagree that a good owner along with proper training and socialization can make a world of difference, we have to admit that some dog breeds are best suited to experienced owners.
Those very traits that make certain breeds so good at the jobs they were bred to do, like hunting big game and guarding their owners and property, can make them a challenge for someone who’s never trained a dog before. [ See Also: 18 Best Breeds for New Pet Owners ]
Honorable Mention: American Pit Bull Terrier
Although the American Pit Bull Terrier received enough votes for this category to land a place at the bottom of this list, he also earned a significant number of votes as the best breed for new owners, which canceled out enough of the negative votes to knock him out of the running.
He looks formidable and has historically been used in dog fighting rings, giving him a frightening reputation, but over the last few decades, he's been bred to love and accept people. In the right home, he's a devoted and loyal companion (although he can have conflicts with other dogs or with cats). But as with many dogs bred for strength, a mistreated Pit can be a problem.
No. 14: Airedale Terrier
The Airedale Terrier is quite a character. Independent, intelligent and stubborn, he’ll keep you laughing — and on your toes, as he’s a notorious digger and counter-surfer. He’ll bring the same exuberance and joy to playing games as he brings to excavating your garden and eating your drywall. He’s not great with other dogs or animals and needs plenty of stimulation (both physical and mental). It should be noted, too, that this “King of the Terriers” was the inspiration for Margaret Marshall Saunders’ novel Beautiful Joe, the story of an abused dog, which sparked the creation of the modern humane movement.
No. 13: Bullmastiff
Devoted and protective to the point that he’d lay down his life for his family, the Bullmastiff has a mind of his own — and considering that he weighs in at 100-130 pounds, he can easily overwhelm an owner who isn’t ready to stand up to him. He needs good, consistent, positive training and firm boundaries from a young age. He also needs someone to follow him with a mop, because this dog can drool. His high prey drive means he should always be kept on leash, and he doesn’t generally love other dogs, so he’s best as an only pet.
No. 12: Bulldog
The Bulldog is generally good-natured and his goofy, wrinkled mug certainly makes him lovable, but the breed’s heavy build and flat face make him particularly sensitive to heat, exercise and stress. He can’t swim, so if you have a pool, pond or spa, his access should be restricted. He is prone to a variety of health issues and some may say he’s challenging to train, but his fans don’t mind — his entertaining antics and laid-back attitude make up for it in the right home.
No. 11: Siberian Husky
The happy and affectionate Siberian Husky is a working dog that thrives in cold, snowy climates. He was bred to pull sleds over long distances, and his liveliness reflects that — a short walk around the block won’t do for this breed. He sheds heavily, is a capable escape artist and has a strong predatory drive, so he’s not a great choice for homes with cats or small pets.
No. 10: Saint Bernard
The Saint Bernard is incredibly lovable, but this gentle giant is also a lot of work. He drools (and drools and drools) and is known to ingest items like socks and dishtowels. Because of his enormous size (130-180 pounds or more), you might think he’d like to hang out in your big backyard, but you'd be wrong — he’s prone to heatstroke and loves being around his people, so he’s very much an indoor dog.
No. 9: German Shepherd
Highly intelligent and a natural protector, the German Shepherd Dog is well-suited to a wide variety of jobs: He’s worked as a guide dog, a drug sniffer, and, of course, a police and military dog. There’s little he can’t do with the right training, but that’s exactly why he’s not ideal for newbies — it takes quite a bit of training, exercise and dedication to stay “smarter” than he is. And all those smarts come with higher-than-average tendencies toward some pretty serious health problems including hip dysplasia and neurologic issues.
No. 8: Australian Cattle Dog
Sometimes known as a Blue Heeler or Australian Heeler, the Australian Cattle Dog is a medium-sized dog with serious endurance. Originally made up of several breeds, including the Collie, Dingo, Bull Terrier, Dalmatian, and Black and Tan Kelpie, he has a reputation for being stubborn and having energy to spare — not to mention a truly adventurous spirit and belief in his own invincibility that will leave you wondering how he’ll injure himself next.
No. 7: Dalmatian
The spotted Dalmatian isn’t just a Disney darling — he was bred to work as a coach dog, running alongside carriages or horses, alerting coachmen to approaching highwaymen and warding off stray dogs. That’s how he became the traditional firehouse dog — he kept the streets clear for horse-drawn fire engines. However, the traits that made him perfect for this work can make him a challenge in the home. He has an endless capacity for exercise and can be destructive when bored. Also, he’s a notorious shedder with stiff fur that weaves its way into fabric (but not out).
No. 6: Weimaraner
The “Gray Ghost” earned his nickname for his beautiful gray coat and habit of following his owner closely, but the highly intelligent Weimaraner isn’t the right dog for everyone. He’s extremely energetic with no “off” switch, and he’s not happy being left alone — separation anxiety can be a real issue with this breed. He can be difficult to housetrain and a hazard to cats and other small pets, but if you plan to spend many days hunting, hiking or doing obedience and agility with him by your side, you might have found your perfect companion.
No. 5: Rottweiler
Although he can be a gentle giant, the wrong Rottweiler with the wrong owner can truly be a scary dog. A Rottweiler wants someone to be the boss, and if you’re not taking the job, he will. He’s powerful and protective, and known for being extremely loyal when it comes to his people and his property. Considering he can weigh as much as 135 pounds (and most of it muscle), he can generally back up his threatening growl.
No. 4: Alaskan Malamute
He’s friendly, joyful and exuberant, which may make him attractive to someone seeking a first dog, but be warned: The Alaskan Malamute sheds like crazy, pulls on leash with all of his 65-100 pounds and is a talented escape artist. This breed is made to travel far on his own four feet and he needs a family committed to a lot of exercise when it’s best for him. That thick fur coat also leaves him vulnerable to heat injury.
No. 3: Chinese Shar-Pei
The Chinese Shar-Pei requires an assertive, experienced owner to train him and keep him from getting bored. This highly territorial dog tends to bond with one person, and can be quite distrustful of those he doesn’t know — humans and canines alike. And all those dramatic skin folds can increase the tendency for chronic skin and eye conditions that a naïve pet owner may find daunting.
No. 2: Chow Chow
Not known for being particularly lovey-dovey, the Chow Chow isn’t the teddy bear he appears to be. He’s intelligent but stubborn, and may require a lot of training before you get the results you’re looking for. This breed is wary of strangers and may be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know.
No. 1: Akita
The Akita was bred to hunt big game such as bear, boar and elk. He can also weigh upwards of 115 pounds (or even more), and requires a 20-30 minute walk every day, always on leash due to a strong prey drive. He’s a beautiful dog, but sheds heavily and can be a challenge to train, making him best suited to experienced dog owners.
For instance, a dog bred for hunting, birding, working, or running long distances will work until his job is done, regardless of weather or distractions. When that same breed is kept as a family pet, his circumstances change, but his drive and instinct to go, go, go? Not so much. Therefore, he needs an owner who’s prepared to work with that level of vitality to keep him from engaging in destructive behaviors.
And consider the traditional guard dog, bred to be on the alert for anything that’s out of the ordinary. In his original job, that might mean keeping an eye out for dangers and predators, but as a member of the family, it means he needs firm and entirely consistent training. While some dogs might understand a good deal of nuance — that it’s OK to get on the couch with the kids, but not with Mom and Dad — a dog bred for guarding duties thrives on a dependable environment since knowing what is regular and routine is absolutely necessary to determine what’s not.
One other item to keep in mind: Some of these breeds may not be allowed in certain homes due to restrictions on the lease or insurance policy.
We’ve already shared what dogs veterinary professionals deemed best for new owners, and now we’re sharing which breeds those same 218 experts thought were the worst choices for first-time dog owners.
Please note: We don’t mean to imply these are “bad” breeds, and in no case is any breed friendly or aggressive clear across the board. However, if you’re a first-time, inexperienced dog owner, these are dogs you might want to wait to bring home until you have a few years of training under your belt.
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