Every year, approximately 800,000 people need medical care for a dog bite. The 7 breeds that are thought to commit the most bites and attacks are:
- Pit bulls,
- German Shepherds,
- American Bulldogs,
- Siberian Huskies, and
- Presa Canarios.
The number of attacks and fatalities for each breed varies by source. Many dog attacks are not reported. Most statistics agree that these are the most dangerous breeds, though.
1. Pit bulls
Pit bulls, or pit bull terriers, have a reputation for being an aggressive dog breed. This is thanks in large part to their extensive use for dogfighting. Statistics back this reputation up.
During the 13 years between 2005 and 2017, pit bull attacks were responsible for 284 fatalities. This accounted for 65.6 percent of the total number of dog attacks that caused a fatality during this period. Over these 13 years, pit bulls accounted for an increasing number of attacks:
- 58 percent of dog bite-related fatalities between 2005 and 2010, and
- 71 percent of them between 2011 and 2017.1
According to these statistics, pit bulls were responsible for most of the fatal dog attacks. The next-most dangerous breed, the Rottweiler, was responsible for 10.4 percent of them.2 This makes pit bulls more than 6 times more dangerous than the second-most dangerous breed. The true dangers of pit bulls is likely even higher, though. Pit bulls only comprise around 6.5 percent of the dog population in the U.S.3
Between 2005 and 2017, Rottweilers killed 45 people in the U.S. This amounted to 10.4 percent of the total fatalities caused by dog attacks during that time period.4
Together, pit bulls and Rottweilers cause the vast majority of fatal dog attacks. Statistics show that no other breed of dog causes more than 5 percent of them – less than half the number that Rottweilers cause.
3. German Shepherd
German Shepherds caused 20 deaths between 2005 and 2017, 4.6 percent of the total.5 This put them at the head of the pack for other dangerous breeds of dogs. However, they are well behind Rottweilers and pit bulls.
4. American Bulldog
American Bulldogs were responsible for 15 deaths in the covered 13 years. This accounted for 3.5 percent of the total.6
Combined, mastiffs and bullmastiffs killed 14 people in the same timeframe, or 3.2 percent of the total. This includes deaths caused by the following types of mastiffs:
- Bullmastiff (6),
- English mastiff (2),
- Italian mastiff (1),
- Neapolitan mastiff (1), and
- Other mastiffs (4).7
6. Siberian Husky
From 2005 through 2017, Siberian Huskies killed 13 people in the U.S., accounting for 3 percent of fatal dog attacks.8
However, 2 breeds similar to a Husky increase this total slightly. They are the:
- Alaskan Malamute, which caused 4 deaths, and
- wolf hybrids, which killed 3 more.9
7. Presa Canario
Some studies differentiate between bull mastiffs and Presa Canarios. Those that make this distinction put Presa Canario among the most dangerous dog breeds. One such study covered a longer period of time than most others – 1982 through 2014. It found that Presa Canarios killed 18 people, or 3 percent of the total deaths in the study.10
What other dog breeds are known to attack people?
Other dog breeds that are known to have caused at least 5 fatal attacks between 1982 and 2014 are the:
- Akita (8),
- Chow Chow (8),
- Doberman (8),
- Boxer (7),
- German Shepherd mixed breeds (7),
- Malamute (6), and
- Pit bull / Labrador Retriever mixes (5).11
However, every type of dog poses a risk of a dog attack, not just pit bull-types. Even Chihuahuas caused a death during this timeframe, and Golden Retrievers, known to be a very good family dog, killed 3. Collies, another good family pet, also killed 1 person.12 All dogs can exert aggressive behavior that leads to a bite attack, especially if the dog has a traumatic past or gets provoked.
What do the overall dog bite statistics say?
All told, dogs commit around 4.5 million dog attacks every year in the U.S. More than 800,000 people need medical care for their bites. Most of the victims are children.13
Who pays for a dog bite?
If the owner of the dog is found liable, then his or her insurance will pay for the costs associated with the dog bite. This can be the dog owner’s:
If the pet owner has no insurance, then the owner can be held personally liable. However, this rarely recovers much in the way of compensation. In these cases, it is important to find another party to hold liable, like the:
- landlord, if the dog owner rented their property,
- dog bite victim’s employer, if the bite happened while on the job and the victim is covered by workers’ compensation, or
- shop owner, if the attack happened in the store, through a premises liability claim.
A personal injury lawyer can help you recover this compensation for your dog bite injuries.
Finding a source of compensation is important after a dog bite. The average cost per insurance claim for a dog bite was $49,025 in 2021.14 The medical attention that you will need can increase dramatically if the dog was large or the bite was severe.
- “U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities: Breeds of Dogs Involved, Age Groups and Other Factors Over a 13-Year Period (2005 to 2017),” DogsBite.org (May, 2018).
- Merrit Clifton, “Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada September 1982 to December 31, 2014,” Animals 24-7.
- American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), “Dog bite prevention.” See also Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Nonfatal Dog Bite–Related Injuries Treated in Hospital Emergency Departments — United States, 2001,” (July 4, 2003).
- Insurance Information Institute, “U.S. Home Insurers Paid Out Nearly $900M in Dog-Related Claims in 2021,” (April 12, 2022).