Dangerous Dogs by the Decade


People often remember decades by the music and wardrobes. The 70s were disco and bellbottoms. The 80s were hair-band and leather. The 90s were flannel and grunge, and the 2000/2010s, well, we’re still not sure what time will say about these decades.

But there is another way to differentiate between the decades, and that’s to look at what Hollywood and the media told us was the “dangerous dog” of the time.

Today we equate pit bulls as the bad-boys of the canine world, and that label’s stuck with them for the better part of two decades. However, prior to the pit bull’s emergence as king of the dangerous dogs, a few other breeds enjoyed this honor. Depending on which decade you turn to, you’ll be surprised to learn that other breeds got just as much hate mail as the modern day pit bull. An interestingly enough, once a breed got the reputation of being a “bad boy,” his stock rose. Many people who wanted a dangerous dog flocked to the breed, as did many people looking to prove that reputation wrong. The same goes for the Pit Bull today. It’s got a bad rep, but is becoming an increasingly popular breed, for all the right, and wrong, reasons.

One look at a phenomenal quote by Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan says it all:

“In the 70s they blamed Dobermans, in the 80s they blamed German Shepherds, in the 90s they blamed Rottweilers. Now they blame the Pit Bull. When will they blame the humans?”

dangerous dogsThe 70s: The 70s predated the crack war in cities like New York and Detroit. Drug dealers were beginning to get into some heavier inventory, and they needed to look tough and aggressive. Dobermans just happened to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Dobermans were overbred (and badly bred) throughout the 70s, so they are nearly synonymous with that decade. Dobermans were attractive to “tough guys” in the 70s because their ears stand erect (which can look intimidating). Yes, some Dobermans, particularly in the 70s, turned aggressive, but that’s because their owners made them that way, and bred them that way. Today, Dobermans are more representative of their true nature: energetic, watchful, loyal, and obedient.

The 80s: Dobermans seemed to lose their “aggressive” luster by the time the 80s hit. Perhaps the tough guys realized these dogs would prefer to be loyal and happy rather than vicious killers.

dangerous dogs

As a result, a new dog breed stole the spotlight as the danger dog – the German Shepherd. This phenomenon was always intriguing because German Shepherds have long been the breed of choice for K9 units. But interestingly, it’s their role as trusted cop dogs that helped them become the bad boys of the 80s. You see, those tough guys with Dobermans in the 70s only got tougher in the 80s. But by then, cops were anxious to take back the streets of major cities. Since drugs were a major reason behind most crimes in the 80s, cops had to use the services of K9 dogs to sniff out offenders.

There’d be reports of these dogs finding their “man,” and apprehending them, which, when described or captured on film, looks mighty scary. In reality, K9 dogs use force as needed, but not excessively unless told otherwise. Yes, seeing a German Shepherd lunge at someone is a scary sight, but what’s impressive is the ability these dogs have to control their instincts and obey command.

The general public began to equate German Shepherds as attack dogs, which led “tough guys” to start breeding them to their advantage (hey, if they’re good for the cops, they’re good for us). The fact that German Shepherds are unbelievably intelligent and faithful to commands made them an easy breed to train (for good and for bad).

The 90s: Let’s add some size into the mix. Rottweilers topped the list of killer dogs in the 90s, but why? Lo and behold, that’s because in the 90s, Rotties were the chien du jour (that’s dog of the day). They had the darkened sleek look of a Doberman, but even more girth than a German Shepherd. They became the ultimate junkyard dog. There is no question they are a power breed. Their look and size make that obvious. That’s why they became so popular among people with less-than-altruistic reasons for owning a dog.

dangerous dogs

To own a Rottweiler was a status symbol. If you could tame this wild and gigantic beast, you must be a force to be reckoned with. Of course, the reality is that Rottweilers are oversized teddy bears. They are mighty courageous and loyal, and protective of their family, but they’re not apt to attack on a whim. They’d rather keep the peace. To be a watchdog (as Rotties are great for) doesn’t equate to being an attack dog. Those are two separate entities that the media, and Hollywood, has misrepresented, which is unfortunate for Rotties.

Today: Today, the Pit Bull is the new dangerous dog. It has the girth of a Rottie, but half the size. That makes it a seemingly easier dog to care for (big dogs take up a lot of space!), but because of their sordid past, the reputation of the Pit Bull seems to surpass any of the other breeds. Anyone who’s ever owned a Pit Bull, however, will be quick to tell you that this dog is far from dangerous. He’s a lapdog despite being a bit too big for that role. He’s careful around babies, obsessed with playing, and is oftentimes the one to step back if a dog-to-dog altercation ensues.

dangerous dogs

Pit Bulls with a vicious streak were made that way, by an owner, somewhere along the way. Just like all the other dogs on this list, the Pit Bull is a victim of overbreeding, poor breeding, and bad media attention. But just like the other breeds listed, the Pit Bull is nothing more than a dog, who, like a ball of clay, is ready to be shaped by his owner.



  1. I’m not normally a fan of Cesar Millan’s but he hit this one on the nail. Until we start putting the blame where it belongs which is squarely on the owners, nothing will change.

  2. Much of this article is correct,the dates & durations are not,in the late 60’s & 70’s the German Shephard was “the” tough guy,then mid 70’s into the mid 80’s the Doberman,early 80’s & into the 90’s enter the Rottwieler,,,the dates have overlapped,,,,in the mid 80’s to the present day it is the much maligned “Pit Bull”,Am Staff,& Staff Bullie,NO breed has been SO demonized for the length of time or w/ the vegence as the “Bullie” breeds,,,,,,EVER! w/ hundresd of thousands of them tortured & killed over the yrs. we have NEVER seen such slaughter of ANY breed as we see still today. & for the record I have rarely if EVER seen a Pittie or very few dogs of other breeds even who won’t defend themselves if needed,my male Am Staff was VERY soft for the breed,also a certified Therapy dog & CGC certified & let my girls(bitches) rule the roost, but EVEN he would pick up on a challenge from another (usually male) dog,so l please lets be honest w/ ourselves, we will do NO service to our beloved dogs to paint them as mere “weenies”,my montra is to NEVER put my dog in a cituation that forces her hand,,,it is MY job to keep her & everyone else SAFE!!!

  3. Dobermanns ears do not naturally ‘stand erect’, it’s because idiotic humans mutilate them to do so……

  4. The Doberman picture above is mine. I took the pic and the dog was mine. Born in 1988. Seem to find it ALL over the internet.

  5. Im glad this was posted for some idiotic people thinking pits are dangerous cause they arent stupid ppl make n mold stupid dogs which I feel sorry for them cause they are only doing wat was taught Nd trying to make they owner happy…….

    • they are dangerous.. not only to humans but to other domesticated animals.. over 10,000 domesticated animals are killed or brutalized by Pit oriented breeds..

        • I’m not trying to be a jerk here, but how do you know. You are not the only person that says dangerous dogs are trained that way. The truth of the matter is I have read information about deaths caused by dogs over the years and can say there is not one I can recall where there is indication the animal was trained for aggression. The majority of people are killed by “family” dogs.

          • “family dogs”

            Being in a family means the dog is supposed to be guaranteed a good disposition?

            Lots of family dogs are tortured by children while unsupervised by adults. Or raised in a family where the owner beats the dog mercilessly. Being a family doesn’t confer some mastery of animal husbandry.

            And of course these owners are going to say the dog was great and they never saw any warning signs.

            What do you expect them to say to the reporter? “Yeah, I beat my dog until it pisses itself and it nips at anyone who comes near its kennel, but I never expected THIS!”

  6. Rottweilers are still killing people. They killed 4 people last year. Pit bulls killed 27 people last year. German Shepherds still kill 1 to 2 people each year.

  7. Many of the dogs which killed people were beloved family pets. The genetics and breed of the dog plays just as big a role as the owner. If all dogs were the same, any dog could become a sheep herder. In fact only a few breeds are capable of being good herding dogs.

    • When did anyone even try to claim that all dogs are the same? Being capable of both good and bad behavior does NOT equate to being capable in all tasks across the board. Next you’ll be telling me that pomeranians make terrible service dogs because their handlers can’t use them for mobility. Never mind the fact that poms are excellent medical alert dogs.

  8. I remember in the 80s and 90s “gangstas” wanted Dobermans and Rottwielers these days the “gangstas” want Pitbulls lol it’s funny when people say Pits are the most gorgeous dogs in the world.. So happens these people either act thug or talk thug or hang out with thugs or date thugs or do things they consider thug things.. All while claiming that is not the reason they like Pits the best… Hmmm strange coincidence lol

    • Honey, I am over 60 and most of my pitbull friends are approximately the same age. We don’t have a bit of need to appear tough and we don’t hang with thugs. I have adopted pitbulls for over 30 years from shelters and rescues, raised my kids and other pets with them with no mishaps. The three I currently share my house with adore my grandchildren and all their “farm friends”. Perhaps you should read some factual, academic material about the dogs.

    • You’re fucking stupid. I’m not, never will be, and will never associate with being ‘GANSTA’, as you put it. I’ve owned many pits. I’ve known many white upper class people that own pits. We’re all pissed that they are misrepresented the way that they are.

      • you don’t have to be a gangsta to benefit from the dangerous aura that comes with pitbull ownership.. people don’t own them for their cuteness.. even royalty, historically, took pride in taming the savage beast..

    • I believe that the blame for attacks should be laid squarely on the owners (in the way that they train the dogs).

    • I am not gangsta by any means, by any stretch of the imagination. I am not thug, don’t want to be thug, don’t hang with thugs. I’m a quiet, middle aged woman who likes animals of almost any kind, any species. But just like the Amstaffs aka pitbulls, I am being stereotyped into an undesirable characterization based on some people’s misconceptions.
      Let this act as a testimony to something being judged by the erroneous statement of an individual posting their belief without first-hand knowledge; where others might read it and quote it as fact.

        • Numbers can lie, when men and women manipulate them. Just like they manipulate the dogs.
          Attack dogs have become more viscious because the training methods have become more heinous through the decades, and the detestable trainers become more and more desensitized to lives both animal and human. It doesnt take much reasoning to conclude that almost any animal or human trained the way pitbulls are will most times become antisocial, display psychotic behavior, react instead of act, neither trust nor be trustworthy, use offense for defense, and display other behavior not conducive to integration into society. History documents this; the Romans were notorius for their training methods, and some of these methods are being used now on the pitbulls.

    • No they do not. I’ve looked up the numbers. Pitbulls from dog fighting rings have led the bite incidents in the last decade or so, but even then they only barely outnumber other breeds this decade. NONE of their attacks are unprovoked. They were either provoked by trespassers (which the dog is legally allowed to deal with) or the situation triggered a PTSD episode in the dog. Neither of which is the breed’s fault.

      • Www. Dogsbite. Org pit bulls kill and attack more than any other breed combined. Men lie women lie numbers don’t. No one cares you have a service dog named poncho you rescued from the shelter that’s a pit. Numbers don’t lie homeboy

        • Numbers lie all the time. They are an extension of human language. If humans can use letters to lie, they can use numbers too. 78% of statistics are made up on the spot, you know.

      • Then every other breed would have similar bite numbers with that logic, room temperature Iq. God you’re dumb.

      • >No they do not. I’ve looked up the numbers.
        What numbers? Wikipedia shows Pit Bulls vastly outnumber any other breed in attacks, with Rottweiler a far away second (but still far above the average).

    • And until you can show me an attack from a fully trained service dog of ANY breed, you have no basis for your hate. If a pitbull can be trained as a service animal, the breed is clearly not the problem. And there are hundreds of pitbulls working as service or therapy animals today.

      • We use math and statistics round here champ. Pit bulls kill and attack people more than any other dog breed, combined. Anyone can say a dog is a service dog champ, do research. Your point is strawman and trash. Got emmmmm

        • In other words, you’ve got nothing. I’ve looked up the numbers AND the incident reports that go with them (ALL of the bully breeds involved were either provoked by hostiles and intruders, or were from dog fighting rings). They support MY argument, not yours. Over half of the dogs labeled “pitbull-type” were simply brachylocephic mutts of assumed origin, not verified APBTs or Staffordshire terriers. Some of them were running in packs with non-bully breeds, and were the omegas.

          And claiming service dog status is NOT the same as demonstrating task and obedience training required of service dogs in their every day behavior. Again, your line of logic dictates that a pitbull that has been task and obedience trained as a service dog will still attack people. There is not one single incident to support the idea that ANY ADA compliant service animal would attack its handler or other people, let alone a pitbull.

          • There is no qualification for a service dog, you room temperature IQ. Pitbulls attack and kill more than any other dog breed combined. Source: dogsbite dot org


        • Pits kill more frequently than any other dog but they do not attack more often. The dog that causes the most injuries according to ER records for dog bites is, interestingly enough, the Chiquaqua.

          Why? Because people make assumptions based on the way a dog looks. A Chiquaqua is a reasonably aggressive dog that needs to be trained properly but a lot of the people who get them get them as “hand bag” dogs because they’re small and cute so how mean could they possibly be?

          The Pit ranks #3 in bite numbers while #2 is the bulldog but
          the Pit isn’t even in the top 10 for “most aggressive” dogs.

          Realistically, looking at all the statistics it seems that the Pit’s problems probably come from an undeserved reputation for aggression combined with a massive bite force and silly people getting them for silly reasons.

    • Did you ever stop to think that they out weigh bc people demonize them or treat them worse? Do you know what the pittie was originally bred for? The original straffordshire pit bull bull terrier was bred in the United kingdom to be nanny dogs. To delve back further to show their fierce loyalty. The year is 1915. The Great War is in full thrust. Germany is making another push. The storm over head is raging on releasing torrents of rain making the horses tired of pulling artillery in the waist deep muck and mud. The axis and allies both used teams of PIT BULLS to pull artillery and as trench dogs. It’s how they are trained bred and treated

      • Blacks commit more homicides, violent attacks, and rapes per capita than whites Hispanics and Asians. Is this also because “they were treated bad”?

      • It not my baby he gooood I swear we heard this story before breh some people inherently bad smell me math don’t lie baby

      • Google: anecdotal example

        “How come I survived falling out of a plane if it’s so dangerous? Huh?!”

        Lol dumbass

  9. It is the owners who are to blame not the dog. A lot of these dogs do have good owners and the dogs themselves are good but it is all about how the dog is raised. I personally have been around a German shepherd, a Rottweiler, and a Pit-bull and haven’t really had any problems with any of them other than trying to train my pit-bull and what I mean is he doesn’t like taking baths or getting his nails clipped otherwise have had any problems.

  10. Pit LOVER HERE but…

    . Here is a study of almost 100 common dog breeds in US and Canada. Of 2,209 attacks leading to harm or death between 1982-2006 1,110 are the Pitt… Second place is the Rot with only 409 then wolf hybrid with 71

    It absolutely IS the breed.

    Of 90+ dog breeds
    Of all attacks 50.25% are the pit
    46% of the maimings are the pit
    39.40% of the deaths are the pit of 90+ dog breeds That is NOT counting attacks from 9 common Pitt mix breeds. The pit takes first in all threats across the board hands down no other breed is really even close.

    The Chihuahua is more aggressive but can it do any damage and can you stop it? comparing that to the pit is not comparing apples to apples it is comparing apples to a buick LMAO Assume a chihuahua loses its shit and attacks, you have to, what… to retie your shoe? When the pit snaps (which it does disproportionately to any other large breed) you need reconstructive and often life saving surgery.

    Also look up attack reports in your free time you will see these werent bad owners that had the attacks they mostly were good family pets that snapped without warning or once they were out on their own. The bad owners that train their dogs to fight were specifically excluded from this study. These are the good ones.

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