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Number 10 – The Estrela Mountain Dog

And right here at number 10, we have perhaps the most glorious guardian breed in all of Portugal: the Estrela Mountain Dog. Classed as a Mastiff-type breed and gifted with an amazingly beautiful long coat in various shades of fawn and grey, these giant dogs are a sight to behold.

Therefore, it is no surprise that they are rapidly gaining popularity outside of their native country. Praised by European and American breeders as loyal and excellent guardians, the Estrela’s level of natural aggression is usually not talked about. However, Portuguese owners, breeders and canine behaviourists concur that Estrela Mountain Dog can and will bite should they deem it necessary. Most often to protect their territory from intruders, but if corrected too harshly by an uneducated owner, they will, in the words of a Portuguese dog trainer, “bite everyone”. These bear-like dogs can weigh up to 50 kilos, which is 110 pounds, and they are known to not forget or forgive unjust corrections – and even less, violent treatment. That said, the Estrela is a legendary natural family, farm and livestock guardian and an amazing choice for people who have experience with large and independent guardian breeds.

Number 9 – The Turkish Kangal

Very similar to the Portuguese Estrela Mountain Dog, the Turkish Kangal has been bred as a robust, independent working dog. These giant livestock guardians with their characteristic short, sand-coloured coats can measure up to 86 cms at the withers – which is 34 inches. Like the Estrela, the Kangal’s original task was to keep wolves, wild dogs, humans and other predators away from their flock. Which, again, means that these giants come with a natural readiness to attack a perceived threat.

And whilst Kangals are far more trainable than Estrelas, they also require a lot more engagement, physical and mental stimulation to become well-balanced companion dogs. These dogs absolutely require an experienced owner. Unless, perhaps, you own livestock yourself and you are planning to put your Kangal to work as a livestock guardian from an early age onwards. In which case they will take to the task like a duck takes to water, and guarding their flock will provide them most of the mental stimulation they need.

That said, if this is you, you still might want to enlist the assistance of a local canine behaviourist. In this way, as your Kangal puppy grows, you will learn how to best communicate with the dog and become its calm, consistent leader. Also, even if your future livestock guardian rarely will encounter humans, you still should socialize the dog.

Number 8 – The Belgian Malinois

Whilst a dream in the hands of the experienced dog trainer, the Belgian Malinois is an accident waiting to happen in the care of a novice owner. And not so much because the dog could bite someone, but because Malis can become amazingly destructive when under-stimulated. Most certainly, their piercing barks will not endear you to your neighbours. That is, if you keep them outside. Should you decide to share your house with a Malinois, ask yourself how much chewing-damage you are willing to take – or how often you want to come home to find the contents of your bin distributed all over the floor.

Contrary to the giant livestock guardian breeds we discussed before, the Malinois is not at all stubborn, independent, or difficult to train – all the opposite. They are not even aggressive by nature, even though their popularity as police and military dogs might suggest the opposite. The challenge with this dog lies in their extremely high prey drive, which is a straight 10 out of 10. And the same applies for their general energy levels. They are through the roof, and I’m not even exaggerating. For these reasons, if you are new to the world of dog-ownership, avoid the Belgian Malinois!

Number 7 – The Jack Russell Terrier

And at number 7 on our list of the TOP 10 dogs least suited for novice owners, we have a breed that no doubt will surprise some of you - the Jack Russell Terrier. Inconspicuous and cute in appearance, this little English Hunting Dog resembles the German Dachshund. Not only in size, but also in courage and prey drive. But, compared to most other small hunting breeds, the Jack Russell takes the fox- and badger- hunter’s typical tenacity to completely new levels: These tiny, innocent-looking dogs can get very aggressive, to the point where they attack strangers and even family members. Also, dog aggression is a known problem in this small breed: The fearless terriers will often pick fights with much larger dogs. Of course, for a Jack Russell to start a fight with, say, a German Shepherd, is pretty much a suicide mission.

Owners of these fiery little canines need to be aware of these dangers, and meticulously work towards shaping their Jack Russell puppy into an obedient canine companion. If they lack the experience to do so, the Terrier will try to adopt the leadership position - and mercilessly rule the household.

Number 6 – The Galgo Español

Our number 6 spot goes to yet another hunting dog – albeit one who does not come with the apparent “mean streak” of the fierce Jack Russell Terrier: the large and elegant Galgo Español or Spanish sighthound. Bred to hunt and catch rabbits in their native Spain, Galgos are still very much used for their original purpose. These are serious working dogs, not house pets.

Unfortunately, this fact is often omitted when it comes to Rescue organisations importing Galgos to Central European Countries: Dogs get paired up with inexperienced owners who are taken by their calm, gentle demeanour, and their large, soulful eyes. But quite often, these owners have to return the dogs after a few short weeks due to seriously problematic behaviour.

For example, extreme separation anxiety that leads to the dog wreaking destruction in people’s homes when left alone – or to injure themselves when crated in their new owner’s absence. When kept outside, Galgos habitually escape. Believe it or not, these dogs can climb high fences with frightening ease.

And as if all that was not enough, they also come with a prey drive that is off the charts: Being Sighthounds, they can spot potential prey from a long distance away. Rivalling the English Greyhound in terms of speed, they are also quite capable of catching and killing what they regard as prey animals. This can be your neighbour’s cat, their chickens or rabbits.

Therefore, unless you are willing to invest in an expensive, extra-secure fence around your property – beware of the Galgo!

Number 5 – The Cane Corso

On our number 5 spot, we have a glorious Italian Mastiff whom I personally count among my favourite dog breeds – the Cane Corso. Once the legendary war dog of the Roman armies, the Cane Corso is an extremely capable protector and natural guardian. However, this is definitely not the breed to go for if you’ve never had a dog before. Every day, I get messages from Corso owners who lack experience and, therefore, have run into serious difficulties with their dog. And by serious, I mean that the dog has become a threat to anyone coming to their house, or, even worse, a threat to their own children.

The only reason why this powerful Mastiff does not rank higher on this list of the TOP 10 breeds NOT to go for as a newbie-owner is their natural devotion to their own family: Very rarely will a Corso turn its aggression towards a member of their immediate family. However, the dogs we have ranking higher on our list, often do not have such qualms.

Number 4 – The American Pitbull Terrier

On our number 4 spot, we have a breed that can be quite wonderful to live with – but if things go wrong, people’s lives are at risk. We are speaking about the American Pitbull Terrier. The statistics, unfortunately, name the Pitbull as the one breed responsible for most human deaths caused by dog attacks in the United States: Between 2005 and 2019, “Pit bulls contributed to 66% of these deaths. Combined, pit bulls and rottweilers contributed to 76% of the total recorded deaths.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – Pitbulls are loving, devoted and highly trainable dogs. But when owned by an unexperienced person who fails to properly train and socialize them, they can turn into a serious threat. Both for humans and other dogs, as Pitbulls are extremely prone to dog aggression. We must keep in mind that these dogs were bred for war – in other words, for taking on fellow fighting dogs as well as bulls and even bears. They have an extraordinarily high prey drive. Coupled with their incredible tolerance for pain, this makes for an explosive mix, because if something – or someone – triggers their instincts to chase, bite, tear and not let go, the consequences can be fatal.

Number 3 – The Rottweiler

And here we are, at the TOP 3 positions on our list of the TOP 10 dog breeds not suited for novice owners. The Bronze Medal goes to a German guard dog breed that we have briefly mentioned just now in our discussion of the American Pitbull Terrier – and that is the Rottweiler.

As we saw, the Rottie is responsible for the highest number in dog bite related fatalities of the past 15 years in America – second only to the Pitbull.

It goes without saying that Rottweilers are a breed to stay away from if you have never owned a dog before: Things can, and quite often do, go very wrong with these dogs. Now, again, don’t get me wrong – personally, I love Rotties and I enjoy working with them, but they absolutely must be led with the firm hand of an experienced owner. And, in the case of the powerful Rottweiler, I do not just mean “experienced” in owning any kind of dog, but specifically in owning large guardian breeds.

Number 2 – The Tibetan Mastiff

Now, we have arrived at the second position on the pedestal. Let’s see whom we have got on the prestigious Silver Medal Spot. And the breed that has managed to conquer the second top spot among the TOP 10 dog breeds not for first time owners, is no other than the wonderful, glorious, one-of-a-kind Tibetan Mastiff.

These dogs are tenacious natural guardians and protectors. And they have the physique to match their fearless nature: Tibetan Mastiffs look like lions, with thick fur to protect them from harsh climates – and from bites whilst battling off predators. These magnificent mountain dogs can weigh up to stunning 73 kilos, which equals 161 pounds. Whilst excellent protectors and family guardians with a big heart for children, Tibetan Mastiffs are one of the worst choices for novice owners: They are extremely confident, independent and aloof and do not like being told what to do.

When challenged, these dogs can react with aggression and attack the person trying to impose corrections on them. It goes without saying that a charging 161 pounds Mastiff is no joke. But what is no less dangerous is their tendency to make their own decisions when it comes to guarding, if not led by an experienced handler. For example, if someone visits your home and makes a sudden move towards you, this can be enough to trigger the extremely keen protective instincts of your Mastiff. And, lacking experience, how high do you think your chances would be in stopping such an attack?

Therefore, best not to chance it and, for now, to make a wide berth around the Tibetan Mastiff!

Number 1 – The Caucasian Shepherd Dog

And now, we come to the absolute top-spot on our list of canines least suited for newbie-owners. The Gold Medal goes to THE most powerful guardian breed on the planet, who – in terms of fierceness – may even surpass the awesome Tibetan Mastiff. We are speaking about the incredible, bear-like wolf-killer of the Caucasian Mountains – the Caucasian Shepherd.

Also known as Caucasian Ovcharka, this dog is famous for attacking and annihilating any threat approaching its flock, its territory or its owners. Equipped with a thick double-coat not unlike the Tibetan Mastiff’s, the Ovcharka can weigh up to an incredible 100 kilos, which amounts to 220 pounds. Originally bred as flock guardian, the Caucasian Shepherd also has a long history as service dog for the Russian army and as guard dog for prisons. These super-sized guardians do not take kindly to strangers or other dogs by nature, and extreme caution is required to keep them in check. Like the Tibetan Mastiff, this is an immensely independent and confident dog, very challenging to train. An Ovcharka charging another dog or, even worse, a human, is the ultimate worst-case scenario. Some Ovcharkas even attack children in their own household; usually due to inexperienced owners keeping them in an apartment all day together with the family.

And such a nightmare can easily occur if a Caucasian Shepherd is not given guidance and direction at all times – by a VERY experienced and knowledgeable owner.

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