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Five Large Dog Breeds for Tough Guys and Gals

In addition to his veterinary work, Dr. Mark also trains dogs—mostly large breeds and those that suffer from aggression problems.

Are you looking for a tough dog? Above: Presa Canario.

Are you looking for a tough dog? Above: Presa Canario.

A Tough Dog for a Tough Guy or Gal

A lot of tough guys and gals think a tough dog will help their reputation. These are the breeds that are usually picked to fill that role.

5 Tough Dog Breeds

  1. Presa Canario
  2. Bullmastiff
  3. Pit Bull
  4. Akita
  5. Rottweilers
Presa Canario

Presa Canario

1. Presa Canario

This mastiff-type dog is so big and so tough, that he really needs to be owned by someone who likes to be alone. The dog is usually seen with cropped ears and is bred to look all muscle, standing wide and weighing up to 140 pounds.

The Presa Canario lives 8-12 years, about normal for a large breed dog, and has several health conditions common to large dogs like hip dysplasia and trick knees.

None of these tough dogs should be put in an apartment, and the Presa Canario should never be owned and walked by someone who has no control over him. The most famous, or notorious, case of an attack against a person happened in San Francisco in 2001. A couple were keeping a pair of Presas in an apartment and were not in control of the dogs when they went out each day and became aggressive. They attacked and killed a neighbor in the apartment building.

I have known several Presa Canarios in this area and although they are not so tough, they are very strong. Dachshunds are a lot more aggressive but a Doxie can be stopped with a firm tug on the collar—a Presa Canario would just keep on pulling, and most owners would not be strong enough to stop him.

This tough dog is not available everywhere. They have been outlawed in Australia and New Zealand.



2. Bullmastiff

Known as one of the breeds that does not bark much, the Bullmastiff is a tough dog originally bred to pull buses and guard estates. They are tall, and males can weigh up to 130 pounds, with a tough face perfect for a guard dog.

Bullmastiffs do not live long enough, probably only about 8 years, and almost ¼ of them have hip dysplasia. They are also prone to bloat, lymphoma, eye problems, and later in life many develop arthritis.

This dog breed is not aggressive but is so large and strong that he is not suited for some environments and owners. A Bullmastiff was owned by Sylvester Stallone, tough guy and star of the Rambo and Rocky movies. A dog was also purchased by the boxer Mike Tyson, and another is owned by the host of American Chopper.

Pit Bull

Pit Bull

3. Pit Bull

Since the day that Spanky and Alfalfa allowed their Pit Bull to join the He-Man/Woman Hater's club, this dog has been associated with tough guys. Really!

This dog has such a tough guy reputation now that a regular family can barely own one. Pit Bulls are regularly marched around with spike collars as the ultimate in macho, and also regularly killed by animal shelters worried that the dogs may become aggressive at some later date.

So many types of dog are known as “Pit Bulls” that it is hard to be definite about health issues. For the American Pit Bull Terrier, dogs usually live about 12-14 years, which is great for a large dog. Some do have hip dysplasia, trick knees, thyroid problems, heart defects and demodectic (red) mange.

Some cities and counties in the US have banned Pit Bulls of all types. They have also been banned in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and several other countries.

They obviously look too tough.



4. Akita

This tough dog from Japan has a thick double coat and a fierce reputation. They are big (the males up to about 130 pounds) and were originally bred to hunt bears, boars, and deer, but now are usually companion dogs although they do well in schutzhund (personal protection dog) competition.

They have several health conditions common to big dogs (like hip dysplasia, bloat, elbow dysplasia, and some others) and a few specific just to their breed and a few others (some autoimmune diseases, vaccine reactions, and tranquilizer and anesthesia reactions).

Akitas are tough guy dogs but still have a mild reputation because of the legend of Hachiko. He is the dog that waited for his owner outside the Shibuya train station in Tokyo every day for nine years, not knowing that he had died of a stroke.

Despite that reputation, Akitas have been banned by some countries as a dangerous dog. Tough guys who have owned Akitas include OJ Simpson and Evander Holyfield.



5. Rottweiler

Although this dog breed is big and tough, they were bred for the lowly occupations of pulling carts and herding cattle. Now they are best known as watchdogs, guard dogs, and police dogs.

Almost everyone is familiar with these dogs. They have thick necks, shiny black coats, and are tall dogs who weigh up to 130 pounds. They are popular as family watchdogs because they bark a lot at strangers but guard members of their family as part of their pack. They are popular with tough guys because they look like guard dogs even when relaxed.

Rotties only live about nine or ten years, and during that time they may have several health problems like hip dysplasia or obesity. They are also more susceptible to parvovirus than other dog breeds.

Rottweilers have been viewed as evil dogs since the time of The Omen. They have been banned in some cities and even in some countries like Portugal and Ireland.

Kareem Abdul Jabaar is one of the famous tough guys who have owned a Rottie, but the dogs have also been owned by Hershel Walker (the NFL player) and Stan Lee (from Marvel Comics, inventor of all those tough superheroes.)

Props help with the tough guy image!

Props help with the tough guy image!

Other Tough Dogs

There are a lot of other tough dogs that could have been put on this list. A few years ago German Shepherd Dogs would have made it, then Doberman Pinschers. Dogo Argentinos, Cane Corsos, Japanese Tosas, and Fila Brasileiros can easily be picked but have not been favored by the famous tough guys.

Of course, although Norman Mailer said that tough guys don’t dance, he said nothing about dogs they could own, so if you are a tough guy and want to walk around with a little Chihuahua or Yorkie, you will do fine.

If someone doesn’t like it, tough!

More About Choosing a Dog

  • How to Train a Dog to Guard Your House
    Do you need a dog to protect your property? Training a dog to guard the house is easy. This article will explain the process and discuss the benefits and some of the problems.
  • Five Dog Breeds For People That Like to Be Alone
    If you are in search of the solitary life you should consider one of these dogs. Want to keep a breed of dog that really will guard your home, even from the meter reader? Try one of these five!
  • Five Great Low Maintenance Dog Breeds
    Are you looking for a low maintenance breed of dog? Here are five dog breeds that all need basic care, but are also good at taking care of themselves.
  • Five Ugly Dog Breeds
    Are you looking for an ugly breed of dog? One of these five will make almost anyone look good.

Are These Dogs the Toughest, or What?

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on February 03, 2018:

AJ, according to the New Zealand government:

The following four breeds cannot be imported into New Zealand: American Pit Bull Terrier, Dogo Argentino, Brazilian Fila, Japanese Tosa and Perro de Presa Canario.

AJ on February 03, 2018:

Pitbulls are not banned in New Zealand, they're actually one of the most common breeds of dog in New Zealand. Source: I've lived in NZ my entire life, have worked with pits and pit crosses, and know many, many people who own them. At no point have they ever been banned in this country, there are no dog breeds banned in NZ.

JoeW on June 09, 2016:

Rottweilers are not banned in Ireland! Ive kept them for over 15yrs

Donna Seldomridge from Delaware on February 08, 2013:

Well done!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 23, 2013:

That is really amazing, Sarra. From what age? That is a LOT of work, but I have heard people do the same with wolves so that they will bond to humans.

Read the hub on family watchdogs if you get the chance. You should enjoy it.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 23, 2013:

Hi Suhail that is a great comment, and I probably would have put the Cane Corso on there but for Rocky! Sylvester Stallone is still big down here--he even does television commercials (as does Brad Pitt, but you know they would never do so back in the US).

Filas are tough, and can handle things as well as any other dog (at least according to the Army) but they sure don't look it!

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 23, 2013:

Hi wetnosedogs, he was actually a Dogue de Bordeaux, a French breed that probably has the same ancestors at the Bullmastiff. The same problems, too, but I picked the Bullmastiff because Rocky made him famous in the movies.

Sarra Garrett on January 23, 2013:

I just love the Rotti. I bred them for 5 years and my pups were all house broken by 8 weeks of age. They are wonderful companions and they certainly prevent strangers from coming around. Before I sold any of my pups I would do a complete background check on the potential buyers as I didn't want my pups to be fighting dogs. The bitches are bad for eating their pups so I hand raised all my pups which made them easier to train. Great hub voted up and interesting.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on January 22, 2013:

I agree with your list, although I would throw in Cane Corso in lieu of Bull Mastiff. Most BMs of today are docile and macho men don't keep them.

Fila belongs in that category too, but it is deceptively tough. By that I mean it looks as calm and gentle as a blood hound, but is a classical un-pardoning guard dog in every respect.

Catherine Dean from Milledgeville, Georgia on January 22, 2013:

I am an owner of a pit bull and a member of several rescue groups. We do not like for anyone to label our dogs, or any dogs for that matter, as "tough." Any person who wants a dog to inflate their ego is missing something in themselves....self-esteem, education, etc. Instead of using a pet to improve their image, people, especially men, need to seek higher forms of improvement such as education, charitable work, professional advancement, etc. It is disgusting how dogs, especially pits, have been abused in order for people to make money-people, usually men, who are too pathetic to get an education or a job.

wetnosedogs from Alabama on January 22, 2013:

I don't know why I go for the drooly dogs (which mine are not) but I love the mastiff. Was the dog in the movie Turner and Hooch a bull mastiff? From the picture you have, kinda looks like.

carolynkaye from USA on January 22, 2013:

Great Hub and pics. Voted up & interesting.