Dog-fighting is becoming more common as youths use the animals to try to assert their status on housing estates, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).
More than 350 cases were reported to the RSPCA in 2007, compared with 137 the year before. In 2004, the figure was just 24.
Nearly a third referred specifically to youths or “hoodies” training their dogs to fight in the street or park.
“The ownership of “status symbol”dogs by teenagers on inner-city estates, which are used for anti-social behaviour or dog-fighting, is rising at an alarming rate,” the RSPCA said.
It added the use of dogs as weapons or as status symbols had become a “real problem”.
Youths were using the dogs to replace knives or guns to defend their territory.
“Our concern is that talk of dog-fighting promotes images of 'dangerous' or 'devil' dogs, when in the vast majority of cases, it is the owner who is causing the problem, not the dog,” said the RSPCA's Tim Wass.
“All types of dog can be trained to be aggressive, just as all types of dog can be loving family pets.”
The organisation is holding a conference on Tuesday, involving police chiefs and government ministers, to discuss the issue.
The Metropolitan Police has seen a massive increase in the number of dogs seized in London under the Dangerous Dogs Act.