I lucked out when I fell in love with Boxers. They aren’t afraid of strangers, nor do they tend to get upset when a stranger shows up. But they are pretty vocal when something changes, which means they are a great alarm system, if not the best guard dogs in the world. That is exactly what I wanted in a dog, but some people do want a dog breed that will not only alert them, but also deter others from approaching their property. In that case, you need a breed that guards well. (Check out my post from just over a year ago about small guard dogs for your apartment – today we’re focusing on traditional guarding breeds that are a bit larger.)
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Guard dogs are an interesting conundrum for dog owners and require a bit of extra work to make them behave. You want them to keep their natural protective instincts, but you also need them to not get violent. You’ll have to socialize them very well to prevent them from getting aggressive, and you’ll also have to make sure you offer these high-drive dogs plenty of mental and physical stimulation. If you are committed to caring for these dogs in order to keep them safe and minimize liability, you’ll likely love these nine breeds.
Common Guarding Breeds
First, let’s start with four breeds that are pretty well-known for being great guard dogs. You’ll probably have seen one or two of these breeds before, and they are popular enough that they are easy to find should you want to look into adopting one.
1. Akita[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B0727KVZ2S” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51eQTFKaK8L.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
The Akita breed is a very burly dog that comes from Japan. This dog has an extremely dense double coat due to being bred to withstand cold mountain weather. (You’ll definitely want to [easyazon_link identifier=”B0727KVZ2S” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]rake[/easyazon_link] them to prevent shedding.) The dog was bred to help guard livestock and homesteads, and still has a strong guarding instinct today. Lovers of the Husky breed will enjoy this breed’s very similar appearance. They are a very dignified, loyal breed, known for courage and a no-nonsense sort of attitude. In Japanese culture, they are thought of as lucky symbols of happiness.
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A working dog that has been helping fight wars since the times of the Roman empire, the Rottweiler is the ideal guardian for a property. Strong, easy to train, loyal, and full of confidence, this dog is a great family protector. They are gentle and playful with the family but can get very bold indeed with anything they deem is a threat. They are also one of the most popular dogs in America, ranking in the AKC’s top 10 breeds across the nation. Because of this dog’s strength and bravery, they sometimes have a bad reputation as a scary or violent dog. If you want to prove that your dog can handle living in a neighborhood without the neighbors complaining, be sure that you train him extremely well.
3. German Shepherd[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B078M2DSZ6″ locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41rmeAUe0bL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
The German Shepherd is the classic military and cop dog for a reason. They are extremely trainable dogs that want nothing more than to be given a job that helps their special people. They have a ton of energy and are loyal to a fault – proper training is crucial to make sure they don’t become overprotective. They are very courageous dogs that will take action if they sense a threat, and they are pretty darn strong as well. This dog needs a lot of good play time to keep their energy levels in check, so invest in plenty of [easyazon_link identifier=”B078M2DSZ6″ locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]indestructible chew toys[/easyazon_link].
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4. Giant Schnauzer[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”250″ identifier=”B01BG22PQC” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51KSOMXtcuL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
If the German Shepherd is the classic American cop dog, the Giant Schnauzer is the classic UK cop dog. Used for decades as police dogs overseas, this breed is strong, protective, loyal, and a bit suspicious of strangers. They aren’t the friendliest or most sociable dog in the world, preferring instead to just keep their owner safe and get their affection at home. You’ll definitely need to properly [easyazon_link identifier=”B01BG22PQC” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]leash[/easyazon_link] train this dog to keep those around you safe, and work hard to socialize this dog properly. He also needs tons of exercise to keep him from becoming destructive. But if you’re willing to put in that kind of work, you’ll have one of the most loyal friends on the planet.
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Guarding Breeds You May Not Have Heard Of Before
Now I’ve got five breeds that make excellent guard dogs that you may not be as familiar with. These are rarer breeds, but a lot of dog owners love the idea of having a dog that will be exotic compared to the neighbors’ Labrador. Keep in mind that it will be a lot harder to find a puppy in these breeds because they aren’t as common.
You may recognize the Komondor if you are a fan of dog breeds. This is the “dreadlock” dog, with the natural dreads that make him look like a walking mop head. Despite their cute looks, they aren’t actually recommended as pets for most people. These dogs were bred to guard livestock in the harsh rural conditions of Hungary and are so protective and independent that they can be pretty difficult to control. They do not take kindly to people showing up at their home that they don’t know, and they were actually bred to be nocturnal so that they could protect livestock at night. So not only are they not going to be kind to intruders, they also are going to be at their most stubborn when you are trying to sleep. Unless you really do have some livestock to protect or have a legitimate need for a serious guard dog, this breed may not be right for you.
6. Romanian MiorticSheepdog[easyazon_image align=”right” cart=”n” cloak=”y” height=”155″ identifier=”B009G9Y5UC” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41S4yI%2B1XmL.jpg” tag=”natur0da-20″ width=”250″]
Another livestock guardian, this time from Romania, the Miortic Sheepdog is an interesting breed. They are kind of like the Giant Schnauzer in that they don’t trust strangers at all, and kind of like the German Shepherd in that they are extremely devoted to their family. They are very independent like the Komondor, but oddly enough can be kind of sensitive. They prefer to be close to whomever they consider part of their pack, whether that’s a human family or even the livestock they guard. Without an extremely close bond with a pack, this dog doesn’t fare well at all. This is a pretty rough and tumble dog – the sort of pet you’d see sleeping on the ground before they ever stepped foot in a [easyazon_link identifier=”B009G9Y5UC” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”natur0da-20″ cart=”n” cloak=”y” localize=”y” popups=”n”]fancy orthopedic bed[/easyazon_link].
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This is the most interesting dog on this list in my opinion. With as much bravery and loyalty as a Komondor or a German Shepherd, this dog could definitely offer you plenty of guarding. But it’s all compacted into less than two foot of dog! This is a compact herding dog that is agile and exploding with energy. They can be summed up as dynamite in a small package, and you may recognize the dreadlocks because they are related to Komondor dogs, distantly. Despite being small, the Puli is strong and has a reputation as an acrobat. They are definitely great for offering a true guarding experience if you still need or want a smaller dog.
8. Estrela Mountain Dog
More of a gentle giant that will still keep your home alerted to intruders, the Estrela Mountain Dog is ideal if you need a guard dog around your kids. They are very affectionate and kind with kids and are an inseparable companion for anyone they consider to be their family. Bred to herd sheep flocks in Portugal, the dog is very brave and smart, but their form of guarding is more like an alarm system and intimidation, rather than outright violence. Around their human owners, they tend to be docile love bugs.
9. Catahoula Leopard Dog
This last breed is such an interesting dog. The breed was actually a companion of Native American tribes in what are now the southern United States and was bred to perform a variety of tasks. They are strong, agile, hardy, and hard workers, but also know how to play and have fun. They are pretty territorial dogs that can be protective of their home and aren’t afraid to be assertive. But with their family they are affectionate and loyal. They are built something like an American Pit Bull Terrier and have amazing spotted coats.
What Makes a Dog a Good Guard Dog?
Reading through this list of breeds, you’ll probably notice that many of the main characteristics are very similar. Loyalty, trainability, boldness or courage, and a protective instinct are often a big part of what makes a dog a good guard dog. However, there are definitely some different things that a trainer might look for when training a guard dog.
- Physical strength: There’s a difference between a watch dog and a guard dog. Any dog that barks at a knock on a door can be a watch dog. A guard dog is a dog that will alert you to unusual happenings but is also ready to defend you or the home physically if necessary.
- Natural loyalty: Guard dogs have to be able to understand the difference between your child coming home from school, and a masked burglar entering the home. Therefore, dogs with a strong sense of pack mentality or family loyalty are prized as guard dogs.
- Territorial instincts: In order to train a dog to guard the home, it helps if they already have a sense of wanting to protect their territory. This is why herding dogs are prized as guard dogs, because they were bred to enhance their instinct to protect specific fields or farms.
- Bravery: Obviously, a dog that doesn’t have the guts to go after a threat won’t be the best guard dog. A guard dog should be intimidating because they are willing to follow through on their bark.
- Smarts: The best guard dogs need to not only be able to learn commands perfectly, they also need a bit of independent reasoning. They should be able to distinguish between a threatening stranger breaking into your home, and a girl scout ringing the bell to sell some cookies.
It’s important to understand that guard dogs must be specifically trained to guard. You don’t just get one of these breeds and end up with a perfect guardian – you’ll need to consider professional training to ensure that your dog knows his job and can perform it. This is very important, because trying to train a dog to guard against strangers yourself may end up with a non-threatening stranger getting hurt.
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The Final Word
For me personally, I’m more comfortable with the idea of having watch dogs – Boxers that alert me to new things, but don’t really guard – than guard dogs. However, I totally understand why farmers or other people may want guard dogs.
There are other levels of “guard dog” as well. For example, sentry dogs are guard dogs that are also trained to guard a specific area – like a certain section of yard with their patrolling human partner. Personal protection dogs are guard dogs trained to treat their human as their territory to protect. Attack dogs are guard dogs trained by the military or the police to attack bad guys on command. As you can see, there are a lot of ways that guarding can evolve into other dog jobs.
Guard dogs are great for a lot of reasons, and I don’t discourage you from checking into them. I do encourage you to make sure you understand the commitment you are making to their training and exercise needs, and to be careful to choose a dog that works best for what you truly need. In addition to how they can serve you as guard dogs, make sure you will want to be around them as your pet, too – these dogs need just as much love as a purse pooch would!