16 Best Small Guard Dogs for Apartments - Simply For Dogs
Guard Dogs

16 Best Small Guard Dogs for Apartments


Most of the time, when we consider guard dogs, our thoughts go immediately to large animals like Rottweilers, Pit Bull types, Dobermans, German Shepherds and other breeds of size. Smaller dogs generally don’t make the list, and in fact, there’s a good reason for that – a small dog, no matter how aggressive, is far less of a threat to someone intent on invading your home or causing you harm.

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Personally, I wouldn’t recommend any small breed for use as a guard dog. I just want to get that out of the way, right at the outset. The best guard dogs are, quite simply, dogs that are big enough to overpower a human if that should be necessary.

That said, however, I know that not everyone’s lifestyle permits the ownership of a large dog. Although many apartment complexes permit large breeds, many do not. Also, it’s not uncommon in trailer courts for management to have restrictions as to the size of dog you can keep. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the best small guard dogs for apartments and other locations where you have to settle for a breed that is really less than ideal for the purpose.

Usually, aggression in a small dog is not a desirable trait. However, when you’re relying on a small dog for protection, it can be an asset if properly channeled. Accordingly, the following breeds are among the most aggressive small dogs. Here they are, in alphabetical order.

1. Beagle

The Beagle is mainly known as a hunting dog, and noted for single-mindedness. Beagles can be difficult to train, since their instinct is to take off if they’re not on leash. This is also a breed that’s possessed of an extremely high prey drive, and can be a menace to smaller animals. If not properly socialized, Beagles can become aggressive toward humans.


If you’re going to have a Beagle in your household, you need to make sure that he understands that he’s low man on the family hierarchy – in other words, make sure that even your kids are able to make the dog obey. Beagles can be very affectionate toward their humans, but they need owners who are comfortable being the boss.

A well-trained Beagle will do his best to protect his family. Also, his distinctive bark will often warn away intruders, since Beagles often sound a lot bigger than they actually are.

2. Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers are by no means big dogs, but they can be very territorial, protective of both humans and property. They’re solid, muscular dogs, and do well in little space, making the Boston Terrier one of the best small guard dogs for apartments.

The Boston Terrier was originally bred to kill vermin, and in many dogs of this breed, the prey drive is still present. For this reason, if you have other small animals (cats, for instance), you’ll need to introduce your Boston Terrier to your other pets at an early age, and supervise carefully.

Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is eager to please, and highly protective. These can be desirable traits, but sometimes, dogs of this breed have trouble distinguishing between intruders and people you actually want to have around – friends, relatives, delivery personnel, etc. Early socialization is essential.

3. Bull Terrier

The Bull Terrier is a very energetic dog, and although he does well in small spaces, if you own a Bull Terrier, you will have to make sure that he gets a considerable amount of exercise each day.

The Bull Terrier is one of the best small guard dogs for apartments because of his background – these dogs were bred originally for pit sports. It really wasn’t all that long ago that people would, for instance, fill a pit with rats, toss in a Bull Terrier, and then take bets on how many rats the dog could kill within a certain period of time.

Bull Terrier

The prey instinct is still present in the breed, giving it many of the same advantages and disadvantages as the Boston Terrier. The Bull Terrier is not good with other small pets, and needs an assertive owner. Even if the Bull Terrier is perfectly compliant when it comes to family members, he could be suspicious of, and even hostile toward, strangers. Early socialization along with obedience training can help you to channel your Bull Terrier’s aggression towards guarding.

4. Chihuahua

It’s pretty hard to take a Chihuahua seriously as a guard dog, even though the breed can be very aggressive. If I weren’t doing this list alphabetically, I would put the Chihuahua at the very bottom of my picks for best small guard dogs for apartments. If I were doing the list according to aggression level, though, the Chihuahua would take top honors.

Just the same, if someone wants to hurt you or steal your belongings, no Chihuahua in the world is going to stop them. The best you can hope for is that maybe your potential assailant is extremely dog-phobic and unwilling to risk contact with any dog, no matter how tiny.


A Chihuahua will be very willing to protect you, though. And as is the case with some of the other small breeds we’ve talked about, Chihuahuas sometimes operate under the impression that their human has to be “protected” even from people who intend no harm. Again, early socialization is very important.

If you can choose another small breed, I’d strongly suggest that you do so. If you’re bound and determined that Chihuahuas could be among the best small guard dogs for apartments and other locations where space is limited, consider getting more than one. You still won’t have much in the way of protection, but a pack of Chihuahuas could be aggravating enough to ward off “bad actors.”

5. Chow Chow

Chow Chows come in quite a range of sizes – they can weigh as much as 70 pounds, or as little as 40. So, this breed of dog, although even at 40 pounds would be considered more toward the “medium-size” classification, I think we can safely say that it’s near enough to the “small” end to qualify as one of the best small guard dogs for apartments.

In fact, if I were to recommend a guard dog for apartment dwellers, the Chow Chow would be my top pick. The Chow Chow is solid and muscular, and in terms of genetics, the breed that’s closest to the wolf. In terms of temperament, the breed has long had a reputation for aggression. It’s been bred out a bit, but there’s still enough left over from the Chow Chows herding, hunting and guarding background to make for a highly protective dog.

Chow Chow

Chow Chows are extremely loyal, and often bond hard and fast to one person. It’s important, if you think that this might be the right dog for you, that you’re willing to commit to rigorous training and early socialization. If you have children, they also need to be taught how to handle the dog.

The Chow Chow will react instantly and aggressively to any threat, real or imagined. As they age, Chow Chows sometimes become protective to a fault, so again, you need to be a strong owner. A well-trained Chow Chow can be a superb guard dog and a loving companion.

6. Cocker Spaniel

It’s hard to imagine the adorable Cocker Spaniel as a guard dog, but make no mistake, the Cocker can be aggressive. Sometimes, in fact, Cocker Spaniels can be aggressive to the point of no return, and that’s not a good thing.

These companion dogs are very popular, and because of their popularity, have ended up being over-bred in some instances. This has led to a condition known as “rage syndrome,” in which the dog becomes aggressive toward just about anyone – even family members – and then suddenly calms down. If you’re considering a Cocker Spaniel, you should be very careful to buy only from a reputable breeder. Also, make sure that you can see the parents of the puppy you’re considering, as well as the littermates. Once you get your puppy home, begin the process of socialization.

Cocker Spaniel

Even without a propensity to “rage syndrome,” if your puppy is not well-socialized, he can become aggressive.

A well-socialized Cocker Spaniel that comes from a good breeder can still be protective. Cockers are also good with other animals, if introduced early on, and gentle with children.

7. Dachshund

The Dachshund comes by his aggressive nature honestly, having been bred to enter tunnels and thickets in search of vermin. They were even used to kill badgers, which is no small feat for a small dog.

Today’s Dachshund still has a significant prey drive, and dogs of this breed are known to be very protective of their humans. They’re also generally one-person dogs, which makes them ideally suited to people who live alone and are looking for one of the best small guard dogs for apartments. You’ll have to make sure that your Dachshund gets regular exercise, though, since if he doesn’t get much activity, he’ll probably become cranky.


If you’re of a sociable nature, though, you might find that the “one person” thing can be problematic. The Dachshund can be suspicious of anyone who isn’t a member of the “inner circle,” and takes a while to warm up to strangers. Dachshunds are also not usually good with children.

However, this highly person-specific loyalty can also make them very suspicious of strangers and quick to nip or bite anyone it perceives as a threat. They are generally regarded as being a breed of dog that is not very good with children.

8. Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier originated as a working dog, and dogs of this breed still require a lot of exercise if they’re not going to become irritable and destructive. Although the Jack Russell is one of the best small guard dogs for apartments and other small spaces, a Jack Russell is not meant to be kept indoors day in and day out.

Jack Russells can be stubborn, and are not the best choice for novice owners. They can be difficult to train, and if not kept on lead in places where there are other dogs, often try to “mix it up,” even with dogs that are considerably bigger.

Jack Russell Terrier

Properly channeled, though, this aggression can make for a passable small guard dog. Just don’t let your Jack Russell get the idea that he’s the “alpha,” because once he does, it will be very difficult to convince him otherwise. You need to start training and socializing early on, and teach your Jack Russell to respect all family members.

9. Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso is small, cute and cuddly, but actually has a background in guarding, having been used to protect ancient Tibetan temples. To this day, the Lhasa Apso takes his role as guard dog very seriously.

Lhasa Apsos are very intelligent, and trainable provided you’re willing to put up with a bit of stubbornness. You’ll also find that Lhasas are naturally standoffish with strangers, and can be prone to nip. They’re not good with small children, since they dislike being approached suddenly, and also are not fond of loud, boisterous behavior.

Lhasa Apso

This is a breed that, despite its size, can deliver a nasty bite. Lhasas need to be treated with respect, and properly socialized. In the right hands, the Lhasa Apso can be a loyal, protective companion.

They can yip aggressively at small children who aren’t behaving interestingly enough and are very vocal when displeased. They can also suffer from separation anxiety so it’s best to get a dog sitter if you plan to be away for more than a few hours.

10. Manchester Terrier

The Manchester Terrier is lively, intelligent and energetic, and also very playful. Like most terriers, though, the Manchester has a very strong prey drive – this is because of the breed’s history of hunting vermin – and can be aggressive.

Manchester Terriers are not good around smaller animals (again, because of the prey drive), but they are typically fine with kids, especially older children who understand the need to treat the dog gently and respect his space.

Manchester Terrier

With proper training and early socialization, the Manchester Terrier can rightfully claim a place on this list of best small guard dogs for apartments.

11. Poodle

The Poodle is considered to be one of the most intelligent breeds, and the mini and toy varieties can be wonderful pets, as well as passable small guard dogs. They’re best not left to their own devices, though, because they can become bored, restless, resentful and overly aggressive. Poodles need mental stimulation and exercise if they’re to be good companions.


Again, I’d stress that the best guard dogs are typically large dogs, and I’m definitely not recommending a mini or toy Poodle over a Standard Poodle, which would definitely be a force to be reckoned with. However, the minis and toys do have very sharp teeth, and a willingness to protect their humans. So although they’re not the best guard dogs, I think they deserve a place on the list of best small guard dogs for apartments.

12. Pomeranian

When you look at a Pomeranian, it’s hard to take him seriously – he’s just a funny-looking, fluffy dog. I can tell you, though, that I’ve met a lot of Pomeranians, but never one that wanted to immediately run up to me and be my best buddy – and I’m someone who usually gets along well with just about any dog!


Pomeranians are suspicious of strangers, and need early socialization and obedience training in order to become good companions and acceptable guard dogs. One disadvantage to the Pomeranian is that he’s among the “barkiest” of the toy breeds, and in this regard, perhaps not one of the very best small guard dogs for apartments. If you can control his barking, though, you’ll have a dog that’s very willing to protect you and your family.

13. Shar Pei

The Shar Pei, sometimes referred to as the “Chinese Wrinkle Dog,” is a rare breed, not often seen outside dog shows. The breed is believed to be descended from Chow Chows, and was originally used in China for hunting and boar fighting, as well as for fighting other dogs.

After the Communist Revolution in China, the breed was near extinction, which prompted a Chinese businessman by the name of Matgo Law to sneak a couple hundred of the dogs into the United States. Most of today’s Shar Peis are descended from these dogs, which has, unfortunately, led to a lot of inbreeding, and the health problems that go hand-in-hand with the practice.

Shar Pei

Because of their fighting background, modern Shar Peis can be highly aggressive. They also have a propensity to stubbornness and territoriality, and require a firm trainer. Unless you’re an experienced dog owner, it’s generally best to leave training a dog of this breed up to the pros.

Early socialization is also vital if the Shar Pei’s natural aggression is to be properly channeled. A well-trained, properly socialized Shar Peil can definitely be one of the best small guard dogs for apartments.

14. Shiba Inu

Shiba Inus are strong for their size and also very agile. This is an old breed of dog that was originally used for hunting in the mountainous areas of Japan. They have an aloof nature and very strong jaws, and are perfectly willing to bite if necessary. Typically, the females are more aggressive than males.

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inus are not good with other animals, but if properly exercised, trained and socialized, they can be among the best small guard dogs for apartments. When they feel threatened, they’ll emit what’s known as the “Shiba Scream,” which could in and of itself be enough to scare off an intruder.

15. Shi Tzu

I know that I’m probably going to get slammed by Shi Tzu owners who say “My dog is a sweet little marshmallow who wouldn’t hurt a flea,” but the fact is, these dogs are known biters. They also have no idea how little they are!

A well-trained Shih Tzu can be a perfectly pleasant companion, but can also be intolerant of strangers, loud children, and other animals. They can be good with kids, but it takes training – both of the dog and the kids. This is not a breed that responds well to rough handling, and usually gets along better with older children who are less boisterous. Training can be difficult, and rather than deal with the breed’s stubbornness, many owners prefer to have their dogs professionally trained.

Shi Tzu

In essence, the Shih Tzu is an aggressive little dog that does well in an apartment or other limited space, and needs little exercise. If you’re looking for a small guard dog, there are worse choices.

16. Skye Terrier

The Skye Terrier is a rare breed, actually endangered in the United Kingdom. The breed originated in Scotland, and was quite popular up until the middle part of the 20th century. As is the case with many hunting breeds, Skye Terriers can be aggressive, making it unsuitable for households where there are smaller animals.

The Skye Terrier actually doesn’t need a lot of exercise. In fact, too much exercise can be harmful, leading to stunted bone growth which can cause joint pain. Often, owners need to train their Skye Terriers to calm down and take it a bit easy.

Skye Terrier

These dogs are extremely loyal and highly tenacious. If you’re looking for a dog that will stand beside you no matter what, the Skye terrier is a good choice.

There you go – 16 of the best small guard dogs for apartments. Some are smaller than others, but as has often been said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

The Final Word

Of course that old saying is only true to a certain extent, and as I’ve already made clear, if I’m in a situation where it looks as though a fight is likely to break out over my safety or my property, I want a large dog in that fight.

I don’t want anyone coming back on me saying “Ash, you said I’d be safe with one of the breeds on this list!”

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You won’t. You’ll just be less unsafe.

My final word on the topic is that these breeds are to be considered as guard dogs only if owning a large breed is impossible for some reason. Even the best small guard dogs for apartments come nowhere near to providing the same level of protection as you’ll get from a large dog. Make your decision accordingly.

About the Author Ash

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