Choosing the best guard dog breed for you is vital to getting your relationship right from the get-go. Some may want a guard dog to protect their home and loved ones, others want a guard dog as security for a business.
Whilst this article is here to advise on the characteristics of these dogs it is not for the purpose of promoting certain breeds or guarding behavior. It is well documented currently how, if these dogs are trained or housed incorrectly or purchased solely due to a popular phase, guarding and protection dogs can rapidly cause destruction and create dangerous situations. This is a reality to be aware of when considering getting one of these breeds.
Aside from their power which can be controlled if properly trained, they each have a distinct and commanding presence. Most of them love to protect the home, people or business area they are guarding and they are often loyal and caring too, and it can’t be denied they give you peace of mind and a feeling of being safe in the process.
We’ve rounded up 20 of the best guard dog breeds, known for their defending and protecting qualities from German Shepherds to the Rottweiler and the Giant Schnauzer, we look at their effectiveness from all angles… you may find you need to purchase plenty of the best dog treats to help with training and maintaining these dogs too. These are all large dogs so their size needs accommodating but if you’re after something smaller you can also check out the most popular small dog breeds. For now, let's discover the best guard dog breeds.
1. German Shepherd
One of the first breeds many people think about when they imagine a guard dog is the German Shepherd. A favorite of the police, these dogs are easy to train, fiercely loyal, have great stamina, and are great under pressure.
Their size, strength, and biting power also come in handy for warding off any potential home invaders. Not only that; they make wonderful pets who love to play with toys. Just make sure they’re robust enough to cope with rough treatment (try the Nuts for Knots Extreme 2 rope tugger toy). So as well as a great guard dog, a German Shepherd is also a brilliant friend.
Nuts for Knots Extreme 2 rope tugger toy
As most of the dogs in this list are strong, powerfully-jawed pooches, they’ll need a good workout. This rope toy is incredibly strong, so will withstand the roughest of treatment, and provide some fun, interactive training for your guard dog.
2. Cane Corso
Let’s be honest: it only takes one look at a Cane Corso to understand why they make such good guard dogs. At around 65cm tall, they may not be the biggest vertically, but they are incredibly muscular and powerful animals. The Cane Corso is Italian in origin, was bred as a fighting dog to protect Roman soldiers, and its name comes from the Latin for ‘bodyguard dog’, so there is a lot of guarding heritage in this breed. It’s also a docile pet until called into action.
The Akita may not be the most intimidating guard dog breed in this list, but sometimes a bit of brain is needed alongside all the brawn. Akitas were bred centuries ago to stand by the side of Japanese royalty and keep them safe from enemies. They are incredibly inquisitive and suspicious animals, so are ideal for alerting you to any danger posed by a stranger they don’t like the look or smell of. If you aren’t keen on a big, powerful guard dog then the Akita may be the one for you.
You've probably heard of the phrase, “his bark is worse than his bite.” This may be true for many dog breeds, but the same can’t be said for the Bullmastiff. This breed has the highest amount of bite force of any dog at 552 pounds per square inch – that’s around three times higher than the average dog. The Bullmastiff is a natural guard dog, as it was bred to guard large estates, but if properly trained and socialized, it is gentle and laidback with its owners.
5. Doberman Pinscher
The Doberman Pinscher was a breed created in the 1800s by German tax collector Louis Dobermann, who needed a pooch to protect him. While its size, obvious power, speed, and alertness may look like its strongest attributes, it’s actually the Doberman’s intelligence that makes it a great guard dog, as it can protect effectively with little training. The Doberman’s naturally aggressive trait was bred out of it, making them highly affectionate dogs for the family, while also retaining the ability to protect.
OK, stick with us here, because although it may not look like a great guard dog, the Komondor is an unexpected ally against intruders. This Hungarian-bred dog is much more than just a sheep herder; it is innately protective, and determined to keep an eye out for the family, so if you have children that you want to keep an eye on, the Komondor will happily do that for you.
They have also developed a loud bark to alert shepherds, which although not ideal if living in an apartment, is perfect for warning you of any impending danger.
7. Giant Schnauzer
You may be more familiar with the Miniature Schnauzer, so say hello to its bigger cousin, the Giant Schnauzer. These dogs were bred to herd cattle, so they are naturally brave animals, capable of standing their ground against larger creatures.
They’re strong and resistant to pain, but also intelligent, meaning that it won’t take much training for them to learn which visitors are friends and which are foes not to be trusted. They’re one of the most dedicatedly loyal pets you can own, and are sure to grab attention with that iconic beard.
8. American Staffordshire Terrier
There are few more misunderstood dogs than the Staffy. Lovable, caring, devoted, and adorable, these dogs make for wonderful pets. However, they do have a reputation for aggression due to bad owners forcing them to be fighting dogs due to their muscular bodies and strong jaws.
They are incredibly protective of their owners, which does make them excellent guard dogs, but good training and a firm hand is essential in keeping them under control when they feel the need to keep you safe from harm.
Similarly to the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Rottweiler has a reputation for being an aggressive dog, but they are loyal and affectionate when raised with a family. They are naturally wary of strangers but take time when introducing them to friends and they will quickly learn who is to be trusted and who isn’t.
This intelligence, when matched with obedience, makes them ideal guard dogs as they can be taught to bite and hold onto an aggressor, although this can only be done by a trained dog handler.
10. Rhodesian Ridgeback
In terms of pure size and stature, you can’t go far wrong with the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Its original purpose was to hunt lions, so your average burglar isn’t going to pose much of a problem to this breed.
They are fearless and natural protectors, and can switch from loving pet to furious guard dog in seconds, so they must be well trained to heed commands. They rarely bark, which is good as an owner, but doubly useful as when you hear your pet make a noise, you’ll know it’s for a very good reason.
11. Dogo Argentino
Originally bred to hunt big game, these will need some serious training early on in their lives, not to mention lots of exercise, but they're one of the best guard dog breeds around for a reason.
Weighing between 70 and 100 pounds, they're capable of taking down wild hogs up to six times their size, so protecting your family will be a picnic for them. You will need to show them early on who's the alpha, otherwise they won't respect you, but as you can see from this video, the results are something to behold when training is done right.
12. Great Dane
An obvious choice due to their size, perhaps, but there is more to the Great Dane than a seriously impressive stature. The German nobility used to use them as bodyguard dogs, and their origins stretch back to ancient times when they were used for hunting.
Beyond these origins, however, Great Danes are loyal, noble, and caring. They are also patient, but protective when they need to be, making them ideal for keeping around young families. Like many other dogs, they can become defensive when threatened, and while displays of this are rare if trained well, they represent an obstacle for any would-be threat.
13. Great Pyrenees
Having been originally bred in the Pyrenees mountains, the shepherds dwelling there needed a tough and loyal breed that could survive a tough environment – and they certainly got that with this dog. Having been bred to look after flocks of sheep, they may well wake up during the night.
Barking during the night isn’t generally welcomed by dog owners (or their neighbors), but it will have the effect of deterring potential burglars. Brave and patient, they are another breed that is ideal to keep round young families, making them a good choice should you be in need of protection.
14. Dogue de Bordeaux
If you've ever seen the Tom Hanks movie Turner and Hooch, you know what a Dogue de Bordeaux looks like. Also known as a French Mastiff, the Dogue de Bourdeaux was bred as a guard dog for centuries. Big, wrinkly, and often full of drool, they may be gentle giants, but they are inherently protective and loyal and can be incredibly effective guard dogs.
They are protective of their families and their territory, and they tend to be unaware of how large they actually are - but they have a sweet disposition that would be a great fit for any home.
Brave Boxers are inherently incredibly protective dogs. If they're properly socialized and trained they can make great guard dogs, as they form strong bonds with their family members and are especially protective of any kids in the family.
The Boxer's high energy and athleticism makes them great guard and police dogs, but they are considered by some as "gentle" guard dogs in that they'll alert you to sounds and tend to confront intruders with their barks and bodies rather than their bites.
16. Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is a great tracking dog that was initially bred to herd animals, but today they are one of the most popular breeds used by the police and military. Similar to a German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois is protective, loyal, and very alert. They require consistent training in order to be well-mannered and happy pups, but under the right tutelage make great companions and guard dogs.
17. Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan Mastiffs were bred as guard dogs for property and livestock, and still perform that role to this day! They are reserved and aloof with strangers and protective of their family, and can also be quite territorial. This makes them great guard dogs, especially if properly trained from puppyhood.
18. Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are herding breeds, which means they are excellent watchdogs. If you're looking for a dog that will alert you to an intruder or anything they deem unsafe, Australian Shepherds are a great option. They are technically bred to be watchdogs, not guard dogs, however, so if you want them to exhibit more guarding behaviors, you'll have to train them to do so.
Hailing from South Africa where they work tirelessly to protect remote homesteads from predators, the Boerboel may look intimidating but they are also confident and calm. They have a bright nature and are eager to learn, which makes them a joy to train, and they are hugely devoted to those they love.
Their highly intelligent nature and training and socialization needs means this isn't a great breed for a first time or novice owner. However, if you're able to be firm and quickly establish your place as leader of the pack, this affectionate dog will never leave your side.
Faithful, gentle and obedient, the Beauceron is a powerful and imposing looking dog who is also smart, spirited and wonderful at herding. Incredibly loyal and protective, they make outstanding watchdogs and guardians and they are especially good with children.
But, the Beauceron is definitely not for the novice owner. This breed tends to want to exert their dominance and they'll run rings around an owner that lacks confidence. Early training and socialization is a must, along with a firm hand, but as long as you get that right, you'll find this intelligent dog makes for a wonderful companion.
If you are still uncertain of the right guarding companion for you and your needs, then seek out the professional advice of a veterinarian, canine trainer or canine behaviorist. Research with reputable people and sources is key and taking time over your decision. And remember no question or concern is too small, too big or too silly.
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- Jessica DowneyStaff Writer