The best guard dog breeds are the group for you if you're looking for a strong and fearless canine companion to watch over your home and family. Supremely loyal and with outstanding protective instincts, these dogs act like one of the best outdoor wireless cameras, providing you with 24/7 peace of mind.
Not only do guardian breeds do a wonderful job of alerting you to when visitors arrive, they'll also quickly let you know if there's any potentially dangerous situation brewing around you that could pose a threat to you or your family. And while they do have a serious side, there's more to these dogs than meets the eye.
Some of our favorite guard dogs are also some of the most affectionate dog breeds around, with many of them loving to clamber up onto your lap for a snuggle - in spite of their often ginormous size! When they're not fiercely protecting their family, many of the pups on this list are serious softies who enjoy nothing more than giving and receiving bucket loads of love.
If you decide to welcome a guard dog into your home, it's important that you're a confident owner who will provide them with the early training and socialization they require in order for them to learn what behavior is and isn't appropriate when they're out in the world. A lot of these breeds are quite headstrong and you'll need a lot of patience and a firm hand to let them know who's boss.
Thankfully, some of the canines below also feature in our guide to the most obedient large dog breeds, so training these guys will be a piece of cake! And, as long as they know that you're top dog, you'll find that these dogs make wonderful family companions. Let's take a closer look at 20 of the best guard dog breeds, so you can pick out the perfect companion to protect your property and your family.
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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.
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.
Guard of honor
Guard dogs can be a range of sizes, strengths, and skills, from big powerful brutes with a heart of gold, to watchful, suspicious guardians that have an eye for danger. The kind of guard dog you get depends on the space you have, the time you have for training, and the kind of protection you need, so be careful when making your decision.
Zara is Editor on bookazines and covers a range of topics from cookery to travel and animals. Her latest first edition, What Your Dog Wants You To Know, is the ultimate guide to understanding your dog’s body language.
Former editor of World of Animals magazine, she has over 8 years of experience in publishing inspiring children and adults about the wonders of the animal kingdom as well as teaching them about their pets. She also has over 5 years experience working with vets, wildlife experts and animal behaviourists in her comms roles for various animal charities.
A keen animal lover, Zara can often be found researching her next wildlife destination to travel to. Having just moved into a bigger house she is currently looking at which dog and cats breed would suit her new family so she can fill her house with pets.
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