Guard dogs are those breeds that have been bred for years to protect their people and property against intruders. Owning a protective dog can give out peace of mind that someone is always watching out for the family.
Breeds known for their excellent protection instincts come from different backgrounds. Many guard dogs are found in the American Kennel Club’s Working Group, but some herding breeds are also excellent guard dogs.
Guard dogs are not fighting dogs, and should not be aggressive unless provoked. Instead, guard dogs should be naturally wary and watchful to alert to potential danger. Guard dogs are also very brave, and will place themselves between a threat and their family. Breeds known for their guarding instincts need extensive socialization and training starting early in puppyhood to help them grow into well-balanced dogs that are safe to be around.
Good family guard dogs are protective without being aggressive. Guard dogs are confident, fearless, alert, and loyal. There are different levels of intensity among guard dog breeds. Some guard dog breeds are not suitable for families with children, so make sure you do careful research so you can choose they best dog for your family—one who will protect but also be a loving companion with children.
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The Akita comes from Japan, where they were used for centuries as a hunting dog and guard dog. The Akita is a spitz breed, which describes a type of dog with a double coat, long tail that curves over the back, and upright triangle-shaped ears. Akitas bond very closely with their families, though they do best with older children who won’t pester the dog. They are naturally protective, but when properly socialized should never be aggressive. Akitas aren’t very dog friendly, so they are often kept as the only dog, or as a male/female pair. Thanks to their hunting heritage, Akitas have a high prey drive and should not be trusted alone around small animals.
HEIGHT: 26 to 28 inches (males); 24 to 26 inches (females)
WEIGHT: 100 to 130 pounds (males); 70 to 100 pounds (females)
TEMPERAMENT: Affectionate, loyal, independent, protective
COAT AND COLOR: Short, thick, double-layered coat in brindle or pinto (each with white markings)
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 13 years
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The Belgian Malinois is a herding breed that hails from Belgium and has been used extensively for police and military work, and is known for its fearless, protective nature. Mals are also highly trainable, which contributes to their suitability as a guard dog for families. This breed is very people-oriented and loyal to their families. Belgian Malinois puppies need a solid foundation of socialization and training so they grow up to be well-behaved family members. This breed needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation and needs a job to do, whether as a working dog or training for a sport like agility, herding, or Schutzhund (protection competitions).
HEIGHT: 22 to 24 inches (female), 24 to 26 inches (male)
WEIGHT: 40 to 60 pounds (female), 60 to 80 pounds (male)
TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, active, loyal
COAT AND COLOR: Short, smooth double coat in fawn, mahogany, red, red sable, or fawn sable with a black mask
LIFE SPAN: 14 to 16 years
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The Bernese mountain dog originated in the mountains of Switzerland, where they were an invaluable helper as a cattle drover, guard do,g and all-around farm dog. Berners also pulled heavy carts to market laden with milk and other goods for sale. The tri-colored Bernese mountain dog is large and imposing, but they are known for being loyal family dogs that are exceptionally wonderful with children of all ages. They are reserved with strangers and will protect their family and property if necessary.
HEIGHT: 23 to 26 inches (female), 25 to 27.5 inches (male)
WEIGHT: 70 to 95 pounds (female), 80 to 115 pounds (male)
TEMPERAMENT: Gentle, even-tempered, loyal
COAT AND COLOR: Thick, medium-length double coat in black, rust, and white or black, tan, and white
LIFE SPAN: 7 to 10 years
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The Bullmastiff was once called the Game Keeper’s Night Dog because they were used to stop poachers on English estates. Weighing in at more than 100 pounds, the Bullmastiff could put off an intruder just with its formidable presence, but this breed is also extremely protective. Bullmastiffs need intensive socialization and training starting as puppies so they can learn to be discerning and readily allow invited guests into your home. Though Bullmastiffs love children, their sheer size can lead to knock-downs, especially with rambunctious adolescent dogs. This is another place training is critical. Bullmastiffs become very attached to their human family and should be included in household activities.
HEIGHT: 24 to 27 inches
WEIGHT: 100 to 130 pounds
COAT AND COLOR: Short, dense coat in fawn, red, or brindle with accents of black
LIFE SPAN: 8 to 10 years
TEMPERAMENT: Loyal, protective, alert, loving, companionable, calmContinue to 5 of 10 below.
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The Doberman pinscher was created by German tax collector Louis Dobermann to accompany him on his visits, looking intimidating and ready to protect him from any threat that might arise. Today’s Doberman is a wonderful family dog, tightly bonded to their people and fiercely protective. As long as Dobermans get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation they are generally calm in the house. Puppies need socialization and training so they grow up to be confident, well-mannered, and accepting of approved strangers. The breed is highly trainable, and enjoys dog sports like obedience and agility.
HEIGHT: 24 to 28 inches
WEIGHT: 65 to 100 pounds
COAT AND COLOR: Short and smooth in black, red, blue, or fawn with rust markings
TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, loyal, alert, energetic, attentive
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years
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Like the Belgian Malinois, the German shepherd is a herding breed that has a long history as a police and military dog. Highly intelligent, courageous and fiercely loyal, the German shepherd is an outstanding family dog and fun playmate for children who are taught how to interact with dogs properly. However, careful socialization is necessary so that German shepherds don’t become anxious or fearful. German shepherds are full of energy and need lots of physical exercise and mental stimulation to thrive. Training for a dog sport like agility, herding, obedience or Shutzhund (protection competition) is a great way to exercise a German shepherd’s body and mind.
HEIGHT: 22 to 26 inches
WEIGHT: 60 to 100 pounds
TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, courageous, alert, bold, loyal, protective
COAT AND COLOR: Coarse, medium-length double coat in bicolor, black and tan, black and cream, black and red, black and silver, solid black, gray, sable
LIFE SPAN: 7 to 10 years
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Despite the name, the Great Dane in fact hails from Germany. The breed’s imposing size and deep bark are usually enough to deter would-be intruders. This is a good thing, since Great Danes are generally sociable with people, including friendly strangers. However, the Great Dane is alert and protective, and will face off with anyone trying to mess with the family or enter their home. These gentle giants can be wonderful with children, though their great size might be intimidating to some kids. Early and consistent training is necessary to teach the dog not to jump up or knock people down, especially small children and the elderly.
HEIGHT: 30 to 34 inches (males); 28 to 32 inches (females)
WEIGHT: 120 to 200 pounds (males); 99 to 130 pounds (females)
TEMPERAMENT: Calm, gentle, friendly, loving, even-tempered, attentive, proud
COAT AND COLOR: Short, smooth coat in black, black and white, blue, brindle, fawn, harlequin, merle, silver, solid white, or mantle
LIFE SPAN: 6 to 8 years
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The Great Pyrenees, from the Pyrenees Mountains, has been used for centuries as a flock guardian, watching over and protecting sheep and other livestock from predators and thieves. As such, the breed is naturally protective and alert to the first sign of danger. They tend to be rather independent but bond tightly with their human family. Great Pyrenees typically respond well to routine, positive reinforcement training and will also need socialization to ward off fear-based anxiety issues. These dogs don’t need a huge amount of exercise, but they enjoy being outdoors and appreciate daily walks.
HEIGHT: 25 to 32 inches at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 100 to 150 pounds (males); 85 to 110 pounds (females)
TEMPERAMENT: Gentle, affectionate, patient, confident, strong-willed, fearless
COAT AND COLOR: Thick double coat is white but may have markings of gray, tan, badger, or reddish-brown
LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 yearsContinue to 9 of 10 below.
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The Rottweiler was developed in Germany as a cattle drover, moving cattle from field to market while protecting the herd. Rottweilers are large, powerful, self-assured, and can be imposing. One glimpse of a Rottweiler is usually enough to deter intruders. With proper training and socialization, Rottweilers can be wonderful family dogs. Without it, some Rottweilers may develop significant fear-based anxiety issues that can lead to aggression. They are highly intelligent and will notice very slight variations in appearance of places, objects and even people. While the breed standard suggests that they should be able to determine a true threat from a non-threat, sometimes this requires extra socialization and training to reinforce. Rottweilers love to have a job and will need some good mental stimulation as well. Rottweilers do best with owners that can provide routine, consistency, and daily positive reinforcement training.
HEIGHT: 22 to 27 inches at the shoulder
WEIGHT: 80 to 130 pounds
TEMPERAMENT: Steady, alert, self-assured, fearless, devoted, confident, good-natured, obedient
COAT AND COLOR: Short double coat in black with tan, rust, or mahogany
LIFE SPAN: 8 to 10 years
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The Saint Bernard was created by monks who used the dogs for search and rescue of stranded travelers in the snowy Alps. The Saint Bernard is gentle and watchful over its human family, especially children. In fact, Saint Bernards have earned the nickname “nanny dogs” for their special affinity for children. The breed is brave and protective if the need arises, but their massive size is often enough to stop troublemakers in their tracks. Early training and socialization will help the Saint Bernard grow into a calm, polite family member. Despite their size, the breed doesn’t need a ton of exercise—daily walks or brief play sessions in the yard is plenty.
HEIGHT: 26 to 28 inches (female), 28 to 30 inches (male)
WEIGHT: 120 to 140 pounds (female), 140 to 180 pounds (male)
TEMPERAMENT: Gentle, affectionate, protective
COAT AND COLOR: Short to medium-length, smooth or rough double coat in brindle and white, brown and white, mahogany and white, orange and white, red and white, or rust and white with/without a black mask
LIFE SPAN: 8 to 10 years