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23 Best Guard Dogs [Plus what to know before bringing one home]

Profile photo of Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH.By Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH, DACVPM


Jump to:
Why a guard dog?
The ideal guard dog temperament
Guard Dog Training
What you should know before getting a guard dog
After you get a guard dog
Where can I find a guard dog?
23 best guard dogs
Guard Dog FAQ


 

We’ve all heard it: dogs are a man’s best friend.

Fortunately, the benefits of owning a dog don’t stop here.

Dogs have also proven themselves as elite protectors, too.

Whether it’s protecting a loved one, guarding property, or watching over livestock, there is a whole category of dogs who thrive in the protection space.

Meet the Guard Dog.

 

Guard dogs include a variety of different breeds and have the stunning capabilities of being both family companion and protective giant all in one.

That’s why today we are diving into the nitty-gritty of what a guard dog really is and what you should know before getting a guard dog, along with an entire collection of the absolute best guard dogs.

Let’s get started!

 

Why a Guard Dog?

To the delight of every dog lover, a guard dog will instinctively offer personal protection during natural disasters, state of emergencies, pandemics, civil unrest, and as you go about your daily life.

 

Beyond personal protection, a guard dog will protect property as well.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s Burglary of Single-Family Houses reports that a dog is the closest substitute for human occupancy in a home.

In fact, the majority of burglars will actually avoid homes protected by dogs because small dogs will bark and attract the neighbor’s attention or wake up their sleeping owners, while larger dogs will pose themselves as a literal physical threat.

 

In addition to offering protection, guard dogs are quick to notify you of visitors and potential threats.  They have a keen sense of what their typical day-to-day life and surroundings are structured as, so they’ll know when something is out of place or unusual.

They are wary of strangers.  They’ll scare off potential threats, and when properly trained, are deeply devoted to family.

 

Before moving forward, it’s important to distinguish between a guard dog versus a dog trained to attack.

While both types fall inside the guard dog family, they are not one and the same.

A typical guard dog will alert an owner of an intruder’s presence by simply barking and growling.

An attack dog, on the other hand, will literally attack on-demand and respond aggressively to potential threats and intruders.

Attack dogs of this nature are typically employed in police work and various forms of law enforcement.

They require an exceptionally high level of training and demand an experienced handler.

 

Unless you are actually in police or similar work, you’ll want to avoid bringing home an attack dog.

Instead, opt for a dog trained to protect and guard without actually attacking.

 

The Ideal Guard Dog Temperament

The ideal guard dog is first devoted, then brave, intelligent, powerful, and obedient.

A guard dog should be territorial by nature yet responsive to high quality, positive training.

When properly trained, the dream guard dog will display both guard dog traits along with companion dog traits.

Guard dogs love their job.  They are fearless at their core and carry the natural ability to protect and drive away intruders.

A large watch dog guarding an apartment complex.

 

Guard Dog Training

Thanks to their natural drive to guard and protect, unless properly trained, a guard dog can prove vicious and aggressive at all the wrong times.

The remedy?

Positive and consistent training at just the right time.

 

To get a truly loyal, fearless, and well-rounded guard dog, it is paramount to provide good, positive training.

Socialization is a must, and positive training should begin at an early age.  

First, proper socialization involves giving your dog positive experiences when being introduced to a variety of different people: men and women, tall and short, older and younger, and diverse traits.  

Positive training then involves rewarding the dog for behaviors and actions that you find desirable, rather than punishing the dog for doing things you don’t like.

Some breeds will be more difficult to train, so it’s important to understand what you are bargaining for before bringing a new dog home.  

Puppies should always come from a reputable breeder so you know they have a proven track record of breeding the dog’s natural traits, rather than undesirable traits. 

 

Guard dogs are known to have strong personalities.

They are no match for the novice owner.

However, they’ll thrive under an owner who provides on-point and consistent training.

If you are new to the dog training world, be sure to consult an expert trainer when looking to bring home your very own guard dog.  You will want to be prepared ahead of time so you can set both yourself and your new dog up for success.

 

What You Should Know Before Getting a Guard Dog

When bringing a guard dog home, it’s important to note that not all dogs are the same.

Sure, you have your super sweet and docile breeds.

However, these typically don’t fall into the guard dog category.

It’s true that when properly trained, guard dogs will protect loved ones, warn of potential danger, and guard your home.

 

Do away with training, however, and you’ll soon encounter a brute on your hands.

An ill-trained guard dog can prove overprotective and may even attack objects and people who are non-threatening.

They may bite at the wrong time, chase after vehicles or farming equipment, sound false alarms, and turn on friends.

(Pro-tip: In lieu of biting, it’s always a good idea to understand your state and local laws.  Learn what the consequences are if your dog bites a burglar versus an innocent victim.)

 

The result?

It’s extremely important to understand the breed you are bringing home before you take the leash.

Is the breed known to be aggressive?  Or are you opting for an actual couch potato?

Will the breed alert you of potential threats?  How territorial is the breed?

Are they a more independent breed, or handler-focused?

Will they be able to break through or jump your current fence?  Perhaps they’ll require a more secure backyard enclosure?

Of course, answers will vary not only from one breed to the next but also from one puppy to another.

 

So ask the breeder questions about your puppy’s parents and pedigree.

When talking pedigree, Nitro K-9 recommends looking for “examples of the kind of work you’re looking for in your dog.”

What are the parent dogs like?

Is there evidence of great guard dogs in your puppy’s pedigree?

Can the breeder tell you what the breed was originally bred for, along with what it has evolved to do?

 

Last but not least, look for a puppy who is trainable.

Consider how much time you’ll have to invest in training a new dog.  No matter what, a puppy is going to be a lot of work.  However, you will need even more time than usual if you are getting a puppy or dog for guarding purposes.

What is your budget for dog training?

Can you hire a professional trainer, or are you planning to tackle it yourself?  

Is the whole family on board with this plan and willing to put in the work to make sure interactions with the dog are consistent?

 

After You Get a Guard Dog

Two black young dogs barking fiercely behind bars of metal gate

Once you bring a guard dog home, it’s important to let friends and family know.

There’s always the sure-fire way of posting a sign.

Or you might drop hints by simply leaving a doggy bowl and dish in plain sight for visitors to see.

Alternatively, you could set out a leash or leave out a basket with doggy toys.

 

A second thing to note when owning a guard dog is the mere reality that your dog is not invincible.

Dogs make mistakes.  They have their limits.

So don’t rely just on them for protection.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your home, consider installing a good security system and quality locks to help keep predators away.

 

Where Can I Find a Guard Dog

You can talk to local trainers, shop local, visit pet stores, or buy on-line.

One place we do not recommend when it comes to acquiring a guard dog is your local rescue or shelter.  

Without knowing the dog’s background and pedigree, a shelter dog could be ill-qualified for guarding.  It might be less trainable, or may even be aggressive due to hidden triggers or past traumatic experiences.

Of course, there are always exceptions.

More often than not though, ill-trained guard dogs can prove vicious, aggressive, and even dangerous.

They don’t know friend from foe and are slow to embrace new training.

 

Because of this, we recommend either purchasing a guard dog that has already been positively trained or getting a guard dog puppy from a reputable and trusted breeder.

 

23 Best Guard Dogs

The 23 absolute best guard dogs infographic

1. Akita

Showing up with a large build and powerful stance is the ever-loved Akita.  These giants are the tallest of all Japanese breeds and were first bred for fighting and wildlife hunting.  The Akita is loyal and fearless and thrives on one-on-one time.  Thanks to their strong personality, the Akita needs an experienced dog owner who provides firm and consistent training.  It’s always a good idea to start socializing early with these brave warriors.


2. Appenzeller Sennenhund

A tad smaller than the typical guard dog is the Appenzeller Sennenhund.  Few have heard of this rare but talented breed.  Their intelligence runs high and when properly trained, are quick to obey.  The Appenzeller Sennenhund was originally designed to fill the farm dog roll.  They boast of boundless energy and are brilliantly agile through and through.


3. Australian Shepherd

Medium in size, the Australian Shepherd is a fearless champion with a particular love for herding.  Oh, and they run high on the energy charts.  They can tend to be wary of strangers and are very loyal to their people.  The Australian Shepherd should begin training at an early age in order to encourage positive behavior while killing negative attitudes right from the getgo.


4. Belgian Malinois

The short-haired version of the Belgian Tervuren, the Belgian Malinois is unsurprisingly from Belgium.  Originally they were designed to serve as livestock guardians, as well as guard and military dogs.  The Belgian Malinois embodies a muscular elegance, proving to be powerful, protective, and confident.  These giants are excellent family dogs and are smart and loyal at their core.  It should be mentioned, however, that the Belgian Malinois flaunts a high prey drive, so you’ll want to stay on the alert should a Malinois start sharing space with smaller pet friends.  Also note, these pals are not for the novice dog owner. 

When referring to the Malinois, Steve Robinson, a guard dog trainer in Denver, CO expounds, “I’ve found that single women who want a dog for protection like the Belgian Malinois.  It’s a good protector.”  And that they are inside their large and powerful stance.


5. Boerboel

The Boerboel was first trained to guard against wildlife and terrorism in Africa.  So as you can imagine, these champs are the epitome of fearless, powerful, and territorial all in one.  Boerboels are dominant and confident, requiring proper training to learn who’s boss.  However, there’s a soft side to them also.  Believe it or not, the Boerboel has a tender angle too in which they are affectionate, easy to train, and a lover of new friends.  Plus, they are a great family companion.


6. Boxer

Bred for hunting and fighting, the Boxer is one powerful champ.  Today they are frequently employed in military and police work, although the Boxer is great with family, too.  Boxers are quick to make friends, playful, and slightly aloof.  Plus, they are sensitive to what matters and ooze with confidence.


7. Bullmastiff

Big, powerful, and fearless are three words summing up the Bullmastiff.  These well-muscled babes are a cross between Bulldogs and Mastiffs and when properly mixed, carry the best traits from both.  They are high in energy and make for excellent walking partners.  Plus, they were originally developed in the 19th century in Britain to guard estates and ward off poachers, so they carry a dose of territorialism in their genes.


8. Cane Corso

Also referred to as Cane Corso Italiano, the Cane Corso is first protective, then large and powerful in nature.  They originated first in Italy and today are quite trainable.  At first acquaintance, the Cane Corso may appear slightly aloof and even-tempered.  Without fail, when properly trained, Cane Corsos are affectionate, good with children and other pets, and wary of strangers.  They carry big doses of energy and thrive in rural or suburban homes with lots of space to run about.


9. Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Hailing straight from Russia is the Caucasian Shepherd dog.  Also known as the Caucasian Ovcharka, these pals originated from a Tibetan dog breed and served as livestock and property guard dogs in the 20th century.  The Caucasian Shepherd, deep within, is loyal, smart, and confident.  On the outside, they are large, powerful, and great around the family.


10. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Donning a wavy waterproof coat is the forever loved Chesapeake Bay Retriever.  They are the terrific mix of loyalty and fearlessness, with a touch of good dog manners too. The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is quick to use his head while proceeding cautiously into the unknown.  They don’t hesitate to bark and alert their owners when necessary.  Not to mention, their energy can sometimes be a bit excessive, so always start training at a young age with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.


11. Doberman Pinscher

A sleek body, oozing strength, and quick speed is what can be expected from the Doberman Pinscher.  These giants hail from Germany and were initially bred by a tax collector to guard and provide safety.  They have since been designed to undergo military and police work.  Today, Dobermans are excellent family companions and are devoted to those people considered close.  Doberman Pinschers are quick to learn, making training a joy.  Plus, they are smart, loyal, and good with other pets.  They can act as excellent guard dogs without having to lift a paw, as many times their cropped ears and intense gaze are sufficient to intimidate any unwanted intruders.

12. Fila Brasileiro

A perfect combo of Mastiff, Bloodhound, and Spanish Bulldog, the Fila Brasileiro was first bred to track down escaped slaves in Brazil during the days of Spanish conquistadors.  Skilled at guarding livestock and tracking, the Fila traps its prey instead of attacking it, and waits for its handler to arrive.  These champions carry a massive head, a broad deep muzzle, and a powerful stance.  They are stoic by nature, sure to bond deeply, and distrustful of strangers.  Not to mention, they love doing life in big spaces so you can count trips to the dog park for the win!


13. German Shepherd

Coming straight from Germany is the ever loved German Shepherd warrior.  Serving as police dogs, military canines, and family companions are just a few roles the German Shepherd is known to thrive in.  Over and over again, the German Shepherd has showcased an outstanding temperament matched by a will to protect and a deep loyalty towards his master.  Simply put, German Shepherds are loyal, brave, and smart.  Provided they are matched with an experienced owner, the German Shepherd can be trained to warm up quickly to new family friends.

14. Giant Schnauzer

The name says it all.  Giant Schnauzers are truly that: giant.  Plus, they are a powerful breed donning a luxuriously thick coat.  Giant Schnauzers are a courageous working breed that thrives on having a job to do.  They answer also to Reisenschnauzer and have proven themselves as excellent family companions.  When properly trained, the Giant Schnauzer is brave, smart, and pleasantly even-tempered.  They love big doses of exercise and are fun and playful too.


15. Great Dane

A touch of affection, a dose of sensitivity, and a side of quirkiness sum up the deeply loved Great Dane.  Great Danes make great guard dogs and can automatically intimidate based on their size: they easily tip the scales at over 100 lbs, frequently reaching the 200 lb mark.  These beauties are great with family and love doing life alongside active children.  They are gentle at heart and skilled companions.

16. Moscow Watchdog

Combining the best of both, the Moscow Watchdog is a splendid mix of Caucasian Shepherd and Saint Bernard.  In appearance, the Moscow Watchdog is big-boned, large, and powerful.  Plus, they are smart and deeply loyal to their people.  Moscow Watchdogs were first bred for the Russian army to be just that: watchdogs.  They’ve enjoyed increasing popularity in Eastern Europe.  When properly trained, the Moscow Watchdog sports a good temperament and thrives in big, open spaces.  Not to mention, they are assertive and extremely aware of their surroundings, ready to chase with ease any unwanted intruders.

17. Norwegian Elkhound

Answering also to Norsk Elghund Sort, the Norwegian Elkhound is among the ancient dog breeds.  First bred to hunt large game like bears and wolves, today Norwegian Elkhounds adore their family and are great companions for older children.  High quality, positive training is a must for this breed, and they have no problem proving a bit stubborn and independent when left on their own.  Exuding versatility, they excel at defending, hunting, guarding, and herding.  All in all, the Norwegian Elkhound is a bold and courageous breed, carrying an elegant demeanor while proving sensitive within.


18. Puli

Smart and dashingly handsome sums up the deeply loved Puli.  These babes are quick to learn and thrive on good, positive training.  Don’t be fooled by his smaller size, as the Puli is a hardworking dog bred in Hungary originally to herd and guard livestock and property.  They live life with intelligence and obedience, and they are donned in a long, corded coat that’s hard to forget.


19. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Dignified through and through, it’s no mistake the Rhodesian Ridgeback has answered to titles like Lion dog and African Lion Hound.  This breed hails from South Africa and was bred to be an all-purpose dog.  They hunt, herd, guard, and protect against wildlife.  What’s more, they are even-tempered, devoted to family, and great with children.  Be warned, though: thanks to their high prey drive, these champions are not great with smaller pets.  When talking protection, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a dream dog thanks to his perfect combination of friendliness mixed with bravery and intelligence.


20. Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

These pals love doing life alongside loved ones and have proven themselves as stellar companion dogs.  The Romanian Mioritic Shepherd dog is first kind, then loyal.  These dogs are courageous and calm, preferring to stay close to their pack.  Towards strangers, he is aggressive and quick to let you know when life appears amiss.  

21. Rottweiler

Intimidating at first encounter, the Rottweiler originated in Germany as a guard dog and one who pulled carts.  Today, Rottweilers thrive in military and police work, search and rescue, and as favorite companion buddies.  They demand only moderate energy and are generally calm once their daily exercise quota is met.  What’s more, when properly socialized, Rottweilers can be expected to be courageous and kind to anyone considered a friend.

22. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Weighing in at less than forty pounds, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a force to be reckoned with.  These muscular little pals are powerful, brave, and tenacious all in one.  Even though they’ve been nicknamed the ‘nanny dog’ by some, they are quick to alert their people and respond with courage and agility.  Always begin positive training at a young age with these pals to ensure a well-rounded Staffie.


23. Tibetan Mastiff

The Tibetan Mastiff is known as the supreme guard dog.  Originally developed in Tibet, China, India, and Nepal to guard livestock and property, these massive beasts hail a thick dense coat that can sometimes look like a lion’s mane built up around their neck.  These dogs are territorial and aloof, not caring for strangers.  They are fantastic family dogs and require a steady handler.


 

Guard Dog FAQ

Q. Which is the best guard dog? 

Which guard dog is best for you depends on what you are looking for. Variables include family-friendly, child and pet friendly, size, grooming, and how much daily exercise is needed.

 

Q. What breed are guard dogs? 

There are over 20 different guard dog breeds. Ranging anywhere from medium size to giant, each guard dog breed is alert, smart, and quick to protect when properly trained.

 

Q. Can a guard dog be friendly? 

Yes. Guard dogs who are positively trained have proven themselves as favorite companions, excellent exercise partners, and wonderful family dogs. They can be genuinely friendly when not feeling threatened.

 

In Closing

And there you have it.

23 of the world’s absolute greatest guard dogs.

Whether you live in a tiny city flat or a sprawling ranch with lots of acreage, there’s a guard dog to match every lifestyle.

If you are ready to bring home your very own guard dog, whether you’re from Ohio, Minnesota, or anywhere within the United States, click here to view our current selection of puppies for sale.

 

Now it’s your turn.

Which guard dog breed is your favorite?  Did it make it in the collection above?

Let us know in the comments below.

 

As always, we’re glad you are here.

Thanks for being a part of this dog-loving community!

Until next time,

VIP Puppies

 

References:

Abdelrahman, A. L. (2020).  The 15 best guard dogs to protect your family and home.  Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/pets/g22997516/best-guard-dogs/.

Benal, J. (2015).  Do you need a guard dog?  Retrieved from https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/pets/dog-behavior/do-you-need-a-guard-dog.

Elliott, P. (2019).  How to train a guard dog.  Retrieved from https://www.wikihow.pet/Train-a-Guard-Dog.

Hansen, S. B. (2018).  Everything you need to know before getting a guard dog.  Retrieved from https://dogsbestlife.com/dog-training/getting-a-guard-dog/.

Hansen, S. B. (2018).  Guard dog: even smallest pup can stop burglars.  Retrieved from https://dogsbestlife.com/home-page/guard-dog-even-smallest-pup-can-stop-burglars/.

Pineda, F. (2020).  The 25 best guard dog breeds.  Retrieved from https://www.certapet.com/best-guard-dog-breeds/.

So, You Think You Want a Protection Dog (n.d.).  Nitro K-9.  Retrieved from https://www.nitrocanine.com/blog/2018/01/20/think-want-protection-dog/

 

Profile photo of the author Heather Venkat, DVM, MPH.Dr. Heather Venkat has been a veterinarian since 2013, working in companion animal medicine with dogs and cats, as well as veterinary public health. Her passion is in prevention, One Health, and strengthening the human-animal bond. A bonafide animal-lover, she competes in dog sports and currently shares her home with a border collie mix named Luna, three cats, and two leopard geckos.

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