When compiling or looking at lists of the top 10 guard dogs it is very important that it is fully understood what a guard dog is. Many people confuse a guard dog with a watch dog and attack dog or think that they are just all different names for the same thing.
They aren’t, they are all different entities and should be treated as such.
What are the differences?
A watch dog is a dog that will watch for trespassers and alert you to their presence by barking. They will not attack. An attack dog will watch a situation carefully but only attack on command. And finally a guard dog will watch, alert and attack without command.
There are five different types of guard dog and although they all guard they do very different jobs. They are:
- Personal protection – guards an individual or a family. These guard dogs usually accompany their owner everywhere and are always ready to protect them. They can be trained for complex situations such as stampedes, riots and accident scenes.
- Commercial protection – guards’ commercial premises. These dogs are trained to watch over premises. They will chase intruders and pin them down.
- Military protection – guards and tracks. These guard dogs are used to track down criminals, giving chase and pinning if necessary. They are also used to sniff out bombs, mines, weapons and drugs etcetera.
- Property protection – guards’ homes or property. These dogs are used to guard when the owner is absent.
- Livestock protection – guards livestock. These dogs are used to protect livestock from intruders and predators.
Which breed makes the best guard dog?
There are many lists out there that will advise you what the best breed for a guard dog is and what they are most suitable for. Many lists claim they have the best guard dogs for families on them, but this is a little dangerous. Most families do not actually want a dog that will attack, they want one that will alert them to danger. They want a watch dog.
The truth of the matter is most dogs will bark and alert you that there may be a trespasser. Even the Labrador who makes it on to virtually every top ten list of the world’s worst guard dogs (often number one), will bark to alert you of a possible trespasser. The only problem is 99% of the time he / she has it wrong and it’s just someone walking by and minding their own business.
Whichever type of protection dog it is that you actually want it needs to be trained professionally and comprehensively. There is no room for error in protection training, mistakes on yours or your dog’s part could result in dire consequences. You do not want your dog put to sleep because it has attacked through pure aggression as a result of bad training.
There are trainers that specialise in training protection dogs all around the country so you should find one that is near and suitable for you relatively easily. Before contacting a specialised trainer though it is advisable to teach your dog basic obedience and socialise them. If you are an experienced owner you could do this yourself, but if not contact a training school for this area of training too.
As with any other dog trait that can be attributed to specific breeds, such as poodles can be high strung, Labradors are mega friendly etcetera, there are breeds that make better guard dogs than others. It is worth noting here that whilst many breeds of dog have traits classed as specific to them, all dogs are different and have different personalities.
The top ten
From the working dog group the Rottweiler is a broad chested heavily muscled dog weighing in at between 85 and 130 pounds. Strong and true they originate from Germany where they were originally used to drive cattle and pull carts.
Usually calm and confident, they can be aloof with strangers and are never timid or fearful. These traits are probably what makes them such naturally good guard dogs that can be ferocious in their defence of people and property. Despite this they are never too quick to respond to a situation as they have a ‘wait and see’ attitude that allows them to respond in the right manner. This is more often than not a good attribute as it means there is less chance of an unneeded attack or alert.
Rottweilers need firm and fair training that will allow them to believe they have a job to do. Without a job they can become bullies and may walk a fine line between protective and aggressive. They are best suited to an experienced dog owner who will ensure that they are the pack leader.
Rottweilers have in the past been seen as a status dog used by those wishing to instil fear in people by the breed of dog they own. Their reputation can still precede them and as a breed they still tend to make people nervous. This is wholly undeserved.
Often appearing on lists for family guards dogs as well as in general and deservedly so the Rottweiler is good with children and will protect them well.
To learn more about this breed, be sure to check out our article on the Rottweiler.
Belgian Malinois #9
The Belgian Malinois is a herding dog that is often confused with a German shepherd due to its similar looks. Originating from Belgium and weighing between 40 and 80 pounds they are intelligent, active and often sensitive. Thought to be faster than the German shepherd they do make a great guard dog but only for experienced owners.
Belgian Malinois are not suited to homes where they will be left alone for long periods or homes with children. Whilst they are good in general with kids they can become over excited in play and nip at heels. This is something they would do naturally when herding but is not a very desirable trait in a family dog.
Personality wise they are all different, some being friendly and assertive and others reserved and aloof. Which traits they will have will depend on the way they are trained. They all however have intelligence, are quick to learn and excel in guarding and obedience. To see if this breed is right for you, you should definitely read more about the Belgian Malinois.
Do not be fooled by the appearance of this breed of dog, they make excellent if not a little over protective guard dogs. Weighing in at 80 to a 100 pounds the Komondor was originally used as a working dog. They are highly intelligent but can be difficult to train and bore easily. Do not be surprised if your komondor ignores certain commands he / she does not wish to comply with. Picking your battles well is a good piece of advice regarding training with this breed.
Komondors should only really be with experienced owners who can spare the time to accustom their dog to new people and other dogs. They are not fond of either of these things. Once he / she knows you though, he will welcome you into his herd and protect you relentlessly. Although you may find it unnerving do not be surprised if your Komondor sits and stares at you. He / she is just keeping an eye on you – ensuring you are safe.
Remember that not every breed of dog is for everyone; before you take on home, please read about the Komondor.
Doberman Pinscher #7
The Dobermans reputation precedes them. Feared by many as a ferocious breed the mere sight of one for many is enough to scare them into staying away. As with many other breeds though this reputation is undeserved and the Doberman is actually a loving, loyal and trustworthy companion.
They are fabulous with children being gentle, watchful and loving and also make the perfect family guard dog with their abilities to be a formidable guardian. Ranked as the 5th most intelligent dog breed they are quick to learn and do not look for trouble. Be assured they will defend when necessary though.
Being a big and powerful dog they do need a strong owner who can give them lots of exercise and work to do. Dobermans can become bored quite easily. A home with large gardens would be ideal for this breed as he would have lots of territory to patrol.
Chinese Shar Pei #6
To look at this breed it may seem a strange selection to appear in a list of the best guard dogs. Their heritage however points to why they make such good guardians. Bred originally as fighting dogs they gradually became used as guards dogs due to their being loyal companions and ferocious when necessary.
The Chinese Shar Pei is known to be a calm, independent and aloof dog that can over react in the company of strange people and dogs. They are very territorial and when strangers enter your home may display a behaviour known as ‘sharking’. This involves circling and staring to intimidate your guest. It is a natural behaviour to this breed which it used when fighting other dogs. A strong owner that will work patiently with it to overcome this problem is needed.
The Kuvasz is a Hungarian working dog weighing around 70 to 115 pounds. They are sturdy, well- muscled and extremely strong. They can be aloof and very independent and will only ever be polite to guests in your home probably due to the fanatical loyalty they have to their owners.
They are notoriously difficult to train and probably suited to a more experienced owner. Socialisation and training must start whilst they are very young due to their extreme loyalty and urge to protect their family. They are however highly intelligent and naturally gentle with children.
This dog is not suitable to small places such as an apartment or house without a garden. They can become aggressive when they feel confined. Not everyone is aware of this breed, so to know what you’re getting into before you buy or adopt, educate yourself by reading up on the Kuvasz.
Chow Chow #4
The chow chow is from the working dog family and will weigh around 40 – 70 pounds. They are quiet and attentive to their companion but do not like hugs or any kind of fuss. They are pretty much a one man / woman dog so do not expect them to love everyone in the house equally.
They need a strong willed owner as allowed to do what they wish they will become stubborn and unruly. Space is very important to this breed and they see it as a sign of respect when you allow them it.
They will accept children but it is probably best not to have them around young ones as they will not accept any torment or abuse. Hitting a chow chow is a 100% no go! Please note here it is never acceptable to hit any dog.
German Shepherd #3
This breed is familiar to all due to its popularity as a police and military dog. They have been used for a long, long time as a tracking, sniffer and even attack dog.
Like the Doberman and Rottweiler, the German shepherd can instil fear on sight based on his reputation. They are however exceedingly good family dogs being loyal, gentle and loving. It is high time the German Shepherd lost its bad reputation.
They are an extremely high energy breed and will bark and chew when bored. They need an owner who is strong and will give them a job as well as long walks and plenty of attention.
It needs to be noted that whilst they are great with family, they will not welcome guests. They are naturally quite suspicious of strangers in their home even if you have welcomed them in.
Weighing up to 130 pounds this is a big, bold and extremely powerful dog. The mere presence of an Akita is enough to put most people off entering a property or garden. It is definitely one of the breeds that as a stranger we should be wary of approaching when its owner is not around. This however should not be taken as a ‘get out of training’ pass.
The Akita is a formidable dog and without strong leadership will dominate its owner and all around it. They are far from a lap dog and should not be someone’s first dog under any circumstances.
Naturally wary with strangers they are a courageous and often silent guardian. Akitas do not bark unless something is really wrong! They do however make amusing grunts, mumbles and moans to communicate with you and will have an opinion on everything.
Akitas have a strong liking of carrying things around and will be very happy if you give them a carrying job to do. You may find they mouth your arm in play or to lead you somewhere because they want something. This is not them being vicious, they will not use their teeth.
As a family dog they are not an advisable breed. Being aloof they do not like a lot fuss and the mouthing may be a problem with small children. Akitas also do not like people entering their ‘territory’ and may react badly to children popping in and out especially if unsupervised. In fact it is recommended you never leave your Akita alone in the garden.
Giant Schnauzer #1
The main reason this breed makes it to the number spot is that its guardianship is absolutely instinctual. This does not preclude them from training, guard dogs should always receive training. It does however mean that training will more than likely be quicker and easier than other breeds.
Not a happy go lucky dog, giant schnauzers have a very serious temperament. They are however a loyal and devoted dog who will quickly learn who are the welcome guests in your home and befriend them.
He is very watchful and on seeing anything he / she feels is suspicious will let out a low growl alerting you to the potential problem. They can become bored easily and boredom will lead to destructive behavior. With regards to children the giant schnauzer is probably best not homed with those under twelve.
What if you have children in the home?
After reading the above list you will have a far better idea of what a guard dog is, and what kind of breed makes the best. You will also have noticed that only four of the top ten are recommended as particularly family friendly. If you have family and want a guard dog here is a top ten list picked for their temperament with children as a priority over their ability to guard.
- Doberman pinscher
- Bull Mastiff
- Burmese Mountain dog
- Great Dane
- German shepherd
- Airedale Terrier
- St Bernard
As a good guard dog and a family dog these breeds will all still need professional training in protection. Especially considering they are going to be around children! If you cannot or do not want to put in the time to train your dog you should not be considering having a guard dog. Instead consider a dog that will alert you to possible intruders and guard by barking alone such as the Shih Tzu, poodles, terriers, Chihuahua, mini schnauzer or mini pinscher.