Best Guard Dogs for Families: Tips on How to Ensure Your Safety

Dog guardian
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The best guard dogs for families should not only capable of defending the owner’s family, but also have right temperament to deal with family members.  Although what you may be looking for is one that has the strength and the bulk to fight with possible attackers, you also have to take into consideration what the weaker members of your family might need.

For example, you may have a baby or you may have a family member with special needs. It is important to think things thoroughly and try to understand the nature of the dog that you want to choose before taking him into your family.

Dogs come in different breeds and sizes so you may as well study these breeds first before making a decision. There are dogs that may be desirable for children in your family but they may not have that protective instinct within them to really consider them as guard dogs.  On the opposite side, there are also dogs which are fiercely territorial but may not be safe for children to play with. For these reasons, you have to do a thorough research about a dog’s background and breed in order to know whether they are suitable for you.

Guard dogs on duty sign

Another tip in finding a guard dog is to stay away from puppy mills as they treat dogs inhumanely and you cannot be certain about the dog’s purity of breed. If you want to do something good, you can also choose to adopt one from a pet shelter.

Factors affecting the traits of a guard dog

There are a variety of factors that can affect the overall personality of a guard dog so choosing one can also be a bit of a challenge if you don’t know a lot about it. It is not only the dog’s breed that will determine just how fierce and protective he is, the way he was raised and whether he was sufficiently trained to defend your family can also be deciding factors. His health as well as his genetic ancestry can affect his traits and not having sufficient information about them can be costly.

Guard dog

Here are some things you need to take note of if you really want to have an excellent guard dog:

  • Breed – A dog’s breed is one of the major factors that can affect their trait and personality. There are dogs which are genetically predisposed to be very protective of their pack while there are those who are more independent-minded. A dog’s breed will also determine their size and bulk which can be a determining factor in their ability to restrain or deter an attack.
    Usually, giant or large-breeds dogs are more preferable than small to medium-sized dogs. You can also find guard dogs which are very loyal to their owners while there are dogs that can attack them when provoked.
  • Upbringing – When a dog is brought up properly, you can expect them to know and obey the limits set by their owners. Although this is the ideal situation, it is not hard to find pets which are either not trained carefully or not trained at all. Now these situations will definitely pose a problem if you are looking for a dog that will protect your family. Dogs which are subjected to abuse and those that were allowed to grow up without much supervision can become reckless in their attacks or be tough to handle.
  • Genes – A dog’s ancestry will determine the particular characteristics that they carry not only in terms of their personality but also in terms of their physical attributes. A dog that carries a gene that makes a dog susceptible to hip dysplasia, blindness, or deafness can affect the quality of their health and their protective abilities as well.
    A dog suffering from any medical condition that is brought about by genetics will not feel comfortable enough to care about the safety of your family. It is important to inquire about a dog’s ancestors in order to determine if they may be carrying defective genes.
  • Health – It is important for a guard dog to be in their best state of health if you want them to really do their duties effectively. A dog which is not properly fed and given enough exercise will most likely not behave well compared to one which is healthy. Although it may be quite impossible to achieve a “perfectly” healthy pet, it is important to give them the nutrients that their bodies need.
    Studies have shown that dogs lacking in B-Vitamins for example can be more aggressive and impatient when put in a kennel or cage. They also tend to act hastily compared to those with enough vitamins. An improperly-fed dog will also be weaker and may not be able to exercise their acute sense of smell or sight which is needed for a guard dog.
  • Individual personality – Although there are certain personalities which are common among breeds, each dog also has their own specific “tastes” which affects their personality. For example, there is a dog which may love sleeping outdoors while there may be one which likes to sleep on your bed with you. They may also have specific activities that they love to perform such as running around or walking. There are also those who are comfortable being with other dogs or even other animals while there are those who prefer to be alone.

As you can see, it is not only the breed or type of dog that you have which will determine how efficient of a guard dog your chosen pet would be but that there are also other factors that you need to think and know of.

You have to learn the dog’s ancestry, whether they are pure-bred or had been mixed with other breeds that may possess other characteristics; their upbringing or the kind of training and environment that they had been raised in; the state of their health and whether they have medical conditions which may affect their bodily functions; and a dog’s specific likes and dislikes.

Recommended guard dogs

Due to their known traits and characteristics, there are specific types of dogs which are recommended to be guard dogs for families. These have the proper disposition when it comes to defending their own territory and their owner’s family and they also have that certain loyalty and attachment to them.

Dogs guarding

Most of the dogs contained in this list are either classified as “sheepherding dogs” or “guard dogs” by the American Kennel Association which means that they can be good pack members and protectors of property or individuals. These dogs exhibit most of the desirable characteristics for a guard dog which are the following:

  • Territoriality
  • Protectiveness
  • Loyalty
  • Watchfulness
  • Resistance to stress
  • Trainability

It is important to remember that a guard dog is different than a watch dog which merely serves as an alert system for their owners when they sense that someone or something poses a threat to their territory. Watch dogs bark more often and may not attack while a guard dog may simply wait for the attacker to cross their territory or personally provoke them before they attack. A guard dog is not meant to alert their masters but to deter or to restrain an attack and to protect the owner and their family and property.

They are also different from an “attack dog” which is meant to maim, injure, or even kill another person or animal. An attack dog is also carefully regulated by the law as they can also be classified as a deadly weapon.

  • Pyrenean Mountain dog or Great Pyrenees – This dog is ideal for families with smaller children and those who live an active lifestyle. They are suitable for those living in farms or who have large areas where they can roam around as they want a lot of physical training and activity. They are gentle and can tolerate children very well but they also know how to defend them from attackers when needed. You can learn more by reading our article on the Great Pyrenees.
  • Bernese Mountain dog – This dog is definitely strong and bulky that their looks are enough to stop someone from even planning to attack anyone in your household. What is also good about them is that they are very gentle and playful enough for your children to be with. They love being with company and also want physical and mental exercises.
  • Saint Bernard – If you are looking for a dog who will only alert you of intruders yet pose less of a risk of an attack, then this dog is for you. They are not really known for attacking people but they emit a growl that can definitely send chills up on anyone’s spine. What’s more, this dog is a hardy worker and is strong enough to haul an adult even through miles of snow. See if this breed is right for you by checking out the Saint Bernard.
  • Great Dane – This dog is suitable for people living in apartments as they are not typically a very active dog or one that requires a lot of area to roam and explore. They are also not very aggressive but their sheer size alone can scare off intruders. What makes them desirable as family guard dogs is that they are child-friendly and are also very loyal to their owners.
  • South African Boerboel – This dog is suitable for families who prefer a dog that can attack on command and is not easily distracted. This dog is a giant breed which helps provide for their bulk and strength and makes them a good protector against attacks. They rarely bark unless provoked but they also attack afterwards. If raised properly and socialized early on in their lives, they can be tolerant with children and other pets.
  • Rottweiler – Rottweilers are recommendable for families who are looking for strength, speed, loyalty and agility in a guard dog. These dogs are smart but require sufficient training and continuous physical and mental stimulation as they grow, otherwise they can be a really harmful to have around the home. If raised well, they can actually be warm and fuzzy pets to have around and are playful to children.
  • Doberman Pinscher – This breed was originally bred to protect tax collectors and now you can also rely on their family-friendliness as well. They are alert, fast, and notorious for attacking any unwanted intruder but they are also loyal and playful with children if exposed to them early on. They may not have the same bulk as giant breeds, but they are a lot fiercer and can quickly carry out commands. These dogs require training and a steadfast pack leader if you want to make them a family guard dog. Before you bring one home, check out more details on the Doberman Pinscher.
  • German Shepherd – German shepherds are the ideal watch and guard dogs due to their strength, loyalty, trainability, and playfulness when needed. They are very protective of their pack and also have that strong sense of territoriality. These dogs can be patient and playful with children if they were raise having kids around.
  • Boxer – This dog is a top pick if you are looking for a good defense dog. Not only do they possess the size and bulk to fight even with large animals, they are also very quick and agile with their movements and can deliver a serious bite. If properly trained, they can be harmless and playful with children. You can discover more by reading about the Boxer as a breed.

Having a guard dog for your family is not only a privilege but a great responsibility as well.

These dogs require attention, nurturing, training, and proper introduction to your family members if you want to avoid any untoward incidences with them. If raised properly and carefully, you will reap the benefits of a good guard dog which are their loyalty, protection, trust, and obedience for a lifetime.

Dog defending his house

Guard dogs come with a variety of personalities so it is not impossible to find one that will match your family’s needs and temperament. If you are willing to open your home to a dog from a shelter, then that is strongly recommended indeed.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.