Choosing a new dog for your home is a monumental decision and one you should never rush into.
If you have more specific needs and you’re searching for a dog capable of protecting you, your family, and your property, you should think carefully about choosing one of the best breeds for this purpose.
Protective dogs will show even more loyalty than a regular furball to the extent of doing absolutely anything to keep you from harm. Breeds known for their protective abilities are often large and almost always fearless. The best dogs for protection are also responsive to training, so you should have no problem molding their behavior to your needs. As an added bonus, these protective breeds are not just highly observant, but remarkably obedient, too.
The default choice for guard dogs comes down to an even split between the following trio:
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
All of these dogs demonstrate the traits you’re looking for in a guard dog – more on those below – so they all work wonderfully for any protective duties you have in mind.
Choosing a dog is intensely personal, though. We understand that these three common breeds renowned for their protective traits might not to everyone’s taste. To that end, we’ve curated a comprehensive list of the 20 best dogs for protection. This will allow you to widen your options and maximize your chances of finding the right fur baby for your family.
Now, you should remember that there’s no guarantee at all that your dog will act protectively unless he’s been specially trained. The breeds we’ve rounded up today all exhibit the traits you’re looking for in a guard dog, but you should always seek professional advice before you rely on your canine for protection of any kind.
- Loyalty: Some dogs bond quickly with strangers and that’s the last thing you want in a dog for protection. You want the dog to be loyal, though, with a strong and fierce allegiance to your family
- Courage: One of the core requirements for a guard dog is bravery. He needs the courage to stand down potentially threatening and bulky intruders
- Intelligence: A dog intended for protective duties needs to be intelligent and obedient. He’ll need to do more than respond to your basic commands, though. Guard dogs and watch dogs also need to be capable of working out when unusual stimuli become threatening
- Loving nature: While it helps if your guard dog is as aggressive as possible toward intruders, you want more than that from a pet. The best dogs capable of protective duties will also interact lovingly with owners and trusted friends. Get the best of both worlds with this type of dog
- Territorial instincts: It helps if dogs for protection have a strong desire to protect the territory of your home. Some breeds, by contrast, welcome strangers into the house
I. Guard Dog Basics
Now, before we push on exploring the different breeds best suited to protective work, we’ll go over some basics.
There are several types of dogs for protection:
- Watch dog: These dogs will keep their eyes peeled for strangers and unusual activity, barking in response to anything out of the ordinary. Watch dog won’t do anything about the potential problem, they’ll just alert you. This behavior is ingrained into most dogs anyway, meaning there is no advanced training needed to transform most breeds into decent watch dogs. A bonus of watch dogs is that size does not matter. Chihuahuas make great watch dogs. They might be small but they’re yappy and that’s what counts
- Guard dog: Like a watch dog, a guard dog will keep a lookout for danger. If necessary, though, a guard dog will intervene physically to deal with any threat. These dogs start by barking at threats and then progress to biting. Guard dogs need specialist training for best results and they need to learn to work in confined spaces like your home
- Sentry dog: If you have a large yard or a property with expansive grounds, you may prefer a sentry dog. These dogs roam and secure larger areas. The best breeds for sentry duty are resilient, self-reliant, and filled with confidence. These are all vital qualities as sentry dogs need to work without close human supervision much of the time
- Personal protection dog: These dogs need specialized training so they can effectively protect moving targets. Most civilians don’t need a dog with protective capacities this refined
- Attack dog: Attack dogs should be confined to police and military applications. An attack dog is the wrong hands is a deadly weapon
II. Are Guard Dogs Safe Around Children?
Before we push on with our breakdown of the best dogs for protection, how about if you have children at home?
For anyone with kids in the house, choosing any dog is a tough decision. If you’re looking at larger breeds like many of the common guard dog breeds, you need to pay even closer scrutiny to the traits and behaviors of any breeds on your shortlist.
All large dogs could easily injure small children, even if it’s only accidentally.
The good news is, most breeds well-suited to guard dog work are also very lovable and will interact with all the family, children included. Some breeds are especially protective of children and will act as an furry guardian.
You can streamline this interaction by teaching your kids not to tease the dog and training your guard dog to play nicely in return.
So, without further ado, we’ll walk you through a comprehensive cross-section of the best dogs for protection so you can see if any of these might make a good fit for your household.
III. 20 Best Dogs for Protection
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Cane Corso
- Doberman Pinscher
- Bull Mastiff
- Belgian Malinois
- Dutch Shepherd
- American Bulldog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Tibetan Mastiff
- Giant Schnauzer
- Staffordshire Terrier
- Appenzeller Sennenhund
1) German Shepherd
German shepherds are one of the go-to breeds for police and military. This breed boasts the core traits of a reliable guard dog: they’re loving and brave as well as highly intelligent.
While shepherds don’t typically weigh over 100 pounds, they maintain an imposing physical presence, readily intimidating almost any intruder before they need to act. Deterring threats is one of this breed’s key strengths.
You’ll find most German shepherds are deeply affectionate, but they’re also acutely sensitive and quite demanding. Be prepared to invest time into interacting with your shepherd, or you might find he develops behavioral issues.
Although these dogs make great guard dogs as well as wonderful pets, they shed profusely, so be prepared to spend a lot of time on grooming and cleaning up after these dogs.
2) Great Dane
Great Danes are comical dogs, huge lumbering beasts with a sensitive streak. Danes also bond strongly with humans, making them ideal for protective duties.
Most Great Danes weigh from 100 to 150 pounds, although some beefier Danes reach 200 pounds. They all make a threatening presence for strangers.
Although these dogs are not especially territorial, they will protect their family and their home.
If you’re a newcomer to dog ownership, a Great Danes doesn’t make the smoothest fit due to a combination of their hulking size and their raw intelligence.
For anyone with a little experience and lots of time, love, and patience, a Great Dane makes a very versatile addition to the home, and these dogs will provide plenty of protection on the basis of their appearance alone.
3) Cane Corso
Cane Corsi are towering dogs weighing well over 100 pounds. With oversized heads, these beasts stand almost 30 inches high and they will intimidate all but the most determined intruder simply on the strength of their appearance.
These dogs make the best fit for more experienced owners with active lifestyles. This breed has very high activity levels and needs an abundance of vigorous exercise.
Cane Corsi don’t make a great choice for apartment dwellers as they need a spacious home and a secure yard.
If you know what you’re doing with dogs and you have the time and the inclination to train a Cane Corso, you’ll find you get a remarkably loyal pet that will also serve as an around-the-clock guardian.
Boxers may seem soft and cuddly – and they are when they’re with their family – but they can also function as highly effective guard dogs. Indeed, these dogs were originally bred for that very purpose.
Most boxers are slightly small for guard dog duties, weighing 75 pounds or less. Despite this medium size, their physiques and extreme energy levels combine into a fairly menacing physical presence.
Boxers are smart and loyal. You should also find that most dogs of this breed are easy to train.
Throw all these ingredients together and boxers make one of the best dogs for protection, even though they aren’t the biggest hounds on our list.
Rottweilers were first bred to accompany soldiers into combat and to herd cattle on farms.
This breed is ideally suited to guard dog duties in all respects. Before anything, they look menacing and threatening from a distance. Most people approaching a Rottweiler proceed with extreme caution, or retreat completely.
These are among the smartest of all dogs and they attach themselves strongly to families more than most dogs.
Buying a rottweiler is not for the light-hearted, and it’s inadvisable for inexperienced pet owners. This dog needs a strong and confident alpha figure capable of controlling them calmly.
You’ll need to invest plenty of time into interacting with your rottie, and you will also need to ensure he gets plenty of exercise. These dogs have very high activity levels and they don’t thrive if they are left to spend too much time alone.
Despite being slightly shorter than many conventional guard dogs, rottweilers are physically commanding and their presence alone should deter most casual intruders.
6) Doberman Pinscher
Dobermans are loving and very sensitive dogs, but they are also brave, imposing, and well-suited to protective work.
These dogs occupy the same size class as rottweilers and shepherds, but they are lighter and fleeter of foot than these breeds.
Dobermans were originally bred to accompany tax collectors on their rounds, and these roots make them ideal for a range of protection applications.
If you’re thinking about bringing a Doberman into your home, you should make sure you have plenty of space for him to roam around, and you should also be prepared to give him all the exercise he needs.
As well as making lovable pets, these dogs will also instinctively protect your home and family from any potential threats.
The Komondor is a very distinctive dog with thick matted hair hanging in cords. Despite these arresting looks, the breed is very strong and brave. A working dog, this breed comes from Hungary where it was bred to protect property and guard livestock.
Komondors love to be part of a family environment, but they’ll come across as shy and reserved around strangers. This, obviously, is a desirable quality in a guard dog. Socialization training is necessary to get the most out of these dogs.
With the proper structured training program, you can hone the innate protective instincts of this breed and transform them into highly efficient dogs for protection.
8) Bull Mastiff
Bull mastiff have provided protection to humans in many ways. They were first bred to help landowners ward off poachers.
Loving and highly affectionate, you have the two core qualities you want in a household pet. That said, you won’t need to constantly fuss after these dogs as they are pretty independent and not too demanding.
When it comes to strangers, though, bull mastiffs won’t show the same friendliness.
Hulking, powerful units weighing north of 100 pounds, these dogs are less than ideal for inexperienced or first-time owners. As well as drooling a great deal, this breed is also notorious for producing a large amount of gas.
9) Belgian Malinois
Many professional dog protection trainers use Belgian Malinois. They are also a common sight in police and military K-9 units in the United States.
Superficially, these dogs resemble German shepherds. They are more energetic and intense than shepherds, though. If you’re using these dogs in a working capacity, those qualities are desirable, but rather less so in a family setting.
You’ll need to be braced to exercise these dogs frequently and vigorously. They love to spend time outdoors.
Most Belgian Malinois weigh less than 80 pounds, so they don’t need huge amounts of space at home.
10) Dutch Shepherd
Dutch shepherds have many shared characteristics with German shepherds and Belgian shepherds, also great guard dogs. They don’t suffer from too many health-related problems, but you may struggle to find one of these rarer breeds.
These dogs are naturally wary of strangers, so they won’t be welcoming any intruders into the house like some goofy pets.
Even though they are slightly smaller than many conventional guard dogs, their energy levels and presence act as some compensation.
Socialization and early training is key with this breed. Take care of this and you’ll enjoy both a loyal and protective pet as well as a first-class guard dog.
11) American Bulldog
American bulldogs are cute, affectionate, and extremely sensitive. At the same time, this breed is fiercely protective of family.
The dog was first bred to help with controlling cattle. This means they have the energy levels as well as the innate bravery to help them flourish as guard dogs.
American bulldogs benefit strongly from structure and from having a job to do, so keep them engaged and be sure to keep them active.
This breed comes in a variety of shapes and styles, all varying in size. They can weigh anywhere from 50 to over 120 pounds.
These dogs are certainly not the smartest cookies, but they respond well to basic training and they are pretty obedient. Be prepared to put in plenty of effort stimulating and training your American bulldog. With the right input, they make wonderful pets and they’ll protect your property and family from harm into the bargain.
This breed is used for guarding and hunting. Hailing from France, the Beauceron weighs up to 100 pounds and looks like a cross between a Doberman and a rottweiler.
Affectionate and loyal in the home, these dogs don’t take so kindly to strangers.
Beaucerons can be very stubborn, though. This means there are better choices for first-time owners. There’s no need to make things unnecessarily tough on yourself when it comes to your first fur baby.
This breed has a seemingly endless supply of energy, so you must be prepared for a great deal of exercise. You should keep a close eye on this breed around smaller pets, too, due to their strong prey drive.
These dogs make great watch dogs with very little training required, but you’ll need to be a patient and capable owner if you want them to perform intensive and demanding protection duties.
Akitas are intensely loyal dogs bred to guard nobility and royalty in feudal Japan.
These dogs are by nature suspicious of strangers. This is just what you’re looking for in a guard dog. You won’t even need to train Akitas to perform this protective duty, it’s baked into their doggie DNA. That said, they often need obedience training and will also benefit from socialization to minimize unnecessary aggression.
14) Rhodesian Ridgeback
These dogs are traditionally used to hunt big game. Evidently, anything capable of tracking lions and elephants is more than up to the job of efficiently guarding the average family home.
Affectionate and loving, this breed is a great pet. You won’t need to give these dogs any guard dog training either, although they would benefit from some basic obedience training.
15) Tibetan Mastiff
Tibetan mastiffs are enormous beasts packed with muscle. In many ways, these dogs are the archetypal guard dogs.
Bred to protect caravans of people as well as herds of animals against the predations of snow leopards and wolves in the Himalayas, they are savages capable of standing down extreme threats.
Over time, these characteristics have softened and the Tibetan mastiff is easy-going around family. The same cannot be said when strangers arrive, though. They won’t go looking to trouble, but they’ll exhibit territorial behavior if threatened.
These dogs are perhaps not the most affectionate, but their loyalty is commendable, and they’ll protect you and your family from any conceivable threat in the home.
A puli is a miniature version of a komondor, also hailing from Hungary. Bred for herding duties, these dogs also work well in a variety of protective applications.
This breed is on heightened alert at all times and you’ll hear them barking loudly whenever anything unusual occurs or appears.
These are very smart dogs and they need plenty of exercise along with continuous attention. They love the great outdoors and would be great for families with active lifestyles looking to take a dog hiking, running, or out on the trail.
17) Giant Schnauzer
This breed is another with a very strong, powerful physical presence. Many of the best dogs for protection achieve that status on the strength of such dominance.
Giant schnauzers are huge and intimidating to strangers, but they are fiercely loyal to and protective of family members.
On the flip side, this breed demands physical and mental input almost around the clock. If you have the time and attention to lavish on giant schnauzers, you won’t regret bringing one into your home.
18) Staffordshire Terrier
Staffordshire terriers are sometimes mixed up for American pit bull terriers, and they look broadly similar.
Staffies are among the best dogs for protection as they were bred for bullfighting and bear baiting. This means they are by nature both fierce and protective.
The natural qualities of this breed mean it’s vital to put your Staffordshire terrier through a proper socialization and training program.
This breed has a partially-deserved reputation for intimidating strangers, but they make superb pets and will only typically show aggression when protecting a member of the family.
The Kuvasz was bred to protect livestock. Over the generations, this breed has found itself heading up households and assuming guard dog and protective duties.
A highly territorial dog, the Kuvasz is reserved around strangers but demands a great deal of affection and attention from family.
Make sure you’re prepared to give this dog plenty of exercise if you bring one into your home in a protective capacity.
20) Appenzeller Sennenhund
Appenzeller Sennenhunds might be smaller than most conventional guard dogs, but they rate a mention before we wrap up for the day.
The energy levels and agility of this breed – they were farm dogs over the years – along with their obedience and intelligence means they are well-suited to a variety of protective duties.
IV. Which Breeds Make Good Watch Dogs?
Perhaps you’ve explored these suggestions and your realize that you don’t really need a guard dog after all.
You may feel that a watch dog would be more beneficial. If so, the following all make great examples:
- Shih Tzu
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Miniature pinscher
V. Which Breeds Make Poor Guard Dogs?
Most calm dogs with low energy levels are not the right fit for protective duties. These dogs will either welcome strangers into your home or ignore them completely. Golden retrievers, labrador retrievers and Irish setters are all breeds that will make any intruder feel welcome rather than threatened.
Well, if you arrived here at BarkVA today uncertain about which dogs make the best guard dogs and watch dogs, that should have changed now.
We’ve tried to give you more choice than the handful of obvious basics so you can see which of these breeds would perform the best combination role of guard dog and loving pet. Getting that balance right is the key to a long and happy term as a pet parent.
Throughout, we’ve drawn your attention to any breeds that are less suitable for new dog owners. Some breeds require more effort, patience, and training.
Ultimately, the most important decision you’ll make is whether you really need a guard dog in the first place. Many people do, and there’s sure to be something to suit on our shortlist. Don’t rush in thinking this will be great idea only to end up regretting it, though. Dog shelters are already overflowing with pets purchased rashly or on a whim.
Bookmark our blog before you head off today and be sure to pop back soon. We bring you fresh content daily to help you be the best pet parent possible.