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Best Guard Dogs for Families

German Shepherd Guard DogFor as long as dogs have been domesticated, humans have used them to guard their livestock and homes. Some breeds do better at understanding one owner, and other breeds understand the entire family and will protect each member as though it were one of its own. We have researched and ranked the ten best guard dogs for families, and have brought you that list below. Make sure, as you look over this list, to continue to research the breed you feel most closely matches your families needs. This list is a great jumping of point for you and we feel each breed below brings a tremendous amount of love and protection to you your family.

Top 10 Guard Dogs For Families

  1. German Shepherd
  2. Rottweiler
  3. Bullmastiff
  4. Doberman Pincher
  5. Great Dane
  6. Boxer
  7. Fila Brasileiros
  8. Bernese Mountain Dog
  9. Great Pyrenees
  10. Saint Bernard

German Shepherd

About the Breed

German ShepherdGerman Shepherds, in our opinion, top the list of best family guard dogs due to their natural instincts to listen, learn, and obey. They are both menacing in their appearance, and loving in their nature, but will respond to a command on any moments notice. They have thick fur, which makes them respond well to colder temperatures, and it adds to their toughness. They are very understanding of their homes, and will be wary of intruders. They have fantastic size and can take down any sized human without much trouble.

History of the German Shepherd

German Shepherds are a relatively new breed of dog, having been bred late in the 19th century in Germany. They were quickly brought to America, and used by both sides during both World Wars. They were able to track enemy scents, and were also used in mine detection. Today, they are the most common police dog. Their excellent responsiveness to commands and fantastic senses of smell make them perfect companions for K9 units on the force.

Tips on Owning

German Shepherds are most effective if properly trained. Their confidence is a natural trait, and they will stand up next to or in front of their owners even with lackadaisical owners. Make sure your Shepherd has a set bed, it is not recommended to let your dog sleep in your bed, as it will understand this as “his” bed, and it will be very difficult to have him move out. German Shepherds are very eager to learn, and will be eager to take command and show its owner how much it has learned. With proper patience and love, raising a German Shepherd is pretty mild compared to most breeds, and they have relatively few health problems. There might not be a better dog breed in the world at protecting your family, and thriving around adults and children alike.

Rottweiler

About the Breed

RottweilerThe Rottweiler, if not properly trained, is too aggressive of a breed to have around small children. However, if properly trained, this is certainly one of the best options for protecting a family and their home. They are described to be one of the smartest dog breeds in the world, and can be trained to be fantastic guard dogs. This is one breed we encourage to have professionally trained. The Rottweiler is great with families if brought up properly, and even small children are safe under the right conditions. Their intelligence can make them very obedient and despite their aggressive snarl, these dogs are very loving and ready-to-please animals.

History

Rottweilers were used by the Roman army in times of war to protect the armies while they slept, and attack when in battle. In more recent years, this breed’s intelligence and aggressive behavior made them great police dogs. They have been used for personal protection in both home settings, as well as protection in travel.

Tips on Owning

The need for intensive and thorough training cannot be overstated. They are intelligent, and their natural instincts make them want to be leaders. If you can raise them sternly, they will submit to you and follow your every command. They have a fantastic health history, and are prone to very few diseases. Their biggest concern is cancer, but that is inherent in most dog breeds. Their feeding should be monitored, and if they are overly exercised, their aggressiveness tends to come out. In home settings, these dogs thrive and are both obedient and loyal and make great family guard dogs.

Bullmastiff

About the Breed

BullmastiffThe Bullmastiff has excellent instincts and thrives in family settings, as they learn quickly who their “pack” is and will do everything they can to protect it. They are very aware of everything going on around them, and their intimidating look makes them a great choice at fending off intruders without putting your children at risk. Whereas some guard dogs will growl and bark, if threatened, the Bullmastiff will show great attacking qualities and can easily take a full-grown man to the ground. To get the most out of this breed, it should be raised early with the family and trained constantly through its growing stages. With that being said, once it is familiar with it’s home and who it’s family is, this breed is gentle and loving, and will do great at being a part of your family.

History

As their name implies, the Bullmastiff is a combination of a bulldog and a mastiff. It was first bred in England and was a fantastic tracker, especially at night. It worked quietly, and made short work of most escapees and criminals. They eventually moved from roaming outdoors to being primarily domesticated, and thrived due to their loyal nature and fondness of their owners.

Tips on Owning

Bullmastiffs, like most dogs on this list, need to be trained early and needs to be raised as a subordinate. Passive owners will lose control of their Bullmastiff, and it will dominate the home with little regard to command and direction. If not raised properly, this breed does not do well with other breeds, as it can see other animals as threats and will growl and bark. Though they are not prone to many health problems, Bullmastiffs often incur hip and joint problems, and sometimes have issues with heart problems. They require frequent exercise, as well as a strong and disciplined owner.

Doberman Pincher

About the Breed

Doberman PincherDoberman Pinchers are extremely loyal and very well tuned to their owners commands if properly trained. Pinchers are a great size, very agile and athletic. The breed is very alert and cautious of people it is not familiar with, but will respect the command of their owner and this makes them great for protecting families. Their growl and bark are equally intimidating, and intruders will certainly think twice before entering your home. They should be raised in the household with children and not brought into a house with small children after they are puppies.

History

The Pincher was first bred in Germany around the turn of the 20th century. They were bred to be guard dogs, and have maintained those instincts today. The Pincher was bred from a wide range of breeds, but are believed to most closely resemble greyhounds and terriers. This mix gives them their great athleticism and loyal attitude. They were brought back from Germany to the United States after World War 2 and have been used in police and military situations up to this day, though in recent years, they have been used less and less in these roles.

Tips on Owning

Doberman Pinchers are shorthaired breeds that require little more than exercise and food to thrive in a home. They can be difficult to train, and need to be dominated at an early age to establish control and command of these dogs throughout their lives. Their lifespan is relatively short, but they do not have many health problems if they have routine vet checks. Their tails and ears also should be clipped for health reasons.

Great Dane

About the Breed

Great DaneAlso known as the German Mastiff, the Great Dane is intimidating in stature, but gentle in nature. They are surprisingly great around children and have an even temperament toward other dog breeds. Their strength is well balanced, as they are not clumsy and generally have a great idea of their size and place around a home. The Great Dane is much more of a “watchdog” than a “guard dog.” The phrase “it’s bark is worse than it’s bite” is very applicable to the Dane, as their bark is quite intimidating, but will do very little to actually deter an intruder if one got into your home. The Dane, despite its size, is actually a very timid breed and shies away from confrontations.

History

The Great Dane is an old-world breed whose history is rooted in hunting and guarding households. Their exact origins are unknown, but many believe the breed began in Germany and England, but some claim the Romans and Egyptians have had similar breeds as far back as 3000 BC. Great Danes were a popular breed in both World War’s as they have a fantastic sense of smell and were used to track enemies in the field.

Tips on Owning

Because of their great size, Great Danes require regular exercise. However, over-exercising can lead to problems for this breed, so the best exercise is really just daily walks. From the onset, Danes need to be obedience trained with positive reinforcement. Danes require constant attention until they are house broken. Keep their wandering to restricted areas and make sure they are taken outside often until they are comfortable with the rules of the house.

Boxer

About the Breed

BoxerBoxers are a high-energy breed of dog that do a surprisingly great job at reading peoples intentions. Boxers are often times smaller than some of the other dogs on this list, but can grow to well over 100 pounds. Boxers look more menacing than they actually are, which is good if you want your guard dog to look intimidating without actually having a violent streak. This breed is very astute and alert, and has an energetic enthusiasm for everything they do. Boxers desire affection both from adults and from children, and will often times go out of their way to command love and attention. But when it comes to protection, boxers are very aware of what’s happening and will use its athleticism to protect its family, making it a great choice for families looking for a reliable watchdog.

History

Boxers are distant cousins to bulldogs, which gives them their intimidating snarls. The boxer is believed to have originated in Germany in the 16th century. It gets its name from the playful way the breed tends to stand on their hind legs and jab at you with its front paws. The lineage of the boxer is littered with strands of numerous European breeds, and no one is exactly sure where it’s true bloodlines lie.

Tips on Owning

Boxers are, from the onset, very energetic, and they require as much in an owner. Are big eaters and also have a long list of health related issues they deal with in their lifetimes, especially purebreds. Some of these issues include cancers, bone problems, bloating and intestinal issues. They are a shorthaired breed that do not require much brushing, but constant exercise do these breeds well. Because of their sensitive bone issues, however, it’s best to keep boxers on soft ground if exercising them for a continued amount of time. They are very versatile, but you should be able to devote plenty of attention early on in a Boxers life if you want it to be well-behaved as an adult.

Fila Brasileiros

About the Breed

Fila BrasileirosThe Fila Brasileiros, also known as the Brazillian Mastiff, is a less common breed of dog, and it should be noted that only experienced dog owners should undertake raising and having one around the house. While extremely loyal, the Fila is extremely protective and have been known to attack intruders if they feel alarmed. A well-trained Fila will be very affectionate and great with kids. In homes where many people come and go, we would steer clear of the Fila Brasileiros, but because they are so comfortable and loyal to what they perceive to be their family, these make great guard dogs. If not for the questionable temperament and difficulty to train, these dogs would be near the top of our list.

History

Like most guard dogs on this list, the Fila Brasileiros was developed to guard livestock. This particular breed has its origins in Brazil, where farmers needed a large, strong breed to protect their homes and livestock. They were also very astute hunters and when they migrated to the United States in the early 19th century, they were used to track down runaway prisoners. They are descendants of bloodhounds, and have always been very territorial and temperamental creatures.

Tips on Owning

We cannot stress enough the importance of being a well versed and dedicated dog owner if considering this breed of dog. If you have small children, you might be best looking elsewhere, although with the proper training, you should have nothing to worry about. For their size, Filas have a long life expectancy and relatively few health concerns. Make sure you do your research and are comfortable with this breed before bringing one into your home.

Bernese Mountain Dog

About the Breed

Bernese Mountain DogBernese Mountain Dogs are another large breed of dog whose roots in guarding and protecting trace back to Roman times. They have in recent years become less associated with guarding, but they are very smart and very wary of people they are unfamiliar with. This aspect makes them great to have around the home, as they will surely alert owners if something suspicious is going on around the home. They are not overly aggressive and expecting them to do much more than bark and growl might be expecting too much. But, because of their large size and fondness of children, Bernese Mountain Dogs are great to have around the house and would make great watchdogs.

History

Like the Great Pyrenees, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a very old breed who was used by the Romans for guarding cattle and property. They later were used in high altitude areas of Europe to pull carts of goods over rocky terrain. Bernese Mountain Dogs are descendants of wolves, and their loyalty and strength transitioned them well to farm life in America guarding livestock. They are tireless workers, but their life expectancies are not long and they do have many medical issues owners have to watch out for, specifically bone spurs and other skeletal problems.

Tips on Owning

Bernese Mountain Dogs have a thick coat full of (usually) long straight hairs. They require frequent brushing and will shed a tremendous amount of hair in their lifetime. These dogs do better in colder climates, as their thick coats make overheating very common in some southern states. They are also larger dogs with short life expectancies and a laundry list of medical issues, but if given the proper amount of care and attention, this breed is playful, obedient, and great for large and small families alike.

Great Pyrenees

About the Breed

Great PyreneesGreat Pyrenees are generally thought of as great guardians for livestock, but in many cases, they can be great guard dogs for families if given the proper training and attention. Their thick fur and large stature allows the Pyrenees to work great outdoors or indoors. The Pyrenees is a gentle breed that is both loyal and protective without being overbearing. They are smart dogs that will understand the dynamic of the home, while being very wary of guests and intruders. If well trained, the Great Pyrenees would be a great addition to any family as both a companion and guard dog.

History

Throughout history, the Great Pyrenees have been associated with livestock herding. Their origins date back over 2,000 years and they have been thought to come from regions in central Asia. Because of their thick undercoat and tough skin, these dogs flourished in high altitude areas, and their roots in herding have developed into a very loyal breed of dog.

Tips on Owning

Great Pyrenees are a difficult breed to train, which is why they are not higher on our list. While Pyrenees are very loving and gentle in nature, they do not do well if not trained with constant attention and love. As puppies, Great Pyrenees often bark and growl constantly. Without proper training, these habits can continue into adulthood. They become very independent as they begin to mature. They will try to become the leader of your household, which can be very frustrating for owners who are passive. But, with the proper amount of enthusiasm for raising a Great Pyrenees, one will see the benefits of a loving and gentle dog breed great with children and other animals. Make sure to brush its hair once or twice a day, as they can develop health problems from this lack of attention.

Saint Bernard

About the Breed

Saint BernardIf you have ever seen the movie Kujo, you know how frightening a St. Bernard can be. Contrary to the movie, however, St. Bernards are generally friendly and great with families. The best thing St. Bernards have going for them is their size, as they can often grow to as much as 180 pounds. St. Bernards will not do well as attack dogs. Their friendly nature will do little once a burglar is in your home, but the size of the dog and the size of the bark will do well to intimidate intruders from breaking in. We will caution about having small children around St. Bernards as they develop because this breed is generally clumsy and will unintentionally knock children down as they grow to understand their size.

History

If your first impression of a St. Bernard isn’t from Kujo, it is probably of a large dog trotting through the Alps with a small barrel of liquor around it’s neck searching for lost skiers. The St. Bernard breed originated in Northern Europe in high altitudes where they were used to track and navigate through the rough terrain. They are known to have been great as valley travelers and would help travelers make mountain passes.

Tips on Owning

St Bernards, for the better part of their development, are tough to train and overly clumsy until they are nearly full-grown. Their massive size also limits their life span, as they usually only live to be about 10 years old. They do not require a lot of exercise, but should be walked a few times a week. They will probably eat more than most dogs. They should also be brushed a few times per week. We really like these dogs due to their mild nature and massive size, and would do well in most homes looking for the intimidating look without the menacing behavior.

What You Should Remember About Getting a Guard Dog

While the breeds listed are dogs that have been bred as guard dogs it is important to remember a few key points when you go looking for the ideal guard dog breed for your family.

Individual Temperament

As with people, every individual dog has their own temperament. Just because a breed like the Doberman pinscher has the reputation for being a good guard dog breed does not mean that every dog of this breed is going to make a great guard dog. There are many factors that determine a dog’s temperament and consequently whether or not they will make a good guard dog.

Genetics

One of the biggest determining factors for an individual dog’s temperament is its genetic line. A dog that comes from genetic lineage that has unstable temperaments present could well develop temperament issues themselves. An example of this type of temperament concern is a dog that has sudden aggression that develops during adulthood. If this type of “snapping” is evident in previous dogs from the same genetic line then it is obviously a genetic trait. One way to try and weed out individual dogs with genetic temperament concerns is to thoroughly research the family line of the sire and dam of a dog before bringing them home. Any good quality breeder will never breed a dog that has evidence of such difficulties in their lineage; however, sometimes temperament concerns can go unreported.

Environment

Another of the biggest determining factors in an individual dog’s temperament is the environment in which the dog is raised. There are a great number of influencing factors that can contribute to how a dog ultimately behaves. Unfortunately there is no set “blueprint” that can link a specific contributing factor to a specific type of temperament. One good example of how environment can influence a dog’s temperament however, is a dog that is used in dog fighting. This dog is wrongly trained to be overly aggressive and as this behavior is rewarded the dog will continue trying to please its master. The problem with this (aside from the fact that dog fighting is a repulsive activity) is that even dogs that are trained to have aggressive temperaments are temperamental and cannot be trusted. A dog that is trained to be overly aggressive can easily turn on its handler, other pets or even children in the home.

Individuality

While people have the tendency to peg one particular breed as being a “good guard dog” because of traits that were initially desired in a breed, it is important to remember that over the years breeds have changed considerably. Dogs that were initially bred to excel at bull baiting are no longer used for such sport and have been genetically modified over the years to better suit our needs as domestic dog owners. Changes along a dog’s lineage as well as individual likes and dislikes of a dog are also contributing factors in how a dog ultimately behaves. For example, while a German shepherd may be noted for being a good guard dog breed, a German shepherd that is afraid of loud noises or who has severe separation anxiety would not make a good guard dog at all. These types of phobias can occur as a result of individual neurosis within a dog or as a result of poor breeding.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions are another concern that should be factored in when looking for a good guard dog. A poorly bred German shepherd that has hip dysplasia is not going to be comfortable with the life of a guard dog. Additionally, a dog that has any significant health concern may not be a good guard dog candidate due to the distraction their condition may cause from guarding or medications required that may dull the dog’s senses.

A Guard Dog is Not a Fighting Dog

It is also important to note that a guard dog is not a fighting dog. The Schutzhund sport trains dogs to be aggressive on command, these dogs are utilized as police and riot dogs; however, this is an entirely different type of dog than the guard dog that most families require. Where Schutzhund dogs are trained to fight or at least defend with aggression, guard dogs are generally utilized as a deterrent rather than an active fighter. Guard dogs are utilized to watch over property or individuals and deter thieves or trespassers simply by their presence or with a bark. Breeds that make good guard dogs are generally larger breed dogs that are intimidating in appearance, have a deep throated bark and that are naturally protective of their property or family. The best guard dog breeds are those that will not attack unless absolutely left no other choice.

What Isn’t a Guard Dog?

A guard dog is not a dog that comes from a breed that is notorious for being sociable, amiable and open to strangers entering the home. Obviously there are exceptions within breeds as mentioned above, but it is not advisable to choose a dog breed that is known for “licking people to death” if you are looking for a dog with protective tendencies. Certainly any dog that loves its master will defend them to the death; however, the very act of looking intimidating is often enough to deter criminals and this is what most guard dog owners want. Deterring criminal’s means that the home never gets broken in to in the first place, where a dog that is forced to defend its master will do so happily, but this means that a potentially violent situation has already occurred.

Not a Simple Solution

Numerous people believe that simply getting a guard dog is a solution to their home security concerns and this is simply not true. A guard dog is not a substitute for appropriate home security precautions. As living things, there is always a possibility that a guard dog can be incapacitated which leaves a thief or other criminal with the opportunity they need to access your home. Think ahead and create a safe home even before you bring your guard dog home.

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About Ryan Rauch

Ryan Rauch graduated from Scripps School of Journalism in 2009 and has been writing for A Secure Life since 2012. Ryan enjoys writing and researching new and evolving home security measures, and has a passion for technology.
  • Kate

    I knew that Rottweilers are typically known for being guard dogs because of their aggressive reputation but had no clue that breeds like German Sheppards were also good guard dogs. We have a small child who is getting to the age where he wanders off around the house or yard and I wanted to get a dog that would not only be a good companion for our son but a dog that can help look after him if he were in danger. I wonder if there are good training resources out there for how to get your existing dog to have more guard like tendencies if it's not on this list? We may adopt from a shelter so our choice of breeds is more limited to muts and mixes. If anyone finds any guard dog training tips let me know! 

  • Boxer Owner

    As an owner of two different boxers over the years, I can say that they make excellent guard dogs. They are the most caring, loving and goofy dogs. However, in situations where a stranger sees them in your yard, or (when I notice it the most often) on walks, their look can be very intimidating, which is half the battle in many cases. Every time my boxer sees a new person, he stops, stands tall and looks very intimidating. If I approach the person in a friendly manner, he will immediately go into boxer mode, jumping around and as friendly as can be. However, there have been a few times where a stranger has come to the door or I'm uncomfortable with a situation and he will immediately go into guard dog mode and put himself in front of me and growl. It is really impressive.