Best Guard Dogs for Families

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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

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  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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Learn more about the Boxer

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.


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.


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.


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 Cujo, 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.


If your first impression of a St. Bernard isn’t from Cujo, 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.


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.


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.


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.

Why do you want a guard dog in your family’s home?

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

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79 Comments on "Best Guard Dogs for Families"

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hello there, i am rescuing a basset hound/ Belgium malinois mix, do you think with some training she would do ok?
Romans did not use Rottweilers as it was developed much much later in Germany. Big mistake.
As much as I enjoyed the article, I am literally flabbergasted that the Fila is on the list. Is this to make sure the reader was paying attention? That dog is one of the most aggressive of all breeds period, let alone of the mastiff line and requires truly the most experienced of experienced handlers. Hmm…. Might as well suggest people get a Gull Dong.
Hi. Are the German Sheppard good with yorkies and cats?
Kimberly Alt
Each animal has its own personality, just like people. I suggest introducing the animals slowly and seeing how they all interact with one another.
It depends on his/her prey drive. If the dog has a high prey drive, I would probably not trust it 100% unless they grow up together. Even if the intention is to chase and play, it is like allowing my 12 year old to play with a college football player. It is all in good fun, until he accidentally gets hurt. However, I had a GSD that was VERY good with my kittens, cats, and babies… not so good with my bunnies. So it really depends on the dog. Just know, if you have a prey driven dog, regardless of the breed, things can happen without training and supervision.
Dog Expert
These are very dog. is these only for family please?
I am a mother of a 10 month old son and my husband is disabled. I am looking to find a guard dog that isn’t afraid to be outside, our house has already been robbed once, when my husband went out of state before I met him. And we now have questionable neighbors that moved onto the next lot from us. We live in the mountains at 7,000ft. in the southwest, temps get cold in winter and hot in summer, but not overly so. Like 20’s to 30’s in winter and 90’s in summer. I need a dog that can adapt, one that will protect my family but also be a family pet. I’ve been leaning towards a German Shepherd, but not too sure? Any advice? Please let me know!
Andy P
Yes, Shepard is great choice, but for the best opinion ask the police dept and local veterinarian. Fence in the yard and take the dog in at night. Put ” beware of dogs signs up in a window facing front and back fence.. 2 dogs would be best incase you are away from home and they can keep each other company. A shepard and another dog of any type will do or even a mixed breed.
Andy P
This is from a comment below “Don’t discount shelters as a place to find great dogs and much more than just mutts. I recently adopted a 6 month old imported German Shepard with papers from a shelter who’s owner met an untimely demise. This dog would normally cost over 4k but I got her for a small adoption fee. I have also adopted two mutts from shelters. One of which weighs 96 lbs and would be a formidable match for any dog on this list.on”
Many large breeds can be trained as guard dogs, I personally own a Rottweiler and he has been a great guard dog. He started his training at the age of 1 year. So he got a pretty early start, Rottweilers were bred to work, to guard cattle For German farmers to be exact. Since guarding is in their DNA they are easier to train. Dobermans and GSD’s also make good choices. The comment about Pitbulls being bred to fight is not correct. They were actually Bred to help farmers hunt. They are a game dog, which is why they have a high drive to them. They do not make the best Guard dogs because they were never meant to be. They are a terrier and terriers are meant for game. That’s not to say you couldn’t train one to become a guard dog, it will just take longer in most cases.
Amazing. A dog article written by somebody that actually knows about dogs. No doubt the GSD tops this list. A no nonsense dog. Gentle and loving to family. Polite to family friends. Aloof but courteous to strangers but a big problem to tresspassers and strange large dogs. I disagree about great Danes though. All bark and size but not really determined. Their size alone is their real deterrent but they lack any real intent. I saw a large golden retriever give one more than it could handle once.
Could you guys please advice me a breed which is both a good companion and guard dog and is of medium sized
Andy P
Boxer and maybe femail dobie ordobie /shepard mix. Airdales can be very protective to and great with kids, Ask the local vet!
Akita…but do your homework on the breed, since they need a gentle, loving, but firm experienced hand when it comes to training. The MOST loyal dog I’ve ever owned. Beautiful, wants to please, smart, protective, loving, stubborn & only sheds 1x per year for 365 days. LOL
Why is Cane Corso not on this list. Best pet/guard dog that I have ever owned!
rebecca harvell
I know they aren’t considered a guard dog but I had a big male rough collie who was the most fearless dog I have ever seen. He was very smart and very protective. He wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone.
Carina Lood
For over 30 years, we have been training high performance working dogs, including personal protection dogs for families who rely on these animals for their personal safety. There is a vast difference between having a dog with a deterrent value, and a dog that is actually capable of doing protection work on command. An effective personal protection dog acts alone, and needs to have the courage and the skills to actually disarm an assailant. At In Canis Speramus, we have chosen the Belgian Malinois for this purpose because of the breed’s speed, intelligence, power, and willingness to work. A trained protection dog carries out a command – it has absolutely nothing to do about being aggressive. In fact, our dogs are trained to be excellent family companions and protection dogs.
After living with a couple of german shepherds, at separate times I can honestly say that the breed definitely do make very very good guard dogs. German shepherds are so very alert to everything that’s going on around them. When I say alert I mean very very alert to the slightest of sounds or smells. Even when playing her favorite game of ball with me my dog is still switched on and will instantly stop the game to go and investigate something strange. They can hear and sense things that you can’t. The GREAT thing about German shepherds is that they’re not always the big growly teeth showing hard guardians that you would imagine. The breed can and will be hard and soft guardians. When I say soft guardians I mean doing things like trying to bring back my 2-year-old son when he’s wandering away from us. Quietly standing between me and somebody that I’ve just met. Checking where all the family are in the house. Following me to the toilet and popping her head around the bathroom door just to see where i’ve gone, even if she’s fast asleep when I left the room. German shepherds are great at being Soft guardians and loving family pets. When needed they can and will also be hard guardians. German shepherds will go from zero to all out terrifying in a fraction of a second when needed. This is a dog breed that will surprise you at just how fast they can confidently turn on the nasty. The type of dog that will run and bounce off the garden gate, all guns blazing then 3 seconds later come into the house roll over to have their tummies rubbed.
This list amuses me. The person who created this list didn’t do their due dilligence. The Great Dane is not a dog you want to piss off. This breed was far more agressive than it is today. Most of that agression has been bred out but it’s instinct to protect it’s core family is very strong. You do not want to get a 200 lb dog angry. I have seen a Great Dane trained for guarding duty. It’s a completely different dog.

Now, I will add my two favorites:

1. German Shepherd
2. Doberman Pinscher

I placed them in this order for a reason but with one caveat. If you want a good GSD then find a breeder that breeds straight back German Shepherds that also tests for DM, Hips, and several other problems. Also, a lot of these breeders may have older dogs that are aging out of their breeding program and being retired but have many, many good years left to give. DM is a big problem with German Shepherds.

And with Dobermans, you have several. VWD, Wobblers, Cardio. So you want to find a breeder that screens for all of these.

Please understand, I’m very much in favor of adopting from a local rescue. But, after watching my dog suffer with DM I will never adopt another GSD. Our Western society has completely altered this breed and with this came several degenerative problems.

As for the crop/dock argument. This is a sensitive subject indeed. I’m not in favor of docking or cropping but I have seen a Doberman with it’s long tail and it can get broke/damaged very easily. The docking, if performed at the proper time, occurs on day three of birth. The nerve endings that would travel from the tail to the back, haven’t formed at this time. It is older dogs who are cropped that have problems.

And ears are another issue. I hate the idea of hacking off a dogs ears but I’m the first to admit, Dobermans do look better with cropped ears. If I ever get another Dobie it will probably be a young adult from a breeder in Serbia that has scanned for VWD, Wobblers, Hips, Cardio, and any other problems. A young adult that is six months to a year is a good age, and at this point I am rehoming a dog.

Back to German Shepherds for a minute. They are born with floppy ears just like a wolf but they will naturally stand erect when the dogs mature. So if the crop/dock issue is of concern, go with a Shepherd, but please find a breeder unless you want to go through the pain of DM. Or hip dysplacia.

German shepherd owner
I’m looking for a hypoallergenic dog that isn’t for show but I can’t seem to find any… do you know of any hypoallergenic guard dogs? We had to get rid of our German Shepherd because of the allergies.
Kimberly Alt
That’s a great question! I asked some of the members on Canine Journal and here’s a list of the dogs we came up with:
Airedale Terrier
Wheaton Terrier
Bouvier des Flandres

Hope this helps!

Stinger Bee
Funny as this will sound the best guard dog I ever had was a Shetland Sheepdog. Actually, she was the best every kind of dog I ever had. But, seriously, if anybody tried to enter the property without my permission she would be on them instantly. In fact, she was very well trained with both voice and gesture commands. But the one thing we always struggled with was getting her to calm down if she sensed danger. She knew no fear and would kill or die to protect a family member. You probably know a Sheltie as a sweetheart dog. They are. But that sweet heart gets super attached to its family.

The worst thing that can happen to a Sheltie is for them to disappoint their family or ‘master.’ They are super intelligent and they get body language. If you want to ruin the dog’s whole day, just give it a stern look and tell her she was a bad girl.

I don’t think I could own another dog breed after a Sheltie. They are as close to perfect as you can get in a dog. And you will know their personality very easily even as a young puppy. Not all are alpha protectors. Some are just shy little babies that will hide between your legs. But you’ll know very easily by playing with the puppy for a few minutes.

They are mid sized dogs. They are known for being friendly and nice. They can trick you and cause mischief. But if someone tries to hurt you or your wife or kid…the dog would literally rather die than see that happen.

My wife and I used to play around the house and if we got too rough the dog would come nip me in the back of the leg and get me to chase her… away from my wife. Think how smart that is. Amazing dogs. I miss mine so much…

Silly Jillie
I recently read an article about another dog breed, one that I’m not overly familiar with called Presa Canario. According to the writer, simply the look of this breed, not to mention their strong ability, is enough to stop most intruders. He also mentioned that they are a loyal and loving family guardian. I’m not sure about this because I read elsewhere that they can be placed into an equal stance as the Rottweiler (a very misunderstood breed, equally capable of being gentle if they are raised in a warm, non-violent environment). So I suppose, to be a good guard dog, one would probably have to breed from a puppy and raised around small children to avoid future attacks. Perhaps researching into this would bring another interesting breed to your strong list here.
Kimberly Alt
Very interesting! Thank you for mentioning this to us. We will look into adding this breed to our list in the future!
Silly Jillie
You’re welcome. I found out that they have another name, The Canary Mastiff.
I think we could argue on end over “the best guard breed” without conclusion. Granted, it depends on the end goal, whether one wishes to be warned, deterred, or having a take down. I’m sure many giggled at the thought of chihuahuas as guard dogs, but any dog, given it’s own mindset and feeling a part of “the pack” will do what it can to defend it. We used to have to warn people not to approach our corgi until he had exited the vehicle – once he was out, he was everyone’s buddy. But if you reached into the vehicle while he was in it, you would be bitten. My father’s yorkie is annoying as all get out, but fiercely protective of him, more so as his health began to decline, not allowing any of us to get near him until he gave the ok. We are considering braun for our next companion, and the points given regarding temperment, ease of training, and ability to adapt to the grans is something to consider. At one time we had a dobie that put the fear of God in people, given her size. It was quite amusing, as of all our breeds, she was the biggest chicken.
Great Danes will “do very little do deter an intruder once he gets into the home” what a load of drivel! Have you ever tried it? Have you ever met anyone who tried it!? Because I would love to see them try that with mine!
This is one of the poorest gaurd dog lists i have read keeping good with family/kids in mind or not. GSD, dobe, rotti, correct. Where are mals, giant schauzers, bouvier, dogos, dutchies….? Even poodles and airedals (in fact almost every terrier breed) make far better protections dogs than most on this list. Because a dog was bred to protect hundreds of years ago (and some this list to gaurd in the middle of no where with no one around anyway) does not mean they have any of that in them now. Also schutzhund is a total joke as far as training a gaurd dog or protection dog. It is game of tug except the tug toy is attacted to your arm. very rarely would a schutzhund dog know what to do other than bark if someone is aggressive and not wearing a bite sleeve.
In my opinion boxer should be number 1. I’m a little bias because I was raised with boxers but in my experience all my boxers have been extremely affectionate and perfect with children of all ages but when they feel their family is threatened they become fierce protectors. What I love most about them is they really don’t need to be trained as guard dogs it just seems to come naturally to them. This makes them great guard dogs for those who don’t have a lot of experience training dogs. They may not be the biggest or toughest dog but I know they will love and protect their family to the last breath.
Just my personal experience, I have owned a boxer and used him as a guard dog during my college years while I worked as a security guard and groundskeeper. As mentioned, this dog has a grant stance and build for deterring any potential attacks and is one of the most all around athletic dogs I have owned. Granted, my boxer weighed in at about 120 lbs., which is rare and at the largest end of the spectrum, but the personality lends perfectly to protection as well. Around children, this dog is extremely gentle, patient and loving and with strangers very stand offish and calm, never inappropriately aggressive. I never had to train my dog to guard and he was already middle aged when I began working security but he naturally fell right in. Flat out, the smartest and most die-hard loyal dog I have ever owned, if another family member would walk him, he would not let me out of his sight and would wait for me if we got split up. Just wanted to add my two for all curious about this breed, you can read what you want but from personal experience in this matter I agree one hundred percent.
Tammy Gipson
I’m a little surprised Akitas aren’t on the list. We had one who was amazingly protective.
Friend had one – only dog I have ever been scared of.
Wow! You’ve got the Great Danes guarding abilities all wrong. I’ve owned Danes for decades and can tell you they would guard their home and family to their last breath. There is no chance they would allow a stranger into the home or garden. He would have to be very brave (or very stupid) to try and get past a Dane in full guard mode.
sashmit sharma
It’s surprising that lots of people don’t know about the Tibetan Mastiff. Otherwise I think it would have been placed in number 1.
I think it wasn’t included because it is a list of best guard dogs for Families. Tibetan Mastiffs are more much more inherently aggressive and harder to train than most on this list. IMO a bullmastiff is the ideal guard dog for families. Extremely calm and patient with its family including children but very cautious of strangers. Hardest part of training a bully with the family is if if you have children after the bully is making him understand the children aren’t “small ugly hairless puppies” as they’ll want to treat them as such lol.
I have bred pedigree Labrador Retrievers for 30 years. I have found them to be excellent guard dogs despite their friendly, clownish reputation. They are very intelligent and intuitive, strong and solid in conformation and generally protective of their home and family. They also have a deep and impressive bark. The look of a Black Labrador in particular can be a significant deterrent to unwanted strangers.
My labrador retriever only ever barked at me, in happiness.

To strangers, it accorded a most courteous reception and would fall at their feet, eager to play or be petted. No discrimination whatsoever.

Mike K.
Very good list. I can agree with the entire list. The only change I would have made is I would leave the boxer off and replace it with the Boerboel (South African Mastiff). I understand though you want to touch a lot of readers with better known dogs so the boxer definitely has a place here. Lastly, you are 100% correct about the Filas, they are extremely healthy dogs for large breed dogs. The poster who said otherwise would have better spent their time talking to reputable breeders who see the breed and live with the breed every day of their life. Instead of a vet who at very best might see only 1 or 2 Fila Brasileiros (if any) in their entire careers. I live in a large city and my vet office is HUGE (has 6 vets). They have been open for 17 years and my Fila was the first that any of them had ever seen. They are an incredibly rare dog in the U.S. For accurate info, you really need to talk to a reputable breeder.
Would have to agree with you on the Boerbull. They can be extremely huge and seriously aggressive towards intruders; but very gentle to kids. My neighbor had one and it definitely ranks up there with the best. I’m personally still a german shepard fan as I find them easy to handle.
Texas Marty
I named my Glock 9mm “Fido”. Great protection!!
Lmao! I got a 357 magnum called “justice” she never let’s me down.
Yes! But will it wake you up to tell you there’s an intruder downstairs!??
Dogs or guns? Why not both? 😉

Thinking of a rottie – need to find one that does not kill cats, or kill my annoying terrier mix though.

Kyla Kelly
Another suitable type missed off the list is the Cane Corso, an Italian Mastiff type. Have a 2 year old female, she is increadibly loving and protective of those she considers family. But at 70 lbs with bulky muscle mass is intimidating to those that don’t know her.
Sadie Cornelius
Kyla, thanks for the addition, glad to hear your dog is a great guard dog for your family. We appreciate you sharing your personal recommendation with us and our readers!
Scott B / Ohio
I have 2 Chihuahua’s currently and have had Rottweilers, Shepherds and Beagles in the past. I can honestly say that my Chihuahuas are extremely loyal and good “watch dogs” because they definitely let me know if someone is around. Additionally, if they are on my lap, they will growl at people if they come near me. Plus, I love them dearly.
Texas Marty
I have three Chihuahuas that you can have…. CHEAP!! Obnoxious, yappy dogs who never fail to wake me at night with shrill barks at the slightest provocation. Just tell me where to send them and they are all yours.
Colonel Blimp
Be careful not to step on them.
Jessica W.
There are many different lists of the Top 10 (or however many) guard dog breeds. One important thing to remember is the difference between actual guard dogs and watchdogs. For instance, a St. Bernard (one of my favorite breeds, BTW) would make a good watchdog but not a good guard dog. A guard dog would be one that will actually do something about an intruder, like attack them if needed. A watchdog would be good for barking and intimidation with size but is too friendly to trust with actually protecting you. My husband and I actually decided we needed a 2nd dog so that we could actually have a guard dog for our girls. We have a Weimaraner, and he makes a great watchdog. He barks at and alerts us to everything, which is what a watchdog does. However, he gets scared easily and will hide behind you when he does. His bark is intimidating but he is literally all bark and no bite. So we recently had to get a guard dog and we chose to get a Cane Corso. Talk about a guard dog, WOW. He is only a few months old at this point and is already proving his breed proud. He walks the perimeter with my husband, alert and ready to go and he jumped up from a dead sleep once to protect our 3 year old from her father (he sneaked up on her and scared her). Best of all is he is AMAZING with our girls who are only 3 and 1, they can do anything to him and he doesn’t care.

I think it would be worth re-evaluating the list to remove watchdogs like the St. Bernard and Great Dane so you can add real guard dogs like the Cane Corso.

King Richard I
Well I must say that I’ve been studying some dog breeds and what I have found out is a bit different from what this list States.

In my research I’ve discovered the following:
a) Rottweilers are stubborn and not very easy to train, requiring tons of patience.

b) Dobermans are easier to train than Rottweilers and have more adaptability to the house or apartment where they live. Some websites say Dobermans require lots of exercise but some others say Dobermans can live well in apartments. A bit of a contradiction there.

c) Bullmastiff is the one which requires less exercise of the bunch and drool a lot. In theory this breed shouldn’t be easy to train because the Bullmastiff is a cross between the 2 most stubborn breeds ever, the Bulldog and the Mastiff.

d) Dogo Argentino is very good with families but as it’s a hunting dog, it’s very likely it’ll escape to hunt on his own in case his owner has no time to provide him with lots of long hours of exercise. Aggressive with other animals due to hunting instinct.

e) Dogo Canario is stubborn and dominant therefore hard to train. Although it’s been elected the best dog guard in the world. Good with families but do not expect it to do what a Doberman or a German Shepherd do with a leg tied up at their back. It’s a powerful breed and can be extremely aggressive with other dogs because it was created to fight. Like Pitbulls.

Well that’s what I know.

It looks like I’ll have to stop with the online research and move to books written by breeders, trainers and handlers.

Good luck everyone.

Sadie Cornelius
King, thanks for sharing your feedback! We always appreciate the suggestions from our readers and first-hand experiences and opinions. Hope this helps anyone looking for a guard dog for their family!
What kind of health reasons would require a dog’s ears and tail to be cut off? In much of the world, it’s illegal to do either. If an owner decides he wants the tail docked or the ears cropped, it would be for cosmetic purposes only!
I live in hot and humid central Florida. Dogs with floppy ears frequently get ear infections here. Having a dog’s ears cropped allow them to air out and helps prevent ear infections. I have friends with dogs that suffer chronic yeast or bacterial infections and the vets have stated that it is because of the retained moisture because of those cute, floppy ears. That said, I currently have a dog with naturally floppy ears and he hasn’t had any infections yet. I do keep his ears cleansed with a vet solution.
Kim B
Cindy, there are not any health reasons why a dog should have its ears cropped or his tail cut off.
Julie Deschenes
Some working dogs, specifically, livestock guardian dogs may have to fight predators. The lack of ears, keeps a predator from grabbing it and easily injure the dog. In eastern Europe and Asia, ears are cropped to remove an advantage from the predator. A livestock guardian can not take weeks off to fight a nasty wound.
There is absolutely no reason at all to dock (cut off a dog’s tail or ears) if they are going to be staying at home or in the yard. It is abuse to that animal! It is extremely painful to them and in the future there are many documented reports by veterinarians that the pain remains. Also, dogs use their tails as a form of balance during running and jumping. Just as their ancestors, the wolf, still do. If you are interested in looking up reasons not to do the barbaric act of “Docking”. Please read articles from the well renowned Canadian veterinarian named Peter Dobias, dvm. He has articles written about this subject as well as many others.

I hope this enlightens many people out there and helps put a stop to this unnecessary mutilation of our dear wonderful animal friends!

Stephen King
I know this is going to come off as rude, but pleeeease… A popular horror novel, written by perhaps the most popular horror writer, with a popular movie, about a dog, on a site pertaining about dogs…
It’s CUJO.
Michelle Schenker
Ha ha! Thanks “Stephen” for this correction. I am so glad our readers keep us honest and you are so right – Cujo is the correct spelling and it has been corrected on our site. Thank you again and have a great day!
You corrected only one instance of the misspelling.
Kimberly Alt
Thank you! We have corrected this now! 🙂
Jose Arguijo
Por favor Willie…
In reference to Filas life expectancy, and health issues, I would respectfully disagree. Very few Filas make it into double digits. I had a discussion with 3 vets about this very issue. They all said once a Fila is in the 9-10 year range, they are considered geriatric, and a lot, NOT ALL come with a host of serious issues. Examples include bloat, joint issues, Patella Luxation in some blood lines, hip and elbow issues. With that said I love the breed.
David Gutierrez
My Fila just passed away a week ago from bone cancer or sarcoma. She was the best dog. Loyal and protective, and my wife doesn’t wants another for the short expectancy of life. She lasted only 8 years.
So sorry to hear that. They definitely become one of the family and losing one is very traumatic. At least she is out of pain now. All the best from me and my Great Dane.
My name is Peter, we had a SHARPEI MIX WITH A PITBULL , for 15 years best dog ever. He passed on 12/4/16 he was good with cats and dogs most everyone new him in my complex but he would not take treats from anyone of our neighbors. As friendly as he was he would not let you in our garage, he was the best friend we had he would sleep between our kids rooms he died of cancer, sorry I just had to tell somebody not in the family.
Kimberly Alt
Do not apologize Peter. We are so sorry for your loss and we love hearing about the bond our readers share with their dogs. It sounds like your dog was absolutely wonderful. You are in our thoughts. Thank you for sharing your story with us.
Julie Deschenes
My old Fila made it to 11 years and 11 months. He had survived bloat, but his heart got him in the end. He was fine with strangers outside of his territory. We got a puppy of the same breed last January. Once you live with one, you’ll always want one in the home. We live away from all family, never entertain, so the breed is a perfect fit for us. They’ll even love and protect the cats.
Peter Lood
Your article fails to mention the Belgian Malinois – one of the best working dogs and a breed that is highly suitable as a personal protection dog.
Michelle Schenker
Thank you Peter for bringing this breed to our attention. As we update content in the future, we will look into adding the Belgian Malinois. Thank you for your interest and support!
DOGO ARGENTINO FTW.. best guard dog for families hands down.

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! 

Don’t discount shelters as a place to find great dogs and much more than just mutts. I recently adopted a 6 month old imported German Shepard with papers from a shelter who’s owner met an untimely demise. This dog would normally cost over 4k but I got her for a small adoption fee. I have also adopted two mutts from shelters. One of which weighs 96 lbs and would be a formidable match for any dog on this list.
That is wonderful.

The best scenario indeed, where a dog is able to fulfill both its breed’s proclivities and its owner’s needs, same time.

Definitely go for a german shepard.
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.

Thank you, that was simple and helpful.
Thanks. That helped a lot.

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