10 Best Guard Dogs For Families


Last Updated: September 12, 2023 | 15 min read | 129 Comments

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For 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 their own. We have researched and ranked the 10 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 family’s needs. This list is a great jumping-off point for you, and we feel each breed below brings a tremendous amount of love and protection to you and your family.

Family Dog First

Here at Canine Journal, we believe that guard dogs, like any canine, are family members first. That means you shouldn’t rely on your guard dog as your first line of defense but rather as a deterrent (which they are very effective at). We recommend a home security system as your first line of defense to protect yourself, your pup, and your belongings, even when you’re not at home.

Top 10 Guard Dogs For Families

1. German Shepherd

About The Breed

German 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 commands at any moment’s notice. German Shepherds 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.


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 for protecting your family and thriving around adults and children alike.

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2. Rottweiler

About The Breed

The 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 the best family protection dogs. They are described as 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 due to their strong natural instincts.

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.

3. Bullmastiff

About The Breed

The 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 wonderful choice for fending off intruders without putting your children at risk. Whereas some guard dogs will growl and bark if threatened, the Bullmastiff will show great natural instinct and attacking qualities. They can easily take a full-grown man to the ground. With that being said, once familiar with their home and family, this breed is gentle and loving.


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. They worked quietly and made short work of most escapees and criminals. They eventually moved from roaming outdoors to being primarily domesticated and thriving due to their loyal nature and fondness for their owners.

Tips On Owning

Bullmastiffs, like most dogs on this list, need to be trained early and need to be raised as a subordinate. Passive owners will lose control of their Bullmastiff, and it will dominate the home with little regard for 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.

4. Doberman Pinscher

About The Breed

Doberman Pinschers are extremely loyal and very well-tuned to their owner’s commands if properly trained. Pinschers 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 a household with children and not brought into a house with small children after they are puppies.

Learn About Common Doberman Health Issues


The Pinscher 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 Pinscher was bred from a wide range of breeds but is believed to most closely resemble Greyhounds and Terriers. This mix gives them great athleticism and a 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. In recent years though, they have been used less and less in these roles.

Tips On Owning

Doberman Pinschers 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 may be clipped to “maintain breed standards. This isn’t always medically necessary.

5. Great Dane

About The Breed

Also 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 good idea of their size and place around a home. The Great Dane is much more of a “watchdog” than a “guard dog.” The Dane, despite its size, is actually a very timid breed and shies away from confrontations.

Learn About Common Great Dane Health Concerns


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 Wars as they had a fantastic sense of smell and were used to track enemies in the field.

Tips On Owning

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

6. Boxer

Boxer dog wearing a remote collar remote training collar sitting in the grass

About The Breed

Boxers are a high-energy breed of dog that does a surprisingly great job at reading people’s intentions. Boxers are often smaller than some of the other dogs on this list but can grow to well over 100 pounds. This breed looks more menacing than they are, which is good if you want your guard dog to look intimidating without really having a violent streak. This breed is very astute and alert, with an energetic enthusiasm for everything they do. Boxers desire affection both from adults and from children and will oftentimes 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 their athleticism to protect their family, making this breed a natural guard dog and a top pick 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 its 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 its true bloodlines lie.

Tips On Owning

Boxers are, from the onset, very energetic, and they require as much in an owner. They 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 cancer, bone problems, bloating, and intestinal issues. They are a shorthaired breed that does not require much brushing, but constant exercise does 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.

Learn More About The Boxer

7. Fila Brasileiros

About The Breed

The Fila Brasileiros, also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, is a less common breed of dog. It should be noted that only experienced dog owners should undertake raising and having one around the house. While extremely loyal, the Fila are 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 avoid the Fila Brasileiros, but because they are so comfortable and loyal to what they perceive to be their family, these make suitable guard dogs.


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. 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. These instincts make them natural guard dogs.

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.

8. Bernese Mountain Dog

About The Breed

Bernese 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 wonderful to have around the home. 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. Because of their generous size and fondness for children, Bernese Mountain Dogs are natural guard dogs.

Read About Common Bernese Mountain Dog Health Concerns


Like the Great Pyrenees, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a very old breed that was used by the Romans for guarding cattle and property. They were later 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. Along with that, they 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. If given the proper amount of care and attention, this breed is playful and obedient.

9. Great Pyrenees

About The Breed

Great Pyrenees are generally thought of as great guardians for livestock. In many cases, they can also be excellent guard dogs for families if given the proper training and attention. Their thick fur and large stature allow 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 dynamics of the home while being very wary of guests and intruders.


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. 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 the Great 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. With the proper amount of enthusiasm for raising a Great Pyrenees, one sees the benefits of a loving and gentle dog breed great with children and other animals. Make sure to brush their hair once or twice a day. They can develop health problems from this lack of attention.

10. Saint Bernard

About The Breed

If 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 an attack dog. 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. This breed is generally clumsy and will unintentionally knock children down as they grow to understand their size.


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 skilled 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 eat more than most dogs. St. Bernards should also be brushed a few times per week. We really like these dogs due to their mild nature and massive size. They do well with families looking for an intimidating look without 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 protective 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 a reputation for being a good guard dog breed does not mean that every dog of this breed is going to make excellent guard dogs. There are many factors that determine a dog’s temperament and, consequently, whether 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 a 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. Any superior quality breeder will never breed a dog that has evidence of such difficulties in their lineage.


Another of the biggest determining factors in an individual dog’s temperament is the environment in which the dog is raised. There are a substantial 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 the environment can influence a dog’s temperament is a dog that is used in dog fighting. This dog is wrongly trained to be overly aggressive. 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.


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. 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.

Medical Conditions

Medical conditions are another concern that should be factored in when looking for a good guard dog. 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. Nor are common guard dog breeds always aggressive or suitable for protective work. 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. Schutzhund dogs are trained to fight or at least defend with aggression. Guard dogs are generally utilized as a deterrent rather than active fighters.

Guard dogs are utilized to watch over property or individuals and deter thieves or trespassers simply by their presence or with a bark. The best guard dog breeds are generally larger in physical size, intimidating in appearance, and have a deep-throated bark. They are naturally protective of their property or family. The best guard dog breeds are those that will not attack unless absolutely left with no other choice. All guard dogs will need proper training and care. Professional training can be a valuable tool in developing the best guard dogs, regardless of breed.

Not A Simple Solution

Numerous people believe that simply getting a guard dog is a solution to their home security concerns. This belief is misleading and not true. A guard dog is not a substitute for a reliable home security system and other burglary deterrents. As living things, there is always a possibility that a guard dog can be incapacitated, giving a thief or other criminal the opportunity they need to access your home. Think ahead and create a safe home with a secure yard and dog-proof home, and set up dog gates even before you bring your guard dog home.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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