Protecting your home and your family is always a good idea, especially if this protection comes in the form of a fluffy, adorable pet. Guard dogs are loyal, fearless, highly intuitive, and are the perfect way to deter intruders and protect your family. The best guard dogs are usually very responsive to training and love to put their fearless protective instincts to good use.
While guard dogs aren’t afraid of barking, defending their humans and property, and even biting if need be, they can make wonderful, loving family members that help to keep you safe. So, what are the top 10 guard dogs and what do you need to know about each breed?
As well as being one of the most iconic protective dog breeds out there, the German Shepherd is also a great pet and one of the most common choices for American families. Their famously fierce bark, big pointy ears, and well-known military association mean intruders will take one look at a German Shepherd and think twice before targeting your home.
They’re highly intelligent dogs that need a lot of training and exercise (around 2 hours a day) but if they get that they’ll be extremely loyal and loving family members. Although most German Shepherds are friendly (despite what we’re taught to believe), guarding and protecting are in their blood, so they need a lot of obedience training so these traits don’t turn into aggression.
Dobermans are one of the most misunderstood dog breeds, probably because in films they’re always portrayed as the vicious pets of the bad guy. Whilst they can be aggressive when they need to be, they also make really loveable, quite often silly, family pets. Protecting is in their nature and they’re acutely aware of any sense of danger around them or their owners. Guarding is instinctual to them, so they’re pretty easy to train and are especially eager to fulfill their role. When they’re not on guard duty they love to play with their humans and mess around. They’re one of the best guard dogs as well as being an amazing pet.
Translated from Latin, this name means ‘bodyguard dog’ and they were the much-loved war dogs used by the Romans. You only have to look at their strong, enormous bodies and short, sleek fur to know that they were bred to be imposing. Also known as the Italian Mastiff, these large dogs are excellent guard dogs but can also be affectionate pets. Guarding is instinctual to a Cane Corso but they will require training to hone their skills as they can sometimes be aggressive towards strangers. They’re one of the best guard dogs but not a breed for a novice owner as a Cane Corso needs strict obedience training to stop them from getting overly confident.
One of the most elegant and beautifully colored dogs, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is easily recognizable because of the ridge of fur that grows in the opposite direction running down its spine. They were originally bred to hunt large game and lions so intruders are pretty easy prey for a Rhodesian Ridgeback. They are generally affectionate with their owners and friendly with others but they can be stubborn and slightly domineering, so good training is required. They don’t need guard dog-specific training as protecting their family is instinctual to them.
When it comes to the best guard dogs available, you can’t get much better than the Tibetan Mastiff. They’re large, strong, incredibly alert, and pretty intimidating looking. They were originally bred to protect their owners against wolves and snow leopards in the Himalayas and are naturally very watchful. They’re not the most affectionate pup (in fact they’re fairly aloof) but they do love their family and will be happy to spend time with them. They may be a little distrusting of strangers and be particularly territorial of their home, so good training and an experienced owner are needed.
Rottweilers have a bit of a reputation for being aggressive and while they are a particularly protective dog breed, they’re also affectionate and playful with their family. Their strong bodies, natural loyalty, and protective instincts make them one of the best guard dogs you could choose. They can be hesitant around strangers and new places until they’re sure there’s no threat but with good training and socialization, they can make amazing pets that will keep your family safe.
Great Danes have one of the deepest, most intimidating barks of any dog – which is hardly surprising considering their size. They’re strong, imposing, and are likely to scare off any imposter. Underneath all that weight and muscle though, Great Danes have gentle personalities, are very smart, caring, and love their owners. Even though their size may be intimidating, they’re unlikely to actually bite. They make great pets but do tend to have shorter lifespans compared to other breeds and can suffer from many different illnesses.
American Staffordshire Terrier
Unlike Great Danes, American Staffordshire Terriers are a little more bite than bark. Because of their long history as fighting dogs, they can be a little aggressive if untrained. Their strong, energetic, and powerful bodies make them look imposing but they’re actually playful, loyal, and affectionate pups at heart. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation but are really one of the best guard dog breeds out there.
These big, fluffy dogs are excellent guard dogs – so good in fact, that they were originally bred to guard royalty in Japan. They’re very alert and eager to fulfill their role in the family. They’re naturally quite suspicious of strangers and may be a little aggressive towards other dogs if they haven’t been socialized from an early age. In general, however, they love spending time playing with their owners and interacting with people. They’ll only bark or show real aggression if there’s a need to do so.
These iconic, bearded pups are one of the best guard dog breeds you could have. They’re alert, courageous, loyal, and very strong. Their size makes them pretty intimidating too! Their pain threshold is incredibly high and they’re extremely protective of their family and home. Because of their size and temperament, they’re not an ideal pup for first-time owners, and because of their high prey drive, it’s best if a Giant Schnauzer is the only animal in the house. They need a lot of training and early socialization to make them a good family pet as well as a good guard dog!
Despite being a very friendly dog, this ‘King of Terriers’ actually makes a great guard dog too. This is a great combination if you’re looking for a fun and protective family pet! Airedale Terriers learn very quickly and are very curious dogs that can put their mind to anything when they want to. They’re also guard dogs with relatively low shedding and don’t require that much grooming.
Although happy to play and cuddle its family, the Airedale Terrier can be very wary of strangers and won’t think twice about barking and even attacking an intruder. Although only 23 inches in height (which is a little smaller than some of the enormous ones on this list), this breed makes a wonderful guard dog because of its loyalty, bravery, and desire to keep the ones it loves safe.
Caucasian Shepherds look like bears – in fact, they’re sometimes called Russian Bear Dogs. I don’t know about you, but I’m not likely to enter a property with a potential bear dog guarding it! These dogs have such an impressive appearance they were even used to patrol the Berlin Wall and guard prisoners in Soviet camps.
Although these dogs have very powerful bodies and are very strong, they reserve their strength for intruders and threats and can be very affectionate with their families. They were first bred to protect livestock and property but their size and determination soon meant owners could use them for hunting wolves and bears.
Because of their size and prey drive, these pups are not a good choice for novice owners or for those with no experience with large breeds.
The Beauceron strongly resembles the Doberman Pinscher and is another iconic guard dog with pointy ears. This French herding dog is very intelligent, trainable, and bold and is an excellent working dog (especially if the work involves herding any kind of livestock). They have a fearless personality and are very confident in what they do – and actually, they can sometimes be a little too confident.
Although highly trainable, these dogs need an owner who has experience with strong-willed dogs and who can train them in a fun and engaging way. If not, this guard dog might get the better of its family and start to dominate them. If well trained and socialized, Beauceron can make great family pets.
A little extra information: these pups have the French nickname Bas-Rouge thanks to their iconic red stockings!
Bull Terriers are very strong dogs that are easily recognized by their ‘egg heads’. Although they have a bit of a bad reputation for being aggressive they’re actually incredibly affectionate with their owners. They love to play and spend time with their human companions.
As is the case with many Terrier breeds, Bull Terriers have a very high prey drive meaning they’re not really suitable for homes with other dogs or smaller animals. These pups need ample exercise and plenty of toys to play with to keep their minds engaged so they don’t go looking for mischief.
Bull Terriers aren’t particularly protective of their owners but they can be wary of strangers. It’s more their (unfair) reputation that makes them a good guard dog.
Also known as the Brazilian Mastiff, these huge brazilian dogs are powerful and aggressive protectors of property and people. In many countries, such as the United Kingdom and Australia, they’re banned because of their aggression. As you might imagine, you need to really think about whether you want to adopt a Fila Brasileiro (or if you’re allowed to)!
They are, however, amazing guard dogs. Nothing is getting by these alert, bold, and fearless dogs. They’re also enormous and very strong – which is a pretty intimidating combination. If you want to adopt a dog that’s loving, cozy, and the ideal family pet then the Fila Brasileiro isn’t the one for you.
They need a lot of early socialization and plenty of training from experienced big breed owners. They’re ideal for keeping intruders away though!
There are a lot of similarities between the Belgian Malinois and the German Shepherd – not just in appearance. These herding dogs are also used in police and military work because of their bravery, alert personalities, and incredible loyalty. They’re highly intelligent and can easily be trained to protect people and alert their owners to possible intruders.
They may be unlikely to attack someone (although not impossible) but their dominant appearance and loud bark will make most intruders think twice. Even if the strangers don’t know it, Belgian Malinois are wonderful family pets. They need lots of exercise, love, and activities to make them well-rounded.
These medium-sized dogs are playful, athletic, friendly, and great with children. Although that doesn’t sound like a great guard dog, these pups are also extremely aware and are very good watchdogs. They’re happy to alert their owners to any sounds or people they see and are brave enough to go investigate as well.
Boxers need lots of exercise and aren’t the type of guard dogs that are happy to just circle the perimeter of their property (and have a little snooze under a tree). These dogs really need a minimum of 2 hours of exercise a day to keep fit and keep their brains engaged and happy.
Estrela Mountain Dog
These big, lovey-dovey pups can grow to a whopping 29 inches. That alone is enough to make most intruders turn around. They’re completely devoted to their families and love to be around children.
They will, however, probably form a stronger bond with one individual. As with all dogs, early socialization and lots of fun training are necessary during puppyhood. These dogs can be a little stubborn and, if not taught from a young age, this may develop into aggression.
Estrela Mountain Dogs are very attractive and impressive-looking pups that are sure to catch the eye of any passerby (or intruder). Their beautifully colored coat doesn’t need that much grooming – but they do have a tendency to drool! These big canines like their own space and are happy to entertain themselves for a few hours. They don’t need huge amounts of exercise but they’ll enjoy a good walk a day with their beloved owners.
When it comes to personality, these dogs are similar to Belgian Malinois. They don’t, however, have the typical “German Shepherd’ look to them. Their coat is of a different color, texture, and length – there’s definitely more of a woolly/curly look to it.
Belgian Laekenois are tough, strong, alert, and very loyal to their owners. All good traits of a guard dog. As with other doggos on this list, they can be protective and therefore need plenty of early socialization so this personality trait doesn’t get the better of them.
Belgian Laekenois are the rarest of the Belgian Herding pups but are great work dogs. They need lots of exercise and activities to keep them happy and healthy. That being said, they’re certainly one of the best guard dogs with the least health problems.
The Tosa Inu is a rare dog originally bred in Japan. They’re patient, courageous, and bold dogs that are surprisingly affectionate towards their families. Tosa Inus don’t tend to be aggressive towards people but they can be very wary of dogs they consider to be intrusive.
They’re big dogs and can grow to be 32 inches tall and weigh 200 pounds – although their muscle and folds of skin can make them look even larger! It’s not just their size that makes them good guard dogs, these pups are also very alert and obedient. They love to please their owners and will be happy to keep them and their property safe!
Frequently Asked Questions
What guard dogs are good with cats?
When adopting a new pup into your family, you need to consider the pets you already have. If you’re looking for a great guard dog that will get along with your feline friend then go for a German Shepherd or Boxer. They tend to have relatively low prey drives and might even make friends!
What guard dog doesn’t shed?
Many of this list are considered shedders. But there are few that are better for owners who want less hair in their homes. Opt for a Giant Schnauzer, Airedale Terrier, or Fila Brasileiro as these doggos tend not to shed as much.
What guard dog lives the longest?
Generally speaking, large dogs tend to live less than smaller pups – and many guard dogs are big. That being said, The Doberman Pinscher can live up to 14 years and is an amazing guard dog!
These are just ten of the best guard dog breeds you could have. Which others would you add to the list?
I’m Charlotte, a content and copywriter from the North of England and currently living in Berlin. Animals have always been a huge part of my life, so writing about dogs is a total pleasure! I love all kinds of dogs and their cheeky personalities, but I’d have to say Weimaraners are my favourite!