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15 Best Family Guard Dogs & How to Train Them

Finding the best dog breed to guard and protect your family and house is harder than it sounds.

If you only want a dog that alerts or frightens away strangers, any dog that barks will do.

But if you want a dog for personal protection, you cannot only look at vocal breeds because not all dogs have that natural protection instinct, not to mention the ability to master real protection training (which should only happen under professional supervision anyway).

The specialized training is essential and will ensure that your dog makes a perfect job at guarding while being the best family companion.

The first step will be to find a responsible breeder with parents that have the exact traits you are looking for. I will go more in-depth about guard dog characteristics below.

Small Guard Dog Breeds

Guard dogs don’t need to always look intimidating. There are certain small breeds that will do the job of alerting and guarding just like their big brothers.

These breeds include the Dachshund, Pugs, Chow Chow, Shi Tzu, Beagle, and Shar-Pei.

If you have a mixed breed, you can also train them as guard dogs if their parents have the characteristics you are looking for.

Ask the breeder if they have been professionally trained with any certificates.

Most Loyal and Protective Dog Breeds

To help you decide which guard dog might be the best addition to your home, I’ve listed 15 of the most loyal guard dogs below.

15. Staffordshire Bullterrier

Staffordshire Bullterrier guarding on the beach.
Photo by Jana Sabeth on Unsplash

Let’s start the list with the best (relatively) small guard dog that definitely deserves to be among the best guard dogs overall.

Staffordshire Bullterrier were originally bred in the UK as “Nanny Dogs” because of their natural ability to be good around small children and their protection trait.

They are very loyal and affectionate and they are also able to stand their ground when being attacked.

14. Great Dane

Great Dane protecting his family's belongings

The Great Dane is truly a gentle giant, very affectionate with children and able to guard the home.

When being raised together with children, Great Danes are amazing companions.

Like any other dog breed, they may react aggressively or fearful towards dogs or new situations if not introduced properly, so the right socialization is very important.

13. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy on a beach.
Photo by Andrea Lightfoot on Unsplash

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are confident and intelligent, the best traits to make them the perfect guard dog with the right training.

They originally come from Southern Africa where they were bred to hunt and corner lions as well as guard dogs.

12. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard dog.
Photo by Eudyptula on Shutterstock

Catahoula Leopards are powerful working dogs. They thrive for any kind of working task while being playful and sweet at home.

With firm guidance, this independent and protective dog breed will make a great guard for your family.

11. Giant Schnauzer

Giant Schnauzer.
Photo by Rita_Kochmarjova on Shutterstock

Giant Schnauzers are naturally very suspicious of strangers and value their family most. While they are usually quiet, they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

They are best with older children and become extremely loyal to their family when being socialized the right way.

10. Cane Corso

Cane Corso on the grass observing something

The name Cane Corso is Latin and translates to “Bodyguard Dog”.

Their cool and confident temperament paired with their muscular and impressive appearance makes them a reliable protection dog for your family.

Check out my article on the various development stages of the Cane Corso.

9. Beauceron

Beauceron watching out

This smart herding breed is a great protection dog and a sensitive companion for experienced dog owners.

They are especially good with small and young children and will defend them against anything.

8. Caucasian Shepherd Dog

Caucasian Shepherd dog in the snow
Photo by Kateryna Ovcharenko on Shutterstock

You should never underestimate this breed as a guardian. They are very gentle with kids but fierce and fearless when being threatened.

They were originally bred to guard livestock against predators such as wolves.

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog comes in two different types, the Mountain and the Steppe type.

7. Puli

Puli standing in yard

Do not be fooled by the goofy and funny appearance of this dog. The Puli is a strong and intelligent dog disguised as a mob.

Their natural cords and dreads need a lot of attention and you will spend a lot of time grooming them. And if yourself who owns this dog, Mark Zuckerberg does.

6. Appenzeller Sennenhund

Appenzeller carrying stick.
Photo by MyImages – Micha on Shutterstock

The Appenzeller Sennenhund is eager to learn and can be trained to a fearless and reliable watch or guard dog.

They are a high energy breed and love to work on farms or bigger properties.

Their extreme versatility makes them capable of performing any tasks from rescue to herding and obedience.

5. Boxer

Smiling Boxer in grassy field.
Photo by Anita Peeples on Unsplash

The Boxer is among the most popular dog breeds in the USA in 2020 and is loved by a lot of people. Their beautiful short coat really underlines their athletic appearance.

Boxers are very playful and patient with children but also fearless and excellent watchdogs.

They are very energetic and will need to be taught to stay down and not chase anything around.

4. Bullmastiff

Muscular Bullmastiff guarding
Photo by BORINA OLGA on Shutterstock

The Bullmastiff is one of the best protectors you will ever find. Their strong and muscular appearance hides their affectionate family companion side.

Bullmastiffs love to work to satisfy their needs but they don’t have as much energy as some of the other dog breeds on this list.

3. Doberman

Doberman laying in field

The Doberman is a classic guard and protection dog. They require lots of exercise and are satisfied best with canine sports such as obedience or tracking.

Dobermans were bred to protect the taxman so he can quickly collect the money. I know a family that has five Dobermans and they are gorgeous around the house and with their kids.

2. Rottweiler

Close up of a Rottweiler head.
Photo by Joel Moysuh on Unsplash

Rottweilers are by far my favorite dog breed, I just love them. Once you have owned a Rottweiler, you can never go back because they’re just too awesome.

Their beautiful dark and soft coat covers a muscular and strong body. They are calm and confident and even-tempered.

Rottweilers are most loyal to their owners and would do anything to protect them. They are usually suspicious to strangers, a trait that is perfectly balanced in my girl though.

As long as you’re friendly, she loves you. As with every dog breed, early socialization is mandatory.

1. German Shepherd

German Shepherd guard dog.
Photo by Christoph Schmid on Unsplash

Courage, loyalty, and intelligence make the German Shepherd a great protraction and police dog.

You can build a strong bond with this dog breed and can take advantage of their willingness to learn.

Without regular exercise and mental stimulation, the German Shepherd will become frustrated and destructive, as any other dog would.

Think about some daily tasks that this dog could perform or get him involved in obedience training. Working dog breeds, in general, thrive most when being assigned to a task.

To keep my Rottweiler busy, I like to provide her with a snuffle mat that keeps her entertained and stimulated in between exercise and training sessions.

Characteristics of a Guard Dog

A guard dog should be well trained, confident, fearless and not aggressive. To a certain level, they should be territorial and protective without making decisions without checking with the owner or handler.

Strong confidence will come with the right socialization. A confident dog never attacks but a fearful dog does.

The socialization period happens between the age of 3- 16 weeks.

The goal here is to let the young puppy positively experience as many situations as possible to boost his confidence and prepare him for the environment, including other dogs, people, places, and sounds.

They should be able to recognize and alert when strangers are walking around the property but they should never react aggressively.

This makes use of the natural suspicions that some breeds have towards strangers.

Loyalty to the owners is also a big factor and is most common in breeds like the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Beagle, and Boxer.

It will come through the right bonding process with your dog and through mutual respect and affection.

Difference Between Guard Dog and Attack Dog

An attack dog is not the same as the above--listed guard dogs for families. Guard dogs are usually only trained or conditioned to alert with barking or growling on the sight of a stranger or intruder.

They are not aggressive towards strangers outside the property and are not the best breeds to choose for protection training.

Attack dogs are mostly used in police or law enforcement where they are being professionally trained to attack potential threats.

They do not make a decision or react aggressively unless being told so.

If trained wrong, the dogs will react aggressively to anything and will become a huge threat to humans and other animals.

Normal people with families do not need an attack dog and it is even prohibited to perform this type of training in many countries like Germany.

A well-adjusted guard will recognize threatening situations and many families have reported that their otherwise so lovely and friendly dog has attacked in serious situations. Don’t do amateur protection training.

How to Train a Guard Dog

You will want to train your dog to alert strangers on command. Many dogs are natural barkers so the training will mainly consist of capturing the desired behavior.

Choose a barking cue like “speak” that you will be used to condition your dog to bark when someone is standing on the property or outside the front door.

Once you have chosen your cue, grab some healthy treats and let’s start with the first part.

You will want to get your dog to bark in order to capture the behavior with your chosen command.

This works for example if you hold a treat in front of your dog and show it to him without feeding him.

Your dog will try anything he knows in order to get that treat. This can take a couple of minutes but once your dog makes some kind of sound treat him immediately.

Repeat this a few times and your dog will quickly get that barking will give him that treat. Once he made the connection, add the barking cue every time he barks and treat.

For better understanding, you can watch the “bark” part at the beginning of the following video.

Keep in mind to only reward ONE bark at a time. Refuse to give him the treats if he barks continuously.

Now depending on what you want your dog to alert, your training will be different. For this example, I will take the scenario of someone knocking or ringing on the door.

Ask your partner or a friend to get outside the front door and knock or ring the doorbell.

Immediately give your dog the bark command and reward him for one bark each time the person knocks.

Take also the time of the day into consideration when you want your dog to alert. If you want him to only bark in the evening then only train him once it is dark outside.

Keep the training sessions short and fun. If you stay consistent and patient you will see some quick results. If your dog fails at any point then go back to the last step.

Teaching the “Quiet” Command

After a couple of days of successful alert training, you now want to teach your dog how to be quiet.

Commanding him to bark and be quiet when desired will make him a great guard dog for the house.

Besides, it’ll make life with your neighbors easier (especially if you have a guard dog in an apartment).

Grab some tasty treats and ask a friend to ring the doorbell. Now this time you only want to reward him being quiet.

Wait for the bark and in second when he is quiet, treat him and give him the command “quiet” or “hush”. You can take the video from above as a reference.

Alternate between the two commands and treat each bark and quiet.

In real-life scenarios, you will want your dog to alert when someone is at the door. Once you reach the door, tell him “quiet” and wait for him to be calm before you open the door.

You do not want to encourage jumping on guests or constant barking.

Teach your dog who is a friend and who is a stranger and discourage him from barking at neutral people or friends on walks.

You only want your dog to protect you from strangers. This is why it is so important to choose a breed that is naturally suspicious of strangers.

Let me know if you have any experiences with a guard dog or want to get one for your family in the comments.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutrionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.


Monday 7th of March 2022

Great article. I've been a dog lover since childhood and have had several of the popular gaurd breeds GSD, Dobi's rotties ect. starting at 15 working at Kennels then several years with a professional dog trainer training and working with protection / guard dog's, security companies attack dogs ect. I had the chance experience the drive, bite force and determination to do the job, honestly it was the Buviar de Flanders that had the most powerful bite, I never liked taking his bite much! lol. Now several years later my children have grown and on their own I began looking for another working dog & I'm sorry to say but the breeds have changed so much for the worse and nothing like the dog's back then, I started to look at some of the less popular, know breeds and found the Presa Canirio, now after working with them I feel there the prob. The most naturally protective dog with all the drive, strength and athletic abilities in one package. Loving loyal good with kids a family dog. Like any other dog breeding and genetics play a major role in the temperament and finding a good breeder who breeds for healthy well balanced even temperament dogs. The Presa Canario is a great choice for a guard dog who will not back down to man or beast, there weary of strangers yet not aggressive & with their owners acceptance of the person they except people well.


Wednesday 10th of February 2021

My Great Pyrenees took on 3 sketchy guys at a gas station one night and they never looked back I’ll take that dog to guard me anywhere anytime


Wednesday 10th of February 2021

Hi Barry, that's great to hear. The Great Pyrenees is usually used as a livestock guardian dog, that's why they can be pretty independent sometimes and may not integrate into the family as easily. However, there are awesome family dogs of all breeds, of course. The Pyrenees is a big boy for sure, not to be messed with.

If I may ask, what exactly happened? Did his instincts kick in or is he generally suspicious of strangers? Hope you and your dog didn't get injured.

Cheers, Danielle

Lizeth Mccallough

Sunday 17th of November 2019

Great delivery of the list. Outstanding arguments for the guarding dogs. Keep up the great work.


Saturday 7th of September 2019

My family owned 5 amazing Rottweilers and they all were great guard dogs and very good and calm with the children. When I move out, I am definitely going with the same breed they are awesome