german shepherd guard dog

15 Best Guard Dogs for Families & 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 breeds with this trait because not all dogs can be protection trained.

The right training here 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.

15. Great Dane

The Great Dane is truly a gentle giant, very affectionate with children and able to guard the home. When being raised together with children and Great Danes are amazing companions. They may react aggressively or fearful towards dogs or new situations, so the right socialization is very important just like for any other breed.

14. Staffordshire Bullterrier

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.

13. Rhodesian Ridgeback

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 lions and as guard dogs.

12. Catahoula Leopard Dog

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 Schnauzers are naturally very suspicious of strangers and value their family most. While they are usually quiet they need a lot of exercises 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

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.

9. Beauceron

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

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

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 you question “Who owns this dog?”, Mark Zuckerberg does.

6. Appenzeller Sennenhund

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

The Boxer counts to the most popular dog breeds in the USA in 2019 and is loved by everyone. 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

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 that much energy.

3. Doberman

The Doberman is a classic guard and protection dog. They require lots of exercises and are satisfied best with canine sports such as obedience or tracking. Doberman’s were bred to protect the taxman so he can quickly collect the money. I know a family that have five Dobermans and they are gorgeos around the house and with the kids.

2. Rottweiler

Rottweilers are by far my favorite dog breed, I just love them. Once you have owned a Rottweiler you can never go back they are 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 has never occurred in my girl. With great socialization in the early stages, she loves anyone and anything, especially children.

1. German Shepherd

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.

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 abovelisted 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 owners and are not the best breeds to choose for attack dogs.

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

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.

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 towards strangers.

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 of a guard dog that you are looking for. Ask the breeder if they have been already trained as guard dogs and don’t forget to ask these questions.

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