When you think of the best guard dogs, what do you think of? Perhaps visions of police dogs and military dogs come to mind. Or maybe you picture your best canine friend from your childhood.
Humans and dogs grew up together. Scientists believe that humans began domesticating dogs somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago. Tame wolves scavenged at human settlements. In exchange for food, these wolves became our protectors and helpers.
In modern times, not much has changed. The best guard dogs may bear little resemblance to their ancient canine ancestors. But in exchange for food, affection, and housing, the best guard dogs are now bred and trained to guard and protect our families.
Best Guard Dogs: What You Need to Know
In truth, most people need little more than a barking dog to deter would-be threats from their home and property.
Protecting humans is in a dog's DNA, most of the time quite literally. After all, humans are the dog's main source of food, shelter, and comfort.
What makes the best guard dogs?
When you say “guard dog” what type of dog behavior comes to mind? As it turns out, there are several different types of dogs that can guard you and your property.
Something to consider: the definitions between guard dog and protection dog are somewhat interchangeable. For our purposes, we are using Pinnacle Protection Dog's definitions today.
A watchdog is an alert dog. These dogs will bark to let you know that there is an intruder on your property.
You do not need any special breed or training for an effective watchdog. Most any dog that loves its family will likely bark or otherwise let you know when someone is on your property.
Guard dogs are dogs that are trained to not only alert but also show some force when ordered to. That can include growling or snarling.
In general, however, guard dogs are not trained to attack. Guard dogs need to be balanced between friendliness and wariness when it comes to strangers.
For example, Labrador retrievers and Siberian Huskies, make poor guard dogs because these breeds are instinctively friendly to most people.
Protection dogs are dogs that will alert as well as confront and deal with a threat. Additionally, protection dogs can assess the threat and respond accordingly. A handler will be able to call off a protection dog whenever necessary.
Protection dogs are intelligent, loyal, and courageous. They have nerves of steel. The ideal protection dog is equal parts warrior and loving family dog.
Patrol dogs are military protection dogs, often used on military installations. These military working dogs will patrol the perimeter with their handler and will attack when necessary.
Best Temperament for a Guard Dog
Temperament is the general personality of the dog and how they interact with the world, people, and animals around them. Before you start your search for the best guard dogs, you need to know what the optimal temperament of a guard dog is.
In this list, we focus on the traits needed for a good protection dog; however, the same characteristics will also serve a guard dog well.
Whoa that's a bright dog
Dog intelligence is a dog’s ability to learn, think, and solve problems. There are three separate parts to dog intelligence: instinctive, adaptive, and working intelligence.
Instinctive intelligence is the dog’s instinct for what she was bred to do. Adaptive intelligence is the dog’s ability to learn and adapt their behavior, as needed. Working intelligence is their ability to take and follow directions.
The best guard dogs have a good instinct for protecting and guarding their owners and property. They also can take direction and make decisions, if they need to.
They Say They are Man's Best Friend for a Reason
Everyone loves a loyal dog. The best guard dogs protect their family not out of fear but out of a sense of love and loyalty.
To help encourage loyalty, the best guard dog needs to be part of the family. While there are guard dogs that can live outside the home in a kennel, the best guard dogs are often in the house, with their human “pack.”
You Want to Make Sure That They Possess This Trait, For Sure
Ideally, guard dogs are sturdy and confident. They are courageous and even-tempered.
For the best guard dogs, you need a dog who is not easily frightened off or shows anxiety when exposed to something new.
Are You Getting All The Kisses?
It may come as a surprise, but the best guard dogs should be affectionate. This demonstrates that they have a good rapport with their family.
A common misconception is that the best guard dogs are aggressive. Nothing could be further from the truth!
The best guard dogs are calm, well-trained, and know to listen to their handler. In contrast, an aggressive dog is unpredictable and cannot be trusted to allow themselves to be called off.
Importance of Proper Training
If there is a singular factor that determines whether a dog is going to be one of the best guard dogs or a dangerously unhinged one, it is training.
Training a guard dog or protection dog takes skill and time.
The foundation of all proper dog training starts with obedience. These are essential skills like sit, stay, leave it, walk nicely on a leash, and heel.
The best guard dogs will have advanced obedience training that goes beyond these basics, but this is always a good place to start.
Basic Guarding Training
Training your dog to bark on command is one of the basic skills they will need as a guard dog. That includes barking when told and to stop barking when given the command.
Barking can be an effective deterrent without ever having to delve further into bite work.
Bringing in the Professionals
If you are serious about raising a guard dog or protection dog, you need to bring in professional trainers early on in your dog’s life.
Professional trainers can help you mold your puppy into one of the best guard dogs, using their expertise to assess and train for more in-depth protection work such as tracking and bite work.
Protection sports are great for keeping working dogs in top condition. It’s also fun for handlers and is an ideal way to keep you and your dog in sync.
Protection sports are dog sports that revolve around three different types of training: obedience, tracking, and protection. Tasks you will see during the protection portion resemble police dog work, such as finding and barking at a target or biting a target.
Guard Dogs and the Family
Ideally, guard dogs are family dogs. What makes a good guard dog is not just training and reinforcement but a genuine bond between the dog and their family.
Guarding and protection may be their job, but the best guards will do so because they love their family.
However, guard dogs are not for the faint of heart. These may be loving animals, but they are working dogs with powerful jaws. Even the most patient, well-trained dog will bite if provoked enough.
Never leave a young child alone with a dog, whether or not the dog is trained as a guard dog. Children should always be taught to be respectful of the dog. A child should never be allowed to pull on a dog’s tail, fur, or ears, or otherwise act maliciously towards it.
Likewise, all members of the family need to be on the same page when it comes to dog training. Training is vital for all dogs but even more critical for guard and protection dogs.
Everyone in the family should be aware of what the dog is being trained for, how it is being trained, and how they should (and should not) act around the dog.
How to Get a Good Guard Dog
“Adopt don’t shop” is excellent advice when you are looking for a pet. Some great dogs in shelters can use good homes.
But if you are serious about finding the best guard dogs for your home, a knowledgeable, responsible breeder is your best bet.
Pick a Good Breeder
For the best guard dogs, you want to find a breeder that has extensive experience. Ideally, the breeder would have raised and sold dogs that went on to become successful working dogs in personal protection or with police departments or as military dogs.
When looking for a reputable breeder, check the breed club for the breed you choose. The best guard dogs will come out of kennels that are known in their breed club for producing good dogs that have the traits you are looking for.
When you find a breeder you are interested in, do not be afraid to ask them questions about their experience. You want to find a breeder that specializes in working dogs. Steer clear of any breeder that is hesitant to answer your questions.
Ask what type of environment the whelping mother will give birth in, and where they will raise the puppies. Ask about socialization and how they evaluate the puppies for temperament.
These are all factors that will eventually be important in helping determine the best guard dogs for the future.
Beware the Backyard Breeder
Do not choose a backyard breeder with puppies from an unknown lineage. While these puppies may still be great as pets, there are too many factors that can make them dangerous for guarding or protection.
Working Line vs. Show Lines
There are two types of genetic lines within purebred dogs: show and working.
Show line dogs conform to the standard set by their pedigree organization, often with cosmetic traits taking precedence, though temperament is also important.
Working line dogs prioritize behavioral traits. While the dogs may not adhere strictly to the cosmetic standards set by their pedigree organization, breeders seek to breed for the right temperament and physical characteristics for their jobs.
But take note: working line dogs are NOT easy pets.
While a nurturing environment may help tame some of their drives to work, you cannot remove their drive entirely. Working line dogs are like top performance engines and need to be handled by owners that understand what they are getting into.
Nitro K9 training recommends getting a dog from a show line rather than working line if you want a family dog that is just doing essential watchdog and guarding duties. The hard drive on working line dogs is ill-suited for families with little to no experience with working dogs.
Purebred dogs are more susceptible to inheriting certain genetic conditions due to bad breeding.
To counteract this, pick a breeder who shows that they have genetically tested their dam (mother) and sire (father). Research the breed you are interested in to know what tests you should be looking for.
For example, German Shepherds are prone to a condition called hip dysplasia. All responsible German Shepherd breeders will certify that their dogs have good hips through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA.)
When looking for the best guard dogs, you want to see that they have titled champions in their lineage. Titles are earned through participation in various dog-related activities, such as dog sports or conformation.
In the case of the best guard dogs, you want to look for titles that denote that the dogs in the pedigree have working titles. These include titles like SchH1 or IPO1, which show that the dog has titled in the Schutzhund protection sport.
Price Range for the Best Guard Dogs
The best guard dogs are a significant investment in both time and money. Aside from the usual costs of raising a dog, you also need to consider putting in time for training.
Puppies from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Expect the prices for the puppy to be on the higher end if they come from a line with titled champions.
Protection training throughout your dog’s life is a significant, ongoing investment. Training prices will differ between trainers but expect training over your dog’s lifetime to come to at least in the thousands.
Fully trained, adult protection dogs can cost $25,000 or more, depending on breed and training.
Best Guard Dogs: Our Top 6 Picks
Without further ado, here are our top six picks for the best guard dogs.
Note that some of these dog breeds may be subject to breed-specific laws. Always check your local laws, housing rules, and insurance policies before choosing a guard dog.
1. Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is one of the best guard dogs, paws down. They are highly intelligent dogs with a significant protective streak and nerves of steel. No one loves their job more than a Mal on the hunt.
The Belgian Malinois is a medium dog. Males weigh between 65 to 75 pounds and 55 to 65 pounds for females. Temperament wise, Belgian Malinois are protective, alert, and active. They have an average life expectancy of up to 14 years.
You can find Belgian Malinois on the battlefield as military working dogs or paired with law enforcement as a four-legged police officer. Often affectionately called “fur missles,” you have to admire their dogged expertise at finding their target.
Cute nicknames aside, while Belgian Malinois may make some of the best guard dogs, they are not always the best pets.
Like all working dogs, they need a job to do and will become destructive if bored. However, Belgian Malinois are great dogs for experienced owners that love to do protection sports.
2. German Shepherd
The German Shepherd is one of America’s favorite dog breeds, consistently coming in second in ownership right after the beloved Labrador Retriever. The breed was first developed in Germany as a superior herding dog.
German Shepherds are large dogs. The ideal weight for a male dog between 70 to 90 pounds, and females between 50 and 75 pounds. Temperament wise, German Shepherds are obedient, intelligent, and brave. They have an average life expectancy of 9 to 13 years.
German Shepherds are the third most intelligent dog breed next to the Poodle and the Border Collie.
Over the years, the German Shepherd has evolved into the quintessential working dog. They are well-known the world over as police dogs. Their intelligence makes them a trainer’s dream come true.
Their strong jaws, protective and obedient temperaments make the supreme candidates for the best guard dog.
German Shepherds are great family pets. Most German Shepherds live for training and are fiercely loyal to their families. However, they are prone to anxiety and can be destructive if bored. They are also known as “German Shedders” for their tendency to shed all the time.
The regal Bullmastiff original hails from the United Kingdom, developed in the mid 19th century. These working dogs were known as the “Gamekeeper’s Night Dog” when their job was to guard estates against poachers.
Bullmastiffs are large, imposing dogs with heavy musculature. They weigh between 100 and 130 pounds for males and 100 to 120 pounds for females. They have a lifespan of approximately 8 to 10 years.
While large, the Bullmastiff can be a great family pet as well as one of the best guard dogs. Well-bred and well-trained Bullmastiffs are calm as adults, with an air of confidence. They are generally quiet unless provoked. Unlike other working dogs, they do not require as much exercise.
However, they are strong willed and need a dedicated owner and trainer to keep them in line. Socialize Bullmastiffs early in life, so they get used to people. They are not very tolerant of strange animals coming onto their property.
4. Doberman Pinscher
Developed in 19th century Germany, the Doberman Pinscher was born to protect. Specifically, a man named Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann developed the breed to help defend him when he was out doing his job: collecting taxes.
The Doberman Pinscher is a large dog. Males of the breed can weigh between 90 and 100 pounds while females should be within the 70 to 80-pound size. They can live between 10 and 13 years.
Overall, the Doberman Pinscher is a fearless dog, vigilant, and loyal to their families. In general, they are good with their families as well as children. However, they are suspicious of strangers unless adequately introduced.
“Dobies,” as those in the know affectionately call them, are active dogs. They can be decent apartment dwellers so long as you walk them regularly. They have a short coat that needs little grooming aside from a weekly brush down.
The Rottweiler is a noble dog, able to trace the origins of their lineage to the ancient Romans. The modern Rottweiler developed as a cattle dog, protecting both livestock and their humans from bandits.
A Rottweiler is a large dog. Females typically weigh somewhere between 80 and 110 pounds while males can range from 110 to 130 pounds. They have a lifespan of approximately 8 to 10 years.
The Rottweiler has a natural, protective instinct. After the railroads put them out of work as cattle dogs, Rottweilers found employment as protection dogs and police dogs.
As with all the other best guard dogs, Rottweilers are intelligent and easy to train. They are great family dogs and good with children when raised with them.
However, they are wary of strangers and may not always be good with other dogs. Train and socialize these dogs early to be able to distinguish friend from foe.
6. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire Bull Terriers are one of the most misunderstood breeds and carry the “pit bull” designation. These dogs originated in the illegal dogfighting pits of 19th century Europe, the result of crossing Bulldogs with Terriers.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, affectionately known as “Staffies” by their fans, is a medium-sized dog. Females can weigh between 24 to 34 pounds while males can weigh between 30 and 40 pounds. They have an average life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
Contrary to their stereotypes, Staffordshire Bull Terriers are loving family animals. However, their fighter spirit does still make them one of the best guard dogs around. They are loyal and affectionate to their families. But threaten their loved ones, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier will show its fighting lineage.
As a pit bull type, Staffordshire Bull Terriers have to contend with a long list of negative stereotypes. However, the breed is well-known for being great family dogs and are especially good with children.
Protector and Companion
While raising a good guard dog can be more involved than other dogs, the rewards are not only protection but doggy kisses, as well! As they have grown up alongside humans, they have been our faithful companions and protectors.
The best guard dogs are members of the family with four legs and sharp teeth. Like their ancient counterparts, who helped protect their newfound human pack, guard dogs alert their humans to possible dangers and are not hesitant to defend them, if necessary.
What breed do you think makes the best guard dog? Let us know in the comments!