Guard Dog Breeds take action, unlike watch dog breeds that are all talk (bark). The American Kennel Club suggests that good guard dogs be, “loyal, brave and extremely protective of their territory.” I might also add, trainable, confident and reserved around strangers.
Watchdogs are very good at letting you know there is a stranger about, by barking, but they may not necessarily do much more. On the other hand, a guard dog breed will be prepared and equipped to defend its owner’s property and life, if needs be.
Guard Dogs vs. Watch Dogs
Guard dog characteristics relate to many different types of dog breeds. Many watchdog breeds are ALSO capable guard dogs.
So what exactly differentiates watchdogs from guard dogs?
It is almost entirely the size and strength of the dog.
Owners of four pound Chihuahuas might argue that they dogs are brave and loyal, act confidently, but not always outgoing around strangers. Why aren’t they in the list of best guard dog breeds?
It’s because, although they will alert their owner to unusual activity by barking, they simply don’t have the size and weight to intimidate an intruder, nor attack if required.
How did they become Guardians?
Some of the dogs on the list have been developed to be guardians and excel at the job because of their innate nature. On top of that, they can be trained to be even better guardians. Not only were they developed to protect people, but they were also needed for livestock protection. Livestock guardian breeds are alert, suspicious, and capable of taking on wolves and even bears.
Historically, people sometimes lived on isolated farms or ranches where their nearest neighbor could be miles away. Visitors were few and far between. Early settlers depended on dogs to alert and protect them if anyone came onto their property. A prime example of this is the Rhodesian Ridgeback.
In some areas of the world, people’s lives and livelihoods depended on the dogs. These dogs needed to be able to take down the large cats such as snow leopards in Asia and the biggest and most dangerous predators on the African safari. Think Rhodesian Ridgeback, African Boerboel or Bully Kutta.Beyond that,
most of the dogs that make our list have the right “look” that tells would-be intruders, “Don’t mess with me.” It could be their size, the color, their body posture. Or, it could be that people learn over time which dogs to stay clear of especially if their owners are not at home. The Cane Corso looks like the Mike Tyson of the dog world . . .
We were in the process of house hunting in a new community and one house was on our list of “must see.”
Unfortunately, the owners had two large Doberman Pinschers in the front yard. Even though we had been given permission to enter the home, the Dobermans would have none of it.
I think they might have killed my daughter who was three at the time.
Later in the week, we had another appointment to see the house and, this time, the owner was home. The dogs could not have been more friendly and gentle.
Unless I had known better, I would have believed they were different dogs.
It should not come as any surprise that some of these guard dogs could also be called the most dangerous dogs in the world.
Their fierce sense of loyalty, combined with their size and strength make them not only a brave guardian but a force to be reckoned with.
Recommended Owners for Guard Dog Breeds
Guard Dogs can make good pets for the right kind of owners, but these breeds should not even be considered for the first time or inexperienced dog owner.
Guard dog breeds are almost always independent and dominant and unless the owners can fulfill the role of Alpha Male, the dog could become more dominant than you!
Dog owners who do not have the time, energy, stamina or desire to socialize and train should not own one of these breeds. These dogs need ongoing training and socialization throughout their lives and that requires a significant time commitment.
The Best Guard Dog Breeds from Around the World
Listed in alphabetical order. Due to variations between individual dogs, it is difficult to classify the best guard dogs only by breed. For example, an individual American Pit Bull Terrier may be a better guard dog than the much bigger Japanese Tosa, despite the weight difference.
You have to take into account how alert the breed may be, as well as how aggressive they may become when faced with an intruder. How intimidating they may appear. And then how brave they might be. And, finally, how much protection they may ultimately afford you when taking on someone who means you harm.
The American Akita is a loyal, alert dog with a strong, muscular body build. The breed is well known for its intelligence, with many being seen performing in obedience trials. They are quick learners.
These dogs have energy to spare, and need plenty of exercise. They are not known for being particularly outward-going, and are reserved with strangers.
This breed has a very protective nature. Fiercely loyal, intelligent, and stable, these dogs make excellent family pets. They are loving but very dominant, so they need an owner that is confident and willing to assume the role of the dominant person.
American Pit Bull Terrier
This is not the aggressive dog that many people believe. They have an undeserved bad reputation, but are actually good in a family environment, if they have received decent obedience training. But they are very good guard dogs!
To some people, the American Staffordshire Terrier means only one thing – – PIT BULL – – and with that comes all the negative propaganda that has spread throughout the news at every level, prompting breed bands and high insurance rates.
To many, all they see is a vicious fighting dog that should be banned if not destroyed. Just how much of this rhetoric is accurate of this breed? It is true that the American Staffordshire Terrier has suffered and gained a bad reputation. However, while they are strong, powerful, and courageous, they are not vicious.
The Beauceron dog breed comes from the short-haired variety of the French flatland sheepdogs that used to found throughout France. This is a well-built, muscular and solid dog, looking a bit like a cross between a Rottweiler and a German Shepherd. This makes it sound ferocious and maybe aggressive, but in fact the Beauceron has an endearing and gentle personality, and makes a great companion dog.
As breeds go, the Belgian Malinois Dog could very well be the best guard and personal protection dog in the canine kingdom. Bred to be a herder and to protect flocks, these dogs can take on a multitude of jobs, and they are the favorites among military and law enforcement personnel, often used as police dogs in Belgium.
Although the Belgian Malinois (pronounced MAL in wah) may look like a German Shepherd, they are nevertheless a separate breed. In fact, the Belgian Malinois is one of four Belgian Sheepdogs or Shepherds. These are ideal guard dogs.
Black Russian Terrier
Black Russian Terrier
A good guard dog, and one of the best dogs for protection. Bred by the Red Star Kennel in Russia for the military. This is a BIG dog.
The Boerboel, or the South African mastiff as it is also known, is a large, confident dog descended from the mastiffs that first came to Africa in the late 1600s.
Despite their large size, they are playful and affectionate with their family. Powerful, muscular and highly intelligent, they are also considered the most agile of the large mastiff breeds. These are loyal dogs with great physical strength.
Bouvier des Flandres
Origins: Belgium and France
Size: Large to Giant
Recognition: ANKC: Working, CKC: Herding, AKC (Herding), FCI (Group 1), KC (Working), NZKC (Working), UKC (Herding)
Also called Belgian Cattle Dog, Flanders Cattle Dog, Vlaamse Koehond
The Bullmastiff is also called the “Gamekeepers Night Dog’. The breed is gentle, quiet and devoted to those he loves, but if threatened, he turns fearless. At upwards of 130 pounds or more, this muscular dog is confident, stubborn yet calm and gentle.
This dog is also called the Pakistani Mastiff, and some breeders claim that it is almost untrainable; it is defensive of its home and family, and very aggressive towards strangers. Early socialization and early training are essential. Not well known in the United States. One of the natural guard dogs.
Ca de Bou
The Ca de Bou, also known as the Perro de Presa Mallorquin or the Majorcan Bulldog, is a breed of bulldog from Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands.
Recognition: CKC (Working), ANKC (Utility), AKC (Working), UKC (Guardian), FCI (Group 2)
The Cane Corso breed (Italian Mastiff) is a big-boned and muscular dog of the mastiff type, more athletic than an English Mastiff, and not as heavy as its cousin the Neapolitan Mastiff, but still very imposing and intimidating. Some people refer to the breed as the ‘Mike Tyson of the dog world’.
The Caucasian Shepherd Dog is a strong willed, loyal, fearless dog. He is a formidable guard dog who is only suitable really to protect property such as large commercial estates, prisons Military installations. An EXCELLENT guard dog with a powerful protective instinct.
Despite looking like an adorable cuddle monster – this breed is not a family pet! Probably one of the best protection dogs out there.
The Chow Chow is a medium sized breed of independent Chinese dogs. This breed is well known for its dignified behavior and appreciates when it is treated with respect.
This breed is known to be independent as well, living alongside its owners like another member of the house. It particularly does not like being pampered, and will dislike the idea of assuming the role of a lap dog.
These dogs are well known for their intelligence, as well as their physical power. Despite having the old stereotype of being a curt and even aggressive breed, these dogs are quite capable of being affectionate especially among family. There is a good reason for the reputation of being amongst the best guard dogs in the world. But their intelligence means that they need mental stimulation to keep them engaged and happy.
Dobermans are full of energy, so they prefer to be up and moving. They would not appreciate the role of a lap dog, even if their size would allow it.
Unfortunately, because of the Dogo’s athleticism and hunting abilities, he has become the breed of choice for some dog fighters and has been given an aggressive reputation.
A large dog, he has been banned in several countries, including the UK, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Singapore, Ukraine and Israel.
Dogue de Bordeaux (aka. French Mastiff)
The Dogue de Bordeaux is a big dog breed from France, used for centuries as a hunting dog and a guard dog. If properly trained they are calm, confident and good with older children, although dog-on-dog aggression can be a problem. They make excellent guard dogs.
They are big droolers, and need frequent mopping up. They don’t need a great deal of exercise, but are not really suited to apartment life as they are so big. This breed was the star of the 1989 comedy film with Tom Hanks, ‘Turner and Hooch’, which accurately depicted the breed.
Training: Time Consuming
Recognition: FCI Group 2 , CKC Miscellaneous , NZKC Utility
A very protective dog breed, this dog needs proper training to be socially acceptable.
It’s no wonder that German Shepherds are consistently one of the most popular dogs. With their even-temperament, unwavering loyalty and extreme intelligence, they do make fantastic dogs to own.
Size: Large to Giant
Recognition: FCI: Group 2, AKC: Working, ANKC: Utility, CKC: Working, KC: Working, NZKC: Utility, UKC: Guardian
These dogs were not bred specifically to be guard dogs (like the Dobermann or the Rhodesian Ridgeback). But their sheer size will act as a deterrent for most would-be intruders. For sheer size combined with protection, the Irish Wolfhound is probably a better bet.
Although they are not good watch dogs, once aroused they are virtually invincible. Bred to take on a wolf one-on-one, the Irish Wolfhound is immensely brave, powerful and agile.
Superb family members and relaxed around the house, the Irish Wolfhound has the motto “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked”. As guard dogs they are without peer once stoked into action. Their sheer size, weight, power and bravery are the result of its breeding to take down the huge Irish Elk and then wolves in 1-on-1 fights.
But they are slow to react, and quiet by nature until they are stirred into action. This breed does not have a long life span, at around 7 to 8 years on avarage.
Kangal dogs are originally from the Anatolia region of Turkey. They were bred to be livestock guardian dogs, protecting flocks of sheep and goats at night from wolves, jackals and bears.
There is an important distinction between dogs that help a shepherd to herd animals, ie. move a flock from place to place, and dogs that protect the animals. These are livestock guardians, and they have to be big, strong, and ready to take on an attacker – but at the same time they must be non-aggressive towards their flock.
The Komondor is a rare dog breed originating from Germany. Known for their protective, watchful personality, this Hungarian herd dog is massive, weighing over 100 lbs, and has a thick, almost dreadlock style coat that sets it apart from many other dogs. This coat was especially advantageous for guarding sheep, as it blended in with them.
The Kuvasz is well known as a Hungarian guard dog throughout Europe. Owners value the breed for its intelligence and ability to act independently while still remaining loyal and protective of family.
Alongside their working aptitudes, they make for playful and affectionate companions. These dogs are a great addition to most families.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a very impressive dog! Massive, heavy set and a little bizarre looking, these huge protective dogs are not to be messed with! They need a huge amount of space indoors due to their sizable bodies and, puppies particularly, are very clumsy.
Origins: Canary Islands, Spain
Training: Time Consuming
Recognition: FCI: Group 2, AKC: FSS (Working), UKC: Guardian
The Rottweiler, (or Rotties, as they are often called), are actually intelligent, compassionate animals, despite their generalization in pop culture suggesting that they are mean attack dogs,
Known especially for their loyalty, Rotties are devout to their owners and will defend them with their lives.
The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a large, powerful and athletic hound, originally from Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in Africa. These dogs were originally bred to protect the early white settlers in Africa, and to act as hunting dogs, particularly for hunting lions. They are also known as The African Lion Hound, for this reason.
The Sage Koochee is a loyal, intelligent breed with unrivalled stamina, courage and strength who has been bred as a guardian and protector. He is athletic, agile and very fast. These dogs were bred for their characteristics rather than how they looked which is why they are not recognized as an official breed by any Kennel Clubs in the West.
Also known by their Persian name of Sage Kuchi or just “Kuchi Dog“, he is not suitable for usual life in a Western home. This is because the Sage Koochee was bred by the Afghan Nomads to protect their livestock and caravans from thieves and wild animals.
Training: Time Consuming
Recognition: FCI: Group 3, AKC: Terrier, ANKC: Terrier, CKC: Terrier, KC: Terrier, NZKC: Terrier, UKC: Terrier
Grooming: Time Consuming
Training: Time Consuming
Recognition: FCI: Group 2, AKC: Working, ANKC: Utility, CKC: Working, NZKC: Utility, UKC: Guardian
Tosa Inu (Japanese Tosa)
A fighting dog from Japan, this breed was intended to fight other dogs, not take on human intruders. However, the physical appearance and the bravery of the dog make it one of the best guard dog breeds.
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