Smart, loyal, and courageous – if you had to narrow down the best traits for a guard dog, these would likely be them. Nobody wants their dog to have to put up a fight (putting up a cuddle is much preferred), but if you want a dog who’s more likely to run at a problem than away from it, a little research helps.
While some dogs might be preferable based on their size and personality characteristics, any dog can be trained to help protect your home and family, says Patrick Mahaney, V.M.D., a veterinarian in Los Angeles. A lot of potential owners looking for a guard dog turn to large dog breeds, although they’re not the only ones who put up a fight. Medium-sized dogs and herding dogs are also protective and known to ward off bad-intentioned folks.
That said, you can’t rely on breed alone. “The degree to which a dog breed will protect is individual to each dog,” Dr. Mahaney says. “There are occasions where a particular breed that would otherwise be known as a guard dog will not exhibit a natural protective tendency.”
It’s worth checking in with your veterinarian or trainer about the behaviors you’re hoping to see, Dr. Mahaney explains. Fence running, for example, might strike you as a good offense against intruders, but it can become an obsessive habit that leads to fence chewing or excessive barking, which can lead to health problems.
Not to mention, training is a huge part of any dog’s performance and personality. Especially when it comes to larger dogs, Dr. Mahaney recommends working with a trainer on the behaviors you’re hoping to see as well as on obedience, which is crucial when your dog is half your size and on the chase.
Read on to see some of the best guard dog breeds out there.