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10 guard dog breeds to protect your family

Loyalty and love are two traits you can count on in any dog, but what if you’re also looking for protective tendencies? Many families are interested in adopting a dog who is great with children and can be counted on to protect the family.

Traits to consider when searching for a guard dog

When looking for a guard dog to protect your family, search for these traits:

  • Responsive to training
  • Alert
  • Loyal
  • Displays natural protective behaviors
  • Athletic

Choose a breed that typically loves children, but is wary of strange adults. As your children grow, they will likely have friends running in and out of your home, so a desire to protect any child is necessary to keep your children’s friends safe from your suspicious guard dog.

Before welcoming a guard dog into your family, do your research to ensure you find the best fit. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will we have more children? Is this breed good with small children, or better with older kids?
  • Can we handle a dog that requires daily or weekly grooming or sheds?
  • How much time can we devote to exercising a dog?
  • How much obedience training does this breed require?

After your family knows the pet requirements, search for local reputable rescues or breeders. Ideally, a breeder should choose bloodlines based on health and temperament, especially for family guard dogs. Ask if the breeding dogs live in the house as part of the family and spend some time with the parents of the litter so you can see their temperament and personality before choosing a puppy.

Guard dog breeds for young children

Not all guard dog breeds love to wallow on the ground with babies and toddlers, so consider your child’s age when searching for your family’s perfect breed. The following breeds are relatively low-maintenance and require minimal grooming and exercise. Make sure that whatever breed you select to welcome home as part of your family, you discuss the pros and cons including cost of unexpected care with your veterinarian.

1. Boxers

Boxers are great guard dogs for protection 

Boxers are often exuberant, playful, and loyal dogs. Their protective nature and patience have earned them a place among the most popular breeds for families with children, and they take their role as watchdog and family guardian seriously. Although always vigilant, boxers usually are not nervous dogs and will not bark without cause, instead relying on their uncanny ability to judge friend from foe. Their short, shiny coat requires little grooming, but they do shed and require daily exercise because they have boundless energy. Boxers tend to be springy and enthusiastic, and they need a solid training foundation to avoid leaping and knocking over small children. Routine veterinary care and good breeding are necessary as they are prone to genetic, hereditary and other medical conditions, which include but are not limited to heart issues, hip dysplasia, thyroid conditions, cancers, and degenerative myelopathy.


2. Bullmastiffs

Bull Mastiffs are great guard dogs for protection 

Bullmastiffs are not as large as their mastiff cousins, only weighing about 100 to 130 pounds at adulthood, but they can still be an imposing threat to intruders. Originally bred to deter poachers, these large dogs are generally calm, confident, and dependable, making them a good breed candidate for guarding your family. They also have an innate sense of who does and doesn’t belong on your property. As a short-haired breed, grooming requirements are less than longer haired dogs, but you should still expect significant shedding. In regards to exercise, daily walks are preferred over running. Bullmastiffs are prone to conditions such as hip dysplasia, eyelid issues, and bloat to name a few.


3. Doberman pinschers

Doberman Pinschers are great guard dogs for protection 

Doberman pinschers are typically watchful, fearless, loyal, and obedient dogs with an elegant body build. They often are goofy and relaxed in the comfort of their own homes, but can snap to attention in an instant, making them a top contender as a guardian and companion for your family. Their short hair requires minimal brushing to maintain a healthy coat, but expect typical shedding. Dobermans are quick learners and excel in obedience, tracking, and agility sports. Choose an activity, preferably one that involves the whole family, that will keep your dog’s mind sharp and provide mental and physical exercise. Some of the disorders that Dobermans are prone to include dilated cardiomyopathy, clotting disorders, hip dysplasia, retinal atrophy, hypothyroidism, and bloat.


4. Great Danes

Great Danes are great guard dogs for protection 

Great Danes are giants in the dog world, standing taller than most people when on their hind legs. Fortunately, the mere sight of these behemoths is enough to deter intruders, because they are often not a brave breed. Danes are friendly, people pleasers, patient with small children, and eager to make new friends. Despite their short hair coat, they do shed and can accumulate a large pile of hair, so weekly brushing is required to help keep shedding to a minimum. Daily walks are ideal, although this breed appears to be sedentary. However, routine exercise to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of orthopedic issues, which are common in giant breeds, is important. Great Danes commonly suffer with hypothyroidism, cardiac disease, eye issues, and bloat among other illnesses.


5. Staffordshire bull terriers

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are great guard dogs for protection 

Staffordshire bull terriers have been referred to as “nanny dogs” because of their wonderful temperament with children when bred responsibly. Originally bred to fight in England’s dog pits, this breed has been honed to battle with other dogs, but responsible breeders have worked diligently to breed this trait out of their bloodlines, leading to a strong, confident, family-oriented breed. Caution is required when introducing this breed (and all pets) to a new dog, but they love people and develop close bonds with their families. Their short, stiff coats require little grooming. On the other hand, these dogs require daily mental and physical activity, since they are highly intelligent and active and especially like to dig. Common health issues include cardiac disease, hip dysplasia, skin conditions, and allergies.


Guard dog breeds for older children

Some guard dog breeds are naturally more aloof and independent, seeming to prefer the quiet company of older children over noisy, fast-moving toddlers. The following breeds also require a more experienced dog owner, in terms of grooming, exercise, or training needs. If this isn’t your first dog, your children are older, or you have ample time to dedicate to canine care, one of these guard dogs may be your family’s perfect fit.

1. Akitas

Akitas are great guard dogs for protection 

Akitas are muscular dogs of ancient Japanese lineage, famous for their dignity, courage, and loyalty. Sometimes wary of strangers and often intolerant of other animals, this breed often only lets their silly, fun-loving side show with family. Early and continuous socialization and training is critical to control these imposing, independent dogs, but these attributes also lend themselves to an excellent guard dog. Akitas are double-coated, shed a lot and need frequent grooming, as well as removing their dead undercoat twice yearly. Although they are large—often over 100 pounds—these dogs do well in fairly small homes, requiring only moderate exercise. Akitas are prone to hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eye issues, bloat and other ailments .


2. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois are great guard dogs for protection 

Belgian Malinois are a high-energy breed, requiring intense exercise and mental stimulation. They quickly become devoted and strongly bonded with a person of choice, making them excellent family guardians. These dogs are often seen working as police dogs, competing in canine competitions, and helping with search-and-rescue efforts. They need a job besides family protection, but routine obedience and other training sessions will help create the ideal guard dog. Their short, waterproof coat requires little care, although extra brushing is necessary to help remove hair during twice-yearly shedding sessions. Highly intelligent, athletic, and devoted, Mals need to be engaged daily. A brief jaunt is not enough, and they often enjoy being included when you bike, hike, or run. You can even consider signing up for agility, tracking, herding, or Schutzhund (i.e., protection) lessons. Belgian Malinois are prone to hip dysplasia, cataracts, Epilepsy and thyroid disease to name a few.


3. German shepherd dogs

German Shepherds are great guard dogs for protection 

German shepherd dogs (GSD) are like the Belgian Malinois—fiercely loyal, highly intelligent, and willing to put their lives on the line for their loved ones. This breed has a certain aloofness that does not lend itself to indiscriminate friendships, instead discerning between acceptable and unacceptable company in the home. Such a trait creates the basis for a wonderful family companion and protector. Once you have the perfect pet, keep up with continuous exercise and mental stimulation to ensure a happy, confident dog. Also, maintain a good grooming schedule, since this breed has a thick double coat that sheds heavily and requires routine maintenance. GSDs are prone to degenerative myelopathy, bloat, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, clotting disorders, as well as hip dysplasia.


4. Rottweilers

Rottweilers are great guard dogs for protection 

Rottweilers are the quintessential guard dog breed—thick, blocky, muscular, and imposing—and few are brave enough to sneak past one of these dogs on guard duty. Often self-assured and confident, this breed is commonly aloof with strangers, but turns into a gentle, silly lapdog when around family. Its short coat requires little grooming. The main challenge with rottweilers is their training. They can be headstrong and intelligent, and need a caring and persistent owner, so consider giving your rottweiler a job to help develop your bond. These dogs are at higher than average risk for hip dysplasia, joint disorders, eyelid issues and certain types of cancers.


5. Saint Bernards

Saint Bernards are great guard dogs for protection 

Saint Bernards are famous for their patience and role as “nanny dogs,” similar to Staffordshire bull terriers. Often aloof with strangers, these headstrong, intelligent dogs require careful socialization and training to become the ideal family guard dog. This breed comes in short- and long-haired versions, but both need frequent grooming sessions. Despite being such a powerful breed, these dogs need only moderate activity. Saint Bernards often develop hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bone cancer, epilepsy, eye or heart issues.

Choosing a new pet to welcome into your family can be exciting, but preparation is key to picking the perfect dog for your lifestyle. A family-friendly guard dog can be a wonderful addition to your home, offering protective companionship and granting you peace of mind.