Dogs have been guarding humans since their wolf ancestors first decided that the warmth and comfort of the fire and an easy supply of food was worth working for. As dogs separated from wolves, and the breeds began to diverge, different breeds showed different aptitudes. Dogs were bred to encourage specific traits including, hunting, retrieving, herding, scent following, and guarding.
The Changing Relationship Between Humans and Dogs
As our needs further diversified so did the traits that we bred into our dogs, leading to the various breeds we have today, all with their own unique personalities, traits, and in some case challenges. But it is not just dogs that have changed since the days of the wolf pack close to the fire. Humans have changed as well, and so have our expectations and interactions with our pets. In some cases, this is positive leading to better understanding and treatment. In other cases, it has led to crueler treatments, dogs left alone for hours on end, and disruption to the relationship between the human and dog pack.
In extreme cases, it has led to dogs attacking those that they were supposed to be protecting. This has created a wider debate about the nature of dogs, the safety of certain breeds, and whether a once wild creature can ever truly be trusted, especially around young children. How much of the wild wolf still remains, hidden, but not forgotten after years of breeding and training?
Families especially now face a tougher choice than ever when choosing a dog to have around the home, to welcome as part of their family, and to protect both the home and those within it. While proper breeding, good care, and attention to training are all important in raising a dog to protect you, some breeds remain more suited to guarding families than others. Here we look at the 10 best guard dogs for families, all while remembering that training and caution should go hand in hand with choosing your dog.
10 Best Guard Dogs for Families
Bernese Mountain Dog
The Bernese Mountain Dog is good-natured, calm, intelligent, and strong. Not known as an aggressive breed, it is their loud bark coupled with their size that acts as a deterrent to any would-be burglar. These dogs are loyal and obedient, so want to please their human family. They love human companionship and are great with children. For a large dog, they are very active though and love to play.
Boxers are loving, affectionate, and playful. They remain puppy-like most of their lives and love to play all the time. Their desire to please and gain affection from their human family is very strong and despite being a large breed, they are very gentle, particularly with children. While playful and often considered the clowns of the larger breeds, they are actually very astute and alert to danger.
Bullmastiffs are powerfully built and very strong. Despite having an intimidating demeanor, Bullmastiffs are docile, good-natured, and affectionate. They are intensely loyal, confident, and fearless. They have superb instincts and have an extremely protective nature. Bullmastiffs rarely bark and are quick to attack if they sense that their human family is in danger.
Doberman Pinschers are often associated with security and are seen as one of the dogs of choice for patrolling security personnel, police, and the armed forces. One of the reasons for this is because they are easy to train. They also look intimidating and are cautious around people that they don’t know. This agile and alert dog can also make a great family pet. They are obedient, intelligent, and loving when given the proper training, time, and affection. However, if you have small children, it is always best to work with the dog from a puppy; old habits can be hard to break, especially if you do not know the complete history of an older dog.
German Shepherds have an undeserved, negative reputation. Often portrayed as vicious and menacing, they are actually soft, loving, and playful. They adore children and despite their size and teeth, they know how to be gentle. German Shepherds are also very courageous and naturally protective, which is why they are often chosen for roles in the police and military. They also love learning and flourish when well-trained; they actually enjoy obedience training and love to please their owners.
The Great Dane stands head and shoulders above most other dogs. Its size alone is enough to stop most would be attackers or burglars. However, despite its size and its very intimidating bark, it is one of the gentlest breeds of dog and is fantastic with children. Great Danes are also friendly, patient, and very dependable.
Rottweilers are another breed that has suffered from a great deal of negative press, not helped by their portrayal in films and on television. Poorly trained, as with any dog, this breed can pose dangers to anyone. However, properly trained and shown love and a consistent approach, these dogs are loyal, loving, and completely devoted to their human families. The Rottweiler is confident, intelligent, and eager to please, all of which help with training. They are also cautious around strangers and inherently protective.
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
If you are looking for a dog with all the loyalty and intelligence of the larger breeds on this list, but that takes up a little less room, then the Staffordshire Bull Terrier should be on your watch list. These dogs are extremely powerful, brave, and protective. They require a lot of exercise and careful training from a young age, but they are loyal and playful and treated right, perfect with children.
This strange looking dog with a coat that resembles a mop is fast and very smart. The Puli is traditionally a herding dog, capable of outrunning and outsmarting predators. The breed is lively, energetic, and hardworking, so will need a lot of time and attention to stop it from being bored. The Puli is not good with strangers and takes an owner that understands the needs of its unique coat.
The Giant Schnauzer is a larger, stronger version of its standard counterpart. It was initially bred as a working dog and has high intelligence and drive. With the right training, attention, and exercise, the Giant Schnauzer is a courageous and loyal companion. However, this breed is not really for novice dog owners and requires someone who can put aside a large amount of time for grooming, playing, and training.
Choosing the Perfect Guard Dog for Your Family
When choosing the perfect guard dog for your family, it is important to consider the needs of the dog as well as your needs and preferences. Take into account the amount of time and space that you have. Do you have the time needed to walk, train, and groom the dog? Can you set aside enough time to play with and socialize your dog? Do you have the time needed to deal with the basics of having a puppy in the house? Compare the time you have to the needs of the breeds that you are considering.
When it comes to space, think about not only the space they need to sleep, relax, and eat, but also the space they will take up as they move around your home. While you may be able to set up a sleeping area for a Bull Mastiff in your apartment, they may not have the room to move around freely without breaking things.
Dogs also need space away from the family, and particularly from young children, can you provide this? Consider the availability of outside space as well. Is there somewhere suitable for walks, play time, and training? Where can you take them for their toileting needs? Do you feel safe letting your dog outside in your yard or garden?
Money is another consideration. While all dogs need food, insurance, toys, leashes, and an emergency veterinary fund, these things are more expensive with a larger dog. Dogs with unique coats or specific health needs may also encounter additional costs. There are also the costs associated with dog walkers, trainers, and kennels if you go on vacation. While you may be able to find someone to house sit a smaller dog, finding someone who is comfortable around and able to walk a Great Dane may be a little more difficult.
Your experience with dogs should also play a role in your final decision. Different breeds need different types of training and some need a great deal more understanding than others. It is important to get things right the first time so that you are not correcting behaviors as they get older.
Puppy or Grown Dog?
Adopting a dog is a great way to find your loyal family pet. However, if you have young children, adopting an older dog is not always advisable. If you choose to go down this route, then it is important to know the full history of the dog as well as their temperament. You also need to be prepared to put in the additional work needed to correct problem behaviors and to give them the time they need to settle and learn to trust you.
Giving an older dog a second chance at a loving home is wonderful. But if you are unsure, then buy or adopt a younger dog or a puppy. You will still need to put in the time and effort, but there are less ingrained behaviors to correct and trust can be built more easily most of the time.
While all the dogs on our list are great with families and young children, it is important that you never leave a young child alone with your dog. There are numerous things that can happen in this situation that can lead to injury. Something as simple as miscommunication between the child and the dog can have undesired consequences.
Teaching children to respect your dog’s space, food, and toys, is just as important as training your dog. If you can teach mutual respect and the signs that your dog needs to be left alone, then you will have a happy and harmonious relationship between human and furry siblings and a confident, calm, and loyal dog that will protect all members of the family without question.