8 Best Guard Dogs

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 19, 2022
Image Credit BORINA OLGA/Shutterstock.com
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Key Points:

  • Not all guard dogs are large. Many small dog breeds make excellent guard dogs.
  • Some breeds were bred specifically to guard humans, some were bred to guard livestock.
  • Many guard dogs are also loving members of the family and especially protective over the children of the house.

The relationship between humans and domesticated dogs dates back at least 25,000 years, but the first definitive evidence of canines selectively bred for guard dog tasks can be found roughly 2,000 years ago in classical Greece. Cerberus — the terrifying three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the underworld was perhaps a reflection of the huge and imposing dog breeds that were used to guard livestock and the property of both the rich and the poor.

In the two millennia since, humanity’s needs have diversified — and our selective breeding of guard dogs has only become more sophisticated and specialized. There are a ton of dogs that can make great guard dogs, but some breeds are recognized as producing the best guard dogs. Whether you’re looking for a new pet or are simply curious, here are eight of the best guard dogs, with an emphasis on punctuating how diverse these breeds are.

#8: Standard Schnauzer — Alert and Stubborn Dogs That Don’t Shed

The Standard Schnauzer was originally called the Wire-Haired Pinscher.

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The Standard Schnauzer may be German, but it was essentially bred to be the Swiss army knife of working dogs. These dogs were typically employed on farms and were bred for hunting vermin, herding sheep and cattle, and protecting their caretakers on the road. Both the miniature and Giant Schnauzer were bred from this dog, but the initial size wasn’t a mistake. The Standard Schnauzer was close enough to a small breed to comfortably travel in carts with farmers and chase rodents into their burrows, but they also had enough bulk to intimidate potential threats to livestock. Schnauzers were bred to keep the homestead safe and healthy, and that’s produced in them both a strong sense of family and a strong sense of self. They tend to build close relationships with their caretakers, but they also tend to be stubborn. In addition to being a great guard dog perfect for families, schnauzers are also hypoallergenic.

#7: Irish Terrier — A Capable and Adaptable Worker

The Irish Terrier is considered to be one of the oldest terrier breeds.

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The Irish Terrier shares a few things with the schnauzer: a hypoallergenic coat, a robust but medium-sized body, and a reputation for being a capable jack-of-all-trades. These dogs that don’t shed much were initially bred to be companions, guard dogs, and hunters — but they’ve even been used as courier dogs delivering messages in the trenches of World War I. These are one of the oldest terrier breeds on the planet as well as one of the most protective, and they’re sometimes known for sometimes being brash and reckless. Their fearlessness is matched with fierce loyalty to their caretakers. And while the Irish terrier’s bark should alert you to intruders before they’ve even stepped a foot through the door, you can also expect them to jump to the aid of their families immediately.

#6: Chow Chow — China’s Ancient Royal Guard

Chow Chows are well-known for their dense double coat.

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The Chow Chow may look like a cuddly teddy bear, but they tend to be reserved dogs that bond closely with one or very few people and see everyone else as a threat. It’s a fitting temperament for dogs that guarded palaces in imperial China. Combine that with the fact that they’re equal parts clever and stubborn, and you’re left with a breed that’s known for having a difficult reputation. But if you get a Chow Chow early and manage to properly socialize and train them from a young age, they can grow to be exceptional family dogs in addition to strong guard dogs. They’re one of the most protective large breed guard dogs, but they’re also generally a low-energy breed.

#5: German Shepherd — A Quintessential Guard Dog

German Shepherds are watchful yet stubborn.

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The German Shepherd was bred to be the perfect working dog — and while the verdict is still out on whether it worked, there’s little doubt that these large breed dogs rank both among the most protective and the best choices of dog breeds for families. As the name would suggest, they were originally bred to be shepherds and have understandably developed a strong skill for listening and following directions. A sharp sense of intelligence along with a reliable sense of initiative means that you can generally count on one of these dogs to make the right move in any situation. Some breeds on this list don’t shed, but German Shepherds aren’t one of them. These dogs are known for losing hair in abundance, and that’s doubly true during shedding season. Some would say that’s a small price to pay for a dog that will never back down when its family is in danger.

#4: Doberman Pinscher — Surprisingly Fast Large Breed Guard

The Doberman Pinscher was first bred by a tax collector.

DragoNika/Shutterstock.com

The Doberman Pinscher is often treated in popular culture as a villainous and efficient guard dog, but that perspective is only half true. Dobermans are highly sociable and people-oriented dogs, but they’re also the last choice you want if you’re searching for a low-energy dog. Their natural athleticism allows them to overpower intruders at a pace few other dogs can reach and can achieve a max speed of 32 miles per hour. But Dobermans excel the best when they have discipline. They share the sharp and attentive minds of their German shepherd kin and can become temperamental and anxious if they aren’t given a decent amount of both physical and mental stimulation.

#3: Cane Corso

Cane Corsos were once used to fight lions.

xkunclova/Shutterstock.com

Cane Corsos have been vigilantly protecting their human companions since the days of ancient Rome, but dwindling interest in this breed forced intervention to save them in the 1970s. This resurgence has brought them back from the brink of extinction after targeted efforts to revive them. A large breed with a tremendously stocky build, the Cane Corso can typically intimidate human threats without even having to move a muscle or make a noise. These dogs are bodyguards through and through — and while they’re generally calm and low energy, they do need proper socialization and training thanks to their enormous size. But beneath all of that intimidating muscle is a dog that adores its human family and showers them with gentle affection.

#2: Jack Russell Terrier — Small Breed, Big Bravado

The Jack Russel Terrier was originally bred for fox hunting.

dezy/Shutterstock.com

If you think a small breed can’t be an effective guard dog, meet the 15 pounds Jack Russell Terrier. This breed is built as a hunting dog and ratter, but it turns out that vigorous hunting instinct also makes them an exceptional choice for guard dog duties. These dogs have especially sharp senses that are almost always tuned in, and they vocalize almost any discovery they make. But their highly territorial nature can sometimes make them too vigilant. Often confrontational with both other dogs and friendly strangers, the typical Jack Russell often needs to be kept on a short leash. But they’re fearless in the face of significant danger and unrelenting in their desire to protect the people they love.

#1: Bullmastiff — The Strong and Silent Type

John D. Rockefeller Brought the Bullmastiff to the United States.

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The result of breeding between the English Mastiff and the Old English Bulldog, the average Bullmastiff is an imposing canine that can reach a shoulder height of nearly two feet and easily weigh over a hundred pounds. Originally bred to protect the game animals on large properties from poachers, they’re built to protect extensive stretches of land — but their physicality and skills translate well to the modern-day home as well. But the most useful trait of the bullmastiff may be that they’ve been bred through generations to rarely bite or bark. Instead, they use their exceptional strength and surprising speed to pin down and immobilize intruders until they can be dealt with. And while they’re diligent guards, these dogs are loving with their caretakers off the job and are one of the best guard dogs for families.

Here is a Summary of the 8 Best Guard Dogs

  1. Bullmastiff
  2. Jack Russell Terrier
  3. Cane Corso
  4. Doberman Pinscher
  5. German Shephard
  6. Chow Chow
  7. Irish Terrier
  8. Standard Schnauzer

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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