Types of Guard Dog Breeds

Boxer laying nicely in pile of leaves
© Eudyptula/Shutterstock.com

Written by Lisha Pace

Updated: June 3, 2023

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Key Points:
  • Guard dogs were bred to protect property and livestock from working and hunting breeds.
  • The Cane Corso and Tibetan Mastiff have the most powerful bite force.
  • German Shepherds are great guard dogs, police dogs, service and family dogs.
  • Some breeds are just too friendly to attack anyone — Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters and Basset Hounds, to name a few.

Guard dogs are on high alert to let you know of any danger and also serve as protection dogs. There are different types of guard dog breeds, from those that are more general watchdogs to protective dogs that immediately and aggressively attack, but they’re all loyal and protective. To find the best family guard dog that’s right for you, read on to learn more about some different types of guard dog breeds from the low-energy guard dog to the best attack dog. Whether common or rare, intimidatingly big, or a more manageable medium-sized breed, these 10 breeds of protective dogs are experts in what they do.

1. Cane Corso

The Cane Corso was originally bred to herd livestock.

©iStock.com/Sidney de Almeida

The Cane Corso is the Italian version of the Mastiff. Also called the Italian Mastiff, it is closely related to the Neopolitan Mastiff. It makes for a low-energy guard dog that doesn’t need much exercise. It’s also easy to train, especially from a young age. First used to herd livestock and hunt large game, the Cane Corso can also protect livestock and serve as a companion dog or guard dog. With a bite force of 552psi, it has the second-highest or third-highest bite force of any dog breed around, depending on who you talk to.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

Mastiffs are popular for their intimidating large size and are often used as guard dogs. However, the Tibetan Mastiff’s name was a misnomer from European visitors to Tibet. Although it was used as a guarding and herding dog for Tibetan nomads and a watchdog in Tibetan monasteries, the Tibetan Mastiff is not a true mastiff. It is a low-energy guard dog when inside and becomes more active outside. This breed has a bite force of 500-550psi, making it one of the most powerful and best attack dogs. It is rare and expensive, however.

3. Akita

The Akita was first bred to guard royalty and other nobility in Japan.


One of the most loyal and protective dogs, the Akita was originally bred to guard royalty and other nobility in feudal Japan. Today, it makes the top of the best family guard dogs due to its large size, strength, stubbornness, and suspicion towards strangers. It’s also the top of the best attack dogs and protection dogs with a bite force of 400psi. This brave and vigilant breed never stops watching you and your family and its large size makes it look intimidating.

Although it needs obedience training like any other breed, it doesn’t need guard dog training except as an option to improve its skills. One caveat: It is not recommended to have it around other dogs. Note that there is a Japanese Akita and an American Akita, they differ only in appearance, with the American Akita being heavier-boned and larger.

4. Rottweiler

The Rottweiler was originally bred to herd livestock and pull carts.


Another German dog breed, the Rottweiler is medium-sized to large-sized. It was originally called Rottweil butcher’s dog because its job was to herd livestock and pull carts. Today, this dog is used as a police dog, search-and-rescue dog, and guard dog because it is smart, strong, obedient, alert, calm, and eager to work. As a quiet wait-and-see watchdog with guarding instincts, it looks fierce to anyone it doesn’t trust or thinks is dangerous. And with a bite strength of 328 to 400psi, it makes for one of the best attack dogs and protection dogs as well.

5. Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher has a bite force of 245psi.


The Doberman Pinscher is intimidating and fearless to people it doesn’t trust. This medium-sized to large-sized breed is smart, vigilant, loving, strong, loyal, and protective. It is very unlikely to attack its owner and has a higher than usual chance of attacking strange people and dogs. As one of the best attack dogs, it can deliver a bite force of 245psi.

6. German Shepherd

The German Shepherd was first used for herding sheep.


The classic German Shepherd is a medium-sized to a large-sized working dog from Germany. First used for herding sheep, the dog’s intelligence, strength, obedience, and trainability make it excellent as a service dog in disability assistance, search-and-rescue work, police, or military work. Popular as an all-purpose breed, it can learn to track, patrol, detect and hold criminals. It stays watching during any suspicious behavior or while you’re not home, and if necessary can deliver a bite force of 238psi. This breed is easygoing enough around children to be one of the best family guard dogs around.

7. American Staffordshire Terrier

The American Staffordshire Terrier’s nickname is “Nanny Dog.”

©iStock.com/Marina Vedernikova

Although not a rare breed, the “Pittie” and other pitbull-type breeds are banned in many areas due to their reputation for aggression. Compared to the Pitbull, the American Staffordshire Terrier was specifically used as not only a guard dog but a family dog that’s excellent with children; hence, its nickname as “Nanny Dog” despite its tough appearance. Its bite force is 235psi, which is not as powerful as that of other breeds, but it makes up for it with its large size and protectiveness towards everyone in the household, making it one of the best family guard dogs.

8. Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd has a bite force of 235psi.


The Australian Shepherd makes excellent use of its attentiveness, intelligence, adaptiveness, and quiet working as a guard dog. Its herding instinct with a tendency to herd, nip or bite people and animals can easily turn into the ability to attack dangerous people, with a bite force of 235psi. On the other hand, it is a loving and high-energy companion animal that makes for one of the best types of family guard dogs.

9. Boxer

Boxers are one of the most popular breeds in the United States.


One of the most popular breeds in the United States, the Boxer is a dog that hails from Germany. It was bred specifically to be a guard dog and also used to hunt and hold down large games, which makes it also useful for humans. With personality traits like high vigilance, territorial instinct, and tendency to bark at potential threats, it only needs direction. Unlike some other guard dogs, it is a gentle breed that attacks with a body slam over jaws and teeth, but when it does, it has a bite force of 230psi. It’s not likely to let criminals getaway.

10. Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois is easy to train and valued as a police and military dog.


The Belgian Malinois, also called Belgian Shepherd, is similar to the German Shepherd. Like its German relative, this type of guard dog is easy to train and valued as a police and military dog. The main qualities that make it different are that it has more stamina and it has an independent streak that makes it prone to wanderlust. Although it has a lower chance of biting people and a bite force of 195psi, it is territorial and is great as a home or family guard dog.

Breeds That Can’t Be Guard Dogs

Small dogs obviously cannot be guard dogs. On the other hand, some large dog breeds can be trained to be protective dogs, while others can never be. The aforementioned list is just a sample of many guard dog breeds, and certain large breeds just can’t make it as protection dogs. These breeds tend to be too friendly to attack people:

Guard dogs are all watchdogs but not all watchdogs are guard dogs. Guard dogs are members of either the working, hunting (hound), or herding groups of dogs. They were originally bred and developed to be watchdogs and protection dogs for livestock and homes and do work such as herding or carting. Naturally fearless, strong, watchful, loyal, and protective, these instincts make them the best for home security and personal protection.

The Bravest Guard Dog of them All

Whether it’s controlling crowds for the police or sniffing out bombs for the army, German Shepherds are considered to be the bravest of all dog breeds. As a family pet they will happily put their lives on the line to protect their humans.

Summary of the Types of Guard Dog Breeds

Here’s a recap of the breeds that make the best guard dogs:

1.Cane CorsoBite Force
2.Tibetan MastiffBite Force
3.AkitaBrave and Vigilant
4.RottweilerAlert, Calm
5.Doberman PinscherLoyalty
6.German ShepardMany Diverse Strengths including Bravery
7.American Staffordshire TerrierKnown as the Nanny Dog: Good with Children
8.Australian ShepardGood for Families
9.BoxerAttacks with Body Slam
10.Belgian MalinoisTerritorial

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About the Author

After a career of working to provide opportunities for local communities to experience and create art, I am enjoying having time to write about two of my favorite things - nature and animals. Half of my life is spent outdoors, usually with my husband and sweet little fourteen year old dog. We love to take walks by the lake and take photos of the animals we meet including: otters, ospreys, Canadian geese, ducks and nesting bald eagles. I also enjoy reading, discovering books to add to my library, collecting and playing vinyl, and listening to my son's music.

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