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20 Best Guard Dogs: Breeds That Will Protect Your Family (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd police dog

One of the dog’s earliest jobs as a companion to humans was as a protector. Throughout our 30,000 or so years together, dogs have harnessed their protective instinct to alert us to intruders, guard our property or livestock, or otherwise defend against threats.

These traits have been honed over hundreds of years, creating some of the best natural guard dogs that are also intelligent and loyal. Here are the 20 best guard dog breeds.

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The 20 Best Guard Dog Breeds

1. Airedale Terrier

Airedale Terrier sitting on bench
Image By: PROMA1, Shutterstock

The Airedale Terrier is a friendly and exuberant dog that’s great with kids and quick to learn, making them one of the best guard dogs for families. If they sense a threat, Airedales will bark relentlessly, but they’re quick to welcome others into the family. They are terriers, however, so they tend to have a high prey drive.

2. Tibetan Mastiff

Tibetan Mastiff in winter
Image By: Tatyana Kuznetsova, Shutterstock

The Tibetan Mastiff is a Himalayan mountain breed bred to guard people and livestock. With its massive size and remarkable intelligence, the Tibetan Mastiff is one of the best guard dogs for families and property. That said, these dogs can be extremely territorial and strong-willed, so they may not take to strangers in the home easily and require a lot of training.

3. Caucasian Shepherd

Caucasian Shepherd dog
Image Credit: Jagodka, Shutterstock

The Caucasian Shepherd has a sweet look that resembles a bear, but it can be just as powerful and fierce. Known by other names, such as Russian Bear Dog, Caucasian Ovcharka, and Caucasian Mountain Dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is a powerful and fierce dog that can kill wolves or bears.

Though loyal and calm, it’s important for a dog of this size and temperament to have strong boundaries and training.

4. American Staffordshire Terrier

American Staffordshire Terrier on mulch_Shutterstock_Tom Myers
Image Credit: Tom Myers, Shutterstock

The American Staffordshire Terrier is one of the pit-bull-type dogs. Bred as a fighting dog, the Staffie has a strong protective instinct and natural prey drive, making it ideal as a guard dog. Though it’s often playful, affectionate, and energetic, the American Staffordshire Terrier is muscular and powerful, so it’s important to socialize and train your dog well to avoid incidents.

5. Giant Schnauzer

grey Giant Schnauzer
Image Credit: Maxim Gutsal, Shutterstock

The Giant Schnauzer is the largest version of the Schnauzer and a great protector. It’s a large, strong dog with a lot of energy, so it needs mental and physical stimulation to avoid destructive behaviors or aggression. Most Giant Schnauzers will chase small animals, including smaller dogs, so they do best as the only animal in the home.

6. Akita

akita dog standing outdoor
Image Credit: FunFamilyRu, Shutterstock

The Akita is a stocky Japanese mountain dog that’s fiercely protective by nature. These dogs were kept as guardians to the Japanese emperor in the Middle Ages. Though Akitas make great alert dogs, their territorial nature and high prey drive can create problems if they’re not socialized properly.

7. Beauceron

close up of a Beauceron dog
Image Credit: Christel SAGNIEZ, Pixabay

The Beauceron resembles a Doberman Pinscher, but it’s actually a French sheepdog. This giant dog breed is sensitive and smart with a fearless attitude, making it a good choice as a guard dog. They do require firm training, however.

8. Belgian Malinois

belgian malinois dog out in the field
Image Credit: Sha_shin, Shutterstock

The Belgian Malinois is often used as a police or military service dog for its bravery, strength, and intelligence. These dogs are excellent guard dogs, but they tend toward jealousy and territoriality. Belgian Malinois are ideally suited for experienced owners with strong training skills.

9. Black Russian Terrier

Image Credit: Livanich, Shutterstock

The Black Russian Terrier was used in the Russian army as an aloof but fiercely protective dog to patrol borders. Though the terrier looks friendly, it has a lot of strength that could be unruly without proper training and leadership.

10. Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Image Credit: Kerrie T, Shutterstock

Though not often thought of as a guard dog, the sporting Chesapeake Bay Retriever is a naturally protective dog that lacks some of the friendliness of the other retriever breeds. This dog was bred to retrieve waterfowl, so they’re not happy in homes with sedentary families.

11. Boxer

close up of boxer dog
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

The Boxer is a medium-sized breed that’s affectionate, playful, and great with kids. Though they have an intimidating look, Boxers are more bark than bite. They do need a lot of exercise, however, to relieve some of that pent-up energy.

12. Cane Corso

black cane corso dog standing at the park
Image Credit: Tymoshenko Olga, Shutterstock

The Cane Corso is a bodyguard dog that was bred to be a guardian of the family. Also known as an Italian Mastiff, the breed is large and strong with an imposing appearance. When strangers come around, the Cane Corso is extremely territorial, aggressive, and seemingly immune to pain.

It’s a great guard dog but should be reserved for experienced owners with a background in training more challenging breeds.

13. Doberman Pinscher

doberman dog in late autumn
Image Credit: elis aksenova, Shutterstock

One of the best-known guard dogs, the Doberman Pinscher is sleek, powerful, and fearless. These dogs are big barkers and fiercely loyal to their family, so they take every threat seriously. Otherwise, they enjoy playing and exercising with family, which is important for their mental well-being.

14. German Shepherd

german shepherd close up
Image Credit: Mircea Costina, Shutterstock

The German Shepherd is a classic guard dog breed that’s been used for everything from police work to military service to competitions. These dogs are widely known for their loyalty and bravery, particularly when it comes to protecting their own family or owner. German Shepherds are intelligent and easy to train, but they need boundaries.

15. Anatolian Shepherd

anatolian shepherd dog standing
Image Credit: SusImage, Shutterstock

The Anatolian Shepherd is an extra-large dog breed that was bred to guard livestock. They’re sensitive and watchful with a loud bark to alert you to danger, but they can be territorial and aggressive with strangers and unknown animals. These dogs do best in homes with a lot of space to patrol, so apartment living isn’t for them.

16. Great Dane

a great dane dog lying outdoor
Image Credit: Emma Forsyth 88, Shutterstock

Made famous by Marmaduke and Scooby Do, the Great Dane is a graceful giant breed that’s courageous and quick to alert its owner. Though they’re not quick to attack, the imposing appearance, massive size, and threatening bark of the Great Dane is often enough to scare off intruders.

17. Rhodesian Ridgeback

Rhodesian Ridgeback on the beach
Image Credit: Ivanova N, Shutterstock

The Rhodesian Ridgeback gets its name from the signature ridge of fur that grows in the opposite direction and stands up on the spine. These dogs were bred to hunt lions originally, so they maintain some of that protectiveness and bravery in home environments.

Though affectionate and patient, the Ridgeback can be domineering and stubborn without proper training.

18. Rottweiler

rottweiler dog sitting on grass
Image Credit: Kevin Seibel, Pixabay

The original “junkyard” dog, the Rottweiler is known for its protectiveness and courage. These dogs can be sweet and affectionate with their owners, but they tend to be more suspicious of strangers and new animals. They have a strong alert bark, but they will back it up with a serious bite if provoked. Because of their potential for injury, Rottweilers need strict training to learn appropriate times for aggression.

19. Bullmastiff

brindle bullmastiff with white marking
Image Credit: Vera Reva, Shutterstock

While large and muscular, the Bullmastiff strikes an ideal balance of fearlessness and docility according to the situation. They were originally used to pursue poachers in England, but they still hold a place as a world-class protector and companion.

Like other large guardian breeds, Bullmastiffs should be trained and socialized early to establish good habits.

20. Estrela Mountain Dog

Estrela Mountain Dog
Image Credit: ThomasLENNE, Shutterstock

The Estrela Mountain Dog is a loving and devoted dog toward family and often a “one person” dog, but it’s quick to defend its “pack.” The Estrela is calm, but it needs space and regular exercise to thrive and avoid destructive behaviors.

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Is a Guard Dog Right for Me?

Getting a naturally watchful and protective dog breed can be a good choice to guard your family and home, but there’s a wide range of breed personalities between “watchdog” and “attack dog.”

Some of the traits that make certain breeds ideally suited to guard work are also traits that can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Make sure to research the breed you’re considering, determine its training needs, and decide if it’s really a good fit for your family and purposes.

Often, large, intimidating breeds can be enough to scare away intruders without any risk of aggression. And if you’re getting a dog to guard your property—including livestock like sheep or chickens—it may be best to get a livestock guardian dog.

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From watchdogs to livestock guardian dogs to all-around protection dogs, some dogs possess a natural alertness and bravery that make them ideal for safeguarding your family from threats and intruders. While a guard dog can be a great addition to your home, make sure to research the breed and choose the best fit for your circumstances.

Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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