7 Best Guard Dogs: Most Protective Dogs for Families

Dogs have always been mankind’s loyal companions. They have served as guardians to livestock and homes ever since they were first domesticated. In fact, the Romans even had their own “Beware of Dog” signs known as Cave Canem mosaics.

Whether a dog is from Europe or Asia, the best guard dog breeds share the same characteristics. Some are large, some are medium-sized, but all have natural guarding instincts.

Many think the best dog breeds for guarding families are Rottweilers or Dobermans. But this isn’t always true. In this article we share what makes a good guard dog, how to pick one and the seven most protective dogs for families.

What Makes a Good Guard Dog?

Guard Dog

Many guard dogs have guarding in their genetics. Their parents and grandparents were bred and used to guard, it is in their blood! Some dogs inherit these strong instincts to protect their loved ones. However, not all dogs suited for this role have a history of guard dogs.

Certain traits make a dog good at guarding.

To start with, the dog needs to be very loyal to their family. A dog who loves their family will have a strong desire to keep them safe.

These dogs also need to be alert and observant. They will often stare out the window for hours, watching for any sign of movement or danger. They should not be easily distracted and will notice any small sound that seems out of the ordinary.

They must also be intelligent, obedient and listen well to commands. If a dog is not trained properly for this role, they can accidentally cross the border between protective and aggressive.

A good guard dog will intimidate, but never attack.

Finally, they have to look tough and strong. Many small dog breeds are alert and have a loud bark; however, they are not intimidating. They are highly unlikely to deter any type of threat.

Are Female Dogs Good Guard Dogs?

Thai Ridgeback

Female dogs are normally better at protecting their owners, while males are better at protecting their homes. Females have strong maternal instincts and will keep their loved ones safe at all costs. Males have territorial behaviors that cause them to guard their home fiercely.

Why you want a guard dog will determine which gender is a better choice.

Female dogs tend to have more control over their aggression. Males have a bit more spunk to them. This means they can get carried away with their role and become aggressive or too intimidating. Females normally know the boundary between protectiveness and aggression.

Broad statements can be made about genders, but this is not a guarantee of what type of behavior they will show. Every dog is an individual.

Top 7 Best Guard Dogs

Here are seven of the most protective guard dogs you can adopt to ensure your home’s safety.

BreedSize (pounds)PurposeRank (#)
AkitaUp to 130 poundsPowerful hunter of big game.1
Belgian Malinois80 poundsAttentive livestock herders.4
BullmastiffUp to 140 poundsProtect game preserves from poachers.2
Cane Corso110 poundsHunting wild boar.3
Catahoula Leopard Dog95 poundsCatching wild hogs and herding livestock.7
Staffordshire Bull Terrier30 poundsDogfighting.6
Thai Ridgeback75 poundsWatchdogs and hunting dangerous snakes.5

1. Akita

Akita Dog
Powerful, alert, and loyal to its family, the Akita is a natural guard dog.

The Akita was first bred in 17th century Japan. They were once exclusively owned by Japan’s imperial family. In fact, the breed is actually named after the Akita prefecture in northern Japan where they came from.

Akitas were bred to be a powerful hunter of big game.

While originally bred for hunting, they are not overly energetic. They are happy and content with a long walk around the neighborhood.

With their muscular bodies, a double-coat that makes them look larger, and a wariness towards strangers, the Akita makes an imposing dog to any passerby. Males tend to stand at 28 inches in height and can weigh up to 130 pounds.

Akitas are only affectionate to those they trust. They have a very independent nature.

Early socialization is very important for this breed. They can be very aggressive towards people and dogs outside of their families if not socialized properly. If you do plan to train them in basic obedience, they are intelligent and eager to please.

With an Akita, you can be sure that you will have a strong and powerful guard dog. A healthy dog of this breed can live up to 13 years of age.

2. Bullmastiff

Bullmastiff
The Bullmastiff breed is a guard dog through and through!

The Bullmastiff is one of the best guard dog breeds for families. The breed was first bred to protect game preserves from poachers in late 19th century England. Big and agile, the Bullmastiff is a dog that is not gentle on its intruders.

A Bullmastiff’s size adds to his intimidation factor. Males grow as tall as 27 inches and as heavy as 140 pounds. Females grow as tall as 26 inches and weigh 120 pounds.

This breed is energetic, but not hyperactive like most working dogs. They are satisfied with moderate exercise, especially outdoor play. Due to their weight, they are not a good running partner. Instead they make a great dog for walkers.

The Bullmastiff is a docile, yet confident dog.

While the word “bull” is in its name, the Bullmastiff is not stubborn, but they are naturally territorial. Not training your Bullmastiff will lead to aggression and territorial behaviors such as barking, scenting, and charging. An out-of-control Bullmastiff can easily knock over an adult.

Early socialization and obedience training are key for any dog.

It is recommended that they are taken to obedience training classes. Ideally find a trainer that specializes in training larger breeds.

Despite their large size and guarding temperament, they are docile, gentle and soft with children. They are also lazy and low maintenance in the house.

3. Cane Corso

Cane Corso
The Cane Corso’s Latin name translates to “bodyguard dog”.

The Cane Corso is a confident dog that has a lineage that can be traced back to the Roman Empire. Its ancestors were the cross between the Roman Empire’s mollosus dogs and native Italian dog breeds. Throughout the years, Cane Corsos have carried jobs from charging enemy lines to hunting wild boar.

Today, this dog breed is well-known. It was recently recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2010 as a working breed.

Cane Corsos are one of the largest guard dog breeds and can stand as tall as 27.5 inches. They also have a large wedge-shaped head, a muscular body and droopy jowls. Despite their size, these dogs love running and long hikes. Some even excel in canine sports like dock diving.

Like many working breeds the Cane Corso craves mental and physical stimulation. It is both self-assertive and hardworking.

If left untrained the Cane Corso will use its size to become the boss of the household.

Training early and often is the key to a well-behaved dog. As much as this is a dog for experienced dog owners, a well-trained and socialized Cane Corso can make a loving family pet and an assertive guard dog.

The Cane Corso’s Latin name translates to “bodyguard dog,” a fitting title for this assertive, confident dog.

4. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois
The Belgian Malinois is a dog breed you cannot outrun.

The Belgian Malinois is a herding bred from Belgium. They came from the city of Malines and were used as livestock herders. Due to their work-oriented temperament they also made excellent military K-9s and personal protection dogs. Their dedication to their work is so famous that a statue commemorating military dogs features a bronze Belgian Malinois.

The Belgian Malinois has a close resemblance to the blue German Shepherd, albeit a taller and more athletic version. This athletic dog breed is an excellent candidate for guarding your home.

This guard dog is equal parts intelligent and athletic.

Caring for them is an easy task if you can handle their need for exercise.

While they are a breed that requires a lot of exercise, owners can rest assured that such athleticism and mental ability can be harnessed into guarding training. In fact, some Belgian Malinois breeders train their puppies to become personal protection dogs.

A Belgian Malinois’ powerful appearance can easily scare off the toughest of intruders. Males stand 26 inches tall and weigh 80 pounds. Females stand at 24 inches tall and weigh 60 pounds.

As with many guard dogs, this breed is also a wonderful family dog.

You can be sure your Belgian Malinois and your kids will get along very well, especially if they have been raised together from a very young age. Children should be taught to be gentle and respectful of the family dog.

5. Thai Ridgeback

Thai Ridgeback
The Thai Ridgeback’s long legs and thin body may look fragile, but this is an agile and powerful breed.

Thai Ridgebacks are an ancient guard dog breed. There are references to this breed in centuries-old archaeological documents. This agile breed is still used today for guarding and hunting throughout parts of Thailand.

The Thai Ridgeback is a unique option.

They are rare outside of the country of Thailand, but they make good guard dogs. Their independence and aloofness around strangers keep them from welcoming intruders. They use their energy in bursts when needed, and their high prey drive gives them the ability to run after prey or intruders.

Rhodesian and Thai Ridgebacks are famous for their ridged backs. It is a line of fur that grows in the opposite direction from the fur surrounding it. This ridge has several patterns of varying widths and lengths, and their coat comes in a variety of colors, such as black, brown, red, and blue.

Due to their low-shedding coat, some allergy sufferers may find the Thai Ridgeback suitable. However, they are not a hypoallergenic breed.

Thai Ridgebacks make a formidable dog.

However, the attributes that make them great at guarding can often be the hardest parts to train. Early socialization and obedience training are essential if you plan to keep this breed as a family pet. If not, these dogs may be shy or very aggressive around strangers.

The Thai Ridgeback can make a dependable family pet, but they are not recommended for beginners.

6. Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terrier
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier has bulldog-like jaws and a muscular body.

Not all guard dogs have to be large. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier stands a mere 16 inches tall, yet it is still able to pack a punch. Do not let their small size fool, these dogs are powerful and quick.

It is said Staffordshire Bull Terriers were named after the English county of Staffordshire where they were very popular. A cross between Bulldogs and feisty terriers, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a dog with the strength of a Bulldog and the spitfire personality of a terrier.

Their imposing Bulldog-like jaws and muscular body make them good guard dogs.

Staffordshire Bull Terriers are a type of pitbull dog that were first bred to be a fighting dog.

Today, however, this breed is a loving family pet. They are luckily out of the fighting ring and spend their days playing in the backyards of loving homes. They are excellent dogs for children and have been called nanny dogs for their guarding instincts with young children.

You can expect a healthy Staffie to live up to 14 years, making it the perfect family companion for your children to grow up with.

7. Catahoula Leopard Dog

Catahoula Leopard Dog
Territorial and independent the Catahoula Leopard Dog knows how to be a good guard dog.

The Catahoula Leopard Dog was first developed in the state of Louisiana. They are named after Catahoula Lake where they were first bred. Catahoula Leopard Dogs are a no-frills working dog that was used for catching wild hogs and managing herds of livestock. Its ancestors were the working dogs of Native Americans.

Many breeders focus on the Catahoula’s working personality, rather than its looks. But, this breed comes in a variety of exotic colors, from brindle to blue merle.

Catahoula Leopard Dogs make good guard dog due to their territorial instincts. The Catahoula Leopard Dog is a naturally watchful dog. They can tolerate spending the day guarding the home while you are gone at work.

This all-purpose watchdog is a “just right” size, standing at 24 inches and 95 pounds.

Due to their assertive personality, they may not be the best dog for beginners. This is one of the more challenging breeds on our list. They absolutely need a job to keep themselves from being destructive.

If you are experienced with training, a well-trained Catahoula is a good choice.

Are Guard Dogs Dangerous?

Cane Corso

A guard dog should not be dangerous. They should be formidable and intimidating towards potential threats, but they should not scare guests or family members.

Well-trained dogs should be able to read your reactions towards a stranger to determine if they are a threat or not. When trained properly, they are not dangerous and are just as cuddly and sweet as any other breed.

If you react warmly to someone and greet them with a hug, your dog should realize that they can also be friendly towards this person. They will know their protective nature is not necessary in this situation.

If you are tense around a stranger they should be able to sense this too.

Can They Be A Family Pet?

Yes. Guard dogs make incredible family pets! They are intensely loyal to all family members and love them endlessly. They are also very gentle with children, despite their large size.

Most love their families immensely and can be big snuggly babies when they are not guarding their home.

Bullmastiff
They may look scary, but a guard dog can make a perfect addition to most families.

Which Is The Best?

Not all guard dogs are created equal. Different dog breeds are better at different guarding jobs. It is important to research how these dogs do with children, strangers and other dogs. This will help you know if a breed is the right one for you or not.

Belgian Malinois are the best guard dog for personal protection. They form unbreakable bonds with one person and will protect them at all costs.

Bullmastiffs, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Cane Corsos are the best family guard dogs as they are protective, but also gentle and loving with children. They may be large dogs, but they want to be cuddled after a long day of keeping everyone safe.

Akitas, Catahoula Leopard dogs, and Thai Ridgebacks are good at independently guarding your home. They are territorial and do not welcome strangers.

Whatever breed you welcome into your home, you can be sure they will be loyal to you for life. They will do whatever it takes to keep you safe.

Which guard dog will complete your household? Let us know in the comments below!

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