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Can Guard Dogs Make Good Pets? 13 Best Guard Dog Breeds

Lately I’ve been contemplating getting another dog.  Or rather, I’m contemplating which dog I’ll be getting next.  And one of the questions I’ve been wondering is whether or not a guard dog would make a good pet.  So, I dove into the group of breeds typically used as guard dogs to see if they would be good to guard my home and family.  And I want them to be a part of the family, not just guard it.

Let’s jump into the group of breeds used for guarding.  This particular dog profession has been known for decades.  I remember seeing guard dogs in wrecking yards. I recall the movie Stand By Me that had a dog guarding the scrap metal yard.  But, that turned out to be a small little terrier of the cute sort.


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Table of Contents

What Defines A Guard Dog

Before we jump into the breeds, we’ve got to take a look at what a guard dog is. If we know what a guard dog is, then we’ll know which is the best guard dog for a family.  Assuming, of course, that you’ll want a guard dog also as a member of a family or pack as the dog sees it.


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Guard dogs are specially trained dogs.  They are trained to guard property and alert those around, of intruders.  Guard dogs are often deployed in multiples of two or three for maximum effectiveness.

What Breeds Of Dogs Make Good Guard Dogs

There are a number of factors, both physical and in temperament and instinct, which make a guard dog of a good choice.  Depending upon your situation, you might consider a dog which has a ‘meaner’ temperament, or if you want the dog as a member of a family, you might want a dog that will be kind and gentle, but also guard against strangers.

The danger with having the latter is, of course, the potential for danger to your children’s friends, if the dog is unfamiliar.  The best course of action is again, proper training. Having a strict and recognizable procedure to take the dog through when introducing friendly new people is the preferred process.  That way, each time you do it, the dog knows immediately that the person you are introducing is a friend. We’ll get more into the actual training in another article though.

Here are a few recognized dog breeds which present strong guardian instincts.  These dogs are all of at least medium to large size and all show the need to guard and protect the family unit.

  • Akita
  • Anatolian Shepherd Dog
  • Beauceron
  • Belgian Laekenois
  • Boerboel
  • Bouvier des Flandres
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Cane Corso
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler
  • Tibetan Mastiff

Let’s get a little more detailed, shall we?


The Akita Inu - A Japanese Guard Dog
The Akita Inu – A Japanese Guard Dog

By Biser Yanev – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The beautiful and strong Akita is a large breed originally from Japan.  The northern, mountainous region that is, according to Wikipedia anyway.  

The dog breed is large, ranging from 24-28 inches (60-71cm) at the withers.  They are bulky too, with a thick coat that makes them appear all the more like a small bear.  This dog is usually somewhat territorial and reserved with strangers. Given these characteristics along with its size, when trained and kept with a family, the Akita makes a great guard dog.

Anatolian Shepherd Dog

An Anatolian Shepherd Dog stands at attention in this photo.
The classic Anatolian guard dog pose.

By Tibilou – travail personnel (own work) Franck Balzar, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Anatolian Shepherd Dog, also now treated as part of the Kangal Shepherd Dog population, is a large guard dog.  Originally from Turkey, these dogs were bred to protect and guard livestock. Due to the dogs running abilities, along with size and strength, they were able to chase down predators and … Well, they would stop them, let’s just say that.  

These large dogs weigh in at 88 – 143 lbs (40-65 kg) and stand 28-32 inches (71-81 cm) at the withers.  This means they are big, and intimidating. You don’t want to be a burglar in a house with one of these dogs.  But, with size and strength, come the need for proper training.


2 Beauceron dogs sit side by side on this warm summer day, in this file photo.
Beauceron Dogs Sit At The Ready

By Pretty.woman – Own work, Public Domain

The Beauceron is a herding dog, originally from France.  They are a decent size of dog, which can make them intimidating to intruders.  These dogs are intelligent and trainable, but learn and mature at a slightly slower pace than other dogs like the German Shepherd.  This makes their training easier, but takes longer. These dogs are well versed with staying outside in a kennel and are easy to train to stay in a dog house.  


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Interestingly about these dogs was that in both the first and second world wars, these dogs were used as messenger dogs.  They have also served as police dogs and in France are known as guard dogs.


A Boerboel stands alert in a field.
The Powerful Boerboel

By Jln115 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Boerboel is another large dog, ranging from 22-27 inches (55-69 cm) tall at the withers.  They weigh in at between 150-200 lbs (68-91 kg), making them a large, and intimidating dog breed.  The dog staked its claim in Southern Africa, as a protector of the homestead against predators. In Africa, I wouldn’t want to be facing off with the kind of predators you find on that continent.  This dog is a tough guardian who was bred to protect family and home.

Bouvier des Flandres

An adult Bouvier des Flandres stands at the roadside in this file photo.
A full grown Bouvier makes the road look small.

By Yorick39 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Bouvier is a large and intimidating dog, due to its size.  Their protective nature makes them good guard dogs, but their gentle nature tends to make them not much more than an intimidation trick.  However, in the situation where a family member is actually threatened, the Bouvier is likely to step in. The dog barely made our list, because they are such kind dogs, with a sophisticated and intelligent nature, but they are still protective.  It’s their size and protective nature that won them a spot on our list.


A Boxer sits at attention in the grass in this file photo.
A Cute And Cuddly Boxer Sits At Attention

By Maximotard – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The classic Boxer.  These tough dogs are from 21-25 inches (53-63 cm) tall at the withers, and every bit is muscle.  They are strong, athletically built dogs that actually are quite good with kids. Their protective nature and strong, athletic build is what gives them cause to be a good guard dog for a family.  


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The large Bullmastiff is a big and intimidating guard dog.
A Big Bullmastiff Guard Dog

By Pleple2000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Another large breed, the Bullmastiff stands from 24-27 inches (60-69 cm) tall at the withers.  These dogs, like so many other great guard dogs, are strong and fast making them not only intimidating, but also effective.

These dogs were bred to ward off poachers.  Originally from Britain, the breed was perfected in the mid 1800s by the wealthy who wished to keep their property secure from others.  

Like any other large and intelligent dog, these dogs require constant training to ensure the safety of those they are in contact with.  This is, of course, a concern when you have a large and powerful dog in the presence of a family that has small children. But, with proper training, these dogs do make great family members and can act as a guardian to the household.

Cane Corso

A large Cane Corso is shown in this file photo.
The large panther-like Cane Corso

By Kumarrrr – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0


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The Cane Corso is an Italian breed of dog bred originally bred to guard livestock.  These great dogs make good family members and are good with children, as long as they are trained appropriately.

The Cane Corso are the near perfect family guard dog.  They are loving, docile and loyal to their family. But, they will be aggressive and can be very difficult towards strangers.   This is a huge benefit if you want the dog to guard your private property, but can be bad if you frequently have company over.  

Again, like any of the larger and powerful dogs, adequate training is required.  This is especially true if you intend your dog to be the best guard dog there is.

Doberman Pinscher

A Doberman Pinscher sits in a field of flowers.
Doberman And Dandelions

The classic Doberman Pinscher.  These dogs are known in the West as the standard guard dog.  They are a large dog, from 24-28 inches (61-71 cm) at the withers.  They weigh in at 60-100 lbs (27-45 kg) making them quite intimidating if they happen to be running at or after you.  

Originating in Germany, the Doberman has been around since 1890.  The dog is a strong and fast dog, with a sleek and muscular appearance.

Dobermans were originally built to be personal guards.  They were supposed to be strong and fearless and to even protect a person from someone else’s guard dog.  However, they were also supposed to be intelligent enough to maintain restraint and only attack upon command.  These dogs were actually used as tax collectors guard dogs, back in the day when the tax man had to physically go around and collect tax money.

Today the dog is a lot less aggressive but when properly trained can make an intimidating guard dog.

German Shepherd

A German Shepherd is being held by it's military handler in the background.
A German Shepherd can be a highly intimidating dog!

The German Shepherd.  An amazing, beautiful and powerful dog.  Highly intelligent, it can be trained for many different tasks.  The size and speed of the German Shepherd also make it an intimidating dog to face off against for would be intruders.  These dogs are so good at being intimidating and following training that they are used around the world for police and military applications.  

The loyalty and intelligence of the German Shepherd make them good with a family, as long as they have adequate training.  Like any large dog, and especially due to their intelligence, the German Shepherd must be treated with respect. They also should be given adequate training.


A Rottweiler sits in a yard, looking at the camera, in this file photo.
A Rottweiler In A Field

By rostdi – Own work, CC BY 2.5

The Rottweiler is a bulky, thick build, intimidating large dog.  These dogs are, like the doberman, known as a classic guard dog for their intimidation factor.  They also make herding sheep look like second nature.  

The dogs’ strong sense of protectionism of the home and family make them great guardian members of the pack.  They are fairly docile and good with kids, yet will protect them fearlessly should the need arise.  

Media has given the Rottweiler a negative and bad name, but the breed is actually quite well-mannered, albeit a little pushy.  They know their intimidating and sometimes take advantage of that.

Tibetan Mastiff

A Tibetan Mastiff, looking more like a large lion, in this file photo.
Is that a lion?

By Pleple2000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Tibetan Mastiff can almost look more like a large lion than a dog.  Their mane like coat really adds to the intimidation factor of this large dog breed.  And these dogs are not small dogs either. They can reach upwards of 33 inches (83 cm) in height.  And that’s at the withers. If they stand up on their hind legs, they can be as tall as a human.  

These dogs were originally bred in the mountains of the Himalayas to serve as protectors for livestock.  Their role was to guard against predators. This meant they had to be intelligent, fast, alert, powerful and trainable.  As well, they had to be able to take the cold. It isn’t warm in the mountains. That being said, these dogs can be trained for life with a large, or rather a very large, dog house.

Special Training Requirements

Guardian dogs are typically breeds of larger size and strength.  Due to guard dogs being on the larger side, it also makes them more dangerous.  Even a medium sized dog can do a lot of damage if not trained properly, imagine what a larger dog could do.

This extra size and thus extra ability to inflict damage is the primary reason behind providing a dog of this size with extra training.  This is especially true if you are asking what is the best guard dog for a family. If you have small children, then the extra dog training is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions About Guard Dogs

What Is The Best Guard Dog For A Family?

The German Shepherd is my personal pick for top guard dog for a family.  They are brave, loyal, highly intelligent, large enough to do the job and can be great with kids if trained to do so.  They require good stock due to hip issues known in the breed, and also require a lot of training, like any large dog. However, the German Shepherd is a beautiful, intelligent and highly versatile breed.

Which Is The Best Guard Dog (Overall)?

After carefully reviewing each breed, I’m going to say that my opinion is that the Cane Corso makes the best guard dog.  They are friendly and docile, loving members of the family. They are also protective, large, powerful and intimidating. With proper training, these dogs can serve not only as intimidating to potential intruders, but they have the strength to back it up.  A pair of these dogs would devastate an intruder who threatened the family or home.

That being said, any of the dogs which made our list would make excellent guard dogs.  The breeds which were selected were all selected for their size, intelligence and inherent nature to protect.  If a guard dog is what you’re after, I recommend any from this article.

Is A German Pinscher A Good Guard Dog?

German Pinschers actually make good guard dogs. We were torn whether or not to put them in the top ten (some say they might belong there). Especially with their cousin the Dobermann. A GP is a tough dog to raise though, making them a bit tougher to train than some. Although the German Pinscher is known as an incredible working dog that can learn almost anything that a dog could be trained to do. If you’re up for the challenge (and yes, they will challenge you) they are worth it. Take a look at our German Pinscher, Tucker, on our other website, German Pinscher Guide.

Is A Pitbull A Good Guard Dog?

No.  Sorry, but Pitbulls are big sucks who love people.  Although, they might step in if they feel that their pack members are threatened.  In other words, those whom they have a bond with, they will defend. But, if an intruder is kind and gives them treats, it’s not likely to be very good at guarding the place.

Are Female Dogs Good Guard Dogs?

According to Wikipedia, female dogs make better personal companions due to their motherly instincts.  While male dogs make better guard dogs for guarding property. However, dogs all have individual personalities, just like people do.  For this reason, it really may also depend upon the individual dog. Also, the breed would have potentially as much or more of an impact upon the ability to perform as a guard dog, than the sex of the dog.  What are your thougths on sex vs guard dog ability? Let me know in the comments below!


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