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Better Than A Gun: The Secret To Finding The Best Guard Dog For Your Home

guard dogs protecting house

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It’s late, it’s dark, and all is quiet. Except for the click of a door lock sliding open. The intruder slides his lock pick into his pocket and pushes the door open only to see a large dog rise from the shadows and step towards him. The intruder backs out the doorway, trips across the porch, and stumbles down the driveway followed by rumbling growls. The kitchen lights flip on and there silhouetted behind by bright yellow light, stands a Golden Retriever, wagging his tail and watching with big sad eyes as the intruder runs down the street.

When it comes to protecting the home from intruders, animal and human, nothing equals having a guard dog and they come in all shapes and sizes. Security systems can be disabled. Martial arts works if you are close to an intruder but is useless otherwise. Guns require you to both hear and see the intruder. But these aren’t a problem for guard dogs. They will smell and spot an intruder long before you. They can alert you to an unfamiliar presence before it comes close enough to cause harm, and should harm become imminent, the guard dog will naturally escalate its own response, barking, shielding its family and attacking if necessary.

Do home guard dogs require expensive training? Will they be dangerous to family and friends? Won’t they make jumpy house pets? Actually, no. Home guard dogs rely mostly on instincts and a puppyhood filled with plenty of healthy human and animal interactions. By choosing a well-bred puppy from particular breeds, training your dog basic obedience, and socializing the puppy thoroughly, your dog will become both a peaceful family pet and vigilant sentinel, one that can morph into a strong defender should the need arise.

There are three levels of protection a dog can offer — voice presence, physical presence and defense. Some dogs are quite talkative and will alert you to any and all changes in their environment. This can range from an intruder to a leaf that blows up against the window. Other dogs will silently check things out themselves and alert only if they feel it’s warranted.

Vocal Breeds

Watchdogs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from mini-sized Chihuahua’s to Shetland Sheepdogs, Schnauzers and Collies. These dogs are constantly alert, even while sleeping, keeping tabs on their family as well as the house and grounds. If something is different, they’ll be sure to alert you by barking, growling or pacing. My family’s Shetland Sheepdog was a reliable alert system, barking whenever a car came into the driveway. My family also had a Golden Retriever. While Goldens are lovingly referred to as the friendliest dogs around, our Golden’s voice was very deep and intimidating; we knew she was a deterrent solely from that.

Intimidating Presence

Some dogs’ protective qualities are housed in their impressive frames and muscular stature. For many owners, this is all they need. Great Danes and Newfoundlands are two breeds that are not naturally aggressive, but exhibit quite an impressive physique. These dogs are generally sweet and good-natured and most likely will not attack someone (though there are exceptions to all breeds). They are loyal family dogs, friendly to guests, and will bark some, but their size and looks make them good guard dogs. Generally the larger a dog is, the more intimidating it will be.

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Also, darker colored dogs, black ones especially, are quite impressive. Common protective breeds generally receive more respect, too. Dogs that resemble German Shepherds, Rottweilers, pitbulls, mastiffs and Doberman Pinschers will automatically be assumed to be protective dogs. Whether you choose a purebred or a mixed breed that resembles one of these breeds, know that your dog will be respected purely because of its looks. Most of the time, this is all that’s called for to deter an intruder and encourage a burglar to look elsewhere.

Defense In Action

Most people can be just fine with the above types of dogs, but sometimes there is a call for a dog that will not only alert you to danger, but will do something about it as well. Many homesteaders and livestock owners have found guard dogs to be invaluable because sometimes action is necessary.

Bullmastiffs are not afraid to get physical. Most of the time, these muscular dogs are gentle, lazy giants, but when their family is in danger, these dogs, originally bred to knock down poachers, will knock intruders down and stand over top of them, growling menacingly. Another breed that will continue to escalate things as needed is the Great Pyrenees. These dogs were originally bred to protect livestock and are still used for that today, but these dogs adjust fairly well to living with a family too. Great Pyrenees have been known to take on packs of wolves and bears in defense of their charges (human or livestock). Yet, Great Pyrenees are sweet tempered and make pleasant family companions. Other breeds that aren’t afraid to defend their families are German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Akitas, many of the mastiff breeds, Giant Schnauzers, the Belgian breeds (Sheepdog, Tervuren and Malinois), Doberman Pinschers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Bouvier des Flandres and Cane Corsos among others. Early training and socialization are very important for these breeds due to their size and naturally assertive personalities. Research the breed you’re considering and talk to breeders before you bring one home to ensure that your choice will mesh well with your family.

Raising the Home Guard Dog

When it comes to home guard dogs, general dog training guidelines reign, with perhaps a little more emphasis on socializing and obedience training, due to the guard dog’s strength and size.

Choosing a Puppy

Choose a puppy from quality, stable parents. High-strung or fearful dogs do not make good guard dogs and can become dangerous. German Shepherds and Rottweilers especially have seen a lot of breeding from poorer quality animals. Ask to see the parent’s pedigrees and meet both the dam and sire if at all possible. If there are grown brothers or sisters on the premises meet them as well. Ask about and evaluate temperament as well as health information. (You’ll want to check for hip dysplasia in the family lines. If the parents haven’t been evaluated by a veterinarian, proceed with caution. Hip dysplasia is very prevalent among the larger breeds and it cripples dogs and can lead to an early death.)

Early Training and Socializing

While breeding is important, nothing can replace the time you put into early training and socializing of your puppy. After you get your puppy home, introduce it to as many situations as you can. Once the puppy gets his first vaccines, introduce him to other dogs and your livestock (if you have any). Let the puppy meet elderly people. Take your puppy to a nursing home. Go to the park, for walks down the sidewalk and try to find puppy playdates. Have your puppy around men and women, and especially children. Make sure these are good experiences for the puppy with lots of fun, treats and praise thrown in. Socializing a puppy doesn’t make them less prone to engage an intruder. Rather, it shows the puppy what “normal” is, so they can realize when something isn’t normal and take the action required. Many of the guard breeds listed above can be somewhat suspicious of new people and surroundings, so the more situations they are introduced to, the more their confidence level will rise and the better family pet they’ll be. In tense situations, having a dog that is cool and confident is priceless!

Begin obedience training early with your puppy, even as soon as the week you first bring them home. Many guard breeds can grow to be quite large and strong; obedience is essential for them to live acceptably with the family (and is essential for trips to the vet, too). Find an obedience club or training class near you and enroll your puppy. This is an excellent opportunity for the dog to socialize with other dogs and people while forming an obedient relationship with you. Providing the puppy with lots of good situations and positive training experiences instills confidence in them, confidence that is essential for any large breed and especially for the home guard dog.

Whether your dog is a tiny Chihuahua with razor sharp hearing or a lumbering Saint Bernard with a mouth full of drool, their presence in your home heightens the security level. They’ll act as watchdogs and discourage burglars and intruders merely by their presence. (Security personnel have said that merely adding a large dog dish near the front door discourages burglars.) Enjoy your dog as part of your family. The stronger bond you have with them, the more they will see you as their pack and rise to defend if ever called upon.

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  1. My dog of choice for home protection is the American Bulldog (not a Pit Bull). My 3 kids, including 1 autistic son, have never been bit (even though they may have asked for it a time or two). We’re in a pretty bad neighborhood and have had a few people wander around outside the house …. she starts snarling and growling …. Nobody has broke in … yet.

  2. Very well written!

  3. All aspects of this article very true. We rescued a Great Pyrenees/German Shepherd mix. He is very protective of his area, but is very very loving. With our black lab and him no one really wants to try to break in.

  4. I’ve been a dog person since birth. I was actually a twin, who came home from the hospital alone, due to the poor health of my brother, and my parents put the family dachshund in the crib with me for company, he wouldn’t let anyone near me.
    Now given that start, I’ve never been without much larger dogs my whole life, accept for the military, and college. I’m just about 50 now, and have changed from breeding pitbulls, to a bull mastiff. Since I’m not as active as I used to be, he is perfect. Bull mastiffs don’t need much exercise, are comfortable in small places, (as long as you have a soft place for them to lay, really big dogs actually injure themselves just by laying on hard surfaces, or standard carpet) and they are highly protective over their families, if raised with them inside the house, and I have never owned a dog that would be alerted to the smallest of changes in their environment, whether it’s inside, or out. When I let him outside, the first thing he’ll do is to sniff the air, and intensely search his property, then bark the most horrifying bark you’d ever heard, (if your standing within 5′ of him, his bark will vibrate throughout your body, it takes a little getting used to before you stop jumping, seriously ! ) and wait to see if anything moves, or makes the slightest sound, before he even goes to the bathroom. Overall, I’ve owned rotwiellers, dobermans, dozens of pit bulls, a whole slew of mutts, (as I live in the country, and can’t stand to see a stray go hungry, or without shelter) st. Bernards, boxers, several hunting breeds, and I know I’m missing some, but I wished I would have spent the big bucks for a well bred bull mastiff long ago. I’ve never trusted german shepherds though, with good reason, they don’t show facial gestures, alerting you to it’s posture at the moment, so they go from nothing, to having your face in their mouths, in a split second, but I must state, a rottweiler, doberman, and even a poorly trained pit bull will do the same, but the worst bite by far comes from the rottweiler, by far, to the bone, as they will bite, bite, bite, getting better holds with each, as a pit bull will bite, and hang on. So far, I’ve seen my bull mastiff get into a few scrapes with local attack dogs, and he’ll always end up almost unscathed, but covered in the other dog’s blood. I do not, for the record, like to see dogs of any breed get into fights, including my pit bulls, nor do I sick my dogs on people ! Most guard type breeds will protect their masters instinctively ! The best tips I can give on the raising of these breeds, is to first off, NEVER play tug-of-war, as this indices them to bite humans, never let them play bite, as this will do the same ! Start as early as you get the pup, never get a breed like that any older, as their first memories will not be of you, and will always have memories not of your knowing, and therefore can never be fully trusted, not fully ! This is coming from all my years of dog knowledge, and all my scars from learning these things ! Please take these things very seriously !! I’ve spent many nights, with guard dog breeds, that I did not raise as a pup, bundled up as thick as possible, to prevent serious attacks, and they are very prone to this in a strange environment, afraid themselves. Try sleeping with a full grown rottweiler, looming over your face, it’s not a lot of fun, trust me !!!
    Now, the only thing that worries me with the bullmastiff, is they eat more than any dog I have ever seen ! By the way, strictly train the bull mastiff with thier food, as a bull mastiff will eat your other pets, then eat their food, then thier own food, and still want more ! This is a fact ! They do great with other pets, as long as they are raised with them from an early age, from a strictly enforced, early age, as this breed is very strong willed, and hard headed, in every sense of the term !
    When your eating around a bull mastiff, they will drool costantly, untill the food issue is completely out of sight, and smell. I’ve never seen a breed like it ! With this breed, it all training, and reinforcement of that training, always, and do not stray from it, or they will try to get by with little things, that lead to bigger issues.
    If your getting older, and getting off the couch is a little tougher than it used to be, the bull mastiff can be trained to help you in the power dept.. they make good cart dogs as well ! Their like giant teddy bears, but strong, heavy, and very tough.
    Hopes this helps some of you readers. But think very carefully before you buy any breed !! Just remember, all dogs bite, but some can kill !!! And when people say that mutts make better dogs, the mutt can never be counted on like a specific breed ! They are a mix of whatever breeds are in them, and that usually means the bad traits are much stronger than the good traits. Once you mix any breed, your taking the assurance of what it was bred for away, and putting in a big question mark. Yes I have had a couple really good mutts in my life, who would do anything I wanted, but they are always physically, and mentally left wanting, no matter how cute, no matter how faithful, it’s no contest ! Hence, the reason for strictly bredbreeds of all kinds.
    Good luck, and always be prepared, and aware, and you’ll always be better off, and hopefully safer for it !

    • My wife and I have a English Mastiff for about 3 years now. Like you I have been around dogs all my life and I’m now 59. My wife has never had a dog before even as a kid. I wanted a breed that protection of my wife would come naturally. I was looking at getting another Rottweiler as I owned one before and she was the best dog I had ever owned. But my wife saw a 250lb. English Mastiff in a hardware store one day. After talking to the owner she told me that if we were getting a dog that was what she wanted.
      Six months late we found Moe our English Mastiff. He was 1 ½ old when we got him.
      He is now 4 yrs old and I know that I couldn’t have found a better dog for my wife. He is now about 165 lbs., and my wife loves him, sometimes I think she loves him more than me. When door to door salesman come around our home and try to sale stuff to my wife, Moe stands right beside her and lets them know that he is watching them. And unless he has seen you before and I’m not home Moe will not let them into the house. I know that Moe would lay his life down for my wife without any doubt. When my grand kids stayed with us, while their mom was at basic training Moe would walk to into their room and stiff around the bed and closet. My granddaughter would ask what he was doing. I told them he was checking for monsters. For the year they lived with us, the kids would wait for Moe to check out the room, before going to bed. He would also stay in the room until they went to sleep. Moe was never trained to do any of the things he did, it just came naturally. .
      I know that the only dog I will own now will be another English Mastiff.

    • I totally agree with your experience with English Mastiffs. I had a German Shepard-Great Dane mix and one full bred English Mastiff, both dogs were amazing. My full bred EM was a very aggressive family protector. At the time, I was a single mother with two children and two very big dogs living out in the country in the middle of hundreds of acres of farm land in CA. I had several attempted break-ins, some in broad daylight and some in the middle of the night. There were many migrant workers who worked around the house I was renting and some obviously paid enough attention to realize that there was no man of the house. I had 350 pounds of dog protection. Late one night a few migrant workers decided to try to break into the house. I always kept one dog inside and one dog in the yard when we slept. I heard my big Dane-German Shepard mix, named Clyde, barking outside and saw a man trying to lure him with a piece of meat over the fence but the dog was going crazy trying to get at the man. The man did not know that he was dealing with a dog that would not hesitate to bite him. I did not realize that the man was not alone and that there was another man circling around the back of the house. I opened my door to yell at the guy to get away from my dog and that’s when my 185 pound English Mastiff went into action. He knew there was someone else just a few feet away from me lurking in the shadows. When I cracked the door, the Mastiff, whom I named Judge, pushed past me almost knocking me down, the dog ran screaming past me in that big boy voice and grabbed the man who was circling around back. The man was screaming like a little girl when that dog got a hold of him. Judge ripped his clothes up as the guy was trying to climb on top of tractor equipment to get away from the dog. I don’t know how badly the dog injured the man because he was able to escape before the police got there. The other guy ran off when my monster size dog ran out the door after his partner. I never formally trained Judge to be so protective, but I got him as a puppy, he knew he had a job and did it well. Since then, I have never had a pair of dogs that big because I live in town now, but do realize if you purchase a titan, be prepared to have a titan. Don’t get a big dog that you are not going to put time into. I worked with my big boys daily for no less than an hour a day. I wish I could post a pic of my boys on here. They were amazing. Big dogs are the best.

  5. My wife and I have a male Golden Retriever and a female Beatle/Terrier mix. Both were rescues, and the Golden, especially, is quite protective. He sleeps in the doorway of our bedroom, and is up at the slightest sound. Both of them calm down once we say it’s ok, but the Golden will stay on his toes around strangers for a while.

    I travel for work, and it comforting to know that my wife has an early alarm system in the dogs to go along with her self defense weapon.

  6. Having several dogs can maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of any one dog or breed and provides protection for the dogs from an intruder. We had a break-in nearby a few years ago and the small dog in the home was killed by the thief to quiet it. Possibly a bigger intimidating companion or several small noisy dogs would have scared off the intruder.

  7. This is a very interesting article, i enjoyed reading it. In my opinion Cane Corso dog is the best guard dog. These dogs where used as war dogs in ancient times and after that Cane Corso was used in hunting and after that for guarding in farms. Cane Corso’s are truly the best guard dog, its very friendly and loyal and good with children.

  8. Over my adult life I’ve only owned Doberman Pinschers, seven to be exact. I’ve usually had a large male, but have also had 2 females. These dogs when properly trained, the key is “Properly Trained” are the best family protection dogs one can own. All my dogs averaged around 90 to 110 pounds. All were “Big Babies” around the family. All would protect the family and property from intruders, be they animal or human.

  9. My Bruno, a Bullmastiff is 12 now, and I am looking for a couple of pups for breeding now . I am completely sold on the breed ! I’m glad too hear all the positive comments here ! I take Bruno everywhere with me ! Nobody goes near my vehicle when I have to leave him temporarily ! I have had people attempt to steal my pitbulls, rottweillers, and dobermans, but never my Bullmastiff !!! He’s the most gentle guy, but man, when he’s needed, boy, puppy too monster in a split second !!! When I decided I wanted a less aggressive breed, I originally was looking into the English mastiff. The more I researched the mastiff breeds, the more choices I found I had ! So after 2 years of pro’s, and con’s lists, I decided on the Bullmastiff ! i had my youngest 2 year old daughter by this time . That played a part in my decision . They grew up together, and all where better for it ! She now knows how to train dogs, and calls Bruno her big, little brother . She’s 15 now, and great with all animals !
    Always know what you need in a dog, before buying one, then research it to death !!!

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