German shepherd dog
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6 of the best family guard dogs

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

Let’s talk about the best family guard dogs. With a dog that is a born protector of their ‘pack’ care must always be taken of their training and socialisation. A maladjusted guard dog cannot tell the difference between friend and foe, which can lead to trouble.

Dogs that by their nature want to defend and protect make the best guard dogs; these animals are alert and edgy, usually powerful and certainly in need of exercise. But for a guard dog that is also good with children we must look more carefully at what breeds are appropriate. Many of the breeds that people traditionally think of as guard dogs are not right for a young family.

Therefore, on the subject of ‘family’ guard dogs on our list only contains details of breeds that are alert and edgy but also gentle. We have omitted the dogs that fall into one or more of the following categories:

  • Guard dogs which are aggressive towards humans and other animals
  • Guard dogs which can easily kill or seriously injure humans and other animals
  • Guard dogs which have been (or in recent history were) bred to fight
  • Guard dogs which are listed on the UK’s dangerous dogs list
  • Guard dogs which have a high prey drive for large animals

Dogs that fall into one or more of the above categories include: Boxer, Akita, Kuvasz, Great Dane, Dobermann and Rottweiler. Although some of us may think of these dogs as 'dangerous', many of them can be trained and brought up to be well-rounded animals.

The following dogs are excellent guard dogs for families with children:

1. Appenzeller Sennenhund

The Sennenhund originated in the Swiss Alps and is thought to be related to dogs that assisted Roman Legions by herding cattle. The Sennenhund has remained a cattle herding breed, flock guardian (a dog that is a member of the livestock herd but protects against predators) and farm dog.

She is medium-sized, intelligent and easy to train and is known as an excellent guard dog. The Sennenhund (like some of the other dogs on our list) requires a huge amount of exercise. After all, she was bred to spend most of her life outdoors. She is suspicious of strangers but bonds quickly with members of the family, which makes her a great guard dog for kids.

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2. Miniature pinscher (MinPin)

This ancient breed of dog is said to be closely related to the Dobermann Pinscher, the Dachshund and the Italian greyhound. The MinPin makes an excellent guard dog but is also affectionate and playful. She does however require a lot of training and exercise and is recommended only for experienced dog owners.

The MinPin is exceptionally alert and wary of strangers but is also stubborn and requires regular reminders of correct social behaviour. The MinPin also has the tenacity of a terrier and owners must make their gardens as secure as possible to prevent her escape.

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3. Cairn terrier

The resilience and alertness of the Cairn terrier makes this dog a perfect family guard dog. She is observant, alert and wary of strangers. New experiences startle her but she is otherwise fearless and assertive. The Cairn is strong-willed but also intelligent: a virtue which helps her to be easily trained.

Because of her upbringing, the Cairn is intent on pleasing her owner, and with proper and consistent lessons can be a supremely obedient dog. If she is exercised regularly the Cairn is also happy to stay indoors for a lot of the time.

4. Giant Schnauzer

The giant variety of the Schnauzer is a quiet dog but is known to be inherently distrustful of strangers. She is one of the more ferocious breeds of dog on our list and makes an excellent guard dog. She is intelligent and trainable but becomes bored very easily; couple her boredom with a lack of exercise and she becomes destructive.

Giant Schnauzers eventually accept new faces into their ‘clan’ but initially will adopt a distrustful and possibly an aggressive attitude. Care should be taken of this dog around children.

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5. Miniature Schnauzer

Ironically the miniature Schnauzer is thought to be the best guard dog of the entire breed. She is a member of the terrier group. Although alert and wary of strangers she does not have a predisposition to bite. As intelligent as her larger counterpart, the miniature Schnauzer is quick to learn and is exceptionally obedient.

The miniature Schnauzer can be feisty and a little stubborn, and is sometimes aloof with new people until her owner makes it clear that the visitor to the house is a friend. She is also inclined to be vocal, which is another reason why she makes an excellent guard dog.

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6. Komondor

Although she can weigh up to 132 pounds, the Komondor is the typical gentle giant. Bred originally in Hungary as a herding dog she has a natural guarding instinct without the want to bite. She is a calm dog, affectionate and loyal, and is known for her tolerance of other animals and people known to the family.

She is wary of strangers initially but this wariness is manifested in nothing more than aloof suspicion. She is intelligent and watchful, always alert (especially at night) and very protective of her pack. If an intruder broke into a house guarded by a Komondor they are more likely to be knocked to the floor than bitten.

The Komondor is the typical gentle giant of guard dogs©Pixabay

The best family guard dog is one that does not necessarily have a desire to hurt, nor has been bred over and over to fine-tune its aggression. A guard dog that is large and powerful with a predisposition to bite can endanger the lives of both humans and other animals. Remember, in the UK it is the owner who is prosecuted should their dog attack an intruder, even in the house.

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