A German Shepherd Dog playing.
A German Shepherd Dog playing. Photography by smikeymikey1 / Shutterstock.

The 5 Best Guard Dog Breeds

We review the best guard dog breeds, as well as how to properly train, socialize and parent guard dogs.
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Guard dog breeds are bred to have a natural drive to protect. Let’s learn the backgrounds of some guard dog breeds, as well as the proper ways to train, socialize and parent a pup from one of these guard dog breeds.

First, some background on training, socializing and parenting guard dog breeds

German Shepherd Dog Anya with Lynn Hayner's grandson.
German Shepherd Dogs are natural guard dogs, but, like any guard dogs, you can train them to graciously meet and welcome newcomers of all ages. Photography courtesy Lynn M. Hayner.

I’ve always had German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs), one of the most popular guard dog breeds with a natural drive to guard and protect. Anja, my current puppy, is only 6 months old, but when she’s full grown I expect her to watch my back. I also, however, expect her to graciously meet friends, calmly meet children when I give seminars and treat newcomers with composure.

I’m often asked if I’m training my dogs to be suspicious. Far from it! First of all, Anja’s drive to protect is characteristic of a well-bred GSD. And by well-bred, I mean a dog from professional, conscientious breeders who develop their lines for temperament as well as health.

Secondly, quite the opposite of encouraging suspicion, I expose Anja to many people and situations to nurture her discernment. An abundance of exposure to positive situations and people will help her distinguish good from bad in the future.

To understand socializing any protective or typically guard dog breeds, consider this analogy: Suppose you’ve never had apple pie, but over time someone brings you a delicious (but differing recipe) piece of apple pie daily. Eventually, someone brings you a sub-par piece of apple pie, the quality of which you’re only able to discern because of all the prior experience. Similarly, while later on Anja will know good from bad, she doesn’t as a puppy. The more exposure I give her, the more clarity and strength of conviction she will have (concerning any real threat) as an adult.

Living with guard dog breeds

While it’s awesome to own these devoted, protective or typically guard dog breeds, it’s also an enormous responsibility.

Dogs with a genetic predisposition to protect need experienced owners who have the time and knowledge to help the dogs be all that they can be. Potential owners should look for the top breeding programs that produce healthy and genetically sound dogs.

Now, let’s talk about five naturally protective or guard dog breeds:

1. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois. Photography by cynoclub / Shutterstock.
The Belgian Malinois is among the most elite of guard dogs. Photography by cynoclub / Shutterstock.

We consider ourselves among the elite working breeds — no wonder we’re chosen to assist the elite U.S. Navy SEALs. The military counts on us for their toughest missions. We’re famous for our keen intelligence and outstanding athleticism. Our forefathers were developed in the city of Malines in Belgium as tough field and farm dogs. We were bred with the temperament and strength to guard, not simply herd, livestock.

Now keep in mind that some guard dog breeds, such as the Border Collie, herd but don’t necessarily protect. And other breeds, such as the livestock guardians (for example, the Great Pyrenees) protect but don’t herd. We’re among the guard dogs breeds that were developed for both. Today, our protective disposition means we’re game to take care of our family and home. Families interested in sharing their lives with us should look to professional breeders who emphasize good nerves, confidence and stability in their dogs.

2. Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinscher Grand Champion Protocal’s Veni Vidi Vici at the 2012 Westminster Dog Show. Photography by Debby Wong / Shutterstock.

We were developed by Friedrich Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector hassled by robbers one time too many. Dobermann developed us for a twofold purpose: protection and companionship. Recognizing this guard dog breed’s working abilities and loyalty, Europeans soon employed us in military and police work. We also served in WWII as sentries and messengers for the U.S Marine Corps in the Pacific.

A statue, “Always Faithful,” in Guam memorializes Dobes that served our country. Today, we’re one of the most popular guard dog breeds, alerting our families to new happenings and standing between our loved ones and danger if needed. Now for a caveat: We’re a tad mushier with our families than stereotypes indicate. But after all, it is our loyalty and love with family that motivates our protection drive. We care for those we cherish.

3. Cane Corso

Cane Corso.
Cane Corsos come from early warrior dogs. Photography ©DevidDO | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

We descended from early warrior dogs, developing into a multipurpose guardian, hunter and outstanding Italian farm dog. Whether controlling cattle herds, hunting boars or guarding flocks of sheep, we served our families with unwavering dedication. Today, we continue to take our security role seriously. We’re self-assured and rather aloof (but not overly reactive) with strangers, but wholly devoted to family.

All of that sounds like the perfect makings for one of the top guard dog breeds, right? Well, don’t underestimate the work it takes to own a breed like us. To help us realize our potential, we’ll need ongoing socialization and obedience training. Fortunately, we like to work. Do you?

4. Neapolitan Mastiff

Neapolitan Mastiff.
Neapolitan Mastiffs are guard dogs with an alarming (or, we think adorable!) appearance to ward off trespassers. Photography by Shutterstock.

Enormous and magnificently powerful, we’re recognized by our wrinkles and huge heads. We have both an impressive size and imposing attitude. In reality, we were bred for an arguably alarming ugliness to ward off trespassers. Our forefather was the ancient Molossus, a dog with the courage to take on lions and tigers. Our family tree also includes Roman war dogs.

In Italy, we were bred for estate and home guarding. One of our nicknames was the big dog of the little man. These days, we continue to take our guard dog duties seriously. We’re steady, loyal and vigilant, but relatively silent while on duty.

5. German Shepherd Dog

A German Shepherd dog barking over a fence.
German Shepherd Dogs are natural guard dogs that excel in police and service work, search and rescue, and therapy. Photography by jody/shutterstock.

Planning to breed specifically for intelligence and utility, Captain Max von Stephanitz began developing us from sheepdogs in late 19th-century Germany. Strong, smart and motivated for hard work, we guarded, protected and carried messages in the wars. We also excel in police work, service (such as guiding the sight impaired), search and rescue, and therapy work.

Today, we continue in all of these working roles, but we’re one of the guard dog breeds that takes our family watch-dog role seriously. Born with a feeling of responsibility and extraordinary intelligence, we’ll need extensive training to learn how to manage our drives and abilities in the human world. With the right training, I’ll make you proud as a friend and defender.

Tell us: Do you have any guard dog breeds?

Thumbnail: Photography by smikeymikey1 / Shutterstock. 

This piece was originally published in 2018.

Why read breed profiles?

Dog breed profiles help everyone, whether you have a mixed breed or purebred dog, to better understand and improve the quality of your dog’s life. If you have a mixed breed dog, read up on all of the breed profiles that make up your dog. Not sure what breed your dog is? There are a number of easy DNA tests out there to help your find out.

Read more about dog breeds on Dogster.com:

60 thoughts on “The 5 Best Guard Dog Breeds”

  1. I have a Belgian Mal. Live on a barrier Island with little crime. A few times a year hey Vacation are will have a few too many and wander onto private property. With motion and sensor lights on the perimeter she will always go off about 20 to 30 seconds before they do. I always had German Shepherd’s before. Make it another one soon. This girl and her instincts are something else.

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  3. I just had to put my 13 year old Alaskan Malamute down, we loved her madly, even tho she wasn’t a guard dog. Now I have a 6 month old black German Shepherd.Her parents are guard dogs of a tow yard. Any suggestions?????

    1. So sorry for the loss of your beloved Malamute they are a wonderful breed. I do believe you will enjoy your new German. Easy to train, loyal beautiful creatures. Take the time to enjoy training your new GSD and you will have a loyal companion like no other. They are quite a change from the Malamute but wonderful dogs nevertheless.

  4. I had a GSD for 15 years. She was the smartest dog I have ever seen. She was also very protective of me when company came to my home. She was also a good companion to me. I eventually had to have her put to sleep due to arthritis in her back hips that caused her to get to where she had a lot if trouble walking. I don’t think I will ever find another dig I loved as much as her. I miss her so much. She truly was “mans best friend”.

  5. Patricia pinkston

    I truly LOVE German Shepard. Roger was so easy to train and he reacted two Tim even s when I invited the inside ( two different occasions) he came forward and would NOT let them inside even with my consent. I finally got him to let them in but even refused food from them. Turned out these “friends” were NOT sincerely my friends and had things in mind that friends would not have in mind. I have to admit, his instincts were much better than mine. He was my bestie. I hope is chasing. Balls and has the best of everything over the rainbow, he deserves it. Great dogs

  6. GSD owner,breeder and trainer for 50 years, as far as I’m concerned they are the best guard dog, family dog and life long friends you’ll ever have. I’ve nothing but respect for all that have graced my life, a truly noble animal. I lost my best friend in Dec 2018 of ten years. He will be hard to replace. Bear, this ones for you buddy !

  7. Allyson McVeigh

    All the women who have been murdered and raped by serial murderers and rapists in their homes never had a dog in their house with them.!!! Does you no good to keep it tied up outside either. Or locked in another room. Get a dog or 2. It could happen to you.

  8. I have a Boerboel Mastiff , they are very much a protective dog. I dare any animal or person to venture onto my property or break into my home without my consent.

  9. My granddaughter and her family adopted a four year old Cane Corso female from a shelter. At first they were hesitant about taking her from looks alone. Everyone at the shelter recommended her a the ideal family dog, so they took her on a trial basis. One hour after being with their four children, she was protective of them around strangers. They kept her, and I have videos of the seven year old to the eighteen month old lying on her at nap time. The dog never leaves the children, and is a complete sweetheart, but does watch closely if a stranger is around. I have been with her and the kids quite a bit, but the jury is still out on me. Since they live in a heavily populated area, that endears her to me. The Cane Corso is an ideal family dog if they are trained and treated with respect.

  10. I think the Akita could be listed over the Cane Corso. We own 2 and I can guarentee you we feel 1000% safe that no one would ever harm any of the family members while one of the dogs is around. No training needed to activate the gaurding instinct. They also can’t be lured away with toys, play or treats from a would be attacker. Just basic manners and you have a loving security system that will make you the center of their universe.

  11. Im insulted and indignant that the Rottweiler is not listed among the guard breeds. And im sure Rottie owners would feel the same. I raised, trained and exhibited this breed over 10 years, a few decades ago. My females were gentle with all children but closely watched any male that entered property or our home. And even when visiting family when my male cousin attemoted to enter the house my Tara refused to alliw him in until i released her. I now have a 6-week Rott male puppy, already showing aggression but fruendky. Rotties deserve a priminent place among guarding breeds. After all the Romsn soldiers used them.

    1. JoAnne Mastronicola

      I agree, I have a 10 yr old Rottweiler that I have had since he was 8 wks old. To look at him is very intimidating and I definitely don’t advise anyone to try to hurt me. Best dog ever, they need to be on this list. We also have Dobermans and I agree that they are squishier with their family than they are with strangers.

    2. Agreed. Makes no sense to put most of these dogs above the rottweiler. I had a 140lb female. Wonderful dog but woe to the person trying to harm her family.

  12. I’ve had gsds since I was 18, that’s 27 years of loyalty like I’ve never known and we had dogs since I was born. I’d love a doberman or a beaceron but due to my disability we can no longer have 2 dogs and I couldn’t imagine our home without a shepherd. They’re amazing, so easy to train because their intelligence is off the charts, truly a jack if all trades in the dog world. My current girl, Valentine, is definitely the most protective one we’ve had and she’s a wee petite girl! She’s our world

  13. I have owned Dobermans, Saint Bernards,German Police Dogs and a Neapolitan Mastiff, among others. These four are great guard dogs.

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  15. any anatolian breed (kangal, anatolian shepherd and anatolian mastiffs) are better guard dogs than any on this list. kangals are more agile and have more drive than any of them. also boerboels should easily make this list and also ovcharkas/caucadion shepherd. alibis are also great guardians that are also very large with great agility and drive. dogo argetinos should easily be in the top 5. German shepherd dogs are amazing as well as malinois at being great and smart protectors but what it all boils down is what kind of guard or protector youre looking for. cane korsos and great fence perimeter guards

  16. I have six Black Mouth Cur, Pit Bull mixes. Animals beware but humans not so much till the Beagle bites you then you then you may be killed. One thief did not believe this and luckily for him I came home and rescued him. He spent sometime in the hospital.

  17. I have owned a number of dogs in my life. 2 boxers, 2 German shepherds, 1 Dobie, 1 cane corso and currently have a Belgium malinois and a rottweiler. All guarded in some degree but the best as far as drive goes was/is the Rottweiler.

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  19. Can you please provide your expertise opinion on Great Pyrenees? I was surprised GP’s were not in top 5. Would they make your top 10? I saw the comment about the Antolian Sheperd and agreed. I have fostered many Antolian Shepards, Great Pyrennes and mixes.

    I have 2 Great Pyrenees. Newboo will be 7 in July and my foster failure, Gizmo, is 15 months. I was his foster after he had been picked up 3 times wandering by the sheriff. They returned the first 2 times but on the 3rd the sheriff brought to the only no kill rescue shelter within 300 miles. The rescue only has to hold for 3 days according to the law in the rescue’s county in Colorado. When I was contacted about Gizmo, I immediately found a rescue he could be transferred and I committed to be his foster and went and picked him up 2 days later..

    Gizmo, my foster, was adopted by a family I loved and had an amazing home for him.
    Gizmo had never been inside anything, but a dog house, when I picked him up and brought him to my townhouse. It took me 2 full days before Gizmo put 2 paws into my place!!! At his alleged home in the valley Gizmo did not have human contact, he did not have livestock to guard and he was left to wander to find food and water. The furever family that loved him all three times they met him. Sadly, they returned Gizmo bc they really didn’t research the breed and had no idea how to live with a Pyrennes. They also told me and my rescue that they had past experience before their 4 children were born.
    I took Gizmo back to foster again when adopter relinquished. Then I realized that I could not let go of him bc he was my perfect emotional support dog and showed all the qualities of a perfect therapy dog. The rescue, I foster for, allowed me to adopt/foster fail even though they had 10 applications for my Gizmo. He is meant to be mine. Very protective of me in home and in SUV. He is awesome with everyone at the hospital, Walmart, stores, nursing homes, gas stations, restaurants and everywhere he accompanies me!

    On the opposite side of life…my 7 year old rescued puppy has completely changed in last 2 years…she has bit two times bc she is so protective and hates hats, shopping bags and backpacks.

  20. Thanks for the article. I have a Dobie/Rottie mix and would love some more information. I thought your article would include the proper ways to train, socialize and parent a pup from one of the guard dog breeds. Can you point me in the right direction? Many thanks!

    1. Hi Alex,
      In addition to our suggestions in the articles, these training articles might help:
      https://www.dogster.com/topic/training/
      We also suggest working with a professional trainer to properly train your dog.
      Best of luck!

    2. Great combo. I have a 3/4 Rottie and 1/4 dobie, 6 week male. First cross breed ive ever owned; always had purebreds and also have a pure bred, solod blk Germ Shep. Raised purebred Rotties for 10 years as well as exhibited them. Yes, this cross are both guard breeds. Get your pup socialized as much as possible, after all vaccinations. Get him/her obedience trained without hesitation and with love and firmness make sure he understands you are to be the alpha in your relationship. If not, I guarantee he will take the role. You will have a great dog of intelligemce, devotion and protection.

  21. We have two Anatolian Shepherds. They are much like Great Pyrenees and are often crossed with them, bred for guarding livestock, They are also gentle and loving when not on duty. They are highly protective of their families, too. Anatolians are double coated for living in very cold weather. I believe they would make great guide dogs, military or police dogs as well as guarding livestock. They are wonderful, all around dogs.

  22. Dachshunds are excellent watch/guard dogs. I have 7 & there is no one on earth that could break into my house without my knowledge.

  23. Anna G Morgenstern

    American Bulldogs! Quite a deterrent by their larger size and slightly intimidating face. Great dogs when properly socialized and trained.

  24. Jenness Gale Allen

    Should of added Lhasa’s to the list, after all they were raised as Tibetan guard dogs to watch their Temples! My Lhasa on guard all the time, even when she sleeps she always picks a spot where she can protect areas from different directions if she’s not sleeping by the window or doorway. Absolutely nothing gets past her and she comes and gets me anytime she thinks something not right? Considering I have 5 acres to keep a eye on, she does one heck of a job and from time to time I have to walk the property line perimeter all the way around with her when she seen something she didn’t want on the property and wants me to go around the property with her making sure whatever was there is gone now!

  25. Deborah Larrabee

    I have a Beauceron, ancestor to Rottweilers and Dobermans, an ancient French breed, used to herd and protect cattle. He guards ME, not the house nor the property, but wouldn’t hurt a fly if he didn’t have to.
    Grown men go away when he is at the gate, but if they are let in, he is distant but polite.
    At one point, I had a physical therapist who came to the house and had to touch me. Fun, the Beauceron, lay down in the doorway and never took his eyes off the therapist, who finally was entranced by his loyalty and protectiveness. His best friend is an 18 month old dachshund puppy with whom he is patient and affectionate.
    The best guard dog I’ve ever had.

  26. PS: I have no idea why there are question marks at the end of my Belgian Malinois reply. I don’t want you to take my good luck wishes as being questionable of your success for i meant it in a positive and encouraging manner.

  27. Yes! Please get professional help with your Belgian Malinois asap! Their temperament in my experience is independent and dominant and they are NOT a breed for beginners but for experienced owners who can direct their single minded need to work! Of course that is my opinion of the breed as a whole and there are always exceptions to the rule! Don’t just send your Malinois to a boot camp for YOU also need to be trained to fulfill your pups needs in order for the relationship to be a success. Good luck ????

  28. I have had the privilege and honor to be the proud mother to both Dobermans and Cane Corsos and have rescued many others and agree (mostly) with your list. I ESPECIALLY agree with your statement regarding proper breeding for it is the lack of that which has caused the dog bite and temperament testing results become so unreliable. Dobermans are my favourite flavour and the breed I call my ‘heart’ dogs but the Bully breeds are the ones I call my ‘conscience’ dogs and the ones I concentrate on mostly although I will help any breed from African Boerboels to Pomchis if I have the room. Talking about Chihuahuas, they would be on the top of this list if they were even a smidgeon bigger! lol

    1. I have a GSD. I have such respect for this breed, and for all the breeds mentioned for their unique capabilities. People who get a dog, any breed should research what that breed needs in the way of exercise, nutrition, etc..Most important all dogs want to do is be with their owner., they want to please and ask little in return. Anytime someone gets an animal it should be with the idea that this responsibility is for the life of the animal.

    1. I agree, you need an alarm to give you time to act. Dogs , even a chihuahua, have super sensitive hearing. Most horror stories, including the Tate/LoBuanca slaughters, in 1969, had no dogs on the property to give them warning of aporoaching danger. A gun will you donyou no good if you are sleeping soundly until the intruder is upon you. Get a dog!

      1. Allyson McVeigh

        All the women who have been murdered and raped by serial murderers and rapists in their homes never had a dog in their house with them.!!! Does you no good to keep it tied up outside either. Or locked in another room. Get a dog or 2. It could happen to you.

    1. I had a GSD for 15 years. She was the smartest dog I have ever seen. She was also very protective of me when company came to my home. She was also a good companion to me. I eventually had to have her put to sleep due to arthritis in her back hips that caused her to get to where she had a lot if trouble walking. I don’t think I will ever find another dig I loved as much as her. I miss her so much. She truly was “mans best friend”.

      1. True … My family had 1 German Shepherd, then my dad brought home this 6 month old black German Shepherd and she became his companion. Talk about feeling protected… He taught her , she was shy… But learned, I know she added years to his life.

  29. The photo in article “Cane Corso” is NOT a photo of a Cane Corso!
    Anyone who knows anything about dog breeds should be able to see that?
    You simply doubled up on Neapolitan Mastiff photos.
    Cane Corso’s are the trim and athletic.
    Does anyone edit or review your articles for correctness?

      1. Wow. The author just stated that he CHANGED the photo that was wrong and THANKED Chad for pointing out the fact that the ORIGINAL photo was incorrect. You the proceed to call Chad an idiot! I think we all know who the idiot is and it is not Chad.

  30. I have a 9 month old maillon belgium and he is hard to tain any help would be good hes bull headed and always want to bit when your sitting.and will not leave the cats alone

  31. My grandaghter has a large Rottweiler, I had always been a little afraid of them but she is a love. She was about 4 yr old when they had their children and the dog has loved the girls since the day they were born, so gentle with them.

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