The term “guard dog” often brings to mind a vicious, dangerous dog and may even maim and kill. This is a misconception since guard dog training falls into one of three categories: personal protection, sentry, or attack dog.
Personal Protection Dogs
Personal protection dogs, or alarm dogs, will alert the owner in the presence of an intruder or when something suspicious is happening. Their loud, aggressive bark signals the owner that the situation needs attention. Personal protection dogs are trained to protect their family and territory defensively, jump, snarl, seize (hold without biting), or chase. It is not part of the dog’s training to bite, maim, or kill, although they may choose to do so on their own if the owner is physically threatened.
Military forces or the police often use attack dogs. They are trained to respond to physical aggression or a sudden movement and are potential killers. Attack guard dogs should only be handled by experts and must never be family pets. Owning a dog for protection who will attack puts the owner and his family in danger since attack dogs may turn on their own family. Even innocent gestures may cause them to attack. The owner is also subject to lawsuits or arrest if his dog attacks another person.
Sentry dogs are trained to patrol and defend a fenced area or empty building without a handler. These dogs are often employed in shipyards and warehouses. Sentry dogs are trained to take action when they see an intruder and will attack indiscriminately. They are not suitable for guarding your home and family.
Guard Dog Breeds Suitable For Family Protection
Some breeds of dogs have shown exceptional ability as guard dogs for family protection. Large dogs with intimidating reputations and appearances make excellent protection dogs and family pets when properly and professionally trained. Dogs bred for their guarding instincts tend to have dominant personalities and need owners who will provide strong leadership.
German Shepherds are often trained as K-9 attack dogs by the police and military, which has given them a reputation as mean, aggressive killers. With proper socialization and personal protection training, German Shepherds make excellent family pets. They are alert, intelligent, and good with children. Man dog trainers consider the German Shepherd one of the best guard dog breeds.
Doberman Pinschers have a strong instinct to protect their “pack” family and territory, but this breed is not for everybody. Doberman Pinschers need an owner who is not afraid of them, and all family members must learn how to handle this breed properly. Dobies require thorough, consistent training from an early age. A well-trained Doberman Pinscher can be a gentle, loving family pet that will aggressively defend his family when necessary.
Boxers are clownish, people-loving dogs that seem to possess the ability to read peoples’ character. Boxers may welcome strangers who seem non-threatening but will defend their owner and territory if they feel the need. High-spirited dogs need to be trained not to jump on family members, and visitors do well with older children. They are likely to knock down smaller children with their rowdy play.
Giant Schnauzers are not as popular in the United States as some other breeds but have proven themselves as first-rate guard dogs in European countries. Giant, powerful dogs with dominant personalities, Giant Schnauzers can be high-spirited. They require obedience training from an early age and are not suitable for a home with pre-teen children.
Chow Chows are usually well-mannered dogs but have a strong protective instinct. They often become “one-person” dogs but will get along well with children and other household animals if raised with them early. Often stubborn, independent and willful, Chows need firm, early obedience training. Breeders have been attempting to produce a more “family-friendly” temperament in this breed, and a well-bred and well-trained Chow can make a great family pet.
Rottweilers are massive, powerful dogs. Calm, courageous, and protective of their families, they will fiercely defend their owners. Rottweilers need careful training as puppies, so they do not become overly aggressive. Obedience training for this breed should begin at three months of age; if the Rottweiler is allowed to become the family pack leader, there may be tragic consequences. This breed is at the top of the list of dog bite fatalities. Do not choose a Rottweiler as a family guard dog if you have pre-teen children in your home.
Great Danes make excellent guard dogs simply by their imposing appearance, although they are not traditionally bred as working dogs. They are one of the gentlest of dog breeds. Playful and patient with children, Great Danes love people and want to be around them. They will bark when necessary but only become aggressive when the situation calls for it. Great Danes get along with other dogs when they are raised around them. This breed requires obedience training at an early age so the owner can control this giant dog when he reaches his full size.
Invest In Professional Training For the Safety Of Your Family
The owner should never try to train a personal protection dog himself. Improper technique may result in a dangerous dog. Give the dog basic obedience training for control as a young puppy, using positive reinforcement as a reward. Discourage overly rough or aggressive play, and never leave any dog alone with young children. Even innocent play can be dangerous with a large dog who doesn’t know his strength. When the dog is about six months of age, enroll him in a personal protection obedience program with a trained professional who excels in this field.