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The Best Dog Breeds for Protecting Your Home

You don’t need a pit bull to keep your family safe

Great Pyrenees, German Shepherd, and Cairn Terrior poking their heads through broken front door window
Paul Spella

When the time comes to get a dog, you know exactly what your family will be arguing for: something cute and cuddly, with lots of personality and maybe an affinity for belly rubs. We get it. We’re not made of stone. But most guys know exactly what they want from a dog — a canine ally in home protection. That’s really the whole point of getting a pet, right? So you can put up one of those “Beware of Dogs” signs and mean it. You want to know that if someone breaks into your house, they’re going to be on the receiving end of a pair of vicious jaws.

But with 360 unique dog breeds worldwide, where do you even begin choosing the right one for the job? A dog’s temperament and instincts can be influenced by everything from its breed to the effectiveness of its training. And just like no two people are exactly alike, “traits like affinity for strangers and even barking vary wildly among members of the same breed,” explains Amanda Farah, national training and behavior coordinator at Best Friends Animal Society.

If you’re looking for a guard dog, try starting with a simple question: What do I want to protect? If your home is a small studio or one-bedroom, a dog built for protecting and herding livestock isn’t going to work. Luckily, there are certain breeds ideal for protecting every size of home.

If you live in an apartment, get a …

cairn terrier

God loves a terrier, and so will you if you need a vigilant watchdog who doesn’t take up a lot of space. Because cairns were originally bred to fearlessly root for foxes and gophers, their bark is more valuable than their bite.

“The cairn is known for being distrustful of strangers and unlikely to hide from anything,” explains professional dog trainer and behaviorist Sally Grottini.

These dogs are good with kids and other pets, and have a natural protective instinct thanks to their unlikely lineage of diminutive ancestors, who patrolled farms in 15th-century Scotland. Due to their size, they make better alarm security systems than guard dogs, as their natural independence and alertness will compel them to announce visitors better than your doorman ever could.

If you live in a house, get a …

German shepherd

Because German shepherds were originally bred from wolves, they are exceptionally loyal. (And if you’re curious, wolves very, very rarely attack humans. As one report puts it, attacks are “above zero, but far too low to calculate.”) They’re used as service dogs because they become aware of their surroundings quickly, and they’re among the easier breeds to train.

“They [shepherds] are called so for a reason,” explains Grottini. “They guard over their flock for predators and are not afraid of confrontation. They are very intelligent with a strong need to protect, and make great choices for bigger residences.”

While German shepherds can be reserved with strangers, their pedigree will fuel an instinct to remain protective of your whole family unit with proper bonding and socialization.

If you live on a farm or homestead, get a …

great Pyrenees

“For large, sprawling properties where the dog will be expected to watch farm animals or patrol solo, a livestock guardian breed like a great Pyrenees or mix is a good bet,” says Farah. “They have an independent personality, and their size commands respect.”

Bred as guard dogs for farmers in the Pyrenees Mountains along the border of France and Spain, Pyrs were actually in charge of protecting flocks and herds from threats such as wolves, foxes and even bears. Their intimidating size comes from their double coat, which — if maintained through weekly grooming — gives them protection from the cold and makes them perfect outdoor guard dogs during winter. This breed is also naturally nocturnal, which makes Pyrs perfect intruder deterrents.

Photo credits: Getty Images
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