For some people, dogs are not only companions but are also used to protect their owners as well as property.
Guard dogs are not the same as watch dogs, and if not properly socialized and trained, can be a far cry from the average family-loving pet. A watch dog is typically a member of a breed that barks when strangers approach. These dogs will alert their owners to danger and threaten the stranger but really don't have the size or strength to follow through with their verbal threats.
Guard dogs, on the hand, are strong, large and imposing; their natural protective traits are honed to protect property or people. If provoked, some of these dogs have the ability to cause serious damage by attacking. Most others will do what they can to protect their family and possessions but do not typically attack.
Despite their natural protective instincts, these dogs can be gentle and loving family members, if socialized and trained early in life.
To see which breeds make good watch dogs, read the story Top Watch Dogs.
Breeds that are known for natural guard dog abilities include:
Akita. One of the national dogs of Japan, the akita is a dignified and courageous dog. Originally used to hunt bear and guard property, the akita was also used in dog fighting. Today, the akita is more a family pet and is a natural protector.
Neapolitan mastiff. This large wrinkly faced dog is extremely strong and quite imposing. With his broad solid head, just one look from this dog can scare off any potential wrong-doer.
Staffordshire terriers. Often confused with the pit bull, the Staffordshire terrier is a powerful and intimidating dog, when he wants to be. When it is just him and his family, he is a loving and easy going breed.
Bouvier des Flandres. The Bouvier originated in Belgium and was originally used to drive cattle and pull carts. A natural guardian, this dog is good with children and has the size and strength to keep them safe.
Bullmastiff. With a relatively recent history, the bullmastiff was a revered companion to the British gamekeeper. The large size and imposing appearance of this dog scared off many a potential poacher. Still considered an excellent guardian, the bullmastiff is a giant dog that can easily weigh over 120 pounds.
Shar-pei. Despite his smaller size, the shar-pei can be a good guard dog. With a somewhat aloof temperament, this breed is better suited to families with older children but will protect every member of this family to the best of his ability.
Chow chow. The chow is one of the most easily recognized breeds. Popular because of his thick fluffy coat, the chow is a great guard dog. His teddy bear looks are quite deceiving. This dog can launch an impressive attack if provoked.
Doberman pinscher. The regal looking Dobie hails from Germany. A natural protector, the Doberman excels in guarding and police work.
Giant schnauzer. Unlike his smaller relatives, the giant schnauzer is a member of the working group. Historically used to drive cattle and guard livestock, the giant schnauzer today can be found as a police dog, guard dog and faithful companion.
Dogue de Bordeaux. Made popular in the movie “Turner and Hooch”, the Dogue de Bordeaux is a formidable opponent for any stranger. Very protective, you needn't worry about your property if your dog is on guard.
Anatolian shepherd. Recently accepted by the AKC, the Anatolian shepherd has an intense devotion and loyalty to his family and flock. Considered one of the best guard dogs around, this dog is slowly gaining popularity in the US.
Kuvasz. Similar to the Great Pyrenees, the kuvasz is a large white dog used to herd and protect sheep. Originally from Tibet, this breed is a natural guardian and actually prefers outdoor life, patrolling his territory.
Mastiff. This giant imposing dog can be rather intimidating. Previously used in dogfights and as a draft dog, the mastiff is a devoted and faithful family pet, willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family safe.
Presa Canario. The presa Canario is a member of the mastiff family hailing from the Canary Islands. An excellent and natural guard dog, this breed needs a strong hand and is considered one of the more aggressive dog breeds.
Fila Brasileiro. Also known as the Brazilian mastiff, the fila Brasileiro is known as a fierce guard dog. Although a rare breed, his striped hair coat and natural protective instincts have led to the breed slowly gaining popularity.
Great Pyrenees. A true shepherd dog, the Great Pyrenees has accompanied many sheep herders and was an invaluable asset when the sheep needed protection and direction. A great guard dog, the Pyrenees will keep his home and family safe.
German shepherd. Nearly always topping the most popular breed lists, the German shepherd has natural guarding and protecting instincts. Used throughout the world as a police dog and guardian, this breed has proven his natural protective instincts over and over.
Dogo Argentino. Often mistaken as a white pit bull, the dogo is a dog developed by two brothers in Argentina. Also known as the Argentine mastiff, this dog has a large, powerful head and is very protective and loyal.
Rhodesian ridgeback. The Rhodesian ridgeback is only one of two dogs with a naturally occurring ridge down his back. Developed in Africa, the ridgeback was used to hunt lion by taunting and harassing, giving the hunter a chance to approach and kill the lion. A strong minded dog, the ridgeback readily stands his ground and protects his family and territory.
Rottweiler. Despite his current reputation, the Rottweiler was originally developed as a herding dog. His size and strength quickly led him to a more productive life as a protector and guardian.