When it comes to protecting your home from burglars, there is no doubt that the single most effective thing you can do is to have a monitored alarm system (and promote that fact to would-be burglars with a yard sign).
However, true home security isn’t a one-and-done proposition—it’s about adding multiple layers of defense to make your home a less attractive target than other nearby homes. In addition to a monitored alarm system, other layers of defense you might consider adding are security cameras, hardened doors and windows, security-conscious landscaping, and the subject of today’s article—a guard dog. In many surveys that have been conducted of former burglars, they consistently have reported that large, loud dogs were something they tried to avoid when selecting homes to target for break-ins (along with alarm systems).
Contrary to the stereotype, a “guard dog” doesn’t have to be a vicious animal that attacks any stranger who approaches, including small children. There are many breeds of dogs that can do double duty as a great family pet and a guard dog. These are the five best dog breeds for home protection that can also serve as loving members of your family’s “pack.”
#1 German Shepherd
If you’re looking for a devoted family pet and fearless guard dog, the German Shepherd is the hands-down winner. As a muscular, intelligent working dog originally bred for herding, what makes German Shepherds such great guard dogs is their confident, courageous character. Our current President’s favorite breed is extremely loyal and makes a gentle family pet, but when it comes to the defense of its loved ones, it will be willing to put its life on the line. German Shepherds have a natural protective instinct that does not waiver. Their intimidating, loud bark makes them an especially effective deterrent to intruders.
German Shepherd males usually weigh between 65 and 90 pounds, while females weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. Their life expectancy is between 12 and 14 years.
When it comes to health problems, the most common ailments for this noble breed are hip and elbow dysplasia, which a responsible breeder should screen for; bloat, a sudden and life-threatening condition affecting the abdomen; and epilepsy.
#2 Doberman Pinscher
With their menacing bark and a personality that is hard-wired for defense, Doberman Pinschers make excellent guard dogs. The breed was first bred in Germany in the late 19th century, mostly to serve as a guard dog. This sleek, powerful canine is also devoted, warmhearted, and even docile as a family pet.
Male Dobermans usually weigh between 75 and 100 pounds, and females weigh between 60 and 90 pounds. They usually live between 10 and 12 years.
Bloat can be a life-threatening digestive condition for Dobermans. Genetic health conditions include hip dysplasia, dilated cardiomyopathy (enlarged heart), von Willebrand’s disease (a clotting disorder), progressive retinal atrophy, albinism, and hypothyroidism.
Originally bred to protect cattle and other livestock, Rottweilers are descended from the dogs that the Romans used to drive the herds that fed their army as it marched through Europe. A robust, confident breed, Rottweilers are also gentle playmates within their own families. Rottweilers are calm and courageous but not overly aggressive. According to the American Kennel Club, “Their aloof demeanor these world-class guardians present to outsiders belies the playfulness that endears Rotties to their loved ones.”
Male Rottweilers weigh between 95 and 135 pounds, and females weigh between 80 and 100 pounds. Their usual life expectancy is between 9 and 10 years of age.
The health problems that Rottweilers most commonly suffer from are hip dysplasia, eye diseases, and heart conditions.
#4 Bull Mastiff
Initially developed by gamekeepers to protect their animals from poachers, this strong working breed can be quite intimidating to intruders. But when it comes to their families, Bull Mastiffs are gentle giants, known for their affection as much as for their bravery. Like most large breeds, the Bull Mastiff needs structured training and early social socialization so that it is easy to control.
Bull Mastiff males usually weigh between 110 and 130 pounds, and females weigh between 110 and 120 pounds. The Bull Mastiff’s life expectancy is only 7 to 9 years, which might deter some families from choosing this breed.
Health liabilities include eye problems, cancer, and, as with a couple of the breeds mentioned above, they are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and bloat.
The Akita was originally bred in Japan as a hunting dog, but its fearlessness and loyalty make it a great guard dog. When it comes to their own families, this quiet breed is loving and cuddly. As they are also independent-minded and willful, Akitas must be trained from a young age so that they understand who’s boss.
Male Akitas weigh between 100 and 130 pounds, and females usually weigh between 70 and 100 pounds. Their life expectancy is 10-13 years.
Like all large dogs, Akitas can be prone to bloat. Common inherited health problems include eye and thyroid disorders and hip dysplasia.
Below are two “Runners Up”: dog breeds that make superb watchdogs but not necessarily the best guard dogs.
The boxer is a medium-sized, short-haired working breed that tends to become very attached to its owners. While they tend to have a very menacing bark, they are less likely to attack when provoked. This clever breed is highly energetic and requires a lot of exercise and stimulation.
The Australian Shepherd, one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds, was originally bred to herd livestock. Astute and observant, they are excellent watchdogs, quick to alert their family when something is out of place. However, they don’t have the strength, appearance, or boldness to tackle a burglar.
Simply purchasing a dog is not enough to protect your home from intruders. But along with a monitored alarm system and other layers of defense, it will undoubtedly make your home a less attractive target!