Guard dog

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A guard dog or watch dog (not to be confused with the attack dog) is a dog used to guard against, and watch for unwanted or unexpected people or animals.[1][2][3] The dog is discriminating so that it does not annoy or even attack familiar people.[4]


Both guard dogs and watchdogs bark loudly to alert their owners of an intruder's presence and to scare away the intruder.[5] The watch dog's function ends here; a guard dog is capable of attacking, or restraining the intruder.

Livestock guardian dogs are often large enough, 100-200 lbs and strong enough to attack and drive away livestock predators such as wolves.[6] Some smaller breeds (such as Keeshond and Tibetan Terrier) are excellent watchdogs but not guard dogs because they bark loudly to alert their masters of intruders but are physically small and not given to assertive behavior. Guardian breeds will bark to alert their master and to warn off an approaching animal, or human threat, prior to their interception of the trespasser. They are different from the smaller watchdogs in that they do not continue barking, they take action. The human shepherd would in many cases come to the guard dog's aid with a weapon, not letting the dog fend for itself.

The following breeds are the best at watch dog barking:[7]

If the risk is from human intruders, a suitable dog can be simply trained to be aggressive towards unrecognized humans and then tethered or enclosed unsupervised in an area the owner wishes to protect when he is not around (such as at night); the stereotypical "junkyard dog" is a common example of this. If the purpose of the dog is to protect against human intruders after nightfall, a large, dark colored dog in a dark house (lights off) would give the dog an advantage over the burglar. Other guard dogs intended for police or more supervised work are trained to bite, restrain and release an intruder only on the specific commands of its handler—as in Schutzhund or K9 Pro Sports training.[8]


The Doberman Pinscher was bred for guard duty

While the Airedale terrier, historically, was a British police dog, nowadays, breeds include the Doberman and the Rottweiler. Many currently prominent guard dogs started as general purpose farm dogs, but gradually developed into guard breeds. The Rhodesian Ridgeback is a determined defender of the home and can be very hostile to an enemy of its family. Some breeds, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, were originally bred for fighting.[9][10]

Many have a greater amount of molossoid or mastiff DNA. This is confirmed by a DNA study done on over 270 purebred dogs. It suggests that thirteen ancient breeds broke off early on, after which a group of mastiff style dogs were developed.[11]

The Irish wolfhound, an ancient traditional hunting breed, used against the extinct giant Irish Elk, and the European wolf, has evidence that its population was nearly wiped out 200 years ago and its existing members descended from a very small group of dogs, thus it is a rebuilt breed, but evidently out of somewhat different building blocks.[12] In her book Irish Wolfhounds, Beverly Pisano writes that the Great Dane, Scottish Deerhound and Borzoi contributed to the resurrected Irish wolfhound. The modern Irish Wolfhound has a more peaceful temperament than its ancestor, the CU, of Ireland. Some Irish Wolfhounds have the power to excel as a guard, but too many of them have been bred to be passive for the show ring.[citation needed]

The Belgian shepherd dogs, similar in appearance to the German shepherd, are gaining in popularity with police departments as an extremely quick and agile police dog.[13] The Fila, Dogo and Tosa are banned from the UK and Pitbulls must be microchipped, neutered and muzzled. The Canary dog or Presa Canario, is considered to be a natural fighting dog and should be carefully watched around other dogs. Some supporters of this breed refer to the Presa Canario as a "blood animal", meaning that it loves to fight. The Dogo Argentino was custom designed to be a powerful boar and puma hunter, though rarely used in fights. The Fila Brasileiro has a reputation of being a no nonsense guard and suspects almost all non family visitors. The Fila hunts Jaguar and was used in Brazil to run down escaped slaves, when slavery was a legal practice in Brazil. The Fila has a reputation for being very intolerant of guests to the home.[citation needed]

Some breeds who make excellent guards are more commonly having breed specific legislation passed against them, banning them from some communities and whole countries.[14] Many landlords will not allow intimidating looking guard dog breeds and big game hunting breeds to live on their properties. The Moscow Watchdog, a Russian guard dog, crossbred of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Rottweiller, is popular in Moscow.[15] The Great Dane is a molosser, mixed with unknown sighthounds, to improve its agility and speed in boar hunting. The Great Dane is a mix of mastiff and coursing hounds, that was popular as a Boar hunter.[citation needed]

The original Saint Bernard was used for alpine rescue in the Saint Bernard Pass by the monks.[16] An avalanche killed off many of the dogs used for breeding.[citation needed] The Saint Bernards had to be bred with larger dogs such as Mastiffs, which give it the large size and the guard dog instinct that the Saint Bernard has today.[citation needed]

It is claimed that female dogs tend to make better personal guardians than males, due to maternal instincts, but males are considered better for guarding property because of their greater territorial instinct. That may be true in general, but all dogs are individuals.[17] Guarding against wolves, large male dogs would, in general, do better against large male wolves. They also serve in the police force,[18] and help to guard herds of cattle or sheep.[19] Being made for harsh weather, herding, and protection, these dogs are very intelligent guard dogs. The Australian Shepherd has been used as a flock guardian after being introduced into the United States as a herding dog. The German Shepherd dog is widely used by police forces globally and private security companies in the UK, USA, the EU and elsewhere with very wide distribution.

List of breeds commonly used as guard dogs[edit]

List of other guard dog breeds[edit]

Note some are not AKC or UKC recognized and a few are not FCI recognized, but all at least have their own breed club.


The laws regarding ownership and usage of guard dogs vary from country to country.[22][23][1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Department of Economic Development, Jobs. "Guard dogs". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  2. ^ Donohue, George A.; Tichenor, Phillip J.; Olien, Clarice N. (3 May 1995). "A Guard Dog Perspective on the Role of Media". Journal of Communication. 45 (2): 115–132. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00732.x. Retrieved 3 May 2019 – via Wiley Online Library.
  3. ^ "Definition of GUARD DOG". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  4. ^ Plato (2003), The Republic, ISBN 9780140449143
  5. ^ Clayden, Paul (1 May 2011). "The Dog Law Handbook". Sweet & Maxwell. Retrieved 3 May 2019 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ "Livestock Guardian Dogs and Their Care in Winter". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  7. ^ Benjamin Hart, "Analysing breed and gender differences in behaviour", The domestic dog: its evolution, behaviour, and interactions with people
  8. ^ Tierney, John (11 June 2011). "For the Executive With Everything, a $230,000 Dog to Protect It". Retrieved 3 May 2019 – via
  9. ^ "How the pit bull terrier went from national symbol to vilified weapon". South China Morning Post. 26 February 2017. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  10. ^ "The Most Feared Dogs May Also Be the Most Misunderstood". National Geographic News. 3 July 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog". 304. no. 5674: 1160–1164. 21 May 2004. (Subscription required) Note: pay special attention to Figure 3 of the study.
  12. ^ Lindblad-Toh, Kerstin; Wade, Claire M.; Mikkelsen, Tarjei S.; Karlsson, Elinor K.; Jaffe, David B.; Kamal, Michael; Clamp, Michele; Chang, Jean L.; Kulbokas, Edward J.; Zody, Michael C.; Mauceli, Evan; Xie, Xiaohui; Breen, Matthew; Wayne, Robert K.; Ostrander, Elaine A.; Ponting, Chris P.; Galibert, Francis; Smith, Douglas R.; Dejong, Pieter J.; Kirkness, Ewen; Alvarez, Pablo; Biagi, Tara; Brockman, William; Butler, Jonathan; Chin, Chee-Wye; Cook, April; Cuff, James; Daly, Mark J.; Decaprio, David; et al. (8 December 2005). "Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog". Nature. 438 (7069): 803–819. doi:10.1038/nature04338.
  13. ^ "History of Belgian Malinois as Police Dogs". North American K-9. Archived from the original on 9 March 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
  14. ^ "A short history of the 'dangerous dog' and why certain breeds are banned". 4 January 2018.
  15. ^ Koenig, Sarah (8 August 1996). "Moscow's Rich Flaunt Rottweilers". Retrieved 3 May 2019 – via
  16. ^ "Saintly Bernards Rescue". Petfinder. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
  17. ^ Willis, Malcolm B. Genetics of the Dog.
  18. ^ Holmes (1993), pp. 132–155
  19. ^ Lithgow (2001), pp. 5–6, 25–28
  20. ^ a b c d e f g "Best Guard Dogs". American Kennel Club. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  21. ^ Matthew Newman (1985), Watch/guard dogs, p. 19, ISBN 9780896862876
  22. ^ Participation, Expert. "Guard Dogs Act 1975". Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  23. ^ "Permits and Housing of Guard Dogs - 6.10". Town of Rangely. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2019.