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These Pups Protect Your Home and Still Like to Snuggle


By Colleen Stinchcombe, Woman's Day

Smart, loyal, and courageous - if you had to narrow down the best traits for a guard dog, these would likely be them. Nobody wants their dog to have to put up a fight (putting up a cuddle is much preferred), but if you want a dog who’s more likely to run at a problem than away from it, a little research helps.

While some dogs might be preferable based on their size and personality characteristics, any dog can be trained to help protect your home and family, says Patrick Mahaney, V.M.D., a veterinarian in Los Angeles. A lot of potential owners looking for a guard dog turn to large dog breeds, although they’re not the only ones who put up a fight. Medium-sized dogs and herding dogs are also protective and known to ward off bad-intentioned folks.

That said, you can’t rely on breed alone. “The degree to which a dog breed will protect is individual to each dog,” Dr. Mahaney says. “There are occasions where a particular breed that would otherwise be known as a guard dog will not exhibit a natural protective tendency.”

It’s worth checking in with your veterinarian or trainer about the behaviors you’re hoping to see, Dr. Mahaney explains. Fence running, for example, might strike you as a good offense against intruders, but it can become an obsessive habit that leads to fence chewing or excessive barking, which can lead to health problems.

Not to mention, training is a huge part of any dog’s performance and personality. Especially when it comes to larger dogs, Dr. Mahaney recommends working with a trainer on the behaviors you’re hoping to see as well as on obedience, which is crucial when your dog is half your size and on the chase.

Scroll through to see some of the best guard dog breeds out there.


Chow Chow


The Chow Chow is a muscular, stocky breed whose history goes all the way back to ancient China. Once companions to Chinese nobles, the breed eventually gained a reputation for guarding and hunting, which makes them an excellent guard dog to consider today. They do tend to be aloof and anti-social except for the people closest to them, so if you're wanting a crowd-lover, this might not be the pet for you.


Shar-Pei


Another dog that is affectionate with their family but not interested in strangers is the Shar-Pei. At home, they're pretty calm and quiet. But if something's amiss, you can bet the Shar-Pei will want to investigate. Because of their loyal-to-a-fault temperament, they need careful, early training to be properly socialized and behave well in the company of non-family.


Australian Shepherd


One of the most recognizable ranch dogs, Australian Shepherds are good at, well, shepherding. These smart dogs want to corral anything they can, including your family. This habit makes them super protective and also keenly observant, both critical traits in a great guard dog. But their background also means they need plenty of mental and physical activity to keep them from acting out.


Border Collie


If your "home" happens to be more of a homestead, you couldn't ask for a better protector than a Border Collie. Fueled by regular activity and wide open spaces, the Border Collie has been used by sheep farmers for ages as an excellent herder. Their whip-smart intelligence makes them great dogs for training - so you can instill the behaviors you need in a guard dog, and not the ones you don't.


Bernese Mountain Dog


Part of the Bernese Mountain Dog's appeal is just their sheer size - this pup can get up to 115 pounds. They love their family deeply and are generally a gentle giant, although they take a while to warm to strangers and they often alarm bark to warn them away. This may make them a better watch dog than guard dog, unless they're specifically trained for what to do in the event of an intruder.


Doberman Pinscher


Beyond their undeniably intimidating look, the Doberman Pinscher also has an excellent temperament for guarding. They're loyal, hyper alert, and scared of nothing. All of the traits that make them an excellent guard dog have also given them a bad reputation as dangerous. Owners should be diligent with training so that their pups only represent the breed's best qualities when out in the neighborhood.


German Shepherd


Perhaps one of the first breeds that come to mind when you think "guard dog," the German Shepherd has an excellent reputation for a good reason. Loving, smart, and brave, this is a dog as perfect for families as it is for police officers. Just make sure you're working on obedience, too, so that you can effectively command your pet if they guard unnecessarily.


Bullmastiff


Originally a cross between Bulldog and Mastiff and bred to hunt down poachers in the late 19th century, the Bullmastiff is equal parts relaxed homebody and cunning worker when on the job. Smart, confident, and alert, the American Kennel Club (AKC) calls the breed a "world-class protector." Because of their size - they can reach 130 pounds - these dogs should be trained young, while they're still small enough to handle.


Rhodesian Ridgeback


Once used to track lions in Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is now a happy family dog - except for their fierce independent streak and chasing instinct. But their long history of working for humans and protecting homesteads makes them obedient, loyal, and ready to stand up against anyone interfering with their pack. Best for experienced dog owners, though, since their stubbornness requires extra attention in training.


Rottweiler


The Rottweiler is everything you could want in a great guardian: alert, aloof with strangers, and happy to serve humans. They were even some of the first guide dogs for the blind, according to the AKC. But what makes the Rottweiler even better is that, when they're not on duty, they're silly, playful, fun-loving dogs that don't take the world too seriously.



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Home Magazine: These Pups Protect Your Home and Still Like to Snuggle
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