Rottweiler (Photo by Joel Moysuh on Unsplash)

People keep dogs for many reasons, including companionship, physical or emotional support, and safety. The average owner just expects their dog to alert them of potential danger — a watchdog. Most dogs are suitable for this job, including the vigilant (and brave!) Chihuahua. But if you need more than an “alarm system” your choices are a bit more limited. StudyFinds helps you narrow down your search with our list of the best dogs for protection that serve as canine bodyguards who will effectively take down an attacker.

We hope that you’re never in a situation where you have to face an attacker. But if that’s your concern, a large dog serves as a deterrent and can be trained with special protection skills. Just remember: protective is not the same as aggressive. A dog that attacks without a real threat being present puts you at risk rather than keeping you safe. Further, in a Brazilian study on dog aggression, researchers found that traits such as weight, height, cranial morphology, sex and age influence the interaction between dogs and their environment more than their breed, whereas protective instincts for the time being appear to be connected to a dog’s heritage.

But even if their protective instincts aren’t the strongest, dogs can literally smell danger — or rather, they can smell stress. “The findings [of an Irish study] show that we, as humans, produce different smells through our sweat and breath when we are stressed and dogs can tell this apart from our smell when relaxed – even if it is someone they do not know,” explained researcher Clara Wilson of the School of Psychology at Queen’s University Belfast. “The research highlights that dogs do not need visual or audio cues to pick up on human stress. This is the first study of its kind and it provides evidence that dogs can smell stress from breath and sweat alone, which could be useful when training service dogs and therapy dogs.”

While service dogs are expected to be friendly, dogs used for protection should be extra obedient and weary of strangers. StudyFinds reviewed dog experts’ advice across ten websites to gather information on protective breeds. Based on the experts’ recommendations, we then built our top-five list of the best dogs for protection. Do you have any breeds (or breed mixes) to add? Please let us know in the comments.

The List: Best Dog Breeds for Protection, According to Experts

1. TIE: German Shepherd, Rottweiler and Doberman Pinscher

Number one is a triple threat! Ten out of ten experts recommend all three breeds for personal protection and it’s not hard to see why. “The German Shepherd is a versatile and highly intelligent breed that is renowned for its protective instincts. They are often employed as police and military dogs due to their exceptional trainability, loyalty, and courage,” says Bestforpets.

brown and black dog
German shepherd (Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash)

Rottweilers also “check off every box on the [protective] guard dog checklist,” according to K9 of Mine. “They are one of the most intelligent breeds in the world, they love their families in a way that is truly difficult to convey and they are ready to face down any threat – be it a bear, nefarious human, or vacuum cleaner – without a moment’s hesitation. And most are ready to back up their bluster if need be.”

a black and brown dog sitting on top of a lush green field
Rottweiler (Photo by Sabīne Jaunzeme on Unsplash)

And last but not least, “Dobermans can often do an excellent job of protecting with little to no formal training. With a structured training program, you can hone your dog’s protection skills and turn your dog into an excellent guard dog,” writes The Spruce.

black and tan doberman pinscher
Doberman pinscher (Photo by Jorge Rosales on Unsplash)

2. Bullmastiff

This massive dog is definitely physically intimidating. But will they follow through if their person is at risk? “Brave, affectionate, and loyal, the Bullmastiff will always have your back,” writes The Daily Wag. That’s why nine out of ten experts name this breed as one of the best breeds for protection!

a brown dog standing on top of a lush green field
Bullmastiff (Photo by Albert Dávid on Unsplash)

Like the Doberman, “the bullmastiff is a born protector that needs structured training to reinforce its natural guarding instincts.” But in addition, “this dog is naturally affectionate towards its family, making it an excellent companion,” adds The Spruce.

“Obedient by nature, these dogs tend to behave well and act as natural guardians of the home. Their loyalty manifests in protective behavior,” concurs EntirelyPets. “But don’t worry about an over-protective mastiff. These well-mannered dogs are gentle enough to interact with children, making them great for families.”

3. Giant Schnauzer

Eight out of ten consulted experts recommend the Giant Schnauzer for personal protection. With their fluffy beard and wavy coat they don’t look too tough, but “Giant Schnauzers are proud, territorial dogs, whose size helps make up for their refined appearance,” says K9 of Mine. “They are actually quite powerful dogs, capable of effectively defending their family.”

a black dog laying on top of a couch
Giant schnauzer (Photo by Arny GS on Unsplash)

And The Daily Wag notes that the breed stands for “an extremely intelligent, large, energetic, strongly territorial dog whose life is oriented toward his owners.” These dogs are “loyal, alert, trainable, with the stable temperament required in big dogs of great strength.”

“Most Giant Schnauzers are watchful with strangers and responsible about protecting their home,” states Alpha Paw. Most? Before (and after) you acquire one of these gorgeous giants, apply due diligence, they recommend: “However, timidity, skittishness, and sharp-shyness are seen in some lines. To promote a stable, confident temperament, Giant Schnauzers need more socialization than many other breeds.”

4. TIE: Akita and Rhodesian Ridgeback

Both breeds received six out of ten recommendations and both are fierce as they were bred to take down large prey. “This breed has historically been used for hunting lions and large animals [in South Africa], so they have an incredibly strong prey drive,” per Georgia Veterinary Associates. “While loving and gentle around family, they won’t hesitate to confront an intruder who approaches your home. They are highly intelligent and enjoy having a role in your family.”

black and white short coated dog
Akita (Photo by Charles Gaudreault on Unsplash)

Meanwhile in Japan, Akitas were used to take down bears! They “are one of the most loyal dog breeds. Bred for guarding royalty and nobility in feudal Japan, this courageous and alert breed is naturally suspicious of strangers. Akitas will keep watch over you and your family at all times. This breed takes this task seriously and will typically perform its guarding duty with little to no training,” adds The Spruce.

brown short coated dog in close up photography
Rhodesian ridgeback (Photo by Ilona Frey on Unsplash)

Georgia Veterinary Associates outline the most important difference between the breeds: While Rhodesians “can be socialized to be around large families, children, and other pets.”

“Akitas can be so aggressive with other dogs of the same sex that two males or two females should never be left alone together,” writes Alpha Paw. “It is strongly advised to keep small children away from Akitas when they are eating.”

5. Belgian Malinois

While this breed only was recommended by five out of ten experts, as a close relative of the German shepherd, the Malinois could easily qualify for a number one spot on our list. “The Belgian Malinois Shepherd, a working dog, takes great pride in protecting its own. The strong protective instincts and highly observant stature with strangers makes the Belgian a great family protector,” states Alpha Paw.

brown and black german shepherd lying on white and gray area rug
Belgian Malinois puppy (Photo by Gerrie van der Walt on Unsplash)

“The Belgian Malinois are brilliant dogs, highly capable, and love to work. They can be trained to do nearly anything and are the up and coming favorites for trained executive protection dogs. These dogs are fiercely loyal to their pack – your family – and will defend you at all costs. Belgian Malinois are highly adaptable to your needs and can mingle with other dogs, pets (including cats!), adults, and children. They also travel well, making them the ideal protection dog to take with you on the road whether you’re on vacation or just traveling for business,” notes Georgia Veterinary Associates.

“The Belgian Malinois is likely the favorite breed of professional protection dog trainers, and they’re likely the most common breed working for police and military units in the U.S.,” writes K9 of Mine. “Belgian Malinois superficially resemble small German shepherds, but these dogs have even more intensity and energy than their more common counterparts do. But while this makes them very well-suited for full-time work, it can make them a bit of a handful for typical families.”

Note: For simplicity’s sake this list consists of purebreds, but mixed-breed dogs can of course be equally protective of their owners.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Clio Rourke

I'm a freelance writer with experience in advertising and public relations.

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StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

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  1. Joe Matthew Sparacino says:

    This reminds me of social services,they have no children and want to place your children in a foster home on a whim! They have absolutely no experience with children whatsoever.these people placing dogs in order, for the best protection also have no experience.the cane Corso is probably the number #1 of all times for a guard dog ,not to mention the loyalty, respect, mutual love and more.but not to even mention them is a travesty!!!

  2. Chet Dato says:

    I’d take an Anatolian Shepherd over any of them.

  3. Yola says:

    I have two beautiful Rottweilers Bigboy and Pretty-Girl, would never trade them for the world, I know they are back, wen my son takes them for their walks I don’t have anything to worry about

  4. Joe says:

    Where are the basset hounds?

  5. Abbey says:

    I have a Siberian Husky and he will lick you to death…the kill them with kindness method!

  6. Tabby says:

    Akitas have been our spirit animals.
    Over the last 30 year’s we have owned five unrelated Akitas.These beauties are beautiful inside out. They have all possessed hearts of gold, so affectionate, instinctively intelligent and protective of their Pack family.
    They have all been non aggressive, friendly and socialized. Their loyalty is bar none. They love to play and are all crazy about car rides. This Royal, Regal breed will do beautifully well with a confident owner who can give them love and respect as they in return will be rewarded ten-fold. Because Akitas are a working breed, they need ample space and room to play. Our Akitas surely have been a sweet Blessing!😍

  7. Terry J. Huber says:

    If you have had a Boxer as a member of your family, you know they belong on this list. The American version of the Boxer may not be as physically intimidating as the Rot, Mastiff, etc, but their instincts and innate protective nature of their family are unrivaled by any other breed.
    Of course I am biased after having them as family members for over 44 years.

  8. Adam says:

    Give me a pitbull and I’ll show you an animal that will give it’s life willingly to protect his owner .A pitbull will do that not because he was trained to do it but because that the pitbull loves his owner that much .I don’t see that in your choice for best protectors.

    1. LESLIE A BROWN says:

      This is so true. My American Bulldog and Red Nose will go to any length to protect me. It’s their job and in return I would stand in front of them if someone had a gun. My boy is about 85 pounds and is going on 9 years old, there were workers in the alley I went back there to get him and apologize for him barking, he grabbed my hand and pulled me back from the fence and then walked me to the house. Didn’t even leave a mark on me. He is my heart.
      The girl is the red nose she is about 3 years old and 65 pounds. Some brave person had jumped the fence at night the dogs started the low growl so I opened the back door and quietly said ‘get them’ lucky for the guy he ran real fast.

  9. Adam says:

    Give me a pitbull and I’ll show you an animal that will give it’s life willingly to protect his owner .A pitbull will do that not because he was trained to do it but because that the pitbull loves his owner that much .I don’t see that in your choice for best protectors. In my opinion most people brand the pitbull a fighting musled up killing machine to be feared always .But when it comes to talking about protection dogs pitbulls never get mentioned.i just don understand that .If pitbulls should be feared they make perfect protection dogs hands down

  10. Glen says:

    I’m on that too!
    I have one and he definitely qualifies for much of what has been mentioned. He’s small enough that he can maneuver well and runs very fast. If there is an infant around he will investigate and he will lay right there and gard that child,… I’ve seen it with mine on eyes; he will warn with a shallow grawl and if he stands, ya better back off.
    These dogs have been so badly represented it’s not right. If their owners like you, they like you, but they to have a nose for trouble and they will let you know.

  11. Glen says:

    That’s what I have and he is very loyal to me. That is so so right. Not as big as some of the others, but big enough to handle an intruder and very loveable pups… warning! If you want love and safety the Pit is 100% and great with kids.

  12. Mike Modrow says:

    My last dog was a lab Newfoundland mix. She actually protected my family when somebody broke in. When the cops arrived she was told to sit down and did exactly that. The police did not even know she was there because of her obedience. My current family dog is an akbosch. I don’t have to worry about my wife or my grandchildren when I’m not home. I know he will protect them.

  13. Steven Brown says:

    Your top 3 are a Joke. My son has a German Shepherd and it borders on being a scaredy cat, only barks. My son in law had a Doberman that would back down if confronted. I have been around many Rottweiler’s and they are either overly aggressive or very friendly. I have had mother and son Rhodesian Ridgeback’s and knew for a fact they would protect my family if I was not at home. When the mother had puppies, I sold all but one and turned my back on a prospective buyer. The woman anxiously ran up to me and sensing the couple were going to attack me, she tackled the man about 6’3” 240 lbs. and pinned him against a love seat. She could have easily tore his throat out, but only growled and showed her teeth until I called her off. Probably the only Breed in your group that shows discretion!!!

  14. Randi says:

    I had a Bullmastif very protective of me but at the same time sweet..I had an English Mastiff…right now I have an Cane Corso, Rottweiler and Tibetan Mastiff..

  15. Kevin H. says:

    I own an Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog. He’s 95 pounds and is very protective of our family and his home. We also have a German Shepherd. Our bulldog is king in this house. A big, strong, protective dog that isn’t all bark.

  16. Candice says:

    I believe a lot of a dog’s protectiveness depends on how they’re raised. I finally got my first dog (not counting the dogs I had with my parents). I purchased a Bernese Mountain Dog and he alerts us every time he hears someone/something. I definitely agree with the dogs on the list and the ones listed in the comments. My sweet Berner “Bernie” is so affectionate and sweet with his family. However, whenever he hears someone delivering, soliciting, or just walking through our yard, he stands in front of me as a way of protecting his mama. When sitting on the couch, he lays at my feet and doesn’t leave me alone in a room for more than ten minutes. He’s an even better guard dog I could have asked for.

    I don’t think all Berners are born guard dogs, but mine is perfect! <3 🙂

  17. Mike says:

    Yall must not have a clue as to what a Great Pyrenees is. 🤦

  18. Mick says:

    Black russian terrier very good