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.
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.”
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.
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!
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
You might also like:
- Best Dog Breeds For Home Security
- Smartest Dog Breeds
- Best Large Dog Breeds
- Best Dogs For Emotional Support
- Georgia Veterinary Associates
- Alpha Paw
- Doodles Daily
- The Daily Wag
- K9 of Mine
- Top Dog Tips
- The Spruce
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.