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Selecting a dog can be a tough decision for anyone, but that decision is considerably harder when the pup you want has to win your heart and be able to protect you, your family and your property—and yet another degree of difficulty is added to the equation if you’ve never owned a dog before. In this edition of Animal Facts, we’ll sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly, to shine the light on some of the best guard dog breeds for first-time owners.
7. American Pit Bull Terrier
Thanks to an unfair amount of negative coverage by the media, the American Pit Bull Terrier has a reputation for being one of the most aggressive dog breeds, when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sure, Pit Bulls are confident, strong, and fearless, but they also love people—not just their people, but all people. As a matter of fact, their affinity for humans is the reason they make better watchdogs than guard dogs. You’ll know when a stranger is afoot, because your Pit won’t be able to contain its excitement. But don’t expect your pooch to protect your home or valuables…they’ll be too busy playing fetch with their new, sticky-fingered friend. Truth is, Pitt Bulls don’t have to attack intruders—their reputation (though unfounded) is enough to make most would-be villains think twice.
Its friendliness, intelligence, eager to please nature, and love of children makes it an excellent guard dog for the first-time owner, but due to its origins as a fighting dog, the Pit can be aggressive towards other canines and are “ride or die” when it comes to protecting their humans. Early socialization and professional training are a must if you want your Pit to be well-rounded and well-behaved.
Fun Fact: At one point, iconic rap star Snoop Dogg owned 20 Pit Bulls.
Don’t judge a book by its cover—and don’t judge a Shar-Pei by its wrinkles. With thick folds of fur-covered skin that look like a warm, velvety blanket, the Shar-Pei puppy may be cute and appear cuddly, but it will eventually grow into an adult with the tendency to be independent, stubborn, and territorial. This dog is very protective and will defend you and your family against any and all threats.
Originally bred to hunt wild boar and fight other canines, the Shar-Pei is naturally distrustful of strangers and unfamiliar dogs.
Early socialization and training will help quell behavioral issues before they start, and help your pup adjust to being around different people, other pets, and in unfamiliar places.
The Shar-Pei’s calm demeanor and intuition when it comes to understanding its humans make the breed a great pick for first-time owners who want a top-notch guard dog.
Fun Fact: The texture of the Shar-Pei’s coat is like sandpaper. As a matter fact, Shar-Pei means “sand skin” in Chinese.
5. Kangal Shepherd
The Kangal Shepherd is an ancient Turkish guard dog breed that was developed from the Mastiff. Despite its name, the Kangal’s job was not to herd sheep. It was originally used in Turkey to guard livestock from predators like bears, wolves, and jackals. In recent years, Kangals have been exported to Africa to protect herds from big cats like leopards, cheetahs and lions…yes, lions. Their size and bite force—which is the strongest of all dog breeds—makes them formidable opponents against these predators, Kangals have another side.
They are calm, reserved, protective, and devoted to their people, which is why they’re great guard dogs for novice owners. Kangals are also tender with young children and animals, which makes them excellent family guard dogs.
That said, their intelligence and independent disposition can prove challenging when it is being trained, so it is recommended that first-timers hire a professional trainer.
When it comes to guard dog attributes, the Boxer has it all—smarts, alertness, athleticism, intimidating looks…and the perfect name. But none of these characteristics is the reason why the Boxer is one of the best guard dogs for first-time owners. This breed makes our list because it’s more of a lover than a fighter.
Aggression does not come naturally to the Boxer, but it is an instinctive guardian. Boxers are unrelentingly affectionate, giving sloppy kisses regularly and expecting the same of their humans. That said, they tend to be wary of strangers and will use their strength and agility to protect the people they love if they are threatened. First timers will also benefit from this breed’s ability to discern a person’s intentions, whether it be their own or those of an antagonist.
Fun Fact: The Boxer is believed to have been named after the way it stands on its hind legs and jabs with its front paws during play.
Rottweilers may be big, burly, and intimidating, but they aim to please—well, they aim to please their owners. So, they have no problem following commands, and their intelligence and easygoing nature makes them extremely trainable, which is one of the reasons they’re recommended for newbie dog parents.
Rotties have come a long way from their beginnings as herd dogs. Through the years they’ve been used not only as guard dogs, but also in search and rescue, and as police, military, and therapy dogs—that’s right, therapy dogs.
Well-rounded Rottweilers have a soft side that most people outside of their families don’t get to see. While they are protective of their people in general, they are even more so with kids and other pets. Females tend to be gentler and more patient than males, so if you have little ones or other animals you may want a Rottie of the “fairer sex.” Also, as a novice owner, a female may be easier for you to handle—but more on this with our next pick.
2. Doberman Pinscher
Originally bred in Germany by Friedrich Louis Dobermann, the Doberman Pinscher is the quintessential protector of both persons and property. Dobermann, a tax collector, developed the breed to accompany him on his rounds as a tax collector. He carefully selected several elite guard dogs, like the Black and Tan Terrier, German Pinscher, and the Rottweiler to create the Dobie that we know today—a no-nonsense guardian with a sleek, muscular appearance, and the fifth highest intelligence rating of all canines, according to Canine Behaviourist Stanley Cohren. They maintain a level of alertness not seen in other breeds, and are devoted to their humans, implicitly following their commands to the letter.
Manageability is perhaps the most important factor for a first-time owner when choosing a guard dog, and the Doberman is unsurpassed when it comes to being easy to manage. But after you decide to get one, there is another big decision you’ll have to make: male or female? Well, it all depends on what type of protection you need and when you need it.
Female Dobies mature faster than males and are usually ready for guard training at about two years old. They are smaller than their male counterparts, so they tend to be more agile and move quicker. Females are also more aggressive and have a tendency to bond closely with one person, which makes them a better choice for personal protection.
Young male Dobies are more playful than females and typically aren’t ready for guard training until they are about four years old. They tend to be more territorial in general and are the better choice if you want to secure your home, yard, or property. They’re also great for family protection since they bond equally with each member.
Fun Fact: Dobermans are clean freaks that hate the cold and don’t like to get wet.
Before I move on to number one, let’s make some things clear. All the dogs on this list are big, strong dogs, who have the ability to bring serious harm to humans and other animals.
They are not dogs for the lazy or unmotivated. All require obedience training and plenty of exercise, throughout. If you can’t provide those, you should likely look elsewhere for home protection. If you, however, are the type who loves to learn new skills and take dog training courses (or learn online) then you are just the type of novice owner this video is for.
1. German Shepherd
What better way to wrap up our list than with the “top cop” of dog breeds—the German Shepherd.
The German Shepherd is a fantastic guard dog for the first-time owner because it is curious, confident, brave, and has a natural inclination to listen, learn, and obey. Those traits combined with an intimidating appearance ( a muscular body, strong jaws and a menacing black mask) make it a formidable opponent for intruders.
German Shepherds also have a sweet, tender side that they share with their humans freely, but like other breeds on our list, they can be territorial and overprotective of them, and take their time getting to know strangers. They are moderately active and easy to manage, which as we’ve previously mentioned, is a plus for novice owners.
German Shepherds are hailed for their police work and military service, as well as search and rescue work, and drug, accelerant, and explosives detection work. They also have the distinction of being the original breed selected for use as guide dogs to the blind, so no worries—guard-dog work is just another day at the office for this breed.