June 21, 2024

The phrase “all bark and no bite” does not apply to the dogs on this list. Though adorable and cuddly with their families, these dogs aren’t afraid to leap into action if strangers threaten the home. Some, like African Rhodesian Ridgebacks, don’t even bark that often! As watchdogs, however, they live to protect. You’ll notice tons of working and herding dog breeds on this list, as those canines were bred to guard farms, flocks and families. If you’re looking for a watchdog, start here.

Training a Watchdog

We totally get the appeal of acquiring a dog to make you feel safe at home. The key to an effective watchdog is good training. Watchdogs are stubborn, smart and loyal creatures. These qualities are what make them ideal for protection but can also make training and socialization tricky. These dogs need firm, consistent training from the get-go. This is non-negotiable!

As Stayyy dog training says, “Over time, [dogs] have to be taught how to act under specific events to help develop their obedience.” This includes scary moments and calm moments. Yes, watchdogs keep you safe, but part of that role includes obeying when you issue commands like “Down,” “Sit,” “Off” or “Drop it”

Watchdogs will need plenty of socialization, too. “Socializing your dog is vital as it can be a prime factor in their behavioral development,” Stayy says on their website. As early as you can, begin introducing your cute puppy to new people, other dogs and fresh environments. If you work with a breeder, they should begin the socialization process before you take your pup home (if they don’t, they’re not reputable and you should find a breeder who takes socialization seriously).

The Bottom Line

If you’re a first-time dog owner, it’s not recommended you dive in head-first with one of these breeds.

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1. Akita


Height: 24-28 inches
Weight: 70-130 pounds
Personality: Loyal, Brave
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Seasonal
Life Expectancy: 10-13 years

These large dogs are identifiable by their thick, fluffy fur and signature spitz-style tails. Extremely loyal and protective, they bond with their family members and are wary of strangers. Expect Akitas to bark when new people come over and put themselves between family members and uncertain strangers. The Akita Club of America notes these pups aren’t very friendly with other dogs, especially of the same sex.

2. Anatolian Shepherd Dog


Height: 27-29 inches
Weight: 80-150 pounds
Personality: Independent, Patient
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Seasonal
Life Expectancy: 11-13 years

This is an ancient breed known for weathering harsh conditions to keep flocks of sheep safe (note: they’re not herding dogs, they are protectors). Anatolian Shepherd Dogs today are sweet family dogs who enjoy having a job to do and plenty of space. Interestingly, The Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America discourages training them specifically for personal protection purposes. This is because of their strong-willed independence. If you want a dog you can train specifically to guard you or your home, go with a different breed. If your heart is set on an Anatolian Shepherd, work with their free-spirited nature and remember they’ll protect, but may not excel in confined roles, like a German Shepherd would as a police dog.

3. Beauceron


Height: 24-28 inches
Weight: 70-110 pounds
Personality: Intelligent, powerful, loyal
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Beaucerons are definitely intimidating dogs to meet. Their muscular builds and high intelligence make them excellent herding dogs. The American Beauceron Club says this breed has “a well developed guarding instinct and is naturally distant with strangers.” They’re also known for their work on battlefields during World War I and as police dogs. At home, they are sensitive souls who enjoy being near their favorite people.

4. Belgian Laekenois


Height: 22-26 inches
Weight: 55-65 pounds
Personality: Alert, Affectionate
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Like other Belgian dog breeds, the Belgian Laekenois is smart, energetic and doting. They also happen to make excellent watchdogs. The American Kennel Club officially recognized these playful pups in 2020 and call them the “complete package,” though definitely not for novice dog owners or families who don’t have time to dedicate to training and exercise. Should you get the chance to meet a Belgian Laekenois, count your lucky stars! They are incredibly rare.

5. Boerboel


Height: 22-27 inches
Weight: 150-200 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Confident
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 9-11 years

Boerboels hail from South Africa where they were bred to guard the home and keep everyone inside safe. No wonder they are known for being serious, confident animals! Boerboels are also big dogs. Though calm and gentle, they are incredibly territorial and will protect the people they know and love from threats at a moment’s notice. This is why early and consistent training is key – you’ve got to establish the ground rules with a Boerboel.

6. Bull Mastiff


Height: 24-27 inches
Weight: 100-130 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, Obedient
Activity Level: Moderate to High
Shedding Factor: Low to Moderate
Life Expectancy: 7-9 years

Bull Mastiffs and Boerboels are both members of the Mastiff family, so they look similar. (So similar in fact, we should’ve included them on our list of dog breeds people confuse all the time!) Bullmastiffs are slightly lower energy and have droopier ears. Otherwise, they’ve got the same coloring, determination to keep their families safe and all-around territorial streak Boerboels do. Another reason training during puppyhood is important? It teaches dogs how to use and control their bodies while they’re still small – before they weigh 130 pounds!

7. Doberman Pinscher


Height: 24-28 inches
Weight: 60-100 pounds
Personality: Intelligent, alert
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: High
Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Many movies depict Doberman Pinschers as quintessential guard dogs. They bare their teeth, snarl and chase down the bad guys with incredible speed. Dobermans make perfect movie watchdogs because they are smart, trainable, brave, fearless, fast and big (their sleek good looks don’t hurt, either). These qualities make Dobermans excellent watchdogs in real life too. Beyond that, The Doberman Pinscher Club of America says these dogs are particularly good at “accurately distinguishing between friend and foe.” As smart as they are sensitive, these dogs can make great family pets if properly trained.

8. German Shepherd


Height: 22-26 inches
Weight: 50-90 pounds
Personality: Loyal, Confident
Activity Level: High
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Life Expectancy: 7-10 years

Headstrong and confident, German Shepherds perform many jobs and can be put to work in tons of ways to help humans. One unusual trait that The AKC says makes German Shepherds stand apart is their aloofness. Sure, they boldly protect their families and homes and enjoy getting outdoors and playing games as often as possible, but they don’t always bond with their humans as some dogs on our list do. Make socialization a top priority with these dogs!

9. Giant Schnauzer


Height: 23-27 inches
Weight: 55-80 pounds
Personality: Friendly, Obedient
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Hypoallergenic
Life Expectancy: 12 to 16 years

The Giant Schnauzer Club of America calls these dogs “demanding” due to their strong personalities. At their cores, Giant Schnauzers are guard dogs. The require tons of exercise and, while hypoallergenic, need regular grooming. Like other watchdogs on our list, Giant Schnauzers have strong territorial tendencies and aren’t fans of strangers encroaching on their space. These dogs learn quickly, so teach ‘em early and they’ll thrive.

10. Puli


Height: 16-17 inches
Weight: 25-35 pounds
Personality: Obedient, loving
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Non-shedding
Life Expectancy: 10-15 years

If a Puli’s coat doesn’t stop an intruder in their tracks, their dedication to protecting their people (or their flocks) will. Goofy, playful and loving, Pulis are used to working alongside humans to care for livestock. This means leaving them out or at home during family activity isn’t a wise move. They love to learn and obey commands. They also require special grooming early on to establish their signature cords and regular cord separation through their lives as needed. Pulis love this time spent together, though, so embrace it.

11. Rhodesian Ridgeback


Height: 24-27 inches
Weight: 70-85 pounds
Personality: Affectionate, independent
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Like Boerboels, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are from Africa and are fiercely brave canines. Training and socialization are essential for these dogs, as they are quick to protect and have independent mindsets (not unlike German Shepherds). These are also big, strong dogs with keen prey drives. Having an enclosed yard is almost a must, so they have space to run. Always keep them on leash when out and about, as they could sprint after anything that catches their eye.

12. Rottweiler


Height: 22-27 inches
Weight: 80-135 pounds
Personality: Confident, loving
Activity Level: Moderate
Shedding Factor: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 9 to 10 years

Affectionate and loving, Rottweilers are also zealous guard dogs. The AKC says proper training and socialization can help build a calmly confident adult Rottweiler, while a lack of training may result in a more aggressive dog (towards other people – they are notoriously sweet and gentle with familiar family members).

13. Tibetan Mastiff


Height: 24-26 inches
Weight: 70-150 pounds
Personality: Stubborn, mellow
Shedding Factor: Moderate to High
Activity Level: Moderate
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years

Another enormous, Mastiff-style guard dog! Tibetan Mastiffs are reserved – sometimes even with family members – but more often than not develop loving relationships with those they know best. But, their independence can translate into a stubbornness that makes obedience tricky. A Tibetan Mastiff’s imposing stature and wariness of strangers is comforting if you want a watchdog for safety.

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