Choosing a dog for your family is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make, as many of you dog hoomans already know. But choosing a guard dog? That needs some SERIOUS thinking through.
So in this article, we’re gonna pick the best guard dog for your family once and for all. I’ll also go over five factors to consider when choosing a guard dog for your family, and two surprise categories in the end that almost everyone forgets about.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Best Guard Dog Breeds
Alright, let’s set some ground rules for this doggie showdown. What bones are we going to pick with these pups?
- Size and Energy Levels
- Health & Life Span
Now that we’ve set our rules and decided our criteria, let’s unleash our contenders! I’ve hand-picked the breeds that are often considered to be top-notch guard dogs, so don’t expect to see any Golden Retrievers in the list.
- Belgian Malinois
- German Shepherds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Rott Wheeler the Chihuahua*
You see, I have a friend so smitten with his little Chihuahua that he pleaded to add a Chihuahua in this list—and not just ANY Chihuahua, but HIS Chihuahua, who is named… Rott Wheeler. Now every time he says, “I have to rush home to walk my Rott Wheeler,” he enjoys the mixed expressions of fear and awe from people… It’s a whole thing, I’m sorry.
Let’s just get into the showdown!
At number 1, we have Temperament. When it comes to standing guard over your family, you want a pooch who’s naturally protective—not a loose cannon.
The dog should be able to distinguish between a friendly visit from the familiar mailman and a shady character lurking in your yard. He must also not start World War III with your cat or your Roomba.
Rottweilers are confident and generally cool as cucumbers. Now, training plays a big part in this. With the right guidance, they can be excellent protectors of the household; but introduce a stranger without proper introductions, and you’re in for some serious side-eye, if not more.
Loyal and fiercely protective, the Belgian Malinois is a bit on the reserved side and territorial by nature.
German Shepherds are brave, faithful, and protective, but also can be a bit aloof with unfamiliar folks.
Then we have Boxers. Now, these fellows are super playful and friendly. They’ll get along with everyone, including your goldfish, and their sheer size can scare off any intruders.
Although really protective, Doberman Pinschers are also like a kid after too much candy. They’ve got energy to burn. So, handle with care, especially if you have little ones who might get bowled over during a zoomies episode.
Bullmastiffs, on the other hand, are big ol’ softies. With their families they are gentle and relaxed, but don’t let that fool you. They’ve got some serious protective instincts.
Coming in at dead last, we have Rott Wheeler the Chihuahua. The last time she visited the office, she tried to literally EAT me. So… That’s her temperament.
So, the winner in this round is… the Boxers! In terms of temperament, they’ve got the family-friendly vibes on lock.
Next up, we have Trainability.
As any seasoned pet parent would attest, an untrained pet, especially a big dog, is about as safe as inviting a Grizzly bear for tea. Many large breeds get a bad rap due to a lack of proper training; but there is such a thing as trainability.
Some breeds are just more responsive to it than others. For a family guard dog, you want a breed that’s smart and eager to learn. Remember, training should start early and be consistent throughout the dog’s life.
Rottweilers are intelligent and receptive to training, but they need a calm and consistent trainer. Obviously, professional help is a leg up for training any of these breeds. Sometimes YouTube tutorials just won’t cut it, folks.
German and Belgian Shepherd are renowned for their intelligence and trainability. So much so, that they’re often the go-to recruits for the police or military. They are serious people. Badges and all.
Boxers, those little heartbreakers, are eager to please, which makes them super trainable, but sometimes, they can have a bit of a stubborn streak.
Doberman Pinschers and Bullmastiffs are quick learners and highly trainable, though they require firm, consistent handling, as they can also be a tad stubborn at times.
And then there’s Ms. Wheeler who has made it very clear that YOU don’t train her, SHE trains you.
Winner: German Shepherd
So, the blue ribbon goes to… the German Shepherds, closely trailed by the Belgian Shepherds. Following them are the Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Boxers, and Bullmastiffs, and at the bottom of the pack is Ms. Wheeler.
Size and Energy Levels.
Over the years, talking with animal shelter folks and canine experts, I’ve heard time and time again that many dogs end up in shelters because their humans didn’t do their homework before bringing them home.
A tiny, cute puppy that grows into a 125-pound behemoth isn’t the best fit for your compact city apartment. Similarly, a dog with the boundless energy of a kid on a sugar rush isn’t the best match for a couch potato.
A guard dog needs to be big and strong enough to deter intruders, but also comfortable living in your home. That’s why Rottweilers can be a good fit for most people—they’re large and muscular, but their energy levels are typically moderate.
Belgian Shepherds are high-energy dogs that need regular, vigorous exercise. German Shepherds are similar, but they’re a little larger in size. Boxers, too, are medium to large in size and have a high energy level, so regular exercise is a must.
If you’re looking for someone a little more chill, Bullmastiffs are basically potatoes with a fitness regime. They need exercise like we all do, but they’re generally not as hyper as some of the others.
As for Ms. Wheeler, she might only be the size of a soda can, but she’s got an ego the size of a Great Dane.
Winner: Belgian Shepherds
The winner in this category really depends on your family’s lifestyle and how much canine energy you can handle. But, since we’re talking specifically about guard dogs, I’m going to give this round to Belgian Shepherds. They have got the right balance of size and energy.
Following them are the Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Boxers, Bullmastiffs, and of course, Ms. Wheeler.
Now, I must admit, there’s one category where Ms. Wheeler might just snatch the crown, and that’s Health and Lifespan.
Health and Lifespan
The unfortunate truth is, big dogs generally don’t live as long as little, pint-sized pooches. Some breeds, especially designer dogs, can be more prone to certain genetic health issues. So, do your research before you bring a new dog home!
Rottweilers can be susceptible to certain health issues and usually live about 8-10 years, while Belgian Malinois are typically healthy dogs with a lifespan of 14-16 years.
German Shepherds can have breed-specific health issues, but with proper care, they can live 9-13 years. Boxers are generally healthy and live about 10-12 years, the same as Doberman Pinchers, but these fellas can be more prone to health issues.
Poor Bullmastiffs have a double whammy of breed-specific health issues AND a shorter lifespan of about 7-9 years, which is just plain sad.
As for Ms. Wheeler, she’s, of course, immortal. Other, less demonic Chihuahuas have a lifespan of about 14-16 years.
Winner: Ms. Wheeler/Boxers
So, the winner here, much to my chagrin, is Ms. Wheeler. But since she’s already spoken for, the prize goes to Boxers. Following them are the German Shepherds, Belgian Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and last but not least, Bullmastiffs.
Now, dogs are the most loyal creatures to begin with, we know this. However, royalty is a complex characteristic that can be heavily influenced by training. You want a dog who says, “I’d protect this family” and not “I’d KILL for this family.” The first one is a guard dog, and the second one is a negligent homicide waiting to happen.
Let me just say that all these dogs are loyal and can form strong bonds with their families. Belgian Shepherds and Bullmastiffs can be a little too protective at times, but this can usually be addressed with proper training.
Ms. Wheeler, on the other hand, is only loyal to the dark lord.
Winner: German Shepherds
The gold star for loyalty goes to German Shepherds, followed by Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Boxers, Belgian Shepherds, and Bullmastiffs. And trailing at the rear, of course, is Ms. Wheeler.
The Best Guard Dog For You and Your Family
Alrighty, folks. Now that we’ve rallied the troops, let’s see who takes the crown. Who will be the first among equals? The guardian of guardians? The prime pick of the pack? The finest and fiercest? The top dog?
#7 Rott Wheeler the Chihuahua
In the last place, we have Rott Wheeler the Chihuahua. For obvious reasons.
Claiming the 6th spot, we have the Bullmastiffs. They’re lower on the list due to their mammoth size and somewhat somber health history, but let’s not forget—their endearing temperament and undeniable loyalty make them family dogs par excellence, given they’re well-socialized and trained.
#5 Doberman Pinscher
Snagging the 5th place are the Doberman Pinschers. They’re as trainable as a circus seal and loyal as a Hogwarts house elf, but their considerable size and energy can pose a bit of a challenge for some families. Not to mention a handful of breed-specific health hiccups.
#4 Belgian Malinois
And at number 4, we’ve got Belgian Malinois. Sure, they’re whip-smart and steadfastly loyal, but their high-octane energy levels and somewhat intense temperament, if left without proper training, might make them a handful for the average family.
Scooting into the 3rd spot are the Rottweilers. With loyalty thicker than their muscular frames and an instinct to protect, they make excellent guard dogs. Their trainability and balanced temperament are commendable, but their hefty size and potential health issues make them the bronze medalist in our lineup.
Landing in second place are… the Boxers! They’ve scored a reputation for having a cool temper, and are known for playing well with kids. Their size and energy make them an ideal match for active families. They’re quite trainable and obedient, but not quite in the same league as our top dog…
#1 German Shepherd
With their well-rounded profile, German Shepherds as close to the canine version of a Renaissance man as you can get. They ace the temperament test, score high on trainability, and their loyalty is the stuff of legends .
Their size and energy levels strike a beautiful balance. And even though they may face some health challenges, they generally boast a pretty great lifespan, making them stellar family protectors and undisputed champions!
But wait… It’s not just about temperament or trainability or loyalty, there are 2 super important factors that most people overlook. They are the drool scale and zoomie frequency.
No, I didn’t add this just to be cute. When it comes to picking a guard dog for your family, looking at these two things can save you some headaches down the line.
So here we go. First up, is the Drool Scale.
If you’re a clean freak, well… dogs in general would be a bit of a challenge for you but, you CAN have a guard dog and a clean home. This is where the Drool Scale comes into the picture.
If you have small children, or if you’re someone who is not comfortable with excessive drooling all over your carpets and furniture, you might prefer a breed that is less likely to slobber. This can also help avoid some slipping accidents, followed by a visit to the emergency room.
The drooliest of them all are Bullmastiffs, followed closely by Boxers.
Then we have Rottweilers because the moment it’s time for food, it’s a waterfall.
German Shepherds are not known for excessive drooling, but they have their moments.
Belgian Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers keep their drooling under control.
Ms. Wheeler does not have salivary glands, because she doesn’t drool over anyone or anything. It’s called self-respect.
Next up, we’ve got the Zoomie Frequency.
To those who may not be aware of the doggo lingo, zoomies are those bursts of energy that dogs get, where they start running around like crazy. This is often seen in dogs with higher energy levels. While it’s super fun to watch and can get you a couple of thousand likes on TikTok, they can also be a sign of a dog’s need for exercise and mental stimulation.
Families that are more active, or have a large yard, may love a dog with a higher zoomie frequency. On the other hand, for families who are a bit laid-back, zoomies may be a little annoying.
Belgian Shepherds have a serious case of the zoomies, followed by Doberman Pinschers, and German Shepherds, especially when they are pups.
Boxers are energetic but zoomies might not be as intense or frequent. The same goes for Rottweilers. Bullmastiffs are too laid back to get frequent zoomies.
Ms. Wheeler is grace itself and judges other dogs who run around like the idiots they are. Her words, not mine. Althoughhhhh, as a death metal fan, she’s not a stranger to the concept.
Having said all this, I want you to remember that each dog is an individual. Just like us humans, each dog, regardless of breed, has their own personality. Like I said before, a lot depends on their upbringing.
So, use this guide, but think about your family, where you live, and what you’re like before you bring a dog home.
Until next time dog lovers, keep those tails waggin’