Guard dog or watch dog? Which do YOU need and what’s the best breed?

You need to decide up front what type of canine protection you need. Both guard dogs and watchdogs bark loudly to alert their owners of an intruder’s presence and to scare away the intruder. The watch dog’s function ends here; a guard dog is capable of attacking, or restraining the intruder. Livestock guardian dogs are often large enough, 100-200 lbs and strong enough to attack and drive away livestock predators such as wolves. Some smaller breeds (such as Keeshond and Tibetan Terrier) are excellent watchdogs but not guard dogs because they bark loudly to alert their masters of intruders but are physically small and not given to assertive behavior.

Guardian breeds will bark to alert their master and to warn off an approaching animal, or human threat, prior to their interception of the trespasser. They are different from the smaller watchdogs in that they do not continue barking, they take action. The human shepherd would in many cases come to the guard dog’s aid with a weapon, not letting the dog fend for itself.

The following breeds are the best at watch dog barking:

If the risk is from human intruders, a suitable dog can be simply trained to be aggressive towards unrecognized humans and then tethered or enclosed unsupervised in an area the owner wishes to protect when he is not around (such as at night); the stereotypical “junkyard dog” is a common example of this. If the purpose of the dog is to protect against human intruders after nightfall, a large, dark colored dog in a dark house (lights off) would give the dog an advantage over the burglar. Other guard dogs intended for police or more supervised work are trained to bite, restrain and release an intruder only on the specific commands of its handler.

While many dogs will bark to let you know something’s going on, some dogs are bred to take action and these are the real guard dogs. They’re loyal, brave and extremely protective of their territory. Do your research before deciding one of these is right for you. Here’s the American Kennel Club’s take on the best breeds to defend your home.