What Are the Best Family Guard Dogs?

Three guard dogs on alert behind gate.

Are you looking for a dog who will be a wonderful family pet but who will also protect your family?

Dogs have been guarding the families they love for thousands of years.

There are several breeds to choose from if you want a loyal companion and great guard dog for your family.

What are the best family guard dogs? The best choices to guard your family are dogs who were historically guardians and those that the American Kennel Club recommends for guarding, like the Akita, Boxer, Cane Corso, Catahoula Leopard Dog, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

Choosing a dog who will form a strong bond with each member of your family and will be dedicated to protecting your loved ones and property is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Some breeds are simply not good candidates, but others were bred specifically for this purpose. Which one is right for your family?

Akita

An adult Akita with a dark face mask.

The Akita is an ancient Japanese guard dog well known for impressive loyalty and devotion to the family.

Akitas are large, imposing-looking dogs weighing around 100 pounds, with big, bulky heads and muscular builds. 

One of their primary purposes in their native Japan was to serve as family guardian.

The Akita is worth considering if you are looking for a great guard dog and are up to the task of handling a large breed.

Akita Benefits

Superb Guarding Ability

Akitas are instinctive guardians, so you will likely find that they naturally defend your home and family without training.

Low Exercise Needs

Compared to many other large, powerful breeds, the Akita does not have exceptionally heavy exercise needs.

A jog or brisk walk every day plus some active training is enough for most dogs.

Trainability

Akitas can be headstrong, but they are extremely intelligent and they have a strong desire to please their owners, so you will likely find your Akita to be very trainable with early guidance.

Drawbacks

Aggression Towards Other Animals

Akitas naturally tend to be intolerant of other animals and have a very high prey drive.

If you want other pets or you want to be able to let your guard dog off leash, the Akita isn’t right for you.

Heat Intolerant

The Akita’s dense, double coat is perfect for frigid temperatures, but they won’t do very well kept outside in warm climates. 

Boxer

Dark-colored Boxer standing on grass.

Boxers are comedians around their family, but they can be very imposing to anyone who would threaten their property or family.

When trained and socialized properly (read our socialization guide), Boxers are perfectly safe to take out in the community.

They can be wonderful service and therapy dogs as well as workers in drug detection and search and rescue. 

However, in the home, boxers tend to have a very strong, natural protective drive, especially around children. 

Boxer Benefits

Versatile

Boxers can be happy and good natured out in public but will actively defend your home when necessary, which is the kind of versatility that many people are looking for in a guard dog.

Great With Children

Boxers can be quite rambunctious, but despite that, they are known for being very sensitive with children and having a very strong protective instinct with them.

Good Indoors

The Boxer’s short, tight coat doesn’t tend to shed very much, so long grooming sessions and frequent vacuuming aren’t issues to worry about.

As long as they are given sufficient exercise these regal dogs tend to be quite well behaved as inside dogs. 

Drawbacks

Potential Aggression to Other Dogs

Boxers often have gender-specific dog aggression, so you may only be able to keep dogs of opposite genders together.

Rambunctious

Boxers are notorious for being enthusiastic jumpers, and may be too rambunctious for some families.

Plenty of exercise can help keep them calm indoors, but their enthusiasm for life may lead to little ones being knocked over.

Cane Corso

A brindle Cane Corso standing on a rocky shore.

If you’re looking for a dog that will surely intimidate, with just a glance, anyone who would threaten your family, the Cane Corso might be the breed for you.

These majestic dogs weigh in at over 100 pounds and are nearly 28 inches tall at the shoulder. Under their loose skin, their bodies ripple with muscles. 

These dogs have the bravery to back up their appearance and are naturally excellent guard dogs. In fact, the breed’s name roughly translates as “bodyguard dog.” 

Learn more about the powerful Cane Corso here.

Cane Corso Benefits

Eager to Please

Cane Corsi are deeply loving with their families and are extremely willing to please provided they are given sufficient guidance.

They need a firm but gentle hand as they respond poorly to harsh discipline.

Enjoy Having a Job to Do

If you want a dog to go along with you on any activities your family enjoys and protect you wherever you go, the Cane Corso is an excellent option.

These dogs are descendants from the large Molossers bred by the ancient Molossi tribe of Greece.

They were intentionally bred to work as protectors and guardians, traits that are evident in the breed even today.

Intimidating Appearance

You probably would prefer your dog to not have to prove himself by defending your family.

You’d rather intruders take one look at the dog and choose to go elsewhere. The Cane Corso definitely has that effect.

Drawbacks

Size and Drool

Living with a Cane Corso is, at times, more like living with a messy roommate than a dog.

This is a very big dog who needs his own space and may drool profusely all over that space, thanks to those large, floppy jowls.

Potential for Animal Aggression

Cane Corsi tend to be bold and assertive and may not get along with any other animals who also try to assert themselves.

Catahoula Leopard Dog

A Catahoula Leopard Dog sitting in the middle of a woodland lane.

If you love hound dogs but also want a great guardian for your family, the Catahoula Leopard Dog might be the right breed for you.

These highly versatile dogs developed in the state of Louisiana and have served many roles throughout the South. 

One of the roles they have always served is as guard dog/watchdog.

These dogs are intelligent enough to differentiate intruders from friends and bold enough to back up their decision making.

Catahoula Leopard Dog Benefits

Striking Appearance

The Catahoula may not be immediately intimidating at first glance, but they are certainly striking.

Something about those often blue eyes and speckled pattern often makes intruders think twice.

Independent Intelligence

If you want a dog that you don’t have to tell who to protect you from and who not to, the Catahoula might be a good choice.

These dogs historically have always had to rely on their own intelligence to make decisions.

Generally Good With Other Dogs

The Catahoula typically lived with other Catahoula and other types of farm dogs, so most are good with other dogs when socialized correctly.

In fact, their unique herding method of surrounding a herd with a living fence hinges upon their ability to work well with other dogs. 

Drawbacks

Independence

The same sort of independent intelligence that can make the Catahoula a great guard dog can also make him a difficult pet.

These dogs often don’t do well in the house, and they may be prone to wandering unless you have a securely fenced yard.

High Exercise Needs

Catahoulas have endless energy and always need something to do.

Given plenty of space, they may be able to entertain themselves, but these are dogs that are always on the go.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Chesapeake Bay Retriever in profile sitting outside.

Do you want a Labrador, but are well aware that the average Lab will sooner lick an intruder than bark at them?

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever might be your solution if you want a good guard dog.

Unlike Labs, which were bred to be outgoing and friendly at all times, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was bred to protect the fishermen’s boats and fish, and that protective instinct remains strong in the breed today. 

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Benefits

Loves Water

Like many retrievers, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever adores water. This dog is particularly well-suited to very cold temperatures.

If you happen to be a duck hunter, this is really the ideal protection dog for you.

Sweet With Their Families

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a very perceptive personality and is generally sensitive and sweet with the family but reserved with strangers.

Protective of People and Property

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has a strong sense of what belongs to you and will protect you and your belongings even if you are traveling.

Drawbacks

Training

These dogs tend to be a bit more independent than what you’d expect if you are used to other retrieving breeds, so more determination may be needed when training this dog, especially for off-leash work.

Shedding

All dogs shed to a certain degree, but these dogs have a coat specifically developed for cold water and working outside, so they shed profusely at times.