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Born to protect

Born to protect
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Dogs have been protecting their humans at least since the days of Plato and Aristotle. Our needs for security, companionship, and loyalty haven’t changed much since then, making dogs a popular choice for protection of our loved ones and our property. Watchdogs will bark or otherwise alert their people to perceived intruders but usually won’t attack. Guard dogs have a protective instinct for their families, honed over hundreds of years, says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary at the American Kennel Club, and they will bite or otherwise defend against threats. The best guard dog breeds have an intimidating size and appearance, and also display intelligence, fearlessness, and loyalty, DiNardo says, while the best owners will begin training when their dog is still a puppy. Here are some great examples of protective pooches.

Airedale terrier

Airedale terrier
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The “king of terriers,” the Airedale is friendly and exuberant – sometimes seeming to have no “off” switch, according to VetStreet.com. But Airedales are great with kids, and quick learners to boot, making them wonderful guard dogs. During World War I, the breed earned a reputation for bravery and focus, thanks to their role as sentries and couriers, notes the BBC. If they sense a threat, Airedales will bark relentlessly, and will put their powerful jaws to use if necessary, but are ready to love on anyone the family accepts. Airedales don’t like being alone, though, and if bored can resort to chewing and digging. They also can be aggressive toward other animals, and even play a little too rough with their family, unless trained otherwise. With their bearded chin and folded-down ears, Airedales have won the Westminster Dog Show four times, but the last time was in 1933.

Akita

Akita
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This stocky, curly-tailed Japanese mountain dog is revered in its native country as a symbol of good health and long life, according to the AKC. Akitas are fiercely protective by nature and, in the Middle Ages guarded the Japanese emperor and his family. Helen Keller was gifted an Akita during a trip to Japan in 1937, making her the first American to have one. Akitas are very social animals, and can be playful and silly. Typically, they bark only when there’s a really good reason. Akitas can be aggressive with other dogs, and need to be socialised early on to interact appropriately with them as well as with people.

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American Staffordshire terrier

American Staffordshire terrier
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The AmStaff, which is one of several types of pit-bull dogs, is affectionate, playful, and energetic, despite its bull-like appearance. They enjoy mental stimulation, and have tons of personality, the AKC says. It requires a good deal of exercise, too, but can become overheated in warm weather, and isn’t a great swimmer. Weighing in between 22.5 and 36 kilograms when fully grown, the AmStaff is muscular and powerful, and has a reputation for being unruffled by pain. Because of the breed’s long history as a fighting dog and its natural drive to hunt prey, an AmStaff will need proper training and socialisation, especially if it will live with other pets or children.

Giant schnauzer

Giant schnauzer
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This bearded behemoth lives to protect its family and home, according to the AKC. It has the size and strength to be good at it, and has the added benefit of being resistant to pain, WagWalking.com says. This breed likes constant attention, however, and has an extremely high need for both mental and physical stimulation. It can become destructive when those needs aren’t met. The giant schnauzer tends to chase pets that are smaller than it (basically all of them) so it’s best when it’s the only animal in the home.

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Appenzeller sennenhund

Appenzeller sennenhund
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Hailing from Switzerland, these medium-sized mountain dogs are cheerful, smart, and energetic. Despite their mostly friendly demeanour, Appenzellers are naturally wary of strangers and definitely are not pushovers. They’re actually fearless, according to the AKC, and can’t be deterred from protecting their families, even if a big juicy steak is in the offing as a distraction. Appenzellers do better in colder climates and need a lot of space, so apartment living is out.

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Beauceron

Beauceron
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You might not know it by looking at them, but Beaucerons, which strongly resemble Doberman pinschers, are actually the largest of all the French sheepdogs. Fans of this giant dog breed claim the dogs are sensitive and smart. With their calm demeanour and a confident, fearless attitude, too, Beaucerons can be terrific guard dogs. They will require firm training, however, to prevent them from dominating their families.

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Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois
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Long used in police work, this dog breed achieved a moment of fame when one named Cairo helped Navy SEAL Team 6 take down Osama bin Laden in 2011. Another Belgian Malinois named Conan was honoured in 2019 after the dog was injured during a raid on an ISIS leader in Iraq. Similar in appearance to the German Shepherd, the Malinois is strong, intelligent, and loyal, making it a great choice for a guard dog. However, it can also be territorial and jealous. For that reason, families should be prepared to commit a substantial amount of time to training.

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Black Russian terrier

Black Russian terrier
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This massive dog was bred as a kind of “superdog” for the Russian army in the 1930s, according to the AKC. A team of scientists used genes from 17 breeds to develop this friendly-looking but aloof and fiercely protective dog to patrol its borders. Weighing up to 65.5 kilograms, and with a shock of shaggy black fur covering its eyes, nose, and mouth, a BRT could inadvertently knock over smaller children. It also needs strong human leadership, or it may dominate certain family members, according to Petful.com.

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Chesapeake Bay retriever

Chesapeake Bay retriever
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The AKC’s DiNardo says this is the most naturally protective of the sporting dogs. Though it’s sensitive and devoted to family, a Chessie is not nearly as effusive toward strangers as other retriever breeds and can be stubborn. Bred to retrieve waterfowl, this dog likes to be active and, specifically, to hunt, so it’s not a good choice for sedentary families. Modern Dog magazine says this doggo will shed a lot, too, and its waterproof coat tends to be a bit smelly.

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