The Best Guard Dog for Your Homestead

Find the best guard dog for your homestead with these training tips and advice on guard dog breeds. Originally published as “Choosing and Training a Watchdog” in the April/May 2006 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

  • A diligent border collie keeps lookout over a homestead in Lawrence, Kan.
  • Watchdogs don’t have to be large, imposing breeds — almost any dog can be trained to signal something suspicious. The Rottweiler mix above has a loud bark and a friendly smile.
  • Dogs that bark at an unusual visitor or sound help deter potential prowlers and harmful animals.

Finding the best guard dog can be valuable in providing protection for your home and family. My home security system is large and black — and she pants when it’s hot and sheds hair every spring. In return for regular feeding, periodic veterinary care and grooming, I get a beloved companion pet that barks loudly when any strange vehicle enters my driveway. My dog also chases opossums from my deck and rabbits from my garden. But mostly, my watchdog makes me feel safe.

I am not operating under an illusion: According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 16 percent of American households were victims of property crime in 2003. Especially in rural areas, the theft pattern goes like this: Thieves make a quick visit to a house or farm to check for security, then return later to take what they want. But a barking dog often turns off potential burglars at the scouting phase.

It’s no surprise that, of the 68 million pet canines in the United States, most are expected to perform some kind of guard duty. Guard dogs look, listen and bark to sound the alert that something unusual is happening in their territory. After that, humans take over.

Dogs have performed this duty for thousands of years. In Tibet, the little Lhasa apso, called the “bark lion sentinel dog,” was bred to work as an indoor watchdog. In Belgium, schipperkes earned the nickname “little captain of the boat” because of their work as ship guard dogs.

“Dogs have coevolved with humans for at least 12,000 years,” says veterinarian Andrew Luescher, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Purdue University. "”Dogs are better than any other animal at reading human body language, and they are the only animals that can follow something when you point it out to them.”

Wayne Hunthausen, a veterinarian and co-author of the Handbook of Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, says most dogs — including mixed breeds — can be trained as good watchdogs. The exceptions are calm, less-reactive breeds such as bloodhounds or Newfoundland dogs.

7/8/2021 3:49:44 PM

I've had 2 GSDs. No farm animals, but had children, kinda the same thing. Neither were aggressive. When a stranger to the dog, not to the husband came into the yard while the kids were out playing, he'd circle him and just stare at him. Did that until hubby told him it was okay. Never really taught him that, he just did it. Vet told us of all the GSDs he's seen that he was one of two that he never has to muzzle. Same with the second one, which we had while daughter and granddaughter lived with us. He was an excellent babysitter. Granddaughter was toddling around behind me and started to turn towards the road and he shouldered her just hard enough for her to fall on her butt. She thought it was hilarious, I thought it was amazing that he did it. We also had a bullmastiff, the neighbor told us when he knocked on the door while we were gone, both dogs hit the door a barking. He said that GSD scares the crap out of me. I laughed and told him that one wasn't the one he had to worry about, he'd just lick him. The bullmastiff would have pinned him either, against the door or on the floor. My sister found that out. She seldom came over so when she just walked through the door that my back was too, Stormy pinned her against it. So there was my sister whispering my name. Can't say I didn't laugh inside, but told Stormy it's okay and all was good. Told her she needed to visit more. I miss them both. The last 2 dogs have been great danes. This last one is deaf. Took him off the hands of someone that just wanted to be rid of him. I don't think he knew he was deaf. He lays were he can see the reflection of both the back door by the kitchen and the front door in the dining room in the china cabinet. That way he can see if someone comes to the door and barks. Granted once the person has been let in he/she becomes a leaning post.

8/22/2020 6:55:05 AM

I've had really good results with bully mixes, usually some bully mixed with a lab.. They've been quite trainable, protective, but not over aggressive. We've had three over the last 21 years-all were great. We currently have a boxer mix. He's getting there-but I've had problems getting his fence aggression resolved.

1/8/2015 11:19:49 AM

The very best breed for protection in our opinion are German Shepherds. We've trained them to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another good choice is the Belgian Malinois, however some lines of Malinois are not suitable for the inexperienced handler.



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