The Best Guard Dogs: Breeds Found In Australia
Are you looking for a dog that will help keep you and your loved ones safe? Then a guard dog might be for you!
Ready to pick your next best friend but aren't sure where to start? We've got you covered. We teamed up with veterinarians, canine behaviour experts, and other devoted dog parents to form a panel of independent experts. Our experts put together our ultimate best guard dogs list so you can choose among the best of the best.
We discuss the differences between guard dogs and watch dogs, share tips to finding the best guard dog for you, and then list our favourite guard dog breeds in Australia. Let's get to it!
What Is A Guard Dog? Watch Dogs vs Guard Dogs
So, you want a dog to protect your home? You might be looking for the most protective dog breeds… but do you want a guard dog or a watch dog? While these terms are often used interchangeably, they don’t mean the same thing.
According to vet Adrienne Farricelli, watchdogs are those that will raise alarm, but won’t defend the property . This is where barking dogs fall! With many breeds, a dog will bark whenever they see or hear something unusual, but won’t necessarily go above letting you know.
PRO TIP: Don’t confuse an alarm dog with hyper-vigilance. A watchdog should easily differentiate between “normal” activity and sounds and unusual. In contrast, hyper-vigilance usually comes from a place of fear and lack of socialisation. These are the dogs that will bark at anything and everything!
Simply put, watchdogs will bark loudly if they feel something isn’t right. Because of it, watchdogs come in all sizes. Small pups like Chihuahuas and Terriers make great watchdogs once properly socialised. Some breeds are awful watchdogs, like Golden Retrievers. These pups will happily greet burglars and friends alike!
Related: Dogs That Protect Chickens.
On the other hand, guard dogs can also bark loudly, but they also can attack and restrain people or other animals. Most of the time, guard dogs will try barking first, and then move into action if that doesn’t work.
What Are The Best Guard Dogs Like?
Once you’re sure you want a guard dog, it’s time to choose the perfect pup! Of course, not all breeds or all dogs will make a good guard dog. Some pups are way too friendly to be guardians! Here are some of the traits our team of independent experts say you should look out for in a guard dog:
- Strong: Regardless of their actual size, a proper guard dog should be able to manage a threat and have an imposing look. Most of the time, the presence of a large, powerful dog is enough to deter human intruders.
PRO TIP: Remember that guard dogs shouldn’t be left to defend property or people by themselves. Ideally, their human will come promptly once they’ve given the alarm.
- Even-tempered: This means choosing a dog that is generally well-balanced, neither too fearful nor too excitable. Dogs that rush to welcome friends and strangers alike won’t fit the bill here! In the same vein, a dog that isn’t at all interested in who comes and goes won’t make a good guard dog either.
- Eager to please: This means your ideal guard dog should feel motivated by your praise. Being eager to please makes a puppy much easier to train, and reinforcing desirable behaviour is a breeze.
Keep in mind that while some breeds are more likely to be better guard dogs than others, there is no “natural” guard dog. A proper guard dog will need training from early puppyhood, and positive reinforcement is essential to help them understand what you need.
Plus, you cannot ignore “regular” training either. Making sure they understand cues, follow directions, and recognise you as “their people” is essential. You’ll only be able to reach this level of connection through consistent interactions, positive exchanges and praise.
In most cases, you’ll have to invest in professional training to raise a good guard dog on top of consistent at-home training. In fact, this is what we recommend! Even though you can work on many basic cues at home, a professional trainer will be able to hone in on the abilities you and your dog need to become a great team.
The Best Guard Dog Breeds
Up to 45 kg
Up to 60 cm
Between 10 and 14 years
We couldn’t have a list of the best guard dogs for families without mentioning the German Shepherd! This incredibly popular breed has become a favourite police dog for a reason. They are strong, powerful pups that can easily be trained to protect .
According to our panel of independent experts, this dog is very smart and thrives on having a job. Because of it, they are easily trained if you use positive reinforcement methods. In general, you could train these dogs to do anything you’d like: guide, assist people, do police/military work, herd, or guard your home.
Of course, this dog isn’t a fit for everyone. They are very high energy and can’t stand boredom. These pups were bred to work, so as their owner, you need to provide spaces where they can use their brains and bodies.
PRO TIP: German Shepherds don’t like to stay at home alone for long periods of time. They might become destructive or anxious! If you plan on leaving your dog by themselves for hours on end, this might not be the breed for you.
Sounds like your cup of tea? We recommend talking to the German Shepherd Rescue Alliance and the German Shepherd Rescue Victoria Association to see the available pups. Surely, you’ll find the right dog!
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Between 12 and 25 kg
Up to 30 cm in height
12 to 14 years
Enthusiastic and full of life, this energetic pup is great with children. If you’re looking for the best family guard dogs, this might be the right fit!
The Staffie is smart as a whip and thoroughly loves his people. This breed, like other pit bull-type dogs, were called “nanny dogs” because they form strong attachments with kids. In fact, Staffies tend to take it upon themselves to look out for the kids in their lives .
Related: Staffy Breed Profile.
Our panel of independent experts love how their loyalty towards kids and their family at large shines through when it comes to protecting their people. Staffies used to have a reputation as aggressive dogs, only because they tend to be very protective. However, I also want to point out that these trends also mean the breed needs extensive socialisation early on and throughout their lives. This will make sure they get along well with other dogs and people.
Of course, they’ll need an adult handler that can provide the structured training and exercise schedule they need to stay healthy and happy.
PRO TIP: Staffies do better when they are the only dogs in the home, or there are other dogs they grow up with. If you plan on growing your family with a new pup after your Staffie is an adult, make it a gradual process.
Want to adopt this cuddly breed? We recommend getting in touch with the following local Australian rescue groups. They always have pups looking for a forever home!
Up to 50 kg (males) or 45 kg (female)
Between 40 cm and 55 cm tall
12 to 14 years
These dogs have been long considered one of the most protective dog breeds. This pup is the epitome of a gentle giant… at least with those he loves!
Doberman Pinschers are very affectionate with their families and are great with young kids. In fact, they can be very patient with the little ones, like Staffies! On the flip side, they aren’t very warm with other dogs and need to be properly socialised to avoid troubles later. Dobermans are naturally great at recognising unusual behaviour and make great guardians.
According to our panel of experts, they can be mouthy, and their fearlessness means they don’t back down from a challenge. To avoid problems, consistent training and positive reinforcement is essential. Dobermans tend to be always vigilant of their surroundings, and their muscular build has made them a favourite security dog. With proper training, these pups will do their job like no other! .
Interested? Check out these Doberman rescue groups in Australia. They always have pups looking for a new home:
Blue Heelers/Cattle Dogs
15 kg to 20 kg
Up to 40 cm tall
12 to 15 years
While these pups are renowned for their herding abilities, they also make surprisingly great guard dogs! Due to their dedication to their family and strong sense of responsibility, some people consider them amazing guardians.
This breed, also known as Australian Cattle Dog, is naturally wary of strangers. They’d rather stay away from the action to survey their kingdom and spend a lot of mental energy scoping out possible threats. 
These natural inclinations were initially selected to make them the great herding dogs they are today. But if you reinforce these traits and provide structured training, a Blue Heeler can easily transition into a loyal guard dog.
Our team of independent experts want to remind you that these pups weren’t made to sit still, so proper exercise sessions and training are essential to keep them healthy and happy.
As a result of their rising popularity, Blue Heelers are nowadays one of the breeds most often surrendered to pounds and rescue groups. We highly recommend checking these local associations before even considering buying a puppy. You’ll find dogs of all ages looking for a forever home:
Between 35 kg and 60 kg
Between 60 cm and 65 cm
Rottweilers might be the quintessential guard dog, with their large size and imposing allure. The good thing is that these pups are softies with the ones they love.
Rotties are mastiff-type dogs. This is evident in their bone structure: they have heavy bones and a massive jaw. In fact, up until the nineteenth century, this breed was used as a herding dog and to pull carts of butchered meat from the store to the market. 
Wondering if a Rottie is the right choice for your home? Our team of experts share that this massive dog is calm and courageous, and while they stay alert, will generally be self-assured and confident. Rottweilers aren’t usually overtly friendly and tend to stay on the aloof side. They don’t take easily to strangers and new people need to gain their confidence slowly. In contrast, those that know Rotties understand they are fiercely loyal. This breed has an innate desire to protect their own and because of it, we think they make amazing guardians!
Despite their sweet nature, these dogs are often surrendered to pounds or just abandoned! We recommend you check these local rescues before considering buying. Rescues always have lovely pups in need of their forever home:
Between 25 kg and 35 kg
30 cm to 45 cm tall
8 to 12 years
These teddy-bear-looking pups can be anything but sweet! Chow Chows are the epitome of antisocial dogs. They don’t like to mingle or meet new friends and can be outright aggressive with other dogs. However, they will protect their humans.
This breed was created to be a dedicated herding dog and as guardians for families.  Our experts say they are fiercely loyal to their people and because of it, early socialisation is essential. Getting them used to other dogs and new people will ensure they stay amicable even with strangers.
Due to these traits, Chow Chows aren’t the best option for first time owners. These pups need consistency, patience and creativity. I can tell you from firsthand experience that if you’ve never trained a pup before, they can be very challenging and end up overpowering you.
Unfortunately, there are no breed-specific rescue groups for Chow Chows in Australia. However, you can always ask your local RSPCA to check if they know of any Chowies in need of a home.
40 kg to 50 kg +
Between 50 cm and 60 cm
10 to 12 years
These are some of the most popular guard dogs for families, and for good reason! These well-rounded livestock guarding dogs were bred to survey land and take care of livestock.  This selection has made them fearless, independent, loyal and strong-willed.
Great Pyrenees are rising in popularity because of their looks. These are fluffy, majestic beasts that come in different tones of white and cream. Despite the breeds soft look, they aren’t for everyone!
Great Pyrenees are quiet, calm, and composed. They tend to be independent thinkers and training can be a challenge, even for experienced dog owners! In fact, our team of independent experts note that these dogs are fiercely protective of what’s “theirs”, so you might see contradicting behaviours. This might show by being patient with family kids while not tolerating others or protecting the family’s pets and aggressively scaring off those they don’t know.
This breed was specifically raised to make decisions on their own while guarding livestock. This means they have an innate confidence and the belief they have the ultimate decision. While even-tempered, they aren’t the playful type: they’d rather be serious and calm. If you’re looking for blind acceptance and eagerness to please, Great Pyrenees isn’t the right choice.
Our panel also reminds you that like other dogs on this list, they need plenty of attention. Pyrenees need a strong fence to prevent wandering during their daily patrols, consistent exercise to prevent boredom, and daily brushing to manage their shedding.
But if you want a large dog that will calmly guard you and your home, go on patrols, and happily survey the kids, this could be the dog for you. If you’re interested, check out your local rescue centre. While there are no breed-specific rescues for the Great Pyrenees in Australia, their rising popularity means unfortunately, more of them end up abandoned in shelters.
60 kg to 80 kg
Around 60 cm tall
8 to 10 years
Want a fluffy and soft family guard dog? Then the Saint Bernard might be for you! This breed was selected to work in European mountains, so they have a thick fur that can withstand the elements. 
These massive dogs are imposing just by looking at them, and, like Rottweilers, most intruders will feel less-than-inclined to break into your home at their sight. They have a huge head, dark eyes and a smart expression that has made them a family favourite.
On the flip side, they tend to slobber everywhere and need plenty of space inside the home, so be mindful before choosing this breed. While not exactly playful, Saint Bernard’s have the patience of a saint (ha!) with his family’s children and will be a great reading and cuddling companion.
PRO TIP: Saint Bernard’s don’t do well in heat. Remember this breed was selected to do well in the Swiss Alps! This won’t be your next jogging companion: they get heat exhaustion easily.
30 kg to 40 kg
60 cm to 70 cm to the shoulder
10 to 12 years
Know the Miniature Schnauzer? Picture it three times the size and you’ve got the Giant version. This German-native farm dog doesn’t have much more in common with their smaller counterparts than their looks .
They are hard workers with strong herding, guarding and working instincts, similar to Blue Heelers. This makes them an active, high-energy breed with an even temper. They make great guardians for homes and families!
On the flip side, our team of independent experts wouldn’t recommend them for first time owners. They have very high exercise needs and only thrive when they are mentally stimulated. If you don’t plan to offer them structured playtime, consistent training, and lots of socialisation, they will become bored. This can lead to destructive, anxious and in some cases aggressive behaviour.
My Final Thoughts
All of our independent experts agree that the best guard dog for families is the one that fits your own needs! Remember that this is a partnership, and just picking a specific breed won’t mean you’ll have a great guard dog. You’ll have to invest time in their training, in strengthening your bond and making sure they are healthy and happy.
Related: Dogs Banned In Australia.
But if you’re ready to put in the work, you might end up with the best companion and guardian you could ask for. If you’re wondering where to start and you’ve never owned a pup, check out our best dogs for first time owners list!
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