Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He also trains dogs, mostly large breeds and those that suffer from aggression problems.
5 Best Personal Protection Dogs
A personal protection dog is one that guards an individual at all times, at home or on the road. They are not just home guard dogs, so they have to be intelligent enough to know when they need to protect their owner. They also need to know when to stop.
If you want a breed for personal protection, consider purchasing one that has already been professionally trained. If you start out with a puppy or a young dog that has no training, you may end up being disappointed.
Even though the five breeds on this list are usually suitable for personal protection, do not assume that every dog born among these breeds is going to do the job. Dogs are individuals. Some of them will be great; others will not be suitable. It does not mean they are not good dogs; it just means that they are all different. So what are the five dog breeds suited to become personal protection companions?
Top 5 Guard Dogs for Personal Protection
1. Doberman Pinscher
There is some controversy about which breed is the “best,” but Dobies are one of the few breeds originally selected to serve as personal protection dogs. They have been around since around 1890. At that time, the tax collector who needed a personal protection dog bred them to be intimidating, to show no fear when it came time to defend their owner, and to only attack when told to do so.
Dobies are intelligent and near the top of all of the lists that have been made. AlIf you would like to learn more about where they rate among the other protection breeds and find out some methods to test your own dog, this book is interesting, and I did learn from it; the book is well written, well researched, and the author rates the Doberman, German Shepherd Dog, and Rottweiler among the top ten most intelligent breeds. The breeds were ranked due to the ability to learn new commands and follow orders, and the Doberman was listed as number five because of his trainability.
These dogs are not a giant dog breed. Most are large, and since they are muscular, they appear quite a bit larger than they are. They are usually about 40 kilos (about 90 pounds), black and tan, and have their ears cropped and their tails docked where it is still legal.
Health issues are a concern with most protection dogs, and Dobies are not exempt from this. A bleeding disorder called von Willebrands disease is common—but a test has been available for many years, so if the parents are checked out, this problem may eventually be eliminated. About half of the dogs also inherit a serious heart disease (dilated cardiomyopathy) and fewer have a neck disease called “wobblers,” or cervical vertebral instability (CVI). A few have hip dysplasia and prostatic disease, while the other diseases are much less common.
Dobies live about 11 years, a little longer that Rotties, a little less than a Giant Schnauzer. If you are looking for a protection dog that is strong, smart, and willing to protect, the Doberman Pinscher is a good choice.
2. Cane Corso
This breed is still not as popular as many other breeds on this list, but it has the potential to be an excellent personal protection dog. This is a large Italian breed of about 45 to 50 kilos (about 100 to 110 pounds) with a muscular body, a short muzzle, and a strong bite.
They may actually be a “catch” breed, having been used to hunt game, but since the Roman times, they have also been used as a guard and a personal protection dog.
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Like the Doberman, the Cane Corso often becomes attached to one person in the household and so falls into the role of protection dog easily. Unlike the Doberman, however, they are large and not easy to train. Not everyone can or should attempt to handle one of these.
They do have some health problems, like all big dogs. Hip dysplasia is the most common, they will become obese if you let them, and they can also suffer from bloat, eyelid problems, and demodectic mange.
The average life of a Cane Corso is 10 to 11 years. If a potential owner has experience handling dogs, is willing to socialize and train his Cane Corso, and is in need of a superb personal protection animal, this one can do the job.
Rottweilers were actually developed by the Romans for herding, but they were later developed to pull carts, drive livestock to market, and then to serve the military, to serve on search and rescue missions, work with the police, and act as guide dogs.
The most important role has been as a watchdog, a guard dog, and a personal protection dog. They are big (up to about 60 kilos, 130 pounds), intelligent, and easy to train, so they usually dominate Schutzhund (personal protection dog) competitions.
Rotties are usually healthy, but they can suffer from hip dysplasia, like almost all large breeds. They are also prone to developing eyelid problems and become obese if fed too much and not exercised.
They usually only live 9 or 10 years. Their fierce appearance, protective attitude, and aloofness with strangers make this among the best personal protection dogs available. They are not as mobile or quick as the Doberman, however, so I would prefer one of these as a guard and a Doberman or Cane Corso as a personal companion instead.
4. Giant Schnauzer
This German dog breed is a frequent competitor in the Schutzhund competitions for several reasons. He is big (60 to 70 cm, or 25 to 27 inches at the shoulders) but not as heavy as the Rottweiler, so a little easier to handle for a smaller person.
They are also intelligent, like all the protection breeds, and pick up new commands easily. Many of these also have clipped ears and docked tails, making them look more alert, and successful ones are also solid black, a color that many assume is fiercer.
Giant Schnauzers have some of the same health problems common to big breeds, like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. They are also prone to some skin problems, and since they drool and their beards get dirty, they have to be kept clean.
These dogs live about 12 years. During that life, they make an excellent personal protection dog in that they are strong yet able to be controlled.
5. German Shepherd Dog
One of the most popular personal protection and guard dogs is the German Shepherd Dog (GSD). They are one of the most common breeds and are intelligent, easy to train, and large and powerful enough to do the job.
If a GSD is socialized and trained, excessive aggression is not a problem. When these were first developed, they were also healthy, but they have been bred carelessly and in large numbers and now have several health problems.
Besides the temperament problems, some have floppy ears, and about a fifth of them develop hip dysplasia. They are also prone to bloat. Later on, a lot of these may develop arthritis because of their conformation.
GSDs live about 10 or 11 years. If you purchase one from a working line, he will be healthy and fit to be a guide dog, search and rescue animal, guard dog, or the personal protection dog you are looking for. Unfortunately, not all of the German Shepherds for sale out there will meet your needs.
Alternative Dogs for Personal Protection
A lot of other big dogs will serve as personal protection, even without training.
- The Belgian Malinois is also frequently seen in Schutzhund competitions, as well as the Dutch Shepherd.
- Many of the dogs best suited to guard work (like the Neapolitan Mastiff) are not meant to walk around all day. So although they may be great guards, they should not be used for mobile personal protection work.
You Can Train a Dog for Personal Protection
If you are not able to obtain a trained dog, read what you can about how to train one for personal protection and try to find a local Shutzhund club where you can work with experienced trainers and dogs. DVDs and videos available on the Internet can give you an idea of what is involved in the training before you start.
Buy the best dog you can—even if you select a puppy that is of the correct breed, not all dogs from even these breeds grow up to become a protection one. All have the potential, but not all have the correct personality. (That does not mean that there is anything wrong with the dog. Sometimes he is just not the type to confront things head-on.)
If you need to train a young dog or puppy, it is certainly possible. Read how to train a dog for personal protection and attend Schutzhund training in your area. A personal protection dog is out there waiting to guard you. Go out and find him.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Should I get a male or female working line german shepherd as a personal protection dog?
Answer: There is a lot of controversy on this subject. I prefer female dogs as guards because they tend to be homebodies and are not distracted by females in heat. A lot of people prefer males since they are larger and sometimes are more aggressive.
Dogs of either sex can serve fine as a personal protection dog. It depends on how you treat your dog and the loyalty that the dog feels towards you.
Question: Is the Caucasian Ovcharka a good personal protection breed, or should I just let him be a guard dog?
Answer: The Ovcharka is better suited to a job as a livestock guard dog, not a protection dog. He is large, very powerful, and most people are not strong enough to handle a nervous or upset Ovcharka.
They are fiercely loyal but so strong that if they do get upset, they can drag you off your feet. If you are lucky enough to have one of these great dogs, it is a good idea to leave him home to take care of things there.
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 10, 2020:
Nakul--neither breed are the best. My Pitbull does stay with me all of time and is dog aggressive but way too calm around humans.
Nakul Sharda on August 08, 2020:
What about Pitbull or Akita for personal protection.
Keith on July 26, 2020:
Im a mastiff rescuer. My 1st was a buetiful incredably loyal protective African mastiff. She was over breed.
I had her for 5 years.
I rescued a bullmastiff. It witnessed its then owner kill his kids spouse in front of her. She lived happily and free.
Now as society worsenes. I want a gaurd dog.
My choice a Fila Brazilian mastiff. Very excited.
All on June 25, 2020:
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 02, 2020:
Frankie, it really depends on the breeders. Presas are not usually one of the best, but they can be very loyal. They are more of a guard dog than a PPD.
Frankie brennan on March 23, 2020:
I have a presa canrio and is that good for a personal protection dog
Henry Onyango on January 31, 2020:
I have liked your advice please let me start up the breeding business
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 16, 2018:
Connor, unless you are a big guy and can handle a nervous or upset Ovcharka, I think they are a better guard than a personal protection dog. They are fiercely loyal but so strong that if they do get upset they can drag you off your feet.
(This has happened to me before when I was walking a brace of Rotties but I was able to hold on. Not sure I could do the same with an Ovcharka.)
Connor on April 16, 2018:
I was wondering if you could offer insight on whether or not a Caucasian Ovcharka would be suitable as a personal protection dog or better as a guard dog (term loosely used as an ideal for a family to guard rather than just a single person)
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 10, 2018:
Sally, thanks for that comment. Things do change.
SALLY on March 10, 2018:
TO DUBLIN: People DO need personal protection dogs. Eventually you will need them in Ireland as well, seeing some of the developments there. Often a woman living along risks threats to her safety and her home. Nothing is as good as a dog. A gun is nice, but a dog is wonderful. I look forward to having another dog someday - my schnoodle was perhaps the best at guarding us, although no one ever wanted to mess with my Pekingese! That breed has no idea of size or weight. They think they are the hugest thing in the world and act accordingly. Many are afraid of the Pekingese.
English bully lover on April 16, 2017:
Are bull terriers good guard dogs?
Joshua on February 26, 2017:
You really should consider removing the cane video....that is nothing like what a REAL sanctioned protection sport trial should be....those are horrible handlers that shouldnt be allowed to use their dogs in that manner...instead of the video you have currently, look up something along the lines of psa, schutzhund, french ring, or mondioring with the emphasis on cane corso and use that. Not some backyard joker that has no control on his dog and takes it to "trials" that are just goating a bite reaction.....I wouldn't be in any way surprised if that gentleman has been sued or forced to euthanize that poor dog because of his terrible training techniques.
Makayla walker on July 10, 2016:
I have a dochson pittbull goat beagle and a very protective cat
(saide, bruiser, smokey, Wendy, and gidget)
Dobie Lady on June 22, 2016:
Highland terrier a doberman will take a bullet for you. I have been owned by 3 of the 5 all very loyal
Cane Corso owner on May 24, 2016:
You should consider changing the cane Corso "protection" video. That was nothing but a bunch of irresponsible handlers who couldn't even command to retrieve. All they are doing is instigating the dog and making them react. They are a wonderful breed and people like that give them a bad reputation. It was sad to watch that. Ended up here through Pinterest by just looking at pictures. Once here I expected to see police type protection video. Instead it was some low life that wants to look cool. On a positive note, thank you for the information on the different breeds. I always enjoy reading and learning more about different dog breeds.
James on April 11, 2016:
None of these breeds are known for work. Why one would list an animal with extreme probability of health problems as a top guardian/working dog is mind boggling. Aside from that people that want a pet and do not have experience or try to attend handlers training should not attempt to own working breeds. They are high drive and high intensity and are a great member of the family if and only if someone knows how to train and sustain a working dog. Furthermore a dog is not going to guard you just because of its look. The german shepherd has nearly been ruined by people trying to breed the original drive instincts from them. People out there actually believe what your writing in your post and you are doing a disservice. (Even without training they will serve as personal protection) at most a deterrent. Get your act together. Maybe if you actually trained working dogs you would understand what you're speaking about.