Five Best Shepherd Dog Breeds for Protection
Shepherds: The Bouvier des Flandres
Dogs used as shepherds are intelligent and quick to learn new commands. Most of the dogs are also protective of their flock, and since these dogs will become companions, will transfer that caring to their human “flock”.
In Europe there are many good dogs available, so here are the best five shepherd breeds also used for protection:
Bouvier des Flandres
Like a lot of the dog breeds that were historically shepherds, the Bouvier des Flandres does really well in personal protection (Schutzhund) competitions. This Flemish dog can still run sheep, though, or cattle if you got `em.
Bouviers were probably created by crossing local farm dogs with Irish Wolfhounds. They are big (about 35 to 55 kilos, or 80 to 120 pounds), strong, rugged, and have that farm dog tendency to work all day and guard all night.
These dogs do not shed much so they need to be groomed every few months. Like most big dogs, they are prone to hip dysplasia and also have some diseases with their eyes.
Bouviers live about 11 or 12 years. They need to be socializedand obedience trained but, like most shepherds, they learn easily, do great with kids, get along with other dogs and horses, and make good guard dogs.
Former US president Ronald Reagan had a Bouvier, but after the dog tried to herd him to the helicopter by biting him on the seat of the pants, he was moved to the Reagan´s ranch in California.
If you can handle the long hair, and are willing to spend some time with your Bouvier des Flandres so that you do not get nipped in the pants, he will make an excellent protection dog and a great pet.
Reagan found out that Bouviers are not for everybody.
The French have also developed a shepherd that has been used by the military and in guard and protection work. The Briard is a big dog (about 25 to 40 kilos, or 55 to almost 90 pounds), sometimes black or gray but also fawn, with a long coat and double dewclaws on the back legs.
Since some of these dogs were also used as livestock guard dogs, there are really two sizes (the shepherds and the guards). Both sizes are able to do whatever is needed to protect the flock.
Although this dog is a shepherd and learns quickly, he needs good socialization and obedience training. They do well at herding and tracking competitions, and are very good at Schutzhund trials, the competitions for dogs working in personal protection.
They are healthy, but some dogs will have hip dysplasia and be prone to bloat. The eyes should be checked for retinal atrophy (PRA) since this disease is sometimes seen.
A Briard usually lives about 11 or 12 years. Briards can be nippy and bite at the ankles of people in their household when trying to move them from room to room, but if they are taught not to do that they will treat the family as their flock and make a great watchdog and family guard.
The Germans also recognized the good qualities of the Bouvier and crossed it with the Standard Schnauzer to develop the Giant Schnauzer. They were originally shepherds and used to drive livestock to market but eventually developed into a dog used mostly by the military, the police, and by private owners looking for a protection dog.
The Giant Schnauzer has a thick coat that does not shed much, a long beard usually crusty with slobber, and is tall and usually black.
Giant Schnauzers live about 12 years. They are intelligent, like all shepherd breeds, and become bored easily, also like all the shepherds. If they are trained, given something to do, and socialized with the family, they make a great protection dog.
Several countries in Europe have developed good shepherds that work as protection dogs. The shepherd from Belgium is one of the best and often used in areas that used to be served only by the German Shepherd Dog.
In some countries all the Belgian dogs who herded sheep are considered one breed. In the US and Australia the varieties are considered separate breeds, and the Groenendael type is called the Belgian Shepherd. All of them look about like the German Shepherd Dog but their coats are different and they don’t have that breed’s low slung rear end.
They are also not prone to as many health problems as some of the purebred shepherd breeds, but epilepsy is more common. They sometimes have hip dysplasia but it is not very common, and most concerns seem to be behavioral. They are prone to boredom and excessive shyness, excessive aggression, and in some cases become obese.
Belgian Shepherds live about 13 or 14 years, which is longer than most other large breeds. They are as intelligent as most shepherd breeds and also very active; a Belgian Shepherd needs plenty of walks and mental stimulation to keep from becoming bored and even destructive. Provide him with a job, however, and this is one of the best shepherd breeds out there!
Intelligence in dogs is a highly debateable issue but if you are interested in reading more on this subject, I found this book was pretty thorough. The author of this book lists the most intelligent dog breeds based on surveys of trainers, breeders, and veterinarians. The shepherd breeds, like the Rottweiler, rank highest.
This breed is known for a lot of things, but was originally a shepherd.
Rotties have been used since Roman times to herd cattle. Later the dog was used by the military, then police, and more recently was recruited to act both in search and rescue and as guide dogs.
Some lines are prone to hip dysplasia, and like all big dogs they can develop bloat. Some of them may have eyelid problems, and all Rotties will become obese and develop other health problems if not given enough exercise.
Rottweilers live about 9 or 10 years. They are amazing shepherds, using their weight to throw body blocks and overpower the sheep, but their real area of expertise is as a guard.
If you are looking for one of the shepherd dog breeds, be sure to check with your local animal shelter first. Sometimes a purebred shepherd is dropped off when an owner is forced to move, sometimes a dog ends up a stray, and there are always a lot of good mixed breed shepherds that end up in shelters.
You can also check Petfinder.com and find out if any dogs are available close to you. Look on the internet to find any rescue organizations that work with the breed you are looking for.
Do not buy a puppy from a pet shop or through an internet puppy site. You will be supporting a puppy milland are unlikely to end up with a shepherd that will learn quickly, follow your commands, and protect you and your family.