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The Five Best Shepherd Dog Breeds for Protection

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Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

These are the best breeds to get if you're looking for protection.

These are the best breeds to get if you're looking for protection.

Looking for Protection? Here Are the Five Best Shepherd Breeds

Dogs used as shepherds are intelligent and quick to learn new commands. Most of these dogs are also protective of their flock, and since they will become companions, they will transfer that caring to their human “flock.”

There are many good dogs available, but here are the best five shepherd breeds also used for protection:

  1. Bouvier des Flandres
  2. Briard
  3. Giant Schnauzer
  4. Belgian Shepherd
  5. Rottweiler

1. 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 strong, rugged, and have that farm dog tendency to work all day and guard all night.

Physical Traits and Health

These dogs do not shed much, so they need to be groomed every few months. Bouviers live about 11 or 12 years, and they are big (about 35–55 kilos, or 80–120 pounds). Like most big dogs, they are prone to hip dysplasia, and they also develop some diseases and issues with their eyes.

Temperament and Care Requirements

Bouviers need to be socialized and 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, the Bouvier was moved to the Reagan's ranch in California. Reagan found out that Bouviers are not for everybody!

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.

2. Briard

The French have also developed a shepherd that has been used by the military and in guard and protection work. 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.

Physical Traits and Health

The Briard is a big dog (about 25–40 kilos, or 55–90 pounds), sometimes black or gray but also fawn, with a long coat and double dewclaws on the back legs. A Briard usually lives about 11 or 12 years. They are healthy, but some dogs will have hip dysplasia and are prone to bloat. The eyes should be checked for retinal atrophy (PRA), since this disease is sometimes seen in this breed.

Temperament and Care Requirements

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 they are very good at Schutzhund trials (the competitions for dogs working in personal protection).

Briards can be nippy and bite at the ankles of people in their household when trying to move them from room to room. If they are taught not to do that, however, they will treat the family as their flock and make a great watchdog and family guard.

3. Giant Schnauzer

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 the breed eventually developed into a dog used mostly by the military and the police—and by private owners looking for a protection dog.

Physical Traits and Health

The Giant Schnauzer has a thick coat that does not shed much and a long beard usually crusty with slobber. These dogs are tall and usually black.

Giant Schnauzers live about 12 years. They are prone to hip dysplasia and bloat. Some of them have eye problems like cataracts and glaucoma, and some dogs are prone to develop liver or skin cancer.

Temperament and Care Requirements

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 great protection dogs.

4. Belgian Shepherd

Several countries in Europe have developed good shepherds that work as protection dogs. The shepherd from Belgium is one of the best and is often used in areas that used to be served only by the German Shepherd.

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, but their coats are different and they don’t have that breed’s low-slung rear end.

Physical Traits and Health

Belgian Shepherds live about 13 or 14 years, which is longer than most other large breeds. 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.

Temperament and Care Requirements

These dogs are prone to boredom and excessive shyness, excessive aggression, and in some cases become obese. 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!

5. Rottweiler

This dog is known for a lot of things, but the Rottweiler was originally a shepherd. Rotties have been used since Roman times to herd cattle. Later, the dog was used by the military, and then police. More recently, the breed was recruited to act both in search and rescue and as guide dogs.

Physical Traits and Health

Rottweilers live about 9 or 10 years. Some 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.

Temperament and Care Requirements

The Rottweiler is best known as a family watchdog, a guard dog, and an excellent companion for someone searching for a personal protection dog. They are amazing shepherds—they can use their weight to throw body blocks and overpower the sheep—but their real area of expertise is as a guard.

Where to Buy a Shepherd

If you're looking for one of these shepherd dog breeds, here's some tips on where you can find them.

Check Your Local Shelter

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.

Look Online

You can also check 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.

Don't Support Puppy Mills

Do not buy a puppy from a pet shop or through an internet puppy site. You will be supporting a puppy mill and are unlikely to end up with a shepherd that can learn quickly, follow your commands, and protect you and your family.


CarolMcE on October 18, 2018:

ad advanced Obedience and herding titles. Several Champions. One was trained through Utility Obedience when I had a stroke and he became my Service Dog overnight. One thing! Grooming is a nightmare! unless you have $100 plus to have a salon do it. If you show, paying a handler is expensive. I have no grooming talent.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on March 28, 2017:

No, I have not worked with the Russian breeds. I have been told in many ways they are similar to the Giant Schnauzer.

Clay on March 28, 2017:

I like the Bouvier but looking at BRT for family companion. Any experience with BRT?

Mlove on October 08, 2016:

Bouviers aren't for everybody- they are loyal to a fault but like most dogs have their own personality- my dog is a one person dog- she will allow people to pet her but the only person she cares about being around is me- does anything I ask her but won't even respond when my girlfriend ask her if she wants to go for a walk- wont even take a treat from her- but won her heart when she was home alone- man came to the door an tried to force his way in( never trained as guard dog) he made it into the kitchen but soon regretted it - was met with a 85 lb bouvier- she came unglued - I wasn't there but she said he ran out the door faster than he came in- now my girlfriend thinks the bear can do no wrong

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 27, 2013:

Yes, you are probably right on the name but there is also a huge difference in the search engine results using those two words. I am not sure if those who search for "shepherd" just want to read about GSDs, but I thought Briards, Belgians, and Bouviers were more interesting since they don't get much "press".

I saw an interesting article on those dogs we hardly ever see anymore: Scotties, Irish Setters, and some others.

Thanks for leaving such an interesting comment!

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on April 27, 2013:

I liked reading about dog breeds that were quite popular till 1980s and one could see them often on the streets of a US or Canadian city. Now, except for Rotties, it is almost impossible that one would run into a Bouvier, Briard, Giant Schnauzer, or Belgian Shepherd. Everyone seems to go for Golden or Labrador retrievers or one of those hypoallergenic cross-breeds.

Come to think of it, the very popular red dog - the Irish Setter - that used to be often seen till 1990s is conspicuous by its absence.

I personally think that 4 Belgian shepherd breeds (Groenendael, Laekenois, Tervuren, and Malinois) should have been more popular.

Thanks for sharing a hub on dog breeds that need to be seen on our streets more often. However, I would have preferred the hub titled 'Five Best Large Herding Dog Breeds For Protection'.

GAGANPREET SINGH BHATIA from Kanpur, India on April 26, 2013:

Very nice hub with lot of useful info.

Voted up & shared.

Gail Louise Stevenson from Mason City on April 25, 2013:

Great hub! All of the dogs look and sound like they're pretty awesome. The pictures are really great. Great information, too!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 25, 2013:

Thanks for posting and commenting, Peggy. The GSD is definitely the most popular shepherd out there, so I really enjoyed pointing out some of these less popular (can I say famous?) shepherd dogs.

Most of them look like too much work for me, though! Can you imagine how much time you need every day just to brush out your Briard?

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 25, 2013:

My parents favorite breed of dog was the German shepherd. It was interesting reading about these other dog breeds. Voted up, interesting and will post to my board about dogs on Pinterest.

Chris Achilleos on April 25, 2013:

Such an interesting and informative hub! Thanks for sharing!

Voted up and interesting!

Chris Achilleos

Jim Laughlin from Connecticut on April 25, 2013:

Good hub! Some seem like they would be great with kids and keeping an eye on them.

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