Five Best Small Watchdog Breeds

Updated on October 23, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

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

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A Lhasa Apso working as a watch dog at only 18 weeks old.The Lhasa Apso is a cute small watch dog.A Lhasa Apso protecting her property.
A Lhasa Apso working as a watch dog at only 18 weeks old.
A Lhasa Apso working as a watch dog at only 18 weeks old. | Source
The Lhasa Apso is a cute small watch dog.
The Lhasa Apso is a cute small watch dog. | Source
A Lhasa Apso protecting her property.
A Lhasa Apso protecting her property. | Source

Larger than a tiny dog breed, smaller than the type of dog you would keep outside, for many families the small dog is a perfect pet. A small dog might sit on your lap, hang around at your feet, or even go off and sit in a corner.

But can a lap dog be a watch dog? Sure they can. A famous thief once told a kidnap victim “It does not matter what size dog you have, as long as it barks. As soon as we hear a dog barking we know the master of the house is going to be alerted.”

What are the five best small watch dog breeds?

Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso is number one on the list for a reason. It is not because they are great with kids—they aren´t. It is not because they are great in obedience—they aren´t. What does this small dog have going for him? The Lhasa is a really good dog, happy to sit on your lap, alert you in case he hears any strangers, and guard you like a Rottweiler if the situation calls for it!

The Buddhist Monks of Tibet would have been proud. This dog does his job.

Despite his fierce personality, the dog is small, only about 6 kilos (13-15 pounds). He is not tiny, though, and knows it—not some animal that can be pushed around. The Lhasa is a little wolf!

“A wolf? Sure don´t look like no wolf.”

No, actually the Lhasa looks more like a little wooly goat, but according to some sources they are bred from a species of wolf found in Malaysia about 4000 years ago. They have been a purebred in Tibet for thousands of years, and are one of the few purebred dog breeds that haven´t been crossed with others in the name of “improvement”.

Lhasa Apsos don’t have a lot of health problems. They do have a skin disease, sebaceous adenitis, and eye problems like retinal atrophy (PRA), dry eye (KCS), and cherry eye.

They are one of the longest living breeds, often living 15 years or more. Even if you decide to buy a Tibetan Mastiff to guard your door, an alert Lhasa Apso is the dog you want sleeping at the foot of your bed.

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A Boston Terrier alert to odd sounds.A Boston Terrier running to the rescue.Another Boston Terrier arriving for watch dog duty on a bike.
A Boston Terrier alert to odd sounds.
A Boston Terrier alert to odd sounds. | Source
A Boston Terrier running to the rescue.
A Boston Terrier running to the rescue. | Source
Another Boston Terrier arriving for watch dog duty on a bike.
Another Boston Terrier arriving for watch dog duty on a bike. | Source

Boston Terrier

This small dog has several recommendations as a watch dog, but the most important is that he normally does not bark a lot. A Yorkie or Maltese will bark a lot, maybe so much that the owner doesn’t even pay that much attention anymore.

A Boston Terrier, however, will bark when he needs to and everyone will be aware that there is something to attend to. They are usually happy and friendly but they are also known to be protective, and barking at strangers is part of their job.

If you decide on a Boston, there are some health issues to be aware of. Heat stroke can be caused by the short face, which is also seen in Lhasas, Pugs, and some other small and large dog breeds. Bostons are also prone to heart murmurs, cancer (mast cell tumors), luxating patellas (a trick knee), and eye problems like cataracts.

They live about 12 years, but do not be surprised if your Boston Terrier is watching your doorstep for many more years than that.

A Miniature Schnazuer can grow up to be a great watch dog.
A Miniature Schnazuer can grow up to be a great watch dog. | Source
This Miniature Schnauzer shows that good watch dogs are alert at all times.
This Miniature Schnauzer shows that good watch dogs are alert at all times. | Source
A Miniature Schnauzer watch dog on the run.
A Miniature Schnauzer watch dog on the run. | Source

Miniature Schnauzer

After rating at the top amongst the dog breeds that don´t shed much, the Miniature Schnauzer found he had a lot to live up to. He managed to make the list of dog breeds that like kids, scored again on the article about impressive miniatures, and now here he is again in the small watch dog list.

What a lot of pressure!

The Miniature Schnauzer can handle it. He really is a good watchdog, and is more likely to bark than bite.

Although not a terrier, Miniature Schnauzers like to bark. They are not big (usually less than 7 kilos, or about 15 pounds), but they are almost never timid. Miniature Schnauzers are usually easy to train and will back off when told to.

They do have some health problems that need to be watched for. Some dogs have hyperlipidemia, or high fat levels in the blood, and this makes them prone to pancreatitis. They can also have bladder stones, diabetes, and skin and eye problems. The other problems are usually less common.

Most Miniature Schnauzers live around 12 years, but if they are healthy they can live quite a bit longer. Of course they will be good with kids, not shed a lot, and make a good watchdog during that time.

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A small Westie watch dog on duty.Another alert Westie watch dog.A West Highland White Terrier.
A small Westie watch dog on duty.
A small Westie watch dog on duty. | Source
Another alert Westie watch dog.
Another alert Westie watch dog. | Source
A West Highland White Terrier.
A West Highland White Terrier. | Source

West Highland White Terrier

Westies are good for a lot of things, and barking and patrolling the house are just normal for him. He is not as fierce as the Lhasa, who has served as a watch dog for thousands of years. The Westie is not even as good as the Boston, who is likely to stay quiet except when needed.

So why would you even want to get a West Highland White Terrier watch dog?

Well, they are just so cute! This little Scotch dog is good with kids who treat him decently, super for an apartment that does not allow big dogs, and since the breed does not shed much, good for people that do not want to find dog hair in their food.

Westies do have some health problems. The most common is allergies to pollens in the air, but they can also have a skin disease (hyperplastic dermatosis) that is often confused with an allergy. Other dogs may develop a “Westie jaw” where the face becomes thickened. Sometimes it is so bad that the dogs are no longer able to eat. There are several other less common diseases too.

They live about 14 or 15 years if healthy. They can be a good watch dog that 14 or 15 years, and keep you entertained too!

A Pug will come running to act as a watch dog, but sometimes a little slowly.
A Pug will come running to act as a watch dog, but sometimes a little slowly. | Source
Younger and thinner Pugs may be quicker to react.
Younger and thinner Pugs may be quicker to react. | Source
Older Pugs may not react at all!
Older Pugs may not react at all! | Source

Pug

Have you seen the fu dogs in China? They are the statues that sit outside the temples. The carving style is different than we are used to in the West, and the records were destroyed about 215 BC, but it is not hard to imagine that the statues represent the Pug watch dogs.

But are they good watch dogs? It really depends on the owner. If the family cares about it, and are interested in what the dog is barking at, they will develop into watch dogs. If the dog is yelled at every time she barks, she is going to learn and stop trying to defend the household.

Pugs have a lot of health problems. I asked one of my clients, a pediatric surgeon, why he chose to have Pugs. “They are the perfect dog”, he explained. “Every genetic abnormality that I might see in a child is here, in just one dog…Besides that,” he admitted “she is a really great dog and we all love her.”

They have short snouts that lead to overheating and breathing problems, elongated palates that close off their airways when they get excited, shallow eye sockets that make their eyes pop out easily, and abnormal hip sockets that make them more likely to have hip dysplasia. Pugs can also have abnormal vertebrae in the back, leading to paralysis, and all sorts of other problems.

If they are healthy, they usually live 11 or 12. Healthy Pugs that stay around the house a lot are prone to obesity.

Fat dogs are less likely to run across the house to bark at strangers, so keep your Pug in shape if you want a good watchdog.

Some of the small watch dog breeds are available at your local animal shelter. Be sure to check on the dogs available, and look into a purebred rescue before choosing your small dog. Petfinder.com may have the small dog you are looking for in your area.

All you need to do is type your location and the breed into their search engine. If you do not find anything you can visit a dog show and search for breeders in your area, but don´t you think it is worth a few minutes of your time?

If you want a dog that is easy to care for but will alert you in times of need, but a small watchdog.

Don’t buy your dog from the internet, however. You might be supporting a puppy mill.

Two good small watch dogs: A Boston Terrier and a West Highland White Terrier.
Two good small watch dogs: A Boston Terrier and a West Highland White Terrier. | Source

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    • profile image

      Matt 3 years ago

      Are you kidding me... Miniature Pinscher owns all these breeds

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      You should see the dogs in "Five Really Cute Small White Dog Breeds"; you´ll definitely want them all!

      I read your comment on Bulldogs and I think the only hub I have with them is "Five Most Expensive Dog Breeds". Of course I use their pictures a lot since they are so cute. (Do you have Pinterest? There are always a lot of good English Bulldog images on there.)

      Your Boston sounds like she was really great. They are amazing little dogs. I could understand your comment about yelling though, since my Pit Bull cross puts this "sad" look on her face and I can't even get mad at her!!!

    • My Mind Speaks profile image

      Victoria 4 years ago from Long Island N.Y

      Omg, I want them ALL! I had a Boston Terrier growing up (from the ages of 14-22) and she seriously was the best thing in the world (along w/ my little chubby english bulldog) She was friendly and playful and rarely barked unless we were rolling around playing or something was going on that we needed to check out. She got into the garbage maybe 3 times in all those yrs we had her (which are pretty good odds lol) and we couldn't even "yell" at her because she just "knew" she did wrong. That little look on her face was so cute and heartbreaking at the same time, I felt like I was the one who did something wrong. Awesome hub and will definitely be useful to people.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks Bill I always enjoy your comments, and of course appreciate your taking the time to share this. I wanted to answer you earlier but my ISP is slower than dial-up tonight. HP keeps going down, videos do not work (of course), and only some photos are showing up.

      I have a European neighbor who complains every time something like this happens. "It is the price we pay to live in paradise," I explain. He makes a Teutonic exclamation, but luckily I do not understand their swear words!

      I hope you enjoy the Lhasa photo. The big difference between them and the Shih Tzu (besides size) is that Lhasas do not care for kids, and Shih Tzus like about everybody. You made a good choice.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Sunshine, it sounds like your Toy Fox Terrier belongs on "Five dog breeds your family MUST be afraid of". (Just kidding, it is a satire and gets some really nasty comments from people who don´t agree with my selection --Maltese, Papillions, and Chihuahuas.)

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Thanks Carmel I got a good laugh picturing your JRT defending your tough little Westie! I guess now we know why they only made number five on the list!!!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi DrMark. Our Shih Tzu, aka Lhasa Apso, is a great watch dog. She may be small in stature but she barks like the dickens when she hears something. When I was a kid growing up we also had a pug and he was also a barker at all things that moved. And those bulging eyes when he was excited, very intimidating. Really enjoyed this one. Voting up and sharing.

    • DrMark1961 profile image
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      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Will, I don't think my Pitbull would hear an elephant walking around my front yard! (I have to wake her up sometimes to tell her someone is walking around the house.) You have a great little dog there.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I have a Toy Fox Terrier and she also makes a good watch dog. The problem is she doesn't like dogs or people, unless she is very comfortable. Luckily she's never had the need to attack.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi DrMark. Great list and very accurate. Our Shih Tzu, aka Lhasa Apso, is very territorial and gets us up whenever she hears something unusual. As a kid growing up we had a pug who also barked at everything. And those bulging eyes, you bet. Despite their size they both made great companions and watch dogs.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      I find your articles on dogs very informative and interesting, I have to say Max the Westie only has to hear a noise and all hell breaks loose and he charges around the place and if certain ads come on the telly, take cover. Cara my first westie was exactly the same.

      Though with Max it all bluff and no substance. the one time he was jumped by another dog Lil the Jack Russell came to the rescue and let me tell you she is a fierce fighter, the other dog which is roughly 3 times her size flew away.

      So when pust comes to shove get the Jack Russell.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Our chihuahua can hear an ant sneeze in our neighbor's backyard.

      If someone is in our driveway or coming up the walk, she lets us know before they knock or ring the bell. She has amazing hearing, and is always alert.

      Good Hub, Doc!

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