Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.
While I think that a single mom or woman living alone is better off having a large protection breed like a Doberman or Boxer, that is not always possible, since so many apartments are against large dogs. A medium-sized dog, from about 25 to 50 pounds, is a great alternative and will often be okay on the lease.
This is an article about the best medium-sized dogs for single moms but it is not a list of the best dog breeds for kids. If it was, I would have breeds on here like the Newfoundland and Golden Retriever. Both are great; neither of them are small enough to make a “medium-sized” list.
This is also not a list of small watch dogs. Small breeds like the Lhasa and Boston Terrier can be excellent watch dogs and are easy to manage when small kids are around. If you feel better getting a small dog, there are several great breeds of small dogs that bark at strangers and will alert you if there are any problems. However, a small dog cannot defend himself against strangers.
If you are a single mom, and want more than a watch dog, but are not able to keep a large dog in your rented house or apartment, here are a few medium-sized dog breeds that may be what you are looking for.
Best Medium-Sized Guard Dogs
- Standard Schnauzer
- Airedale Terrier
- Kerry Blue Terrier
- Shar Pei
- Bull Terrier
- Australian Cattle Dog
1. Standard Schnauzer
This dog is originally a farm worker but they make loyal family dogs for the home and are a good medium-sized pet. They do bark, a lot compared to some other breeds, so if you are worried about neighbors complaining about your dog they might not be right for you.
In Germany this breed was known as “kinderwatchers” since they are good at looking after kids. (I have one of these dogs and am happy with her calm temperament.) They are intelligent and easy to train but can be very active so will require daily training and also plenty of exercise every day. If you are not willing or able to walk your dog every day, do not get a Standard Schnauzer.
Standard Schnauzers are a healthy breed. They don´t shed much so do need to be kept groomed, most of them live over 12 years, and the only two major health problems (hip dysplasia and retinal disease) are rare. If you are going to buy a puppy make sure the parents are checked and certified healthy.
Like all dogs expected to be around kids, they should be socialized early and exposed to a lot of different people and situations early. If you need to learn more about this subject do plenty of reading before obtaining your new puppy.
Not a perfect dog, but definitely one of the best medium-sized breeds for a single mom and her family.
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2. Airedale Terrier
This is another medium-sized dog that can be great but is definitely not for everyone. They were originally fighting dogs and have an alert personality, but if they are properly socialized they can be a good family dog. They do like to bark, are active and intelligent, and can get along with other pets in the household too.
At least with most pets. Like a lot of terriers, he does not always get along with those other pets, especially if he is poorly socialized. Their average lifespan is about 11, and they have several forms of skin disease. (If the dead coat is removed often enough it stays a lot healthier and many of these skin problems are avoided.)
Some others have hip dysplasia or eye problems but most of them are pretty healthy. If you do get one of these dogs, be sure to learn more about bloat since some dogs are affected.
And, of course, you need to learn more about socializing your new dog.
3. Kerry Blue Terrier
Another good terrier for a family looking for a medium-sized guard dog is the Kerry Blue. Like the Airedale, they are tough dogs and need good socialization to get along with other pets. Most of them are good with children, but like all guard dogs they should be socialized early to get along with visitors and your kids friends.
If you do choose a puppy from a breeder, make sure she knows that the dog is going to be a pet in a home with children. Some breeders select dogs that are fierce and not really fit to be family pets.
Most of them area healthy, but some lines do have eye problems, hip problems, and some skin diseases. They live about 11 or 12 years.
Most of these dogs do bark a lot, and since they dont shed much they have to be groomed. If you are willing to pay for one of these dogs and put up with some of the terrier behavior they are a good choice for your family.
4. Shar Pei
Shar Peis have several advantages and are one of the few breeds on this list that are actually bred as medium-sized guard dogs. Unfortunately, some people develop a rash when around these dogs and hugging a Shar Pei is like squeezing a steel wool pad. Puppies can be really cute but this may not be the dog your kids are going to want.
They do shed but don’t bark much, which can be very important to some people. Since they are a one-family type of dog, if they are going to be around other people, especially friends of your kids, they will need a lot of socialization. (Make sure you start this young and continue to socialize your puppy as he grows!)
Some dogs can have a lot of health problems so if you are going to be too busy to take him to the vet he is not a good choice. Some puppies are born with eyelid problems (entropion), a lot of them develop chronic ear infections, and quite a few dogs have skin allergies.
Most Shar Peis only live about 10 years.
If you think this dog breed is going to be right for your family, make sure you take your kids to meet some adult dogs. If the kids are allergic or sensitive to the skin you want to find out before they become attached to a new puppy.
5. Bull Terrier
This dog would probably be rated even higher on this list except for his name. Some landlords will not be able to distinguish a Bull Terrier from an American Pit Bull Terrier or a Staffordshire Terrier. Your lease, and maybe even your city, may prohibit ownership of these dogs.
If you do own your own home and decide to get a Bull Terrier, make sure to have the puppy checked for deafness before finalizing the sale and bringing him home to the kids. Some also have allergies but that is not something you will notice until later on in life.
A lot of dogs live anywhere from 10 to 15.
Chows, while only large medium sized, are often as good a guard dog as some of the larger breeds that may be forbidden in your lease. With their long hair, however, they may be seen as a play toy by some kids and are thus not always the best of the medium-sized guard dogs for families.
I would not recommend one of these dogs for a single mom with small children. If the kids are older, and the dog is well trained and socialized enough to accept their friends, they are a good choice. They do need daily exercise but not as much as the Terriers or Standard Schnauzer.
Some dogs also have several health problems. The eyelids can roll in (like with the Shar Pei), others can have glaucoma, hip dysplasia, or several types of skin disease. Fleas and ticks can be a problem because of the long coat, and I have even seen dogs with hot spots that the owner was not even aware of.
This breed can also be expensive, so meet several breeders and discuss prices and health screening before making a final choice. Also, be sure to look at both parents since some of these dogs can actually become very large.
If you like these dogs, I cannot emphasize enough that you need to READ your lease carefully. There have been many instances of poorly socialized Chows biting and some insurance companies consider them high risk and will not provide coverage for these dogs.
7. Australian Cattle Dog
The ACD is a good medium-sized guard dog. There are several reasons they barely make this list, however. The dogs were bred to be workers, driving cattle all day long, and are very active. Unless you have a hyperactive kid willing to walk this dog miles each day, they are going to feel confined and may take out their frustrations in destructive behavior.
The second reason ACDs may not be right for your family is a lot more serious. They have a reputation as a “snappy” breed of dog. This will probably never happen with your own kids, unless they are small and run around making lots of noise. If your kids are like mine, however, they are going to bring home friends to play, and your dog will probably not be able to tell what is a fight and what is normal play. He may jump in and end up biting a friend.
Like with all of the dog breeds on this list, socialization is vital.
This dog is on my list of the healthiest dog breeds. They live about 12 to 14 years and most are healthy throughout life. In fact, their most common health problems are from injuries secondary to accidents.
- Five Best Dog Breeds for Single Women Living Alone
Do you live alone and need a good companion to protect you? Here are five great choices.
Training and Socialization
If you do get a medium-sized dog to guard your household and be with your kids, be sure to invest in training. A medium-sized dog is not going to knock your child over like a Great Dane or Newfoundland but is still quite powerful. Investing in a little training early will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
All throughout this article I have emphasized the importance of socialization. All breeds need to be socialized early, during the sensitive socialization period, and all will need adequate exercise and mental stimulation. You can discuss these needs and how they can best be met when working with your new dog´s trainer.
Finding the Right Dog
Not all of these breeds are easy to find and if you do not find a breeder or an animal on Petfinder.com you may go to a local animal shelter to find the right dog. (A dog like a Shar Pei cross or a Chow cross may even be healthier and with an even calmer temperament than a purebred.) If you do decide to get your new pet from the animal shelter, however, be sure to get an older puppy or an adult dog. You may be told that a young puppy is medium sized and end up with a Lab/Rott cross that is way too big for your apartment’s rules.
There are always a lot of great dogs available at animal shelters, but make sure you choose correctly. Take your kids with you to meet the dog, and, if the shelter allows it, take the dog out for a walk with the family so you can see how he reacts to the world outside. If the dog is vicious around other dogs or fearful outside of the shelter he may or may not grow out of that behavior.
Even if the shelter tells you that the dog has been examined and is found to be healthy, I recommend you take him to your local vet and have him checked out again before agreeing to adopt the dog.
I hope your family is able to find the right dog for your needs. If I can help at all be sure to leave a comment below. Good luck.
© 2016 Dr Mark
Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on August 21, 2016:
Good information. I had a Schnauzer growing up, and I always knew he wouldn't let anything happen to me!
Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 28, 2016:
Wow, I actually wrote that one about two years ago, and then before I published it afriquenet came out with almost the same thing! I guess it was a popular subject.
Bob Bamberg on April 28, 2016:
Another helpful article, Doc. Now, if you're an equal opportunity veterinarian, how about a helpful article for men. Suggestion: the best seven dogs that are babe magnets.