German Shepherds are probably the most popular working dogs. They’re
commonly seen as military and police dogs, and assist people in many
other types of work. However, are German Shepherds good guard dogs?
This article will dive into that question as well as the traits your
dog should have to become a guard dog.
Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?
Yes, German Shepherds make good guard dogs which is why they’re
commonly used for property and personal protection. German Shepherds
are naturally protective and will instinctively defend their territory
and keep their family members safe from harm.
To safely keep them as guard dogs, however, they need to be properly
trained and adequately socialized. Otherwise, their protective nature
could easily become unmanageable and even destructive.
What Is A Guard Dog?
A guard dog is a specially trained canine used to protect
property—commonly a home or a similarly confined area—from intruders.
In the typical setting, however, they are also companion dogs that
form part of a human family and are able to protect their family
members as well as their home.
Guard dogs protect their home and family by remaining vigilant and
wary of changes in their environment. Guard dogs will bark for two
reasons: to alert their humans of a perceived threat and to keep
approaching strangers at bay.
If necessary, these dogs will bite and get physical with an intruder.
So, they need to be trained specifically to fulfill this role. Among
the most critical parts of their training is learning when aggression
is necessary, and when to switch it off.
Although the term “guard dog” is commonly used to describe dogs doing
all types of protection work, it’s critical to make a distinction
between other protection roles. These include:
Watch dogs are those that keep an eye out for unusual activity. Their
mere presence might keep strangers at bay. However, their main role is
to bark and alert their humans of potential danger
Because this behavior is natural to canines, watch dogs don’t need
much training to perform their duties. Additionally, these dogs are
not meant to have physical encounters with threats. So, it is not
necessary that a watch dog be a large or strong breed.
Sentry dogs will patrol a property and defend it against perceived
threats. They typically work independently and fulfill their roles
with minimal direction from their humans.
Like a guard dog, sentry dogs are trained to keep threats at bay and
will attack if necessary. So, these dogs are not only specially
trained for their tasks but also naturally intelligent and confident.
Personal Protection Dog
Personal protection dogs are like guard dogs but are specifically
trained to protect people. They need high levels of training to work
in changing environments and situations. Additionally, they need to
quickly distinguish between threats and friendlies.
To be effective in personal protection roles, personal protection dogs
double as companion dogs that are treated as part of the family they
protect. They develop a strong bond and deep love for their humans,
which, along with their specialized training, enables them to excel in
Among all the protection roles, the attack dog is the one that
requires the most training. They should be able to do all the tasks
expected of a watch dog, guard dog, sentry dog, and personal
protection dog. In addition, they are also trained to attack on
Attack dogs are most suitable in police and military situations. They
are generally not suitable as companion animals. When these dogs
retire, they are typically adopted by their former handlers or are
placed in homes with experienced and able handlers.
What Traits Make A Good Guard Dog?
There’s a misconception that guarding is about aggression. On the
contrary, aggressive dogs actually don’t make good guard dogs.
Here are some of the traits that make a good guard dog and why German
Shepherds are well suited for this role:
It’s essential for guard dogs to be loyal to the family they are
expected to protect. No matter the situation, they must always have an
unwavering allegiance to their family.
Although they’re also companion pets, guard dogs must also have a
strong work drive. This is a critical trait that makes them highly
trainable for the kind of work and behavior that’s expected of them.
Much of guarding and protection is based on instinct. Guard dogs need
to have the natural inclination and desire to defend their territory
Intelligence is required of guard dogs because they need to be easily
trained. Additionally, they need the ability to work out problems
independently and make the right decisions on the fly.
Much of courage is honed at a young age but a lot of it is also based
on the personality of the individual dog. Guard dogs need to be
fearless and should not cower in the midst of a threat.
Oftentimes, an intimidating presence is enough to deter intruders and
other threats. Size is definitely an advantage, but it’s even better
if that largeness is combined with an appearance and demeanor that
undoubtedly means business.
Guard dogs need to be attentive. They need to have the ability to look
out for long periods of time. Additionally, they should be able to
remain focused and not easily distracted.
Apart from being observant, a good guard dog should have the ability
to sense abnormal occurrences. They are not hyper-alert, but they
should quickly become aware of changes in their environment and
Guard dogs must know how to communicate effectively. They know how to
bark to alert their humans of danger. They also know how to bark
menacingly to keep intruders at bay and avoid a physical
The best guard dogs are also loving and affectionate towards their
humans. They are well behaved at home and can be the gentlest
creatures, even to young children and small animals. Their ability to
form strong bonds with their family members contributes to their
effectiveness as protection dogs.
Can German Shepherds Be Both Guard Dogs And Family Dogs?
Yes, a German Shepherd can most definitely be a good family companion
and guard dog at the same time. However, a lot depends on the
individual dog’s training and personality.
Guard dogs in the home setting ideally have incredible protective
instincts that they are trained to control and use appropriately. At
the same time, they develop a strong bond with their family members
that don’t just enable them to be good pets but also their loyal
German Shepherds can be excellent guard dogs because they are easily
trained and can learn how and when to switch the guarding off and on.
They are foremost a loving and affectionate companion to the people
they trust but are readily willing and able to defend when necessary.
Although GSDs typically excel as guard dogs as well as in all other
protection roles, it is important to note that their guarding
instincts can also become destructive and potentially dangerous
They need proper training and socialization from an early age in order
to fulfill this role both safely and effectively. This is also why
German Shepherds who are loving and affectionate make good guard dogs
because they know how to balance both worlds; protector and family
What Type Of Training Should A GSD Have To Become A Good Guard Dog?
Ideally, a German Shepherd that is going to be used as guard dog would
be trained for this work from a very young age. They need to be
exposed to different environments and get used to meeting different
people and animals. Through exposure and socialization, they are able
to build the confidence they need to be vigilant but not fearful of
Additionally, GSDs meant for guarding ideally grow up with the person
or family they are expected to protect. They are trained in obedience
not just for the sake of following commands but also as a means of
forming a strong bond with their humans. This bond is what allows them
to communicate effectively and develop a strong sense of loyalty.
Part of the training German Shepherds to become effective guard dogs
is also to be excellent companions. They need to know exactly the
difference between home (to be a loving household pet) and work (to
defend their home and humans against perceived threats), as well as to
quickly switch between the two when necessary.
At home, a properly trained guard dog should show no signs of
aggressive behavior. They are affectionate with their family and are
always eager to please. Additionally, they are civilized to guests.
All this time, however, they are quietly alert to potential threats
and will be ready to unleash their guarding abilities when needed.