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Can Your Family Dog Protect You And Your Family Against An Attack From An Intruder?

Will Fido spring into action to protect or will he run and hide?

There are many schools of thoughts and even more opinions on this subject. Many believe the dog has to have specialized training to be a guard dog, others believe dogs are natural pack animals and will protect their families. There have been numerous experiments and staged scenarios to try to get to this answer along with real life anecdotes where Fido sprang to the defense and instances where he cowered under the bed or worse ran for his own life. I want to be clear from the beginning—the one thing this article is not is anti-dog. We love our family dog, she is a part of our family. But what I am attempting to do is hopefully reset some of the expectations that we may have placed on our beloved pets.

No one barks as ferociously at the guy in the brown uniform as our Snowball. But if there were no barrier between the nice guy sitting the package on the porch and our vicious sounding rescue, I am not so sure she would be so aggressive in her stance. She is great at alerting us to a visitor and uninvited solicitor, but let’s be honest I don’t think I would stake my family’s safety on her primal wolf heritage. That’s what my alarm system, family emergency plan and home defense firearms are for. See my previous article on why your home is vulnerable to home invasion. 

The people at Animal Planet make some compelling arguments on the subject, will dogs instinctively protect children. They say breed is important. They say canines know who their family is and won’t hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way to protect them. They go further to say that most dogs have such a strong instinct to protect that no amount of socialization can diminish it. They also acknowledge an overzealous protector could pose a danger to children and adults outside of the family unit. And they go on to state that some breeds make better guard dogs than others. They say that breeds that are too lazy or too friendly may not be responsive enough to a potentially dangerous situation as the more attentive breeds.


Another article on the subject seeks to answer this question, would your family dog protect your family from intruder?  The article launches in stating the rather obvious, that most people have dogs for companionship and treat them as members of the family, then they go in—asking if faced with danger, if their pet would go from friend to protector.

They actually put these pets to the test is staged test to see how the dogs would react. One German Sheppard, comically named Brinks was quiet as a church mouse letting the intruder walk around the house. One of the more humorous stories from the test is the deputy posing as a burglar “asking the foursome of barking dogs if they wanted to go potty?” Once in the backyard the dogs stopped barking and were content to let the intruder roam the house unimpeded. Needless to say the owners were disappointed, because as they admitted the dogs were their security, they don’t own guns.


Another instance during the testing, an owner said the Rottweiler she owns barked and growled but didn’t do anything to stop the intruder. Another said the guard dog left her and went and cowered under the bed.


A chocolate lab in the test was aggressive and nipped at the officer’s leg down on the bottom.

The article went on to say that sometimes having an aggressive sounding dog bark is all the deterrent you need, whether they attack or not. They gave full disclosure that the test is not representative of all scenarios and they fully admitted the limitations behind such test, because real life encounters with owners yelling attack or screaming in distress could cause the pets to spring into action to protect and defend.

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The Canine Journal, list these as the best guard dogs for families.

  1. German Sheppard
  2. Rottweiler
  3. Bullmastiff
  4. Doberman Pinscher
  5. Great Dane
  6. Boxer
  7. Fila Brasileiros
  8. Bernese Mountain Dog
  9. Great Pyrenees
  10. Saint Bernard

I will admit some of these breeds I had not heard of and wasn’t remotely familiar with, and I assume most of my readers will only know the more common breeds, so we’ll limit our focus to them.

German Shepherds according to the author are at the top of the list due to their natural instincts to listen, learn and obey. I can agree they are both menacing in their appearance and loving in their nature. My cousin owns one and his bark is enough to strike terror but to watch their Hawk with the children is a real treat. He is gentle and passive, even tolerant with their precocious 7 year old, who rides on his back, pulls his tail, and visibly annoys the gentle giant. This is truly a special breed that is great for families. The writer also points out they have fantastic size and can take down any sized intruder without much trouble.


Rottweilers the article warns, if not trained properly are too aggressive a breed to have around small children. However if properly trained, they site this is one of the best options for protecting a family and their home. This is a very intelligent breed.


Bullmastiff have excellent instincts and thrive in family settings. They will protect their “pack” at all cost. They are self-aware and monitor their surroundings, and their intimidating look makes them a great choice when considering a guard dog that won’t put your children at risk. These aggressive looking dogs can easily take a full-grown man to the ground. This breed is gentle and loving contrary to its menacing appearance, and will do great being part of your family.

Doberman Pinschers are extremely loyal and can be trained to be very well tuned to their owner’s commands if properly trained. These dogs are a perfect size for guard dogs, they are very agile and athletic. They come with a growl and bark that are intimidating and intruders will think twice before entering your home. The author cautions they should be raised in a household with children and not brought into a house with small children after they are puppies.


Great Dane’s are intimidating in statue, but gentle in nature. They are reputed to be great around children and have an even temperament around other breeds. The Great Dane is much more of a watch dog than a guard dog. As their bark is much more intimidating than their bite, as they will do very little to actually deter an intruder if one got into your house. The breed despite its size is  very timid and shies away from confrontation.


The Boxer is very intuitive and does a good job of reading peoples intentions.  They are a high energy breed. They are smaller than most breeds on the list but can get to over 100 lbs. They look more foreboding than they actually are.  This breed is astute and alert. They desire affection from both children and adults. They are known to go out of their way to command attention and love. Boxers will use their athleticism to protect its family making it a great choice for families.


As I mentioned earlier I won’t devote too much ink discussing the other lessor known breeds. The Saint Bernard is similar to the Great Dane in that its size makes it intimidating but they are such a friendly breed that they don’t do well as guard dogs. Their size and bark are the only deterrents.

In conclusion

Can Your Family Dog Protect You And Your Family Against An Attack From An Intruder?

At the onset I asked the question can your family dog protect you and your family against an attack from an intruder? I think we’ve seen several examples of Fido not coming to the defense of his family, and a lot of surprised families watching the sobering footage. Again, this post was not designed to scare but to inform you. Our four legged friends are part of most of our families and asking a family member to do something that is not in their nature many would agree is a set up for failure. I love our fur-mily member Snowball, like one of the family, and as I would use an alarm system, cameras and a trusty home defense firearm to protect the rest of the family, that goes for Snowball as well. Her purpose is not to throw herself on the sword to protect our family. Although I appreciate her warning of solicitors, mail and delivery persons- that is not her primary function. She is tasked with loving our family, being a cute, playful and affectionate fur baby. The article started out asking the question can your family dog protect your family from an attack from an intruder—our dog loves my family with all her heart, so I’m sure she would sacrifice her life to save my families, especially my daughter, but I would never ask that of her. I would never stake my family’s safety or self-defense on her. She is our pet first. There is too much riding on it and the burden too big to bare for her.  Our dog is what I like to call an early warning system before an alarm ever goes off, but that is all I would ever expect from her. I would rather fortify our home with reliable technology, and the means to defend myself and my  family if it came to that. I am a big proponent of a home defense firearm and concealed carry, for home security and personal protection. I would rather stake it all on on a bullet and not a bite. 


Kevin Flowers's Headshot 2019

                     By Kevin Flowers

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