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Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?

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 Dog

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.

German Shepherd Guard Dog

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 Dog

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 this role.

Attack Dog

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 command.

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.

Work Drive

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.

Protective Instincts

Much of guarding and protection is based on instinct. Guard dogs need to have the natural inclination and desire to defend their territory and family.


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 respond appropriately.


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 confrontation.


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 protectors.

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 behavior.

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 member.

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 strange occurrences.

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.

Final Thoughts

With proper training and socialization, a German Shepherd could be your best option for property and personal protection. They make excellent companions and will treat family members with incredible affection, but will also mean business when it’s time for work.

If you’re looking for a guard dog but haven’t fully decided on the German Shepherd, some other options to consider are the Dutch Shepherd, Doberman, Husky, Rottweiler, and Pitbull.

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