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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

The Human’s best friend is not only an extremely faithful soul and a loyal companion, dogs are nowadays for most owners a part of their family. Rightly you would like to mention at this point. Dogs make an extremely important contribution in many areas of human life, including protection and guard dogs. What distinguishes them, which breeds are especially suitable and for whom they are suitable as owners, you can read in this exciting article. 

Is there a difference?

Yes, there is a difference between so-called protection- and guard dogs. Guard dogs are kept specifically to guard “house and yard”. They must guard and protect a specific territory, people and/or livestock from intruders usually on their own. Unlike protection dogs, they do not have to undergo any special training. 

Since protection dogs are in most cases service dogs, such as in the police, they need a special training. Protection dogs work with a trained handler and follow their specific instructions. Independent thinking and acting is also required from guard dogs, for example in case of an attack on the handler, but not to the same extent as with guard dogs.

The long tradition of the guard dog – the short one of the protection dog

If you look at the history of the domestic dog, which as we know descends from the wolf, you can say that already the first domesticated dogs were actually kept as guard dogs. Dog and man once entered into a symbiotic relationship in which both creatures had an advantage from the presence of the other.

Since those early days, dogs have always been very popular for the position of guardian. For example, in the Roman Empire (400 BC), the inscription “Cave Canem” (Beware of the dog) indicated the presence of a four-legged protector. 

The history of the protection dog is much shorter in comparison. In the german-speaking countries the first protection dog- competition was held only at the beginning of the 20th century. 

What makes a good protection and guard dog?

Born as protection and guard dogs? Basically, it can be said that almost every dog carries certain qualities that enable him to be a guard dog. These include the extraordinarily good sense of smell and hearing. Dogs are long before us humans in a position to perceive an approaching person and, if necessary, to draw attention to it.  However, a good guard dog should also have other qualities, a good nose alone is not enough:

  • A good memory for people
  • Independence
  • Distrust of strangers
  • Territorial behavior 
  • Vigilance
  • Indication behavior for example by barking

On the other hand, not every dog is suitable to be a protection dog. Since they are mostly used “on duty”, the demand on them is much higher:

  • Functional training
  • Certain size and strength required
  • Obedience
  • Balance
  • Strength of nerve
  • Self-confidence and courage
dog harness that fits your dog

Typical breeds

As mentioned earlier, many dogs are suitable for guard duty, as it is basically just a matter of loudly informing the owner of a possible intruder. However, a large and strong looking dog will be more likely to put a burglar to flight than a small one. Some breeds (some of which are torture breeds) are also unsuitable due to their cultivated anatomical anomalies. Some dogs are also simply too “friendly”, even though this trait should be welcomed. 

Not every breed is suitable for service as a protection dog as certain physical characteristics, such as size and strength, and certain characteristics feature (see above) are required. Commonly selected protecting dog- breeds include, for example:

  • German, Belgian Shepherd
  • Giant Schnauzer
  • Doberman
  • Rottweiler
  • Bull mastiff

For whom are protection and guard dogs suitable?

You may wonder if those dogs are also suitable as family dogs?

In the case of protection dogs, the answer is quite clear. These dogs usually bind themselves to a single person to whom they are absolutely loyal and obedient. Therefore, they are not suitable as family dogs. The danger would be too high that the dog could turn against members of its own family. For example, a certain hand movement of a family member could be mistakenly classified by the dog as a danger. In addition, these dogs are trained to bite and resort to this behaviour more quickly than a dog that has not practiced this action. Trained protection dogs have a lower threshold of irritation and an increased willingness to attack, which results in a higher potential for danger. To what extent this training is appropriate for the species or even in conformity with animal welfare is left open at this point. 

Guard dogs are more suitable as family dogs. However, you should also consider here that the dog sees itself as a guard of the family and its territory, because he has learned it this way. What the dog considers as territory can be different. His place, the house, the garden, the walk or any place where his people are. So, unfortunately, it has already happened that guard dogs have difficulty distinguishing between friend and “real enemy”. As an example you can imagine the special relationship between dog and postman. Even visitors who do not come regularly are not tolerated by some guard dogs in their territory. Especially in households with children caution is required. 

Here should be trained in any case. The dog must learn to let people into the house on your signal and to relax. Otherwise, the dog is constantly in alarm mode and stressed at every visit.

If you have any further questions about this, a trainer will be happy to advise you. 

Protecting the guard dog

Yes even a guard dog can be afraid in certain situations and need your support. He will and can only protect you if he feels safe himself. Most dogs that are securely bonded to their humans will protect them to some degree. If you go for a walk at night, for example, and a “scary” person comes towards you, many dogs will bark and stand in front of you, for example. In turn, you will then put yourself in front of him if, for example, he is being bullied by another dog or feels uncomfortable in a situation.

You are responsible for your dog! Even a big dog that you brought into the families to guard has the right to feel safe and be guarded by you.

Legal situation

The service dogs of the police and the military are legally covered by the Weapons Use Act §10 and are subject to the Animal Protection Act partly limited. 

The Vienna Animal Husbandry Ordinance § 8a. clearly states: “The training of dogs for protection purposes as well as other comparable training of dogs that involve attack behavior directed against humans are prohibited. …“

Schäfer Schutzhundeausbildung


They make an important contribution to our society: Guard and protection dogs. They support and protect us humans in the performance of various activities. In this regard, certain breeds have proven to be particularly suitable. Whether guard dogs come into question as family dogs should be well considered, but protection dogs should not be trained privately under any circumstances.