Do German Shepherds Make Good Guard Dogs?

german shepherd guarding a home

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It’s no secret that German Shepherds are one of the most loyal dog breeds. Intelligent, athletic, and highly trainable, these dogs are a popular choice for use in a lot of different activities. The German Shepherd can be seen everywhere from the show ring to working alongside a police officer.

This popular breed of dog has also been frequently viewed as a guard dog, often to the point of a “trope” on television and within movies. But do German Shepherds actually make good guard dogs?

German Shepherds are highly intelligent, easily trainable, athletic, and have strong protective instincts, making them an excellent choice for use as a guard dog. When properly trained, this breed can excel in protection work, guard dog duties, and competitive events like Schutzhund.

But what exactly makes the German Shepherd a good guard dog? Below we’ll look at the traits that the German Shepherd has and how it adds to their value as a guard dog.

We’ll also look at the different types of guard dog and protection sports a German Shepherd can be involved in, what to look for when choosing a German Shepherd to for guard dog work, what is required for training your German Shepherd to be a guard dog, and the potential risks associated with German Shepherds that are used as guard dogs.

4 Reasons Why German Shepherds Make Good Guard Dogs

If you are looking at getting a German Shepherd for use as a guard or personal protection dog, there are a few good reasons as to why this breed of dog is one of the most popular choices:

1. Breed History

The German Shepherd has a lengthy breed history where they have been utilized in everything from herding livestock to being used within military units. The breed’s versatility and athleticism makes them a great choice for any and all dog-related sports, activities, and jobs, including their use as a guard dog.

German Shepherds, along with Rottweilers, Boxers, and other similar breeds, have earned a reputation for being particularly great guard dogs.

German Shepherds were first used to herd livestock, but this job extended beyond that, and German Shepherds would naturally also act as protectors of the livestock. This protection eventually extended beyond their livestock duties, and they were used to guard homes and businesses.

This same genetic history has helped propel the German Shepherd’s use as one of the primary breeds utilized in police, military, and Schutzhund work, all of which utilize those desired guard dog traits of intelligence, athleticism, trainability, and endurance of the German Shepherd.

2. Size

As a large breed dog, the German Shepherd also meets the size requirements for being a good guard dog.

While a dog of any size and breed can potentially alert their owners to any intruders or questionable sounds, the larger size of the German Shepherd acts as a visual deterrent to potential trespassers, further decreasing the chances that they will choose to enter a home or business without permission. Though it’s not quite Great Dane size, the German Shepherd is big enough to cause people to think twice!

German Shepherds can weigh an average of 50 to 90 pounds, and that large size can be very intimidating!

German Shepherds also tend to be muscular, can launch themselves forward quickly, and have a strong bite force which ticks all the boxes for a good guard dog.

3. Personality

German Shepherds are well known for their loyalty and protective instincts for their families and homes. This makes them an excellent choice for use as a guard dog.

Since these traits are all inherent in the breed as a whole, there is a higher chance that your German Shepherd will naturally protect and guard your home and family.

While the German Shepherd can be goofy and lovable with their family (though they do have a reputation for being a “one owner” dog) they can become fierce protectors and guardians when called for.

4. Trainability

While a lot of what goes into a good guard dog is genetics and good breeding, the intelligence and general trainability of the dogs also plays an important role.

German Shepherds have a reputation for being one of the smartest and most easily trainable dog breeds in existence today.

Some people may assume that guard dogs and personal protection dogs require no training, however the opposite is true. Guard dogs require an extensive amount of training in order to make sure they are safe around people and do not pose a risk outside of situations in which they must perform their job.

Since German Shepherds are so smart and learn things quickly (which also makes them a great choice for first-time dog owners), this makes them a great choice to get through those training sessions and show what they are made of.

What Types Of Guard Dog-Type Duties Can A German Shepherd Perform?

German Shepherds can perform several types of guard dog duties, both professionally and for personal use.

Some owners will choose to train their German Shepherd to be used as a personal protection dog, which are specialized guard dogs that go through rigorous training with a professional dog trainer. German Shepherds can also be trained to compete (and excel!) in a dog sport called Schutzhund, which is a sport developed in Germany to test the ideal breed characteristics of the German Shepherd.

On the professional side of things, German Shepherds can be used in police work, military work, and for use as a guard dog at a business location either alongside a professional security guard or on their own.

Of course, German Shepherds will usually naturally want to guard their own home as well, regardless of any training!

What Traits Should I Look For When Considering A German Shepherd For A Guard Dog?

If you’ve decided on a German Shepherd as your guard dog of choice, there are still a few things to consider while conducting your search for a specific dog.

The best traits for a guard dog include athleticism, drive, personality, and overall health and wellness. You’ll also want a German Shepherd that can do well alone for long periods of time since that’s often a part of the guarding process.

When searching for your German Shepherd, look for dogs who are happy and healthy, and who display confidence and an outgoing personality.

Avoid any dogs who display aggression towards other dogs or towards people.

While many people may think that aggression is a characteristic of a good guard dog, this is not the case.

Good guard dogs should not be inherently aggressive towards anything and everything, but should instead have a strong urge and drive to protect their home and family only if called for.

How Do I Train My German Shepherd To Be A Guard Dog?

If you are just looking for your German Shepherd to pull upon their natural protective instincts to guard your home and family when needed, then there’s no specific training you’ll need to do apart from general obedience training, socialization, and impulse control.

You can accomplish this by taking your pup to group classes or hire a private trainer to work with you and your dog in the comfort of your own home.

If you are wanting to train your German Shepherd to be a personal protection dog or you’d like to compete in something like Schutzhund, you’ll need to seek out the services of a professional dog trainer who specializes in those types of training.

If you are wanting to keep your German Shepherd as a guard dog for a business, you should first look at local city or county ordinances on the legalities on keeping a guard dog on commercial property as many locations have restrictions.

You might also be required to receive special handling and training certifications and permits to keep a German Shepherd as a guard dog on your business property.

Check out the video below for an introduction to the sport of Schutzhund, and how they evaluate the German Shepherd’s traits and training:

Things To Keep In Mind If You Are Thinking Of Teaching Your German Shepherd To Be A Guard Dog

Before you get your German Shepherd, it’s important to look at a few technical things that are related to owning a German Shepherd for use as a guard dog.

In many areas, it may actually be illegal to have a guard dog without a permit.

You might also be required to get additional liability insurance coverage for your pup. In addition to the major reasons a German Shepherd may be banned from a rental or housing unit, certain places may also have restrictions on trained guard dogs on their properties.

While the German Shepherd is a family friendly breed if raised properly, if you have trained your German Shepherd to be more than just a family guardian there is always a risk that your German Shepherd injures someone or something outside of their regular guard dog duties.

Can German Shepherds Be Both Guard Dogs And Family Dogs?

German Shepherds can be both a family dog and a guard dog, mainly due to their natural inclination to protect their home and family.

However, if you opt to train your German Shepherd to do more than just what it naturally does, then there is an increased risk of an accidental bite or injury to others, including your own family members, if your German Shepherd receives conflicting information or a miscommunication from its handler.

Do German Shepherds Need To Be Aggressive To Be Good Guard Dogs?

Contrary to popular belief, a German Shepherd does not need to be aggressive to be a good guard dog.

In fact, inherent aggression is generally not a preferred trait in guard dogs because that makes them unpredictable with their handlers and owners.

Proper training, impulse control, and socialization skills are what makes a good guard dog, and German Shepherds who are outwardly aggressive and threatening to anyone and everything should not be used as a guard dog for safety reasons.

Unfortunately many breeds that are often depicted as being guard dogs, including the German Shepherd, have been poorly bred and trained. This neglectful breeding and a lack of responsibility on the owner’s part has led to a lot of these breeds as a whole being labeled as inherently aggressive when they shouldn’t be.

Can German Shepherds Guard More Than Just People And Homes?

German Shepherds have historically been used to guard more than just their homes and families.

Traditionally, these dogs were bred to herd livestock and act as working dogs, so it’s likely that even today the German Shepherd can still be utilized to work with and protect various livestock species and farm animals.

German Shepherds can also be trained to guard gardens, vehicles, objects, and pretty much anything else you may want to have a dog look after!

Is Resource Guarding In German Shepherds Considered A Guard Dog Trait?

Resource guarding is a behavioral issue found within all dogs, including German Shepherds.

It is not considered a trait of a good guard dog and is instead something that should be dealt with by a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

German Shepherds can resource guard food, water, toys, beds, locations, and even people.

If you suspect that your German Shepherd is engaging in resource guarding rather than just being naturally protective, reach out to a local dog trainer to help pinpoint the issue and set up a training plan.

Closing Thoughts

While most people probably aren’t looking to make their German Shepherd a full-time guard dog, they do make a great choice for those that are wanting to protect their homes, families, and businesses.

Even without any formal training, the German Shepherd is likely to protect their household when called for.

There are some risks and legal aspects to having a guard dog, so if you are interested in training your German Shepherd to be a guard dog it’s wise to research your local laws and reach out to a specialized trainer in your area.