Are German Shepherds Good Guard Dogs?


There are various reasons why dog owners look for a good guard dog or protection dog. Dogs have served as protectors to humans for countless years. Some breeds of dogs are more suited to this role as a guardian than others.

Doberman Pinschers, Bull Mastiffs, and Bouviers are often recommended as good guard dogs. But what about German Shepherds – are they good guard dogs?

German Shepherds make excellent guard dogs and personal protection dogs, as they are naturally loyal, protective, strong, athletic, intelligent, and trainable. They do however require early socialization, proper training, and a confident owner in order to be a well-adjusted guard dog or personal protection dog.

There is a difference between guard and protection dogs. German Shepherds are one of the best breeds for personal protection and working guard dogs because of their innate breed characteristics.

German Shepherd laying in grass

The History Of German Shepherds And The Resulting Breed Characteristics

Whenever you discuss specific dog breeds’ behavioral characteristics, it is enlightening to investigate the breed history. Most breeds were developed to serve a particular purpose, and so specific traits were selectively bred into these dogs.

After years and even centuries, these characteristics are deeply embedded into the genetic make-up of the breeds we see today.

German Shepherds are an old breed of dogs. They were first bred in the late 1800s by a German military officer whose ambition was to develop the perfect sheep herding dog.

As herders, German Shepherds worked closely with their masters, often spending hours with only this one person. They also acted as protectors of the flocks they herded. Thus, German Shepherds needed to be intelligent, trainable, loyal, protective, strong, obedient, confident, and reliable.

Related: Are German Shepherds Good Livestock Guardians?

When the industrial revolution hit, it significantly reduced the need for herding dogs. Instead of allowing this remarkable breed to dwindle into insignificance, German Shepherds were selected to form part of the German police dog training program because the characteristics they developed as herders were perfectly suited to police work as well.

Related: Why Are German Shepherds Good Police Dogs?

The Difference Between A Guard Dog And A Personal Protection Dog

Guard dogs are working dogs who are naturally intelligent and protective, willing and capable of performing a specific protective function for which they have been specially trained.

Personal protection dogs are family pets who are naturally loyal and protective, willing and capable of defending their homes and families from danger.

Typically, the characteristics that make a good personal protection dog also make a good working guard dog and vice versa. German Shepherds possess the characteristics required for a personal protection dog and a working guard dog. The difference comes in with training.

German Shepherds As Guard Dogs

As working guard dogs, German Shepherds will receive specialized and intensive training, which allows them to work as alarm dogs, sentry dogs, and or attack dogs. The nature of the German Shepherd means that they work best with a handler.

Alarm Guard Dogs

These working dogs have intimidating barks, which they use to deter potential threats and alert people to these potential threats.

They do not typically take further action, such as engaging the threat. German Shepherds have excellent hearing and a deep, loud, and scary bark, making them ideal candidates for alarm dog duties.

Sentry Guard Dogs

These working dogs are typically posted on large properties like farms, warehouses, shipyards, etc. They roam over this property, keeping watch for potential threats.

Some dogs may do this on their own, but as mentioned earlier, German Shepherds work best with a handler. Sentry guard dogs will take action when faced with a threat.

Attack Guard Dogs

These working dogs are trained to attack on command. They need to work closely with a trained handler who can give the attack and cease commands.

German Shepherds are suited to the job of attack dog. Attack-trained German Shepherds are not and should not be kept as pets. Additionally, German Shepherds who are bought as pets should not be given attack training.

German Shepherds are very intelligent, so they are capable of being trained to a high level.

Additionally, they are eager to please their owners, trainers, and handlers whom they have bonded, making them more willing and easier to be trained than other more stubborn or less human-orientated dogs.

Training a German Shepherd to be a working guard dog needs to be done by a person who has been trained to handle a working guard dog.

German Shepherds As Personal Protection Dogs

German Shepherds Are Naturally Loyal

Their history as herders means that German Shepherds are adapted to working and living closely with only one person. German Shepherds will attach themselves to their chosen person with whole-hearted and enduring devotion.

German Shepherds Are Naturally Protective

As herders, one of their functions was protection, but their protective instincts are not limited to livestock.

A German Shepherd will fiercely and faithfully stand as protector to their chosen person and their shared home. Their protective instincts will overcome their fear in almost every situation, and they will defend you with their lives.

German Shepherds Are Strong and Athletic

Some dogs are naturally loyal and protective, but they don’t have the physical strength to effectively be good guard dogs.

This is not a problem for German Shepherds. Their strength and athleticism mean that they are fully capable of following through on any threat that they make.

German Shepherds Are Intelligent and Trainable

German Shepherds should receive obedience training. It is unwise to have a protective and strong dog who is untrained.

Related: German Shepherd Training Guide: All You Need to Know

A German Shepherd’s owner needs to be able to call them off, calm them down, and control their protectors.

Luckily, German Shepherds are intelligent and trainable. They thrive on the quality time with their owners that training necessitates and are incredibly eager to please their favorite person. They also benefit from the mental and physical stimulation provided by training.

German Shepherds Look Intimidating

German Shepherds are typically recognized on sight, and they are associated with their functions as police, protection, and guard dogs.

Just watch this video below to see a great example of just how precisely a German Shepherd can be trained as a guarding and protection dog:

Coupled with their stature, wolf-like appearance, and resonating bark, the mere presence of a German Shepherd can be a deterrent to intruders and attackers.   

How to Train a German Shepherd Into the Role of Guard Dog

Socialization is crucial for German Shepherds to be well-mannered, well-adjusted, confident, manageable, and happy.

During the socialization period of their puppyhood (4-12 weeks of age), they need to be exposed to different situations; a wide variety of people, differing in size, gender, race, etc.; other dogs and pets; and sounds, sights, smells, and tactile stimuli.

Related: How To Socialize Your German Shepherd

Training, regular exercise, and quality time will ensure that a German Shepherd is properly stimulated both mentally and physically. This will prevent boredom, destructive behavior and strengthen the bond between a German Shepherd and its owner.

German Shepherds require owners who are confident, strong, and assertive. They need to insist on holding the role of alpha in the home and should be able to carry out this role.

If the owner does not take on the part of the pack leader, then the German Shepherd will, and their territorialism, loyalty, and protective instincts can become unmanageable and problematic.

Final Thoughts

German Shepherds naturally possess the characteristics that make an excellent working guard dog and an excellent personal protection dog. They are loyal, protective, strong, athletic, intelligent, and trainable. They also look and sound intimidating.

Socialization, training, regular exercise, and affection will ensure that your German Shepherd is well-adjusted, confident, happy, and ready for its role as guardian.

German Shepherds should only be trained as working guard dogs by people who have been trained to handle them. German Shepherd working guard dogs, especially those that have received attack training, are not pets and should not be kept under pet conditions.

However, these German Shepherds are not robots, and they still have emotional needs, which a good handler or trainer should be willing and capable of providing.

Personal protection German Shepherds should never receive attack training. They should receive obedience training, and they can be trained as sentries or alarm dogs to a certain extent. But attack training is highly dangerous for a family pet as it requires and encourages a certain level of aggression that is not suited to a family home.

German Shepherds are naturally protective and don’t need guard dog training to make them excellent protectors. They attach strongly to their family and to one person in particular, and they are deeply devoted to pleasing and protecting these people.

Hunter Reed

I've owned and trained German Shepherds and a variety of other large and medium breed dogs for over 20 years now - Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bull Terriers - just to name a few. Myself, along with my team of highly experienced canine professionals, strive to bring you the best and most useful information to help you raise your dog the right way. Read my story here.

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