All dogs have a pack instinct, which means that to some degree every dog is naturally protective. However, some dogs specialize in protection and have much stronger instincts for protection and are much sensitive to perceived threats. Man has bred dogs for a variety of jobs over the years, and protection is one of the most important roles. Protective breeds vary in size, character and habits, but all are naturally courageous, loyal and watchful.
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German and Belgian shepherds were originally bred to protect sheep, but police and security forces have tapped into their intelligence, agility and protective nature to turn them into excellent people protectors. Rottweilers were originally bred for guarding cattle, but are now commonly used for home security due to their calmness, confidence and size. The ultimate people protector has to be Doberman pinscher. This breed was created specifically for people protection by Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector who needed a dog to keep him safe from thieves.
Breeds that protect livestock typically have a number of traits in common, including thick coats to protect against the wind and high intelligence. Notable flock protecting dogs include German shepherds, akbash dogs, Bernese mountain dogs, kangal dogs and central Asian shepherd dogs. Each of these breeds is capable of living in cold, windy conditions, but are also quite suitable as pets if given proper training.
The greater Swiss mountain dog, hovawart and Newfoundland are three examples of dogs that have specialist skills as well as general protective instincts. The greater Swiss mountain dog is resistant to cold weather and snow, making him an ideal rescue dog. The hovawart is very adept at search as well as rescue. The Newfoundland is a formidable swimmer and often works as a water rescue dog as well as an all-purpose protector of home and family.
Watch dogs are different than guard dogs. Their main job is to alert their owner to intruders and threats to the home, rather than tackling the threat themselves. For this reason, alertness, a loud bark and great hearing are more valuable than physical strength and courage. Some smaller breeds that make excellent watch dogs include chihuahuas, French bulldogs, schnauzers and miniature pinschers. What they lack in brute force, they more than make up for in attitude.
By Simon Foden
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About the Author
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.