A New Security Measure, part 2

August 23, 2011


How We Chose Our Guard Dog

I have been researching dogs for defense for a while now.  The reason I began looking was to protect our livestock, especially poultry, which disappear at an annoyingly regular rate.

I began with “livestock guardian dogs” which typically are Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherds in our area, with the occasional Akbash, Maremma, and Komondor mixed in.

The more I researched them, the less certain I was that they would meet ALL our needs.  This is what I was looking for:

  1. watchful, protective, and brave without being overly aggressive
  2. bonds well with humans, but good with other animals also
  3. few if any known health problems in the breed
  4. no high maintenance grooming
  5. safe around children, including our children’s friends
  6. not prone to wandering; loyal

Once I had used those criteria to sort through the breed choices, one stood out among the rest- the Mastiff.

The Mastiff

Mastiffs have been around a long time.  They have been further bred in many areas for particular characteristics.  The Bullmastiff was created by crossing English Mastiffs with Bulldogs.  They are shorter but very stocky.  The Brazilian (Fila) Mastiff line has Bloodhound in its line.

We chose an English Mastiff.  They are known for their patience and gentleness with children.  They are also deeply devoted to their “families” (all people and animals they are raised with).  They are loyal and not very prone to wandering.  This is important since we want to be able to leave him loose to patrol.

They are reported to be intelligent and discerning.  They are able to “read” their owners actions to determine if strangers are welcome or not.

They have strong instincts to protect courageously, but are not considered “aggressive” by nature.  They don’t bark much, so when they do, you will know it needs investigating.

So far, our little pup is winning the hearts of everyone except the cats and other dogs, but I think they will come around.

Purebreed vs. Mixed Breed;  Puppy vs. Adult

One important thing I learned in my search – while it is a great thing to get a dog from a “rescue” or “animal control” center, there are some wild cards there.  You don’t know how they have been treated or even their true parentage, so you can’t be sure what you will get.  A lot of a dog’s nature comes from how it’s raised, but some definitely comes from it’s genetic background.

Years ago, we tried to adopt Great Pyrenees from a rescue group. They were adults. The first one was a female and she considered it her mission to kill our Dane mixes. We took her back and got a male.  He never did bond to us. Eventually, he wandered off and, though we put up posters and looked for weeks, we never found him.

Raising a dog from puppyhood seems to be the best way to go.  Although we have always been willing to adopt mixed breed animals as pets, for a “working dog” that we will depend on, we were willing to pay a bit for a purebreed.

I don’t mean to discount the value of a good mutt, though.  There are a few pitfalls in purebreds- the main one being the possibility of a weakened gene pool from over breeding.  Some breeds are known to have hip dysplasia, back problems, and so on.  The “hybrid vigor” you get from a mixed breed can certainly provide a great healthy animal.

The bottom line is that a dog that alerts you to danger, deters would-be bad guys, and is a good companion is a valuable asset.

Got a favorite guardian dog? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below. 

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7 Comments on “A New Security Measure, part 2”

  1. Beck Says:

    I think the only trait my beagles have is that they are loyal. That may be because they live in a fenced yard. The only one they usually bark at would be Jenny and that is because she brings a treat each time she comes. They do follow the scent of the squirrels that come into the yard when they are asleep. Since they are both pound puppies, they love to be petted and assume that any visitor wants to pet them. They are easy going and I love them so I guess that is what matters.

    Dani was a great watch dog and would let me know if a car came down the drive. Then she would “kiss” the visitor. Annabel is still a puppy so her talents (other than being extremely loveable) are yet to be determined. Gotta love my furry babies.

    Watchdogs – no; great companions – yes.


  2. Laura Says:


    Don’t underestimate their abilities to drown the intruder in slobbery kisses!


  3. Laura Says:

    I forgot to mention that Zeus won out as the puppy’s name. A powerful name for a (will-be) mighty dog! Thanks to all that voted.


  4. Tom Gardner Says:

    I am a K-9 police veteran from the military and have worked with several breeds in that capacity. The German Shephard is the way to go in my opinion. They are loyal, smart, family friendly and make a great protector when needed. A female is my preference as they are typically more family friendly, less apt to wander and can provide a litter of future stock to share with neighbors or to generate a trading stock. A pup versus grown adult is better as well because you can train them the way you want from an early age which increases loyalty and a willingness to protect family memers that they grow up with.


    • Laura Says:

      Thanks for your input, Tom. I do hear only good things about German Shepherds from people who have owned them Some good friends recently got one and report she has great instincts even without any training.

      The main reason we shied away from one was because I have repeatedly read that they are very prone to hip problems that we would not be able to address in a situation without advanced vet care.

      We are happy with our English Mastiff. He gives people pause when they drive up because he is already about 130 lbs at 8 months. The breeder said to start looking for protective instincts after about 9 months and to expect an extended puppyhood. He has been much less destructive than other puppies we have had, too. That’s a definite plus since he could really do some damage. We are pleased that he seems to have no inclination to wander, either. He stays very close to the house even though he is loose on our acreage (set well back from the road).

      I agree about getting a puppy versus an adult. We have one dog that we got as a rescued young adult. She likes us certainly and enjoys her life here, but she does not have the attachment all the other dogs we’ve gotten as puppies have. She obviously considers herself an independent dog who lives with us rather than a member of our pack. She’s more likely to defend what she thinks is hers rather than people. Some if it may be her breed background too, though.

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Is there any particular program you’d recommend that “regular people” (vs. police or military) can take their dogs to for training?


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