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.
The more I researched them, the less certain I was that they would meet ALL our needs. This is what I was looking for:
- watchful, protective, and brave without being overly aggressive
- bonds well with humans, but good with other animals also
- few if any known health problems in the breed
- no high maintenance grooming
- safe around children, including our children’s friends
- 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.
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.