Guard dogs have been used for thousands of years and have provided moral and practical support for their owners against all manner of predators. Some have been used as living warning bells, with their attentive attitudes and shrill barks warning their masters of approaching trouble, while others stand toe-to-toe with wolves, lions and other fierce creatures seeking an easy meal. Regardless of what you need a dog for, the thoughtful prepper can do some research and find just the right breed for their needs. We’re going to look at one of the most common needs for preppers, a guard dog that can help protect you and your family after a disaster strikes.
Disclaimer: Dogs are descended from some of the most powerful predators on the planet, and even thousands of years of domestication have not completely removed their wild instincts. As such, you need to know how to train your chosen breed so that it does not attack innocents, to ensure a steady and even temperament, and to keep it from being destructive. Always check your local laws regarding the size and kinds of dogs you may be permitted to have, and whether or not you are permitted to allow a dog to guard you with tooth and claw.
Eliminating the obvious
Before we dive into some guardian breeds, let’s eliminate some of the others that are simply unusable to guard you:
- Animals too small to protect. Let’s face it, no matter how loyal and protective your Dachshund (wiener dog) is, very few humans or dangerous animals are going to be frightened off by it. The David vs. Goliath scenario applies to people, but a dog which must rely on sheer brute strength to overcome an opponent will not have that luxury.
- Animals that require frequent medical care or other aids. Obviously this can apply to almost any breed if the dog itself is sickly or weak, but some breeds such as the Chihuahua are just genetically predisposed towards needing greater medical care. Generally speaking, animals that are still bred to work rather than only as pets or show animals still have a rugged immune system and body structure.
By eliminating these two kinds of dog breeds, you can narrow down your choices and make a more educated decision.
Obviously a list of breeds won’t do much for you without some criteria to decide between them, so ask yourself a few questions to narrow your choices still further.
Firstly, what are you wanting to guard? Some dogs were bred to be left with a herd of sheep or goats, acting independently and without much human guidance for large parts of their lives. These would make for excellent livestock dogs, but their independent natures would make it harder to train them for guarding only humans in an urban or town environment. On the flipside there are some dogs that make for great personal protectors but need more human guidance or companionship than you might want to give an outdoor livestock guardian.
Second, how much room do you have for the dog to roam? Some dogs were made to stick close to people and be willing to live in a smaller and more confined domain, while some (particularly hardcore livestock dogs) were designed to wander across acres and acres of land at will. If you lived in a 1/4 acre land plot, your wandering dog might just decide to claim the whole neighborhood as his protectorate so be sure to take space into account!
Third, are you experienced enough to handle a given temperament? The more independent or ornery the breed, the more assertive you will need to be. This has nothing to do with the size of the animal vs. you, as there are tiny women who can command powerfully independent animals and big manly men who let their tiny dogs walk all over them. It’s all about your own temperament and willingness to treat the dog as a useful, productive member of the family rather than just a pet. Some particularly willful breeds are simply not recommended for even the most eager beginner, so take that into account as well.
Fourth, consider legal and insurance-related implications. For good or ill, some jurisdictions and insurance companies are det-set against certain breeds of dog. The Pit Bull, Rottweiler, and German Shepherd breeds, among others, have acquired certain reputations that could make them illegal to own in your area or just increase your insurance premiums. If it’s worth the extra cost by all means pay the fee and own an “ill-favored” breed since most of them just need a caring owner to function well, but know what you’re getting into.
Finally, what kind of lifespan do you want? Generally speaking, the smaller the dog the longer it lives though there are exceptions. The Great Pyrenees for example is a massive dog, but it can also live for up to 10-12 years in some cases which is quite long-lived for a dog that reaches 120 pounds. A longer lifespan can make for longer utility as a guarding dog particularly after a disaster when you may not be able to get another easily. On the other hand, it may also limit your choices somewhat for only a year or two of extended life.
Consider these questions and their implications in your life, and make sure that you aren’t downplaying any negatives or forgetting any positives in your household. Once you’ve got a pretty good answer for these questions, check out the different breeds part 2 of this series!
Are guard dogs a good investment to you? What answers did you give to the questions above? Let us know in the comments below!