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Best breeds for attack work

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

The internet is filled with articles listing "top 10" breeds for protection or guarding purposes. The problem I have with most of these articles is the lack of understanding on the author's part when it comes to the nature of the job the dog is expected to do.

There are three different types of attack work a dog can be used for;

1. Personal protection/self-defence

2. Guarding/home security

3. Police/military

4. Bite sports

Any person looking to buy a dog for attack work should have a very clear understanding of the differences between these three disciplines, and the kind of dog that would be most efficient at each of them:

1. Personal Protection/ Self-defence

The purpose of this type of dog is primarily to protect the person and/or family. The work is defensive in nature and the dog is used for self-defensive purposes. The instinct to protect is based in the dog's natural instinct to defend & protect "the pack". It is what we refer to as "protective aggression".

This is an example of protective aggression:

2. Guarding/ Security

The purpose of the guard dog is as the title suggests, to guard the territory. This work is also defensive in nature and is based in the dog's territorial instincts. This type of aggression does not involve motivation to protect the owner or family, rather the focus is on protecting the territory. This is what we refer to as "territorial aggression".

This is an example of territorial aggression:

3. Police/ Military

These dogs operate primarily in what we call "prey aggression". It is based in the dog's instinct to chase, catch and kill the prey. This type of work is offensive in nature and also does not involve motivation to protect the owner. These types of dogs are required for jobs such as police and military that involve a lot of chasing, or "hunting" for the suspect.

This is also the type of dog that would excel at bite sports that require a strong prey drive.

This is an example of prey aggression:

Many dogs may have a combination of two or all of the above instincts. The selection of the breed for a specific job depends on which one of these instincts (be it protective, territorial or prey), are the strongest in the dog.

With that said, here are my preferred breeds for each of the above applications. I will give the preferred breed for each vocation, followed by other breeds that could be considered and reason why they are not ideal.

Best breed(s) for Personal Protection/ Self-Defence

1. The German Shepherd

Herding breeds typically do well in this role since they have been bred to protect the flock against predators.

The German Shepherd's natural protective instincts, intelligence, versatility, loyalty, devotion and courage make it the the most suitable breed for personal protection purposes. German Shepherds come in two main varieties:

Show lines

Many sport trainers have little good to say about the West German show lines. In reality these dogs can make fantastic protectors, provided the breeder has done his job in ensuring healthy, stable genetics. The defensive instincts in show lines tend to be more pronounced than the prey instincts. Personal protection (being a defensive application of the dog), requires a dog with strong defensive instincts, combined with strong nerves. Therefor the show lines do well in this role. They are also calmer and everyday living is a breeze with this type of shepherd.

Working lines

The working lines have a much stronger prey instinct than the show line. They are busy and energetic. They will still make great protectors, but the owner needs to be aware that the dog will require a lot of stimulation and exercise.

Other breeds that may be considered for this role are:

2. Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherd

The Belgian & Dutch dogs are high energy, high drive working dogs and can be burdensome to the average person. They require a job, which most people will not be able to provide for them.

An excerpt from an article by Alan Biesman-Simons states that 99% of (shepherd) dogs bred are purchased by people as companions and they require:

" a dog that is obedient, manageable, tolerant of children, accepting of their guests, but at the same time protective of their property and the family when required. People want a dog that is fun to have around but that is not neurotic and destructive of their property. They want a dog that comes when they call it, doesn’t bark for no reason and is confident and outgoing."

For this reason the Belgians & Dutchies do not make ideal family or personal protection dogs. They are too high in drive and become neurotic and destructive if not worked with on a regular basis.

Rottweilers can make good protectors, however they tend to have a dominant temperament. If they do not receive strong leadership this can lead to "pack members" being attacked, especially those viewed as "beneath them" in rank. For this reason I do not consider them ideal.

Other breeds that may be considered are Dobermans and Giant Schnauzers, although my experience with these breeds are limited and I cannot speak to their effectiveness as protectors.

Cane Corso's have been known to be good protectors, but their large size make them difficult to travel with. A personal protection dog being one that protects the person, should be able to move around with the owner. For this reason, over sized dogs are not ideal for personal protection.

Best breed(s) for Guarding/ Home security

In addition to having a strong territorial instinct, guardians need to have size. Their job is to protect the property. Often times the size and appearance of a dog is enough to deter a criminal. These are only examples of what I would consider good types of breeds for guarding purposes:

1. Rottweilers, Boerboels, Mastiffs & Cane Corso's make good guard dogs due to their size and strong territorial instincts.

2. German Shepherds and Dobermans can be used in this role, however they are more likely to "corner" and hold the trespasser until the owner arrives.

Other working types such as the Malinois and Dutch Shepherds have too much energy and drive for the average home owner, however they may work in a farm environment where they have sufficient space. As with the German dogs, they are more likely to corner & hold rather than bite. For these reasons they are not ideal in this role.

Best breed(s) for Police/ Military

1. Belgian Malinois

The Malinois' strong prey instincts, working drive and athleticism make them the perfect breed for police work.

Tied with the Malinois are the working line German Shepherds, and the Dutch Shepherds.

Rottweilers, Dobermans, Giant Schnauzers and show line German Shepherds have been used in the past, but the more modern types lack the intensive prey drive required to do this job well. For this reason they do not make ideal police dogs.

The aim of this article is simply to suggest the ideal breed for each of the above roles. This does not mean you can't use other breeds. It simply means that certain breeds will be more suited to certain roles, than others. It is up to the buyer to be aware of these differences; know what the dog is primarily going to be used for, and select your breed accordingly.

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