Guard Dog Breeds

The guard dog breeds are the gentle but formidable giants of the working dogs. They often go unnoticed. They are not as flashy as the herding dogs and demand very little and there are fewer breeds to pick from.

Original livestock guardian dogs were village and country dogs who accompanied the shepherd and flock on their annual migrations and by doing so helped to guard the flock. Dogs that were detrimental to the well being of the flock were not kept.

Today, in North America, we see guard dog breeds with watered down traits which is a sad thing to witness. Perhaps this is due to our kind nature, smaller holdings, and less sever lifestyle. Nonetheless, we're still asking our dogs to go up against some sever predators so we need to retain the strong guardian and loyalty traits in these breeds.


List of Guardian Dog Breeds

The guard dog breeds we know today bear the names given them from the countries and regions they originated from. If one were to travel to some of these regions you would find several more than the few breeds listed below. Sheep did not originate in North America and neither did any of the livestock guardian breeds.

The more common dog breeds in North America include several of the white dog breeds such as Maremma, Kuvasz, Akbash, Komondor, and Great Pyrenees.

Other not so common breeds include the Anatolian (becoming more popular), Ovcharka, Pyrenean Mastiff and Sarplaninac.

  • Maremma Sheepdog thought to be one of the breeds descended from the earliest of livestock guardian dogs. Originated in Italy. A cool headed dog; works in a variety of situations, not as common in range situations.
  • Great Pyrenees Dog Of French origin so named for the Pyrenean Mountain Region. A common breed for work and as pets so extra caution is warranted when looking for a sound working dog. A cool and level headed dog. Often seen working as a general farm dog.
  • Anatolian Shepherd Originated in Turkey, although not recognized as a breed there as it is in North America. A hot headed dog with great endurance, determination and boldness. Often utilized on large tracts of land.
  • Akbash Origins in Turkey. Actually a white variation of the Anatolian Shepherd. Possesses great stamina; often utilized on large tracts of land. Very independent minded. Purebred Akbash are less common in North America.
  • Kangal A third Turkish breed and now considered a sepereate breed from the Anatolian and Akbash. A formidable and hot headed dog, also with great endurance and determination. Often utilized on large tracts of land. Not recommended for first time dog owner.
  • Komondor Hungarian breed noted for its' corded coat. Its' name means sober or angry and the breed is noted for having an aggression streak. Easily triggered by stimulus or threat. Not as active about patroling as other breeds. Care of the coat is necessary to keep the dog in good health.
  • Kuvasz known as a Hungarian breed but with early origins in Tibet. A bit smaller in size and sensitive in nature. Loyal and suspicious at the same time. Not commonly seen in North America.
  • Tatra Mountain Sheepdog (Owczarek Podhalanski) A breed with origins in Poland. Reputed to be a very intuitive dog. A cool and level headed dog. More common as a farm or shepherd dog, not on open range land.
  • Russian Sheepdog (Owtcharka or Ovcarka) As it's name implies this is a breed with origins in Russia. Reputed as being territorial guardian dogs as a result of selected crossbreeding. Caution is warranted when searching out a livestock guardian. Loyal to people.
  • Sarplaninatz (Sarplaninac) A breed originating in Yugoslavia. A determined and loyal dog with a long history as livestock guardians. There are only a few Sarplaninatz dogs in North America.

The reason there are various breeds is because there are various people living in various regions. In very general terms different dog breeds developed because there was always need for specific traits to help get the work done in that locale. Hence the different breeds that show up among the various cultures and regions.

In general and regardless of breed, these dogs have a very independent nature. In other words they are stubborn, which can make them frustrating to deal with. They are intelligent in a thinking and conniving way. So although they may not be the quickest to learn new pet tricks, they will problem solve. They are also very brave dogs who can pack a lot of courage. They will be quick to climb the social ladder and assume the leader position if you don't assume the role yourself.

While we can make these general assumptions on the traits you're likely to encounter in livestock guardian dogs, selecting a guard dog breed is a really a matter of what you need and who you are.



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The Book Livestock Protection Dogs, Selection, Care and Training by Orysia Dawydiak and David Sims provides thorough descriptions of the breeds and their working characteristics.