As the tallest and among the largest of dogs, it is natural to wonder, “Are Great Danes good guard dogs?” Where do they fit in with iconic patrol dogs like Doberman Pinschers or Shutzhund-trained protection dogs like German Shepherds? Danes may seem too goofy or amiable to be effective guard dogs.
However, their history and physique make guard dog training a viable option for creating an excellent guard dog.
Great Danes generally make better watchdogs than guard sentries. With a deep booming bark and giant size, the Great Dane serves as an effective and natural deterrent to would-be trespassers, intruders, and burglars.
With a few distinctive personality types showing in different family lines, some Danes retain the guarding instincts of their ancestors who were fierce protectors of estates. These individuals are most receptive to guard dog training.
History of the Great Dane As a Guard Dog
The Great Dane was bred from dogs used to hunt wild hogs in Germany in the 1800s. As in other countries, the ideal boar hunter historically was a Molosser-sighthound cross.
Danes likely originated from Mastiff-Wolfhound mixes which were more ferocious, shorter, and heavier than present-day Great Danes. These dogs proved to be effective guard dogs when they came inside at night.
Eventually, as hog hunting in Europe fell out of style and wild boar populations fell, the earliest Great Danes became more useful for guarding the estates of nobles. For a short period, Great Danes were considered among the most dangerous dogs.
The late 1800s and early 1900s saw a shift in breeding as Great Danes gained duties accompanying carriages. Breed enthusiasts began to select Danes for elegance and companionship as dog shows became a higher priority.
As of the 2020s, Great Danes tend to be friendly, easygoing, and affectionate. Most of them have lost their ferocity and strong working, hunting, and guarding drives.
What makes a dog good for guarding people and property?
You may wonder what makes some dog breeds more suitable for guard duties among the different canid varieties out there.
Guard dogs have several physical traits that are necessary for them to carry out their tasks. Moreover, they must have a suitable temperament and specialized cognitive skills.
- Medium-large to giant-size – must be big enough to back up their bark, but giant-sized dogs often lack agility and speed
- Intelligence – must be able to make
- Discernment and restraint – a guard dog is required to assess true threats and know when to use physical force
- Fearless yet level-headed disposition
- Guarding instinct is ideal – a few breeds are born with a natural drive to protect their owners as well as property, territory, and household members; such dogs need little if any training to guard against intruders
- A high degree of alertness as well as a strong working drive
- Speed and mobility – fast movements gain attention and respect from adversaries as well as make pursuits effective
- Intimidating Appearance and demeanor – a guard dog should rarely have to be an enforcer
Great Danes still feature among the breeds recognized for their guarding abilities.
- German Shepherd
- Great Dane
- Cane Corso
- Giant Schnauzer
- Belgian Shepherds – all three varieties of which Malinois is most common
- Mastiff – specifically French (Dogue de Bordeaux) and African (Boer Boel)
- Livestock guardians – Great Pyrenees, Kuvasz, Anatolian Shepherd, Komondor
Reasons Not to Use Great Danes as Guard Dogs
While Great Danes can be excellent guard dogs, they are not the first choice of many owners for several reasons.
- More expensive to feed than other breeds
- Difficulties of training
- Not as protective as some other breeds
- Smaller breeds tend to have better mobility
How are Great Danes good guard dogs?
Any Dane with sufficient courage and boldness appropriate for the breed can undergo professional training and learn to guard the home and its occupants.
- Large and powerful – 28 to 34 inches tall, 100 to 200 pounds
- Strong bite force – 240 PSI and up
- Can live in a small space for their size – a Great Dane makes a spectacular guard dog for an apartment or condominium
Why Great Danes Make Better Watchdogs
Your Great Dane will not likely be the natural guard dog that a GSD or Rottweiler is. Like other companion dogs, many Great Danes are friendly, although most are somewhat reserved in their displays of affection to strangers.
They are often protective, but most do not instinctively know how to behave in a threatening situation.
No matter how bold or protective a dog is, most will back down from a fight without formal training. Further complicating matters with the Great Dane’s guarding ability are the lines that produce timid and shy dogs.
These dogs have a high sense of self-preservation, and no amount of training will ever change that.
Finally, poor training can create a dangerous liability rather than a reliable guard dog. Despite their size and resistance to training,
Great Danes are sensitive and easily confused by a raised voice or harsh correction. Moreover, most pet owners lack the skills or knowledge to properly train a guard dog. Great Danes are vulnerable to becoming aggressive and indiscriminate biters.
How does a Great Dane become a good guard dog?
Making a good guard dog out of a Dane takes a lot of preparation, research, and dedication. You can search for an adult that has already received protection training, but this route can be challenging.
Most trained guard dogs will be breeds other than the Great Dane. Your alternative is to train your dog with the assistance of a trainer and perhaps even a behaviorist.
You can start with a puppy, which is far more difficult and time-consuming but can create a more unbreakable bond.
Ideal Personality of Great Dane Guard Dog
A guard dog needs to be self-assured and fearless. You can pick the bravest and most outgoing puppy, but you may not experience the full spectrum of her temperament until she is 18 months old.
Some personality traits will be affected by how a puppy goes through various fear periods and how much socialization you are able to provide.
Professional training can play a huge role in building your pup’s confidence. It is a good idea to perform several personality tests on your puppy as she matures to constantly test her suitability for guard duty.
Ultimately, your Great Dane’s personality becomes more important depending on what level of guarding you want.
- Watchdog – alerts to intruders or suspicious occurrences with barking and body language
- Minor guard – patrols property – warns off intruders or trespassers
- Guard dog – warns off strangers and will attack if warranted
- Personal protection dog – will guard and protect you at all times
- Attack dog – a specialized dog that usually has no place in the average home; use is more appropriate for military operatives; not safe pets
Making a Guard Dog Out of a Dane Puppy
Starting with a Great Dane puppy can reward you with a loyal guard dog. However, you can expend a lot of time and effort with no guarantees your Dane will guard you at all.
Working with an expert every step of the process is vital to your success in raising an effective guard dog that is no longer naturally bred to protect you.
- Research breeders that show an interest in protection dogs or express that they raise guard dog lines
- Select a puppy – state what you are looking for and let the breeder guide you; chances are, the breeder knows their puppies and can pick one with the correct personality even at an age as young as 9 to 12 weeks
- Socialize your pup – this is a very important and often-neglected step; your goal is a guard dog which is not an attack animal; your pup must learn to discern threats accurately and react to an appropriate degree
- Train your pup – puppy classes can help the socialization process as well as instill basic obedience
- Enroll your puppy in elite guard dog training classes or hire a professional – you can begin training yourself at about eight weeks of age, but most people are ill-equipped for canine guard training
Keep in mind that training a guard dog can take 18 to 24 months.
Acquiring a Trained Great Dane Guard Dog
Although not as common as a German Shepherd or Rottweiler, you can find juvenile Great Danes that are in the mid-stages of guard dog training. You can also find adults that are nearly or completely trained in personal protection. These dogs have several advantages over trying to raise a guard animal from puppyhood.
- Save a lot of time – trained guard dogs are often a few weeks to a couple of months from being finished dogs
- Predictability – you will not know if a Dane will be suitable for guard work until she is several months old
- Expense – a trained guard dog can command a purchase price of several thousand dollars; if you get lucky, you may save a few thousand bucks by raising a puppy
There are also disadvantages to the fully-trained adult guard dog.
- A short lifespan (6 to 10 years)means you may not have your dog for very long
- Bonding with you may be difficult and take time – likely to go smoother than with some breeds like the Shepherd
- You will have to adjust to the dog’s training, initially
Most owners do not need their Danes to do much more than what these dogs are doing to guard the doors. Moreover, most Great Danes are better suited as effective watchdogs rather than guard dogs.
The two dogs represented are formidable even if a would-be home invader cannot see them.
If someone threatening does enter the home, these dogs would be intimidating and possibly would attack with provocation. The above facts assume neither of the dogs has formal training.
This is a young dog undergoing bite training, a common foundation tactic for personal protection work. As you can see, Great Danes with the right personality types take quite readily and proficiently to this line of work.