Nearly any dog can be trained to protect a home. However, certain dogs have been bred as watchdogs, whose job is to alert their owner of intruders or dangers. Others are bred as guard dogs, whose job is to attack or detain the intruder.

According to the American Kennel Club, "Dogs of the working group were bred to perform such jobs as guarding property, pulling sleds, and performing water rescues. The Doberman pinscher, Siberian husky, and the Great Dane are included in this group to name just a few."

Unfortunately, according to Herb Everett, of Sirius Dog Training in Granby, Mass., some dogs have gotten an undeserved reputation as a result of their breeding, such as pit bulls. "A perfect example is the [pit bull] dog from the old show The Little Rascals. While they are great guard dogs, depending on their training they can be the most lovable, happy-go-lucky dogs around," said Everett. Everett added that certain breeds have become "a lightning rod" for negative impressions, such as German shepherds. "They [German shepherds] were originally bred for herding, not for protection," said Everett.

Everett has been training dogs for 40 years, and said that one of the best watchdogs you can get is a Chihuahua. "They may be a small dog, but they will raise so much hell until they alert you or wake you up," he said. Everett said that "99 percent of intruders want quiet and no distractions. The other one percent will just shoot you and the dog."

Everett emphasized that the training of the dog, how well they are treated, and how good the breeder is will give you the best results for the job you want your dog to perform. Several of the dogs that were taken from Michael Vick, an NFL player convicted in federal court for dogfighting, have been rehabilitated to be service dogs, said Everett.

Service dogs, which Everett said can be most any breed, protect their owners by means of assistance (such as guide dogs for the blind, or hearing impairment dogs), or as a warning system for physical disabilities such as seizures. The writer Malcolm Gladwell said in an article printed in the New Yorker in 2006, "'There are a lot of pit bulls these days who are licensed therapy dogs,' the writer Vicki Hearne points out. 'Their stability and resoluteness make them excellent for work with people who might not like a more bouncy, flibbertigibbet sort of dog. When pit bulls set out to provide comfort, they are as resolute as they are when they fight, but what they are resolute about is being gentle. And, because they are fearless, they can be gentle with anybody.'"

If you have problems with snakes or rodents, Everett said that a dachshund is your best choice. "Those little guys have a big ego, which they need to chase something like a badger underground," said Everett. He added that every type of terrier was bred to chase pests, particularly rodents, underground. "Terriers were bred during the time of the plague to chase and kill the disease-carrying rats," said Everett.

So, when considering a dog for any type of protection, it is best to research the breed you are interested in to make an informed choice. Everett said that an excellent resource for determining the best breed for the job you want them to do is the American Kennel Club, whose website,, specifies traits for every type of purebred dog. Remember: Choosing a dog for protection isn't just about the breed. How you train the dog weighs in just as heavily.

Cris Carl originally wrote this story for It is reprinted with permission here.

Related stories on MNN:

Best dog breeds for home protection
Sometimes the dog with the toughest reputation isn't the best choice.