Best Family Watchdog: Big Things Come in Small Packages

Posted by Samuel Nieves on

If I say family watch dog, what do you think of? Chances are what immediately pops into your head is something like a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd. A large dog that looks as if he could turn an intruder into small manageable pieces. Your basic junkyard dog, essentially, although possibly with less froth. Which is wrong, or at least incomplete. Guard dogs and watch dogs are actually two different things. Although there is some overlap, you want to understand the two terms during your breed research to ensure your family brings in the ideal family companion. There are a lot of great dogs for either role, but they are different roles. If you're thinking of large, powerful dogs, probably colored black and tan, what you're thinking of are guard dogs (Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Dobermans, German Shepherds etc). A guard dog is one that is bred to be able to intimidate and incapacitate intruders and other unwanted guests. By necessity, they need to be powerful, smart and well trained. A watchdog, on the other hand, is there to make sure you're aware of whatever it thinks is out of the ordinary. They are not there to attack intruders, but to serve as a kind of living alarm system. If you want a good watchdog, your dog needs to be smart and alert. They don't need to be big or scary, because that isn't their job. Any dog can essentially be a watchdog. All it takes is a set of ears and ability to bark, really. (Blind dogs can make for great watchdogs too!) If you have a dog, they're probably already serving as a kind of watchdog. Dogs are by their nature territorial and pack oriented, which means that if they see someone they don't know, they are going to start barking. In fact, most dogs need to have their watchdog tendencies trained out of them. Their natural tendency to bark at anything out of place tends to extend to squirrels, cats, mailmen and sometimes nothing at all, so people train them to be quiet. The key to having a good family watch dog is really more in the training and socialization provided. What you want is a dog that has been trained to be discerning at what it barks at. If your dog barks at everything up to and including leaves fluttering on the ground, you're going to start ignoring him. On the other hand, if he doesn't bark at anything, well, he's not any kind of watch dog, even if he's a great dog otherwise. Sure, some breeds make better watchdogs than others, although almost any breed personality can do the job with the right training. So what breeds do make for a good family watch dog? Well, Chihuahua's, for one. They're smart, they're alert and they have a distinct bark that they're not at all afraid to use. Most terriers–Jack Russell's and Miniature Schnauzers–are known for being great family watch dogs. Other smart watch dogs are Papillons, Poodles and Miniature Pinschers. The breeds mentioned have a long history of being great family watchdogs which is why I'm mentioning them, but as pointed out, dogs are individuals, and almost every dog can make a great family watchdog. In general, you want to look for a dog that is happy to bark, easily trainable, and bonds well with your family. If you get a dog that can do that, then you've got yourself a pretty sweet alarm system. 5 things that make a good watchdog:
  • Alert - watchdogs need to be weary of sounds, people, and patterns in everyday life.
  • Smart - watchdogs must be able to process some information–friend and foe.
  • Piercing bark - the more annoying and spine tingling the bark, the better. A loud bark alarms the owner and wards off creeps.
  • Trainable - smarts play a huge role. You'll need a dog that is willing to train with the use of treats and positive reinforcement.
  • Active - watchdogs need to want to explore and be nosy.
5 things a watchdog doesn't need to be:
  • Intimidating - watchdogs don't need to pose a physical threat to anyone.
  • Brave - watchdogs don't need to be willing to hold their ground. As long as they start yapping (tail between their legs or running in circles), they've done their job.
  • Willing to bite - watchdogs don't need to bite or bring anyone down (though some small watchdogs have been known to go for ankles).
  • Strong - watchdogs don't need to be 80 lbs and muscular–there is nothing physical about being a family watchdog.
  • Athletic - watchdogs don't need to be Olympic athletes to perform any out of the ordinary stunts.
Which of you own a dog that prove statistics otherwise? You know, those silly top ten lists.

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