Your Labrador is sweet, loving and affectionate. He runs to greet you every time you come home. However, he also barks at every person, animal, and car that goes by your house. Which makes you wonder, would he make a good guard dog?
The short answer is, no – because of their temperament and personality, Labradors do not make good “guard dogs.” They do however make good “watchdogs.” So what’s the difference between the two?
In this article we will cover:
- What is a guard dog?
- What is a watchdog?
- Why Labradors don’t make good guard dogs
- Why Labradors do make good watchdogs
What Is a Guard Dog?
According to Wikipedia, a guard dog is a dog that is trained, “to guard against, and watch for unwanted or unexpected people or animals.” The Merriam-Webster definition says that a guard dog is “a dog that is trained to protect a place”. Dictionary.com describes a guard dog as “a large, aggressive dog, like a German shepherd or Doberman pinscher, trained to guard persons or property and often to attack or restrain on command.”
Guard dogs do more than bark. They are trained to be on guard against danger and they are willing to physically defend their home and owners. A guard dog will bite and even attack if necessary.
Many guard dogs are trained to guard a specific place or even livestock. You may have seen or heard about businesses that leave guard dogs on patrol to guard their property at night. Farmers and ranchers often have dogs watching over their livestock to keep them safe from predators. These types of guard dogs are usually specifically trained for their specific duties.
Some people use guard dogs in their homes. These dogs will sound an alarm if they sense danger and will also use force to restrain intruders and protect their families.
Guard dogs will bark and alert you to danger but they will also engage with the intruder or predator. They usually start by showing a forceful display, like growling or charging, to try to scare the threat away. However, if that doesn’t work, a guard dog will attack and hold their ground.
The best traits to look for in a guard dog are size, strength, tenacity, and courage. A few of the most common breeds used as guard dogs are the Doberman, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Bullmastiff, and Giant Schnauzer.
What Is a Watchdog?
According to Dictionary.com, a watchdog is “a watchful guardian”. Merriam-Webster defines a watchdog as “one that guards against loss, waste, theft, or undesirable practices.”
Many people use the words “guard dog” and “watchdog” interchangeably. However, there is a practical distinction to be made. Dictionary.com defines the word watch as “to be alertly on the lookout, look attentively, or observe, as to see what comes, is done, or happens.” Putting it simply, a watchdog watches.
A good watchdog will keep an eye out and bark when there are strangers around. They will alert you to any trouble they see coming. However, they will not engage or attack. They alert you to the problem but they don’t deal with the problem. They call for you to come and take care of the issue.
Most watchdogs don’t need any special training. Watching and vocally warning is something these dogs do naturally.
Sometimes watchdogs are referred to as alarm dogs because they sound the alarm. They often bark a lot. Watchdogs don’t have to be strong or large, they just need to be watchful and have a good bark. Sometimes a good, strong bark is all you need to scare an intruder away. Some good watchdog breeds are Retrievers, Poodles, Chihuahuas, Labradors, and Terriers.
Why Labradors Usually Aren’t Good “Guard Dogs”
While Labradors are large, strong, tenacious and courageous they typically don’t make good guard dogs. Labradors are loving and affectionate dogs. They are also very gentle dogs. Most of them are outgoing and friendly. They love to run around with people and interact with them. A Labrador is even-tempered, which means he isn’t provoked easily to aggressive behavior. A good guard dog needs to be ready to be aggressive. Labradors are not that way by nature.
A Labrador may bark loudly when they see someone at the door but once that person is inside they are all licks and cuddles. Labs usually very friendly with almost every person they meet and they don’t consider anyone a stranger for long, especially if they happen to have a treat with them.
Labradors are loyal to their families and want to keep them safe. If they feel you are being threatened they could very well defend you, but it is not in their nature to readily attack. Any dog will bite under certain circumstances, but when threatened, a Labrador is more likely to retreat and let you be the defender.
Why Labradors Make Great “Watchdogs”
Labradors are very alert and attentive. They are also quite intelligent. For more in-depth information on this, see our article, How Smart Is My Black Lab? They are aware if something is amiss. They notice every person or animal that comes anywhere near your house. A Labrador will usually sound the alarm if there is a stranger (or even a leaf blowing across your lawn!).
Labradors tend to look at their owners as the pack leader. They will let the leader know there is a threat or issue to be taken care of. Then they are happy to step back and let the pack leader take care of it.
Labradors are loyal to their families and want to keep them safe. This is one of the reasons they make great watchdogs. They want to protect you from harm so they will let you know if they perceive any threat. Sometimes this can get a little annoying, as they will bark at anything and everything they see as a threat- a person, a car, the mailman, a fly. However, with some guidance and training, you can help them learn when it is acceptable to bark and when it isn’t.
Choose the Right Dog to Defend Your Home
What type of dog do you want in your home? Do you want one that will aggressively protect your family and property, or one that will simply sound the alarm if anything is amiss? Each house and family is different. One thing to consider is the temperament of the different breeds and if they are good family dogs, especially if you have small children in the house.
We love our Labrador, Trooper. He is a terrific watchdog and we are perfectly fine with him being a “watchdog” rather than a “guard dog.” He is loving, goofy, loyal, and when a stranger comes to the door, has a surprisingly ferocious growl and bark.
Sometimes an intimidating bark is all that is needed to keep intruders away. If that is all you want then a Labrador is a great dog for you! They will bark to keep you safe and they are wonderful and affectionate family dogs.
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