The Difference Between a Guard Dog and a Watch Dog

The Difference Between a Guard Dog and a Watch Dog
Photo: pavlinas, Shutterstock

In addition to providing companionship, (some) dogs are also hard workers. For example, some breeds are excellent at herding sheep or cattle, while others use their heightened sense of smell to sniff out drugs or diseases.

And many dogs — whether they’re trained to do so or not — act as furry, four-legged doorbells, alerting their humans if they sense something is amiss in or around their home. (Or, that the mail carrier had the audacity to deliver the mail again — after they scared them away the day before.)

These pooches are either guard dogs or watch dogs — and yes, there’s a difference between the two. Here’s what to know.

The difference between a guard dog and a watch dog

If you’re looking to add a dog to your household and want one that makes your home a bit more secure, you may be considering a guard dog or watch dog. Here’s the difference between the two:

Guard dogs

  • Bark as an alert
  • Bark, growl, and display other intimidating behaviour as a deterrent, while holding their ground
  • Also capable of acting like their owner’s bodyguard
  • Go through special training

Watch dogs

  • One job: Alert their owner if they detect something unusual
  • Size of the dog doesn’t matter
  • Ability to bark loudly helps

What are attack dogs?

It’s important to note that guard dogs and watch dogs are not attack dogs. Attack dogs are trained not only to alert their owners to a potential danger — they’re also trained to act, either on-command, or when a person they perceive as an intruder enters the property.

And, as the Davis Law Group points out, when attack dogs are not properly trained or used to attack for reasons other than providing protection, they are capable of inflicting serious damage. Because of this, some state and local authorities have prohibitions or regulations on certain breeds.

The breeds that make the best guard dogs and watch dogs

Certain dog breeds are better suited for taking on guarding and watching duties. Here are some of the best for each job:

Guard dogs:

  • Doberman
  • Bulldog
  • Bouvier
  • Belgian sheepdog
  • Collie
  • Swiss mountain dog
  • Bullmastiff
  • Rottweiler
  • Komondor
  • Puli
  • Giant schnauzer
  • German shepherd
  • Rhodesian ridgeback
  • Kuvasz
  • Staffordshire terrier

Watch dogs

  • Chihuahua
  • Poodle
  • Weimaraner
  • Dachshund
  • Shi tzu
  • Rottweiler
  • German shepherd
  • Scottish terrier
  • West highland white terrier
  • Miniature schnauzer
  • Yorkshire terrier
  • Cairn terrier
  • Airedale terrier

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