Known as “Gentle Giants,” the Great Dane is among the biggest dog breeds in the world. Originally bred as guardians and hunters, their majestic size and ferocious bark is enough to make most potential intruders run to the hills. Yet, as any Great Dane parent knows, most dogs in this breed aren’t typically aggressive. Indeed, the Great Dane is better known for their calm and patient demeanor, especially around young children, than for their guarding instincts. However, this intense loyalty for their people actually does make them a good choice for a family watchdog with proper training.
Great Guardians of the Old World
The modern Great Dane was bred from Mastiffs. They were trained as wild boar hunters and guardians of upper-class estates and are classified as working dogs. From the 1880s forward, they’ve been called “Deutsche Dogges” in their native country of Germany. English-speaking countries however have always referred to the gentle giants as “Great Danes.”
From their breeding history, we can infer that the Great Dane does indeed make a good guard dog. However, they’re more likely to be simultaneously included in the family as pets than some more aloof dog breeds which might be used purely as a working dog.
Will a Great Dane Make a Good Guard Dog?
If your Great Dane has bonded with you and your family, it’s likely that they’ll rise to defend your home if the need arises, out of their love for you. Their unwavering loyalty will likely encourage them to sound a rare bark if they do sense a threat. Whether or not they’d physically attack a stranger is a bit of a different story. While Great Danes make good watchdogs, they might not be the dog you want if you’re looking for an actual attack dog. German Shepherds and Pit Bull breeds are generally better suited for that type of work and training.
The Great Dane isn’t an overly aggressive dog breed, which is actually a good thing if they share a home with small children. They might not bite someone who intrudes on your lawn. However, given their huge size and voluminous bark, they probably don’t have to rely on physical force to send the intruders running.
How to Train Your Great Dane to Be a Guard Dog
If you want to make sure your Great Dane is equipped to guard your home, you can take them to a canine trainer, or try to teach them yourself. It is important to note that in a professional setting the term “guard dog” is used to refer to a service dog that has undergone specialized training. But for the purpose of this article, we refer to a guard dog as a watchdog that will alert you if a stranger comes into your property.
First, you’ll need to teach them the boundaries of your home and praise them for barking when someone walks onto your property. Start taking them on walks around your property line to show them where their home starts and stops. Once they’re familiar with their territory, figure out what makes them bark and give them a word such as “speak.” Whenever they bark at their trigger, give them a treat while saying their word.
For example, if they bark when a squirrel scampers up a tree, say “speak” and give them a treat. Next time you have a (willing) guest, show your dog that someone is coming onto your property and give them the command to “speak.” This will help your dog understand that it’s a good idea to let you know when someone comes uninvited. Most dogs will already do this on their own, but some Great Danes are notoriously quiet and might require a little more encouragement.
Great Danes are known for their friendliness to their familiar people and their loyalty-driven-guarding skills. Arguably, it’s the great love they have for their family that makes them such good guard dogs, as opposed to any aloof or aggressive tendencies. While the Great Dane might not be the right breed to train as an attack dog, their loyal nature and massive size make them good choices for a guard dog to alert you when someone comes onto your property uninvited.
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