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For centuries, dogs have been employed as living alarms and guards. Their protective nature made them ideal to alert a family that something strange was amiss. Along with being a companion, dogs can and do still perform watch dog roles.
Watch dogs are not the same as guard dogs. A watch dog alerts their owners when strangers approach, but they do not usually attack. A good watch dog doesn't have to be big or aggressive; he or she just has to possess a strong bark that lets the family know someone is approaching the house.
Often, just hearing the bark deters would-be intruders. A guard dog can do the same, but is also large enough to intimidate and, if necessary, attack an intruder.
Almost any dog that barks when something unusual happens can serve as a watch dog, but some breeds are better known for their natural watch dog abilities. These include:
American Eskimo. Descended from the German “Spitz” line of dogs, the American Eskimo was bred from ancient times to watch over people and property. The Eskimo is a small- to medium-sized dog that bonds closely with family, and tends to distrust strangers.
Boston terrier. Small, muscular and compact, the Boston terrier is one of the few truly American breeds. They are gentle, friendly dogs that are protective of family and home. Most have a good bark to alert people when strangers approach.
Chihuahua. The Chihuahua is a small dog with a big bark. He or she will bark vigorously, as if they are trying to make up for being just 6 to 9 inches tall and weighing under 5 pounds. They make sure you know when someone's approaching the house.
French bulldog. The French bulldog is not into barking, but will certainly alert the family to strange noises or approaching people. A natural guardian, the Frenchie is a devoted companion.
Miniature pinscher. Contrary to the belief of some, the miniature pinscher is not bred down from the Doberman pinscher. In fact, the breed is the older of the two and is something of a cross between the greyhound and a terrier. Always curious, the min pin will alert his owner whenever someone new is nearby.
Pekingese. The Pekingese is a bold, regal toy dog that has an enthusiastic bark rivaling the Chihuahua's. This dog loves to be pampered but will do his best to alert his family when strangers are around.
Irish setter. An Irish setter is a beautiful, friendly, energetic dog. The setter will bark to let you know someone is at the house, but don't expect more than that, in spite of the dog's size. The setter is friendly enough to show a stranger around.
Schipperke. Pronounced “skipper-kee,” the Skips (as they are nicknamed) were originally bred as watch dogs, hunters of vermin and as companions. They excel at all three.
Standard and miniature schnauzer. Both make excellent watch dogs. The schnauzers hail from Germany, and all are intelligent, reliable and protective.
Norwegian elkhound. This dog is descended from canines that served with the Vikings. Brave enough to track bear and moose, the elkhound makes an excellent watchdog. The breed is bold, courageous and athletic.
Airedale. As the largest member of the terrier group, the Airedale can be intimidating. Though they may seem aloof to strangers, the breed is very loving towards his family, especially towards children.