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Guard and Military Dogs – Traits and Behavior Problems

Guard dogs are often misunderstood, and their behavior problems are commonly mishandled by dog owners. Gaining an understanding of the most frequent canine behavioral issues is key to solving them and preventing future ones. Have you ever wondered how poor pet management affects pet behavior?

Guard dogs and dogs who serve in the military and law enforcement often display abnormal behavior patterns. Many of these dogs are abandoned or rehomed after they retire from service due to their erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior. Some of the most common issues include aggression, escape attempts, chewing/destructive behavior, and separation anxiety. These dogs need specialized training and care in order to ensure that they are safe both for themselves and for the people around them.

This article talks about the general traits of guard and military dogs and the behavioral problems pet owners may face due to their mismanagement.

What Are Guard Dogs?

Guard dogs are relatively larger breeds that are bred and trained to serve a specific purpose, which is to protect their owner’s property and family. Because of their size and strength, they require additional training in obedience and socialization. They cannot simply “turn off” their guarding instincts like other non-working dogs.

During World War I, European armies used guard dogs for military purposes, like to find wounded soldiers and carry supplies. The dogs were also used as messengers.

There are three primary security levels at that guard dogs can be trained to work.

Attack Dog

Guard dogs that are trained to attack will obey their handler’s command to do so, even if it means killing. These dogs are bred for law enforcement or military purposes, and as a result, they lack any sort of sociability and make terrible house pets.

Sentry Dog

Guard dogs who work as sentries are mostly used to protect the outside of expansive areas such as warehouses or shipyards. These dogs are allowed to walk around unsupervised and without instruction from their owner because they have been trained to attack anyone who trespasses, making them the best possible form of protection in these types of situations.

Alarm Dog

This is a large breed that has a deep, threatening bark. They will sound the alarm when someone is approaching, but they will not take any action past that. In most cases, just the alarm dog barking is enough to deter intruders or unwanted visitors.

Guard and Military Dog Breed List

Guard and military dog breeds include the following:

Appenzeller Sennenhund


Anatolian Shepherd



Barbado da Terceira

 Australian Shepherd

Bergamasco sheepdog

Belgian Laekenois



Bouvier des Flandres

Caucasian Shepherd

Catahoula Leopard

 Canaan Dog

Central Asian Shepherd Dog

Doberman Pinscher

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Giant Schnauzer

German Shepherd Dog

Estrela Mountain Dog


Perro de Presa Canario


Romanian Mioritic Shepherd Dog

Spanish Water Dog

Tibetan Mastiff


Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Thai Ridgeback

Volpino Italiano


Dutch Shepherd

Labrador Retriever

Belgian Malinois

Siberian Husky


Black Russian Terrier

Alaskan Malamute

Irish Terrier


Cane Corso

Distinguishing Traits of Guard Dogs

When it comes to guarding your home, you want a dog that is both loyal and protective. While there are many dog breeds that fit this description, some are better suited for the job than others. If you want to get a dog for protection, there are nine key characteristics you need to be aware of.


If your four-legged companion believes they’re in charge, then they certainly won’t respond well to any commands you give them. It’s essential to be the alpha in your relationship with your dog. Most behavioral issues can be linked back to a human not assuming dominance over their canine friend. Luckily, this is preventable by taking control and being assertive when correcting negative behaviors.

Desire for Work

Working dogs is bred to have a strong desire to please their handlers and be willing to work for long periods of time. This trait is especially important in guard dogs, as they may need to stay on duty for long hours at a time.

Responsive Nature

A good guard dog is responsive to its handler’s commands and quickly reacts to potential threats. This responsiveness is what allows a guard dog to effectively protect its family from danger.


A guard dog is intelligent enough to understand its duties and obey commands from its handler. They are able to think independently and make quick decisions in potentially dangerous situations.


The most important trait of a good guard dog is loyalty. A loyal guard dog will go as far as giving its own life to save a human family member-it has an innate sense of protection. A guard dog that is not loyal to its owners is not likely to be effective in deterring or stopping intruders.

Playful Nature

Despite their serious job, guard dogs have a playful nature. This helps to make training more fun and ensures that the dog remains enthusiastic about its work. A playful guard dog is also more likely to stay alert and be on the lookout for potential threats.

High Concentration Levels

Professional guard dogs have high levels of concentration and always remain alert. They are also ready to respond to their handler’s commands in any given situation.

Territorial Nature

Guard dogs are naturally suspicious of anyone they deem to be a stranger, intruder, or unknown guest. If they become worried that such people pose a threat, they will not hesitate to attack. Territoriality is perhaps the essential quality for a guard dog to have; it provides them with the aggression needed to both attack and defends. Female dogs typically aren’t as territorial as males.

Physical Strength

Guard dogs are often chosen for their physical strength and attributes that make them more powerful than intruders. These traits include a powerful bite, loud bark, and muscular build. Most guard dog breeds have fierce, agile, and athletic appearances with large teeth that can scare away even the most hardened criminals.

Guard Dog Behavior Problems in Captivity

If civilians want to adopt one of the guard dogs, they must understand their behavioral tendencies so that the dog will be in good hands and won’t pose a danger to anyone. Two important animal welfare principles are:

  • The animal should be able to do natural behaviors,
  • The animal should not experience fear or anxiety.

Most families don’t follow these principles and don’t fulfill their physical and mental stimulation requirements, and keep them in captivity which affects their health negatively and may turn on their annoying behavior. The dog’s undesirable behavior may be problematic for the owners, their neighbors, or society as a collective. Here are some common behavior issues that families with guard dogs may face:


A good guard dog is aggressive only when necessary and will attack people if it feels it is threatened. A dog with uncontrolled aggression, on the other hand, may attack anyone-even, family members or guests. This is often due to a lack of socialization or mistrust. Guard dogs aren’t violent animals but more like human soldiers who defend their territory or people.

Get Into Fights With Other Animals

Guard dogs may sometimes get into fights with other animals, especially if they are not properly socialized. If your dog does get into a fight, break it up immediately and consult a professional trainer on how to best address the issue.

Chewing/Destructive Behavior

Guard dogs, especially when they are bored, may have a tendency to chew on things around the house (e.g., furniture, shoes, etc.). This is may also due to teething or when they don’t get enough exercise.

Escape Attempts

Guard dogs may try to escape from the yard or home in order to go find someone or move freely and play. This behavior can be dangerous and should be prevented. Make sure your dog has a secure area to stay in and that it cannot dig under or jump over any fences. If your dog does escape, make sure you are able to find them quickly and safely.

Become Overly Active & Not Attentive

This is a common behavior issue for guard dogs. They get so caught up in their job that they forget their owner’s command and become a nuisance. Use positive reinforcement such as treats or praise to reward good behavior. If your dog is still having trouble, consider hiring a professional trainer.

Separation Anxiety

Guard dogs may become anxious or stressed when they are away from their family. This can lead to destructive behavior, chasing, barking, hyperactivity, and/or attempted escapes.

Final Thoughts

Guard dogs are often bred for their territoriality and physical strength, but these qualities can also lead to undesirable behavior. They need to be stimulated mentally and physically, or they will become destructive. If you adopt one of these dogs, make sure you are able to handle their behavior and provide them with everything they need.



Dr. Mohsin Iqbal (DVM, RVMP)

Dr. Mohsin Iqbal is a licensed veterinarian with more than 5 years of experience in veterinary medicine. After receiving his DVM degree from The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan, he worked as a
veterinarian in both government and private sectors. He has a deep passion for animal welfare and has been working for various animal welfare organizations since he was a student. Being President of Animal Rescue Organization Pakistan (AROP), he has been actively involved in animal rescue and welfare activities. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his rescue dogs and cats. 

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