They call them man's best friend for a reason — a good dog will love you unconditionally, while also having your back, even when the enemy in question is nothing more dangerous than the vacuum. Still,
friendly and protective dog breeds make great pets not just because, well, they'll protect you, but also because they're often giant cuddlers who love nothing more than playtime with their families.
Many times, a traditional guard dog will fit this particular bill; their deep sense of loyalty makes them very protective of their humans. And a guard dog doesn't have to be very big, either, for you to get all their benefits. Medium and small dogs can be good guard dogs as well, but often owners of smaller dogs make believe that something so small can't do much harm and
don't train them properly, which can result in serious injury if the dog feels threatened and lashes out. Just because your dog is on the small side doesn't mean that it stops needing training or security; all dogs need to know who's in charge (you) and what actually represents a threat (not your best friend reaching out a hand for a pat). All states have different legislations about legal dog breeds, and some bigger breeds have restrictions, so do your research thoroughly before you bring that dopey face home. Leon Neal/Getty Images News/Getty Images Akitas are Japanese temple guard dogs in origin, and retain their guarding instinct — and a bit of imperiousness. The males can be a bit aloof, but female Akitas are often deeply loyal and friendly to their families, and are popular guard dogs. They need serious training, because they're intelligent dogs who often have a will of their own, but with the correct help they're both cuddly family dogs and excellent protectors. Drew Angerer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
German Shepherds are natural guard dogs. The breed was created to be
an intelligent working animal, tasked with herding, tracking and carrying messages in wartime. However, they're also good-natured goobers who love both the job of guarding and having chill-out cuddle time. Anxious German Shepherds will need to be trained out of over-guarding and over-protective behavior, which may seem helpful but is actually a sign of lack of security. Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
The dog whisperer himself, Cesar Milan,
rates Doberman pinschers among the best guard dogs. They're a mix of the big, friendly Rottweiler and a variety of other dogs, and are, like the German Shepherd, highly intelligent and intent on guarding and patrolling. It's worth noting that Dobermans can sometimes be one-person dogs who bond very hard with a particular member of a family, but if they're raised with kids, they'll likely protect them too. The American Kennel Club rates these dogs as one of the best guarding and protecting breeds in the country. Giant schnauzers are far bigger than their small cousins; they're about the size of adult German Shepherds with the breed's traditional mustache. They're highly intelligent and do well in agility competitions, but are also very highly beloved family pets. Nobody will stand their ground with that bearded face getting in their way.
Staffordshire Bull Terriers
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Staffies, as they're called, sometimes have a poor reputation,
but like pit bulls, who they're often confused for, they're hugely loyal and deeply affectionate. They need to be socialized early in their lives in order to release their full loveliness, but even rescue staffies who've had a hard time can be trained to be soppy, loving pets who protect their families. Jack Taylor/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If you've seen the Belgian Malinois breed anywhere,
it's likely in K9 units, where they're hugely popular as bomb-sniffing and military dogs. They're herders rather than guarders by nature, so may "round up" the people they love, but they're also very smart and loyal dogs who can be elegant protectors. Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Yes, they look like giant mops. No, they don't act like them. Komondors are highly valued as guard dogs because they
bond fiercely with their family and tend to be suspicious of outsiders. They're used as working dogs to guard livestock, and so tend to be observers who'll step in if they think somebody is being threatened. They also need good training, because they're strong and can be difficult to control, but they're extremely friendly, loyal sweethearts.
gentle giants require a lot of space, inside and outside, but while the Kuvasz is a fluffy clouds of affection to those it loves, it's also very loyal and imposing. It's one of the biggest dogs around, so if size is your thing it's definitely a good breed to consider — but that does mean it needs proper training so that it can be controlled, otherwise you'll be the one taken for a walk and not the other way around. It's sweet-tempered and unexpectedly fast when it breaks into a sprint.
It's important to note that purebred dogs aren't always where it's at for meeting your dog needs. Shelter and mixed-breed dogs can present the best possible mix of characteristics and training for your situation, so don't hold out for a purebred without doing all your research first. And remember that all guarding dogs benefit from proper obedience training and a lot of love.