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Friday, September 17, 2010

Guarding the Family

I can't tell you the number of hours I've spent online over the past 2 weeks doing research. Weighing pros and cons. Investigating maintenance costs and general upkeep. Calculating size, usefulness, expenses, spatial requirements.

No, we're not investing in a generator.

We're considering a dog for family protection.

We live in what I considered a very safe area. We're rural, on a road to nowhere, surrounded by family. There's no businesses, no large thoroughfares. Just quiet, peaceful, safe. The perfect spot to raise a family!

Well, that's what I thought til this summer when my neighbor's house was robbed of dozens of antique guns while his wife was running an errand. And 2 cars were broken into. And the guy up on the hill went stark-raving mad and pulled a gun on a neighbor. I'm starting to wonder if there's something in the water :) After putting off the inevitable for many years, I've conceded and my husband and I are actively researching the various breeds of dogs trying to find the best option for our family. Now, we've had several dogs before, but not since the children came along, so in many ways I feel like we're starting at square 1 in terms of knowledge.

What I don't want is a 'Guard Dog'. You know the kind. Menacing, slobbering, just looking for a reason to attack. Not a good fit, right there. I'm looking for a pleasant addition to our family:

-A dog for both the good times and the scary times.

-Patient and playful enough to be a joy to the children...think Mary Poppins in canine form.

-Possibly a working variety...something that could pull a small cart, be helpful during hunting season or at very least, herd the children.

-Friendly and docile enough that we won't have to be afraid of it.

-Large and impressive enough that an intruder would think twice.

-Loyal and family-oriented, willing to protect its people to the end if necessary.

-Able to go for help if little Timmy falls down a well.

Wait a minute. I may have watched too much Lassie on the TVLand channel.

You can Google 'personal protection dogs' and come up with thousands of hits on the best and worst choices. The irony is that the same 5-10 breeds are often on BOTH the best and worst lists for personal/family protection dogs. German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas are tops on both lists in many cases. Check for yourself and see!

So, by means of elimination, we've come up with our own list of possibilities for the best family protection dogs. (In no particular order.)

1) Anatolian Shepherd- A friend has one of these dogs on her farm. Very friendly dog. Doesn't know how to play fetch(?) and can sometimes get nippy.

2) Plott- I love, love, love the looks of this dog. Animal Planet Dog Breed Selector has wonderful things to say about it...but where would you find a Plott Rescue?

3) Great Dane- We had a Great Dane when we got married and he was the BEST DOG EVER. Loving, playful and very protective of his people and pets. And the only drawback: when Boone laid around the house, he really laid around the house. What a massive dog!

4) Scottish Deerhound- Sounds very family friendly, but may require more grooming than I want to take on.

5) Hounds- I love hounds! Any sort, but especially Foxhounds. The only thing I worry about with a hound is that if she caught a whiff of the wild turkeys, rabbits, coyotes, deer that are plentiful in our area, there'd be no stopping her. Once a hound is on a scent, all bets are off.

6) Rhodesian Ridgebacks- Again, I love the looks of this dog, but maybe it's a bit too boisterous for small children?

We're in no rush to get a dog as it's such a huge commitment...a lifetime commitment! But I am curious to hear other family's experiences with their 'nanny' dogs. In your opinion, what are the best breeds for family protection?

In His Service,

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Anonymous said...

We have a soft coated wheaten terrier/sheltie mix. We do keep her outside because that is what she prefers. She is not much of a watch dog, but when the outside cat killed my daughters rabbit, you probably could of heard the screams for miles. That dog broke out of her collar and went after that cat like there was no tomorrow. She also kills the snakes and skunks. She has no fear when it comes to animals/game. As for people, she loves everybody. As in another dog that will guard we are thinking great pyrenese or doberman. There reputations speak for themselves and unfortunatley get a bad wrap. Good luck! You will know it when you find the right one.

Andrea said...

I like Great Pyrenese too, as well as Swiss Mtn. dogs. And I can think of quite a few good uses for a draft dog :)

We want a shelter/rescue dog, so that limits our choices a bit, but I think that's the way to go in lieu of breeders. The Mr. wants another Dane very, very badly....very very badly (LOL) and keeps sending me links to nearby Great Dane rescues.

Anonymous said...

We just lost our 15 1/2 yo German Shepherd and she was the BEST dog ever. She loved children and was very loyal to us. She was a quiet and very intelligent dog but if there was trouble she was right there like when the huge rattlesnake came up to our house. If I got another dog it would be another female German Shepherd hands down.

Andrea said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I've heard a number of owners say the same thing about German Shepherds...some family members for instance. But after a really, really bad experience with a German Shepherd 15 years ago, I don't think I could do it. I *know* all German Shepherds aren't bad/vicious...but I can still 'see' the teeth :(

Care for a bit of sweet irony? Thursday night at the dinner table, we were talking about getting a dog, what kind and what we'd name her. We love Plott hounds and talked about a female in the 6-8 month range. And we'd name her Lily.

Today I checked a Columbus-based rescue and they're offering (drumroll please) a 5 month old Plott hound.......named Lily.

The Mr. said it's Divine Intervention :)

Gen-IL Homesteader said...

Andrea, we have a 10 years old chocolate lab who is a GREAT guard dog!! Good with people she knows, and with our chickens, but barks at anyone she doesn't know.

A tip: if you want her to be a real good guard dog, keep her home! Don't take her everywhere to see everybody because she'll think everyone/everywhere is okay. To be protective of home, a dog needs to be there and only know a few people who come and go as safe. Everyone else she'll be ready to watch out for, then.

Andrea said...

Gen -what a great tip about keeping the dog home! That makes perfect sense! We like Labs too...they make such good family dogs!

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