Say a small guard dog and you immediately think of a large dog. The first association that comes to mind are probably massive and aggressive dog breeds. I know that I first think of the Tibetan Mastiff, the Pit Bull, the Bullmastiff, the Cane Corso, the Bulldog, or the Rottweiler.
It is no wonder because one of the reasons to get a dog is for the protection he can provide. Big dogs are an excellent choice if you live somewhere spacious and have all the conditions that a big dog requires.
That is why some people tend to purchase a small dog, but still want one that has guarding and protective abilities. Good news is that there are plenty of small dogs that have a big-dog attitude. These little fellas are bold, fearless, smart, protective toward their owner and property, they can bark really loud, and are able to bite if necessary.
Here, we have gathered a list of 21 small guard dogs. Check it out!
21 Small Guard Dog Breeds:
Beagles are most famous for their refined sense of smell. Sometimes, they are described as a “nose with feet”. Sometimes, they work as police dogs at airports.
The Beagle is one of the best small guard dogs as they have a strong prey drive and are aggressive. He was used for hunting small animals, such as foxes and rabbits. It is not easy to train this dog. You need to set up rules and show him that you are the boss.
They are very affectionate toward their family, and they will do their best to protect them. Do not be surprised at how loud he is able to bark for being such a small dog.
2. Bergamasco Shepherd
The Bergamasco Shepherd is an ancient breed that is also known as a Bergamese Shepherd, a Cane da Pastore Bergamasco, and a Bergamo Shepherd dog. It is probably not hard to guess that this is an Italian sheepdog.
After World War II, this breed was on the edge of extinction. But, some enthusiasts took care of it and this breed is still with us today.
This dog has a rebellious nature, so you need to have firm training for it. It is not very fond of strangers, and it can be very protective towards property and its owner. It is not wise to leave this dog with children to play unattended due to the dog’s herding instincts.
3. Boston Terrier
This is a breed that is 100 years old, and one of the best small guard dogs. They appear like they are wearing a tuxedo, so people like to call them the “American Gentleman“.
He is a highly territorial dog, protective of his humans and his property. His first role was to chase vermin, so he has a strong prey drive, which is good as a guard dog trait. But, be careful if you have some small animals around the house along with this doggo.
The postman should be aware of the Boston Terrier because he does not have excellent abilities to make a difference between intruders and other people.
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The popularity of the Cocker Spaniel rose after his appearance in the animated movie, Lady And The Tramp. It is hard to believe, but this adorable dog can be very aggressive.
Overbreeding led to a “rage syndrome“. This is a rash of aggressive behavior towards anyone near them, and then sudden calming.
Even without this syndrome, Cocker Spaniels can become aggressive. Besides, they are very protective of their property. He can be taught to get along with kids and other pets.
This fierce Mexican is not what he looks like. It is true that poison comes in small bottles because the Chihuahua is a temperamental little ticking bomb.
The first thing you should know is that it can bite. And, it will. Being so cute and small, you have an urge to pet it. But beware. It will defend itself.
This dog is able to be very aggressive. It is not really friendly toward other pets, especially dogs. But, the good side is that it is fond of its owner, and a Chihuahua will protect you, even from other humans.
This is a dog that is “half a dog high, and a dog and a half long“. Do not let his amusing looks deceive you. This dog is a great hunter of wild boar, badgers, rabbits, foxes, and other tunneling animals.
Some call them Wiener Dogs because they look like a wiener, obviously, or a Sausage Dog, a Hot Dog, a Dashie, a Doxie, and other nicknames.
His prey drive remained intact, so he gets very protective toward his dog owner. It is the perfect dog for people who live alone. Do not forget his daily exercise because he can become very nervous otherwise. He is a very suspicious dog when a stranger walks by, and he is not very fond of small kids.
7. Jack Russell Terrier
Also known as the Parson Russell Terrier, this is one of the best small guard dogs. His first appearance was in England 200 years ago. His job was to hunt foxes back on the properties of English noblemen.
He is a very smart and high-energy breed that requires a lot of exercise, which makes him a great companion if you live in a city. But, do not forget outside time. If lacking this, things could get very messy.
The Jack Russell Terrier is an affectionate dog that needs proper training. If you are not dominant enough, this dog will take you over. However, this is not a bad trait when it comes to intruders.
With loud barking and an aggressive attitude, he is able to scare off anybody with bad intentions. Speed, a strong prey drive, boldness, determination, and intelligence is all a winning combination when it comes to this matter.
8. Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso is a dog with an exotic name and peculiar styling. His name may not ring a bell, but his appearance is surely unforgettable. With long hair that covers his eyes, one must love this adorable breed.
Having this much hair has its reason. The Lhasa Apso originates from a mountainous region in Tibet. It is very cold up there on the Himalaya, among cold temple pillars. This breed served as a watchdog in palaces and monasteries in the city of Lhasa. Ancient Tibetan breeders came up with this one in 800 AD, and this dog was raised with Buddhist lamas.
An interesting part of Buddhist belief is that the last stage of reincarnation before human form is a dog form. So, they believe that the souls of priests and lamas take the form of a Lhasa Apso before they are to be born as a human being.
The Lhasa Apso today is a favorite family pet, and plays his guard-dog role protecting family members from danger. This dog adapts well in a home environment, but you have to show him that you are the boss. Early training and socialization is a must.
This dog perceives himself as a large dog, even though he is a small one. This means that he is a loyal protector of your property.
When threatened, he usually shows his aggressive side. Sometimes, he is even aggressive towards small children if he is approached suddenly. Then, he bites.
And, he barks… very loudly when displeased. All in all, this is a very loyal and protective breed… and cute.
A Lhasa Apso is a truly unique breed, so if you are wondering where to find one, we already took care of you! Find your small guard dog on our list of reputable Lhasa Apso breeders in the US.
9. Manchester Terrier
This is another small guard dog from the Terrier bloodline. This one carries all the best Terrier traits. Born and raised in Manchester, England, he took the same name with pride. During the Victorian times, he was also known as a Gentleman’s Terrier. He is a hunting dog with a powerful prey drive. What he likes is a chase, and his favorite is to chase rabbits and rats.
He may look familiar to you. Maybe he resembles a Doberman Pinscher a bit. Among Terriers, this one is a true gentleman with good manners. He is a smart, brave, and loyal watchdog that is very fond of his owner.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) differentiates the Toy and the Standard Manchester Terrier.
This dog is very alert, and he can chase enemies with loud barking and aggressiveness. He is one of the best small guard dogs for an apartment, but remember to start with training at an early age.
10. Miniature Bull Terrier
The origin of the Bull Terrier goes back to the 19th century when he was bred as a fighting dog. One may notice this dog for his long, egg-shaped head, with a prominent mug.
This breed was popularized after its appearance in Budweiser commercials from the 1980’s. A Miniature Bull Terrier has the same traits as a standard one, just wrapped in a smaller package.
This breed is fearless and bold. He can be very aggressive, especially toward other animals. They are very territorial. He will do his best to protect his owner and his property, and secure the home from intruders.
11. Miniature Pinscher
This is a German dog, bred for hunting vermin. When you look at a Miniature Pinscher, you may think he resembles a Doberman a lot. But, he is not connected with the Doberman. Actually, the Min Pin is older than the Doberman. In England, they call him the “King of Toys“, while in Germany, he is known as “Zwergpinscher”.
This small dog has a big personality. He likes to be dominant, even over his owner; however, do not let that happen. Training and socialization are priorities.
He is a smart dog, very attentive to strangers. Besides that, he is fearless and bold, and will react when he feels threatened. However, he is not a great choice if you have small children or other pets.
12. Miniature Poodle
Miniature Poodles are super cute, skillful, and agile dogs. Do not let their innocent looks deceive you. They are able to be extremely on guard.
They are excellent watchdogs. You can be sure that they will bark on every visit. They are not very open to strangers; however, they are tolerable towards other pets. If they are not well trained, they can act nervous and neurotic.
13. Miniature Schnauzer
Ignore his serious looks caused by his mustache, long beard, and thick eyebrows. This dog is a delight. He has it all. He is smart, affectionate, likes other people and animals, and he has a fierce temperament and a big attitude.
You may think this dog is a small version of the Giant Schnauzer or the Standard one, but let me stop you there. This gentleman is his own breed.
In the beginning, he was used as a rat hunter, but today, he no longer plays that role. This means he has a lot of energy to spend.
The Miniature Schnauzer has a problem that almost every small dog deals with. He thinks that he is bigger than he actually is. So, imagine an interaction between him and some bigger dog… a great way to get into trouble.
But, this also means that this dog is fearless. He will do his best to protect his owner and property. He also barks really loud, especially at strangers. He is very suspicious towards unfamiliar people.
This is really a tiny dog with a foxy expression. He thinks that he is bigger than he is. That is why he is eager to challenge dogs bigger than he is, even though it is not much of a task, considering that most dogs are bigger than a Pomeranian.
You can call him a Zwergspitz, a Dwarf Spitz, a Loulou, or just a Pom. Maybe he thinks big of himself because he is a relative of large dogs such as the Norwegian Elkhound, the Alaskan Malamute, and the Samoyed.
This dog is German born and raised. His popularity rose when queen Victoria paid attention to this breed and sent one to a conformation show.
He is not very fond of strangers nor of other pets, but with proper training, coexistence is possible. He also bites. Another “frightening“ trait of this dog is barking… very loud and frequent barking. If you succeed in controlling this trait, then you will have an excellent dog for your family.
The Puli is a Hungarian breed that resembles a mop, or you might think that some hairdresser had fun making dreadlocks of his hair. Another name for this dog is Hungarian Water dog. His prime role was herding; therefore, Germans have the German Shepherd, and Hungarians have the Puli. Due to his coat, he appears much larger than he really is.
He is a very independent breed, and kind of bossy. He is very smart, and one of the most excellent small guard dogs. Do not be surprised – this dog barks quite a bit. He is very loyal, and he will protect you, your property, and your sheep.
16. Shar Pei
The Shar Pei is a 200-year-old dog breed. He has a memorable appearance, which is why some people call him the Chinese Wrinkle Dog. He is originally from China, and breeders believe that he is a descendant of the Chow Chow.
This dog was almost extinct after the Communist Revolution. This breed was saved only by enormous efforts of Matgo Law, a businessman from China.
The roles of this breed is guarding, hunting, herding, and an additional one – fighting. This means that this dog is very aggressive. He guards his property without compromise as he is very territorial and also stubborn. His aggressive nature calls for a firm trainer who can show him who the boss is.
17. Shiba Inu
This is another breed that comes from the Far East – to be precise, from one of the Japanese islands. Besides the Shiba Inu, Japan has five more purebred native breeds, and those are the Akita, the Kishu, the Hokkaido, the Kai, and the Shikoku. Apparently, the Japanese like to name their dogs after their islands.
Prepare yourself with a brush because this dog is not a low-maintenance one.
It is an ancient dog. In Japanese there are three adjectives that describe the Shiba Inu: Kaan-i, which means spirited boldness – Soboku, which means alertness – and Ryosei, which means of good nature. If we add his role in hunting birds and wild boar to this list, then this dog has all the important traits of a small guard dog.
Like a Ninja warrior, they are athletic and agile. He can be aggressive, and he also has a strong jaw, so do not be surprised if he bites. It is interesting that females of this breed are more aggressive than males. Another trait that this dog has, which can chase away intruders is the “Shiba Scream” – the way that this dog vocalizes his warning to an unwanted guest.
18. Shih Tzu
“Little lion” would be the translation of the name of this petite breed. He is an unbelievably adorable dog that melts hearts with his cuteness. Even the Chinese royal families of the Ming Dynasty could not resist this lovely creature.
There is a legend that says that Buddha traveled with this dog. One night, robbers came in to robb Buddha and murder him. In that moment, his Shih Tzu transformed into a lion and saved Buddha’s life. When it was all over, he transformed back into dog form. As a token of gratitude, Buddha kissed the dog on its head. He has a white spot to this day.
But, beauty is not his only quality. This dog also does hunting, herding, and guarding.
The Shih Tzu has a nickname – Chrysanthemum Dog. His face looks like a flower because his hair grows from the center outward in all directions.
But, do not let yourself be deceived with his endearing looks. This dog can and will bite. They are also not very tolerant of strangers, small kids, and other pets. He definitely is not an easy dog to handle. If you want one of these small guard dogs, then he can be a choice for you. He is aggressive enough to keep unwanted guests away.
19. Skye Terrier
Born and raised on the Isle of Skye, one of the Hebrides Islands in Scotland, this dog was popularized by queen Victoria when a Skye Terrier accompanied her in a portrait.
Do not let this dog near small animals because he will get aggressive due to his strong prey drive.
He is not a very active dog. Actually, a lot of exercise could hurt him. He is a very loyal and attentive dog, and he will do his best to protect you and your property.
20. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
His nickname is Staffy. Pretty cute, don’t you think? But, do not be deceived. He is a mighty terrifying dog. His prime roles were bullfights and bear fights. That is scary.
So, imagine the nature of this dog. The first thing you want to do with this dog is train him. Like… a lot. This is a precondition for proper socialization.
This is a strong, muscular dog, with an intense stare and stance. He is a very territorial and protective dog that can be aggressive when intimidated. But, you would be surprised that he is very gentle towards children, and that is why they call him a nanny dog. But, it is not recommended to leave him alone with children. He is also not really fond of other pets.
21. Thai Ridgeback
350 years ago, the Thai Ridgeback was domesticated for guarding and hunting. As you can guess, this dog is originally from Thailand. It has another name – Mah Thai Lang Ahn (or Pariah Dog). Complicated, don’t you think? Let’s just stick with the original name.
This dog is not highly trainable, and you will have to put a lot of effort into that process. They are good at hunting and jumping, and they can be quite intimidating. It is a very alert dog, and it will react to danger. Being highly loyal, this dog can even be overprotective toward his owner and aggressive toward strangers.
What Are The Downsides Of Small Dogs As Guard Dogs?
The main characteristic of a guard dog is his physical ability to overthrow a human who appears like a threat to a family member or property.
These breeds of dogs have a few traits in common. For example, they are muscled, they have strong jaws, they terrifyingly bark, and they are very quick to catch you. And, do not forget… large dogs are utterly strong.
If you are, let’s say, a burglar or a thief, the last thing you want to see during a crime attempt is a huge, intimidating dog that has all the intentions of hurting you. That is why big breeds make excellent guard dogs.
When it comes to small dog breeds, most are unbelievably brave little things. They are usually not afraid of much bigger enemies, which is the perfect trait for a protection dog. Unfortunately, small dogs have one flaw that disables them from being among the best guard dogs, and that is their size.
It is not a lack of assertiveness or energy to oppose intruders, but their tiny structure that makes them easy to cope with. In that regard, medium-sized dogs are great guard dogs because they are physically stronger.
Small dogs are great watch dogs because they are very attentive to strangers and can sense trouble easily. They will immediately alert you of possible danger.
Do not be fooled – these small dogs will do their best to stop a dangermaker, even though they are much weaker. It is maybe their attempt to prove themselves as a good guard dog.
In A Nutshell
We hope this list has helped you learn something more about small guard dogs. Most of these dogs are tough studs in small packages, though often, they see themselves bigger than they really are. And, they like to show it off.
Be sure that even though they sometimes lack physical strength, these dogs are very serious about their guardian role, and they will do the job as good as a big dog would.
Small dogs are perfect for apartments in the city or non-spacious homes. Do not worry about burglars or thieves because your small dog will surely warn you with its barking. Also, they are super cute companions that will do their best to protect you and your property. They might even bite.
All in all, you are in safe hands with these brave little fellas.