Poodles make for fun, elegant and intelligent dogs. They were bred originally for duck hunting in Germany. But it’s been a long time since poodles, and their humans indulged in the sport, and these soft-jawed duck retrievers have found other hobbies to fill their day.
They’re also hypoallergenic, with woolly fur that makes them excellent pets for people with allergies.
But do poodles make good guard dogs? The answer? Not really. Poodles are deeply loyal, and they have definite opinions on unexpected noise and strangers walking down the street, but they aren’t naturally aggressive.
Remember, they weren’t the dogs you used to kill those 18th-century ducks; They were the water-loving duck retrievers. And while one job doesn’t preclude the other, there’s a significant distance between those two jobs.
In fact, far from being bold, adventurous types, poodles can be nervous and even skittish.
But to better understand why poodles don’t make good guard dogs, it’s necessary to understand what to look for in a guard dog.
Qualities You Need In A Guard Dog
Wanting a guard dog to protect your home is natural. After all, it’s the foundation of the age-old alliance between man and dog. We had food, and they reciprocated by protecting us.
But just as not all people are alike, neither are all dogs guard dogs.
Some qualities to consider as you search for a good guard dog are:
- High energy level
Understandably, when searching for a guard dog, you want a breed that discriminates between their humans and strangers. Obvious as it sounds, many dog breeds love all people all the time and will do anything to get attention from them.
That’s not what you want from a guard dog. Your guard dog needs a healthy sense of hierarchy and to put you and yours before all other people.
It happens that loyalty is a characteristic poodles have in spades. If that were all that went into the composition of a guard dog, then poodles would make excellent guard dogs. It is one of the reason that Poodle mixes are so popular for families.
But physical strength is another necessary attribute of a guard dog. If you’re attacked or under threat, you want a dog that can protect you. You don’t necessarily want the dog to attack in kind, but you expect a guard dog to intervene and keep you safe.
What’s more, a guard dog that lacks the physical strength to hold its own riks hurting itself. That’s not something anyone wants to happen.
Confidence is a vital part of a guard dog’s personality. It takes a lot of pluck to confront a potential threat. One of the reasons poodles don’t make good guard dogs is because that isn’t a characteristic they possess.
Conversely, poodles can be clingy, and they can be shy. That, combined with their innate loyalty, means they would rather stick close to you than venture out to meet other dogs.
That may sound like the ideal combination for a guard dog, but it risks the poodle seeking protection from you if the pair of you are confronted by someone or something threatening.
High Energy Levels
This is another attribute poodles have in spades, especially young poodles. So much so, in fact, that they’re often called bouncy or springy.
We’re reliably informed this subsides with age, but the evidence presented by our aunt’s charming poodle, Jonesy, begs to differ. Ten years on, he’s still got springs for feet.
Doubtless, this owes to the poodle’s duck-retrieving origins since to do their job effectively; poodles needed to be remarkably athletic dogs.
Let them have their way, and they’ll play for hours. But play is the operative word. A well-trained poodle makes an excellent retriever of balls, sticks, and everything else under the sun. But comparatively speaking, while exuberant, they aren’t good guard dogs.
Because, by nature, a guard dog protects you, a certain amount of instinctual aggressiveness is required. While you can train some dog types into aggressive behavior, poodles aren’t one of them.
They’re much more likely to flinch if you touch or startle them. This is yet another contributing factor when it comes to why poodles don’t make good guard dogs.
Of course, guard dogs don’t need to be constantly aggressive, but they need to display dominance. However, a well-trained poodle is much more likely to make himself submissive in the face of a threat.
If Poodles Don’t Make Good Guard Dogs, Which Dogs Do?
While poodles don’t make good guard dogs, there are various breeds that excel at guarding. Among these are:
- Australian Shepherd
- German Shepherds
If poodles are retrievers, Australian Shepherds are herders. This is useful in a guard dog since she will instinctively try to move you to safety. The Australian Shepherd is also highly alert to its surroundings, an excellent feature in a guard dog.
The Boxer is another dog breed that makes an excellent guard dog. It’s not his natural role, but he’s an easy-to-train breed that possesses equal amounts of loyalty and courage.
And like the Australian Shepherd, Boxers are alert to their surroundings. Consequently, with the right training, they can make good guard dogs.
Bold, brave, and intelligent, German Shepherds are another popular breed for people looking for guard dogs. They’re harder to train than other dogs, but only because they have their own opinions on what you’re asking them to do.
But with patience and thorough training, you’ll soon have them springing into protective action.
Aspects of the Poodle that Make Them Good For Guard Dog Training
With the characteristics of a good guard dog established, you can now assess whether poodles make good guard dogs.
One of the reasons there’s potential for poodles to make good guard dogs is because they’re so attuned to their surroundings. One of the most attentive dog breeds there is, it’s hard to take a poodle by surprise.
Similarly, poodles are said to be one of the easiest dogs to train. They’re people-pleasers and will do anything for affection. Irrespective of whether poodles make good guard dogs, this is an asset in any canine friend.
Poodles have boundless energy. Capitalizing on that has the potential to make them good guard dogs. They require significant exercise and protecting you can be a way of diverting some of that energy.
Conversely, and detrimentally when it comes to finding a guard dog, poodles are:
That might sound like an asset if you’re hoping poodles make good guard dogs. In practice, poodles can be skittish dogs, and that nervous energy is as likely to send them hiding behind you as it is to have them jumping out in front of you.
Loud sounds and stressful situations can heighten that nervousness. Hardly ideal guard dog material.
And, of course, as discussed, you want a guard dog that is fussy about who it’s friends with. Poodles, on the other hand, aren’t naturally aggressive when meeting strangers. They’d much rather discover if the newcomer is prepared to feed and play with them.
It’s invaluable in a family pet. But perhaps less than helpful when choosing a guard dog.
Training a Poodle to Make a Good Guard Dog
If you’re determined to make a poodle a guard dog, then the best policy is to start training them as early as possible.
Poodles train easily and are responsive to positive reinforcement, so with the right training, you can boost your poodle’s confidence and train him to guard you. With luck, once they’ve acclimatized to you and your home, they’ll want to protect both.
Consider a Watchdog
While poodles don’t make good guard dogs, they can be excellent watchdogs.
Unlike guard dogs, watchdogs don’t need to be as aggressive, and that lifts the expectation that the poodle protects you from danger. Instead, training her to be a watchdog capitalizes on her natural attentiveness and nervousness to warn you that danger’s approaching.
Additionally, while guard dogs aren’t always the ideal pet for families with small children, a watchdog can give you extra security without less potential for misadventure.
Finally, there’s no expectation that a watchdog attacks threats in the same way a guard dog would or should, and that works to the poodle’s advantage.
While poodles may not make good guard dogs, they compensate for the lack in various ways.
Not only are they hypoallergenic, but they have a charming, friendly disposition that is keen to please you as much as possible. And while not naturally adventurous types, they’re energetic dogs that will follow you on whatever outdoor excursion you feel up to.
Moreover, while poodles may not be good guard dogs, their alertness and nervousness can make them excellent watchdogs. There’s a chance they will warn you about everything from the toddler learning to ride to the mailman, but with patience and the right training, you can help them distinguish between perceived and actual threats.