Do Big Dogs Deter Burglars?

The quick answer to this question is a qualified yes. We say qualified because the odds that your big dog will deter a burglar depend on a couple of important things.

Do Burglars actually avoid houses with dogs?

A house inhabited by a dog will deter many burglars and make them choose another house that doesn’t contain a dog.

The Guardian did a study with 12 former professional burglars. According to these ex-burglars, the top three deterrents were CCTV cameras, barking dogs, and strong, heavy doors.

Dog services expert Tony Guzman once said in an interview that “For deterrence, there’s nothing like a dog. It’s the fear factor…”.

An Oregon radio station, KGW8, did a survey of 86 convicted burglars and the biggest conclusion was that most burglars would avoid houses that had a big, loud dog. To quote one of the burglars, “Dogs are a deal-breaker for me…”

A private security firm owner in Texas, Louis Wood, when interviewed said he heard multiple accounts from burglars who stated that they always chose houses without dogs, all other things being equal.

From these and other studies, we can logically conclude that dogs provide two things that burglars fear: noise and intimidation.

The noise, of course, is barking. A burglar’s main goal is to get in and out without being detected. A barking dog will cause many burglars to withdraw and seek a house without dogs. Even a barking small dog can be an effective deterrent.

Of course, the loud and deep bark of a big dog is an even better deterrent. And a big dog provides something else: intimidation.

Does a barking dog really deter burglars?

The answer is yes, according to ADT, one of the nation’s largest security firms. A barking dog can scare off an intruder and/or alert your neighbors that something is wrong.

Of course, they also say that a dog is best when backed up with an effective security system. They are, after all, a security company!

While barking is a good deterrent regardless of the size of the dog, the deep bark of a 100-pound German Shepherd is going to be a bigger deterrent than that of a four-pound Pomeranian.

The challenge here is that not all dogs will bark if a stranger enters, or tries to enter, the house. Friendly and jovial breeds such as Golden Retrievers or Labradors may be just as likely to greet the intruder than to bark!

Are big dogs more effective against burglars than small dogs?

We believe it’s safe to say that the bigger the dog, the bigger the deterrent to burglary.

This doesn’t mean that smaller dogs aren’t protective or good deterrents. Many small breeds are fearless. But the fact remains that you’re likely to be more intimidated by an 80-pound Rottweiler than a five-pound Chihuahua.

you may have seen videos where tests were done with certain dogs to determine if they would deter a burglar. Many of them show big dogs that backed off when the pretend ‘burglar’ entered the home and confronted them.

But these videos are deceiving because most burglars will not enter a home that has a big barking dog. The pretend burglars wore dog bite gear so that they could enter the house and confront the dog without fear of getting injured.

Most burglars won’t take this chance. Some may be willing to enter and confront a small dog to see if it will back off, but most will turn away when they encounter a big dog that barks. Do you really want to find out if that ferociously barking Rottweiler will back down?

Unlike in videos, real-life burglars don’t wear dog bite gear!

Keep in mind that many dogs, big or small, will probably not physically attack a burglar, particularly if no one is home. The important thing is that they bark, because what you want is to keep the intruder from entering.

Unless it is a very aggressive and protective breed, it takes a lot of training for a dog to know when to physically attack or restrain an intruder.

Unless you’re willing to do that training, keep in mind that while your dog may deter an intruder with barking, once the intruder is inside it’s very likely that your dog will retreat or even be friendly.

The point of a dog as a deterrent is its bark combined with an intimidating presence – few burglars will challenge this.

What dogs do burglars fear most?

While any barking dog can be a deterrent, the ones that burglars fear most are the larger and more intimidating breeds.

That said, some large breeds are more effective guard dogs than others. Just because a dog is big doesn’t make it a good burglar deterrent. Many large breeds are extremely friendly and would rather lick than bite an intruder.

Both the American Kennel Club and the famous dog trainer Cesar Millan have created lists of what they consider to be the best guard dogs. While the lists are for the most part different, three breeds appear on both and can therefore be considered the dogs that will most deter burglars:

  • Doberman Pinscher. The Doberman is powerful, muscular, and highly intelligent. They are fearless when confronted and score exceptionally high on the loyalty scale. As such, they are frequently used by the military as well as police departments. A well-trained Dobie will fend off any intruder.
  • German Shepherd. While many of the shepherd breeds are protective by nature, the German Shepherd stands out with their intelligence, fearlessness, and trainability. They have a natural protective instinct and will assertively stand their ground. In addition, they are gentle family pets and will sacrifice their life to protect their family members.
  • Rottweiler. This is a working breed possessing great strength, being descended from the Mastiffs of the ancient Roman Legions. With strong protective as well as territorial instincts, Rotties make excellent guard dogs.

It’s important to remember that while all three of these large breeds have the natural traits that make a good watchdog and burglar deterrent, they still need proper training. If fact, training is particularly important to channel their protective instincts properly. The last thing you want is for your dog to attack an innocent visitor to your house.

True story. We knew a K9 police officer whose partner was a 105-pound German Shepherd. Typically, K9 officers take their dog partners home at night, which means these well-trained dogs can easily become protective of that officer’s home and family. In this case, the K9 partner had only been with this officer for a short time.

One afternoon, the boy who delivered their newspaper rode his bike up their driveway to deliver the paper to the porch (this was a number of years ago when kids on bikes still delivered the paper). The officer’s two small children were playing in the front yard, along with the K9 dog.

When the boy rode his bike up the driveway towards the children, what the dog saw was an intruder threatening his new family. He ran up to the incoming bike, knocked it down, and then held the boy on the ground, waiting for the release command.

The boy was unhurt but terrified. It took quite an effort to convince his parents that their son was not actually in danger. With a Shepherd that was just as protective but untrained, the outcome may have been very different.

With the large protective breeds, it’s important to train them young and train them well.

Will a beware of dog sign deter a burglar?

We found sort of a split opinion on this question.

Some home security experts believe that dog signs have been so overused that an experienced, professional burglar will ignore them and instead look for evidence that a dog actually exists.

Other experts believe that a dog sign can at least deter the burglar looking for easy targets.

We tend to believe that even if you don’t have a dog, having a visible beware of dog sign can’t hurt and will probably help.

And some professional burglars agree. A May 2022 article in The Mirror tells of an interview with a professional burglar who said that a house with a dog sign simply isn’t worth it. He wants to be in and out quickly and having to potentially deal with a dog is too much risk.

The ABC News show “20/20” also interviewed a professional burglar who also said he doesn’t take the chance that a dog sign will actually mean a dog. He even went further and said he’d probably stay away from the neighbor’s houses also.

If you want to give some additional credibility to your dog sign, place a large water bowl and food bowl by the back door. Make sure they are banged up a bit and look well used. Then add some worn-looking large dog toys (tug of war ropes are great) around the yard.

An experienced burglar who may otherwise ignore a dog sign may think twice if other signs indicate a large dog lives in that house.

In Conclusion

There is no doubt in the minds of both security experts and professional burglars that barking dogs are a deterrent and the bigger the better.

However, both groups also agree that the number one deterrent is a good security system that includes CCTV cameras. Barking dogs come in a close second. The best-protected houses will have both.

Finally, if you decide to add a big dog to your household as a burglar deterrent, keep in mind that not all big dogs will deter burglars. Some large breeds are very passive and may even be friendly to intruders.

If deterrence is one of the reasons you own or want to own, a large breed dog, then make certain it’s a protective breed that will bark at strangers. That’s what will deter that burglar from choosing your home.

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