Two Letters Re: Recommended Versatile Dog Breeds for Retreat Security

In your 11, August 2005 post (yes, I’m reading the archives) you asked for a review from people who have owned Airedale(s) for an extended period of time. My family has lived with airedale terriers for about 20 years so I might have a little insight. Overall, these animals tend to be highly intelligent, very friendly to family and friends and incredibly headstrong. Their hunting instincts and abilities are amazing. For example, one of our Airedales managed to catch a good sized rodent while on a short lead (approximately two feet of slack). The downside to these wonderful animals is a tendency to be headstrong and intelligent. However, they love to work for you. An alternative I would like to suggest is a Giant Schnauzer. Until recently they were considered to be terriers and are slightly larger than the Airedales. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Giant Schnauzers yet, but so far they appear to be Airedales on steroids. They have a more solid body and a more massive frame. If anything they seem to be more intelligent than the Airedales and at least as headstrong. One thing I have noticed is that the Giant Schnauzers appear more menacing than Airedales. Overall, either of these breeds would be of great help in case of TEOTWAWKI. I hope this helps, I will do my best to answer any further questions you may have.- Gregg

I am looking for a dog and we need some help on a breed. I have a wife and a two-year-old daughter. We need a dog that will be protective of the family from both two-legged and four-legged predators. (We have a large number of black bears where we live)Some of the breeds that have been suggested are the Akita, American Bulldog, Chesapeake Bay retriever and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. As I highly value your opinion. Would you please let me know your thoughts on the subject? Thank you for your time and help. – Ron

JWR Replies: I generally prefer medium size, very loyal, territorial, and versatile breeds such as the Airedale Terrier, Standard Poodle, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Of those three, the best choice for a novice owner or someone with small children is the standard Poodle, since the other two breeds are just too stubborn for most novice dog owner to handle. Gregg’s suggestion of the Giant Schnauzer (also called the Riesenschnauzer) is something to consider, but as Gregg pointed out, this is another very willful breed. The breed has been used as a police dog in Europe. “According to one Giant Schnauzer rescue, ‘without the correct training, they may bite kids. They are not suitable for homes with children under the age of 14 years old.'”

I don’t recommend getting any of the largest breeds or keeping more than two dogs unless you have a giant source of protein to feed your dogs. (For example, if you raise hogs, cattle, or large numbers of chickens or rabbits.) If you do have that sort of larder, then Rottweilers and German Shepherds might also be viable options for retreat security. Regardless of your choice of breed, buy only from a reputable breeder that offers a guarantee against genetic defects such as hip dysplasia and epilepsy. (In Ridgebacks, for example, both hip dysplasia and dermoid sinus.) Avoid line-bred puppy mill dogs. Look for bloodlines that emphasize field practicality rather than just show quality conformation. Ask the breeder if he has any “pet quality” dogs. (Remember, you are looking for disposition–not perfect markings.) Select a pup with a mild temperament that displays intelligence. Be willing and ready to invest plenty of time to training and acclimating your dog so that it bonds with your family and consider the family his “pack” to be defended.