Smallish Guard Dog Breeds? Corgi?

Updated on October 16, 2012
E.M. asks from Chicago, IL
18 answers

So, I'm considering getting a dog. My husband is often out of town on business and I think I'd feel more comfortable if we had a dog in the house. We have two kids - 5 & 3 yrs old, so I don't want a big dog that will knock them over while playing or pull them over when on a leash. I actually like Corgis, and have heard that they are surprisingly energetic, loyal & agile, but have also heard that they sometimes nip. They also look like they might shed A LOT. (I can take some shedding, but don't want to vacuum daily!)

Anyone have any recommendations? Oh, and another question for dog owners, do you think it is best to have 1 or 2 dogs? My SIL got a second dog and said it made her first dog more active & happier.

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answers from Denver on

I love dogs, all dogs pretty much. However, I wouldn't recommend a Corgi - while wonderful dogs (my mother-in-law has had two, they are hearding dogs, very strong, BARK, BARK, BARK and yes nippy .... I agree w/ the poster who recommended a rescue dog. Try to find a shepherd mix, or any breed that above all would be good for kids :) I am a one dog at a time fan... two is TWICE the shedding, expense... and poop!!!! They are lots of work. Good luck!!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

My MIL has a Corgi and I hate that dog. She barks constantly (at cats, squirrels, (anything that moves) and this one hates anything with wheels) and is very possessive. She has nipped at my daughter one time, cornered her in a hallway barking at her and nearly scaring the pee out of her. And based on my MIL's house, they do shed a fair amount.

I agree with anyone who says try finding a dog through a rescue. Often the foster "parent" knows a bit about the dogs history and knows about the dogs temperament. They also will often take the dog back if it isn't a good fit.

I'd try just getting one dog and see how that goes. Dogs are so much work, and even if you do decide to get two, it might be wise to get one at a time so you and the dog can get used to each other first. Good luck~

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

My dog was a scottish terrier mix. We rescued him from being put down at the pound. He was a fantastic dog. He would bark like he was going to eat them up, but he would almost lick them to death after introductions. Terriers make good watch dogs, and good family dogs and they are about 12" tall at the shoulder.

Its a very sad day today for me. My dog died Sunday night. He was just over 13 years old. And the keys are a little blurry right now.

I miss him. He never shed. I'd just have to trim him every now and them. He was small enough he would sit on my lap and was a great grandkids dog. If they played too much wth him or too rough, he would come and sit by my feet or jump up in my lap. I would tell my grand kids to give Shadow a time out.

I've had two dogs and I have had one dog. One dog makes the dog play with the kids. I chose to have one dog.

ETA: Oh, I hurt. I just finished my dog's grave by a planter in my yard. Now I have to go and set him in it. I miss his wagging tail, his coming to massage my feet with his tongue. I know it sounds gross, but he never did it to anyone else. Just me. Now I have to carry him out and bury him. What a sad sad day.

I miss him. Good luck to you and yours.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

As noted by the others, Corgis want to herd, which can be problematic with kids. (I grew up with an Australian Shepherd, same issue. ;)

Like Christy Lee said below, Miniature Schnauzers can be great dogs if you need a guard dog that isn't big enough to knock kids over. When I was growing up, my best friend's parents were Schnauzer breeders, so she had at minimum 10 of them in the house at any one time. Even the females with puppies were great with us, never growled or bit, and loved to play. And they were fantastic guard dogs. Very alert, and would place themselves in between the kids and the front door whenever they heard the doorbell ring. The only thing is, they do need grooming every now and then (or just do a puppy cut on them).

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Corgis aren't really guard dogs - they are herders. Any shepherd-type dog often walks around the perimeter of where the family is, patrolling the edges. When kids run, the dogs tend to get in front of them to block them.

We have a terrier mix - she's part Cairn, and does not shed at all. Our last dog was a purebred Cairn, and she lost some hair but it wasn't fur, so there were no allergy problems but there's still some vacuuming. Terriers like to chase things - so they're great for kids tossing a ball or a doggie frisbee. They also chase squirrels so you have to expect them to dart off suddenly and pull on the leash. But the small terriers are more manageable and they are great family dogs.

The big retrievers (labs, goldens) are great family dogs, although on the big side for your kids, and they shed like crazy.

A lot of poodle mixes (schnoodles, cockapoos, etc.) don't shed. Portuguese water dogs don't shed either. The smaller the dog, the higher-pitched the bark, so they don't sound like big guard dogs. Our Cairn had a much fuller bark for some reason so she sounded bigger. If you want a dog just to make noise when someone approaches, any dog will do. But they aren't going to be protective in the sense of being a guard dog. Neighbors of ours just got a puggle (part beagle, part pug) and he's small and manageable, very docile, and putting up with a lot of nonsense from the kids. But a lot is dependent on the individual dog, not the breed(s).

Guard dogs are typically German shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, etc. and they are really too big for your kids to manage. Do not get a Dalmatian - they are NOT good with kids, and they aren't good with a lot of adults (they're good with firefighters - not too much attention at the station!).

I think you might consider going to a shelter - it's more humane, it's cheaper, and they tend to know more about the dogs' personalities and histories, and they've been checked out medically. They also interview you, ask about your lifestyle, and help you choose an appropriate pet both in terms of personality and size. A lot of times you get the best of several breeds mixed into one animal just aching for a good home. Getting a one year old dog can make it easier to train and they're usually already housebroken. We just did this for the first time, and it was a fabulous experience. Do not go to a pet store, no matter what you are told by anyone!

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Corgis are good, smart dogs, and great with kids. They are also well known for "herding" their families. It's what they do. And occasional nip to herd is not (hehe!) unheard of. But they aren't doing so because they're trying to hurt anyone at all. Herding dogs nip the heels of the livestock they're trying to move. The younger a dog, the easier you can train them not to do this.

Miniature Schnauzers are also fantastic family dogs. They're super smart, love kids, and are good guard dogs. Like Corgis, they're also tough enough to handle whatever rough play your kids dish out. And Schnauzers are soft, but not heavy shedders at all.

As far as two dogs? With Corgis, yes, I think they do well in pairs. For a Schnauzer...they just want their families and don't really need a buddy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Talk to a rescue about getting a kid-friendly not a puppy dog. One of our best "guard dogs" was a poodle. Another good dog was our Lhasa/wirehaired terrier cross. We usually only had one dog, as the poodle was pretty alpha.

Really, all you need is something that barks, so keep an open mind about type of dog. Our miniature (but not toy) poodle sounded like a German Shepherd (happenstance, we got him as a puppy for $20 - he was the wrong color and a disappointment to the breeder). I wouldn't get a toy dog of any breed - they tend to be snappier and not as sturdy and more timid with children.

I also don't suggest a Jack Russel, Boxer or other high-energy dog unless you are ready to wear it out. They are terrors if they don't get excersize.

I'm a big fan of the miniature poodle, personally. I grew up with one and he was a great dog. Or mutts. Go to a breed rescue and talk to them about your needs and see who they have that would be a good fit for your family.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

1) No dog should knock your kids over when playing with them. No matter its size. Most larger dogs CAN knock over a toddler just with a tail swipe. You don't have toddlers, though.
2) Almost any dog (even the little ones) can pull a 3 or 5 year old over with a leash, if they aren't trained to walk on a leash properly. Kids those ages just aren't strong enough (or mature enough really) to properly manage a dog on a leash. Unless you are talking about some sort of teacup dog. Leashes get wrapped around legs and furniture or trees, etc... if the person holding it isn't cognizant enough of what is going on. 3 & 5 yr olds? Be prepared for some leash burns if you are planning to let them walk your dog (no matter the breed or size).

Multiple dogs? It can be good, or not. Just depends. It will be a lot more work for you in the beginning for sure. And I do mean YOU. You will have to train whatever dog(s) you get and your kids are not mature enough to help in the training process. They can fill water bowls, food dishes, etc... but actual training will need to be managed by an adult who can project authority. I have yet to come across a 3 or 5 yr old who can project sufficient authority as to train a dog.
Some dogs need a friend to keep them occupied. Some dogs are neurotic and can't be left alone. Etc... so a 2nd dog might be good for those types. But this is more of a personality than a breed thing, I think.

We have a GSD that we got when our children were 6 and 3. They all grew up together under my watchful eye (kids are still growing, lol). Wouldn't trade the dog for anything. Yes, she did a little herding nipping that she got over. But she doesn't knock kids over. She is very gentle. And she appears ferocious and like a terror to people approaching our house (she stays inside and watches out the windows). She DOES bark to alert me of any unusual activity/people. And rarely barks at "nothing". She recognizes the neighbors cars, etc.. and ignores them with interest. (watches, no barking). She ignores the daily newspaper delivery that comes at 4:00 a.m. The one thing that is routine that she does bark at is the trash/recycle pick up. I think she doesn't like them taking "our stuff". ;)

She does shed. But it isn't a nightmare. And she is quite a comfort when my husband isn't home for whatever reason. Even if it during the daytime, like if I need to let in a service person.
She has enough energy to go and go and go until we all conk out. But she mostly lays around sleeping if we are being couch potatoes and aren't being active ourselves.
She doesn't wander when she is outside. She stays right with us, or in our yard (usually on the porch or the grass next to the flower bed). She does not like being kenneled (boarding) and does tend to get depressed when we go on vacation without her. In that kind of situation, having a 2nd dog would probably be helpful. But she is 8 1/2 and introducing another dog at this point probably wouldn't have the same effect as if we had done it when she was much younger. And then, it would have been WAY more work and expense than I was willing/able to do at that time.

Keep in mind getting 2 of any breed, means twice the expense. Twice the heartworm, twice the flea preventative, twice the rabies and other annual vet bills, twice the food, twice the boarding costs, etc. And they can live a good long time. Most dogs' average life span reaches at LEAST 8 years, many live much longer... up into the early 'teens' for many breeds.

I'd suggest making a longer list of "desires" in what you are looking for. Not just "won't knock over the kids" but include what you DO want and other "not"s .... not yipping/yapping at every single thing (for example). And compare also what they are like not just in puppyhood, but as mature adult dogs as well. GSDs can be a lot of work as pups, but gosh they are SO worth it when they are past that first 18months....
Good luck with whatever you decide.

I know you want a smaller dog than a GSD. But size isn't everything. :)

ETA: tee hee... our dog even ignores the herd of chihuahuas next door. They have either 4 or 5(?) and are constantly yapping! I hear them everytime I walk outside. They are barking at ME (in my own yard). My dog totally ignores their noise. The dogs through the woods bark back and forth at each other (hunting dogs in kennels, on the dirt road through the woods behind our neighborhood), our dog just listens alertly, and ignores them. She doesn't participate in the cacophony.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

My SIL has a Corgi and I hate that dog. She's very 'nippy', has bitten my niece. And she does shed an awful lot.

If it's a smaller dog you're after, I would suggest either a poodle or a boston terrier. Poodles have hair instead of fur, and they are about the smartest breed out there. They are incredible dogs, I've researched them a lot. Next time we commit to a dog (which won't be ANY time soon), it will probably be a poodle.

I have a boston terrier, and they are great dogs too. Incredibly loyal, really smart, alert, loving. I can't say enough good things about them. So good with the kids. Only thing about bostons is that they are tough to potty train, and they are susceptible to allergies and skin issues (though they don't shed).

Of course, these kinds of dogs wouldn't be much of a 'guard dog', more of an 'alert dog'. My Boston Terrier very much protects our house & premises, but she's only 15 pounds. If someone were trying to break in, though, I sure as hell would know about it. That dog would go nuts.

If you're willing to go bigger, I'm a big fan of boxers. Our boxer is like another kid with our two girls. He absolutely loves to play with them, never knocked them down or anything like that. He sheds a lot though.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

We got an oops dog - it's a minpin beagle mix. Nothing can go by outside out of the ordinary and you not know about it - she will keep it up until the 'threat' is out of site! (tho wonder what kind of threat she thought the horse was....). Her bark is deeper than I expected. Just a thought of a mix like that might work for you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

My first instinct was to recommend a terrier. They tend to be barky dogs - perfect for alerting you to people outside your home. But they have little tiny dog barks. A serious robber is not going to be deterred by a yippy dog. Though the noice will be a detraction, you and your neighbors will soon realize the dog will bark at EVERYTHING and so the bark will lose it's effect of alerting you to trouble. That said, I would second Christi Lee's suggestion for the schnauzer. We had a min schnauzer and it had a much bigger/deeper bark than you would expect. And it didn't shed. She was great around kids and didn't need much exercise at all. They also come in larger sizes. Our '2nd' dog currently is a border collie/aussie mix. She's on the small side, around 30 pounds. Friendly as all heck, and she has big dog bark. As a herding dog, she is very attunded to movement and alerts us to everything, but she is not barky like a terrier. The downside is she sheds a lot but I've become used to this. And though she is an active dog, she is just as happy on days she doesn't get a walk. We have a fenced in back yard so running around there is fine for her.

One thing to consider is what type of yard enclosure you have. We have a fenced yard, so our girl can be out there alone. Even if she slips the fence, as a herder she won't go far. She usually gets to the end of the neighbor's yard and runs in a circle back to us. Our German Short Hair and Wire hairs, on the other hand, must be monitored back there at all times. If they slip the fence they are GONE. They are microchipped for that reason. They can be 3 counties away before we'd know they were gone. And unlike the border collie, they actively seek ways to escape. Chewing through chainlink is not an exageration. The border collie has no desire to roam. She's happy to herd the chairs around the dining table if she gets bored!

As for the 2nd dog, not totally necessary if your dogs get a lot of people interaction. But our dogs are alone from 8-5 each day so we got the 2nd dog for company. As a herder, she's a great companion to one or both of them. She keeps them active.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Cumberland on

Get a German Shepherd-they are great with children, brilliant and easy to train, tireless when it comes to playing, intelligent enough to know when to protect the family and big enough to be taken seriously by everyone. Make sure you get one from a reputable breeder that has been bred for disposition as well as health. I have a Grand dog that is a Pit Bull-I know what you've seen, read and heard, but I have never seen a more affectionate breed of dog. She is absolutely precious-loves people and is very gentle. You just want to get a puppy that has been in a warm, loving environment and make sure that the dog gets a lot of socialization with other dogs. They do not shed much and have no odor. They are very intelligent animals and want to please their owners and others. Because of their reputation , as a breed, they are always taken very seriously and make excellent guard dogs, they, too, will know if someone in the family is truly being compromised. If you really want to step up the comfort level when you are home alone-get video surveillance-no one wants to screw with that! While any dog that barks is a deterrent to an intruder- once the guy breaks in the only chance you will have with a small dog is that he will laugh himself senseless while the police are on the way.

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answers from San Francisco on

We had a Corgi growing up and we all loved her. She did shed A LOT but mom never let her in the house so the hair stayed outside.

I don't recall her being what I would consider a "guard dog" though. She certainly didn't scare anyone!

I would get one dog to start. They are a lot of work; almost like a kid. So start off with one and see how that goes. Only dogs with anxiety problems need that second dog to be happy.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Englishvspringer spaniel. Great personalities, great with kids. You only need a dog that barks. My whole family has always had springer spaniels My Callie passed away almost four years ago and I still cry when I think of her. We have a cute Jack Russell/schnauzer mix had him when we had Callie. He is a sweet funny loving little guy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We have a mini pin. He's small, fiercely protective (thinks he's a giant Doberman), great with my girls (and one was 2 when we got him), super smart, doesn't shed at all, and way to train. Both of us agree he's the best dog we've ever had!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

We have had Corgis for the last 20 plus years. Bella is 10 years old right now and has DM. I don't know if she will make it to Christmas.

These dogs are so smart, loving, and friendly to people Both of our Corgis did not like other dogs. We didn't have an issue with nipping with either Bella or Fergie. I will say Bella is very Alpha and likes to be the boss. She and I have clashed over who IS the boss!! =)

They are herding dogs. We got our first Corgi when our daughter was 2. The kids loved the dog and they both have loved the kids. Fergie did like to herd our little boy in the back yard. They would run all day!

Ours love to walk and will pull on the leash. We have a fluffy so she does shed more than a non-fluffy. But she is so pretty!!! Ours have been blond and red.

Bella sounded like a much bigger dog with her deep bark. She sounded scary but she would lick you to death before she would hurt you! I love Corgis. They are just so darn sweet, smart but they can at times been more high maintenance but not always.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I like Corgis, but don't consider them ideal for a household with young children.

I'd second the Miniature Schauzer or Poodle suggestions-- smallish dogs with little to no shedding that are usually good with kids and will bark an alert. But I would recommend getting one from a high-quality, reputable breeder or from a rescue that keeps the dogs in foster homes. These are both popular breeds that can have very iffy temperament if they weren't carefully bred.

Another breed that makes a good watchdog and a great kids' dog is the Keeshond. They will shed heavily once or twice per year (and you need to brush that hair out daily during shedding if you don't want "tumbleweeds" all over the house), but the rest of the time they don't shed much. And man, do they LOVE kids!



answers from Chicago on

I have 3 kids(5,5,8). We just bought a Border collie puppy. She is so great with the kids..She is 3 months now and almost potty training...We are thinking of getting another one next year.

Good luck

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