The dog breeds of the Working Group were bred to guard property, protect livestock, pull sleds and carry carts. With their guardian and working heritage often comes loyalty, eagerness, protectiveness and in some cases, a large and commanding presence. If you’re a fan of big dogs, then you’ll appreciate this group. Many of these breeds are gentle giants who, despite their large size, could live comfortably in an apartment or condo. Others are so large, powerful or independent-minded that they’re not suitable for first-time owners.
If you’re an experienced owner who can provide proper training and early socialization, then these Working dogs may be the perfect companions for you. Of course, all dog breeds are individuals, so you might come across a Mastiff who isn’t so gentle or meet a Siberian Husky who will happily spend all day on the couch.
The Akbash can still be found working as a livestock guardian in
rural Turkey, protecting sheep from wolves and other predators. He is large
(typically weighing 90 to 120 pounds) and can be strong and fast. When he’s not taking on wolves, he is generally a
calm, quiet, steady dog with an independent frame of mind. The
Akbash is best suited for a veteran
dog owner willing to guide him with consistent training.
Considered a national treasure in his home
country, the Akita is a Japanese breed developed to hunt big game such as bear,
elk and boar. In Japan today, he is often found working as a police or guard
dog. Usually weighing 65 to 115 pounds, the Akita is a large — verging on giant — breed. The world’s best-known Akita was Hachiko, a loyal dog whose story inspired the 2009 film "Hachi." After Hachiko's owner died, the dog kept vigil
for the rest of his life at the railway station where they always met at the
end of the day.
The Alaskan Malamute is perhaps the oldest and
definitely the largest of the Arctic sled dogs. Named after the
Mahlemut, an Inuit tribe from Alaska’s Kotzebue Sound area, the powerful dog was bred to pull sleds in harsh
terrain and brutal climates. The Malamute tends to be a wanderer at heart, and she has been known to roam for miles.
The Anatolian Shepherd is a livestock guardian
breed originally from Turkey. Since he's a giant and protective breed who can weigh anywhere from 80 to 150 pounds, he's not the best choice for novice owners or families with children. Be prepared to train and socialize this breed from an early age so he grows into a calm, confident adult dog.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Bred in Switzerland to pull carts, drive livestock and serve as watchdogs, the Bernese Mountain Dog can be a great companion dog and usually appreciates having a job to do. Berners can excel at activities like drafting, herding, agility, obedience, rally and tracking.
The large breed typically weighs between 65 and 120 pounds.
Black Russian Terrier
Created by the Russian army during the Cold War for use in military and police work, the Black Russian Terrier can still excel as a guard dog, but nowadays you're more likely to find her in a family environment. She is a giant breed and her beard may become a little messy after eating or drinking. Plus, she's known for snoring... loudly.
The Boerboel, whose name comes from an Afrikaans word meaning "farmer’s dog," is a member of the Mastiff family. Thankfully, he tends to drool less than many of his cousins. He was developed by 17th-century Dutch settlers in South Africa to protect their
families, properties (such as farms and diamond mines) and livestock. He is
agile for his titanic size (varying from 110 to 200 pounds in weight and 22 to
27 inches at the shoulder) and can be energetic, especially when young.
Boxers are characteristically silly, sweet and
mischievous. This popular breed may look worried, but he's known for clowning around with his family. The breed tends to be wary around strangers and can be protective if anyone threatens his loved ones.
The strong-willed Bullmastiff is usually not afraid of
anything and has been known to put his life on the line for his family. This powerhouse weighs anywhere from 100 to 130 pounds and is generally kind with a mild manner, unless provoked. Drooling is a part of the Bullmastiff experience and carrying a drool towel is a good idea, as is accepting the fact that drool streaks will likely be on your clothing and belongings.
The Cane Corso is a Mastiff breed from Italy who was bred to
hunt wild boar and guard properties. While he can be fiercely
devoted to his family, he usually doesn't care much for strangers or small animals. Typically
weighing between 88 and 120 pounds, this strong and powerful giant breed is not the best choice for first-time owners.
In Russian, Ovcharka means “shepherd” or
“sheepdog,” which is fitting since the Caucasian Ovcharka is a flock-guarding
dog who hails from the rugged Caucasus Mountain region between Europe and Asia.
The Ovcharka is best suited to a home where he can put his
livestock-guarding skills to good use, but he can still be a good show dog or companion.
In Inuit, Chinook means “warm winter winds,” and
this rare breed of sled dog is characteristically calm, dignified and warmhearted. The Chinook got his start when
musher Arthur Treadwell Walden of Wonalancet, New Hampshire, bred a farm dog of
unknown heritage with a northern Husky. One of the pups, named Chinook, grew
up to father a breed of dogs who had both his physical characteristics and gentle disposition. Chinooks can weigh anywhere from 50 to 90 pounds
and require lots of daily exercise.
The Doberman Pinscher was created by German tax
collector, Louis Dobermann, to keep himself and the taxes he carried safe from
thieves. Unfortunately, the breed often has a reputation as a large, sinister dog, but these stereotypes aren't fair: He can be the most loyal and loving of companions — as long as his family isn't threatened.
A big game hunter and
guardian breed from Argentina, the Dogo Argentino is not an appropriate choice for a fledgling dog
owner. He is generally big, powerful, intelligent, energetic and headstrong. The Dogo needs
early and frequent socialization and should spend plenty of time with his
family. He usually weighs between 80 and 100 pounds and needs abundant exercise.
Dogue de Bordeaux
Many of you probably had your first encounter with a Dogue de Bordeaux when you saw the movie “Turner and Hooch,” starring a DDB
named Beasley alongside Tom Hanks. He’s related to the Mastiff and is
characterized by a massive head, a large, muscular
body (often weighing 90 to 160 pounds) and a serious expression on his wrinkled face.
The Fila Brasileiro is a Mastiff breed from
Brazil. The guardian breed has a massive head, heavy, rectangular body
(typically weighing close to 100 pounds) and a brindle or fawn coat. While he can be docile and obedient with his family, tolerant with
children and calm and self-assured in new situations, he doesn’t come that way — he needs an experienced owner willing to commit to early, consistent training and
If you are looking for a midsize dog that is generally bold, territorial and alert, the German Pinscher may be what you have in mind.
She can be an excellent watchdog and has the size (normally 25 to 45 pounds) and
ability to be protective, if needed. She was used as a versatile farm dog and
ratter in her native Germany, but the breed nearly disappeared after World War II. Today, she is
primarily a family companion and show dog.
The Giant Schnauzer is the largest of the three Schnauzer
breeds, weighing anywhere from 65 to 90 pounds. German landowners, who wanted a tough dog to drive their cattle, created the breed. This big guard
dog can be playful and loving with his family and will usually defend them and their home from threats, but
he isn’t for rookie owners. The Giant Schnauzer can be demanding, tends to have a mind of his own and requires lots of daily exercise.
Although he may sometimes seem like a bull in a
china shop, the biggest thing about the Great Dane isn’t his size (frequently
between 110 to 190 pounds), but his heart. He was bred to hunt
ferocious boars and guard estates, but today this tall and elegant dog is
better suited to life as a lover, not a fighter. If you’re looking for a gentle
giant, this may well be the dog for you.
With her stunning, white coat and imposing presence (normally
weighing between 85 and 115 pounds), the Great Pyrenees is often considered one of the
most beautiful breeds. Her heritage is that of a flock-guarding dog in the
Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain. Rather than herding sheep or other
livestock, her job was to protect them from predators, such as wolves. She
worked independently, sometimes for days
or weeks at a time. Today, the Great Pyrenees is primarily a family
companion, although some still find employment as livestock guardians.
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
In Switzerland, the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
is known as the Grosser Schweizer Sennenhund, which means “large dog of the
Alpine pastures.” This easygoing, gentle giant was bred to guard and herd
livestock. The typically
confident Swissy is a born watchdog and can be a great family companion or show dog.
Thanks to his corded, white coat, the Komondor resembles a
dog-shaped mop. This flock-guarding dog hails from Hungary, where his coat
helps him blend with his flock and protects him from weather extremes and predatory attacks. Generally intelligent and loyal, he has been known to give his
life to protect his family and property.
The Kuvasz is normally gentle with people,
children and other family pets, but he’s usually not a lovey-dovey kind of dog. Strange people and dogs aren't likely to get a warm welcome, and he may misunderstand children at play and take
steps to protect them. This giant breed is unsuited for condo or apartment life and weighs 70 to 115 pounds.
With his giant size and commanding presence, the Leonberger takes his name from his lionlike
appearance. He's known for his sweet, gentle nature and can be loyal and trainable if he receives plenty of early socialization. The Leo generally requires lots of exercise and is best suited
for people with active lifestyles.
The Mastiff is the classic gentle giant: generally loving, but sometimes stubborn. His size alone, which can range anywhere from 120 to
230 pounds, is enough to deter troublemakers. At heart, he is typically a peaceful dog,
but he can be protective of his family and will usually step in if danger threatens.
The Neapolitan Mastiff is a guardian breed from
Italy characterized by his heavily wrinkled face, loose skin and imposing size.
The Neo is not a gentle
giant; he's usually protective of his family and can be quite suspicious of strangers. He
needs an experienced owner who can command his respect and socialize him from a young age.
Perhaps the world’s most famous Newfoundland is
Nana, the canine nursemaid in "Peter Pan." Although fictional, she exemplifies
the breed’s love of children and lifesaving instincts. Once a working dog on
fishing boats in, yes, Newfoundland, the Newfie is one of the great water dogs
and still exhibits her prowess at water rescue.
Perro de Presa Canario
A Mastiff breed hailing from the Canary Islands, the Perro de Presa Canario is a complex, powerful dog once used as a catch
dog, driving cattle and hogs. Early, frequent socialization is essential, as
the Presa Canario is large (normally weighing 88 to 110 pounds) and can be powerful,
intelligent and headstrong. He can also be highly activity and will not be
satisfied doing nothing all day.
Portuguese Water Dog
The Portuguese Water Dog used to be a
fisherman’s best friend, driving fish into nets, retrieving items from the water and swimming messages from boat to boat. When the Obamas
welcomed Bo to the White House, they put the
spotlight on this rare breed. Fortunately, the Portie generally likes attention almost as
much as she likes playing with children and swimming.
Known for his large head, solidly
muscled body and distinctively handsome black-and-tan markings, the Rottweiler descends from dogs used by the
Romans to drive the herds of cattle that fed the army as it marched through
Europe. The big and protective breed can weigh up to 135 pounds and needs structured, consistent training
from an early age as well as focused socialization around children, strangers and other pets.
It’s true that the Saint Bernard was a savior to
stranded travelers in the Swiss Alps, but he never wore a brandy keg around his
neck — that image was merely the product of an artist, but the public liked it
so much, it became a symbol for the breed. These days, the Saint is primarily a
family companion or show dog, beloved for his characteristically calm and
The smiling Samoyed, nicknamed the Sammie, stands
out for his white fluffiness, wedge-shaped head, prick ears and plumed tail. The
Samoyed’s name can be tricky to pronounce. Most people call him a Sa-MOY-ed, but the correct pronunciation is Sammy-ED. This small, former reindeer herder
usually weighs between 50 and 60 pounds and requires daily exercise to balance his active nature.
Siberian Huskies were originally developed by
the seminomadic Chukchi people of Northeast Asia to pull sleds over long distances.
In January 1925, a team of Siberian Huskies raced across the frozen Alaskan wilderness
to deliver lifesaving diphtheria serum to the remote village of Nome. Since
then, they have remained popular. The Siberian usually weighs 35 to 60 pounds
and needs plenty of vigorous exercise. His dense double coat makes him
well-suited for cold climates, where he usually can’t get enough of frolicking in the
The Standard Schnauzer is the oldest of the three
Schnauzer breeds. German farmers and landowners kept him as a ratter, hunting dog and watchdog. He is typically still good at those jobs today and can be
an entertaining companion and distinguished show dog. He is a medium-size dog,
frequently weighing from 30 to 50 pounds, with a hard, wiry coat in
salt-and-pepper or solid black.
The typical Tibetan Mastiff is highly intelligent,
independent and extremely protective. He generally loves his family
fiercely and tends to be good with children. This giant
breed ordinarily weighs 85 to 140 pounds or more, and he requires consistent training and early socialization.