To most people, a dog is simply an affable companion, a substitute child, an excuse to go for a walk and escape the in-laws at Christmas, or a friend who’s always pleased to see you and never lets you down.
But for some, a dog’s primary role is to guard, whether you want to protect property, children or livestock.
Of course, guard dogs can also fulfil all these other roles as well as looking and sounding ferocious to potential intruders – and you don’t necessarily need a Doberman to scare off potential villains, even my little Boston Terrier packs a fearful bark, even if he looks faintly amusing while he’s doing it.
But what other animals could also fill the role of guardian of your wealth or health? Specialist home insurance broker Adrian Flux finds out.
Honk! While you may be able to sweet-talk a dog, or feed it raw meat, there’s no reasoning with an angry goose, as the Gauls found to their cost when their night attack on Rome was foiled by two noisy birds in 390BC.
While the Romans’ guard dogs uttered not a whimper as the Gauls approached, the pair of sacred geese flapped their wings and honked the Capitoline Hill down, awakening Marcus Manlius Capitolinus and his troops, who drove off the attack.
Geese are extremely territorial birds, and will make a fearful racket when threatened. They also have incredible hearing and, in common with most birds, razor sharp eyesight, making them more effective than even dogs at spotting unwelcome intruders.
They will also normally run aggressively towards the point of danger and administer a nasty nip, which may not be as life-threatening as a German Shepherd’s bite but is usually enough to frighten the life out of would-be burglars or rustlers.
While most people are familiar with dogs, the sight of a honking goose in full flow offers fear of the unknown – and they’re very hard to quieten down once they’re riled.
It’s best to get a guard goose from very young, and they’re best suited in rural areas – unless you really want your neighbours to hate you…
Really? Donkeys? Those friendly creatures used to give children rides on the seafront, take part in donkey derbies and used to befriend and calm fractious racehorses?
Don’t be fooled. Donkeys become anxious around strangers and are very territorial, relying mostly on incredible hearing to detect intruders or, in the case of defending sheep and other farm animals, predators.
Ever heard a donkey bray? Then you’ll know it’s not only incredibly annoying, but pretty loud too, and they can also administer a sharp kick to unwanted guests.
It’ll even cut your grass for free.
Granted, snakes don’t make much noise. That’s kind of the point of snakes – they hunt by stealth.
But would a burglar enter your home with a “beware of the snake” sign on your front gate? Probably not.
Even if your snake is not venomous, most people have an ingrained fear of the sly reptiles and will stay well clear.
Mohammad Al-Fayed used a cobra to guard a £62,000 pair of ruby, sapphire and diamond encrusted sandals at Harrods in 2007. OK, so it was a publicity stunt on behalf of the Egyptian, but no-one stole the sandals…
With fluffy coats and long necks, llamas look a bit like a cross between a sheep, a goat and a camel. In short, a bit ridiculous (sorry llamas).
While they do indeed spit, it’s usually at each other when playing gets out of hand or when cornered and angry.
And you don’t want to be approached by an angry llama, which is a territorial animal and can be trained to protect other animals (and probably children!) and property.
When roused, a llama will approach at speed with its head low, sometimes making a unique growling or gurgling noise.
If this doesn’t send intruders packing, the guard llama will strike out with their front legs and give them nothing short of a right good kicking.
Parrots can be useful guard pets in two ways: they can learn how to bark, and they can be aggressively protective of their owners when threatened.
A security company in Telford, Shropshire, employed two macaws called Cilla and Elvis after they learned to bark like a dog from a neighbour’s Scottish Terrier.
Meanwhile, a parrot in Coventry fought off burglars threatening to ransack a pet shop. Jack, a Sun Conure parrot, became so enraged at the prospect of his fellow birds and animals being stolen that he savagely attacked the intruders, emerging from the scrap with bits of clothing and blood on his beak.
Charlie, a parrot in Arkansas, took a chunk out of intruders when they attacked his owner, while drug gangs in Columbia apparently train thousands of birds to alert them of police raids, squawking things like: “Run! Run! We’re going to be caught!”