Dog Training: Guard Dogs

It may come as a surprise to learn that guard dogs are actually friendly when their owner is not under threat. It is only when that situation changes that the attitude of the dog does, too. When the dog develops that new attitude, he will await further instructions from his owner; attack or stand down. Good guard dogs are not those that are constantly suspicious of everyone, as their behavior is usually fear based. If a dog is constantly on high alert and ready to snap at anyone he sees, he is most certainly NOT a good candidate for guard dog training.

Rottweiler Guard Dog Training
Rottweilers are a popular choice for protection dog training

The dogs that do fit the guard dog bill are generally those that have a naturally laid-back, non-confrontational demeanor. Dogs that constantly live in fear always run the risk of attacking someone non-threatening. Positive socialization is a must for dogs to be successful in guard dog training. They should be comfortable in meeting many people and not resorting to growling when they do so. The prime socialization period for dogs comes between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks old. You should not reinforce bad behavior with petting, soothing talk, of treats, and you should never encourage fear in a dog. A dog that is fearful is one that is like a tightened spring waiting to uncoil. This is a dog that will become a fear biter. For protection dog training, it is important that dogs be confident without living in fear.

There is very little difference in the way you train a guard dog and one that is meant to be a “regular” pet. What is required for both is a frequent socialization in a friendly, positive environment. The fact of the matter is that dogs who bark when someone is at the door is not necessarily a trained guard dog. Just about every breed of dog will behave in that manner. The difference is that guard dogs need to be able to recover from that behavior and return to an appropriate form of behavior when there is not any perceived danger.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what kind of dog makes a good guard dog. In reality, what the best breeds are really depends on what someone is looking for.

For example, if a person just really wants a dog that will alert bark and keep on eye on people coming and going, then there are a whole range of breeds that can capably handle this general “watch dog” type role. Many terriers are excellent alert barkers, although the majority will not follow through with biting. Herding breeds are also often excellent alert barkers, and quite a few of them will back up the barking with protection of the family or property.

German Shepherd

Herding breeds make such excellent watch dogs because by instinct they are accustomed to protecting a flock of sheep, and it is essential that they take notice of any change in the flock or any strangers nearby. For this reason, many of the breeds in this group do a top notch job of alert barking. Guardian herding breeds like Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherds, and Komondors are much more likely to not only bark, but to be wary of any strangers. If the need arises, they will also protect.

Other breeds of dogs that have the potential to be good guard dogs are dogs in the Mastiff family. Many of these dogs are gentle giants with the family, but they also make determined watch dogs and protection animals.

Some breeds like Presa Canarios and Pit Bulls are also eager defenders, although due to breed legislation and dog fighting, temperament of individual dogs and regulations make them less desirable.

The breeds that easily transform into not just watch dogs but also trained protection dogs are German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, and Belgian Malinois, to name the more common and capable ones.

There are quite a few more breeds that one can look to for guard dog potential, but they are some of the rarer and not as easily accessible breeds.

For the novice person, the selection of a dog or puppy for guarding potential should not be left solely to that individual. The assistance of anexperienced professional is highly recommended – this is a big decision.

There are a few general characteristics necessary for a competent dog:

  • Outstanding temperament: This cannot be stressed enough! It is essential to see as many adult dogs in the pedigree of your potential puppy as one can. It is also important to attempt to view any potential puppies on neutral ground, not their home turf. Any signs of fear, anxiety, or overt aggression (meaning unprovoked) should be avoided at all costs! Remember, what you see in the adults is in the pedigree of the puppies.
  • Confidence: A dog must be confident in himself and his surroundings to be a good guard dog. Is he curious about new sights and sounds or is he anxious? A dog cannot be sound sensitive and cannot be shy about newcomers or new things if he is to be a competent and trusted guard dog.
  • Assertive: Some people will refer to this as dominance, but a better terminology is assertive. It is key that a puppy you’re looking to fill the role of a family protection dog be assertive and bold in temperament. Out of a litter of puppies, which one is the first to approach new things? Who pushes his way to the front to get the toy? Assertive doesn’t equate to aggressive or mean. It simply means that the dog is comfortable, confident, and will get what he wants.
  • Sociability: Guard dogs are not Labrador Retrievers by any means, but a level of sociability is required. Most standards for natural guard dog breeds list characteristics like “aloofness” and “wary with strangers”. This is true and is classic in adult form, but aloof doesn’t mean aggressive. A guard dog must be able to acknowledge a stranger in its owner’s presence without becoming intimidating.
  • Fight Drive: This is very much related to a dog’s temperament, assertiveness, and confidence, but this is the drive the dog has to protect itself and/or others. This is what police departments look for in protection dogs. These dogs are sensitive to the movement and actions of others, and while they will not start the fight, if the need arises, they will eagerly and without hesitation meet the challenge. The police force are at the forefront of protection dog training methods, they rely on their dogs in many dangerous situations each and every day.
  • Trainability: There are some breeds, like the Chow Chow, which are naturally suspicious of strangers, but they are independent and far less trainable than other breeds. Select dog breeds known for a high level of trainability as well as breeds with a proven track record of guard dog capability.
  • Loyalty: Loyalty cannot be underestimated. A dog that is bonded to an owner is far more likely to defend that person. A breed like the German Shepherd Dog is known for a high level of owner devotion.

Because of the nature of the kind of temperament the ideal guard dog possesses, these dogs are not suggested for a novice person or first time dog handler. They require knowledge and experience because a headstrong, assertive dog can quickly overtake an owner’s home and life. You must know how to correctly educate and lead one of these dogs.

If you are interested in getting a guard dog, or training your dog as a guard dog check the following links:

Sanders Kennels

World Class Canine

Doberman Pinscher is an excellent choice for a guard dog


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