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Is my dog a ‘guard dog?’


Is my dog a guard dog? Alaska Dog Works

Many people like to consider the dog they own to be a “guard dog”. One that will not only scare away “bad guys,” but will bite when the owner feels threatened. We have of course also seen people take it a step farther who feel the need to obtain an “aggressive” breed and then leave the dog in the backyard to give it no socialization. This is common to some people as a “junkyard dog.’ It is not only ignorant, but dangerous. Not to mention it gives the breeds a bad name.

When we hear the word “guard dog” we often think of certain breeds (German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, etc). Yes, these dogs can be great for that type of work, but not all are capable of it. The truth is, most dogs who have never had any type of “guard dog” training will never perform up to their expectations. In fact, they may not even bite if someone came into the yard or home. In the case the dog does bite, it is often a quick defensive bite when the dog feels threatened, not the owner. I am not trying to burst anyone’s bubble here. There are dogs who will fend someone off and bite with no hesitation. Some are not even “guard dog” breeds. Many stories have come out about how the household dog comes and saves the day. It is always great to hear stories like that.

Now when I hear someone tell me their dog is a “guard dog”, I take it with a grain of salt. The reason being, people who know what it takes to have that type of dog will not use that phrase “guard dog”. It is more common as “protection training” or “protection work” and it takes a lot of work and dedication. When you see a police K9 or MWD (military working dog) that is the type of training they go through to apprehend someone. The dogs are socialized and do not bite someone out of 100% fear. They love what they are doing! Most common breeds military and enforcement use for apprehension or patrol work are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinos (the breed pictured below) and Dutch Shepherds.

Now just because you have one of these breeds does not make them a “shoe in” for this type of work. They must be evaluated to test the dog’s drive. I often compare this to professional athletes vs dogs who would much rather be spectators. The spectators can train and try to be a professional athlete but will never be as great – they just don’t have the genetics and/or temperament.

If you have a dog now or are interested in getting a dog for this type of work, contact a professional trainer. Not everyone can evaluate or train your dog for protection work, but they should be able to point you to someone who can. Actually, there are almost zero reputable trainers that will train a civilian dog for protection – so be very leery if you find one that does. Most trainers will work with a protection club for civilian training (see Protection Sports of America or example). The club members will work with each other to evaluate and train their own dogs. This is actually a great way to go because you will be involved in the training and it is generally less expensive. One reason to go this route is that protection training takes commitment to train and maintain. If you begin doing the training yourself and don’t have the discipline or drive you will stop before the dog is dangerous. If you “buy” a protection trained dog and don’t have the discipline you could put yourself, friend and family at risk.

The internet has lots of information as well, however, not all of it is great. I could be on this subject for days so I will stop now. I hope this was valuable information and I would be happy to answer any questions on this subject.

If you would like to learn more about the protection training program at Alaska Dog Works please click here.