Dogs have been used to protect both livestock and humans alike for literally thousands of years. Although guns and electronic security systems have for the most part taken over this function in the modern day, you may for one reason or another wish to keep a guard dog of your own. Guard dogs don’t always have the friendliest dispositions, however, so if you want a family-friendly guard dog, special training will be required.
Choosing the right dog
There are several breeds well-suited to being both guard dogs and family pets, including:
- German Shepherd
- Rhodesisan Ridgeback
- Doberman Pinscher
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Norwegian Elkhound
- Great Dane
- Great Pyrenees
- Pit Bull
- Brazilian Mastiff
- Central Asian Shepherd Dog
You must also consider individual disposition and know the signs that indicate a particular individual may be ill-suited to being a guard dog. These signs include cowering at a perceived threat or not disengaging at your command.
Breeds commonly used as guard dogs can be excellent family companions, but it does take careful, firm, and diligent training from an early age. You must socialize the dog with your entire family so he will bond with them in addition to you. Socialization is also important so the dog will not be afraid of unfamiliar situations. Your dog will need to recognize what normal, innocuous visitors to your house are like so he will not attack them.
You need to be the one training your dog so he will bond with and respond to you. However, enlisting the help of a professional animal trainer specializing in guard dogs will help tremendously. Teach your dog basic obedience commands as well as to bark and, perhaps most importantly, stop on command. Finally, you can move on to teaching your dog to defend you. You will need someone the dog doesn’t know who is wearing protective gear. The stranger should approach the dog, challenge him and make threatening gestures. Command your dog to bark and have the stranger look frightened and run away. This will increase your dog’s confidence and give them the right idea.
Know When To Stop
You also must know when to stop. Dogs that have been trained to attack can be a risk to keep around the house, and especially young children. For this reason, and for liability reasons, training the dog to bite may not be recommended. If you do want to train him to attack, you will need another stranger to approach. When your dog barks, loosen his leash and allow him to bite the stranger’s protected areas (usually the arms). The stranger can also approach the dog, threaten him and encourage him to bite the padded areas. Once your dog does bite, train him to disengage by telling him to “leave it.”
It is perfectly possible, and even a good idea in some cases, to get a dog you can train as a pet and a guard dog. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into and that you select a dog with the right personality, and you can make this goal happen.