What to Look for in a Protection Dog
Protection dogs are one of the greatest investments you can make. Not only do they provide years of companionship and entertainment, but they also keep your belongings safe — a service that clearly has monetary value. More important, guard dogs keep your family safe — an invaluable service that has no price tag.
However, not all protection dogs are created equally. In fact, some guard dogs create more problems than they solve, including liability lawsuits and potential injury to loved ones.
Below are some useful tips to help you select the right type of protection dog for you and your family.
When it comes to protecting your loved ones and property, intimidation is the best line of defense. And although all dogs can act as theft deterrents, larger canine breeds do a much better job of warding off would-be criminals. This is especially true if they are easily visible at all times.
Larger dogs also do a better job of pinning down intruders (in case it ever gets that far). Plus, bigger dogs can use their longer legs to cover a lot more ground in case of an emergency.
But be warned. You need to give larger canine breeds plenty of space in which to exercise. When selecting a protection dog to guard an urban apartment, you may have to select a smaller breed
2. Curiosity (Not Fear)
When picking protection dogs from a litter, don’t make the mistake of selecting the cutest puppy. Temperament is much more important than looks. Thus, you should avoid puppies that run away as you approach. Instead, stick with inquisitive and curious dogs that fearlessly walk up to you.
You can use sudden noises and movements to weed out skittish dogs from curious ones. Throw a rock on the ground, and see which puppies go over to inspect the noise.
3. Well Socialized
Protection dogs should be naturally distrustful of strangers. But a well-behaved dog should take cues from its master. When new people are invited into the home, your dog should immediately understand that these individuals don’t pose a threat. This is especially important for young kids who may have difficulty reading common signs of canine aggression.
As a safety tip, be sure to provide your protection dog with plenty of supervised socialization — both with other people and other dogs.
4. Barking Is Good
With family dogs, barking is a nuisance. But with protection dogs, barking is a must. Criminals will think twice about breaking in if they can hear a dog on the other side of the door.
And when it comes to barking, size is an asset (again). Toy dogs make a lot of noise, but their barks are usually higher pitched and not nearly as intimidating as warning barks from larger canines.
Also — remember that it is easier to train barking out of a dog than it is to train the barking habit into an otherwise silent dog.
In order for a guard dog to successfully protect, it must feel a bond with its master and surroundings. Some call it a territorial instinct. Others call it alertness. But a better word for this bond is loyalty.
However, trying to determine loyalty in advance is difficult — especially when selecting puppies. But there are certain breeds that are known for their ability to quickly connect with fellow pack members (i.e. your family). German shepherds, for example, are famously loyal and alert work dogs that fearlessly guard everything within their domain.
In addition to loyalty, you also want a protection dog that heeds your command, immediately and without question. A guard dog that ignores your call in order to chase down cats and squirrels won’t do a good job of protecting you when the need arises.
Although all dogs can improve with obedience school, German shepherds rank among the easiest of all breeds to train. Their intelligence helps to explain why they’re a favorite among search-and-rescue teams and police precincts all over the world.
The Most Important Protection Dog Tip of All
There is nothing more exciting than bringing home a puppy for the first time. But when choosing a protection dog, you may be better off selecting an adolescent or adult canine that has already been trained.
Training any type of dog is a huge investment of time and energy. Most pet owners don’t make it past simple housebreaking and fetch. Trying to get a young puppy to obey more advanced commands often requires additional experience and resources.
Starting with a young puppy may be tempting. But if the ultimate goal is to produce a loyal, obedient and attentive dog that can protect you and your loved ones, consider buying your guard dog from a licensed trainer.
Chelsea Kampas is a world-class protection dog trainer for Wayne Simanovich Protection Dogs and a parent to her very own German Shepherd.