By Lori Melton
Owning a dog can be rewarding on many levels. But, if you’re looking for your four-legged friend to also offer some extra home security, there are some important things to consider. For instance, certain breeds make better guard dogs than others. Check out the tips below for picking out and training the perfect guard dog.
Research Guard Dog Breeds
Some dog breeds just naturally make better home protectors. Do some research before choosing the best breed for you. Talk to dog trainers, breeders, veterinarians and of course, do online research. In the latter, consider recommendations from reputable sources.
American Kennel Club lists several good guard dog breeds including Bullmastiff, Doberman Pinscher, Akita, German Shepherd, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and more. Each breed has different desirable guard dog attributes. German Shepherds, for instance, are “smart, confident, courageous, and steady.”
Choosing a Specific Dog
Once you lock in on a breed, you must choose a puppy from a litter. You ultimately want to choose a dog with a good temperament (not too hyper or too fearful), that is also healthy. You should pick a dog with healthy, pedigreed parents. Refrain from choosing a dog that has hip dysplasia in its family line, as this is a crippling condition. Ask for veterinary records, if available. If records are not available, consider looking elsewhere for a dog.
Assess Your Expectations
Having a firm grasp of exactly what it is you want or expect your guard dog to do for you goes hand-in-hand with choosing the right breed. For example, do you want your dog to bark if someone comes near your property? Do you want the dog to defend you and your family, as well as your property? Answering these questions will also help you take the right steps in training your dog.
Train and Socialize Early
It’s important to start training your dog early, as a puppy, soon after you bring it home. After the puppy is vaccinated, start exposing it to other dogs, people, children, and various settings inside and outside of your home. Give him treats for good behavior. This gets a dog accustomed to recognizing “normal” and abnormal (and potentially threatening) situations.
Start your dog in obedience classes as soon as possible and inform the instructor you’d like to train your dog to guard. A good guard dog should obey your commands and get along well with the family. Obedience classes can boost your dog’s confidence, and if the dog is well-socialized, he or she will be calm in situations with a lot of people and activity. Always be patient, because it can sometimes take a while for puppies (who are often frisky) to learn to be calm.
Basic Commands and Barking Alert
A guard dog should obey all the most basic commands including sit, lie down, stay, and come. The dog should come 100 percent of the time when you call.
You should also teach your dog to bark and stop upon command. Get the dog excited until he starts barking, then praise him when he does it at your command. Use a word like “enough” when you want him to stop, and praise him when he does this at your command as well.
Doing this preps your dog to bark an alert when a stranger crosses into your property. Practice with someone your dog doesn’t know. Have the person start to cross your property line, then give your dog the bark command. If the dog barks before the person passes the property line say “no.” Repeat the drill (and praise correct behavior) until it’s clear a bark is signaled when a stranger comes into your property.
Overall, hearing a barking dog is often a big enough deterrent to stop unwanted intruders from gaining access to your home or property. So, training your dog to bark accordingly can be extremely beneficial.
Taking Action to Defend
If you want a dog who will alert you upon sensing an intruder and also defend your family if an intruder is threatening, it is best to consult a professional dog trainer. Most importantly, if your trained attack dog is living with you, never leave it alone with children. Kids could unknowingly trigger the dog by making fast movements or unexpected noises. And, you’ll need to post warning signs on your property that an attack dog lives there – for delivery people, contractors, or any other non-threatening strangers that come to your home.