Should I Protection Train My Dog? – Phoenix Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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Email: [email protected]

I receive calls from people who want their dogs trained for protection.

For example, I received a call from a man yesterday that was looking for a protection trainer for his 2 year old female German Shepherd Dog. He had read some of my articles at my web page on this topic, and was looking for some additional advice.

I asked him for some information regarding his personal situation, and for some advice regarding his dog. He is of modest means, receiving some supplemental disability income because of having bad hips due to a past injury. He can get up, but he is mostly in a wheelchair and weighs about 400 lbs. The dog is a mild mannered, spayed, female, quite submissive dog with unknown breeding. His home has been burglarized a couple of times, and so he is concerned about his personal safety. He lives in a state where gun ownership is severely restricted. He has also never owned a personal protection dog and is a novice dog owner, only owning dogs as pets.

I laid out my concerns as follows…

1.) Lack of Experience: He is not an experienced protection dog handler. A true man stopping dog isn’t really a pet. It is a working dog, it has more drive and intensity than a pet dog, and a novice dog owner can get in a lot of trouble owning such a dog. I would never give a fully trained, man stopping dog to a novice dog owner. There was such a case a number of years ago. A woman had purchased a fully trained, man stopping German Shepherd Dog from a protection trainer. She was a novice, and this dog was the real deal. Within 2 weeks of owning the dog, after she tried correcting the dog for not obeying her, the dog attacked and mauled her. She sued the trainer for a million dollars and won. Similarly, how many times have I received phone calls from people where they weren’t looking, and their dogs broke away from them and attacked either an innocent person or animal? You can’t be like a deer in the headlights when it comes to your dog’s actions, especially when you have a protective dog. Others can be harmed. The owner of the dog needs more training and tactical experience than the dog.

2.) Local Laws: I told him to investigate the legality of owning a trained protection dog in his community. It isn’t legal in all places. In some places, it is legal if you get permission by the government to own such a dog, but you’ll find in such places they never approve it.

3.) Physical Strength: I told him I was very concerned about him having such a powerful dog. Such a dog is hard to hold by a fully grown man, in good health, standing on his feet. I’ve seen women dragged down to the ground by their protection dogs. This man is in a wheelchair, so he can’t keep up with the dog during an confrontation, won’t be able to physically hold the dog if it lunges, and he won’t necessarily be able to help the bad guy if the dog has bitten him and won’t release his bite. Police officers are responsible for being able to control their dogs. You can be sued for using excessive force if the dog does more harm than the situation warranted, and if the dog kills the bad guy, then it better be that you have the legal grounds to have used the dog in that manner or you’ll risk going to prison. He didn’t have kids in the home, which would have greatly complicated his task of controlling and supervising such a dog.

4.) Size Of Dog: Not all dogs need to be 75 to 120 lbs to stop an intruder. It is possible to use alternate breeds or mixes for protection work. A dog the size of a Cocker Spaniel, with the proper temperament and training, could be a serious candidate for a person like this man. Most people are usually thinking about big dogs for this role, but that isn’t always necessary.

5.) Activity Level And Lifestyle: Most good protection breeds produce active, intelligent dogs. If this man leads a very sedentary life, then the dog will develop emotional and behavioral problems. You should always get a dog that matches what you are like.

6.) Nature Of The Threat: I am always recommending to people like this to move away from the danger, instead of staying there like a sitting duck. Many years ago, I received an email from a family in a third world nation, where armed gangs with machine guns were going from farm to farm, breaking in, then robbing and raping and killing the residents. They were looking to get some good guard dogs. I had to explain to them that a dog is no match for a machine gun… and asked them why they just didn’t move. They said their families had lived there for several generations and they didn’t want to move. I wonder today if they are still alive. If this man’s intruders are unarmed punks, that is one thing. If he is dealing with armed and determined gangs, then the dog will be dead, and so will he. I told him maybe what he really needs is a small dog that barks, giving him enough warning to escape and to call 911.

7.) His Dog: From the way he described his dog, I doubt his dog would pass the temperament test for protection training. Yes, there are dog trainers out there that will take your money and make just about any dog into a biter. But, that doesn’t mean the dog will be a good protection dog. I told him who to contact if he wanted a protection dog, and how to get his current dog evaluated. His current dog might make a great companion, but most likely he needed a different type of dog for what he was thinking.

8.) Options For Training: My recommendation was for him to first define his security objectives, and then let that dictate whether a dog would fit into those plans or not. In Business School, we were taught the concept of “management by objectives”. Let the objectives determine the plans and tactics, not the other way around. My suggestion was that if he was determined to get such a dog, he would probably be better off with a trained adult dog, of the appropriate size and temperament for his situation. I referred him to who I know is qualified, and honest enough, to help him in this endeavor. I’ve seen a lot of poorly trained protection dogs that were made to be indiscriminately dangerous, and I didn’t want this to happen to him.

Every situation is different. Every dog is different. Most likely, you are making a huge mistake in training your dog to be a personal protection dog. I’ve seen many, many working protection dogs in my life, but only a few that I felt I’d want by my side in a fight and living in my home. I’ve seen pet dogs that were protection trained, and they just ended up as fear biters, not trustworthy any more around strangers and some family members and friends.

My first recommendation is to always get away from trouble. Second, take some personal safety and martial arts courses. Third, adjust your lifestyle and home to make your situation less attractive to bad people. Fourth, if it is legal, get a gun and learn to use it competently. Fifth, if you need a protection dog, you are probably better off with an alarm dog, which will bark and warn you of intruders, but not bite. And last, if you’ve gotten professional help, and paid for the right dog and top level training, consider a protection dog. Further, many untrained dogs, of certain breeds, will be manageable, and highly social… and still would protect you in an emergency. The right dog is more important than even the training in all these circumstances.

The bottom line: I wouldn’t recommend that you protection train your current dog, or that you buy a trained protection dog, as your first option.

NOTE: I do not sell or train dogs for protection. If you have such a need, I can refer you to the right people.