Watchdogs, Guard Dogs and Personal Protection Dogs

Watchdogs, Guard Dogs and Personal Protection Dogs

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Sam Basso
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Different breeds of dog have been created to be aggressive in different circumstances. It is sometimes useful to categorize the different roles dogs have been given so that you can better figure out which dog is right for you. So, here are my explanations of these different roles.


The role of the Watchdog is to detect territorial intruders, detect threatening people or animals, to possibly confront but not ever bite, and to alert the owner that something is wrong through barking. Most dogs of most breeds will fulfill this role. You will hear of these breeds sometimes “pinning” a stranger against a fence, barking at them, but the person is never bitten. The bigger dogs are used as visual deterrents to criminals. They are supposed to bluff, and stand up to the threatening gestures of the criminal, but aren’t supposed to bite. Many times, when you hear that a dog is “protective”, they are really describing a Watchdog. These dogs won’t ever bite someone, but they will put on a good show. Dogs that can fulfill this role range from very small to very large: as small as the Chihuahua to as large as the Mastiff. Usually the miniature breeds make excellent Watchdogs. They have excellent hearing and will alert you to anything strange or unusual, so you can take steps to investigate what is going on so you can protect yourself. Many breeds are falsely advertised. People are told that the dog will protect them if someone threatens the family. The truth is that very few dogs will actually do this kind of thing. The only way to test whether a dog will actually attack someone is to do a setup with a professional dog trainer in a hidden padded suit. Then, you can set up a scenario that is threatening, and see if the dog would actually attack. Most dogs can be run off in such a scenario. The dogs are Watchdogs. There is nothing wrong with a dog or breed being a watchdog. For most people, this is what they need, an alarm. A Sport Protection Dog is usually a Watchdog. Many of the dogs that are trained to compete in the sports of Schutzhund, Ring Sport, KNPV and IPO are Watchdogs. They come from breeds that are typically associated with doing Personal Protection work, but they would be very unlikely, regardless of how much training you did, to ever bite an intruder or criminal, or anyone else for that matter, that wasn’t wearing the kind of padded suits they are trained to bite. Most are Watchdogs.

Guard Dog

The role of the Guard Dog is to protect territory from intruders. The dog is expected to attack and win a fight against an intruding animal or human. Guard Dogs get pleasure and positive reinforcement from patrolling and defending a territory. They like to watch over it and enjoy successful confrontation. They get very angry (aggressive) and combative if their territory is breached. The Guard Dog will usually be alert, fast, highly territorial, aggressive and combative with intruders, and have an all weather coat. Some Guard Dogs will not be aggressive, or will be substantially less suspicious and aggressive, once they are off their territory. It is inhumane, these days, to use dogs to work and protect property alone. It is too easy to kill a lone dog. If you are to use a Guard Dog to protect your property, they should be kept in the house with you, instead of left in a yard unattended. The Guard Dog role, working alone to ward off or attack intruders, is obsolete. You should NOT let a dog do this role. They will either get loose from the property and attack some innocent bystander, or they will be killed by a determined and evil intruder.

Flock Guard

The role of the Flock Guard is to protect livestock from intruders. The dog is expected to attack and win a fight, if necessary, against predators (especially the wild canines and big cats). The Flock Guards are not suited to do combat with a human, and they should not be deployed in this role, or to be expected to confront and attack a human intruder. These types of dogs get pleasure from patrolling a territory, and they like to protect the livestock. The key to raising a dog like this properly is to have the puppy imprint and bond to the flock. They then take on the role of the Alpha dog over the flock, just as they would over a pack of dogs, and they protect the herd as if they were part of their canine family. They like to watch over their livestock and territory, and enjoy confrontation and combat with intruding animals. They get very angry (aggressive) and combative if their territory is breached by intruding predators. The Flock Dog will usually be alert, fast, highly territorial, aggressive and combative with animal intruders, and have an all weather (usually white) coat. Some Flock Guard breeds will not be aggressive, or will be substantially less suspicious and aggressive, once they are off their territory. It is not uncommon for them to be dog fighters, since it is their role to attack intruding wild canines, and they are very pack oriented. Flock Guards perform a very useful role for ranchers all over the world, primarily protecting cattle and sheep.

Personal Protection Dog

The role of the Personal Protection Dog is to protect a human handler from criminals. They are also called “police dogs, military dogs, security dogs, and personal protection dogs.” There are only a handful of breeds that were specifically created, and suitable, to fulfill this role. These breeds were designed to be able to work under command, to do extremely complex tasks, to be highly obedient, to track humans, and to be able to confront, attack and win a fight against a criminal. These breeds, by nature, have to be personable, bond closely to a human, athletic, hardy, alert, bold, courageous, properly aggressive, stable, be sometimes wary of strangers, territorial, pack oriented, good with children and puppies, and highly trainable. These dogs can and should have the wherewithal to bite a criminal, and stop that human from being a threat, but also be easily controllable by the handler (through proper training and good temperament) when no threat exists. There is a great need for good Personal Protection Dogs. They are suitable companion dogs for responsible pet owners, and they are necessary and lifesaving tools for people that have to deal with criminals.

Fighting Dog

The original role of most of the fighting dogs was that of a “butcher’s dog” or a “catch dog” or “pig dog”. Their job was to grab onto big animals by the face and wrestle them to the ground or to a standstill. The hunter or butcher would then kill the animal for food. The fighting breeds were generally not bred to guard property or people; and are generally people-friendly. Examples: the English Bulldog of the 1800’s (not the modern version, which is just a pet today and incapable of doing this work), Pit Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, and mixed bred “pig dogs”. Each of these breeds have sometimes been bred and exploited by gamblers, who would put them in closed arenas to fight against one another, or to fight other animals (bear, lions, big cats, monkeys, and others). The original role of the fighting dogs is now obsolete, except that of using them for legitimate hunting purposes (usually hunting wild boar). The role of using these dogs as fighting dogs was always inhumane. It is illegal to stage dog fights.

Hunting Dog

There are a few types of Hunting Dog. The Sighthounds were created to assist hunters, who use them in packs to chase, catch and kill game. They were also used to kill other predators, such as wolves and coyotes.. Examples: Afghan, Borzoi, Greyhound, Irish Wolfhound, and the Saluki. They hunt by sight. The Scenthounds were created to assist hunters, who use them individually, or in packs, to chase and find game by scent, then cornering the game for other dogs to catch (bulldogs or mastiffs), and then allow the game to be killed by the hunter. Examples: Basset Hound, Beagle, Black and Tan Coonhound, Bloodhound, Foxhound, and Otterhound. The Bloodhound was the only Scenthound specifically designed to hunt for human scent. They have been primarily used to locate runaway criminals and lost persons. Terriers were created to find and kill vermin, usually for farmers, who needed them to prevent rodents from destroying their crops or harvests. The Pointers, Setters and Spaniels were designed to help hunters find and flush birds out of brushy or grassy areas. The Retrievers are not hunting dogs. They are generally not used to find live game. The human is the hunter. The Retriever is designed to bring dead birds back to the hunter. The “pig dog” is used in packs by hunters to hunt wild boar and large cats.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.

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