How to Train a Dog for Personal Protection

Updated on February 22, 2020
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

How to train your dog for personal protection.
How to train your dog for personal protection. | Source

A Personal Protection Dog Is Trained to Guard You at All Times

Do you walk alone at night? Are you in need of a personal protection dog, the kind of animal that will attack someone who threatens you?

According to the US Army Field Manual FM-740, an attack dog cannot make friends with anyone but his or her primary handler. An attack dog is fed by a single handler, exercised by a single handler, and never touched or given affection by any other person.

Is this really the kind of dog you want? This behavior, and the type of training that you need to perform, can be a real problem when dealing with pet dogs. Most dog owners do not want a dog that will only respond to them. They want a dog that the entire family can enjoy. Even a person who is alone most of the time cannot guarantee that she will be home every day.

Do you want to own a good personal protection dog and also have a great pet? Do the goals contradict one another? These training methods are not for everyone, nor are they suited for all dogs. A dog selected for personal protection needs to be well socialized, confident but not aggressive, and have an interest in his owner's every move. In Schutzhund training (schutzhund is the German word for protection dog) some of the dogs are still good household members. This is unusual, though.

Most are not.

If you are sure that you want a personal protection dog—and not a petwhat do you need to do?

Some other dogs will be fine as watch dogs but are not built for personal protection.
Some other dogs will be fine as watch dogs but are not built for personal protection. | Source

Teach Your Dog Obedience Commands

The first thing you need to do is teach your dog basic obedience: Your dog must respond to all basic obedience commands. He should sit, lie down, and come to you 100% of the time when called. Your dog should heel without a leash. In addition, your dog should learn and respond to the “bark” and “leave it” commands.

Important note: If your dog does not follow these commands consistently, or if you are not able to teach her new commands, you need to stop trying to turn your pet into a personal protection dog.

Socialize Your Dog

You also need to socialize your dog so that she does not fear new and unusual situations. This is best done at the sensitive socialization period (up to about 16 weeks) but of course this is not possible for all dogs.

Socialization can take place every time you take your dog for a walk. If you see a strange object, especially if the dog is nervous, take her closer so that she can investigate. Your dog also needs to recognize what a normal pedestrian looks like and not feel threatened, or feel that he needs to threaten, any other person he happens to meet.

Important note: Not every dog is able to distinguish who is safe—and so of course not every dog should be trained for personal protection.

Teach Your Dog to Bark on Command

Encourage your dog to bark at the approach of any stranger. (If you need more help in learning how to train your dog to bark you can click on the link.) A dog that barks at a stranger can be more effective than a dog that responds to an “attack” command but does not bark.

Some dogs are not good at learning this command. I have a Pit Bull that I trained to bark at the word Urubu (vulture) since she gets excited and barks at them on the beach. Now, when I want her to bark, I just say the word urubu.

Take note of what your dog does naturally and sometimes he will respond.

Barking comes naturally to many dogs, but you may need to teach your dog to stop barking when given a command. When he has barked once or twice, you can tell him to sit and then order him to stop. If he does not stop, order the dog “down.” It is very difficult for a dog to bark when he is on the ground.

Important note: If your dog will not bark on command and does not even bark at strangers, he is not a good choice for a protection dog.

Teach Your Dog to Defend You

For the next step in the training process you need to find someone the dog does not know. The “stranger” approaches during the walk, walks up and challenges your dog. He can be wearing a dog attack suit, an oven mitt, or even a quilted blanket on his arm, but he may not even need it. When you give the command and your dog barks at him, he needs to act afraid and run off. Your dog will become more confident.

Personally, I think this is a good place to stop. Your dog has already learned to bark and appear threatening to anyone that threatens you when out walking.

If you decide to go further, please realize that a dog that has been trained to attack is not a great pet to have around the house. There are many anecdotes about docile family attack dogs and there are also many anecdotes of attack dogs that have injured someone in their household (usually one of the children). There is also the possibility that your dog might bite someone who is just coming up to talk to you; you can be sued and might lose everything you have because your dog is a trained attack animal.

The next time a different "stranger" approaches your dog and makes threatening gestures he will probably start barking even before you give him a command; if you want to proceed you should loosen (but not release) your dog's leash.

You can then allow him to go up and grab the stranger's protected arm. (You may need to encourage him by telling him "get him" in an excited voice, but some dogs will go ahead and approach the stranger alone.) If your dog does not approach the stranger, that person should put his padded arm close to the dog, threaten the dog, and encourage him to bite.

Important note: If the dog cowers or shows fear of the stranger at that time he is not suitable as a personal protection dog.

Teaching Your Dog to Back Off

This is really one of the most important parts of training a personal protection dog. He must be willing to protect you but he must always be willing to leave the person alone.

As soon as your dog puts his teeth on the stranger he should be told “leave it” and given praise.

Important note: If your dog does not respond to the “leave it” command at this time he can become vicious later and you will not be able to control him; you must stop considering him for any personal protection training

Personal protection dog training.
Personal protection dog training. | Source

Breeds and Other Considerations

Some dog trainers do not recommend personal protection training for Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, Dogo Argentinos, etc. These dog breeds will protect naturally and additional training is not usually necessary.

It will do you absolutely no good to try to train a Basset Hound or a Chihuahua; so long as you can control the dog I do not see a problem with training any of the other breeds.

I do not believe you need to surrender thousands of dollars for a personal protection dog, but you do need to realize that training your pet is going to change his personality. Your dog may fail to serve as a personal protection animal and still be an excellent animal. The statistics of the (SBK), a group that often tests dogs used for personal protection, indicate that the majority of dogs that are tested using the Dog Mentality Assessment Test do not pass. I have never had a Siberian Husky that would serve to protect me. My Pit Bull cross seemed to understand the requirements almost right away. Not one of them was a better dog than the others; they were all individuals and had different skills.

Do not forget—a personal protection dog may also be a liability where you live. If he were to bite someone, and it became known that he was a protection dog, you would be more likely to be sued. You would be more likely to lose a lawsuit if your dog has been trained to defend you.

If you do not have total control of your dog do not even consider this type of training!

Consider if you really want a personal protection dog, and if that is what you really need, before you proceed with any further training.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

  • Does a person hit their dog on the head to make him mind?

    No, if you do not know how to train your dog without hitting him you need to hire an experienced trainer. Dogs respond to positive reinforcement. If you hit your dog he will probably eventually bite you.

  • Why won't my dog be aggressive to strangers?

    Some dogs are meek, are not aggressive, and feel no distrust when around strangers. This is normal and not something you can change without abusing your dog and making her uncomfortable.

  • How can I purchase a tough dog?

    I am not sure what breed of dog you are interested in, but no matter what you choose dogs are individuals. You might choose a tough breed like a Cane Corso or Presa Canario and end up with a mild and shy dog.

    The only way to be sure your dog is going to be a guard is to buy an adult from an experienced trainer.

  • What dog breed is better for personal protection training? I'd like to train a dog not for my protection but for my son. Can I still train him or must be him?

    Here is a list I wrote on the five best dog breeds for personal protection:

    Some people buy dogs already trained, so it is possible to train your dog for your son. In my opinion, it is important that he participate as much as possible however because a lot of the personal protection abilities come about when a dog is bonded to his owner. If you are the only trainer, he is more likely to be bonded to you, not your son. (Some people that sell personal protection dogs say that this does not matter much.)

  • My dog barks at strangers and acts like he would attack them, however sometimes he just turns into a big baby (mainly with women. He’s more aggressive to men) I haven’t really spent a lot of time training him but I was wondering what your opinion would be on him? He’ll sit, lay down, stay until something gets his attention. And off leash, he doesn’t listen.

    One aspect of his being a "big baby" at times may be his age. A very young dog, usually less than a year, will act more submissive. As he gains confidence he is more likely to show protection abilities.

    The best thing you can do at this time is work on his obedience off leash. He should respond 100% of the time.

    Lots of work to do, but well worth your time!

© 2012 Dr Mark


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    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Stanley, group classes are often the best for a dog like that. She gets used to a lot of excitement (other dogs around) and with time will pay more attention to you.

    • profile image

      Stanley Samson 

      3 weeks ago

      My dog is still under training and does respond to commands but some times she's stubborn and refuses to respond due to excitement how do I deal with that habit to end it

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      3 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Krystal, I realize that is a really tough decision but for most people I would say no, as it is better to go through obedience and not guard dog training. I do not know where you live, of course, and maybe a guard dog is what you need to be safe.

      If you are worried, focus on teaching your dog to bark on command. Many theives are going to be intimidated by a CC barking, even if the dog is not trained to attack.

    • profile image

      Krystal lynn hart 

      3 weeks ago

      I have a question. I have a cane corso and I have her in protection training and reading up on this makes me almost want to stop it. I has no idea it will change her at all. Should i keep going i want her to be my family pet and also a dog i can walk late at night and be protected?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      UFUOMA--teach him to guard his house.

      Your dog may not be suitable for personal protection but he can still learn to guard.

    • profile image


      7 weeks ago

      My dog barks at strangers but does not make an attack move towards them and if the stranger threatens him he will run away or display some sort of fear. How can i build his confidence

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Grace, some dogs can tell when to turn it off, but you need to realize that when you choose to train your dog to be a guard he is less able to be a family pet. If trained as a guard there are also more serious legal ramifications if your dog bites someone.

    • profile image


      2 months ago

      I want to teach my dog to protect my family. Is there any other way my dog can be a guard dog as well as a family friendly one?

    • profile image

      Robert McKasson 

      3 months ago

      Sign me up

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      You haven't met Zues our Australian cattle dog AKA blue heeler. Anyone comes within 10 feet of my wife he stands his ground and growls and shows his his teeth. They have a natural protective trait's.

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      Liliana hernandez 

      5 months ago

      So i have strange dreams and if i get one is gonna come true so how can i ger a saint bernard,husky,chihuahua,and a french bulldog to protect me in any way

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      13 months ago


    • profile image


      14 months ago

      I am a dog trainer and my teacher had a business training protection dogs and/or bite work. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us. I am still interested in this and was wondering if you had any book recommendations about the whole process? Thank you.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      Hi, can anyone recommend a personal protection dog trainer in the Houston, Texas area?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      21 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Suren, if your dog is 8 months old you already need to work with a regular trainer. He can help you learn to train so that you can work with him every day.

      Huskies are not good personal protection dogs.

    • profile image

      Suren mohan 

      21 months ago

      My husky is 8 months n stubborn its never train how can i train him

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      23 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Justin, I can appreciate how hard your situation is but if your dog bites someone, and that person goes to the police and complains about your vicious dog, the problems will come back to you and your dog. The best thing to do is getting a tough looking dog that will bark loudly. A German Shepherd, Rottweiler, and Belgian Malinois are all good choices.

    • profile image

      justin sutton 

      23 months ago

      i live in a bad neigbor hood and many starngers are up all night a bunch of junkies i was wondering which dog would be the best choice by there nature. will be more prone to biting a starnger barking does nothing here so which breed does it usually come most natural for them to tear there but up if they try sneaking in my house or building again

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      24 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      John, my Pitbull does the same thing when we encounter some noisy people when walking on the beach--she moves behind me. I think that may affect a dogs ability to function as a police dog, but a dog like that will still protect your daughter and wife, who he feels need his protection.

    • profile image


      24 months ago

      I put my dogo argentino to the (payed) protection test (test was dog testing field) . My dog was +3 years and this was first time ever threatening situation for the dog by people. When tester comes out of his visual cover far away keeping noise my dogo moves front of me and start to bark, when it comes closer it changes voice more aggressive. But when it comes to near like 2 meters of me acting agressive my dog goes behind me and start to look me like what is this. Dog acting tail dowm and confused. it try to warn tester to go away changing its voice but when that wont help it does not to know what to do. when tester back 4-5meters dog comes besides me again and bark like confused.

      Tester says that this dog will not protect.

      although he say so I'am not sure about it.

      I think that test was strange for the dog when tester moves directly to dog and i stand still and say nothing.

      After that we have two situation where some man come near me to talk when my 9years daughter was with me the dog acting very aggressive not reverse. Also when i go to swim my dog moves and whines on the pier. But when my wife go to swim my dog whines and jump of the pier to water and swim to her.

      For the other dogs my dogo want to go look but wont make any agressive move and never barks. But if other dog or pair of dogs acting agressive it will allways try to attact all four foots scratch the ground when i keep it hold.

      I think maybe my dog protect instict not work with me when iam a leader of the pack but with my childs and wife it will make the move. But i dont know i think i will arrange the test from my home so that i am not in house at time when agressive intruder comes to the house.

      I dont care if my dog wont protect me. But i like it to do so to my wife and childs when need it.

      I like to hear what you think.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Mike, the cost will vary depending on where you live.

    • profile image

      Mike Dee 

      2 years ago

      very good and helpful advise.

      How much cost to have dog train as protective dog and how long process?




    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I own three large dogs my personal Dog is a 2 1/2 old German Shepard. She follows me everywhere sleeps, with me at night. My husband works out of town months at a time. She barks at night if she hears anything, also during the day whether inside or out, and when someone comes to our gate she runs barking then comes back to get me. My problem is that he wants to have her protective trained. Am I right in being against this, as we have two other dogs, my grown kids and their kids and my friends who come by. I have kennels for each that they go in at that time. I don't want to change her loving personality. Thanks

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Delores I just wrote an answer to you and your German Sherherd in the Q&A section above.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My dog is not trained to protect but he freaks out if anyone reaches towards me or comes near me

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      2 years ago

      My Rottweiler is super friendly when people are properly introduced but no way in hell would someone be able to walk up to me like that. He would ruin your day to say the very least. Once, someone tried to grab something from my car and got chomped while I was in a store. He didn't think my dog was too friendly after that.

    • profile image

      Sabrina Gibeau 

      2 years ago

      I have three dogs. And I have a big family that I live with, two brothers and my parents. I train all of my dogs in agility, obedience, and personal protection. One pitbull and two shepherds. Despite my family I am the one they are most protective over. They also do socialize with other people too. All of my dogs work off leash as well. I'm just going to tell you that all large and even medium dogs that you own WILL and ARE protective over you. Doesn't matter what large breed. They all will.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      2 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Dennis, it sounds like you are doing very well with her.

    • profile image

      Dennis chowanskyjr 

      2 years ago

      My pitbull won't bark on Command in the house or outside,but inside if in my apartment he will growl very nasty and bark so I reward him with praise good boy and a treat

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Nice using 3 German Shepherds with zero confidence. Try that same trick with a confident 3 year old family dog that's a breed like Cane Corso or Bullmastiff and see how that goes...

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      That is not even close to an experiment. That fact is I have worked with many untrained dogs, some will run, but many won't. I have an Aussie who will bark aggressively at anyone who comes up especially in the car would she bite, not sure but you would not want to stick you hand in my car to find out. I've had and been around untrained dogs that would shred you for attacking their family. primary handler or just coming into their territory. The advantage to a trained dog is that they are more controlled and predictable. They are not acting out of fear or aggression but training.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      this isn't true, my dog was untrained yet he who's only a year and half protects me from a lot of things. When he doesn't know someone he'll move in front of me and bark..... or just move in front of me. He also runs at them and barks but backs off when he figures there is no danger

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My first husky( Maliki) she worked for treats for a year. I was freshman in high school when I got her. I read all about huskies. It said they will only work for themeselves so what I did is got treats. Then I ran out for a month and trained her on cues what I do it click my tongue or snapped my fingers. Each cue means something different one click of my tongue means wait. What I did was click and say wait when she did it I praised her and kissed her one the forehead for some reason she likes that. After she started learning all of her training cues I gave her a duck and a cow joint bone she works for me to get a new toy and bone she never knows when she is getting one but if she has a day where she doesn't listen at all I take them away. It sounds weird but I works all of my huskies are trained that way I find a toy the like and work with it. My puppies it a treat for a new trick and a refocus treat(only two treats at two different times) and then I take them when they are six months I quit using them and use a toy. The bone is never given tell they are about 10 months and working for me. I was using justin boldoni dog training tips from her facebook page and it work better.

    • profile image

      10 year old 

      3 years ago

      I trained 4/4 dogs at my dads and 2/3 dogs at my moms by these in stuctions

      1- My 2 year old black greatdane ( Diesel) at my dads by not training him to do anything besides loving me and my family and one very close friend I've known for seven years and not to jump . The only place he has ever been was home my dads carshop which is only an acre and is insanely tiny and where I lived until I was seven and once when he was six weeks old a small park and keep in mind I live way out in the country where there is six farms and only has a dollar general. And when a stranger even steps on my property he goes after them but as soon as they get off he comes back to me.

      2- my One of our boxers pou is a socialized dog that knows how to sit and will attack anyone who makes us feel threatened.

      3 - Carmon. Our other boxer at my dads is like pou.

      4- pupcake I did not train my bluehealer from the start I have had her since my fourth birthday to make me forget about my parents divorce a year and a half before. Well anyway back to subject she is a tackle dog if I say get em she'll hum on them and bite them . Now she lives with my grandparents on a farm a mile away .

      5 - at my moms I have three Siberian husked and and arrow all I did with him was teach him how to sit and lay down . And. One time he killed a copperhead for me and one time our neighbor who HATES us false ly accused us of animal abuse and " an aggressive dog". Because one time he growled at him the only time he ever growled.

      6 -We just rescued willow six months ago from people who were going to KILL her . All I did with her was love and pet her and she only likes kids and my mom any body else not so much but she is a great dog .

      7 - Trinity my third and last husky is not an attack dog because when my mom was dating someone the person got me and them a dog and when they broke up they took Trinity for a year then brought her back because they had to move:

      Thanks for reading my insanely long comment if you live in the city please don't judge me because I don't judge y'all . Oh and my dads a preacher

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      The experiment is flawed. She (the young girl) didn't know these "untrained dog's" so to say "no untrained dog will protect any human" is not accurate. Show me an experiment with a dog-human relationship of 2 years or more because that is more likely the situation we would be facing (not taking someone else's dog and asking it to protect a stranger.). Also, the approach and look of the "stranger" in this experiment, trained vs untrained is noticeably very different.

    • profile image

      Mahi Howell 

      3 years ago

      Never thought it would come to having a protection dog in Hawaii but It's Time - Vato Snoop Dog! So I enjoyed all the tips & plan to get a pit bull puppy to be a guard dog. My current mix is TOO SWEET so I understand exactly what taking a walk on a beach even at 6:00 p.m. in my parent's country would be DEADLY. At our home behind gates now two cats were killed which were my pets so Hitler & friends brought it on their own Cali. selves! Older than dirt Cali. GEEZERS Hell Bent with no Aloha Spirit just Evil Spirits now I will add this new puppy to our household so thanks for all the tips! Mahalo man! I will NOT move again & hope it was worth it jackasses in our subdivision now that the MOST HATED pit bull puppy is now coming to live in OUR house to Stand Our Hawaii Ground like in Florida man!

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I have a pit bull he's 3 could I still train him in protection training any suggestions

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      Jim Perry 

      4 years ago

      I have trained dogs for many different guard duties. The most important thing for a personal protection (civilian dog) is the screening. You mention a few things about a few breeds being more or less suitable for this work. I think this area deserves more explanation to the general public. One thing I know for sure is: a personal protection dog is still the household pet he was before his training. Now he will better protect that family.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Really, getting a dog to protect you? Wtf? You obviously have no respect for that dog. You don't want to be in a bad situation, so you're getting "something" to put in between you and that situation. Just another example of how, sadly, humans see dogs as objects. This lady has other dogs? I doubt she has much respect for them either.

      I understand a dog being protective of their owners, but putting them in harms way should never be considered. You're scared??? Get a fucking weapon.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      i had a doberman that i had trained for personal protection and she was very good and a very good family dog my 8 year old stepdaughter could command her as well as i could and the dog listened to her just as well as she would me. we never had any problems with my doberman i had her trained cause i worked secutriy in some very bad bars that were knew for shootings and stubbing the doberman walked the parking lot and inside the bar with all the people and she done her job very very well i never had a problem with her biting anyone with out being commanded to do so. so yes and personal protection dog can make a very good and loving family dog also.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Dapples 

      6 years ago from Just Arizona Now

      Excellent information. I'm planning to get a dog in the next couple of months. I don't want one to protect me, but I want one that will protect itself if an unsocialized dog comes along. I will be choosing a mid-size to large, well-socialized two or three-year old dog. I had my little Chihuahua attacked by an unsocialized pitbull several years ago while I was walking her on-leash. She did not survive. I don't want any dog I love to be attacked again, but if ever they are, I want them to get out of it alive. Are there any hubs on this?

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for the comment. I posted another hub on "leave it" so that anyone interested in this aspect of training would teach that command too. I hope they heed the advice.

    • PawsitiveBehavior profile image

      Cyd Oldham 

      7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      This is an excellent article. I have had several clients who have large German shepherds or other "aggressive" breed dogs wanting me to teach their dog to bark at strangers or show some aggression. It is important to understand that, no matter the breed, some dogs just don't have this in their personality. ALSO, I wholeheartedly agree that the most important aspect of security dog training is the ability to call the dog off - the "Leave It" command.

      Great article!

    • profile image

      Sarra Garrett 

      7 years ago

      Voted Up and Useful. I had a shephard/chow mix male and he grew to look like a red wolf....just beautiful. He was actually a feral pup that I found on the highway. I never let a man touch him due to the fact I lived in a bad neighborhood. He saved my home and probably my life one evening when I had a burglar break into my home. He was never mean to men unless they made threatening moves towards me and he would get between me and the other person showing his teeth but not biting. That was generally enough for the other person to stop in their tracks. He did what I wanted him to do and I miss him dearly.

    • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Mark 

      7 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Many people who have this type of dog will argue that point; personally I do not feel it is worth the risk. All a dog really needs to learn to do is bark on command. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      While I understand the reasoning behind a protection/guard dog, I find it hard to imagine one in a household setting. It would seem once a dog is trained to attack, he will attack any stranger that comes into the house...not something you may want.

      This article, however, was well done and made excellent points. Voted up, useful, and interesting.


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