How to Train A Dog for Personal Protection
A personal protection dog is trained to guard you at all times. This issue came up a few weeks ago with one of my female clients since she walks alone on the beach at all hours. She has several large dogs, friendly to those who know them, and feels she needs a dog that will defend her at night when she walks the beach alone.
According to the US Army Field Manual FM-740, an attack dog cannot make friends with anyone but its 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. This 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 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.
If you are sure that you want a personal protection dog, and not a pet, what do you need to do?
Teach your dog obedience commands
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.
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
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. In the case of my client the socialization would need to take place every time she walks down the beach.
The dog needs to recognize what a normal beach stroller looks like and not feel threatened, or feel that he needs to threaten, any other person he happens to meet on the beach.
Not every dog is able to distinguish who is safe—not every dog should be trained for personal protection.
Teach your dog to bark on command and to stop when told
Encourage your dog to bark at the approach of a stranger. 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 exited and barks at them on the beach. Now, when I want her to bark, I act like I see an urubu.
This will come natural to many dogs but you may need to teach your dog to bark. 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”.
If your dog will not bark on command and does not 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 or an oven mitt and a quilted blanket on his arm, but he may not 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.
A dog that has been trained to attack is not a great pet to have around the house. There are many anecdotes about sweet attack dogs and there are also many anecdotes of attack dogs that have injured someone in their household. There is also the possibility that your dog might bite someone who has 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.
If the dog cowers or shows fear of the stranger at that time he is not suitable as a personal protection dog.
Teach 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.
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.
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Some dog trainers do not recommend personal protection training for Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Mastiffs, Dogo Argentinos, etc. 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.
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© 2012 Dr Mark