How to Train a Guard Dog
You’ve seen all the fancy security gizmos. But how did folks get by before all this technology? Our ancestors didn’t have all the comforts of modern society, but what they had was even friendlier. Guard dogs! “Man’s best friend” has been bonding with humans and protecting their keepers for generations. If you think it’s time for your tail-wagging companion to join the ranks and become a guard dog, here are some tips to get you started.
Is Your Dog Cut Out to Be a Guard Dog?
The first thing to ask yourself is whether you really want your canine companion to be a guard dog. To start, certain dog breeds are more suited for the role. (Here’s a handy list of the best guard dog breeds.) Dogs that are smart, loyal, trainable, and territorial are often good choices.
Are you okay living with a canine protector? As they undergo training, some guard dogs go through personality changes. You might not enjoy these changes if you desire a sweet, loving, playful pet. Plus, working breeds require a lot of stimulation and exercise. You must be prepared to provide these if you want a healthy, happy guard dog.
And consider the ramifications if something goes wrong. It can be a legal nightmare if your pooch mistakes a stranger for an intruder. Households with small children may also encounter problems. While well-trained dogs usually understand who is a friend or foe, there are also plenty of tales of overprotective dogs attacking neighborhood kids.
Make sure you’re committed to training your pup thoroughly and that you’re ready to sacrifice some friendly disposition to let them do their job.
How to Train a Guard Dog
Now that you’ve picked a proper companion and committed to the task, it’s time to get them up to speed. We’ve listed a few levels of training to help you scale your pup up into the type of guard dog you want.
This is the first stage of training and arguably what every pet dog should be able to do. Common commands at this level include “sit,” “come,” “leave it,” and “heel.” Learning these commands will also build up your dog’s confidence and help you and the dog bond.
This is also the stage where you can develop your dog’s reliable recall. Despite the distractions of food, movement, and people, your pet should be able to come when you call. The most effective way to train this is with a reward-based system that involves treats, toys, and play. Start small in a quiet, comfortable place with short distances. As you both become comfortable, increase the distances and add distractions such as food and toys. It’s a good idea to practice your dog’s recall daily to keep the skill sharp. If your dog shows a certain aptitude, there are even dog obedience competitions.
Obedience training doesn’t come naturally to every pup. If you need a helping hand, there are plenty of pet stores, shelters, AKC clubs, and independent trainers who offer obedience classes. And, just for fun, enjoy this video of a golden retriever that is definitely not ready to be a guard dog.
There’s a stereotype that the best guard dogs are anti-social. The reality is quite different.
Good guard dogs need to be socialized, ideally starting when they’re young. Your dog must be comfortable and confident when a stranger approaches. They should be able to differentiate intruders from someone who is just walking by so they don’t bite the wrong person. Make sure your dog has had the chance to go out on public walks and is used to being around people and other pets.
Exposure and comfort are the primary goals. Your dog doesn’t have to be best friends with everyone.
Progressing to the Next Level
After a few short months of working with your animal on obedience and socialization, you’re going to have a good idea of how well they’ll perform as a guard dog. If there are any doubts, ask yourself these questions.
- Are they interested in your commands?
- Do they have excellent recall skills?
- Are they confident when left alone?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, then perhaps it’s time to accept that your dog isn’t right for guard duty. Some dogs just make better pets, and that’s okay.
But if your pooch is up to snuff and ready to continue training, proceed to the next step: get them to bark on command.
A good guard dog can give an intimidating bark. It’s a harm-free way to scare off intruders.
Begin by finding something that makes your dog bark, like holding a ball out of reach or ringing a doorbell. Just before they bark, say your chosen command word. The classic is “speak,” but any word will do. Reward the behavior with a treat. If they bark, and you didn’t give the command, don’t reward them. After a few training sessions repeating this behavior, dogs will catch on to what the word means and what they need to do to get the treat.
Some dogs are too good at barking. Many professional trainers also train “quiet” or “hush” cues at the same time. If your dog won’t stop barking, you can try having them lie down, as it’s difficult for them to bark in this position. Some dog owners also have luck with asking the barking dog to grab a soft toy.
Establishing the Territory
Next, you must get your guard dog to understand what area you want them to guard. Go around the perimeter of your property frequently, especially after training sessions. This should also be part of your daily walks as soon as they’re living in your home. As a bonus, this can be a great bonding process. Being specific about when you leash your dog and when you let them roam will help them identify what property is “theirs.”
Once you have these steps on lock, it’s time to train the dogs for what you need them to do as a guard dog. While you have your dog on a leash, have an unfamiliar person challenge the dog by approaching assertively and possibly banging on a door or fence. When your dog barks, the person should act afraid and run away. Reward the dog for protecting you.
For some breeds, this is a quick process and they will take to barking at strangers on their territory quickly. Others will need more encouragement. Repeat this step as often as necessary for the dog to understand what they’re supposed to do. Escalate the training by removing the dog’s leash and eventually testing them while you’re not within sight.
Once your dog is comfortable with this step, they are ready for active duty.
Should You Teach a Guard Dog to Attack?
Were you picturing your canine protector chomping down on a burglar’s leg? There are, of course, plenty of dogs that are trained to bite or otherwise attack intruders. It’s not a question of whether a dog can learn these commands, but if you should encourage this behavior.
An aggressive dog opens the door to injuries and liability issues. Some dog breeds can exert over 700 PSI when they bite. (Ouch!) And if your dog bites the wrong person, your municipality might require euthanization.
This type of dog is more suited to military and police service than it is for a family home. If you want your dog to do any guard function more advanced than an “alert” bark, leave this training to a professional.
When a Guard Dog Isn’t Enough
Not every pup is cut out for guard duty. If your pooch doesn’t have the mindset or skills to protect you, you still have a fantastic companion. (And your dog might still deter burglars from targeting your property.)
But even if you have the perfect guard dog on your hands, you’re not fully protected from all kinds of threats. The better option? Leave the security to the experts at Deep Sentinel. Your easy-to-install home security cameras come with a live video surveillance team to ensure your property is always under watch… and our guards don’t require treats!
Need a Solution that Prevents Crime?
Deep Sentinel is the only security technology that delivers the experience of a personal guard on every customer’s home and business. Call 833.983.6006 for your free security consultation.