Guard dog training is a challenge because even though dogs are naturally protective, it’s difficult to train your dog to be aggressive towards strangers while also being comfortable with you and your family.
The majority of guard dogs are bred and trained specifically to be guard dogs (and they are trained to do this by professional dog handlers). It’s not easy to keep a dog that’s trained to be aggressive around the home (particularly if you have kids). If you do desire to have a guard dog, they need to be extremely well-trained and obedient.
There’s also a major difference between guard dogs and attack dogs. Unless you are a professional, you should never be training your pet dog to attack people. We’ll explain the difference in more detail in the article below. Keep reading to find out more about guard dog training.
What is a Guard Dog?
One of the reasons to get a dog is for its protective nature. Dogs have been bred throughout history to protect their human masters, to protect property, or to protect livestock.
Dogs are protective, territorial, and have the potential to be loud, aggressive, and quite scary in particular situations. Guard dogs are often trained to protect a family home, to work for security companies, or to perform roles in the police or military.
It’s important to note that in this article, we aren’t discussing how to train dogs to perform serious roles, such as those a military guard dog would do. This sort of serious protection training needs to be undertaken by a professional dog handler, and if that’s you, you probably wouldn’t need to be reading this article in the first place.
We will be focusing on how to train dogs to ‘guard’ a house or a family. Again, we aren’t going to be talking about guard dogs training that involves attacking people. Attack dogs (such as police or military dogs) are very different from personal protection dogs. They are trained and conditioned to be fearful and aggressive to all people, except for their handlers.
This just doesn’t work in a family home. We don’t recommend training your dog to attack anyone or anything. It’s dangerous for you, your family, strangers, and other dogs and animals. Attack dogs are difficult to train and control and need to be kept in very controlled circumstances.
However, guard dogs can be trained at home to a level where they are able to show aggression towards strangers but refrain from attacking. Good guard dogs can be taught to bark on command and bark at strangers. If you have large, protective dogs, this is almost always enough to deter any potential attackers or intruders without harm being caused.
What Makes a Good Guard Dog?
Guard dogs need a particular set of skills to be effective at their job. Usually, guard dogs are larger breeds — their physical size and strength act as an excellent deterrent.
They also need to be obedient and easy to train and condition. For this, they need intelligence and patience. They also need to be territorial and certainly need to be loyal to their owner or family.
Some breeds are naturally more suited to this task (usually as a result of selective breeding over the years). The following breeds make for some of the best guard dogs:
- Akita Inu
- American Bulldog
- American Pit Bull Terrier
- Doberman Pinscher
- German Shepherd
- Giant Schnauzer
- Kunming Wolf Dog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Staffordshire Terrier
- Tibetan Mastiff
Guard Dog Training: How to Train my Dog
Guard dogs ideally should be trained from a young age (they need to be brought up from a pup to be effective at personal protection). However, with perseverance and experience, it’s always possible to teach an older dog new tricks, too!
For effective training, you’ll need time, assistance from friends and family, and lots of doggie treats (training devices such as a bed ramp for dogs can help for more advanced training).
Effective guard dog training can be broken down into several distinct stages. Take each stage in turn, and you’ll be able to better measure the success you and your dog are having throughout the progress.
These major stages are the following:
- Obedience training (basic commands)
- Socializing with other dogs
- Teaching your dog to bark on command
- Teaching your dog to back off
- Teaching your dog advanced protection techniques
It’s much easier to start guard dog training when your pet is a puppy; however, you’ll need to wait until they are an appropriate age. Before you commence obedience training, ensure they are thoroughly house-trained (and obviously potty-trained), and ensure they are used to being on the leash (they’ll need to be around 12 weeks or older to begin).
Remember, not all dogs are going to be suited to the role of a guard dog, and even with lots of patience and perseverance, you may eventually realize that your pet just isn’t suited to the task. Some dogs are just too nice to bark at strangers, some are too wary to be aggressive, and some just won’t listen!
Let’s take a look at the training stages in more detail.
#1 Obedience training
Guard dog training begins with obedience training. This is a stage that all dogs need to go through, and if your dog takes to learning basic commands well, they are going to be a good candidate for the next stages.
Obedience training involves learning to understand and to follow basic commands. You can take your dog to puppy training classes and condition them at home using lots of treats. These include the following basic training commands:
To be a good guard dog, you need to teach your dog to be confident and unafraid in a wide variety of situations. They need to be able to approach strangers without any hesitation, and the best way to achieve this is through socializing.
Take your dog to puppy training classes, take them out to the local park, and make sure they are meeting lots of different dogs and different people.
#3 Teach your dog to bark on command
Once your dog has mastered the basic commands, and when they are confident around other people and other animals, it’s time to start teaching them to be a guard dog. The first step is teaching them how to bark on command.
You need to begin by rewarding your dog when they bark with a treat. Your goal is to condition them to associate the treat and the bark with a particular word or command (it can simply be the word ‘bark’).
You can practice by having them bark at a person you know, on command. Once they are able to do this, you have a dog that can bark when told to, a useful technique when confronted by intruders!
#4 Teach your dog to back off
Importantly, you also need to teach your dog to stop barking on command and to back off from strangers on command.
This is fundamental, as you need to be in full control of your dog at all times. If you cannot control their bark and their aggression, they are a danger to everyone.
Again, use a chosen command and condition your dog to stop barking on that command.
#5 Advanced protection techniques
The final stage of training would be teaching advanced protection techniques, but these need to be taught by professional handlers.
If you go down this route, then you are transforming your pet puppy into an aggressive attack dog. You don’t want this if you have kids around, so it’s a big decision to make.
Your dog will be taught to attack on command and to defend you. It’s dangerous and only necessary in exceptional circumstances.
Guard Dog Training: The Final Word
Guard dog training shouldn’t be undertaken if you’re a first-time owner. It’s difficult to teach dogs to be constantly aggressive and wary of strangers. For most families, a highly aggressive guard dog isn’t just unnecessary — it’s potentially dangerous too. If you are set on having a protection or attack dog, then consult a professional dog trainer for further advice.
However, dogs are naturally protective and territorial, and it is still possible to train your pet to act as guard dog security around the home. You can train dogs to bark at strangers and alert you to intruders, but for everyone’s safety, this is where we suggest you stop.
If you’re thinking about raising a guard dog, then bookmark our guide for future reference.
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