It is tempting to adopt a puppy from the shelter and then try to learn how to train a guard dog from scratch. Yet make an error here, and you may end up with a dog that is singularly unsuited to the task – or one that becomes a bit of a loose cannon and endangers your physical well-being as well as that of children in the area.
Being Clear on the Terminology
One man’s guard dog is another one’s watch dog. David Austin breaks down the four training avenues you might take with a dog. He identifies a watchdog as the basic “mobile, four-footed burglar alarm.” Next up in the hierarchy are the protection dogs, which will bark and lunge – but not bite – on command.
Attack dogs do everything that protection dogs can, but they also bite. At the final rung of this grouping is the guard dog, which can be trained to maim or kill independently from live commands given in the situation. Should you train your pet as a guard dog? It depends on your needs. Generally speaking, the average family will do well with a watch dog or one that has been trained to protect.
Choosing the Right Breed
PetMD identifies the German shepherd, American pit bull terrier and Rottweiler among the breeds most suited to attack training and personal protection. If you prefer to stick with the watch dog training that scares away potential intruders, you may be able to train a Chow or a Chihuahua to bark fiercely and for extended periods of time. Of course, the best guard dogs are those that do not just belong to certain breeds but also display temperaments in keeping with a guard dog’s duties.
Doing the Actual Training
Learning how to train a guard dog is far more involved than reading up on a few tips and techniques. Dog behavior consultant and personal dog trainer Pam Young warns that “a guard dog is essentially a loaded gun,” which must be kept under constant control. In spite of her innate understanding of animals in general and dogs in particular, she would not tackle the guard dog training on her own. In fact, she would partner up with those who professionally train dogs for guard duty on a regular basis.
But I Want a Guard Dog!
If you are certain that you want to train your pet as a guard dog, start young. Take the dog through the various stages of obedience training and then hire a professional who routinely trains guard dogs. Since your dog will be trained to maim or potentially kill, it may no longer be a suitable family pet. Then again, if you work with a reputable professional, it can be possible to live with the dog like a pet.