How to train a guard dog

You think your dog will protect you if a burgalar broke in? The truth might surprise you. Your big pit bull will probably run. That is the honest truth that many don’t believe.

They want their dog to protect them. When their dog jumps in front of them to lunge at someone approaching them, they encourage this behavior. They dont realize that this is dangerous for 2 reasons.

1) it is not done on command.

2)This creates a lot of nervous energy for the dog.

You want a dog that is confident and does not attack your friend or sister because they walked passed you. These are out of control dogs. Not all dogs will be able to protect you. I will explain what dogs should not be trained in this.

This is a disclaimer: I do not advise anybody try these techniques at home without a professional.

Now I want to tell you 2 quick stories about people who have no idea of the how or the who of guard dog training.

The first one is a story about a young woman who I met who had a pit bull puppy. I can tell she did some research on dog training as she threw some terms around. As I stepped in her house I was met by her dog who barked at me then ran behind her.

Every time I would get close to her dog he would go behind her and cower. I asked her did she try to socialize her dog. She explained “I did not want him to be friendly with everyone as he is a guard dog”. It was her and 2 other women living there so I understood why she felt like that.

The only problem was that her dog was afraid of everything. He wouldn’t get in the crate without a fight and when he did you couldn’t leave him in there too long or he was busting out. This was an example of a nervous dog that should not be a guard dog. This dog had shitty nerves that may have been masked with a great trainer, but in this case it showed really bad. She was putting pressure on her dog to be something it didn’t want to be.

The next story was about a phone call I received. A young man from Connecticut had called me wanting to know if I trained protection dogs.( At this time I was not even considering doing personal protection as I seen it as a liability but things change.) We talked some about his goals and what he was trying to achieve. He told me “my dog will attack only his toy or a cone, but won’t attack a person”. This made sense to me as I already knew his problem. His dog was not taking the work seriously. He didnt understand what a real threat was.

Let define 2 terms:

Prey drive- the desire to chase things

Defense drive- the need to protect themselves or their pack from a perceived threat.

These 2 drives are needed for a dog to be a protection dog. The dog in the first story had defense drive, but was scared and didn’t know how to release the pressure of a threat by biting. The dog in the second story was all prey drive, but didn’t see anybody as a threat.

Protection or guard dog training is mostly about genetics. If a dog doesn’t have the genetics then it should not be a guard dog.

How to train a guard dog

  1. Pick a command like “attack”

  2. Do prey bite work dog

  3. Build your dog’s defensive drive

  4. Add intensity

Pick a command

This is a simple step. Just choose a word that you are going to use to communicate to your dog that it should attack.

Do prey bite work

This is done by making your dog chase things. You can use a flirt pole or a bite sleeve with a line on it.

You can also play tug with your dog. Make your dog miss the bite a few times to build frustration and increase the dog desire to want to bite.

I am simplifying this process but it really will take a while before you move on to the next stage. Once you can recognize when your dog is in prey drive and defense drive then you can decide which one you want to use. Prey drive is calming. Defensive drive is stressful. You have to be able to read dogs to know when to encourage one or the other.

Build defensive drive

This is a difficult one. You will need to use an experienced decoy to teach your dog to attack on command. You can not do this work yourself as your dog will not take you as a serious threat nor do you want them to.

The problem with this work is that it is stressful. If you do it too much and don’t relieve the pressure, your dog will try to avoid the decoy instead of fight them. This will lower your dog’s confidence. If you don’t stress your dog at all they will think that it is a game. If this happens you will never get the intensity that you are looking for.

Add intensity

After your dog is taking the work serious you job is to add then maintain the intensity.

Side note: Obedience is also very important as you do not want an out of control dog. If your dog takes the work too serious- do more prey biting activities to calm him down. A dog that takes his work very serious will a lot of times struggle with obedience in the beginning. It is a balancing act.

This is the science and art of protection dog training.

There are many details that will take too long to write. If you have more in depth questions or want to test your dog then leave a comment or fill out the form on my website.

Now this is just an outline. You can research these topics and do some prey bite work yourself, but there will be a point when you need the help of a decoy.

You also might want to look into schutzhund. It is a dog sport to test the courage of the dog. It will help you to better understand this type of work in the beginning.

This article is to inform you and not for you to practice these techniques as someone can get seriously hurt.