A guard dog can be an extremely useful companion. Trained to sniff out intruders, a guard dog acts as a warning and as a deterrent. With their barks, they let you know that something untoward is happening around your home or other premises.
Meanwhile, their very physical presence enables them to ward off anyone who might even be thinking about attempting to enter your house, office block or other space without your permission.
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Training a guard dog is a little different from training a regular dog. However, it is entirely possible for your dog to be both a guard dog and a friendly family companion! If you want to learn how to train a guard dog, then you have come to the right place.
We give you a comprehensive explanation below. Here, we explain how to differentiate between guard dogs and attack dogs, how to select the right breed of dog for guard dog training, and how to train your guard dog to perform specific commands.
First things first: a guard dog is not an attack dog
People sometimes get the two confused, however, guard dogs and attack dogs are different things. Whilst guard dogs are trained to deter and warn off intruders, attack dogs are trained to attack on command. Attack dogs are generally used only by police and other law enforcement officials.
It is not necessary, and it is indeed often illegal, for an average home owner to own or train an attack dog. A guard dog is all that you need! And, as they have the benefit of being generally less aggressive, guard dogs can also double up as pets.
Choosing your breed
Some breeds of dog naturally lend themselves to guard dog duties. These include Doberman Pinschers, Alsatians, and Akita dogs. These three dog breeds have imposing size, as well as a temperament which makes them excellent guard dogs: they are loyal to their owners and very protective.
That means that when someone unknown approaches (especially someone who acts in a way that they have learned is ‘threatening’ or ‘sneaky’), their protective instinct towards their owner will kick in and they will run to bark and deter the intruder.
Many smaller breeds of dog make excellent guard dogs too: it is a myth that a guard dog needs to be a towering giant! Smaller dog breeds that make good guard dogs include pugs, Shar Peis and Chow Chows.
As a rule of thumb, the purer the breed of your dog, the better a guard dog it will be if it is selected from one of the breeds as mentioned above. In general, though, a good guard dog needs to be friendly, easy to train, loyal towards their owners, assertive and confident. Confidence is critical as a dog that feels insecure will often be aggressive as it feels personally threatened.
An adequately confident guard dog, however, will not be nervous and aggressive around intruders; instead, it will merely conclusively assert its presence. These desirable qualities are instilled through a mix of careful selection of your dog breed and proper training.
How to train a guard dog: a three-step guide
Training a guard dog does take patience, hard work, and some time. However, you can also think of it as being as easy as one, two, three:
1. Get your dog socialized from an early age so that they are confident in new situations. Take them to puppy training classes so that they come to feel confident around other dogs and around (initially) strange human beings too. Let them play around a little and have fun! Remember, the last thing that you want is for your guard dog to be anxious or to get defensively aggressive!
2. Teach your basic dog obedience, including critical commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ and ‘fetch.’ Reward them when they do well! This will instil a sense of loyalty in them that is very important. You can build on this loyalty and obedience in the third and final step.
3. Teach your dog to bark on command, using a ‘trigger word’. For instance, the word ‘bark’ or a phrase such as ‘get him!’ or ‘chase him away!’ Do so by saying your trigger word or phrase to your dog then, as soon as they bark or whine, rewarding them with a treat.
Keep practicing until your dog realizes that they need to bark when you command them. Gradually cut out the number of treats that you give them until they bark at the command alone, and practice commanding them from some way away. Eventually, they will bark when you ask them to when an intruder arrives – thus chasing the intruder away.
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