If you live in a less-than-reputable neighborhood where it is questionable to go for walks at night, it is imperative that you protect yourself. Pepper spray is certainly an option. There are also a variety of whistles and alerts meant to draw attention to your situation in the event of an attack.
But there is also the prospect of training your furry friend to have your back in your time of need. That’s right—training your dog can give you the peace of mind that you deserve when you feel like you need personal protection of some sort.
The process is not as easy as it might seem and there are quite a few things that you need to know before taking the steps to train your dog to become a protector.
The biggest thing to consider is that a dog meant for protection purposes is not the kind of dog that the entire family can enjoy. They are trained to be fed by a single handler, exercised by that single handler, and never touched by another person.
Not all breeds are equipped to handle this, and a great many pet owners have a bit of a misconception about just what a protection dog entails. It is important to know that you are getting a personal protection dog, not a pet. This is not something that everyone can comfortably handle.
Teaching Obedience Commands
This is the first step in the process. If your dog can’t follow and respond to basic obedience commands, it is unreasonable to expect that they will follow more stringent commands that could lead to your personal protection.
These basic commands should include sitting, laying down, and coming to you every single time they are called. Not only that, but they should be able to heel without a leash. Leashes are useful for a reason, but the level of discipline and obedience required in a protection dog is meant to go beyond those means.
In addition to these basic commands, your dog should be able to learn and respond to both “bark” and “leave it” commands as well. The key here is discipline and obedience; sometimes you need to be a little patient and give your dog the time they need to make the necessary adjustments.
It is important to know that if your dog does not follow these commands on a consistent basis, or if your dog does not pick up on these new commands, you should stop trying to turn your dog into a personal protection dog. That obedience is the biggest aspect of training your dog and if it isn’t there consistently, it won’t ever be.
Socializing Your Dog
After you address the discipline and obedience aspects of the training process, it is important to socialize your dog. This is so they do not fear any new or unusual situations. The best possible situation for this is done at the sensitive socialization period (which is up to about 16 weeks of age or so); this might not be possible for all dogs.
This type of socialization can take place whenever you take your dog out for a walk. If you see something strange, take note of whether or not it makes the dog nervous. If it does, take them closer so they can investigate.
It is also imperative that your dog recognizes what a normal person looks and behaves like so they do not feel threatened by or threaten the person. This greatly depends on the dog you are training. Not every dog will be able to make that decision of who is safe and who is not. If this is something your dog struggles with, it is a sign that personal protection is not something your dog can handle.
Teaching Your Dog to Bark on Command
The best way to start this process is to encourage your dog to bark whenever a stranger approach. By barking at a stranger, it can actually be more effective than a dog that generally responds to the “attack” command but doesn’t bark.
As with the other aspects of training your dog, there are some dogs that will not pick up on this command. The key here is to take note of what your dog does naturally and to try to implement your commands around those things to get a response.
Barking is a natural instinct in dogs, but you might need to teach your dog to stop that barking when you give your command. If the dog barks a time or two, tell them to sit and then command them to stop barking. If this does not work, order your dog “down.” What most people don’t realize is that it is very difficult for a dog to bark when it is lying on the ground.
Like the other commands, if your dog doesn’t bark on command and won’t bark at strangers, your dog might not be a good choice for a protection dog.
Teaching Your Dog to Defend You
For this portion of the process, find someone that your dog doesn’t know. This “stranger” will then need to approach you during a walk and challenge the dog. Protection for this person can be used but it may not even be necessary, depending on how your dog responds to the bark command.
Give the command to your dog to bark at the “stranger.” The person should act afraid and run off; this helps to instill confidence in your dog that they are doing their job.
If you continue further with the training, it is important to realize that having a dog that can and will attack is not the best pet to have around others. Even if your dog is docile, there is still the possibility that it could attack someone in the wrong situation.
Encouraging the dog to attack – use the “get him!” command – can take place by having the “stranger” wear protection on their arm and offering it up to your dog. Some dogs will bark on instinct or approach on their own. The goal is deterrence, and either method can be effective.
Should your dog cower or show fear of the stranger, this is a sign that your dog is simply not meant to be a personal protection dog.
Teaching Your Dog When to Back Off
One of the most important aspects of training your dog for personal protection is to make them understand when to back off. The right protection dog will be able to defend you but will also be willing to leave the person alone when told to do so.
Generally speaking, as soon as your dog puts teeth on the stranger, telling them to “leave it” should follow, along with praise for their response. Practicing the “leave it” command is important.
If your dog doesn’t respond to this command, they can become vicious later and you won’t be able to control them. If this is the case, you absolutely must stop training the dog for personal protection.
Having a dog that can’t follow the “leave it” command puts strangers – attackers or not – at risk of being seriously injured should the dog deem them a threat and not let up after the initial attack.