Owning a guard dog has become a fact of life for millions of Americans. To the business community, specially trained guard dogs, usually Dobermans or German Shepherds, have become an extension of corporate activity. To individuals, they represent an extension of the police force, guaranteeing safety and security for them, their families, and their property. Correctly trained, a guard dog can protect you and your home from burglars and other intruders.
What do we mean when we talk about a guard dog? The vast majority of people don't really know what a guard dog is. The term "guard dog" remains fuzzy, undefined, and usually suggests images of a large, ferocious dog ready to defend, attack, maim, even kill on command. It is often loosely used to describe any dog used for the protection of one's person and home. Many dog trainers will object to this use of the term as a catch-all term. Properly defined, a dog trained for personal protection should be called a "personal protection dog" and a dog trained to guard property and patrol premises should be called "guard dog".
There are roughly three categories into which the guard dog falls.
Alarm dog is a guard dog trained to bark. Such dogs are trained to do nothing but let out a rough, aggressive bark. The larger the dog, the deeper the bark. However, the alarm dog will take no protective action. He may do so on is own, but not as part of his training.
Sentry dogs usually patrol inside fenced areas and buildings with or without a handler and are often used in facilities with no evening security personnel, especially in warehouses where they can be turned loose to roam inside. Sentry dogs are the ultimate deterence. They are trained to indiscriminitely attack anyone entering the premises.
Attack dog (sometimes called "man-stopper") is a dog trained to attack, bite and, if necessary, kill. They are trained to respond to sudden movements and aggressive physical behavior. These dogs are used by police, industry, shipyards, and the Armed Forces. They are potential killers, deadly weapons that only experts can control. These dogs should not be owned by general public.
As a rule, guard dogs and police K-9 dogs are conditioned to be suspicious of all strangers. These dogs cannot turn their training when they are in public. They have not been trained to discriminate between innocent physical contact and threatening behavior. Guard dogs are typically alpha leaders and alpha dictators. Alpha dictators are extremely dangerous because of their earnest desire to demonstrate their authority. Most guard dogs cannot be safe family pets.
Select your dog from the first two categories if you want a guard. The responsibility is simply too great. An attack guard dog may attack and even kill a person who acts in an apparently suspicious way - indeed, he has been trained to do so. Or else, the trainer may have made a mistake, and the dog will turn on the owner or a member of the family. You could be in for a major law suit because of what the dog might do. Attack dogs have no place in your home.
Protection dogs are family dogs that will protect their families in a crisis situation, will defend and try to save their family, rather than attack and bite. They are trained to be good companions that will be good with children and friends. However, if the master is physically attacked, they will take some kind of protective action - jumping, snarling, seizing, or chasing. In general, Airedale Terrier, Belgian Sheepdog, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler, Boxer, Briard, Doberman, German Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Giant Schnauzer, and Chow, are excellent for this purpose.
For a breed that was adapted to the role of the guard dog, the Giant Schnauzer has succeeded remarkably. While not as popular in the United States as some other breeds, the rest of the world knows and respects this breed as a premier police and military dog. Many European countries actually prefer the Giant to all other such breeds since these dogs have distinguished themselves as first-rate guard/protection dogs.
Due to their selective breeding as protection dogs, Doberman Pinchers possess a strong natural instinct to protect their pack members and territory. The Doberman will alarm his master of any suspicious activity on his territory as any good watchdog will do, but he will also display willingness to take matters in his own hands - teeth is a better word - and his eagerness to do so is generally unrivaled among his working dog counterparts. Dobermans are ofthen the choice of guard and Schutzhund trainers for attack training. As a protection dog, a stable Doberman is an excellent choice, when he receives leadership and proper exercise. But this breed is not for everyone.
Strong protective instincts. As police dogs, they excel in many areas of law enforcement, including drug detection, tracking, cadaver search, and apprehending suspects. Puppies need pack training and obedience training can begin as early as three months. When a Rottweiler become s a pack leader, the consequences can be tragic for his owners: they are invariably at the top of the list of dog breeds involved in dog bite fatalities.
For centuries, Mastiffs have been used as sentry dogs in Europe. Because of there massive size, they are excellent deterrents to trespassers. Most guard dogs first warn there victims with noise, but Mastiffs work silently. They will knock intruders to the ground with force and weight (a two-hundred pound Mastiff is not uncommon.)
As protection dogs, quality German Shepherds are regarded highly. Their alertness, loyalty, combined with high intelligence, and a love of children make them a superb choice. According to one of the most famous guard dog trainers, Captain Haggerty, "This is the best all-around guard dog."
The Belgian Malinois is greatly renowned for his exceptional ability as an all-purpose working dog. He is highly appreciated as a police and service dog and has proven his utility as a guide dog for the blind, and as a Red Cross, customs, border patrol, avalanche, disaster and rescue dog. He ranks high in protection work and enjoys the reputation of being a hard-biting Schutzhund dog.
As a family protection dog, Boxer ranks high. This is a breed that possesses an extraordinary ability of discriminating when it comes to reading the character of people.
Great Dane is an impressive guard dog if he simply stands still and barks. It is as a deterrent that the Great Dane does his best work as a guard dog. Some do reasonably well in guard dog training. They just don't seem to relish such work the way Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and other working dog breeds do.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are tough, but not vicious. Loyal and exceedingly protective of their human families, these large hounds do an excellent job as guard dogs.
Resembling more the Bullmastiff than the Bulldog of English origin, the American Bulldog is a strong dog that is often used in weight pulling eventys. This breed is fast gaining popularity as a family protection dog.
Traditionally used for dog fighting and known for his territorial and determined nature, the Presa Canario is a powerful deterrent that can react with great speed in a crisis situation. The Presa possesses a steady disposition, though he distrusts strangers. He is an accomplished fighter and has a deep, chilling bark well suited to warning suspicious strangers of his intentions and abilities.
Steady, resolute and fearless, the Bouvier des Flandres is an all-around service, police, and guard dog and also an outstanding family companion. He has an innate propensity to protect and guard his human family and territory. He differs from other working breeds in his serene, calm and thoughtful nature. Because of his laid-back disposition, he is more amenable to control than many other working breeds. Some individuals can be stubborn and aggressive, so he needs strong leadership from his owner.
The Beauceron is gaining recognition around the world as competent guard dog and protector. He has a most keen sense of smell and during the World War II he was used as mine detection dog and on the front lines to run messages as he was undeterred by exploding bombs or military fire. They were also used to pick up trails, detect mines, find the wounded and carry food and ammunition to the front lines. Highly trainable and always willing to work, Beaucerons are used by the French police and Army in apprehension of criminals (tracking and bite work), personal protection, narcotics detection, riot control, search and rescue, body recovery, prison security and secured escort.
Do not attempt to train a personal protection dog yourself. When he is about 6 months old, enroll him in a dog training school that will teach him the protective measures.