As a dog trainer, I periodically get inquiries about dog protection training. It’s logical, one of the upsides to having a dog can potentially be their ability to protect you and your home.
However, dog protection training is one topic that I generally recommend pet owners avoid for their own safety and for the safety of their dogs. The best thing you can do for your dog is to teach them their basic behaviors and training!
Many dog breeds have natural tendencies to protect their home or their turf. From blatant protection breeds like Rottweilers to farming breeds who naturally protect their home from predators and those who might steal livestock, dog breeds often have instinctive dog protection training – without any actual training.
If your dog’s history has any background in protection or guarding, chances are they will do so when put in that position.
In most cases, even breeds who aren’t “supposed” to guard will do so when put into the position of protection of the owner or home. When a stranger in dark clothing lumbers through your window in the dead of night waking your dog from a deep sleep, most dogs instinctively know troubles afoot.
When it comes down to it, in most cases dog protection training just isn’t particularly necessary. Unless you’re training a police dog, the need to attack command generally doesn’t come in handy in your day-to-day life.
Breed Matters… Again
When it comes to breeds, those that have a background in protection also tend to be put in safety when you fail to socialize them properly. By focusing on dog protection training over teaching your dog how to interact with welcome guests or other dogs, you’re putting your dog and other people in serious danger. Dogs who have been bred to protect often tend to have a wary disposition and show less friendliness towards strangers.
When this is the case, if you do not properly socialize them you are putting them in a position to potentially bite someone. The last thing you ever want is for your dog to bite a stranger outside on a leash or a guest in your home.
In many cases, when a dog bites someone it can mean the end of the line for the dog, especially if the dog has previously bitten someone before. You never want to put your dog in this type of situation, which makes socialization much more important than dog protection training.
One issue many pet owners come across is when they try to work on their dog’s socialization. They tend to equate exposure with desensitization, but the two are not one and the same. You cannot simply expose a dog to different things and expect them to be a-ok with those things later on.
Sure, for some dogs exposure works just fine because their temperament is laid back and they enjoy meeting new people and seeing new things. However, in many cases, the pet owner just pops their dogs into unknown situations and the dog can’t quite handle it or is outright terrified.
This can actually counteract your dog’s socialization and teach them that new places, people, or animals are scary and not to be trusted. And that is precisely why you have to counter condition when you are working on socialization.
Counterconditioning is the process by which you introduce fun (or in this case, tasty) things when exposing your dog to something potentially scary. Repeat this frequently enough and the dog comes to associate the previously scary thing with good things happening, making it less scary.
We do this with people as well, children in particular. When a child goes to the doctor’s office or the dentist, they often leave with a toy or a sticker at the end. By providing something fun and exciting, the doctor’s office becomes less scary to the child. The offices with the coolest toys likely have the best success with kids!
If you’d like to work on socialization with your dog, our Ask the Trainer program is a fantastic resource!
Positive Dog Training Over Dog Protection Training
By teaching your dog to expect positive outcomes in new situations and when meeting new people, you encourage better behavior from them and discourage unwanted and potentially dangerous behavior. Often in dog protection training programs, the methods used involve corrections or aversion.
Using methods that involve any type of punishment increases the likelihood of unwanted associations and potentially dangerous complications.
When you train your dog using positive methods that encourage good behavior by increasing good consequences, your dog will have a better relationship with you and be less likely to develop stress or anxiety in association with you, training, strangers, and any other stimulus.
Instead of focusing on dog protection training, focus on your dog’s basic training. Ensure you provide them with enough mentally stimulating activity to keep their brain healthy. Provide a wide variety of positive interactions and play. By using ethical and positive training methods, you can ensure a well-behaved dog who has a fantastic bond with you. When it comes to protection and guarding, those behaviors tend to come naturally.