Protection dog training undertaken correctly is indeed an art form and not something you should blindly subject your pet dog to. Throughout this blog I’ll hopefully share some knowledge and ask important questions which will help you make the right choices when deciding:
1) If you really want your dog training in protection
2) Help you evaluate if your dog can be trained in protection
3) Choose the right trainer who uses methods that fit with your moral standing.
Your dog breed of choice
Not every dog can be trained in protection; in fact very few have the capability to excel. In the UK the majority of dogs bred are bred for conformity. The suitability for these dogs to work within the parameters of its ancestors has long since died out. We do have exceptions however, with dedicated breeders working different breeds we are once again building on the working ability of our canine companions. Throughout Europe breeders are selecting lines with health and working ability overriding the color & conformity of the dog.
Choosing the right dog can be a minefield however, only by understanding lines and pedigrees can you make an informed choice, even then Mother Nature sometimes doesn’t play ball.
Q: What breed suits your home? Lifestyle? Experience?
Even dogs, which you may think would make an excellent protection dog, may not, for example the Akita should have the presence and ability to make a natural guard dog but their lack of drive and stubborn nature does not make them good students in the art of personnel protection. The more obvious choices to consider are; German shepherd, Doberman, Belgium Malinois, Giant Schnauzer, Cane Corso, Presa Canarias, American Bulldog and Rottweiler. Many of these dogs can be too much for inexperienced homes, especially in the early years, do your homework and speak to professional trainers.
Buying a working puppy
Wow! This is a BIG commitment. Buying any puppy is a big decision but buying a working puppy is a different league in itself. You cannot simply let the pup out with a few toys and take it to the park once a day; these pups need stimulation and daily constructive training. If you don’t develop their working desires they will do its themselves often by finding jobs which you wish they would leave for others.
Q: Do you know what to expect from the breeding? Some pups are vocal, some like to bite; some need more socialization than others. Do your homework, please. It will save you and your dog a lot of stress.
Q: Do you have the time, knowledge, experience & commitment to get the best out of your working puppy? In the middle of winter, in the cold driving rain are you prepared to work your dog?
Q: When things are going wrong whom are you going to turn to? Even the most experienced of trainers need a support network.
Training an existing Pet
Firstly not all pets can be trained in protection, any trainer that’s tells you otherwise should be questioned as to their methods. Any company offering training packages should be willing to give you a free evaluation to see if your dog is capable of learning and has the confidence / nerve to go through a protection program.
The timescale of the protection program is specific to the dog’s genetic ability and its own natural desire to retain learning. Novice dogs need multiple short sessions, fast confidence building wins. This can be frustrating for first time trainers due to the slow progress, however you will be glad you spent the time developing a full calm bite. It helps keep the dogs mind clear and enables them to listen to your commands and act accordingly.
To help your dog get ahead you can practice ‘ragging’ with your dog, this is essentially a game of tug. Encourage your dog to chase a rag or pillow and interact with you in a game of tug, your job in this interaction is to build the dogs confidence by letting it win, let the dog pull you round the garden. Remember; if your dog won’t interact with you in this manor it is unlikely that he will interact with the trainer.
The key factor in everything we do is obedience, without this you just have a dangerous dog. Before any serious protection training commences (beyond foundation) correct obedience should be practiced. Why? Once your dog is working in a high drive situation it still needs the ability to listen and follow commands, muscle memory and auto responses are essential to help your dog progress and reach its potential.
Our experience has shown that a good bond with your dog helps promote a strong performance in personal protection. Dogs are not robots and your relationship should be symbiotic, your dog gives you companionship and security whilst you offer food, warmth and comfort. Through positive training and structured play your bond will build, you know you are doing a good job when you let your dog off the lead in a park and they simply look at you for interaction.
Q: How does your dog react when you let him off the lead
Consider your breed of dog carefully and seek professional advice. If possible speak with an unbiased source that will give you an honest opinion.
If you plan to use an existing dog ask yourself if they are capable of doing the work. Is he of a working breed? Have direct ancestors been worked? Research the dog’s pedigree and be realistic with your expectations.
Research trainers and their methods, ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask to see the trainer’s dog at work. This is a good indication to their capabilities.
Don’t expect to do nothing just because you’ve paid for the dog to be trained by others. You will need to follow up the training and keep consistent, without doing this; the dog is likely to slip back into its old way.
No matter what you decide our experience has shown a strong bond is a major key to success. Continue Reading