Protection Dogs Worldwide very strongly believes that before being a protection dog, your K9 companion should be allowed to be, and enjoyed for being a dog. To this end, it is integral that any responsible dog owner invests time and energy into developing a strong and meaningful bond with their dog. Dogs are remarkably intelligent and sentient animals, capable of both perceiving, and consistently responding to human emotions, and other stimuli. It is generally accepted that the stronger the bond between the human and the dog, the more responsive the dog will be.
Similarly to humans, dogs have also been argued as having a discrete hierarchy of needs. “Biological needs” (food, water, sleep, and shelter etc.) form the basis of what a dog needs, and is followed by (in order) “emotional needs”, “social needs”, “force-free training needs”, and “cognitive needs”. As dogs learn by association and conditioning (see this article for more information), a dog can associate a handler with the provision that meets its various needs, and become conditioned to form a positive relationship with them. The strength of the bond between dogs and their handlers can often be measured by obedience, and it is no coincidence that dogs will often be particularly obedient to those who provide their most basic biological needs, i.e. food. To this end, the simple activity of feeding your dog is often an effective way of forming a bond with them.
If a handler is able to create pleasant experiences for their dog, then their capacity for bonding significantly increases. This is due to the fact that the dog will associate their handler with pleasant experiences, and be more inclined to perform behaviors associated with those experiences. For example, obedience training can be a valuable method for both improving a dog’s response to commands, and relationship with the handler. This is the case when correct behaviors are clearly marked and rewarded, i.e. with an edible treat, or allowing the dog in question to play with a toy such as Kong or ball. Other activities which may allow a handler to bond with their dog include grooming, physical contact such as stroking and petting, playing the dog’s favorite games together (such as fetch), and regular walking.
Given that family protection dogs serve a security role and are expected to protect their handler and family from potential aggressors, it is especially important that handlers take the time to develop a strong bond with them. The stronger the bond, the more willing the dog will be to protect you and your family.