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Dogs Taught To Guard

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 30 September 2013

You don’t really want to train your dog to be aggressive … do you?!

If so are you prepared for the consequences of a dog attack that YOU contributed to?

There are already too many reports of children and babies being maimed or killed!

It is a misconception that dogs know who is good and who is bad - it’s not that simple!

If you train your dog to be aggressive, what DO you expect them to do when a little old lady or a young child come to your door — not to mention the postman or other delivery man? What if they make innocent gestures that your dog misinterprets?

Think carefully about what you DO want - for sure that isn’t really a dog that’s aggressive! What you probably want is a dog that will bark to let you know someone they don’t know has approached your property and then be quiet on command. More of an ‘alarm’ dog than a ‘guard’ dog!

Very few people will ever come to your property for the wrong reasons, so it is unlikely that you want your dog to scare them all away! Having a dog does deter most burglars because they will know that a placid dog can turn nasty if their owner becomes alarmed.

What you need is for your dog to protect you when it senses your distress — through a change in your energy or your voice. Normally, if we scream and shout in panic, our dogs immediately know something is wrong… you won’t need to have trained them for them to realise when you are not happy with a stranger who has come to the house.

Dogs have a natural ability to recognise feelings and emotions but it is hard for them to differentiate between someone who generally has a fear of dogs (often the case with small children) and someone who is fearful because they are up to mischief! So you cannot rely on your dog acting appropriately at all times.

I’m sure we’ve all experienced our dogs expressing alarm at something new or different! One of my clients told me how her young puppy reacted the first time she saw rubbish bags outside houses on their street — she gave them a good old shouting at! If someone comes to your door in fancy dress, like a child arriving in a Halloween costume, or there is someone of a different ethnic background than your dog is used to, or someone holding something your dog hasn’t seen before, don’t be surprised it your dog becomes alarmed.

So what SHOULD you do if you want your dog to protect you?

What you need to do is teach your dog that you are not alarmed and it is as simple as remaining calm and if they bark, thanking them and taking over the interaction.

Don’t scold your dog for barking when someone comes to or past the house or into your garden. Check out what they are alerting you to and if all is well, praise or thank them for this behaviour — in the way that you would do so in a training session.

Make sure your dog knows that you are in charge of the situation — when your dog knows they are not in charge they will instinctively be less controlling of any situation and will understand that it is YOUR job to decide how to respond — not theirs.

We know that not all dogs are the same, pretty much like people, so all we can say is that the following will work for most dogs to help them to understand how to behave:

  • Never shout and scream at your dog to be quiet or calm down — if you are calm they are more likely to be calm.
  • Walk calmly to the door when someone knocks - have you ever noticed that if you rush to answer the door, that your dog learns to rush to the door too?
  • If your dog has alerted you that someone is there, then when you reach the door and all is in order, calmly praise or thank your dog for their good behaviour.
  • Make sure that your dog backs away from the door before you open it — do this with your body language and calm, leadership energy.
  • You may already have a dog that will wait in it’s bed or somewhere else when told — this may be another option to calm an excited dog while you go to the door.
  • If you find it difficult to calm your dog, then put them in a different room until your guest is settled and do not allow them to join you if they remain over excited.

Ask guests to ignore your dog when they come into your house, until your dog has calmed down, this will usually also help your dogs to understand that they need to be calm when someone comes in. This may feel like an awkward thing to do at first, but it pays HUGE dividends in the long run.

As with all ‘training’ and other interactions with your dog, always be focused on what behaviour you want and consistently practice rewarding this ‘good’ behaviour. This will help your dog to quickly ‘get’ what you want them to do.

You see, you never need to train aggression for your dog to want to protect you!

(see also “Would You Like To Quiet A Barking Dog?”)


Stay safe with your dogs!