Protection is an important aspect of life these days. If you have worked hard on your homestead, put investment into your crops and your livestock, and of course if you have a family, protecting it all is probably on your mind. The old-fashioned way to protect your property and loved ones is with a dog. A good dog can alert you to the presence of strangers or any unusual activity, whether a fire, severe weather, or something else. He can also protect you if it comes to that. Dogs are incredibly loyal and if trained properly can be a major source of comfort to you and your family.
Remember, however, to consider that getting and training a dog to be a guard for your property and family is nothing to take lightly. The dogs that make good guards are large and powerful. To train one for protection requires a firm, but gentle hand. If done incorrectly, you risk creating a dog that is aggressive, out of control, and a liability. Take great care to be sure you are training an obedient dog that understands his role and is not unnecessarily aggressive.
Selecting A Breed
If you are seriously considering getting a dog that will be more than a companion and whose duties will include protection, the first thought needs to be about the breed. Do extensive research before you select a type of dog for your farm and keep in mind that many of the traditional guard breeds have changed over the years. Some of these breeds have had the classic guarding behaviors bred out of them to create more family-friendly dogs. This does not mean that you cannot still find and train a Doberman Pinscher to be an excellent companion and protector, but be careful when selecting the breeder.
Traditional protection dog breeds include the Doberman pinscher, Akita, Rottweiler, Chow Chow, all types of mastiff, German shepherds, and Belgian Malinois. Each of these breeds has protection in its genetics. They have been bred for centuries to keep guard over their people, livestock, or both. They are also large and strong dogs that can attack if necessary.
Another consideration for protection is a breed that is designed to protect livestock. This includes dogs like the Great Pyrenees, Komondor, and Anatolian Shepherds. If you have livestock, these dogs like to live as part of the flock or herd and protect them from predators or even from theft. If socialized properly with the family, they will also protect their humans. At the very least, they will alert you to the presence of danger outside by barking.
When you have selected a breed, find a breeder that is responsible and reputable. Do not purchase a dog from the first person you find. It pays to do your research so that you get a dog that is healthy and has the characteristics needed in a guard dog. You should also find a breeder that has worked with others looking for guarding capabilities. They will know more than the average German Shepherd breeder and will help you select a dog appropriate to your needs.
The first thing to look for in your new dog or puppy is a good temperament. This means picking a dog that shows no fear, anxiety, or aggression. You also want a confident dog. He should not be overly sensitive or shy with people or with other dogs. Out of a litter of puppies, look for the one that is bold and assertive without being aggressive. He should be the one to try new things, that is first at the food bowl, and the first to get the new toy. He also needs to be sociable. You may not be looking for a stranger-friendly golden retriever, but you also do not want a dog that is aloof toward all people. If you have found a breeder that does not have experience with selecting guard dogs, bring along a friend who does. Picking the right puppy is a very important step toward training a good guard dog.
Consider Working With A Professional
If you do your research, take it slowly, and consult with someone who has experience, you can successfully train your guard dog by yourself. However, if you have never done this before, you might want to consider hiring a professional trainer, at least to get you started. This type of training is serious business and can go horribly wrong if you do not do it right.
There are plenty of professionals who are experienced with training dogs for protection. There are also different types of training in which different experts excel. For instance, consider working with a schutzhund group. Schutzhund means protection dog and is also the name for a type of dog sport and training. It was developed over 100 years ago in Germany for German shepherd dogs and includes training for tracking, obedience, and protection.
Although you will most commonly see shepherds and other German breeds practicing schutzhund, any dog can join up as long as he passes the temperament test. Training your dog this way will involve a lot of time and effort, but the results are the reward. If you reach the third level, which is protection, you will have an extremely well-behaved, socialized, obedient dog that can track and protect you and your family.
If you plan to train a dog without going through a professional or an organized group, be sure to start early. The first steps toward training a good guard dog include giving your puppy basic obedience and good socialization. Obedience can be achieved through simple positive reinforcement techniques. Teach him to respond to your commands by giving him a treat, toy, or affection as a reward when he does so correctly.
Socialization means exposing your puppy to a variety of situations, sounds, smells, people, and animals. Take him to friends’ houses, walk him around the farm to meet everyone, and even take him into town to meet strangers. A common misconception is that a guard dog needs to be wary of all strangers. To have a safe guard dog, you need him to be comfortable with strangers in your presence. If you are not threatened, he should not feel protective.
Once your dog is socialized and obedient, you can try some more specific training. Reward him for alerting you to unexpected noises from outside. He should be familiar with the normal sounds of farm equipment, animals, and members of the family. Encourage him to bark when there are different sounds. You can practice by having friends come over and make noises around the windows and doors. When he alerts you, reward him with a treat.
You may also want your dog to patrol your property. Start this training by walking him around the property boundaries twice a day. When he is very good at coming back to you when you call him, do this off leash. When he strays outside the boundary, call him back. Eventually he will learn where the edges are and will be able to patrol without you and investigate strange sounds and smells on his own initiative.
To Attack Or Not To Attack?
If your dog only alerts you to intruders, but does not attack, what you really have is a watchdog. This may be all you need. Having a dog that attacks when you, your family, or your property are threatened may be a comfort, but it is also like having a powerful weapon. If the idea of having a dog trained to attack a person scares you, you may consider training your dog simply to watch out for and alert you to danger. Of course, whether you train him to or not, your watchdog may defend you if he feels it is necessary. If you do want to teach your dog to attack in a threatening situation, working with experienced trainers and hobbyists, such as those in a schutzhund, is the safest and most effective way to go.
Know The Law
Finally, before you set off to get and train yourself a guard dog, make sure you know the laws in your state, municipality, and county. Some places have laws against specific breeds or against aggressive dogs. Investigate the laws to be sure that you are not breaking them and that you understand the consequences if a stranger is attacked by your dog on your property.
©2012 Off the Grid News