Owning a guard dog has become a fact of life for millions of Americans. To the business community, specially trained guard dogs, usually Dobermans or German Shepherd Dogs, have become an extension of corporate activity. To individuals, they represent an extension of the police force, guaranteeing safety and security for them, their families, and their property. But what do we mean when we talk about a guard dog? The vast majority of people don't really know what a guard dog is. The term "guard dog" remains fuzzy, undefined, and usually suggests images of a large, ferocious canine ready to defend, attack, maim, or even kill on command. It is often loosely used to describe any dog used for the protection of one's person and home. Many dog trainers will object to this use of the definition as a catch-all term. Properly defined, a dog trained for personal protection should be called a "personal protection dog" and a dog trained to guard property and patrol premises should be called "guard dog."
As a rule, guard dogs and police K-9 dogs are conditioned to be suspicious of all strangers. These dogs cannot turn their training off when they are in public. They have not been trained to discriminate between innocent physical contact and threatening behavior. Guard dogs are typically alpha leaders and alpha dictators. Alpha dictators are extremely dangerous because of their earnest desire to demonstrate their authority. Most guard dogs cannot be safe family pets. There are roughly three categories into which the guard dog falls.
An alarm dog is a guard dog trained to bark. Such dog is trained to do nothing but let out a rough, aggressive bark. The larger the dog, the deeper the bark. However, the alarm dog will take no protective action. He may do so on its own, but not as part of its training.
Sentry dogs usually patrol inside fenced areas and buildings with or without a handler and are often used in facilities with no evening security personnel, especially in warehouses where they can be turned loose to roam inside. Sentry dogs are the ultimate deterrence. They are trained to indiscriminitely attack anyone entering the premises. A sentry dog should be an active, restless animal who likes to roam and prowl and is not obedience-trained. Since he usually works entirely on its own, autonomy and independence are encouraged. A sentry dog is taught to look upon any area in which it is placed as its own and it will repulse everyone but its handler. Sentry dogs at construction sites are quite vulnerable and frequently sustain non-lethal injuries from intruders.6
An attack dog, sometimes called "man-stopper," is a dog trained to attack, bite, and kill. Attack dogs are trained to respond to sudden movements and aggressive physical behavior and are used by the police, industry, shipyards, and the Armed Forces. They are potential deadly weapons that only experts can control. Attck dogs should not be owned by general public. A trained attack dog is formidable. It can throw 750 pounds of pressure into its bite, rip through muscles and tendons and, if it strikes at the right angle, break a collarbone or crush a forearm. For the record, it can kill a man in less than 30 seconds, if it attacks the throat or the vital organs in the stomach area. An attack-trained dog offers the best protection available under normal circumstances, but it is not invincible, and any good trainer would volunteer that information. If you have something really valuable, the dog should be only a part of a large, sophisticated security system.6
Select your dog from the first two categories if you want a guard. The responsibility is simply too great. An attack guard dog may attack and even kill a person who acts in an apparently suspicious way. Indeed, he has been trained to do so. Or else, the trainer may have made a mistake, and the dog will turn on the owner or a member of the family. You could be in for a major lawsuit because of what the dog might do. Attack dogs have no place in your home.
Protection dogs are family dogs that will protect their families in a crisis situation, will defend and try to save their family, rather than attack and bite. They are trained to be good companions that will be good with children and friends. However, if the master is physically attacked, they will take some kind of protective action, such as jumping, snarling, seizing, or chasing. In general, Belgian Sheepdog, Bouvier des Flandres, Rottweiler, Boxer, Briard, Doberman, German Shepherd Dog, Giant Schnauzer, and Chow are excellent for this purpose. Whether one selects a Doberman Pinscher or a German Shepherd as a protectiion dog, the size, health, temperament, and bloodlines of its parents should be carefully examined. Never purchase a protection dog without first looking at its parents.5
For a breed that was adapted to the role of the guard dog, the Giant Schnauzer has succeeded remarkably. While not as popular in the United States as some other breeds, the rest of the world knows and respects this breed as a premier police and military dog. Many European countries actually prefer the Giant to all other such breeds since these dogs have distinguished themselves as first-rate guard/protection dogs.
Due to their selective breeding as protection dogs, Doberman Pinchers possess a strong natural instinct to protect their pack members and territory. The Doberman will alarm his master of any suspicious activity on his territory as any good watchdog will do, but he will also display willingness to take matters in his own hands - teeth is a better word - and his eagerness to do so is generally unrivaled among his working dog counterparts. Dobermans are ofthen the choice of guard and Schutzhund trainers for attack training. As a protection dog, a stable Doberman is an excellent choice, when he receives leadership and proper exercise. But this breed is not for everyone.
The Rottweiler, the "Rambo" of the dog world, has strong protective instincts. As police dog, he excels in many areas of law enforcement, including drug detection, tracking, cadaver search, and apprehending suspects. Puppies need pack training and obedience training that can begin as early as three months. When a Rottweiler becomes a pack leader, the consequences can be tragic for his owners. This breed is invariably at the top of the list of dog breeds involved in dog bite fatalities.
For centuries, Mastiffs have been used as sentry dogs in Europe. Because of their massive size, they are excellent deterrents to trespassers. Most guard dogs first warn their victims with noise, but Mastiffs work silently. They will knock intruders to the ground with force and weight. A two-hundred pound Mastiff is not uncommon.
As protection dogs, quality German Shepherds are regarded highly. Their alertness, loyalty, combined with high intelligence and a love of children, make them a superb choice. According to one of the most famous guard dog trainers, Captain Haggerty, "This is the best all-around guard dog."
The Belgian Malinois is greatly renowned for his exceptional ability as an all-purpose working dog. He is highly appreciated as a police and service dog and has proven his utility as a guide dog for the blind, a Red Cross, customs, border patrol, avalanche, disaster and rescue dog. He ranks high in protection work and enjoys the reputation of being a hard-biting Schutzhund dog.
As a family protection dog, Boxer ranks high. This is a breed that possesses an extraordinary ability of discriminating when it comes to reading the character of people.
The Great Dane is an impressive guard dog when he simply stands still and barks. It is as a deterrent that the Great Dane does his best work as a guard dog. Some do reasonably well in guard dog training. However, Great Danes just don't seem to relish such work the way Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and other working dog breeds do.
Rhodesian Ridgebacks are tough but not vicious. Loyal and exceedingly protective of their human families, these large hounds do an excellent job as guard dogs.
Resembling more the Bullmastiff than the English Bulldog, the American Bulldog is often used in weight pulling events. This breed is fast gaining popularity as a family protection dog.
Traditionally used for dog fighting and known for his territorial and determined nature, the Presa Canario is a powerful deterrent that can react with great speed in a crisis situation. The Presa possesses a steady disposition, though he distrusts strangers. He is an accomplished fighter and has a deep, chilling bark well suited to warning suspicious strangers of his intentions and abilities.
Steady, resolute and fearless, the Bouvier des Flandres is an all-around service, police, and guard dog. Being an outstanding family companion, the Bouvier has an innate propensity to protect and guard his human family and territory. He differs from other working breeds in his serene, calm and thoughtful nature. Because of his laid-back disposition, he is more amenable to control than many other working breeds. Some individuals can be stubborn and aggressive, so he needs strong leadership from his owner.
The Beauceron is gaining recognition around the world as competent guard dog and protector. He has a most keen sense of smell and during the World War II he was used as mine detection dog. On the front lines he proved himself as a reliable messenger undeterred by exploding bombs or military fire. Beaucerons were also used to pick up trails, find the wounded and carry food and ammunition to the front lines. Highly trainable and always willing to work, Beaucerons are used by the French police and Army in apprehension of criminals (tracking and bite work), personal protection, narcotics detection, riot control, search and rescue, body recovery, prison security, and secured escort.
Breeding protection dogs has become big business. Advertisements abound for the "world's ultimate guard dog" and "the perfect weapon." Many people are willing to pay as much as $7,000 for a professionally trained "guard dogs." However, CDC figures show that dogs may do more harm than good protecting the family home. About 150 fatal dog attacks have been studied between 1976 and 1996, and only one was an attack on a burglar.7 >Do not attempt to train a personal protection dog yourself. This is a difficult jjob and it should be left to experts. The amateur risks serious injuries to himself and assistants, and the end product can only be a confused, perhaps neurotic, and definitely dangerous animal.