The best dog for personal protection is a natural guard dog which is motivated by temperament traits to accept responsibility for protection of persons and property and to use the proper amount of force to do that job. Natural guard dogs are difficult to obtain, test or demonstrate, but he has many advantages over an attack-trained dog. A natural guard dog has a better judgement.
Your first step toward the right type of personal protection dog is to examine your own needs and environment carefully, before you look at the dog. Next, consider the three definitive categories of personal protection dogs and align your efforts accordingly. They are:
- The dog whose sole function is to give alarm.
- The dog who gives alarm and offers some physical threat to an intruder.
- The real man-stopper, whose temperament and physical qualities make him a game and capable fighter.
The Alarm Dog
His job is to detect and announce any person approaching the area he serves. He is useful in situations where alarm is needed but where biting, or even the threat of biting, could not be permitted. Examples are places where the proprietor needs to know of each arrival but, because the callers are few, does not spend time watching the entrance. Because such dog does not need to offer the threat pf physical protection, there are no minimum requirements for size and strength. One of the small breeds can be as good an alarm as the largest dog. When you have learned of a good prospect, try to make your first visit to his home a surprise so that you can see the dog as he usually acts. Determine if he is such a constant barker that he would have to be confined where he would do you little good. Observe whether his alertness is solely the result of a panicky shyness. There is a simple test you can use to check an alarm dog that seems worth further consideration. Arrange to call again at the dog's home accompanied by two other persons, who will wait a short distance from the house until after you have been admitted. Not only will you have a second chance to study how the dog reacts to your approach, but it will give you an opportunity to see whether the dog is so distracted by your presence that the individual approach of the other two "strangers" will go unnoticed. If the dog shows enough responsibility to concern himself with each separate arrival, he is worth a trial if you've found that he qualifies in other respects.
The Threat Dog
The threat dog's job is to provide a threat as well as alarm. Although the threat dog should not be overly aggressive, he must have the courage to stand his ground staunchly against anyone who tries to bluff his way past him. This need for courage and alertness means that much care must be used in selecting the dog. In posing a threat, the dog's attitude is more important than the size. The following step will save you much time. If possible, before you go to look at the prospect, phone its owner and explain that you need a dog with enough courage to stand up to a person who will try to bluff him down. Make it clear that you will want to watch while a stranger does the testing. if an owner objects to such a proposal, get the dog off the list of your prospects. Without a test for this essential quality, there is no reason to consider any other virtues the dog might have. When you have obtained an owner's consent to test his dog, arrange to have someone who can follow directions capably to do the testing while you watch from a concealed place. The dog should be tested in as close to the normal home situation as possible, but he must be within a fence, or tied, so there is no danger of a bite. The owner should not be within sight, as his presence may encourage the dog to react differently. Your tester should have a burlap sack and a cap gun to snap, with or without caps. If the dog is shy, he'll back up from the clicking. Ask the tester to walk in normal manner to a point where the dog will alert, and then to proceed to within a few feet of the dog where he should make a threatening swing with a sack and snap the gun two or three times. If the dog continues to oppose your helper's entry after the sack is swung toward him and the gun is snapped, the tester should turn and leave the area. The dog should indicate by his actions that he has enough staunchness to discourage most intruders.
A true man-stopper does not merely show willingness to fight. His job is to stop a man, if necessary, by winning a fight. His basic qualifications include:
- A strong sense of responsibility. Unless he feels responsible, a dog may be easily distracted from his purpose of physical defense.
- Awareness. He must be keenly alert and aware of situations that develop.
- Decisiveness. It's not enough for him to be aware and concerned. He must act with sufficient force.
- Courage. He must be able to stand up to a threat and pain.
- Capability. He must have the mental and physical abilities to be a formidable opponent.
- Reasonableness. When you admit someone to your premises, your dog should respect your judgement but remain alert. The maniacal, uncontrollable dog is not only dangerous - he is useless, being shut away much of the time when his presence would be a comfort.
To find a dog who meets these requirements and can then reorient these qualities to another master can be very difficult. Generally, a puppy with such potential is more adaptable to a household than an adult would be.
Talk to people who have been active in obedience work. They are interested in temperament and may be able to tell you about common faults and virtues that they have observed in certain lines of dogs. Both professionals and amateurs may be of help in this respect. The first is a test to see whether the dog will stay with a person or property by his own free choice when there are obvious and inviting opportunities to leave. Remember that no guard dog is any good when he's gone. Even more important is the truth that a dog who lacks the responsibility to stay with his charges rarely makes a good protector when he is with them. Apply the test in the same manner to adult prospects and to the parents or close relatives of any puppy prospect you might consider. The best possible way of determining the traits a family of dogs possesses is by observing those traits in dogs of that family.
Have the owner of each dog you test take him by car away from his premises, and, in a strange area, free him from any restraint. Without commanding the dog in any way, the man should walk slowly along. From a distance, watch to see whether the dog is so distracted or tempted by his new surroundings that he forgets all about his master. A dog with the qualities of a good guard dog might drift around a bit, noticing all things in his environment, but he would show concern with his master's whereabouts, and at definite intervals would swing back close to him to demonstrate his responsibility. Such a dog would be worthy of further considering. If, when he is not restrained, a dog finds his new surroundings so interesting that he forgets to keep track of his master, you had better look elsewhere for a natural protector.
Merely considering such a test will cause many owners to withdraw their fogs with such excuses as, "He's had no training," or "He's never been out of the yard." You'll gain more than you'll lose from these withdrawals.
The second step in testing is to arrange with the dog's owner for a demonstration of what happens when a gate or door is accidentally left open. Watch the proceedings form a distance so that you will not be of interest to the dog. A dog who is accustomed to confinement, is sometimes slow to notice and opportunity to leave an area, so be sure that your prospect makes a choice between staying and leaving. The owner should remain concealed and quiet so that he does not influence the situation.
Ideally, a responsible dog should be concerned with staying on "his" property. Don't write him off completely if he saunters outside his area and putters around in a way that demonstrates he is still more concerned with home and fireside than with the call of the open road. However, if he shows that his heartstrings are but frail threads against the pull of adventure, and his unconcern indicates that you could steal the house from behind him, you'd better say "Thanks, but no thanks." What makes such a dog to be a demon guard when confinement forces him to confront an intruder is not the thing that will make him a dog to ride the river with. For this very careful procedure, you will need complete understanding and cooperation from the dog's owner and assistance from a well-coordinated man who will follow your instructions carefully. Your helper should be equipped with a burlap sack and a gun for blankfiring. The dog should wear a muzzle. Meet the owner and your helper in a place where the dog cannot see or hear any of you talking together, and arrange to have the dog muzzled and in a definite place so that your "heavy" can force an entrance and make the test. Explain to the owner that the place of the test must provide a means of your watching the action without attracting the dog's attention, and permit him to be close at hand for any emergency, yet out of the dogs' sight.
All concerned should realize that there should be no oral communication between any of you, because at best it's difficult to create a test situation that will ring true to a good dog. Be definite about the time of entry and the signal that will tell the man that the muzzle is in place and all is ready. The lighting of a light or the closing of a drape are easy ways of signalling.
When he gets the signal, the "heavy," gun in one hand and the sack in the other, should approach the point of challenge, which will probably be the door or gate, regardless of whether the dog meets him head on or hangs back a bit, the heavy should move steadily toward him. The man should snap the cap gun a couple of times, hit the dog with a hard swipe of the sack, and retreat from the area, shoving the dog back away from him if necessary so that the gate or door can be closed. If the muzzled dog tries to fight the man in the face of the gun and club-like sack, there should be little doubt that he would make things rough for an intruder. If he stands his ground while trying to free himself of the muzzle, you can logically conclude that he would fight effectively without that handicap. Muzzled or not, if he shows he would sooner retreat than fight, he's not the kind of dog you need.