So You Think You Want A Guard Dog?

So You Think You Want A Guard Dog?

Do you really want to train your dog to be aggressive… do you?! If you do then you need to be prepared for the consequences of a dog attack – we’ve all seen those in the news!

Dogs do not automatically know with certainty who is a threat and who isn’t. Dogs pick up on emotional energy and in particular react aggressively to fear and anything they see as hostile acts. It is not really appropriate to train your dog to be aggressive towards visitors, what do you expect them to do when an old person or young child come to your door – probably feeling apprehensive (not to mention the postman or other delivery man)?

Think carefully about what you really do want – we’re sure you don’t want a dog that is aggressive with everyone that comes to visit! What you probably want is a dog that will alert you when someone approaches your property and then is quiet and calm when you are accepting of the visitor; more of an ‘alarm’ dog than a ‘guard’ dog!

What you probably want is for your dog to protect you in reaction to a signal of ‘distress’ from you – which they will detect from the change in your emotional energy and/or your voice. Normally, if we scream and shout in panic, our dogs immediately know something is wrong; you don’t need to have trained your dog for them to ‘get it’ if you are unhappy with a stranger who has come to the house.

Very few people will 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 will deter most burglars because they will know that a placid dog can turn nasty if their owner becomes alarmed or is not there to provide the ‘acceptance’ of the stranger.

Dogs have a natural ability to recognise emotional energy, that’s one of the things we love about them, but it is hard for them to differentiate between someone who generally has a fear of dogs (often the case with small children), is apprehensive about ‘cold calling’ or someone who is actually fearful because they are up to no good! You can not always rely on your dog acting appropriately in all circumstances. I’m sure we’ve all experienced our dogs being alarmed at something new or different – a puppy or a young dog may bark at quite a few harmless things that they haven’t seen before, ours certainly do!

Don’t be surprised if your dog becomes alarmed if someone comes to the door in fancy dress, like a child arriving in a Halloween costume or someone of a different ethnic background than your dog is used to, or carrying something they haven’t seen before.

So what should you do to encourage your dog to protect you?

Dogs are pack animals and it is natural for a pack member to alert the others, in particular the leader(s), to a potential threat. The leader(s) will then decide what action to take. Don’t scold your dog for barking when someone comes to the house or into your garden. Just check out what they are alerting you to and if all is well, thank them for this behaviour. This also reinforces your position as the one in charge.

Making sure that your dog knows that you are in charge of the situation means that they will instinctively be less controlling 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 – the following will work for most dogs to help them understand how you want them to behave:

  • Never shout and scream at your dog to be quiet or calm down – if you stay calm they are more likely to be calm and if your energy is that of alarm be sure they will pick up on that.
  • Don’t rush to answer the door – have you ever noticed 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 you see that all is in order, calmly ‘praise’ or ‘thank’ your dog for their behaviour – whatever you would normally do to reward 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. This is something you would normally expect from a well-behaved dog who knows that you are in charge.
  • You may already have a dog that will wait in its bed when told – this may be an option to keep an excited dog calm until they learn that the door is not theirs to defend.
  • If you find it difficult to calm your dog, then to begin with you can put them in a different room until your guest is settled and do not allow them to join you if they remain over excited.

Asking guests to ignore your dog when they come into your house, until your dog has calmed down, will also help your dogs to understand that they need to be calm when someone comes in. You may find this awkward but remember that you will provide a much more acceptable situation for your guests – you might even find that people are happier to visit you!

Always focus on what behaviour you want and consistently practice rewarding this ‘good’ behaviour. This will help your dog to ‘get’ what you want them to do.

Go To where you can find a growing wealth of useful information about the relationships between humans and dogs and how to protect children from dog aggression; as well as links to our Facebook and Twitter pages where we share even more. You can also take advantage of our SALE and sign up for tailor made consultations that will change the relationship you have with your dog.