Are you thinking of bringing a new furry friend into your family?
Dogs make wonderful additions to any household, contributing to a healthy state of mind, adding companionship, and providing hours of entertainment. They can also help you spend more time outdoors or even get in shape.
But, some owners also look to their fur babies for personal and property protection.
The right breed of dog with proper training can help keep your home and family safe. And, while it might sound challenging at first, guard dog training is easier than you might think.
Keep reading for our top tips and tricks.
Obedience and Basic Commands
When training a guard dog, the very first step is to teach it basic obedience. In order to offer protection, your dog must respond to all basic obedience commands including sit, lie down, come, bark and don’t bark, and leave it.
Your dog should also heel without a leash, remaining close to your side without wandering or becoming distracted.
While it might sound strict, your pet will need to obey these commands 100% of the time before moving on to learning more protective behaviors. These basic will give you control over your dog, and help prevent future problems like inappropriate aggression or constant yapping.
Just like people, dogs respond better to positive reinforcement. When using this method, you will ask your dog to perform a command and offer a reward when it is successfully completed.
Popular rewards for obedient pups include petting, treats, or a few minutes of playtime with their favorite toy.
Training can be frustrating, but it’s important to keep your cool. Negative reinforcement like shouting will likely frighten and confuse your dog rather than teach it the commands you’re focused on.
Consistency Is Key
This is easily one of the most important guard dog training tips on our list. So, if you only remember one of them, make this it!
Even when you don’t feel like training your dog, you’ll have to. To master the basic skills needed to become a protective pet, your fur baby will need practice every day. That’s why consistency is so essential to the process.
You should also keep an eye out for cute behaviors that might become problematic later. While your dog going nuts for every seagull that it sees might be hilarious, it will also interfere with mandatory defense commands like bark and don’t bark.
You already know that the goal is to teach your pet to obey basic commands 100% of the time. But, that means that you will have to use the commands appropriately – for example, correcting that cute seagull behavior every time it occurs.
Socialize With Pets and People
Socialization is a big part of protection dog training. Your pet will need to be exposed to a wide variety of people and animals in order to learn the difference between friendly strangers and potential threats.
This will also help your dog get used to new and unusual situations and teach it to approach strange people and objects without fear.
Dogs experience a sensitive socialization period – lasting from birth until about 16 weeks in age. So, if you’re adopting a puppy, this is the time to take action!
Socialization is easy to add to your routine, and you can make it a part of your daily walk. This is a great way to combine consistent training with walking for fitness.
If you see an unfamiliar object or hear an unfamiliar sound, take your pet closer so they can investigate. This is especially important if your dog seems nervous or agitated, especially around loud noises like other dogs barking, sirens, and motorcycles.
Socialization will also teach your dog to recognize normal pets, pedestrians, and passers-by and reduce feelings of fear and anxiety. Later, when your pet encounters a potentially threatening person or animal, it will be able to tell whether or not they are dangerous.
Barking is one of the most important jobs for a guard dog, as it will likely scare off potential threats before any additional protection is needed.
When training guard dogs to defend your family and properly, you’ll first want to teach them to bark at the approach of strangers approaching the home. This tip ties back into socialization, when you teach your fur baby the difference between friend and foe.
Barking comes naturally to many dogs, so this might be one of the easiest skills you train on. But, the command to stop barking can be more challenging.
To practice these skills together, you can establish a routine of commanding your dog to bark, and then asking it to stop. If your pet is struggling with the don’t bark command, you may also tell it to lay down. It is very difficult for dogs to bark in this body position.
If you’ve already made it through the first training steps, congratulations! You and your dog are ready to work on defense commands.
For this training stage, you’ll need to teach your dog the difference between a potential threat and immediate danger. And, you’ll have to recruit a helper who your pet is unfamiliar with.
During a walk, get your helper to approach you and your pet. As this person approaches, you should give your dog the command to bark. This step is vital, as simply barking will scare off most threatening people and animals.
Once your dog is barking, your helper should act afraid and run away. Then, you can offer positive reinforcement. After mastering this skill during walks, you can practice it at home, too.
While you may have imagined training your pet to attack, you probably won’t need to. When confronted with a stranger that isn’t scared of barking, a loyal dog will naturally assess the situation and take a defensive stance.
If you feel the need to train your dog to respond to an attack command, or if barking away strangers isn’t going well, it’s time to hire a professional. Keep in mind that teaching your dog to bite or attack can lead to major issues down the line, especially if they injure a person or pet who is not a threat to you.
Getting Started With Guard Dog Training
Now you know the basics of guard dog training, you’re probably excited to get started.
Remember to start with the basics, dedicate plenty of time to socialization, and only move on to protective behaviors when your pet is ready. And, be prepared to call in professional help if you need it.
Did you find this article helpful? If so, be sure to check out the rest of our blog posts, dedicated to topics like health, fitness, weight loss, and more.