How to Train Your Dog to Guard an Object

Hard
1-4 Weeks
Work

Introduction

You work on a construction site or farm where lots of expensive equipment is kept. You can’t make the whole farm or site inaccessible, but you do need to find a way to keep it secure. If you can train your dog to guard a specific expensive piece of equipment or one location, then you’ll have one less thing to worry about. Alternatively, perhaps you want to train him to protect a suitcase, a TV, or anything you else in the house. Whatever it is, with the proper motivation he will guard pretty much anything.

This training is useful for more than just keeping a specific object safe and secure though. You’ll need to gain strict control over him throughout this training process, and that control can be used to teach him a whole range of other commands too.

Defining Tasks

Training him to guard an object isn’t always a walk in the park, but with patience and determination, it’s definitely achievable. You will need to use a rigorous incentive system to drill into him the protective behaviors you do want. You’ll also need to incorporate the object into his territory so he naturally wants to guard it. Training will have to be strict and controlled as you don’t want to encourage the wrong type of aggression. If he’s a puppy, he should be receptive and may respond to training in just 1 week. If he’s older and never had such a responsibility before then he may need up to a month to truly get the hang of it.

Get this training right and you’ll be able to sleep easy at night knowing the car you’ve saved up for all your working life is perfectly safe. You’ll also find it easier to train him to guard and protect your house too.

Getting Started

Before you get to work you’ll need several bits. A generous supply of his favorite food or treats will play an essential role. You’ll also need access to the object you want to train him to protect, but you may want to use another dummy object to begin with.

A quiet space, away from the distractions of a noisy house will be required, and you’ll need 10 minutes every other day for the next few weeks to commit to training.

Once you’ve got all of that, it’s time to get to work!

The ‘Long Down’ Method

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Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Get familiar with the object
Before he learns to guard something, he needs to feel comfortable around it. If it’s small, put it in his area each day. If it’s big, walk him around it regularly and encourage him to take an interest and sniff around it.
Step
2
‘Down’
Issue a ‘down’ command to have him lie in front of it. If he can’t already go ‘down’, take a treat and lure him to the ground, holding the treat in front of his nose. You may need to push his back down gently the first couple of times. As soon as he’s down, give him the treat and some verbal praise. Practice this for a few minutes every other day until he gets the hang of it.
Step
3
‘Stay’
Once he’s down, instruct him to ‘stay’. Give the command in a clear voice. As you do this, take a couple of steps back. As soon as you’re a couple of steps away, rush back over to him and give him the treat. If he gets up, repeat it from the beginning and try taking just one step back.
Step
4
Increase the distance
Now gradually increase the number of steps you take before you go back over to give him the treat. You’ll need to practice this for several days, but eventually you’ll be able to leave the room and leave him lying there with the object for a long period of time.
Step
5
Introduce distractions
At this point, it’s time to test his willingness to stay with the object. Have a friend or family call him from a different angle. If he gets up and moves towards them, go over and instruct him to go ‘down’ and ‘stay’ again. Over time, he will learn that he can only move when you relieve him. Practice this religiously until he always stays with the object even when people try to lure him away.
Recommend training method?

The Start Early Method

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Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Choose the right breed
Before you can start training him to protect an object you need to make sure you opt for the right breed. You want a guard dog, not an attack dog. Pugs and German shepherds are good examples and they are well known to have the right characteristics.
Step
2
Socialize
When he’s a puppy, spend as much time as possible with other dogs and people. You need him to feel comfortable around people and pets alike. That way when you train him to be a guard dog you won’t need to worry so much about him crossing the line and attacking anyone.
Step
3
Obedience training
Before you go on to train him the harder guard commands, you need to make sure he can follow the basics. Teach him to ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ to start with. This will also help you assert your control from day one, making training easier as he gets older.
Step
4
Never punish him
If he’s going to guard objects, he needs to have the right temperament. If you shout and punish him as he grows up he may become overly aggressive when it comes to guard training. Scared dogs are simply the wrong dogs to train as guard dogs.
Step
5
Encourage the right behavior
When he’s young, it’s important you encourage the characteristics you’ll need when you train him to be a guard dog. That means give him treats if he barks when people approach the door, or if he stands up and becomes alert when strangers approach. All of these steps will massively increase your chances of training a successful guard dog.
Recommend training method?

The Bark Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Territory
Walk him around the object you want him to protect on a leash. Do this several times a day in the morning and the evening. He will quickly start to think the object is in his territory, at which point he’ll naturally want to protect it.
Step
2
Finding the bark
Put him in a bark-inducing situation. When you make his meals or are about to take him for walks are good occasions to try. As soon as he starts barking, issue a ‘bark’ command. Then give him a treat as soon as he does. Practice this for a few minutes each day and after several days he will associate the command with the action.
Step
3
Have him 'long stay'
Now that you can have him bark on command, you need to incorporate it into the guarding. Instruct him to lie ‘down’ and then ‘stay’ in front of the object. Follow the steps in the Long Down method to achieve this.
Step
4
Have someone approach
Have a family member or friend approach him lying in front of the object. As soon as someone comes within 5 feet, instruct him to bark, while pointing at the person approaching. As soon as he barks, rush over and give him a treat. Really give him some verbal praise too so he’s encouraged to do it again.
Step
5
Practice
Practice this as much as you can over the next couple of weeks. Mix up the people you send towards him to test his training. After a while he won’t need to be told to bark, it will become habit. At this point you can slowly stop giving him treats.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Turbo
German Shepherd
4 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Turbo
German Shepherd
4 Years

Ok so I am responding to Caitlin Crittenden. Ok so I know that reactivity usually comes from fear but when he’s being reactive his tail is high up but his ears are back. I sent a video to your email but I don’t know if you saw, but in the video his ears were back and his tail was like a whip going really fast and he was barking loudly and whining at the same time. So I was just wondering what that meant.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chrismylee, From the video he appears to be acting territorial/guarding the yard. If the person got very close, pup's response could tell you whether there is also fear present, like does pup move away while barking, do they dart in but they run away right after, does their body language shrink and tail tucks or shoulders and overall height shrinks down. A fearful dog will often guard as well. If pup is bold and not shrinking, not backing down, and looking taller, pup may simply be territorial without fear. I would not test this without professional supervision though, if you don't already know off hand. A fearful and non-fearful dog will both bite when there is too much pressure. My guess would be that pup doesn't trust and respect your grandfather, or believes your grandfather approves of the behavior, so pup is trying to handle the approach of strangers on his own instead of letting the people handle the situation, thus being more reactive when your grandfather is around. An insecure, fearful dog will also do this, but it's not fun for them because they feel anxious while doing it. There are several reasons why pup may feel this way around your grandfather, but the bottom line is probably that pup is territorial, believes it's his job to guard the territory, thinks this behavior is acceptable/he is in charge, and this might actually be making him feel more anxious and insecure in the end, because not all dogs want to have the leadership role, depending on their temperament. I would build trust and respect overall. A lot of structured obedience, calm, clear commands, with consistent follow through - mean what you say but give it with a calm confidence, instead of feeding into the excitement, frustration, and anxiety pup is already feeling. I would work on commands that help you direct pup, like Leave It, Quiet, and Place, and practice those things daily, in calm situations first, then work up to distractions like other people very slowly as pup gains the skills for that. Check out Thomas Davis the trainer online. He specializes in aggression, and has a lot of videos showing him working with aggression, explaining the different types of aggression, and you can also observe the dog's he works with and their body language as he explains what's going on with each and works them through the training. I would pursue professional help with this because there is a risk of a bite if a person pup is uncomfortable with or they don't want on the property gets too close. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Chrismylee
German Shepherd
4 Years
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Question
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Chrismylee
German Shepherd
4 Years

Can I ask any question regarding reactivity?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chrismylee, Certainly. Some questions will be too long to answer here, or will require in person assessment, in which case I will encourage you pursue those types of training, but you are welcome to ask your question! Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Turbo
German Shepherd
4 Years
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Question
0 found helpful
Turbo
German Shepherd
4 Years

He’s reactive around my grandpa. He loves him but will bark at the smallest things when he’s around. For example, he’ll be fine with me around and will bark and when I tell him leave it he’ll walk away and relax butttt with my grandpa it’s seems like he has no control and turbo will just bark at everyone. He also is very reactive around other dogs

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Chrismylee, How does your grandpa act around him? Is he fearful, dominating, unsure, spoils or soothes him? I suspect the relationship between pup and your grandpa needs to be addressed. Without having more information I can't give specific advice, but likely either pup doesn't respect your grandpa and the respect needs to be build calmly by having him do things like obedience command practice with pup, acting calm and confident around him (without being scary or harsh), and being super consistent about boundaries, rules, and follow through on commands. If pup has ever shown any form of aggression around your grandpa or others when he is around, I would hire a professional trainer to at least get you started with the training, for safety reasons, to avoid to potential for a bite. If pup is reacting that way due to nervousness while your grandpa is around, likely trust between them needs to be addressed. How your grandpa acts around pup, how he trains pup, and how he responds to pup may need to be addressed to be calmer and more patiently consistent. He may also need to use food rewards and some lure reward based training to work with pup, rewarding pup's calmness around him, good responses around him in general, obedience, and relaxed body language, to help pup associate your grandpa with good things again. If there have every been any signs of aggression with fearfulness, I would also recommend a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues, comes well recommended by their previous clients, understands counter conditioning, and utilizes obedience commands and structure to calmly build respect and trust, to work with you in person. A fearful dog can also bite in many cases if they feel pressured or defensive. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittendne

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