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You come back from sunny vacation, unload the car and reluctantly head back to normality when you see an unhappy neighbor in their yard. You give them a wave but something is clearly up. The neighbor proceeds to tell you there has been a burglary while you’ve been away and the police haven’t caught the culprit. You have young children in the house and struggle to sleep as it is, you don’t need to add another worry to your list.
Security systems can be expensive and pain to install, but you already have the best burglary deterrent living under your roof. Your dog may be soft and cuddly to you, but with the right training, he could be a lean, mean protection machine that could keep your home safe and burglars at bay. You’ll be able to sleep easy at night and have one less worry when you leave the house.
Many people are surprised to learn that training your dog to guard your home is relatively straightforward. A lot of the training consists of showing him where his territory is and incentivizing and rewarding him for protecting it. You don’t need to train him to ferociously bite any strangers, just to give an intimidating bark. This training can work on both young dogs and older dogs. Puppies will be keen to please and quick to learn, so you could see results in just a week or so. Older dogs who have spent a lifetime being placid may need an extra couple of weeks before the training takes hold.
A few weeks may sound like a long time, but it’s a small price to pay to keep your home, family, and treasured possessions safe. This training will also strengthen the bond between you and your canine pal.
Before you turn him into the hounds of the Baskerville, you’ll need a few bits. Treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces will be required to reward and motivate him. You’ll also need a leash, a body harness if he’s strong, plus a person your dog doesn’t know. A secure fence or boundaries will also be needed to remove the risk of anyone getting hurt during training.
You’ll also need a quiet 10 minutes a day where you won’t be distracted. The only other thing you need is patience and then training can commence.
The Enforcing Boundaries Method
Establish a perimeter
Secure him to a leash and walk him around the perimeter of the house in the morning and the evening. Make sure you take him around the entire area you want him to protect. Doing this everyday will reinforce to him where his territory is, he’ll then naturally want to defend it.
Familiarize with toys
Place some of his toys around the perimeter and play with them there. You can also give him his food closer to the boundaries. This will all help engrain in him where his territory is.
Time for the test
Leave him alone in the house and have a stranger to him approach the door or window. Have them knock on the door or window until your dog gives him a response, such as a bark. It is important you use someone he doesn’t know otherwise he likely won’t display any signs of aggression.
As soon as he barks, have the unknown person make a sound and run off. This will drill into him that he needs to bark until the unknown person runs away. Then quickly enter the home yourself and reward him with a treat.
Practice makes perfect
Practice this each day for at least a week or two. You can then monitor his behaviour when people like the postman or delivery men come to the house. If he automatically barks and goes to defend your home you can stop the training and cut down the frequency of treats. He will then officially be ready to guard your home full time.
The Bark Method
Monitor his behavior
Keep an eye on him and look for triggers that make him bark. Before you can train him to guard the house, you need to be able to train him to bark on command. Taking him out for a walk or feeding him a meal are common triggers.
Time the command
Once you’ve identified a trigger, issue a ‘bark’ command just before you think he will bark. Timing is important here, if given too long before he won’t associate the command with the bark.
As soon as he barks, give him a treat and lots of praise. Repeat this process each day for 10 minutes. As he begins to understand the command try practicing when he isn’t in a situation that will make him bark anyway. After several days, you can slowly reduce the frequency of treats and move onto the next step.
Up the stakes
Have someone approach the home and give him the bark command as soon as the individual knocks on the door. Again, timing is important so he connects the knock on the door with the bark command. Give him a treat as soon as he barks.
Practice this each day for at least a week. Try and have different people approach the house and also have them knock at windows as well, so he knows to bark at any unusual sound. He will soon get the hang of it, at which point you won’t need to give him a command at all, it will have become habit to bark at anyone that approaches.
The Leash Method
Show him his territory
Walk him around the perimeter of the home every day for at least two weeks. Before you move onto the next steps, you need to ensure he knows where his territory starts and ends. Once he knows this he will be naturally inclined to defend the territory anyway.
Use a long leash
Secure him to a long leash outside the home. Make sure the leash is long enough that he can still move around plenty and approach any strangers. You can use old rope or anything that is long and strong enough.
Find a brave friend
Have a stranger approach the home from an angle your dog can see. Stand close to him and keep an eye on his reaction. It is quite likely he will naturally bark and want to ward them off as he’ll feel more vulnerable on a leash. Also ensure you’re behind your dog, if he’s in between you and the stranger he will feel it’s his role in the pack to defend you.
If he doesn’t automatically bark at the stranger, encourage him to. You can do that by saying ‘find him’ in a firm but questioning voice so he knows you want him to do something. As soon as he starts to approach the stranger or barks, be sure to give him a treat and lots of praise.
Practice this each day for 10 minutes
Consistency is key with this type of training, so keep it up daily. Once he gets the hang of it, have a different stranger approach from a different angle, knocking on the windows. As he naturally develops a protective habit you can lose the leash and cut down on the number of treats you give him. He will quickly become defensive of his territory and you’ll be able to sleep easy at night knowing you have a 24/7 alarm downstairs.
By James Barra
Published: 10/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021