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One of the greatest traits of a dog is its ability to become part of the family. The bond your dog creates with each member of the family can not only make him a gentle play pal, but it can turn him into a protector in times of danger or stress. When you bring home a new baby, many dogs can instantly fall into that role, laying beside the crib at nap time and alerting you when the baby wakes up.
If you would like to take it a step further, with practiced training you can teach your dog to protect your baby. Many dog breeds have natural protection instincts and are used as guard dogs all over the world. Not all dogs are going to make good protectors. Some might become too aggressive while others might be too timid. Make sure you know your dog well and be patient in the training process. You must be focused and cautious when teaching your dog to protect your baby, and follow careful steps to make sure it protects only when danger is near. If you have difficulties you can always consult a professional trainer.
Teaching your dog to protect your baby takes time and patience. You want your dog to be protective only in times of danger and not become aggressive to friends and family who mean no harm. Before you begin, you must make sure your dog is very well trained in basic commands and used to listening to you. He must always come when called and be under verbal control at all times. Make sure you approach training with time and commitment, and you remain in control. Teaching your dog to protect your baby is an advanced training skill, so never be afraid to seek help if you run into trouble.
Before you start training your dog to protect your baby, be sure he can understand and respond to commands both verbally and with hand signals. It's very important that your dog looks to you for guidance and follows your lead. When you're ready, you'll only need a few things to get started.
- Treats or training rewards to mark the behavior you want.
- A trigger word that will only be used to command the dog and won't be said casually in conversation. Many trainers use another language to make sure the dog won't hear the command when it isn't meant for him.
- Patience and consistency. Make sure you move through each step slowly and only move on when your dog has mastered the step.
The Barking Method
Socialize your dog
First, socialize your dog to people. Make sure he meets new people and learns to greet them appropriately. Before your dog learns to be a protector, he must learn that most people are friendly and he can say 'hello'.
Teach educated barking
When a stranger comes to your house, your dog will naturally bark. After two or three barks say "quiet" and give him a treat when he stops.
Use a leash
Enlist the help of a friend for the next step. Place your dog on a leash, and as your friend comes to the door, encourage the dog to bark three times. Give him the 'quiet' command and treat him when he stops. He should only bark and not lunge at the door, so use the leash to make sure he barks by your side.
Bring in the baby
Once your dog is comfortable barking at the front door, you can move it to the baby's room. Use your friend again and have him enter the baby's room. Encourage your dog to bark three times, give him the 'quiet' command, and treat him when he stops.
Move outside your baby's room
When your dog begins to give those three warning barks when people approach your baby in the house, move the training to outside. Start with a friend, and when he approaches the baby outside, encourage your dog to bark. When you say "quiet" he should stop and allow the friend to approach the baby.
The Trigger Word Method
Start with socialization
Always start with a dog that is well socialized with others. Your dog needs to learn how to properly greet people before you teach him to protect you or your baby.
Make sure your dog has a firm grasp of obedience and impulse control. He should listen to you in easy and advanced commands, whether there are distractions or not.
Choose a trigger phrase
Choose a trigger phrase that you can remember and is easy for your dog to learn such as "protect baby" or "danger." You want it to be a word or phrase that will only be said when you need your dog to protect your baby. Some people choose words in a foreign language.
Teach him to bark when you say the magic words
Get your dog to bark and say the trigger you have chosen with some energy. Make sure to give him the treat to encourage his association of barking with your trigger word or phrase.
Keep practicing until your dog immediately barks when you say the trigger word or phrase.
Bring in the baby
Now bring in the baby. Practice giving the trigger word to get your dog to bark while you are out with your baby. Make sure he doesn't get distracted, and don't be afraid to go back a step to be sure he gets it.
Once your dog is comfortable with the command around your baby, you can practice outside. Be sure the barking only happens when you give the command. Practice with friends, sometimes giving the trigger phrase when a friend approaches and sometimes not until your dog is consistently waiting for your command.
The Perimeter Guard Method
Socialize your dog
Be absolutely sure your dog is socialized with other people and dogs before you start any protection training program.
Be sure he is obedience trained
Make sure your dog responds to your commands at all times, especially when there is a lot of distraction. He should always listen to 'come', 'sit', and 'stay',
Familliarize him with your property boundary
After obedience training, walk your dog around the perimeter of your house. Do this every night and let him sniff and mark his territory. Soon he will understand this is his property to protect.
Practice with a stranger
Have someone your dog doesn't know come to the house and knock on the door. When your dog barks, praise him and have the stranger run away. This will build his confidence.
Continue to practice
Continue to practice and reinforce this skill. Try to have someone come to the door each day and run when your dog barks. Make sure you praise your dog so he knows he has done a great job.
Make sure to continue practicing 'sit' and 'stay' with your dog. When someone comes to the door that you want to let in, make your dog sit and stay after he barks to make sure he allows people you want to meet the new baby into the house.
Written by Katie Smith
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 01/05/2018, edited: 01/08/2021