How to Train Your Dog to Protect a Child

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4-8 Weeks
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Introduction

Most dogs will instinctively act in a protective manner towards their master and the rest of the family. In some instances, they will even act in a protective manner towards close family friends or others who are frequent visitors to your home. But, at the same time, you can also train your dog to protect your children from harm. Bear in mind that training your dog to protect your child is not quite the same as training him to behave like the traditional guard dog all the time, they can also take on other roles.

While it is best to start training your pup at an early age, you can train also train an adult dog to protect your children. It's just a little harder and may take more time. Bear in mind, you instill a sense of loyalty by the way you treat your pup. The more loyalty he feels towards you and your family, the more naturally protective he will be and the easier it will be for you to train him. 

Defining Tasks

Your dog is already a valuable member of your family, but when you train him to protect your children, he becomes literally indispensable. He will work hard and do his best to protect the rest of his pack (aka your family, especially the kids, who he sees as cubs in the pack). Training your dog to guard your children can take a few weeks of hard work or longer. To a certain degree, it depends on the breed as some like German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, and Rottweilers are more suited to being guard dogs.

However, this doesn't mean you can't teach many other breeds to protect your kids. The big thing you need to know is that there is a big difference between guard dogs and attack dogs. In this article, we are talking about guarding, not attacking. Just remember: training your dog to guard or protect your kids is going to take some time and patience. 

Getting Started

Before you can train your dog to protect, he must first have mastered the basic commands, 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'. If possible, you may want to work on training him to 'speak' or bark--and be quiet--on command. Your dog should also be well socialized with other people and dogs. This will go a long way towards helping your dog learn to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys. Supplies needed for this training include:

  • Treats: As a reward for the right behavior.
  • Leash: For training and keeping your dog under control.
  • Places to train: You will need to train your dog in several areas where there are other people and dogs.
  • Time to train: Training your dog to be protective is going to take some time.
  • Patience: As with any type of training, you need to be patient, your pup will get it figured out soon enough.

The big thing about training your dog to protect your kids is that you are, in reality, teaching him to do something that already comes to him naturally. Remember: the goal is to train him to protect your kids, not to be an aggressive attack dog. 

The Leash Pull Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Dog on leash
Time to put your pup on his leash and take him out for a walk.
Step
2
On your way
As you go walking try to introduce your dog gently to "safe" people by allowing him to get close enough to them that they can pet him. This will help him learn to recognize people who he can allow to get near you.
Step
3
Teach him who to look out for
Now as you walk along, each time you see someone you feel is unsafe and your dog starts to walk towards him, give him a gentle tug on his leash. This will let him know that the person may represent a threat and it is his job to protect you from this type of person.
Step
4
Keep practicing
You need to keep practicing this step over and over with different people until your dog will automatically move to protect you when he deems it necessary.
Step
5
Now it's time for the child
Now it's time to go for a walk with your child, this time let your kid hold the leash, if appropriate. Have him or her repeat the same training steps as you were using. Your dog should instinctively move to protect your child. This training will also teach your dog to protect the kids when they are playing out in the yard.
Recommend training method?

The Bark Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
1
Social training first
Before you try to teach your dog to protect a child, you need to take the time to make sure he is fully obedience trained and well-socialized. This means taking the time to take your dog out in a wide range of environments where he will encounter lots of people, objects, other animals, sounds, and sights. You need to know that no matter what distractions you are around, your dog will obey your commands. He needs to know you are in charge.
Step
2
Coach his barking
In most cases, dogs will naturally bark when someone they don't know is approaching. You can put this to good use by teaching him when to bark and when to stop. Each time your dog barks at a stranger, let him bark 2 or 3 times and then tug on his leash and give the command "Quiet". When he does, be sure to give him a treat and praise him. This lets him know no when he should bark and when he shouldn't.
Step
3
Leash work
With your dog on a leash, have a friend come to the door and ring the doorbell. Encourage your dog to bark (if he isn't already doing so). After three barks, give him the 'quiet' command and a treat when he does so.
Step
4
Bring on the child star
Now repeat this same process with your child holding the leash while the friend rings the bell. Teach your child to use the 'quiet' command. When your dog obeys, have your child give him a treat.
Step
5
Move out to the yard
Move the training out to the yard with your child holding the leash and have a friend or two who your dog does not know dress and act in a threatening manner towards your child. When the dog barks at the "stranger" have your child give the 'quiet' command and give him a treat when he does. Keep repeating this training until you feel your dog is ready to stand and protect your child.
Recommend training method?

The Alert Word Method

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Step
1
Pick an alert word
Start by choosing your "alert" or "panic" word. Be sure to choose one your child will easily remember and that is simple enough for your dog to understand its meaning.
Step
2
Be enthusiastic
Each time you give the command word, be as enthusiastic as possible. Also, be sure to use the same word every time.
Step
3
Practice giving the alert word
In most cases, the average dog will bark any time a stranger approaches. Have a person your dog doesn't know come to the door with you and your child standing behind it. When your dog starts to bark, give him the command.
Step
4
Repeat the step
You will need to repeat this step over the course of several days until he associates stranger and barking. Use treats as rewards each time he barks.
Step
5
Going out
You are now ready to take your child and dog outside for a little extra training session. Have someone your dog doesn't know approach your child. Your dog should start barking and when he does, give him a 'quiet' command and reward him when he does. The rest is all about practice until he will protect your child any time a stranger gets near him.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
zadok
German Shepherd
10 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
zadok
German Shepherd
10 Years

my dog is super hyper how do I control that

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, make sure that Zadok is receiving enough mental and physical exercise. The mental exercise is even more important for the hyperactivity than the physical exercise. Because he is a German Shepherd, which is a breed that was bred to work and have stamina, he needs to be challenged mentally. Spend thirty-minutes a day teaching him something new, working on things that he already knows but making them more challenging, practicing tricks, or doing exercises that take focus. If he is still physically able, then you can also set up some obstacles outside, like an agility course, practice commands during walks, and give him puzzle toys to focus on. Practicing obedience will also improve your communication with him, his focus, and his respect and trust toward you. Second, work on "Jazz Up Settle Down". This means, practice getting him excited by playing with him, then stop the game suddenly by freezing and give him a command, like "Sit". The fun will not resume until he obeys. When he obeys, give him a treat and praise him, then tell him "Okay" and go back to playing with him. At first, it will take him a bit to settle down and be able to obey. Keep things serious and boring until he calms down enough to obey. As you practice, just like any skill, he will get better at it, until he can obey right away during this game. This will help with his impulse control, his obedience during times of excitement, and him being able to switch focus onto something else while excited, like a toy instead of rough housing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Truth
Pit bull
6 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Truth
Pit bull
6 Months

I’m 16 Years Old and I Want To Train My Female Pitbull To Search , Rescue And Protect And Also Be Emotional Support Dog And Other Little Tricks Along The Way Is This Too Much For A Puppy Or No ?.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jamaya, If you are willing to work hard at training and socializing, she has a balanced (non-fearful, non-aggressive) temperament, she is focused on people (you specifically), and motivated by something you can use to help her learn - like food, then that is not too much. However, I do NOT suggest teaching her to be protective if you also want to train her to be an emotional support animal. Her being too protective will interfere with her ability to be a support animal and go more places with you safety. A well trained, well socialized dog with a focus on their person will often naturally act protective if there is true danger and they care about the person they are with from having a solid relationship of trust and respect. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Cinnamon
Pit bull
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Cinnamon
Pit bull
9 Months

How can I get my to speak or let me know when someone is at the door? I would also like to know how to get her to be more obedient and protective?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
308 Dog owners recommended

Hello Devin, Check out the article linked below on teaching a dog to bark on command. Once you have taught Cinammon to "Speak" when you tell her to, then whenever someone comes to your door, command her to "Speak!" and reward and praise her when she does. Recruit friends she doesn't know to come to your door to practice this, or order things you normally buy, online for a while so that mail carriers are dropping packages on your porch often. After she has been command to "Speak!" during several visits from people to your door, stop giving her the command and wait for her to do it on her own when she hears someone. If she barks on her own when someone comes to the door, praise her and give a treat. If she doesn't bark on her own after seven seconds, tell her to "Speak!" to remind her. Practice this until she has learned to bark whenever someone comes to your door without having to tell her. You can also tell her to "Say Hi" to friends who you let come inside, so that she learns the difference between someone coming in invited and not invited - praise her for saying hi to someone she is told to greet. Work on having her ignore any people she encounters that she is not told to say hi to while out with you. Bark on command article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak For obedience, one of the easiest routes to take is to enroll her in an Intermediate Obedience class if she already understands commands like Sit, Down, Come, and Heel, but isn't able to do them consistently around distractions yet. An Intermediate Obedience class will practice her basic commands but it will work on those commands in the presence of other people and dogs and there should be detailed instructions on how to practice the commands you are working on in class in other locations and distractions between classes too - to improve her skills even more. A structured heel and Down-Stay, where she is taught to ignore other distractions can help her look more intimidating too without adding aggression that becomes unmanageable. German Shepherds are naturally protective when they sense true danger typically. The issue is rarely teaching the dog to be more protective - which can quickly turn into aggression and possessiveness, but rather helping the dog be more focused on you, composed, and to bark on command or when people approach, so that they appear more fierce and alert to would be predators. A well socialized, obedience dog, who is focused on you and exposed to a lot of people but taught to stay focused on you around others, is more able to tell when something is truly amiss and to act protective when there is true danger - but be safe enough around other people when there is not danger so that you can actually take the dog places with you - an overly aggressive dog is no help because they aren't able to go places with you due to aggression. In general you need to teach a dog what a command means first - so that they understand the word. Don't ever assume your dog understands if you haven't taken the time to teach her the command. Once your dog understands that "Sit" means sit for example, then practice that command in a variety of locations around different types of distractions, starting with easy distractions and locations first, and working up to harder ones as she improves. Give treats in new locations but gradually phase them out by giving them less and less frequently as your dog improves in that location - so that your dog only gets them after several successful repetitions of a command. If your dog refuses to obey despite knowing the meaning of a command, gradually working up to doing that command in a new place or around a certain distraction, and having treats phased out, then also use methods that enforce your commands even when your dog does not want to obey, to teach them through your own consistency that they need to listen. For example, follow the "Reel In' method for teaching Come from the article linked below, using the long leash to consistently show your dog that they must come - without you having to be harsh. Reel In method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for another example for teaching Down reliably, and steps for how to gain consistency with commands: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-teach-puppy-lie-down-command/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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