How to Train Your Dog to Protect Your Family

How to Train Your Dog to Protect Your Family
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-8 Weeks
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

Most dogs have a natural instinct to protect the members of his pack, which in this case happens to be you and your family. Often, a family dog will also protect members of your extended family and close friends. However, while this may be a natural instinct in some dogs, you may have to teach your pup to behave in accordance with these instincts. Of course, you should keep in mind that the intent here is to train your dog to protect you, not to become an attack dog, which may require special licensing or even be illegal in your town, county, or state.

The best age to start training your dog to protect you and your family is when he is still very young. This doesn't mean you can't teach an old dog to do the same. One thing to keep in mind, however, it will take longer to train an older dog than a younger one. Also worth noting is that the more loyal your pup is to you and your family, the more active his desire to protect will be; it will also make it easier for you to train him. 

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Defining Tasks

While your dog is already a very important member of your family, training him to protect you will on only increase this value. Once trained, your dog will always be on the alert, checking for strangers and threats to any member of your family. Bear in mind that your dog sees you and the rest of your family as part of his pack. As such, you should be seen as the Alpha leader and the rest of your family as part of the pack, one that it is his nature to protect from strangers and other forms of danger.

How well he will protect or how easy your dog is to train is in part dependent on his breed. Some, like Doberman Pinschers, German shepherds, and Rottweilers are natural protectors and require minimal training. The idea is to train your dog to bark and act in a slightly menacing manner towards strangers, you are not teaching him to attack. You are training him to be a protector, not a killer. 

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Getting Started

Before you start training your dog to protect you and your family, you must first ensure he is fully competent in the basic commands, including 'sit', 'stay', 'quiet', 'come', and 'down'. Along with this, you need to make sure your pup is fully socialized, or you will have to include this in the training. This means socialized with people and other animals.  Of course, there a few things you need to go along with the training, including:

  • Treats: As a reward for the right behavior.
  • Leash: For training and keeping your dog under control.
  • Places to train: Choose 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: Your pup needs you to be very patient, your pup will get it figured out soon enough.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that by training your dog to protect, you are only enhancing what is a natural instinct. Take your time, be patient, and in time your efforts will pay off. 

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The Panic Word Method

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1

Choose your panic word

You need to choose a panic word that can be used by any member of your family from the youngest to the oldest. Be sure you choose a single word that is not something common like "bark" or "attack", pick something like "panic" or even "help".

2

Use an enthusiastic tone

When you give your pup the command word, you need to be happy and enthusiastic. Believe it or not, this works better than using an angry or frightened voice.

3

When a stranger approaches

The average dog is likely to bark any time a stranger approaches. Take advantage of this behavior by having a stranger to your dog come to your front door and ring the bell. At the moment your dog first starts to bark, give him the command word. Let him bark for a few seconds and then give him the 'hush' command. When he does this, be sure to give him lots of praise and treats.

4

Keep practicing

You will need to keep repeating this step using the combination of ring the bell, bark, hush, treat until he is able to associate the command with the action. This could take several days or longer.

5

The outside world

Time to go for a long walk with your dog on his leash. As you walk along, arrange to have several people he knows and several he doesn't position themselves along the way. Let those he does know give him a treat and pet him. This reinforces the concept of friends. Then have those he doesn't know approach, give him the panic command. When he barks at them, gently pull back on his leash, tell him to hush, and when he does reward him. This reinforces the concept of stranger danger.

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The rest is up to you

The rest of the training program consists of lots of practice. In time, your dog will know how to discern between the good and bad guys and how to protect you on command.

The Leash Tug Method

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Clip on his leash

Clip your dog on his leash and take him for a walk.

2

Going down the road

Walk your dog down a predetermined path with a group of people he knows and doesn’t know scattered along the way. As he meets the "nice" people let them pet him and give them a treat.

3

The "bad" people

When he comes upon the strangers, give him a gentle tug on the leash as a cue. When he barks at them, let him give three barks and tell him to 'hush'. (Your pup should already know how to follow this command, but if not, try the steps in the 'Speak' method). Praise and reward him, this helps to reinforce the behavior and will soon lead to your feeling safer with your dog there to protect you.

4

Repeat

Keep practicing this step until your dog masters the concept and will bark to alert you and protect you when a stranger approaches.

5

Final test

In your yard with your pup on a leash, have other members of your family hold him while "strangers" approach. Have them use the leash tug and 'hush' cues and when he acts accordingly, be sure to reward him with lots of praise and treats.

The Speak Method

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Train your dog to be a socialite

If you are going to teach your dog to protect you and your family, the first step is to train your dog to be social. This means taking him out to the park where there are lots of people and other dogs. Let your dog get used to "good" people who will fuss over him, pet him, and even give him treats. While you are out, run the gamut of basic commands and each time he obeys, give him a treat. This lets him know who is the Alpha leader in the pack.

2

Train the panic command

Have someone your pup doesn't know come to the door and knock or ring the bell. The moment (as close as you can) your pup starts to bark, use a "panic" command. Choose a word that you don't normally use and that is very simple. For example, you could use "panic" or "now." Repeat this process until you can anticipate his barking and make your pup bark using only the command word. Be sure to treat him for getting this one right.

3

Train the hush command

Once your dog will bark on command, the next trick is to teach him to stop barking on command. To do this, allow your pup to bark no more than three times than give him a 'hush' command. Use "hush" or "stop" and instantly reward him when he stops barking. Repeat both of these steps until you have full control of when and how he barks.

4

Become a barking coach

It is quite natural for your dog to bark at strangers. The goal here is to take what is a natural response and put it to use by teaching him to bark and protect you. When your dog barks at a stranger, allow him to bark no more than 3 times. Give him the 'hush' command and when he stops, give him a treat.

5

Repeat for success

Repeat training will teach your dog the right time to bark and the right time to be quiet.

6

On the leash

Clip your dog on his leash and stand inside your front door. Have a friend ring the bell. The instant your dog starts to bark, give your panic command word. Give him three barks and then tell him to be quiet. When he does, reward him with a treat.

7

Out in the yard

Time to head out in the yard, starting with your dog on his leash. Have someone your dog doesn't know approach. Once again when your dog gets ready to bark, give the 'panic' command and give him the same three barks. Tell him to 'hush' and when he does, praise him and give him a treat. Practice makes perfect, just be patient and in time your dog will learn to protect you and the rest of your family when strangers approach.

Written by PB Getz

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Darman

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Doberman Pit

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One Year

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Question

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How would I get Darman to be aggressive with strange dogs that come into our yard. recently our neighbor is letting a relative stay in their yard but they have unstrained and aggressive dogs, they are smaller than Darman but I have another dog that is smaller. the neighbors dogs were attacking my small dog while she was trying to use the bathroom but Darman just wanted to play with them.

Jan. 17, 2024

Darman's Owner

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Boris

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Akita

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1 yr

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Question

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Boris doesn't bark. He kinda yodels (silly sound) but no bark. Ever. So, since the bark is a warning, could we train him to bare his teeth instead? Not use 'em, just show those pearlies. Thank you, Jackie

May 29, 2023

Boris's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Yes, or some people will train a dog to growl on command. To train the teeth baring, look up videos of that on youtube that involve peanut butter. Often you can put peanut butter in a certain spot around the mouth to get a dog to pull their lips back. Growling is often even easier to teach on command if the dog likes tug of war toys and will do a play growl, you can get pup growling playfully during tug, give your growl command, then reward with a treat whenever the make the noise. As long as pup is only play growling and will still release the toy when told and isn't resource guarding over the toy, you can teach a dog to growl on cue this way, then practice it without the toy in their mouth first, until they can simply growl when told to. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 2, 2023


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