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.
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.
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:
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.
All of these methods require a dog who barks. As a Bull Mastiff, my dog naturally does not bark. Are there any tips or tricks for dogs who do not bark?
Hello Raven, Will your dog growl? If pup will growl, then I suggest practicing something like tug of war to get him to play growl, and adding a cue word like "Watch" when he growls, then reward the growling. If he won't growl during play but will during other times, you can also catch him when he is naturally growling, like when he sees a cat outside the window, and say "Watch", then reward - doing this each time you catch him growling. Working on structured obedience, like a structured heel can also help with the intimidation factor. Walking down the street with a dog very tuned into you and at a heel is more intimidating than a dog who looks like they would run after the nearest cat if given the chance. Finally, you can teach pup to watch people and even to come over to you to alert you when they see someone. Have a friend your dog doesn't know well walk past your home and pointing the person out to your dog. Reward your dog whenever they watch the person. Practice this with a variety of different people until pup watches people in your area. Once pup will do that, if you want to add an alert, you can also teach pup to come get you if a person gets within a certain distance of your area. A growl will be more intimidating, but watchfulness is a good guard dog skill too add. True protection training where a dog is taught to bite and hold a person should only be done by a qualified professional trainer who specializes in that. Done wrong, it can cause fear aggression in a dog instead of useful protectiveness. True protective training is typically done using forms of positive reinforcement - often tugging and biting a bite bag for fun, and utilizes a dog's natural defense drive - which needs to be naturally present also. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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My dog doesn't stand up for himself. He loves to play with other dogs, but if they are mean or try to hump him he just gives up. How do I teach him to stand up for himself?
Hello Sommer, Honestly, you can't directly teach your dog to stick up for himself better without it leading to aggression. Some dogs will learn how to as they age and are well socialized but you never want to encourage a dog to become aggressive - even when they are being pushed around. Instead, it's your responsibility to protect him whenever you can safely do so. If you show your dog that you will handle issues, he will likely learn to come to you when there is a problem to let you handle it for him, instead of just being bullied. You have to be careful when you do this to avoid potentially dangerous situations with other dogs yourself though. For example, with my own dogs we work up to an off-leash level come at an early age while not at the park - so that my dogs are reliable at the park later also. If there are a group of dogs beginning to fight, I call my dog over to myself to prevent her from becoming involved. If I see my dog being pestered by another dog and potential trouble, I call my dog over to myself, then calmly and confidently tell the other dog to leave - your body language is the most important part of being able to effectively do this. My body language is calm but very confident and firm - I mean what I say and dogs recognize that. If my dog continues to be bullied we go over to another section of the park. Pay attention when you first get to the park. You will notice which dogs' body language looks proud and like they are looking for a challenge vs. calm and relaxed. Go to the part of the park where the more relaxed dogs are hanging out. If the bully dog continues to follow us to the other part of the park, we leave for the day. Period. It's not the most fun thing to do, but you have to look out for your dog. Pay attention to which groups of dogs go to the park when. If you can time it so that you go to the park when a calmer group of dogs goes, do so. Dogs have different temperaments and different dogs get along with each other. Find ones that are more your dog's own speed. Advocating for your dog can make your dog feel more confident. They may not view themselves as the one in charge at the dog park (which you don't really want either), but if they see that you are in charge and not the other dog, and they know they can trust you, that can help him feel more secure. Again, be careful when interacting with others dogs - don't be afraid to calmly ask another owner to help you get the dogs apart when their dog is pestering yours if needed - then you be the one to take your dog to another part of the park so that the other dog doesn't just come right back. You have the struggle of a dog that is very submissive, that other owner is dealing with a dog that lacks manners in certain areas...Be sure to have compassion for each other as pet parents, you are both learning. My own dog River was very submissive while young and constantly picked on. She learned to look to me when nervous because of all the off-leash training I did with her and how I advocated for her around other dogs. When there is an issue, she looks to me to handle it, but she will also stand up for herself as needed now. She has become my best doggie assistant when I work with other dogs who struggle with dog-reactivity or need to be socialized. She is the dog I take with me to client's homes who have puppies who we want to socialize around other dogs, and the dog I use to help me desensitize client's dogs to dogs. She is fantastic with other dogs now. Also, consider that there could be other activities that are better for your dog than going to the dog park. Activities that also boost confidence and socialize him with other dogs in a calm way - such as having play dates with a couple of friends and their calmer dogs, joining an agility class (tunnels, weave polls, and A-frames can still be done by hounds), going on a group dog walk or dog hike, tracking groups, or walks through your neighborhood with a friend and their well mannered dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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