How to Train Your Dog to Protect Your Family

Medium
4-8 Weeks
Work

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. 

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. 

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. 

The Panic Word Method

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Most Recommended
4 Votes
Step
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".
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
6
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.
Recommend training method?

The Leash Tug Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Clip on his leash
Clip your dog on his leash and take him for a walk.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Speak Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
5
Repeat for success
Repeat training will teach your dog the right time to bark and the right time to be quiet.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Diva
American red nose pitbull
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Diva
American red nose pitbull
10 Months

My dog doesn't bark and doesn't meet a stranger and I'm trying to make her a protector

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1099 Dog owners recommended

Hello Carla, To teach pup to bark, first teach pup the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For any protection training with bite work you need to hire a professional protection dog trainer. Done wrong, you can create a dog who is fear aggressive and will not be under voice control and will be more of a liability to you than protection. True protection training requires a high level of off-leash obedience around high distractions, working with a dog's natural defense drive using positive reinforcement - via bite bags and the tug response, and building a dog's confidence rather than instilling fear. This requires a lot of knowledge about dogs and this type of training, staff to practice bites and holds with, and equipment like body suites and arm pads. This should only be done by a professional who knows how to accomplish those things without creating unwanted issues. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Elise
Siberian Husky
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
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Elise
Siberian Husky
1 Year

We're trying to teach our dog how to protect our family but the thing is that since we adopted her, her behavior is that she does not bark at strangers, is rare to hear her bark is usually random when she bark. What can we do in that case

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1099 Dog owners recommended

Hello Roberto, First, you can also teach an alert as a howl or growl. Since pup is a Husky, you might find that those are easier to get pup to do, as long as the noise is loud enough to be noticed by you and discourage a threat. Check out the article I have linked below. I would start by teaching Speak - which can be used for barking, howling, or growling, whichever you decide to pursue. Normally the door knocking method works best for most dogs. In your case I would actually pursue the Video method first, using the sounds of other barking or howling dogs or sirens to encourage pup to make noise. If you find that pup won't respond to any of the methods, I would actually go find a park or area next door to a fire station or hospital, where there are frequent sirens going by, and see if you can get pup to respond to that noise, rewarding pup and teaching Speak that way. The capture method is always an option too if you really can't get pup to bark or howl or growl, but I would try the other two methods first, since that method would take a long time to train since pup doesn't bark on their own often. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Teaching pup to growl when you say speak often involves getting pup to play growl at first, using games like tug of war. Rewarding the play growl often and putting it on cue. Once pup will Speak on command, then you set up scenarios, often recruiting friends pup doesn't know, to teach pup to speak on their own when they perceive a threat. For example, recruit a friend pup doesn't know to step onto your property or approach you strangely, command Speak, then reward when pup does so. Practice until pup starts speaking on their own without having to command it, in anticipation of being rewarded when the person approaches if they do. Next, have the person step onto your property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will speak on their own, reward pup if they do so, then remind pup to Speak if pup doesn't do so on their own. Practice until pup is speaking before you say Speak seven seconds in each time. Once pup can do this reliably, recruit different friends to practice the same thing so pup learns to do this with anyone stepping onto your property, then also look for opportunities to reward pup for alerting in real life scenarios too. The goal of this type of training is simply to encourage alerting and alertness, not true aggression. You don't want pup to feel and act aggressive toward those stepping onto your property unless you indicate to pup that they should do so, or the situation is obviously dangerous, because most people who come to visit you will be your guests, whom you want pup to welcome when you let them in. You do want alerting and alertness around all people though. For any protection work that involves bite work and encouraging aggression in specific situations, I would hire a professional trainer to work with you in person to teach that. Good protection work involving bite work is a learned skill/training situation, utilizing pup's defense drive, with pup learning good self-control and responsiveness to you in all situations, so you can call pup off, tell pup when not to attack, and indicate to pup when there is an actual threat (pup will also be taught what is a threat without you having to tell pup too, with the help of a training assistant in a bite suite acting things out). Finally, if you find pup gets good at alerting, you will want to be able to teach pup to be Quiet when commanded, so you can communicate with pup when its time to stop barking after they alert. I would teach this after pup is doing well making noise. Second to Speak, so noise is really being encouraged a lot before quietness is also encouraged. Quiet method - for teaching the Quiet command also: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Rambo
Pit bull
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Rambo
Pit bull
10 Months

I got him where he will sit, speak, stay, go lay down. But I am having trouble trying to get him protective over family. Wen I tell him to watch an sic he always jumps on me

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1099 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christopher, It sounds like pup doesn't understand the command and is guessing what you want. I would start by simply walking around with pup. Whenever you catch pup watching someone on their own, reward that automatic attention to others. Keep treats hidden until time to give the treat and keep praise calm. If pup won't take their eyes off of you, recruit a friend pup doesn't know to go across the street and do things that draw attention, like jumping jacks, running in circles, or making funny noises. Reward pup when they pay attention. While pup is already paying attention to the other person, begin giving pup the sit command and Stay command, and rewarding those commands. When you have practiced this enough over time that pup starts paying attention to others more often, then you can also put that on cue, by telling pup your cue word while pup is already looking at a stranger, then rewarding right away. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bear
Brindle pit bull English bully
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bear
Brindle pit bull English bully
2 Years

How to ease his excitement on leash with other dogs. Doesn’t understand his own size, my sweet wild man. Very smart, not food driven.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1099 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexandra, Assuming pup is friendly with other dogs but just overly excited, check out the Turns method and the Passing Approach method from the articles I have linked below. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel A good way to do introductions with other dogs is to recruit friends with calm dogs and use the Passing Approach and the Walking together methods from the article linked below. After a few practice session of this, when the dogs can calmly walk side by side finally, take pups on walks together with both in a structured, focused heel. This gives both dogs something other than each other to focus on, keeps their energy calm, and helps them associate each other with the pleasant experience of a walk. Repeat this with lots of different dogs, one or two dogs at a time - you want other dogs to be associated with calmness, pleasant experiences, and boring things - not roughhousing, wrestling, nose-to-nose interactions always, or being rushed by them. Many dogs often aren't interested in food when highly excited or stressed, as pup becomes less excited about the other dogs through repeated passes pup might want food as a reward for focusing on you, but if not, just praise pup genuinely. https://wagwalking.com/training/greet-other-dogs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Kizzy Dior
Pit bull
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kizzy Dior
Pit bull
2 Months

I just want her to be protective and not so timid

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1099 Dog owners recommended

Hello Gina, At this age, what pup needs is thorough socialization to build confidence. You want her to think the world is a wonderful place. Once she is an adult and has matured mentally and sexually, protection skills are then taught on top of the socialization, so pup is performing protection work as a job, and not due to aggression or fear. For example, I know someone who's German Shepherd competes in Schlutzhund and IPO - protection type training groups. This dog is also a Service Dog, who is extremely well behaved and well trained to tolerate all types of interactions in every day life. He has been taught when it's time to do each job and responds to her commands incredibly well. That's an extreme case, but socialization should be included for future protection dogs. Check out the section on shy dogs and humans from this article. I also recommend enrolling pup in a good puppy kindergarten class, where things like classmates handling each other's puppies while feeding treats is encouraged. Not all classes emphasize socialization, so ask questions. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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