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

Most Recommended
2 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

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

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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
Gordon
Bullmastiff
2 Years
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Question
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Gordon
Bullmastiff
2 Years

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
How to get your dog to be pertectves
Pit bull
10 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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How to get your dog to be pertectves
Pit bull
10 Months

Right now he likes to play and play but my jeans and he don't Brock at people cloes to the houes and people he don't know

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Question
Gus
Basset Hound
16 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Gus
Basset Hound
16 Months

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

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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Kacey
Pitbull lab mix
5 Years
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Question
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Kacey
Pitbull lab mix
5 Years

I have always want my dog to protect me since she already attached to me. She barks but only at intruders. I was wondering if anyone can help me with that. That would be great!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
66 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. As mentioned in our guide, protection is the key word, not aggression or attack. The fact that Kacey barks at intruders means that she has a protective streak already. However, you do want to make sure that your dog is well socialized so that you can bring her on outings and have company over without her being overly protective or aggressive. My best advice is to take Kacey through all of the obedience levels so that you have a well-behaved and trained dog that has bonded with you. Knowing her obedience commands will allow her to listen to you when you really need it. All the best!

Can I call me to explain how to get started trinning my dog

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Anatolian Shepard
Kangal
8 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Anatolian Shepard
Kangal
8 Years

I want to make him very very deadly and dangerous and more powerful so that he can easily kill a humam

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

Hello, 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 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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