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There are many people in the world who are interested in having a dog for personal protection. Whether it’s because they are well known, they live in a certain part of the world where the streets may bring danger, or they simply feel safer with a protective pup by their side, personal protection dogs are top of the line defensive animals. The breeds that are typically chosen for this type of work generally have a reputation for being particularly intimidating, not to mention highly intelligent. Among them are the German shepherd, the Belgian Malinois, the Rottweiler, and the Doberman Pinscher.
The Doberman particularly carries an air of menace with its sleek, black coat and its thin, yet powerful body. Popularized in media and reality both, the Doberman is a smart choice for any owner who is in search of a dog for protection training. The breed is intelligent, quick, highly responsive to training, and fiercely protective of the family. However, protection training is not for the faint of heart. Defending the home may seem like something a dog is born to do, but in the wrong hands, an improperly trained protection dog may very quickly become a dangerously aggressive one.
Protection training is more than just being able to intimidate and attack, as movies and television are prone to showing. It is a rigorous set of training regiments that not every dog may be suited for, whether or not his breed is ideal. Temperament is an important factor when it comes to protection, immediately disqualifying dogs who are anxious, nervous, fearful, or overly friendly.
Protection involves advanced obedience and pairs it with a dog’s prey drive, then relies on the owner’s level of control to end an altercation. To train a protection Doberman, he must not only be able to make snap decisions and respond when you are in danger, but he should also be able to release on command and return to you once the incident has been de-escalated. With obedience training beginning as soon as your puppy is old enough to bring home--at about eight weeks old--you should start early and expect to continue training for a year or more before you can safely rely on your Doberman as a protection dog.
There are several things you will need to get started with protection training. Before anything else, your Doberman should be temperament tested and should receive a health check from a veterinarian to ensure that he is capable of protection work. Once you receive approval, training should begin immediately.
Determine if your dog is food or toy motivated and use that in order to start training obedience. Other items that will come in handy are a six-foot leash, a sturdy muzzle, and a bodysuit or protection sleeve for attack training. When possible, training should be supervised by a professional in order to prevent injury.
The Obedience Method
Teach a solid ‘sit’
Learning the basics is important for any Doberman puppy. A great 'sit' command will act as the foundation to the rest of the obedience commands your dog must learn.
Move on to ‘stay’
Teaching your Doberman to stay where he is will ensure that you remain in control in a potentially dangerous situation. Work on your dog’s ability to stay for long periods of time.
Teach a release command
Your dog should know when he is able to relax and be himself. A command like ‘okay’ or ‘all done’ can act as an off switch to his protection mode.
Work on walking etiquette
A protection dog should know how to properly heel at his owner’s side. Reinforce good walking behavior and etiquette on leash in your day to day routine.
In a safe, fenced in area, work on commands without the leash, including heeling at your side during a walk. Your protection dog should be able to remain in control both on and off of the leash.
The Release Method
Assess the situation
Protection training involves you as much as it does your dog. You should know how to assess when an aggressor has been successfully taken down in order to time a proper release before your dog severely maims or even kills her target.
Just as you developed an attack command, a release command should be used in order to get your dog to release the aggressor. This command should be unique to you and your dog.
Return to heel
As soon as your Doberman releases the aggressor, she should immediately return into a heel at your side and await the next instruction. Use a heel command early on in training and gradually phase it out so that it is your dog’s first response after releasing.
Your dog should always receive a reward for proper behavior. Be enthusiastic during training, reward heavily with toys, play time, or treats. Keep training short at the beginning, in order to not overwhelm your Doberman, and stay consistent.
With supervision from a trainer, get plenty of practice in, especially in the attacking portion of the work. Your dog should be given ample opportunity to test her ability to respond to commands and master the obedience required before trying to test her in a real situation.
The Defense Method
Barking on command
Many altercations with dangerous individuals can be deterred with a show of menacing barking. Teaching your Doberman to bark on command can act as the first line of defense. A good ‘speak’ command will help with this.
The defensive heel
Using a trainer or another experienced volunteer as a helper, have them play the role of aggressor and work on teaching your dog to maintain a heel position, even in the presence of a dangerous or distracting individual.
Your Doberman should be able to discern a dangerous situation in order to make quick decisions. Use a helper or volunteer with the appropriate safety measures such as a muzzle and bodysuit in order to prevent injury to the helper or the dog. This helper should pretend to be an aggressor in order for your dog to get familiar with what a dangerous situation looks like.
The attack command
This word should not just be ‘attack’, but rather a word that is special and unique to your dog and your method of training. A command in another language is often popular. This verbal command should be used every time you have your helper take an aggressive stance towards you to condition your Doberman to recognize what his response should be in these situations.
Encourage your Doberman to use a strong bite by having the aggressor present a protected arm to his mouth. Be sure to use your attack command at this point to reinforce that it should only happen after you have issued the command.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021