Training for a protection dog requires maturity and life experience, as your German Shepherd not only needs to have developed some of his natural guarding and protective instincts and obtained adequate size and physical ability to protect, but also have the understanding to discern threats and respond as directed or required in a threatening situation. Because there are complex behaviors, your dog should probably be about 2 or 3 years of age before training is initiated.
A protection dog is trained never to attack or protect when the owner is present and in control of the situation; that is, they have not indicated distress or provided a command to attack or protect. A protection dog must have good obedience to respond to direction to cease an attack, so that he can be called off if protection is not required, or if he misreads a situation. Protection dogs should also be well socialized and have excellent off-leash recall. The ability to read and determine when a situation is dangerous and a real threat is present is part of protection dog training, as is exposure to real-life situations. Because of these requirements, professional assistance in the form of a professional trainer and/or a club is usually required to complete protection training. Facilities and protective equipment, as well as knowledgeable assistants to train protection behaviors are required that are not readily available to individuals. Also, safety while training protection behaviors, such as attacking on command, requires protective equipment and trainers that can read a dog’s behavior, anticipate situations, and take steps to correct problems as they arise, to keep people and dogs safe.
Comprehensive training for protection dogs in conjunction with professional trainers and clubs is time-consuming and can take up to 12 months. It is also expensive, costing several thousands of dollars and requiring many hours of careful, controlled, expert training. This is not training that an inexperienced handler should initiate on their own. A protection dog will learn appropriate behaviors to deal with several real-life situations, including different types of physical attack with different weapons and in different situations on a handler or family member, abduction attempts, home invasions and even searches for a child or missing family member. These are skilled behaviors requiring independent thinking on the part of the dog and extensive training is required. Not all dogs have the aptitude for this complex job.