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It is true that your Golden Retriever looks like all cute and cuddly. He also bounds up to greet you whenever you walk through the door and wants to be everyone’s best friend. While you do love this about him, you also have another job for him in mind. You want to train him to be a guard dog.
Golden Retrievers naturally possess many of the characteristics you need, including intelligence, loyalty, and obedience. Training yours to guard will also mean you can keep both possessions and people secure. That means you can fall asleep in the evening relaxed in the knowledge that your guard dog is on duty downstairs. On top of that, this type of training is a fantastic way to channel his energy into something productive. Furthermore, it’s a great way to bond with your canine pal.
Because Golden Retrievers already possess many of the qualities you want from a guard dog, training isn’t as complicated as some people believe. The first thing to do is to encourage all the sorts of behavior he will need to be a guard dog. You will then need to incorporate boundary training into his routine. For training to prove successful, finding the right incentive will be essential. Thankfully, Golden Retrievers will do just about anything for food.
If he’s a puppy he should be easier to mold. This means you could see results in just a month or so. However, if he’s older and set in his ways, then you may need a while longer. It could take up to six months to yield consistent results. Get this training right and you’ll have an efficient means of guarding a whole range of things.
Before you can begin training, you will need to get your hands on a few bits. A long training leash and a decent supply of tasty treats will be needed.
Set aside 15 minutes each day for training, preferably at a time where neither of you will be distracted. You will, of course, also need the object or access to the place you want him to guard.
Once you have the above, just bring patience and a pro-active attitude and work can begin!
The Boundaries Method
Morning perimeter walk
Secure your Golden to a leash in the morning and walk him around the area you want him to protect. Remain quiet as you go, you want him to concentrate. Do this each day and this will soon become his territory.
Do exactly the same thing in the evening. After a number of weeks, he will naturally want to defend anything that falls within this space.
In the daytime, you can also tether him to a long leash. Just ensure he has enough space to move around the object or space you want him to guard. Again, this will reinforce where his boundary begins and ends.
It’s also important you take him to group obedience classes. You need to make sure he can still socialize with other people and pets. You do not want him to be aggressive with everyone.
You will also need to encourage the types of behavior you want to see, from an early as possible. That means handing over tasty treats and giving him verbal praise whenever the takes an interest in a stranger or barks.
The Verbal Cue Method
Put him in a situation which you know is likely to cause him to bark. For example, when you’re about to go out for walk or feed him. Then give a ‘bark’ command in a clear, up-beat voice as he starts barking. You can use any word or phrase you like for the instruction.
Reward & practice
As soon as he does continue to bark, quickly give him a reward and verbal praise. Now practice this for 5 minutes each day. He will soon start associating the command with barking. At which point you can start practicing giving the command when he isn’t already in a situation that’s likely to trigger a bark.
Have someone approach
Now take him to the place or object you want him to guard. Have someone slowly approach and then issue your ‘bark’ command. Also point and draw his attention to them.
Once he starts barking, have the person scream and run away. It’s important he knows he needs to bark until the person leaves. You can then hand over a reward and show him how happy you are with him.
Change it up
Practice this a few times each week. Try to use people he does not know. You don’t want him barking at family or friends. Keep practicing this and he will soon get into the habit of barking at anyone that approaches.
The Day One Method
Golden Retrievers are most receptive when they are puppies. So start training then and you will see results much sooner. Use tasty treats and verbal praise to encourage any interest in strangers.
Draw his attention
Whenever a stranger approaches the door, call his name and then take him to the door. Whisper, point and get him worked up. This will help him develop a habit of being aware when new people approach.
Lead by example
Golden Retrievers learn by mirroring their owner's behavior. So if you start waving your arms around and shouting when anyone comes to the door, he will soon follow suit.
Whenever he does bark or head for strangers, hand over a treat or play around with a toy for a minute. The better the reward, the more likely he is to repeat the behavior.
Although you are training him to be a guard dog, it’s also important you stamp out any uncontrolled aggression. Do not reward him when he barks or is aggressive with family or friends. It’s important you retain control and channel his aggression appropriately.
By James Barra
Published: 02/28/2018, edited: 01/08/2021