How to Train a Labrador Retriever Guard Dog

How to Train a Labrador Retriever Guard Dog
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Time icon1-6 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

At the moment, your Labrador Retriever spends his days shuffling across the floor trying to follow you into every room. They’re still young, unsure and highly dependant on you. You have to admit, you secretly love how attached they have become to you. In fact, you love nothing more than cuddling up with Max on the sofa after a long day at work. However, you also have other plans for Max. You brought them home because you wanted a guard dog.

Training a Labrador Retriever to be a guard dog comes with a number of benefits. First and foremost, you’ll have a fantastic way to keep yourself, family, house and valuable items safe. This means you can relax as you drift off to sleep in the evenings. This training will also increase your control and make it easier to teach the Lab a range of other commands too.

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Defining Tasks

Teaching a Lab to be a guard dog is by no means the most straightforward training. It will require rigorous obedience training to assert your position as pack leader, ensuring the dog follows your instructions. You will also need to find an effective incentive to get them barking on your command. Finally, training will also consist of socializing your Labrador Retriever so they can distinguish between friend and foe.

If your Labrador Retriever is a puppy, then you could see results in just a month or so. This is because they should be particularly receptive and eager to please. However, if they are older and less interested in learning, then you may need up to six months. Another benefit of this training will be that you have a fantastic way to bond with your dog. On top of that, you’ll have yourself an effective burglar deterrent and a cost-effective means of safeguarding valuables.

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Getting Started

Before you can start training with your Lab, you’ll need to get your hands on a few items. Stock up on tasty treats or break their favorite food into small chunks. Some toys and a clicker will also be required. As will a friend or two.

You will also need to set aside 15 minutes each day for training. Try and find a time where you both won’t be distracted.

Once you have the above, just bring patience and a positive attitude, then work can begin!

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The Full Package Method

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Start early

The earlier you can start training your Labrador Retriever, the sooner you will see results. That means start encouraging any promising signs from an early age. Any interest in strangers, including barking, should be rewarded with treats and praise.

2

Obedience classes

Enroll your dog in group obedience classes. This will help socialize them with other pets and people. It is important they understand how to get on with pets and people they do know.

3

Basic commands

Teach your Labrador Retriever ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’ and any other basic commands they may need later on. This will also enhance your control, increasing the likelihood they will follow your instructions.

4

Test drive

Practice having people approach the house or area you want the dog to protect. Draw their attention by pointing, whispering and getting animated. As soon as the dog barks, reward them with a treat. Do this each time and they will soon get into the habit of defending against strangers.

5

Avoid punishment

It is important you do not use punishment during training. This may only make your dog aggressive and then potentially dangerous. Labrador retrievers respond best to positive reinforcement.

The Territorial Method

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Morning walk

Secure your Labrador Retriever to a leash and walk them around the perimeter of the area you want them to protect. Do this each morning and any space within the area will soon begin to feel like their territory, which they will naturally want to defend.

2

Evening walk

Go for the same walk again each evening. Remain calm and quiet as you go, you want your Lab to concentrate. This perimeter training can start proving successful in a matter of weeks.

3

Get their attention

Whenever a stranger approaches the door, encourage the dog to go over. You can point, whisper and do everything you can to get them worked up. It may be time-consuming to start with, but be patient, they will eventually bark.

4

Click

A clicker is a fanatic way to communicate with your Labrador Retriever. Simply click whenever they follow an instruction correctly or display the right behavior and you will have a brilliant way to speed up the learning process.

5

Reward

As soon as your Labrador Retriever barks, click and then swiftly hand over a treat and give them lots of praise. Make sure they get the treat within three seconds of barking, otherwise they may not associate the action with the reward.

The ‘Bark’ Method

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Watch closely

Spend a couple of days closely watching your Labrador Retriever. You’re looking for any situations which trigger a bark. You’re going to use these situations to teach them to bark on command. When they are about to be fed or taken out for a walk are common triggers.

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‘Bark’

Now place your Labrador Retriever in one of these situations and issue a ‘bark’ command just before or as they start to bark. Give it only once and use a playful tone. Dogs respond best when they think they are playing a game.

3

Reward

As soon as the dog does indeed bark, be sure to give them a tasty treat or play with a toy for a minute. You can also give out some verbal praise. The happier they feel, the more likely it is they will repeat the behavior.

4

Have someone knock

Spend a few minutes each day practicing the ‘bark’ command. Then have someone the dog does not know too well knock on the door. Once they have done that, point at the door and instruct the dog to bark.

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Reward

Have the person shout and then run away. It’s important the Lab knows they need to bark until they hear someone flee. You can then hand over a tasty reward. Now simply practice this a few times each week. Before you know it they will naturally bark at any stranger that approaches.

By James Barra

Published: 03/29/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Toff

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Labrador Retriever

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5 Months

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Question

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Hi, My puppy is very stubborn but friendly. She loves everyone but she bites me and doesn't listen when I say no. I think she could possibly be a good guard dog as she has a deep bark but I want to teach her to bark on command. Kind regards, Maddie

April 5, 2021

Toff's Owner

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Alisha Smith - Alisha S., Dog Trainer

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257 Dog owners recommended

Teaching your dog to speak on command can be a fun trick as well as a useful behavior. It’s easier to teach your dog to “quiet” once you’ve put barking on a cue. You also can reward your dog for just one bark, as opposed to barking non-stop for several minutes. Plus, it’s an entertaining trick that tends to be a hit with friends and family! Have Your Reward Ready The first part of training your dog to “speak” is to be ready with a reward, such as a treat or a toy. The idea is that once your dog barks, you’re immediately prepared to mark the behavior with a command and a reward. Get Your Dog To Speak This step will be easier for some dog owners than others. If you’ve got a vocal dog, there might be many occasions when they bark, like when you grab their leash or a favorite toy. The key is to get your dog excited enough to bark. If nothing else works, try running or jumping around with your dog to excite them enough to start barking. Mark The Bark As soon as your dog barks, immediately mark the behavior with a command like “speak!”, and reward them with a treat, toy, or praise. If you’re using clicker training, make sure to click as soon as your dog barks. Continue marking & rewarding the behavior until your dog understands how to “speak” on command. Add A Hand Signal Once your dog understands your verbal command for “speak,” you can add in a hand signal too. A commonly used hand signal for “speak” starts with an open hand, palm facing the dog, then repeatedly closing your 4 fingers against your thumb. When your dog has grasped that, continue to use your verbal command, hand signal, or a combination of both to reinforce the behavior and get your dog to consistently speak on command. Tips For Training “Speak” Unlike, say, shaking hands, barking is an instinctive behavior for dogs, so it can be a bit trickier to teach. The last thing you want is to encourage nuisance barking all the time. The key for owners is consistency. When training, you should only reward barking when you’re asking your dog to bark. Additionally, try to capture and mark only a single bark. You don’t want your dog to think “speak” means “start a barking frenzy.” Lastly, be mindful of your neighbors when teaching this trick. If you live in an apartment or in close proximity to neighbors, know that others might not find your dog’s barking as cute as you do, so practice in short sessions. Utilizing The “Speak” Command “Speak” is often used as a simple, fun, trick to show off to friends and family, but it can have more purposeful uses, as well. For instance, you can train your dog to speak to let you know they need to go outside to do their business. Furthermore, by teaching “speak” and rewarding with a command, you can modify the technique to teach your dog to “whisper” (i.e. bark at a lower volume). Perhaps most useful when teaching “speak,” you can also train your dog to be quiet on command using the same system of marking and rewarding once your dog ceases barking.

April 5, 2021

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Maggie

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Yellow Lab

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9 Months

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She is super aggressive to people , but at home she is perfect . I want to train her to new perfect .

Feb. 8, 2021

Maggie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Lillie, For this type of need I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and comes well recommended by their previous clients with similar needs. It would be ideal to find a training group that also has a team of trainers or staff to work with, so that pup can practice the training around a variety of different people who are experience with aggression and dogs, to help her generalize what's learned to people in general, instead of just one person, with safety measures and controlled scenarios in place. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Feb. 9, 2021


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