How to Train a Mastiff to be a Guard Dog

How to Train a Mastiff to be a Guard Dog
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon3-6 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

Known as one of the largest, most imposing breeds in the dog world, the Mastiff has risen to fame in Hollywood, starring in movies such as The Sandlot, Turner and Hooch, and Hotel for Dogs. These large dogs are generally known for being great family pets, bonding heavily with their owners and being overall gentle giants. Though for those with a bit more work for their pet in mind, the Mastiff has also found benefits in its hefty appearance.

Though there is a misconception about what constitutes a dog that does guard work, protection work, attack work, and watch work, most families who are looking for a “guard dog”, want a pet that can keep an eye on things in the home and scare away potential intruders. For that purpose, these methods are meant to assist your dog in becoming the household guardian, rather than a dog that can cause potential harm.

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Defining Tasks

Having a Mastiff as a guard dog means drawing a fine line between what is your dog’s responsibility and what isn’t. Knowledgeable dog owners should expect their Mastiff to be able to patrol the property, alert the owner to potential dangers, and present himself threateningly in order to ward off intruders. Things like attacking, biting, and lunging should not be in this list of behaviors if your dog is also meant to be a family pet. Attack dogs and children rarely mix well.

If you still wish to pursue the path of raising a guard Mastiff, then you’ll want to start working as soon as you bring your dog into your home. The basics of the training can be picked up in about three to six months, but you can always take longer to teach more complex routines and obedience commands if you’d like.

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Getting Started

Once you’ve made sure you want to continue with guard work, get together some treats to use as small rewards. You will want your dog to eventually begin to do these behaviors out of habit rather than for a reward, so you won’t want to encourage too much reliance on them. You’ll also want to use a leash during the beginning stages of training to keep him focused and on task. The last thing you’ll need - and most important - is a secure yard, whether it be the front or backyard. The fence should be tall enough to not allow for jumping over, should have a secure door with a lock, and should discourage digging around the bottom of it.

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The Obedience Method

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1

Establish a foundation

Teach the obedience basics. You’ll want your Mastiff to be familiar with listening to you at all times.

2

Determine a release word

Find a word where you can ‘release’ your dog to run around and do as he pleases instead of being focused. This word can be ‘okay’, or ‘all done’. Whatever works for you is good, just be consistent.

3

Work on control

Your dog should know how to control his weight and power. If he plays too rough, this is a sign that he needs to learn limits. Encourage calmness and play that is not overzealous.

4

Separate work and play

Even with your release word in place, don’t expect to go from alert-mode to a game of fetch in an instant. Take time in between training sessions and play time to differentiate the activity.

5

Practice on and off-leash etiquette

Work on ‘heel’ while your dog is on leash and slowly work towards perfecting an off-leash ‘heel’ where he takes his place at your side and walks with you.

The Alert Method

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Teach the ‘speak’

If your dog doesn’t bark, alerting might not be for him. Find a time when he is barking and reward while using a verbal command such as ‘speak’, ‘bark’, or any other phrase you choose.

2

Watch for strangers

Take your Mastiff to a place where he can watch people passing by, whether it’s the front yard or inside the home.

3

Ask for the command

Ask for a ‘speak’ whenever a stranger passes your property, making sure he notices the person. This barking should continue until you ask for a ‘quiet’.

4

Reward

Offer a treat for responding to both the ‘speak’ command and the ‘quiet’ command.

5

Practice indoors and outdoors

Ask your dog to ‘speak’ when he sees a stranger both indoors and outdoors. Do this on a regular basis until he forms the habit of doing it even when you’re not immediately nearby.

The Patrol Method

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1

Create your dog’s territory

Determine where your dog will patrol, whether it’s in the front or backyard and ensure the household knows that that is where he will stay when he is keeping an eye on things.

2

Walk the perimeter

With your Mastiff on-leash, take him for a walk along the edge of the territory you’ve established. Do this several times a day.

3

Use your alert when necessary

As you’re walking along the perimeter, ask for your dog’s alert whenever someone is nearby.

4

Establish a habit

This patrolling should be done several times a day. Practice on-leash until you can walk with your dog off-leash as well. Eventually, remove yourself from the equation and allow him to continue this patrol on his own.

5

Take responsibility

Remember that having any kind of dog that exhibits traits that can be seen as aggressive can be an invitation for others to make judgments. If your dog ever causes harm, escapes his territory, or causes an incident, you should be ready to handle the consequences at all times. Be a responsible dog owner and educate others on his training when possible.

By TJ Trevino

Published: 04/13/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Army

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English Mastiff

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9 Months

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Question

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My dog is not active no alert when stranger is in my compound

Jan. 7, 2022

Army's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Abdulaziz, For the alerting, first teach pup to bark by teaching the Speak command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Once pup knows the speak command, recruit friends pup doesn't know to step onto the property or come to the door while pup watches from a window or inside somewhere. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is there, until pup barks on their own when the person tries to enter without saying speak. At that point, have the person come onto the property, wait seven seconds to see if pup will bark on their own, reward if they do, and command speak if they don't - then reward but give a smaller reward when you tell pup opposed to when pup does it on their own. Practice until pup will bark each time someone enters the property. Practice with different people you can recruit, that pup doesn't know so that pup will learn to do this with anyone who enters the property and not just that one person. Draw pup's attention to people outside or people on your property, and reward pup when you see them watching someone in general - so that pup will begin watching people and staying more alert as a habit. Pup doesn't have to bark to reward this one - just reward when pup is watching someone and you notice that. I also recommend teaching the Quiet command, so that you can tell pup when to stop barking after they alert. Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark For anything that would involve bite work, you would need to pursue training with a professional protection trainer who knows how to utilize pup's defense drive, build confidence, utilize rewards like a bite bag and tug, and have the right staff and equipment to practice things like arms holds - this training should only be done with a professionals help and should not encourage fear or true aggression when done correctly - it's more like teaching pup a task, teaching alertness, obedience, building confidence, and encouraging a natural defense drive - opposed to poorly done training that encourages suspicion and fear to get a bite from the dog. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Jan. 7, 2022

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Zeus

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French mastiff crossed with pittbull

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2 Years

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He’s stubborn, doesn’t always listen. Pretend he doesn’t understand but if you give him treat he knows everything.

Dec. 2, 2020

Zeus's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I recommend practicing the Working method from the article I have linked below, and having pup work for the things they want in life by obeying a simple command each time first - like sit before opening the door for a walk. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Be sure pup understands how to do the command at the current level of difficultly also. Many dogs initially learn what a word like sit means, but they have to practice it in various scenarios, working up to more distractions before they have the skills to do it reliably, and can generalize it to various situations. Even things you wouldn't suspect can make a difference in pup's understanding - like telling pup to Sit while you look at them vs. telling them to sit while your back is to them - they have to practice it both ways to become reliable in both situations. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Dec. 2, 2020


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