How to Train a Mastiff to be a Guard Dog

Hard
3-6 Months
Work

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.

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.

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.

The Obedience Method

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Step
1
Establish a foundation
Teach the obedience basics. You’ll want your Mastiff to be familiar with listening to you at all times.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Alert Method

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Step
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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.
Step
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.
Step
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’.
Step
4
Reward
Offer a treat for responding to both the ‘speak’ command and the ‘quiet’ command.
Step
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.
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The Patrol Method

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Step
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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.
Step
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.
Step
3
Use your alert when necessary
As you’re walking along the perimeter, ask for your dog’s alert whenever someone is nearby.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Zeus
French mastiff crossed with pittbull
2 Years
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Question
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Zeus
French mastiff crossed with pittbull
2 Years

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

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 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

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Cujo
Bullmastiff
8 Weeks
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Cujo
Bullmastiff
8 Weeks

we live out in the country and there are some houses around and i have little kids so i want to learn the right way to make him a guard dog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Arianna, Work on commands that build impulse control and respect for you at this age - that will lay a great foundation for more formal protection training later. Continue to pursue socialization with pup even though that can seem counter-intuitive, because a good protection and guard dog needs to know what's normal in the world, especially around people, so that they can tell when something is wrong correctly and not just react to everything and be unreliable. Good socialization also boosts confidence. Getting pup around a lot of people and places is great, but also work on pup's manners and obedience in those settings so pup is learning to focus on you around those exposures - like practicing heeling past people at a park, a Down-Stay at an outdoor shopping area, sitting for being petted, ect... To help pup learn better self-control and focus, practice the following commands over the next few months. Work up to pup gradually being able to do these things around distractions and for longer periods of time. For example, work up to an hour long Place command, heeling past people at the park, holding a Down-Stay while you walk away at the park while pup is on a long training leash and harness. Those types of commands can also help with respect and trust for you - which is important for guarding work later. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method - good for the mouthing too: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Check out the article linked below for good respect building tips: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Many dogs will naturally guard if it's in their genetics and you have laid a good foundation of respect and obedience, once they mature mentally between 1-2 years of age. If pup doesn't, you can also teach pup to bark automatically when someone enters the property and be more watchful in general using reward based training. 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. To teach pup to bark and be more alert, first, teach pup 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 while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step 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. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Titan
French Mastiff
9 Weeks
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Question
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Titan
French Mastiff
9 Weeks

We would like to train him to be a hard dog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
943 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aaron, You can start by socializing pup well - so that pup learns how to tell what's normal human behavior and suspicious. Work on teaching pup Basic, Intermediate, and possibly Advanced Obedience so that pup respect, listens to, and trust you, and is responsive to you when highly aroused. To teach pup to bark and be more alert, teach pup 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 while pup watches from a window or fence. Command speak and reward with a treat when they do. Practice with telling pup to speak each time the person is on the property, until pup barks on their own when the person enters without saying speak. At that point, have the person step 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 If you want to teach pup to protect you personally or learn any bite work, I highly recommend working with a professional protection work trainer, and not doing that part of the training on your own. This part of the training is often done after 6 or 12 months, and not while very young. Because protection training requires a high level of obedience, socialization, off-leash reliability, trust and respect. Protection training - where the dog is trained to actually bite in a dangerous situation is something that I only recommend a professional with years of experience with such training do - if done wrong by someone less experience you can actually ruin a dog and create terrible aggression toward you and family and friends instead. Protection dogs are typically trained using drive training - which is like a form of positive reinforcement, where the dog is rewarded with tug of war type bite bag for biting an assistant in a padded body suit who is pretending to attack, not through fear or intimidation to get them to bite. Protection dogs are actually socialized extremely well around people prior to the training so that they are friendly and confident around people when not working, and not spooky or mean. This allows them to tell when someone is acting normal or suspicious - because they understand what normal human behavior looks like, and for the owner to bring the dog places with them safely to protect them instead of being a hazard in public due to aggression. Look for a trainer who understands these things and has a lot of success working with dogs such as Police Dogs and privately trained protection dogs - training protection work. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Luna
Bullmastiff
2 Years
0 found helpful
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Luna
Bullmastiff
2 Years

How can I train my dog not to bite my other dogs?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, is Luna quite aggressive to every dog? If so, I suggest that you seek the help of a professional trainer who can help you learn how to manage Luna and additionally, teach her the rules about social etiquette and not biting others. Remember, if she is highly aggressive, changing this will not happen overnight and will require constant training. Work on the Desensitization Method as described here: https://wagwalking.com/training/stop-attacking. It does require a well-behaved walker on the leash. If you need help in that area, try the Turns Method as explained here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. The Counter Conditioning Method here works well: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-attack-other-dogs. First, work on the Threshold Method in the same guide. After that is mastered, move along to the Counter Conditioning. However, these can be used on a dog with aggressive issues but not severe aggression. Try the techniques laid out in the information I have provided. If you are not having success, call in the trainer. This is essential to keep Luna and the other dogs safe. Good luck!

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