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You brought Lucky into your home for several reasons. Firstly, you wanted a trusty canine companion. You definitely got that. Your Pit Bull is playful, energetic and always eager to see you. However, you also chose Lucky for another reason. Pit Bulls are big and strong, and you’re after a guard dog. You may have certain objects of value that you want to keep safe. But you may also just want to keep your family and home secure. Dogs are thought to be one of the most effective burglar deterrents and not many are brave enough to take on a Pit Bull.
Training your Pit Bull to be a guard dog comes with more benefits than just an efficient intruder deterrent. You will instill a high level of discipline in your dog. Discipline that can be used to train them to do a range of commands and tricks. This type of training is also just a great way for you to spend quality time together.
Training a Pit Bull to be a guard dog isn’t going to come without its challenges. You will need to keep them focused and properly motivated for months. That requires the right food or a favorite toy. You will then use obedience commands to get the dog barking and taking an interest in strangers. You will also need to do some socialization work to ensure they don’t display any signs of aggression towards people or pets they do know.
If your dog is just a puppy then they should be fast learners and keen to please. As a result, training may prove successful in just a month or so. However, if they are older and not such keen students then you may need several months before you see consistent results. If training proves successful, you’ll have a fantastic way to keep people and possessions secure.
Before you can start training, you will need to make sure you have several things together. Firstly, you will need to stock up on treats or small pieces of your dog's favorite food. You will also need a secure leash and some friends your Pit Bull does not know too well.
Set aside 10 to 15 minutes several days a week for training. The more consistently you train, the sooner you may see results.
Once you have all that, just bring enthusiasm and patience, then work can begin!
The ‘Bark’ Method
Spend a couple of days watching your Pit Bull. You’re looking for any situations which naturally trigger a bark. This could be when you feed them or take them for a walk, for example. You’re going to use these moments to teach them to bark on command.
Put your dog in one of these situations and issue a ‘bark’ command in a playful voice. Give the instruction just before or as they naturally start to bark. You can use any word or phrase you like. So you could also use ‘speak’, for example.
As soon as the dog barks, hand over a tasty treat. In fact, try to reward them within three seconds. Then continue to practice this for a few minutes each day, gradually giving the command earlier.
Work toward giving the command without the natural trigger, so you can say "bark" and your dog will bark without an outside influence. As your dog improves, give the command in a range of situations.
Have someone approach
Once they understand the instruction, have a relatively unfamiliar person approach the door. Give your Pit Bull the ‘bark’ instruction. Then have the person scream and run away. It’s important the dog knows to bark until they flee. You can then hand over a reward.
Now all you need to do is practice regularly. Have different people approach and continue to hand over tasty rewards when your dog barks. Before you know it, the dog will be in the habit of barking at any stranger that approaches.
To avoid barking getting out of control or encouraging aggression, use the reverse approach to teach your dog to be quiet on command. Wait for him to naturally fall silent, introduce the command 'quiet' and give a reward. Work toward giving the command earlier, while the dog is still barking, until he will stop barking as soon as he is commanded.
The Full Package Method
If you want the quickest results, then start training your Pit Bull to be a guard dog from an early age as possible. It is when they are a puppy that they are at their most receptive, so any work you do then will yield results far sooner.
Enroll your puppy into group obedience classes. Not only will this teach them a range of useful commands, from ‘down’ to ‘stay’, but it will also socialize them with other pets and people, which is essential to keep guarding behavior from developing into aggressive behavior.
You need to encourage any of the types of behavior they will need to be an effective guard dog. That means handing out treats or playing with a toy whenever they take an interest in or bark at strangers that approach your home.
Get them familiar
Make sure your Pit Bull is familiar with the item/place/people you want them to guard. If not, they will not feel like they fall within their territory, therefore, they will be less interested in protecting them.
It’s important you do not use punishment as a training tool. Your Pit Bull will respond best to positive reinforcement and punishment may only make them overly aggressive and too challenging to control.
The Boundaries Method
Secure your dog to a leash each morning and walk them quietly around the area you want them to guard. You are showing them the object or place falls within their territory. This will make them naturally want to defend it.
Also secure the dog to a leash in the evening and walk them around the perimeter of the area. This will further reinforce the boundary training. They will soon be wary of anyone unfamiliar that wanders within the space.
In the daytime, tether your dog to a long leash around the area they are to protect. This will only make the area feel even more like their territory to protect. Make sure they still have some freedom to roam around. Also, ensure they have access to water and food.
Have a stranger approach
Now have a friend or person your dog does not know that well slowly approach. Point at the stranger, whisper and draw your Pit Bull’s attention to the person. Continue doing this until the dog barks. Be patient, it may take them a little while to catch on.
As soon as the dog does bark, hand over a tasty treat or a toy. The happier they feel afterwards, the more keen they will be to repeat the behavior. Continue practicing this several times a week and they will soon be in the habit of barking at anyone that approaches.
By James Barra
Published: 04/10/2018, edited: 01/08/2021