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Lauren is training for a marathon and she gets up early every morning to run the jogging trails through the local park. However, lately she is very apprehensive about running alone, since there have been reports of attacks on joggers in nearby parks. Since Lauren owns a Rottweiler, she has decided to take him with her on her daily run, but her Rotty, Max, seems like more of a lap dog then a protection dog. Lauren feels she may need to train Max to be protective of her, in case a situation occurs while they are out on the trails.
Fortunately, Rottweilers are naturally protective. They were bred to herd and protect livestock, so they are naturally inclined to guard and protect their people. Even if he has no experience protecting Lauren, Max is an intimidating looking dog. With powerful muscles and jaws, Rottweilers usually intimidate anyone with malicious intent. They make great family protection dogs because they are social with people. Coming from working dog stock, they naturally bond to their handlers and are pretty laid back, even though they can be fiercely protective when required.
A protection dog is usually a dog that can be taken out into public. He needs to learn to discern actual threats from benign situations and incidents, and to be controllable. This is a different skill set from an attack or guard dog, which is constantly restrained or contained. Training your Rottie good responses to obedience commands, including 'sit/stay' and 'down/stay' is necessary. Protection dogs, unlike many guard dogs, should also be well socialized. Lots of experiences from a young age and socialization opportunities will make your dog aware and able to sense when a situation or person is harmless or has ill intent.
Training a protection dog relies heavily on encouraging your dog's natural guarding instincts and common sense so that he can interact with others and protect when needed. You will want to put attack behavior and barking on command and have a stand down command available to preempt errors in judgement. A professional protection dog trainer can help guide you to develop your Rottweiler's natural protective skills.
You will need an assistant to play the 'bad guy'. While training your dog to bark at, and even attack a threatening assailant, you need to control the situation An assistant may need protective clothing like padding or thick gloves. You need to make sure you have 100% control over your dog. Training your dog obedience commands and recall will require positive reinforcement like treats or toys. Be patient with your Rottweiler and work to shape and guide behaviors. Many people only train their Rottweilers to bark at strangers - not to actually attack - as this may be a behavior that makes your dog ill-suited as a family pet. Decide before training what behaviors you will want your dog to perform and consult a professional trainer for advice.
The Bark at Strangers Method
Socialize and teach obedience
Teach your Rottweiler good obedience commands, including 'sit', 'stay', 'heal', and 'down'. Socialize your Rottweiler so he is used to people and is not afraid or aggressive in social situations.
Bark on command
Teach your dog to bark on command. Find something your dog naturally barks at like birds, squirrels, the doorbell, and pair it with a 'speak' command. Reward barking on command. Add a 'quiet' command so you can stop your dog from barking.
Prepare your assistant
Have an assistant approach you and your dog while out on a walk. Your assistant should wear protection, just in case, like padding around their arms and hands. Protective equipment can be obtained from a professional protection or guard dog trainer or supply store.
Command barking at 'strangers'
When the 'stranger' approaches, give your dog the command to 'speak'. When he barks and lunges at the stranger, have your assistant run away as this reinforces the behavior.
Practice out on walks. When your dog barks at actual well-meaning strangers, ask him to be quiet. Continue to have your assistant 'pop up' occasionally and act threatening. Let your dog bark and have the assistant retreat to reinforce the behavior.
The Leave Off Method
Teach 'leave it'
You will need to make sure your dog has a strong, reliable response to 'leave it' and 'quiet' before proceeding with developing attack skills. Teach your dog to 'leave it', using treats held out in a closed hand. Command your dog to 'leave it' and when he gives up trying to reach the treat, reward him with an alternate treat from your other hand.
Practice 'leave it'
Gradually increase the reliability of this command by leaving treats out in the open and commanding your dog to leave them alone.
Teach 'quiet' and 'down'
Make sure you teach your dog 'quiet' when he barks and pair this command with 'sit/stay' or 'down/stay' to reinforce effective techniques.
Make responses reliable
Practice having an assistant approach. When your dog barks or acts aggressive, provide the 'quiet', and 'leave it' commands. Ensure that your dog responds reliably before proceeding with any attack training.
The Attack Skills Method
Get professional resources
Once your dog responds to the commands 'bark', 'quiet', 'leave it', 'heel' and 'sit-stay' completely reliably, you should consult a professional trainer for protective equipment and advice on attack training. Using professional facilities, a controlled situation, and an assistant that has experience being 'attacked' is necessary.
Use an attack mit
Have an assistant put on thick dog attack gloves and tap your Rottweiler on the face until he grabs the mitt. Pair this with a command for 'attack' with biting the mitt.
Break off attack
Ask your dog to break off the attack with 'leave it', or a 'sit-stay' command. Reinforce your Rottweiler when he breaks off the attack and reward him for obeying.
Have an assistant 'threaten'
Have an experienced assistant with full safety gear and a padded dog attack suit approach you and your Rottie in a controlled environment. Have the assistant enter and act aggressively.
Direct attack and break off
Provide the attack command and allow your Rottweiler to grab an arm or padded area. Let him hold on for a few seconds, then provide the call off command 'leave it' or 'sit-stay'. Practice repeatedly in different scenarios, always ensuring that the dog learns to obey the command to break off the attack.
By Laurie Haggart
Published: 06/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021