Dogs of Defense: Considerations for Purchasing a Protection Dog

by September 26, 2011 09/26/11
3 of 5 in the series Dogs of Defense

If you have made it this far in our series, hopefully you are seriously considering a protection dog. In this article we are going to address the selection of a dog and the training of that dog.

These are going to be the two most important aspects for you, as the owner, when determining what kind of dog you want and how to prepare both yourself and your dog for home protection.

Breeds

Sadly, many Americans have fallen in the fallacy that bigger is better. Many would argue with everything they are worth that a .50 caliber bullet is superior to a 9mm for personal protection, even for a 90 lb. woman who can barely hold the handgun. Are .50 caliber handguns bad? Not necessarily, but they have certain characteristics and limitations that must be considered when purchasing them for self-defense.

If a person can hit their target under stress consistently with a 9mm, then they are much better off with that handgun then a .50 caliber that they can’t control. The same thought process must be applied to the purchase of a protection dog.

Size

There are benefits and detriments associated with large dogs. Large dogs are often stronger and may give you a psychological advantage, but they are also going to be less agile and slower.

Of course you do not want to have a Pomeranian or Chihuahua for home protection. It is important to balance the size and strength of the dog with its ability to move and negotiate the natural obstacles in your home or wherever else it may be protecting you.

For a home protection dog that is capable of giving you the greatest performance in the widest number of circumstances, you should look for an agile breed somewhere between 50 and 85 lbs. A dog this size will give you plenty of biting strength while maintaining the greatest agility and ability to move during a fight.

Agility

Agility is the measure of how quickly a dog can change directions or negotiate obstacles. Obstacles can be anything from jumping a fence to leaping into the back of a pickup truck, or even transitioning from carpet to tile in your home. When fighting with dogs, those that are most effective are the medium sized dogs that can change direction and react very quickly.

Dogs that are much slower, such as Basset Hounds and very large English Bulldogs, do not necessarily make good protection dogs. Although there are always exceptions to this rule.

Temperament

This is perhaps the most important consideration for those concerned about the safety of those around them. Most of our nightmarish images of dangerous protection dogs come from the image of the junkyard dog or drug-house dog that has a very poor temperament. These dogs are dangerous and should not be used as pets or protection dogs.

This being said, there are dogs of practically every breed that have good and bad temperaments. Generally, but not always, females will have better temperaments than males. Just as you do not want an overly aggressive or posturing dog, you also do not want a dog that acts skittish at every movement or schizophrenic.

Look for calm and confident dogs. If you can find a puppy from a parent’s second litter, you can be fairly certain that your dog will have a similar temperament to its older brothers and sisters, but, again, this is not always true.

Another important aspect to remember is that a poor owner and poor training can take a calm and confident puppy and turn him into a skittish dog lashing out at everything he sees. Ensure that you read my 12 Pillars of Dog Training and find a competent trainer that can guide you through the training process for a protection dog.

Recommendations

While this list is somewhat biased and certainly not all encompassing, several of the recommended breeds for protection dogs are the German Shepherd’s Dog, the Belgian Malinois, the Dutch Shepherd’s Dog, the Airedale Terrier, the Australian Shepherd’s Dog, the American Bull Dog, the Rotwieller (although it is difficult to find well bred animals in this breed anymore) and the Black Mouth Cur.

Remember to do your research. Do not select a dog simply because you like what they look like. Base your selection on the dog having desirable characteristics for you and your lifestyle.

Training

After you select a breed, you should locate a competent trainer prior to purchasing your selected dog. First, determine if your trainer works with your breed of dog. Secondly, speak with that trainer about the characteristics and traits of that breed and if this will be compatible with your lifestyle. Thirdly, discuss the level of training you want to conduct with the trainer, and how much that will cost. This way you can plan for all expenses involved and determine what your capabilities are.

There are many trainers out there who would recommend against purchasing a dog as a young puppy, but I would have to disagree with that approach. The absolute best way for you to ensure that you have the best-trained and most closely bonded dog is to get him when he is a puppy. Eight to 12 weeks of age is best if you can manage it, but certainly aim for less than four months.

Having a dog that has only ever been trained by you, under the observation of a good trainer, will yield your best results. This will ensure that the home environment is fully familiar to your dog and that the dog has been socialized around your family, reducing the risk of errant bites.

There are several key aspects of training that you should look for in a complete protection-training package. These aspects can be trained in a single extended training package, or conducted over the course of a year or two depending on your budget and schedule.

Realistic Stress

One of the greatest flaws I have seen in training for protection work is also prevalent in many law enforcement and military training models: unrealistic training stress. What I mean by this is that the handlers must first take their training very seriously. If the handler is not serious about their training, then the dog will not be either.

It is critical to train as you fight. If you encounter a trainer who uses a weapon in one hand but encourages the dog to continue biting the empty hand, find another trainer. Finally, realistic stress should also include fighting in the environments you will be most likely to actually fight in.

Home Defensive Evaluation

If you have the capability, have the trainer come to your home and walk you through a home defense evaluation. Where are your likely points of entry? Where does your family sleep? Where should your children go if there is a home invasion? What pattern should you use when clearing your house for threats? And finally, how do you integrate your dog into that plan?

This cannot be done to the fullest extent without the trainer actually being on the premises at your home. Try to find a trainer that will take the time and walk you through every aspect of home defense, and not focus simply on the dog. The protection dog is an added asset, but you should not rely on the dog without a weapon for yourself. You should also not rely on yourself alone when you have a dog. All of these aspects must be integrated together for the maximum effect.

Conclusion

Having the right dog and the right training can make all the difference in the world during a violent encounter or home invasion. Do your homework and think through your situation before making final decisions. After you have selected a breed and trained your protection dog, test your plan in a force on force manner.

Without getting into too many details, you should conduct a coordinated home invasion in which you put into use all of your assets to ensure that your plan is effective. This will help to point out weaknesses, which you can then plan for.

Joel is the founder and head trainer of Dunetos K-9, a training facility and equipment manufacturer specializing in Tactical and standard K-9 equipment. He’s been training and handling dogs for over 10 years and works closely with Baden K-9, a highly respected training facility in Ontario, Canada. Joel has served in the United States Army for 11 years as a Military Police Officer deploying to the Pentagon days after the 9/11 attack, Afghanistan (2003), Iraq (2007) and is currently serving in Bogota, Colombia (2011) in the War on Drugs. Joel has specialized in integrating dogs into every aspect of life, from personal obedience and protection to specialized military application.


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missPrim
missPrim

um, sorry i know this was two years ago but i cannot hold back on this subject- first off, if you need to have a gun for protection, fine do that. But "training" a "bred" dog to do your possible dirty work is lame , lazy and selfish. the comment "especially if he's tied outside most of the time" caught my eye- this is ridiculous- these are living beings, they have to be treated with dignity and respect. they are not your new toy. I had a german shepherd / malamute mix that was 110 lbs, (bigger than me) that i saved from the pound bc someone was "too overwhelmed" with their life to keep her anymore after 1 year. This dog was and is my best friend, (even though she left the planet 6 years ago)- she would have done anything to stop anyone from coming near me or our house, and she proved that every day. People would cross the street when we were walking to avoid coming near her. She was wolf-like, yes, but she was not out of control or "ill tempered". She was not "specially bred" or "specially trained". She followed all the basic commands and i gave her respect and her own dignity not by being "owned" by me, but by being my friend. the fact that not once in the article did you mention there are hundreds of thousands of dogs and other animals (even horses) in shelters being killed each day is quite telling. You have overlooked the most sane, rational and humane (not to mention economical) way of getting a new best friend : the shelter. breeders suck. Mixed breeds also have lesser rates of hip displaysia, genetic disorders, etc. My point is- any kind of dog or animal you could imagine is waiting for you at the shelter right now. On top of that, if you want to get a new toy you should buy a weapon, not a living being.

yaya
yaya

I was looking at this bepreparedtosurvive site after someone said johnmccann was a survival genius,

looked at an article bout using coffee filters to clean water up, the guy discovered that coffeefilters will not work if not supported by some thing, then he tries 5 or 6 types and never discovers that if you keep them in a ziplok bag or similiar thing, you could use this to support them and even make it work quicker if you fork a few holes in this support. its not heavy to carry and requires little space to pack. too bad this guys not creative enough to figure simple things out.

yaya
yaya

I was looking at this bepreparedtosurvive site after someone said johnmccann was a survival genius, looked at an article bout using coffee filters to clean water up, the guy discovered that coffeefilters will not work if not supported by some thing, then he tries 5 or 6 types and never discovers that if you keep them in a ziplok bag or similiar thing, you could use this to support them and even make it work quicker if you fork a few holes in this support. its not heavy to carry and requires little space to pack. too bad this guys not creative enough to figure simple things out.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Strawboy,

Forgive me. Boxers are great protection dogs. They are surprisingly agile and usually very intelligent. I have had many clients with them and I have been consistently impressed with their capabilities. Good call.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Strawboy, Forgive me. Boxers are great protection dogs. They are surprisingly agile and usually very intelligent. I have had many clients with them and I have been consistently impressed with their capabilities. Good call.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Yaya,

Very interesting idea. Please ensure that you make every effort to protect it's accidental discovery, but this would be a good hiding place, especially if your dog is tied out there most of the day.

strawboy
strawboy

Add Boxer. 60 lb female, 75 lb male. Compact and very strong. Incredibly intellegent and they'll die for family. Pretty scary looking as well.

yaya
yaya

BUILD YOUR DOGS HOUSE YOURSELF

with a nice door that the dog enters and an attic that cannot be seen into from the front of the house, and accessed from the back end opposite the door.

this would be the triange just below the eves, and leave a 6 inch eve so close inspection is not done casually then back it up against thorn bushes,

leave a long gun and clip there with adequate rust inhibiting lube on it.

this will make it available without entering your house if you should come home and suspect its occupied, ...strange vehicle in drive or on street and door broken or other indication of presence of antagonists.

when checking and maintaining this cache do not look in it in daylight without covering it from neighbors view, or children, park a vehicle to block sight lines and access it at night or in the morning before the lights are on in other houses.

children or teenagers are about the only ones who would rob a doghouse, if they have seen activity there. They sleep late in the morning, you should go out there early not midnight but maybe 4:30 or 5:00 am when the earliest risers are not suspicious activity.

yaya
yaya

BUILD YOUR DOGS HOUSE YOURSELF with a nice door that the dog enters and an attic that cannot be seen into from the front of the house, and accessed from the back end opposite the door. this would be the triange just below the eves, and leave a 6 inch eve so close inspection is not done casually then back it up against thorn bushes, leave a long gun and clip there with adequate rust inhibiting lube on it. this will make it available without entering your house if you should come home and suspect its occupied, ...strange vehicle in drive or on street and door broken or other indication of presence of antagonists. when checking and maintaining this cache do not look in it in daylight without covering it from neighbors view, or children, park a vehicle to block sight lines and access it at night or in the morning before the lights are on in other houses. children or teenagers are about the only ones who would rob a doghouse, if they have seen activity there. They sleep late in the morning, you should go out there early not midnight but maybe 4:30 or 5:00 am when the earliest risers are not suspicious activity.

Jason
Jason

What about a doberman? We were thinking about getting a dobe for protection and from the research that I've done, it seems like they were bred specifically for that reason. What are you're thoughts?

Frank
Frank

Joel,

I've been looking at the Black Russian Terrier breed as a protection dog. Any thoughts on this breed?

Frank
Frank

Joel, I've been looking at the Black Russian Terrier breed as a protection dog. Any thoughts on this breed?

Andrew
Andrew

I think this is a very good article, But there is one thing I would have to disagree on. That is a smaller dog like the Pomeranian is a very good alarm system for an owner that doesn't have room or the ability to keep a larger breed dog. Most larger breed dog's are banned from places like trailer parks and apartment buildings (around where I live it's like this.) due to fear of the dog going crazy and attacking everyone in the building.

Now the smaller breed may not be able to stop the attacker cold, but that is what my .45 ACP is for. Having a dog that will go nuts if someone is at your door is what most "normal" people need from a dog, not one that will try and rip the throat out of your attacker.

I could go on and on as to why I disagree with the smaller dog statement (for may different reasons) and that is the only thing I disagree with in this article. Thanks for the good read author.

Andrew
Andrew

I think this is a very good article, But there is one thing I would have to disagree on. That is a smaller dog like the Pomeranian is a very good alarm system for an owner that doesn't have room or the ability to keep a larger breed dog. Most larger breed dog's are banned from places like trailer parks and apartment buildings (around where I live it's like this.) due to fear of the dog going crazy and attacking everyone in the building. Now the smaller breed may not be able to stop the attacker cold, but that is what my .45 ACP is for. Having a dog that will go nuts if someone is at your door is what most "normal" people need from a dog, not one that will try and rip the throat out of your attacker. I could go on and on as to why I disagree with the smaller dog statement (for may different reasons) and that is the only thing I disagree with in this article. Thanks for the good read author.

Tony
Tony

Phil,

I have 3 GSD's. I do not have any children, but you can almost guarantee that a GSD that "grows up" with anyone that treats it right, it WILL protect. Treating a dog right means training also. I am not talking about anything major, but the standard commands, including walking the dog. An adult can do the initial training and then work in the child and the dog, in most cases, will obey the child as the adult. I have a friend with a 130 lb dog (not a GSD) and they have a young daughter (6 years old) that is about 40 lbs. This little girl completely controls this dog! She can walk this dog with no tension on the leash. And, I would bet my life, that if someone posed a threat to her, he would defend her completely! Find a good breeder!! A good breeder and good training are paramount!

I love my GSD's and trust my and my wives life to them. My dogs are NOT trained attack dogs. I have trained them myself and with the help of my breeder. If obtained from a quality breeder, you can have a great friend and guardian for your grandson!

Tony
Tony

Phil, I have 3 GSD's. I do not have any children, but you can almost guarantee that a GSD that "grows up" with anyone that treats it right, it WILL protect. Treating a dog right means training also. I am not talking about anything major, but the standard commands, including walking the dog. An adult can do the initial training and then work in the child and the dog, in most cases, will obey the child as the adult. I have a friend with a 130 lb dog (not a GSD) and they have a young daughter (6 years old) that is about 40 lbs. This little girl completely controls this dog! She can walk this dog with no tension on the leash. And, I would bet my life, that if someone posed a threat to her, he would defend her completely! Find a good breeder!! A good breeder and good training are paramount! I love my GSD's and trust my and my wives life to them. My dogs are NOT trained attack dogs. I have trained them myself and with the help of my breeder. If obtained from a quality breeder, you can have a great friend and guardian for your grandson!

phil williams
phil williams

i have a 3 year old grand son that iwould like to get a german shephard to "grow up " with him i would like for the dog to put him self between the threat and my grand son or "alert" but i do not know about going so far as to attack or bite some one...

Ryan8
Ryan8

I agree that if you own a Dog it should be a part of your family. But, with all due respect, I really can't stand people with your outlook on life. Mankind wants a large dog to be a protector of his family and do his part. You have probably never been to a schutzhund club or seen a a trained dog at any point in your sheltered life, but they are the most well behaved, loving pets around. Great with children. And they love doing the work, obedience, tracking, biting, etc.... There's more to a protection dog than just biting someone. So before you go pointing fingers about how wrong it is, know what your talking about. People are mean and will hurt you and your family. Dogs are natural protectors of man. Nothing wrong with the other great training that goes with protection work to make your family safe. And just because your dog barked doesn't mean it would protect you with a burglar coming into your home. And chances are it wouldn't. Those are the facts. But then again, if it bit a burglar, that would be mean and you wouldn't want that.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Yaya, Very interesting idea. Please ensure that you make every effort to protect it's accidental discovery, but this would be a good hiding place, especially if your dog is tied out there most of the day.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Jason,

Doberman's were bred specifically for this purpose. Unfortunately, they have been largely destroyed through poor breeding and show breeding practices. There are many good looking dogs out there, but I have never seen a stable Doberman. They used to be great dogs all around, but all that I have worked with (about 15-20 different dogs) have all had very nervous tendencies and would not make good protection dogs. If you find a good breeder of Dobermans, you may be able to get a good dog, but it is a large risk.

Sorry I can't be of more assistance.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Jason, Doberman's were bred specifically for this purpose. Unfortunately, they have been largely destroyed through poor breeding and show breeding practices. There are many good looking dogs out there, but I have never seen a stable Doberman. They used to be great dogs all around, but all that I have worked with (about 15-20 different dogs) have all had very nervous tendencies and would not make good protection dogs. If you find a good breeder of Dobermans, you may be able to get a good dog, but it is a large risk. Sorry I can't be of more assistance.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Frank,

It is hard to find a Black Russian breeder in the States, but Baden K-9 does sell Airdale Terriers which are exceptionally similar other than coat color. In fact, there was a breeding program for some time to cross these two to assist with inbreeding issues and diversify. This generally fell apart, and the breeders I spoke to stated that the Black Russians they had in the program were not as strong as the Airdales and they halted the program.

I experience with the two is that they are both great dogs for protection, but tend to have a very mild manner to them. This is great for people in small apartments, or who just don't want a high strung dog. They still have a great working line in most breeding lines. I will warn you that they are stubborn (like all terriers) and they love to dig. I have seen holes as deep as 4 feet, straight down, and about 10 inches in diameter. This can (and has) be treacherous to step in.

As long as these sound doable to you, I would recommend either the Black Russian or Airdale Terrier. Please feel free to contact me at joel@dk-9.com if you have any further questions.

Jp france
Jp france

I am dog education-trainer in France. I personnaly trained black russian terrier, there are very good dogs. Even if heavy, they are able of good performance at jumping. Just take care to free their eyes from hair during training in order to see what they are looking at and anticipate.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Frank, It is hard to find a Black Russian breeder in the States, but Baden K-9 does sell Airdale Terriers which are exceptionally similar other than coat color. In fact, there was a breeding program for some time to cross these two to assist with inbreeding issues and diversify. This generally fell apart, and the breeders I spoke to stated that the Black Russians they had in the program were not as strong as the Airdales and they halted the program. I experience with the two is that they are both great dogs for protection, but tend to have a very mild manner to them. This is great for people in small apartments, or who just don't want a high strung dog. They still have a great working line in most breeding lines. I will warn you that they are stubborn (like all terriers) and they love to dig. I have seen holes as deep as 4 feet, straight down, and about 10 inches in diameter. This can (and has) be treacherous to step in. As long as these sound doable to you, I would recommend either the Black Russian or Airdale Terrier. Please feel free to contact me at joel@dk-9.com if you have any further questions.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Andrew,

I am sorry if there was confusion, but I have mentioned this in comments on my other articles. I completely agree with you that small dogs are great alarm systems. If you are home, they are probably the best alarm system, and I have mentioned integrating them with larger dogs for an overall defensive plan.

The mention of the smaller dogs was only in relation to the protection. No matter how dedicated, a tiny dog will not stop a committed felon. But this is not to say that small dogs can't be useful, and I agree with all of your above statements.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Andrew, I am sorry if there was confusion, but I have mentioned this in comments on my other articles. I completely agree with you that small dogs are great alarm systems. If you are home, they are probably the best alarm system, and I have mentioned integrating them with larger dogs for an overall defensive plan. The mention of the smaller dogs was only in relation to the protection. No matter how dedicated, a tiny dog will not stop a committed felon. But this is not to say that small dogs can't be useful, and I agree with all of your above statements.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Phil,

Most well bred German Shepherd's Dogs will do what you are wanting without any additional training. I always highly recommend basic obedience and stabilization training at a minimum, especially when a young child is involved. Keep in mind that dogs are not baby sitters, and that you should never leave a young dog and young child alone without supervision. Once a dog has bonded to a child and there is no cause for any possible concern, you could make that change, but discretion is the key.

Please email me at joel@dk-9.com if I can be of any further assistance.

Joel Ryals
Joel Ryals

Phil, Most well bred German Shepherd's Dogs will do what you are wanting without any additional training. I always highly recommend basic obedience and stabilization training at a minimum, especially when a young child is involved. Keep in mind that dogs are not baby sitters, and that you should never leave a young dog and young child alone without supervision. Once a dog has bonded to a child and there is no cause for any possible concern, you could make that change, but discretion is the key. Please email me at joel@dk-9.com if I can be of any further assistance.

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