Dogs of Defense: K-9s for Home Invasion Protection - ITS Tactical

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Dogs of Defense: K-9s for Home Invasion Protection

By Joel Ryals

1 of 5 in the series Dogs of Defense


This is the first article in a follow-up series to our previous series, Dogs of War. In Dogs of Defense, we’ll focus on dogs for personal protection.

Today we’ll begin by asking if there is a need for trained protection dogs. The next article will discuss whether there’s a danger associated with “weaponizing” a dog, followed by an article that considers breeds, trainers, and the responsibilities of the owner of a trained dog.

Later articles will discuss the safety of those around a trained protection dog and how to maintain that dog’s peak performance. We’ll also illustrate methods of integrating a protection dog into a home defense plan, as well as how U.S. laws relating to service dogs can be used to keep your family safe.

Should You Own a Personal Protection Dog?

Any security minded person, especially in today’s society of ever rising crime rates and increasing violent crimes, should seriously consider owning a protection dog.

  • Do you own a gun? You should seriously consider owning a protection dog.
  • Do you have a family to protect? You should seriously consider owning a protection dog.

While there are many other valid reasons to own a protection dog, let’s examine the above questions in more detail.

Crime Rates and Security

Increasingly, we find ourselves in an ever more violent and criminal society. Economic depressions tend to increase this trend as more people find themselves out of a job and desperate to find money and goods to take care of themselves. Of course, many others simply commit violent crimes for the pleasure they receive from seeing others suffer.

Home invasions are one of the most dangerous crimes, often resulting in violence against the victims. Violent crimes in general have steadily increased for more than 20 years. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics on violent crimes, you have a 126% chance of being a victim of violent crime at some point in your lifetime. So do your children.

Many people think that a security system will protect them from violent crimes within their homes. I can tell you, as a Military Police Officer and Sheriff’s Deputy, there is little chance that law enforcement will respond quickly enough to stop a crime from occurring.

Others claim that their martial arts training will protect them. Sadly, this is woefully inadequate in most real world encounters. Are you prepared for multiple attackers taking you by surprise at night when many still have difficulty clearing their mind enough to respond appropriately? This does not even consider the fact that most of these violent encounters involve weapons on the part of the attackers.

But the most popular response to protecting your home from violent crime is having a gun readily available and being trained to use it. I’m an advocate of the second amendment and strongly encourage anyone who can own a gun to do so and learn how to effectively use it. But is having a gun enough?

Firearms for Home Defense: Their Limitations

Home invasions are fast paced and chaotic. You won’t know if there’s one attacker or many. Depending on the layout of your home, you may leave your family vulnerable by unknowingly allowing an attacker to bypass you while you clear other areas of your home. There is a high probability that you may find the attacker between you and your family, even if they are on the other side of a wall, restricting your ability to shoot due to the threat of over-penetration.

If you have a family, your home defensive plan probably looks something like this: We are alerted to a threat, your wife gathers the children and calls the police while holding a firearm as a last defense, in case something should happen to you. You grab your handgun or shotgun, and begin clearing your home to ensure that there is no threat.

Now let me ask you a question: With you by yourself, are you really prepared to take on several attackers with weapons of their own? Please put away the bravado for a second and for the sake of your family, really think this one through. Are you willing to rest the safety of your wife and children on your ability to single handedly clear your home if there are actually attackers present?

Think about that long and hard, because if it ever happens to you — and the chances are increasingly greater that it will — you do not want to make the wrong decision here.

Here is another question to think about: if a special operations team were going to enter your home and clear it, would they send one guy, or a team with a K-9 force multiplier? Can an individual highly trained operator conduct this task at peak performance alone? Unless you are one of these few men, then soberly consider your own limitations and what failure means to your loved ones.

Family Protection: When You’re Gone

Let’s pretend that you are Rambo, capable of taking on vast hordes of Vietcong, zombies and home invaders with ease. You have millions of rounds of ammunition, several strategically placed mini-guns and you even decided to set up some claymores under your porch; just in case. No one is getting into your home and harming your family on your watch.

What about when you aren’t there? “I will always be there,” you reply with confidence. Really? You don’t go to work? You don’t travel for your job? You don’t take overnight hunting or fishing trips with the boys? Will you really always be there?

What about when your wife takes a trip to the mall alone in the evening. Some dear friends of ours just had a terrible experience where the wife was kidnapped in a car, driven around for several hours, and then dumped back off at the mall. Terrible situations like this happen. Are you sure they will never happen to you?

How can you, as a loving protector, ensure that your family will be safe in your absence? The real answer is that you can never fully ensure it, but you can certainly take steps that give you and yours a much increased level of protection.

The Constant Companionship of a Dog

If you have a trained protection dog in your home, you have a team of defenders instead of being alone. Your trained protection dog can indicate the presence of an intruder, often before they ever actually enter your home. Your trained protection dog can be left at a key location to prevent anyone from circumventing you and reaching your family. Your trained protection dog can distract the first attacker, allowing you to focus on the second.

When you are away, your protection dog can warn your wife and children of an intruder. The dog can be commanded to bark, warning off would be attackers. The dog is now the teammate of your family, able to assist them if the need should arise.

When you wife goes out to the mall at night, she can take along the dog. Often the presence of a dog is enough, but, even if that doesn’t deter them, the bite will certainly be worse than the bark.

Force Multipliers

Force multipliers refer to the idea of using something relatively small or simple to give you a significant advantage in a fight. That is what a dog brings to the table.

Should you own a trained protection dog? I strongly believe that you should. We’ll explore this question further, along with the process that you should use to evaluate your specific situation, in the upcoming articles in this new series.

Because so many questions arise immediately when this topic is brought up, I wanted to use this opportunity to provide an overview of what the articles in this series will contain. If you have any questions that do not seem likely to be covered in the series, feel free to ask in the comments below or contact me directly.

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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  • Michael Liptak

    “you have a 126% chance of being a victim” – it’s typo, right? 🙂

    • Unfortunately the way things are going out here on the streets I would say thats pretty accurate.

    • Joel Ryals

      That statistic is derived from the combine stats of violent crimes committed against people 12 years of age and up on an annual basis multiplied times the average life span. Of course many will never have a violent encounter and many others will have multiple encounters. But the bottom line is that over the span of a lifetime, practically everyone will have some kind of violent encounter. These numbers have risen steadily over the last 20 years as well, which means as we look into the future, assuming trends stay the same, chances will continue to rise and violent encournters will continue to be a greater threat to your average person.

    • John

      You do realize that the statistic doesn’t make any sense just as 2 + 2 = 5, right? Any probability is always between 0% and 100%. Also, to make the claim that everyone (100%) will encounter a violent confrontation, no matter how you spin it, is just as laughable. Come on guys….really?

    • Christian

      Pretty much every crime statistic you mentioned in this article is completely false. According to the FBI crime statistics the rate of violent crime has steadily dropped for the last 20 years and is at an all time low ( The Bureau of Justice Statistics, which you mention without linking too also back these numbers up ( They show an average of 4% decline from 2001-2009, with a 13% decline in 2010. The property victimization rate declined by 6% in 2010, compared to the average annual decrease of 3% observed from 2001 through 2009.

      I don’t know what your sources are but they make you seem ignorant, or just shady and trying to use scare tactics to drum up business for your K-9 training. I find these articles interesting but I do hope that you will stick to your own knowledge and verify any facts you present going further.

    • John

      As soon as I read that, I dismissed the rest of the article. As much as I agree with it’s conclusion, I just can’t take it seriously with a statement like that.

    • Joel Ryals


      The statistic is intended (both here and where it was origninally found) to communicate that many people experience multiple violent encounters in thier life. This is not a math class. It is an article on dog training and use in light of violent encounters. If this were an accounting blog, then perhaps your complaint would be valid.

      I am sorry that you missed out on the valuable information because you were unable to percieve the intent of the statistic. I hope that others do not encounter this struggle.

    • John

      You sir presented evidence to advance a claim, however the evidence is illogical and invalid. You did not have to use math, and most certainly should not teach it (as I am sure you wouldn’t want to), but the claim is false (not only false but impossible). If dogs do have their place in homes, then you cannot use illogical reasons to prove your point. You are correct that if I put up an article about why people should learn to use firearms and claim as a reason that people need to protect themselves against angry elves that attack every day, people would question my credibility regardless if some of the information is valid. You may have made a mistake, as math classes are not fun and I really appreciate your passion for the subject; just get your information squared away before publishing it and you will be taken more seriously (by those with or without math skills), or better yet if you don’t understand it, then don’t use it in your article.

    • It’s more like a figure of speech John Doe…

    • Mike B

      Good article. I now have a Boxer that is very Territorial and rarely barks unless someone approaches the yard. I love having a Dog around for Security. They are ever alert and they love to defend you as part of their pack.
      I did have a Wolf Hybrid I got in the Mountains of NC. We lived in the foothills and it was fairly remote so I got him to keep my wife company while I was gone. This was before we had our child.
      This was the most loyal Dog I ever had. However, Wolf Hybrids pick you as their friend and that is about it. They will tolerate other people but you have to be careful because they can go from friendly to suspicious in seconds. My Dog held several people at bay over the years that were intent on bothering my wife and I, the most dramatic was when we were hiking and up on a ledge. Some weirdo came down the path and climbed the same Mtn we were on to come on the ledge with us. He looked out of his mind and began to approach my wife with his hand outstreched like he wanted to touch her hair??!!? I am a Veteran and grew up on the streets of Baltimore and Atlanta and this is one of the few times I was actually scared, especially having a dropoff to my back. The Dog performed exactly as I hoped, full alert, body taut with energy, fangs bared and the hair up on his back. He truly looked like a Wolf in this moment and scared the hell out the guy. He bagan to mumble and slunk to the other side of the ledge allowing me and the wife to scurry back down the Mountain. He passed away but I owed that Dog.

  • tiger27

    Thank you for a good read. I have been contemplating adding a Dog to my Family for Companionship and for Protection. I do have small children, and have been concerned about what type of dog to get. I’ve been looking at a Canaan… as both a good family dog and potential protection dog. Can you give us some recomendations for dogs for those of us who have small kids but still want a dog that can take care of business WTSHTF? Thanks.


    • Joel Ryals

      One of the upcoming articles does address breeds, but for now, I think one of the most important things you can do is get the dog very young (6-8 weeks if possible) and raise it with your children. Encourage them to play with the puppy, and do not allow the puppy to be agressive with them, even in play. This will establish acceptable practice that will grow with your family. I have had German Shepherd’s Dogs, Malinois, Dutch Shepherd’s Dogs and Airdaile Terriers in my home in this fashion and never had an issue with aggression toward my family. It is important to establish and maintain discipline inside and outside your home, but if you do so, you should not have issues with dogs and children.

    • Jessica

      Get a Great Pyrenees; they are a natural guardian breed that is very good with children and super protective of their “flock” whether it be four legged or a human one. These dogs were originally bred to fight bears and wolves in the wild so a grown man trying to do a bad thing will shit his pants when he sees 100 lbs of teeth and toenails coming at him.

  • You bring up some great points. Clearing your house by yourself is a huge one. No way I would do this at work and there is no way I would do it at home.
    Another excellent article!

  • Junebee

    I think this article is unfair to the martial arts. Good martial arts schools try their best to prepare students for such scenarios. Granted, there is only so much preparation one can do in the do-jang
    but I know at least one school that even intentionally puts students in a sensory deprivation environment for training.

    I usually like everything on ITS but I’m really surprised you allowed a writer to publish such a put-down of the martial arts.

    I’ll be the first one to say practicing martial arts in no way makes you invincible. We’re taught that from the day we walk in the dojo door. But it can improve the odds.

    For lots of people, having a dog just isn’t feasible (cost for a highly-trained animal, allergies, living in rented housing, other pets, etc). For some people, having a firearm isn’t desirable either. Please give more credit to everyone who devises their own security plan using what resources they have, feel comfortable with, etc.

    • Joel Ryals

      If you recieved the impression that martial arts are bad from the article, I encourage you to re-read that section. The point being made is not that martial arts are bad, but that unless you spend many years training and achieve a very high level of proficiency, then you ought not to rely on this for protection. Also, you are not always there with your family, and can offer no protection in your absence if martial arts is your defensive plan. Furthermore, none of the mentioned methods of home defense should be relied on exclusively, including dogs.

      It is the point of this article to show that every home should integrate as many different aspects as possible into their home defensive plan. Would I recommend learning hand to hand defensive tactics? Yes. Would I recommend buying and becoming proficient with a gun? Yes. Would I recommend some form of home alarm system to notify you of invasion? Yes. Should everyone who could feasibly make it happen add a dog to these plans? Absolutely.

      Hope this helps.

  • fastmover

    i have a small dog, he will offer nothing in the realm of attack/defense. But as a force multiplier, he is like having 4 ranger E3’s in LP/OP’s. He alerts and orientates me to the threat, i have the responsibility of response. I have trained him not to bark (because i hate little yippee dogs) and based his reward on what i am alerted to: a noise = good dog, a cat, squirrel, other dog = good dog and a pat on the head, a human on our property = all the above + treat. Now, after some time, i can tell what he thinks he is alerting me to. That took time, but combat ESP between teammates takes time.

    • Joel Ryals

      Outstanding use of your resources. Little dogs are usually great alarm systems. Some people even integrate them with larger dogs to get the best of both worlds. I have never quite brought myself to get a little dog, but have seen the benefit that they can offer. It is important to understand their limitations, as you have. Just keep in mind that if you have a wife that is home without you, being alerted is great, but she must equally be able to respond, or your family is defenseless without you. This is why I advocate medium to large dog breeds to come to the assistance of any family member that is home. They can stay there with the family as a constant form of protection, even when I have to be away.

    • Bergman

      Some Chinese Imperial dynasties used the big dog/little dog concept, refining it into pure art. Little dogs roamed the palace, treated as pampered lapdogs. When they saw an intruder, they started yapping. Then there were huge wardogs in hidden kennels, trained to run out when a little dog started yapping, and shred whatever the little yapper was annoyed at.

      As you can imagine, there was a major incentive for courtiers to spoil those little lapdogs…

    • Crexis

      To piggy back on this idea….

      I have two dogs in my house, a German Shepherd male dog that is 2 years old and about 95 lbs and a Tibetan Spaniel female that is about 20 lbs. The spaniel is the better alerting dog. By that I mean she either has better hearing or just better response to irregular noises. My GSD will respond to her alert and is a sort of confirmation of her threat response. Often times the Spaniel will yap at a car door from a neighbor or some other immaterial noise and my GSD will not respond. If he responds though, I know that he’s confirmed her alert as worth looking into.

      I feel safer from threats having him in the house than having any other weapon. He provides better early warning than an alarm system with a built in deterent from his size and bark.

  • Orion

    Excellent article, Sir. I have been trying to talk my wife into allowing me to bring a Guard dog into our home. This series of articles will help me express the importance of dogs to her.

    • Joel Ryals


      Feel free to email me with specific questions that she might have. My wife has no fear that dogs will injure or ever be aggressive toward any of our children. We have little ones as young as 1 toddling around our house, jumping on and pulling the ears of our dogs, and never a concern of aggression. Yet they would attach an intruder on command without hesitation.

    • Crexis

      I failed to mention in my above response that I have a wife, an 8 year old girl and a 3 year old girl in my home. We’ve had my German Shepherd from the age of 1 of my youngest. I have zero concern that he would ever hurt my girls. My youngest has even pulled his ears and tail and he doesn’t even pretend to get angry.

      (The number of women in my house is why I got a GSD in the first place. I needed more Testosterone in my house!)

  • thrush31

    My husband and I are very interested in getting a protection dog, but I’m unsure of the timing. We currently don’t have any children, and don’t plan on starting a family for another 4 or 5 years… Would you recommend going ahead and getting a dog now or waiting for when we start a family? I would really prefer to have one now, but don’t want to make the “mistake” of getting it prematurely.

    • Joel Ryals

      There would be some stabilization with your dog that I would recommend when you know that you are going to have a baby soon. Both Dunetos K-9 and Baden K-9 could help you with this training. However, I would not hold off on getting a dog for this reason. I would, however, recommend strongly that you get a female and not a male for your particular application. Female dogs integrate very well with children. We have 6 children and have grown since we started working dogs. My females have never had a problem integrating with each new child.

      If you have further questions, please email me at [email protected].

  • Laurie

    ANY dog can be a “protection” dog. But think about what it is you need. Do you want an “alert” dog who will growl and bark, giving you time to retrieve a weapon and defend yourself, or do you want something you can turn loose and have it do the work of defense for you? A “protection” dog, one that is fully trained in offensive protection work (will go after someone who is behaving in a threatening manner or trespassing where they shouldn’t be) or defensive protection (responds to a direct physical threat to the handler) requires that the handler receive training in order to be an effective owner, and minimize the liabilities that are a part of owning such a dog. I have seen so many awesome dogs turned in to shelters because unscrupulous trainers see dollar signs instead of worrying about what will happen to dogs handed off to new owners who don’t have a clue (or training). A first time dog owner may find it much more financially feasible and less emotionally taxing to do any of the following: Go watch a local schutzhund club practice or competition. A well trained dog can be intimidating, especially for a new owner. Look at the time, mental ability of the handlers, and energy it takes to own and train such a dog. As well as the cost. A fully trained protection dog is not cheap. It is an investment in an animal who has been bred to do this job. If you invest in a fully trained dog, do so with a REPUTABLE kennel and trainer who offer training to the new owner (usually it costs money) and occasional refresher training for the dog. Or invest in a family-friendly dog that may not bite anyone, but will at least warn you as to the presence of intruders. Do your homework on dog breeds and training. Most veterinarians can recommend dog breeds and kennels. Local law enforcement K9 unit handlers are often happy to speak to people about the dogs they use and the handler training they went through. And remember, just because a dog costs a lot of money, that doesn’t mean you are buying the best. And always insist on seeing OFA ratings, genetic tests, and veterinary records for any dog you are considering adding to your family. ANY reputable breeder will consent to your vet checking out dogs you are considering for purchase. I do not mean to step on your toes Mr Ryals. I enjoy your articles and look forward to more!

    • Joel Ryals

      You make some great points, and I touch on most of these on my website BLOG. I agree whole heartedly with you that the owner/handler needs as much training as the dog, and we always include training for the buyer into our protection dog sales. Any breeder/trainer that would sell a trained protection dog without training for the buyer is questionable. This is one of the reasons that they are not cheap. However, I will say that Dunetos K-9 and Baden K-9 both have very different philosophies than anyone who would use Schutzund training or any other kind of sport training. While these sports were originally intended to test working dogs, they have developed into show that has little real application in actual tactical and home protection situations. I don’t have anything against the sports themselves, only in the trainers for these sports claiming that they are ready for real protection or tactical work because they perform well.

      The dog world has become a place of many frauds and people flashing papers as if they actually mean something. Unfortunately, many people with papered dogs from the AKC and CKC find that they recieved dogs that are only shells of what the breed is supposed to be. Finding a breeder who specializes in breeding working dogs is becoming harder and harder. The breeding program at Baden K-9 is one of the few in the world that I would recommend.

      While it is a good idea to make sure you are getting a healthy dog, unfortunately, most people do not have a kennel or breeder near enough to them that has healthy and genetically strong dogs that they could simply take them to the vet. I recommend to anyone interested in getting a protection dog that is already trained to travel to the trainer and pick up the dog there. This affords them the opportunity to see what they are getting.

      Buying a protection dog, like buying firearms in your home, should not be taken lightly. They are both good ideas, and I recommend both for your personal and home protection, but both bear with them responsibilities of the owner. If you have children, firearms must be kept safe and children must be taught that they are not toys, but tools and are to be treated as such. Similarly, dogs must not be considered children or toys, they are animals that share our lives with us and serve a very specific purpose. The decision to purchase one should be taken seriously and soberly.

      For more information on this and other topics of interest to dog owners and prospective dog owners, visit my website at

  • My family spends weekends at a farm where we have to rely on our dogs for security. At night I let loose 3 Rottweilers and 2 German Shepherd’s Dogs and I can sleep better. Of course this is not to say that I don’t have a backup firearm and security lights around the house.

    My dogs have been trained to protect and to bite, the only drawback is that I have to instruct weekend guests to stay indoors while the dogs are out.

  • dani1971

    I have had my garage and house broke into 4 times since august and I want to find a dog for protection. I have a grandchild that spends weekends here so I need one that is good for kids. I will have it trained by a professional. Any one have a good idea of what breed I should get?

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