Guard dogs help protect you and your property. However, dogs must be properly trained to guard. How can you train a guard dog?
Training a guard dog will take a lot of patience and practice. You must start with basic obedience, then work your way up to teaching them how to react to strangers approaching you or your property. You must have a strong bond with your dog to communicate this training to them.
This article will go over the steps that you need to follow to train your dog to be a guard dog. We will walk you through each step so that you know how to properly train your dog to react in certain situations. We will also discuss the difference between a guard dog and an attack dog, as well as the most popular breeds for guard dogs.
I have owned and loved dogs for my entire life. I have also done a ton of research about different dog breeds and training methods. I hope that through this article, I can teach you how to properly train your dog to be a guard dog. It will take a lot of work and patience, but by following these steps I’m sure you can do it. Let’s get started!
How To Train a Guard Dog
When you adopt a dog and expect it to guard you and your property, you need to make sure that it is properly trained. A guard dog that can properly guard you is highly trained and well-bonded with their owner. A good guard dog will bark at strangers that enter your property or approach you, to alert that person of their presence. They will attack if the stranger doesn’t back away or seems like they will hurt you. However, they will not attack for no reason.
A good guard dog will also stop barking and not attack when you let them know that the stranger is allowed to approach. It is vitally important that your guard dog can interpret the difference between someone approaching you or your home to cause damage or hurt you and a stranger approaching for harmless reasons like delivering a package.
Your dog must also be able to listen and respond to your commands to stop barking and not attack. This will ensure that your dog is effective as a guard but is also safe for yourself, friends, and family to be around.
The following steps outline how you can train your dog to be a good guard dog. If you can successfully teach all of these to your dog, then you can feel confident in their guarding abilities as well as their ability to restrain themselves in appropriate situations.
Teach Basic Obedience
The first step in training a guard dog is to teach them basic obedience commands and other important behaviors. This can include everything from sit, down, and stay, to house training, crate training, and polite leash walking. Before you can train a dog to guard you and your property, you must teach them how to be a good pet and how to be trained.
During basic obedience training, your dog will learn the process for learning a new command. This will help them pick up on more commands and tricks in the future. As long as you follow the same procedure for each command or trick that you teach your dog, then they will become a better and better learner with each new thing that you teach them.
When you are teaching your dog obedience commands, you must be sure that your dog will respond to the command each time that you give it. You must be confident in this before moving on toward teaching them about guard duties.
It may take weeks or even months of patience and practice, but it is essential that your dog knows and responds to basic commands, especially ones like stop or down. This will be important while you are training them to protect you and your property. You don’t want your dog to mistake a friendly situation for a hostile one, then attack a friend. You will want to call your dog off if necessary.
Socialize Your Dog
The next step in training your dog to be a guard dog is to socialize them. This is another step that anyone owning a dog should do. This isn’t something that is unique to guard dogs but is an important step in their training. By allowing your dog to socialize with other dogs and people before starting their guard dog training, they will learn that most dogs and people are friendly. This is a great place for your dog to start.
You can socialize your dog in several ways. If your dog is generally friendly, then you can take them to a dog park where they can meet and play with other dogs. If your dog is reactive or tends to be aggressive toward other dogs, then you will need to socialize them in a more controlled environment. Some dog training facilities might be able to set up a safe space for your dog to meet other dogs.
You should also socialize your dog with people. Be sure to introduce your friends and family to your dog. Let your friends and family pet and play with your dog. This will allow your dog to recognize them as friendly in the future when they start learning to guard. You can also take your dog out on walks in areas with a lot of people. Let strangers pet your dog if they ask. This will show your dog that many people are friendly and that they shouldn’t attack in most situations.
Bond With Your Dog
While you are training and socializing your dog as you would with any pet, you should also be bonding with them. Make sure that you spend time together with your dog outside of training. Spend evenings watching a movie and cuddling together on the couch. Play with your dog and their toys.
You should also make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise. While letting them in the backyard to run around is great for your dog, you should also be taking them on frequent walks. This not only gives opportunities for socialization and practicing obedience commands, but gives you the chance to bond further.
If you only let your dog out in the yard to use the bathroom and exercise, then they will realize that they can get by without you. Whereas if you take your dog on walks for the bathroom and exercise, then they will be dependent on you and will want to spend more time with you.
By spending time with your dog, both during activities and in casual ways, you are showing your dog that they can trust you. If you put in the work to become friends with your dog while you are teaching them basic obedience and how to live in your home, then there will be a base level of trust already established.
Then, you can build on that while teaching them to guard you. They will come to love and care for you, then guarding you will be second nature to them.
Teach Your Dog to Bark When They See a Stranger
This next step will be the start of your guard dog training. Most dogs do not learn to bark on command or at strangers, yet this is an important part of them learning to guard you and your property. The goal with teaching this is that your dog will bark at any person that approaches you or your property. That will simply alert the approaching person of your dog’s presence.
This step can be difficult for many. It is often recommended that you start by teaching your dog to bark on command. Then, you can work towards teaching them to bark when they see a stranger.
To teach a dog to bark on command, you will need to follow a few steps. First, have your dog stand and stay where they are. Then, you can hold up one of their toys in front of them while keeping them back away from it. Eventually, your dog will become frustrated and will bark at you. When they do, give them the toy and lots of praise.
Repeat this process over and over again and with different toys until your dog barks when you hold up one of their toys. Once you feel confident that your dog will bark each time they see a toy, you can introduce a command. Many people like to say the word “speak” for this command.
Now, repeat the process while giving the command each time you hold up their toy. Eventually, you will be able to give the command without the toy and they will bark each time. Make sure that throughout this process you are using positive reinforcement in the form of pets and treats.
Now that your dog knows a command for barking, you can give it to them while on walks every time a stranger approaches. With a lot of practice and repetition, they will learn to bark when a stranger approaches them.
You might have a hard time at this step, as many dog breeds are not prone to barking. If your dog doesn’t get the hang of barking on command and doesn’t bark much in general, then that might be an indicator that they won’t be a great guard dog.
Teach Your Dog to Stop Barking
Now that your dog knows to bark at any approaching stranger, it will be important to teach them when to stop barking. You can teach them a command for “be quiet” that can indicate that they can stop barking. To teach this, you will just need to follow a few steps.
While your dog is barking, hold a treat up to them. When they take the treat, they will stop barking to eat it. Once they stop barking, give them a lot of praise and pets. This will indicate that they did something correctly. Repeat this several times.
Once your dog is used to this, you can start to introduce the “be quiet” command. Say the command as you hold out the treat. Practice this many times, and eventually, you won’t need to use the treat anymore. They will now be able to respond to commands for barking and not barking.
If your dog happens to refuse the treat and continue barking, give them a command for “down.” Dogs have a much more difficult time barking when they are laying down than when they are standing up. Once they lay on the ground, they will stop barking because they won’t be able to physically bark anymore.
Teach Your Dog About the Boundaries of Your Property
Now that your dog knows to bark when a stranger approaches and can stop barking when told, you can have them start applying that knowledge and those skills toward guarding your property. One important aspect of having a guard dog is knowing that they can protect your home from strangers and crime.
To do this, you will need to teach your dog about the boundaries of your property. That way, they will know when they should bark at an approaching stranger. One great way to teach your dog the boundaries of your property is to walk your dog around the perimeter of your property after every training session.
Additionally, you can use your entire property during training sessions and regular playtime. This will communicate to your dog that your property is their property as well. When they understand this, they will feel more inclined to protect it. They just need to feel a sense of belonging to the property first.
Test Your Dog
Now that your dog knows to bark at strangers, knows when to stop barking at them, and knows the perimeter of your property, you are ready to test their guarding skills. To do this, you will need help from someone that your dog doesn’t know well or doesn’t know at all. You will have them approach your home, and your dog should bark at them.
You will need to test your dog several times to make sure they react appropriately each time someone approaches the home. You can do a couple of turns with you at home and some while you are out of the house. Then, you can compare the results to see if your dog reacted differently when you weren’t there.
If you are home and your dog doesn’t bark when the stranger approaches, you can give them the command that you chose for barking. This might help remind your dog that they should be barking at the stranger.
You can also test your dog to guard you while out for a walk and not on your property. Again, have a friend that your dog doesn’t know approach you while you are walking your dog. As they approach, your dog should automatically bark at the stranger.
If they don’t, then you can give your dog a command to bark. When your dog barks, your friend should stop approaching you and back away. When they do this, your dog should stop barking. If they don’t, you can give the command to stop barking.
Practice Your Dog’s Guard Duty
Once you have tested your guard dog a few times, they should get the hang of guard duty. Now you can simply practice their skills by ensuring that they bark when strangers approach you or the house. If you are there, you can correct any behaviors, like if they bark at a known friend or fail to bark at a stranger.
Over time, you can try to teach your dog to not bark at delivery drivers if you want. You can do this by telling your dog to stop barking each time a delivery person approaches your home. However, you might want your dog to continue barking at these kinds of people. This is up to personal preference.
At the end of the training period, your dog should bark at strangers that approach you or your home. This will alert the stranger that there is a dog in the house. Hopefully, if they were planning to break in or commit any other crime, they will be deterred because of your dog.
Difference Between Guard Dogs and Attack Dogs
There is a big difference between a guard dog and an attack dog. You might have noticed that our training steps did not involve teaching them to attack at all. A guard dog is meant to be intimidating. They bark at strangers to let them know that they are there and that they should not approach you or your property. A properly trained attack dog will alert a stranger of their presence, and then attack if the stranger does not back away.
Many people do not recommend teaching your dog to attack. Even with the best training, an attack dog could misread a situation and attack an innocent family member or friendly stranger. There are too many instances of accidents happening when a dog is trained to attack.
We recommend that you think carefully about whether you want to train your guard dog to also attack. A guard dog can easily still be a family pet since they are not taught any violence. However, if you teach a dog to attack in certain situations, you won’t be able to be certain that they won’t attack at the wrong time.
If you train your dog to attack, we don’t recommend letting them near children for safety purposes. This is something that all dog owners should be careful with but is even more important for owners of attack dogs.
How To Train Your Dog to Attack
Many situations warrant an attack dog. Maybe you are a single woman living in an area with high crime rates. Maybe you experienced trauma while out in public and feel more comfortable when traveling with a dog that will attack to protect you. If you find yourself in a situation where you have decided that you would like to teach your dog to attack, then we can help you train your dog to be an attack dog.
To teach your dog to attack, you will start by following all of the steps for training a guard dog. There are just a few additional steps that you need to follow to teach them to attack in addition to being a guard dog.
Teach Your Dog to Stop Defending You
This step should be taught before you try to teach your dog to defend you. As part of the basic obedience training at the beginning of guard dog training, you should have taught your dog a command for leave it or stop. If you didn’t do this, now is a great time to teach that command.
During the original training, this command is intended for your dog to drop something that they shouldn’t be chewing or for them to not get distracted by something they want to eat or smell while on a walk. During attack dog training, this command will be used to get your dog to stop biting a stranger.
Your dog must be able to listen and respond to this type of command. You need to have complete control and confidence in your dog that they will stop and leave whatever they are biting when you give the command.
Before moving on to the next step, practice this command with your dog. Try giving the command while they are chewing on a high-value treat. If they have the willpower to listen and let go of the treat, then you can feel pretty confident that they will listen to you during an attack situation.
Teach Your Dog to Defend You
The next step is to teach your dog to defend you. You will start by teaching your dog to defend you. To teach this, you will need the help of a friend that your dog does not know well or at all. Have your friend wear some protective gear on one arm. This can be as simple as a large oven mitt. Have your friend approach you while wearing the protective gear. Your dog should bark at the approaching person.
It is at this point that your dog will expect the person to stop approaching or turn around completely. Instead, have your friend continue to approach. Your dog will likely continue barking and might try to get closer to the person. At this point, you can loosen your dog’s leash but do not let go of it completely. Then, you can walk your dog up to the stranger. Allow your dog to grab and bite the stranger’s protected arm.
If your dog doesn’t automatically grab the stranger’s arm, you may need to encourage your dog. You can do this by saying “get him” or something like that. Your friend can also try to put their arm in your dog’s face to try and “threaten” them until they bite the arm. Once your dog bites their arm, give them the command to stop biting, then give them praise and a treat.
If your dog shows no signs of wanting to bite the stranger, even with encouragement and threats, then maybe they shouldn’t be trained as an attack dog.
Practice Having Your Dog Defend and Stop Defending You
Now you need to put all of these steps together. Continue to practice this with your friend wearing protective gear on their arm. Have them approach and let your dog bite their arm. Then, give them the leave it or stop command. They should immediately listen to you and stop biting the stranger.
If your dog does not respond quickly to your command to stop biting, then they are showing signs of violence and aggression. It might be best to stop training your dog to be an attack dog if they exhibit this behavior without being able to be held back.
Popular Guard Dog Breeds
There is no standard breed for a guard dog. A guard dog can be any breed as long as it gets the job done. However, some breeds are more commonly used as guard dogs. In general, you will want a guard dog to be a breed that is known for its intelligence. Becoming a guard dog requires a lot of training and the ability to respond to commands every time they are given. Most successful guard dogs are of a highly intelligent breed.
The most common guard dog breeds are:
- German Shepherd
- Giant Schnauzer
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
Not only are all of these dogs extremely intelligent, but they are large and strong as well. This helps the dog appear more intimidating, even if you know that they won’t attack. Many guard or attack dogs are purebred, though that is not necessary. Any dog that has ancestry from any of these breeds will likely do well as a guard dog, as long as they are intelligent and large.
Keep in mind that not every dog, even one whose breed appears on this list, is suitable as a guard dog. During the training process, you should look for signs that your dog might not be cut out to be a guard or attack dog.
If your dog refuses to bark, that is a great indicator that they won’t be a good guard dog. Similarly, if they refuse to bite or stop biting when learning attacking skills, they probably won’t make a great attack dog. Don’t force your dog to be or do anything that they don’t want to do, no matter their breed.
Teaching your dog commands and tricks is one thing, but teaching your dog to guard and protect you is an entirely different thing. If you read through this article and thought that you won’t be able to teach your dog to be a guard or attack dog, that is okay. This type of training takes extreme dedication, patience, and confidence in your dog. After training them to be an attack dog, they can also be considered a weapon. It is a huge responsibility to own and train a guard or attack dog.
Thankfully, if you are not up to the challenge of training your dog to guard or attack, there are other options. You can search the internet for guard and attack dog training classes in your area. For this, you will take your dog to a facility where professionals will help you train your dog to guard or attack. In these courses, you as the owner are very involved in the training process.
If you don’t necessarily want to be a part of the training process, there are also ways to buy a dog that has already been trained to guard or attack. You can search the internet for personal protection dogs, guard dogs, or attack dogs for sale. Keep in mind that these dogs are usually purebred and are already trained. A lot of work has gone into making these dogs perfect for guarding and attacking. Because of this, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
If you come across a listing for a guard or attack dog for sale that is $10,000 or less, we recommend walking away. While this might seem like a great deal, it is unlikely that a guard or attack dog can be properly trained and healthy for less than that amount. The dog in a listing like that is probably from a backyard breeder, meaning they likely have numerous health issues. They are also likely undertrained, which can make them dangerous if they are prone to violence.
If you are interested in buying a guard or attack dog, we recommend talking to a local vet first. They might be able to give you information on the best sources for healthy, properly trained dogs for that purpose. Ultimately, you want to support organizations that treat their dogs well so that you can be confident that your dog is healthy and happy.
About THE AUTHOR
I have had dogs my whole life and have always trained my own dogs with patience and positive reinforcement. My dogs are my life. My family always had dogs growing up. I've trained dogs for clients while working at a local dog daycare. I hope that my research and experiences are helpful to you as I share them here.Read More About Russell Wright