JUNE 2009 


Once again we have had several requests and enquiries concerning "Protection Training" for dogs. Our club's answer is simply: "We don't do it. This is an extremely specialized facet of dog training, involving years (not hours!!!) of training and dedication and very few ordinary dog owners are prepared to put such an effort into it."

As background for this input, I used two books: "Schutzhund Theory and Training" (by Susan Barwig and Stewart Hilliard) and "Training Dogs for Protection Work" (by Fred Mandilk and Marv Gangloff).

Both books emphasize the importance of the right temperament for the potential protection dog. Contrary to what many people might believe, an aggressive, nasty, suspicious and hyper excitable dog, forever growling or barking at people, is not the best candidate for such training. These characteristics all are too often linked to a dog which is unsure, fearful of the particular situation and not well socialized.

Instead, characteristics for a potential protection dog include the following:

- Strong character
- Steady
- Friendly (yes, even tolerant towards strangers!)
- Reliable
- Confident
- Neutrality
- Not timid
- Not inappropriately aggressive
- Not dangerous

It is the kind of dog that you can easily take off lead into a shopping centre and know that he will not bite passers-by left, right and centre (neutrality, until a situation requires action). You should be able to leave him in a "down" outside a shop (while you go shopping!) and he will wait for your return without getting into trouble while you are out of sight (reliable, steady and confident regardless of any distractions). How many of our dogs can do this?

Obedience training for the protection dog is not an optional and yet many dog owners regard obedience training as extremely boring! If your dog cannot immediately respond to the command "Sit" under normal circumstances, how on earth can you expect him to respond to the "Leave" command (when he is accidentally biting

the wrong person) while he is hyper excited and his adrenalin is pumping? Obedience training MUST be fine-tuned - to such an extent that the dog will respond immediately to any command and under all circumstances, even when you are fifty meters away, unable to enforce the command through the use of a leash.

Many fly-by-night dog trainers include "protection work" in a month long obedience course. (Believe it! My first dogs were trained in such a club about 20 years ago - that was before I discovered Hans's club!) The dog is agitated with a stick or a sack, he bites a couple of times and you are told: "Congratulations, your dog will protect you! Your one-month course is over; you should go now and make room for new dogs. Goodbye!" You are left with a dog that does not have solid obedience background, whose distance control is non-existent, and he has improper aggression and an inflated ego. This is not protection work!!! This is an accident waiting to happen. Real protection work training takes ages - you don't achieve this in a month or two and ... you still have to do obedience training!

Clubs, serious about protection training, will first evaluate your dog's temperament and working ability to ensure that he will be able to endure such training and not bite indiscriminately just for the sake of biting or, even worse, bite out of fear and pose a danger to everybody that crosses his path! And then you will still start out with obedience training! Protection work comes much later.

The best "protection" dog you can get (unless you are prepared to spend the next ten years training your dog) is simply the dog that will bark to alert you when something strange and unfamiliar is happening. You (or your security company) can then take action. Do not expect the dog to make decisions. A poorly trained dog might bite your child's friend coming to visit. Dogs cannot distinguish between an "unwelcome" burglar and a "welcome" stranger. Even a properly trained dog will still need someone to give him an instruction as to when he is supposed to bite. What will happen when you are not around? Dogs may be territorial and bark a bit trying to prevent somebody from entering your property but otherwise, once the perpetrator is inside, dogs pretty much don't care about TV sets, DVD players and cell phones. A good alarm system will eventually cost you about the same as a good dog - and an alarm system