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From Couch-Potato to Bodyguard: Training Your Dog for Personal Protection

By Aviram K.
Published in Training & Behavior
October 16, 2022
4 min read
From Couch-Potato to Bodyguard: Training Your Dog for Personal Protection
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

Dogs are so much more than just best friends to lounge with on the couch and companions to hike with: you can also train our four-legged family members for personal protection.

Personal protection dogs defend their owners and their property and can be a useful tool for one’s safety.

Some types or breeds of dogs are predisposed to protection work because of the breed’s history and natural instinct. Unfortunately, not all dogs have the right temperament for this. A professional trainer or training school should be utilized if you wish to train your dog for protection; don’t attempt to train at home alone.

In this article, I’ll educate you a bit more about training dogs for personal protection and whether or not your pup can become your defender!

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Table of Contents
01
Some Dogs Are Naturally More Protective than Others
02
Think About the Degree of Protection You Want from Your Dog
03
Basic Training for Protection

Some Dogs Are Naturally More Protective than Others

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As a whole, dogs tend to be protective over their owners.

Our domestic best friends once originated from the wild wolf, an animal that lives in a family pack. Canids bond very strongly with one another, a partnership that makes them an ideal counterparts to humans. Today, our friendly neighborhood dogs consider their people their family and tightly bond with them. With this bond comes the desire to protect your family.

That being said, some individual dogs of all breeds can demonstrate these traits more strongly than others.

Some breeds have been specifically bred for protection throughout history. These breeds include the German shepherd, Japanese Akita, Belgian malinois, Bullmastiff, Cane Corso, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, and more. As such, many members of these breeds tend to be naturally more protective than others (as it is instinctual).

If you feel your dog demonstrates protective behavior that could be shaped for your own protection, read on.

Think About the Degree of Protection You Want from Your Dog

When considering training (or shaping existing behavior) for personal protection, you have to consider what type of protection you are thinking about.

Some consider guarding the home or property to be personal protection. This is when you need your dog to watch your yard and/or indoor area while you are preoccupied with other things. Dogs who guard homes do so on a very independent basis and don’t need your command or authority to do so. Guard dogs are trained to bark at introducers and then stop the intruder if they continue to invade private property.

A true personal protection dog by term, however, is one that is trained similarly to police dogs but for the private owner. These dogs accompany their owner wherever they go and remain on guard to protect their owner should something go wrong. Personal protection dogs always remain under the owner’s control. They should never attack unprovoked or without the owner commanding them to do so.

Basic Training for Protection

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Before I get further into the training for personal protection, there are a few important points to note:

First, don’t attempt to train a personal protection dog by yourself. Enrolling in a class or institution or hiring a trainer with experience in the field is best. Training a dog for personal protection is a very serious endeavor and should not be attempted alone.

Second, not all dogs work out as personal protection animals. Dogs can wash out for various reasons, such as not being confident enough to protect or being overly aggressive when in protection mode. Your dog has to have the proper temperament to handle personal protection, and only a trainer experienced in this field will know that best.

Third, in training your dog as a personal protection animal, you are still liable for anything your dog does. Look at your dog like a loaded weapon; there has to be a just cause for your dog to protect you (much like a personal protection weapon). The laws in each state and county vary, so be sure to be well-versed in them before embarking on this endeavor. This is also why ensuring your dog is always under control is crucial because your dog can be dangerous.

Now, as to training your dog for protection, most trainers will start with ensuring your dog has all of the basic obedience skills on lock. Your pup should be well versed in sitting, laying down, staying, heeling, and recalling on command.

Although our animals are living, breathing, thinking creatures, you do want to make sure that they respond to obedience commands 99% of the time (because you have to imagine if your dog protects you from someone, you should be able to call them off the culprit effectively.

Making sure your dog listens to you regardless of the outside world is called impulse control. With impulse control, your pup should still effectively respond to your commands regardless of who walks by you, a car honking, or another nearby walking dog.

Once the foundation of obedience is there, a professional trainer usually brings in a person in a bite suit. This person will act like an attacker, simulating an assault on you, to see how the dog responds.

Based on the dog’s response, shaping the behavior will begin. Shaping is defined as using a series of steps to teach a behavior. Instead of teaching a complex behavior right off the bat, you break the behavior up into little steps that you teach first. For personal protection, you take a dog’s natural response and reward the aspects of it you like, eventually shaping the behavior into the way you need it to be.

If you’re training a guard dog for the home, a similar approach will be used, except the behavior shaped will be at your home instead of at a training facility.

All in all, if you wish to properly train your dog for protection, the only reasonable way to go about it is to use a professional and experienced trainer in your area.


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Dog Training
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