How to Teach a Dog to Be a Guardby Louise Lawson
A good guard dog is not impossible to train.
Many people assume that a guard dog is a vicious biting machine, but a well-trained guard dog is anything but vicious. Guarding is a natural canine behavior, and most dogs can be taught to guard their owners or property through non-aggressive methods, such as patrolling and barking at intruders.
Speak with a professional trainer to determine whether or not you have the skills to train your dog as a guard dog. The trainer will also identify whether your dog has the traits to be an effective guard dog. Good guard dogs are consistent, confident and driven, either by play or by food rewards. A guard dog should also be non-reactive to distractions and able to pay attention to his handler at all times.
Teach your dog basic obedience skills. A good guard dog must respond to both voice commands and hand signals, so incorporate both into your training routine. A solid "sit," "down," "come" and "stay" are necessary to control the dog in the event of an intruder, so make sure your dog has a solid obedience base before moving on in your training.
Train the dog to bark on command. Hold your dog’s favorite treat or a toy over his head, and tell him to “speak.” Wave the toy around and talk in an excited voice to encourage the dog to bark. As soon as he barks, reward him with the treat or toy. Repeat this exercise a few times throughout the day until the dog barks enthusiastically as soon as you give him the “speak” command.
Familiarize your dog with the boundaries of your property. Guard dogs are often used to announce unexpected guests or intruders, and your dog must know the boundaries of his territory in order to bark at the right time. As you walk the dog around your property, encourage him to “watch” his surroundings by tossing treats out in front of him. As he perks up and looks in the direction of the treats, tell him to “watch it” and allow him to eat the treats as a reward.
Encourage your dog to bark at strange people in a controlled setting. Ask a few friends to come to your house and stand at the edge of your property. Walk the dog toward them, and tell him to “watch it.” As soon as he turns his attention to the strangers, tell him to speak. Reward him with a treat the second he barks to show him that barking at strange faces is his duty as a guard dog. Enlist new faces every few days until the dog is barking at strangers on his own.
Take your dog on frequent trips to the dog park and pet shop to prevent him from becoming too possessive. Guard dogs who are not socialized can become too focused on protecting their people and may lash out even when they are not on their own property.
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- Never encourage a guard dog to bite. Protection training is very different from guard dog training and should only be taught by an experienced professional trainer.