We've all no doubt seen the movies and cartoons at some point where the bad guy jumps the fence into a junkyard only to be unpleasantly surprised by a vicious looking dog ready to take a chomp out of his rear end. While this makes for good cinematic content (sometimes) it really gives people the wrong message about what a great protection dog really is. Most people are very aware that Hollywood movies aren't real life however, when it comes to the way we perceive our dogs we seem to forget this. Protection trained dogs are a very real and valuable defensive asset available to citizens in our society today. In many places of the world where there are very heavy government restrictions on firearms this is even more true. The current climate surrounding firearms in our country isn't much better. If someone is involved in a self defense shooting these days they can expect to fork up a small fortune in legal protection alone to avoid litigation. Trained protection dogs provide not only a formidable less than lethal means of protection, but are also a powerful psychological deterrent that may prevent dangerous situations from occurring all together. Trained protection dogs can also be taken many places and establishments that firearms are not allowed. So with all the benefits that come with a trained protection dog let's take a look at what makes a great protection dog.
1. A Trained, Honed, & Perfected Skillset
A true professionally trained protection dog absolutely MUST have a trained, honed, and perfected skillset to rely on in a dangerous confrontation. We need to be very clear and have a somber realistic expectation of what this truly means. We're asking our dogs to go toe to toe with someone who is in the process of committing a very violent act against you or your family such as a home invasion, kidnapping, vehicular theft with your children in the backseat, armed robbery or worse. The kind of person willing to commit an act like this to another human being will also very likely be willing to fight back against a dog. The only skillset that ends a threat in its tracks is a strong, powerful, confident, dominating bite ONLY under the direct command of owner sufficient enough to immobilize or incapacitate the threat. In the state of North Carolina the law does not allow defensive force to be utilized for property crimes (NC GS 14-51). You can't shoot someone for trespassing on your land. You will absolutely go to prison if you do. You can't shoot someone for stealing a Snickers bar. You will absolutely go to prison if you do. You will also likely be held responsible if your dog mauls a trespasser in the same way. We highly recommend to our clients they handle their dogs in a manner that is in adherence to state laws regarding defensive force. Barking, growling, and "showing teeth" are absolutely not considered protective skillsets at all. We believe the best approach is to be as inconspicuous as possible. 2. Relationship
Skillset and relationship go hand in hand when we talk about protection dogs. One without the other is in effect useless. A dog that is trained to bite, loves biting, and is great at biting may not be a good family protection dog. Especially if that dog is out of control, lacks obedience, or bites whenever it wants to. The mailman, your redneck cousin, cats, and your neighbors kids are not threats. In the same manner someone may have a great relationship with their dog but if the dog doesn't have a trained skillset to fall back on during a defensive situation the dog at best may try to do something or at worst not do anything at all.
The sheer importance of relationship often is vastly overlooked by trainers in the protection industry. We believe they are two sides of one coin. Correct relationship as it relates to dogs means the dog must understand it's place in the hierarchy of it's pack. When we talk about protection dogs this means superior obedience to command under distraction at ALL times. The dog should ONLY ever engage a threat under the explicit direct command of its owner. At no time should a dog EVER make a decision on its own accord about who is and who is not a threat. Again, if your dog mauls someone who is trespassing on your land you will be held liable.
Lastly, yet something I consider more important than anything else is that a truly great protection dog needs to have a reason to care. Dogs do not "love" in the same way humans do. Their form of "love" is a pack bonding form of love. In some ways it is stronger than our way of loving. Human love is known to be fleeting. People get divorced, walk out on their partners, hurt family members, and abandon others when times get tough. The best way to love your dog and build a great relationship with them is to respect them as a pack animal. Reinforcement and correction inspire confidence and discipline. Skillet and relationship go hand in hand. Conclusion
I challenge everyone to make decisions for themselves and find their own truths. There are a lot of voices and opinions today when it comes to dog training that can undoubtedly be overwhelming. Just remember we've been doing this symbiotic relationship thing with dogs for a very long time. Long before the interwebs, tweeter, tic-tac, and longer than any trainer alive today has been on this planet. From my time in the military as a military working dog handler to today I've be incredibly lucky to work with, train, and take many bites from some super awesome and powerful dogs over the years Looking back the dogs that gave me the best whooping where from dogs who had truly great relationships with their owners/handlers. Relationships forged through hard work, passion, and training the skillsets. This is what I believe makes truly great protection dog.