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So you think you want a Guard Dog ?

Updated on February 17, 2013
protection training
protection training

Do you want a Guard Dog

I have over 40 years experience around working dogs – Police & Security Dogs and dogs trained for protection sports. I have attended dog training sessions all over the UK and Ireland as well as in Germany. I have played “criminal” for Police, Security and Sport dogs and trained with Police, Military and Civilian trainers.

Over the years I have often been approached for advice by people who are considering buying a Guard Dog and have helped people find dogs if they need them. This is NOT a “how to…” guide as it is highly inadvisable to try to train a dog to bite via a book. This guide is written to advise people who are considering acquiring a Guard Dog and hopefully to deter people who would be better not getting one – avoiding expense upon their part.

With the constant threat of crime and the appearance, in some areas, that the Police have lost control it is no wonder that people are looking for additional protection. A dog, almost any dog, is a deterrent to criminals (most criminals) and a dog which is trained to bite is undoubtedly a very useful tool for protection.

Lets look at why criminals fear dogs…..the main reason is its bark not its bite – a barking dog draws attention to the criminal and that could lead to the Police being called and him being caught. Then there is the fear of being bitten – for some the fear of injury but just as much (if not more) the fear of DNA being left at the scene in the form of blood.

My first question to an enquiry about a Guard Dog is normally “Why do you need a Guard Dog ?” which I then follow up with a series of questions intended to build up a Threat Analysis.

Be honest with yourself….what threats are you facing and how realistic are those threats ? Look at what methods you can use to reduce those threats and what it will cost you ? - a good Protection Dog (Guard Dog) will cost you upwards of £2000 and that will buy a good alarm system which does not need feeding and won’t injure anyone.

Is your property under threat of burglary ? Do you store high value items such as Jewellery or Antiques – can you store them elsewhere ? Can you make your home less tempting in anyway so that the cost of getting in is not worth the prize obtained ?Are you or a family member under threat of attack ? Do you work in an occupation which could make you a target for violence ? Where are you most at threat of attack & could the presence of a dog help (ie is it practical for the dog to be there and would it help if it was – for example if your main threat is robbery whilst walking to the bank with your daily takings and your route takes you somewhere where dogs are not allowed the dog is of little use to you.). A Guard Dog is a good tool but is not a cure-all and may not be what you need.

Pitfalls of owning a Guard Dog

A good Protection Dog is a valuable tool to protect you and your family but even the best trained dog is still only a dog – he is NOT Lassie or Jerry Lee (K9) Any dog, no matter how well trained, can mis-read a situation and bite someone in error. Owning such a dog brings many responsibilities which you must consider –

Firstly the dog itself needs caring for – it needs food & water, exercise, medical care and companionship.

Next you have a duty of care to any legitimate visitors to your property such a Postal Workers, Utilities Workers etc as well as friends & relations.

You also have a duty of care towards uninvited visitors – children scrumping for apples or retrieving a football – you may not have invited them in but a court would take a pretty dim view of a Guard Dog who killed or seriously injured such an “invader”. Still if he bites a burglar you will be ok right ? Wrong ! The courts are often criticised for seeming to favour criminals and a criminal who is injured by your dog – even if injured whilst committing a crime – may well sue you for their injuries. You need Public Liability Insurance of £3 million or more (seek advice from your insurer) if you own a Guard Dog and not many companies provide it.

Owning a Guard Dog can give you a false sense of security and make you forget to take basic security measures which can increase your risk of crime. Also – depending upon your threat level – someone who is determined to harm you/break in may come prepared to deal with your dog – poisoned meat or a weapon for example (silenced handguns used in WW2 were nicknamed “Hush Puppy” as they were used to kill sentry dogs)

A friend of mine is a Police Dog Handler and told me this story – he received an Emergency call to an incident where several Police Officers were involved in a very violent incident with two men. He arrived at the scene to see two large men involved in a fight with Police officers….the Officers had managed to overpower one man but the other was standing in the middle of the road clutching an iron bar taunting the Police. The Dog Handler got the dog out and issued the required legal challenge to drop the weapon – the man ignored it and so he sent the dog. The man caught the dog before it bit him and threw it across the street ! The dog returned to the fray and, with the handlers help over-powered him but it was a close thing. A less experienced dog may have turned and run.

A separate incident involved a friend of a client. The man lived in a big house out in the country and had two Dobermanns. The dogs were not Protection trained but were big and looked the part so he felt safe. He came home one day to find his house had been burgled. Both dogs were dead – one hanging from a doorway by its own lead.

Not everyone is scared of dogs and some people are so dangerous and fearless that any animal capable of stopping them would probably be a bigger danger to their owner and family than the majority of criminals. A serious Protection Dog, capable of dealing with a serious violent assault needs specialised training and responsible and experienced handling.

Alternatives to a Guard Dog

Maybe you are unsure of your need for a dog but are unsure as to what else you can do to make yourself /your home safer.

Protecting your home – The Internet and your local Police Crime Prevention Officer can advise you but here are a few suggestions –

We have already established that a dog is a deterrent so a simple and inexpensive security aid is to buy a “Beware of the Dog” sign from your local pet shop or supermarket (or design your own on your computer and print & laminate it yourself). Sticking a large dog water bowl outside your door can add to the ruse.

Some burglars will bypass any house which they suspect contains a dog but others will knock on the door to see if anyone is home (ever opened the door to a stranger who has asked for a person you have never heard of ? You may have unwittingly stopped a burglary on your home – and possibly next door too)….to further add to the illusion and deter these people you can buy a “barking dog alarm” on the internet. They are less than £100 and are triggered by a PIR (like Security Lighting). An approach to the house triggers several minutes barking which if backed up with a sign will probably deter most burglars (dependent on threat level).

If your home is under particular threat because you have high value items then can you find an alternative place (eg bank vault) to store them ?

Is your home a hard or soft target ? Good locks, prickly boundaries, burglar alarms, cctv and a barking dog (real or not) all make your home harder to enter. BUT if its known that you have a large amount of expensive and easily convertible items or cash in the house that may not be enough.

Protecting yourself – what is it about your lifestyle that puts you under threat ? Is it something that you can change (or are willing to change ?) . If your job is the reason does your employer offer help & advice ? Are you able to alter your routine to make yourself safer (eg vary your route and start/finish times ? Park in a secure area ?) Can you get training in self protection techniques from a qualified Self Defence Instructor ? Can you move home to make yourself safer (eg many Police Officers work in one town but live in another so that their “customers” are not always bumping into them off duty) ? Can you get an injunction against someone who is threatening you ?

Burglars rights ?

If a person is on private property without lawful reason should they be able to sue if they are injured by a Guard Dog ?

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    • profile image

      aquinby 4 years ago

      Thanks for this article. I was considering getting a guard dog in the future, bu this article has made me think through my other options much more.

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I agree guard dogs are unnecessary for most cases. Small dogs will alert you and will likely not kill anybody, although they're quite often more apt to bite.