- Home Improvement
A Note on Depending on Dogs for Security
Don't judge a book by its cover!
The virtues of a barking dog
We all welcome dog barking that prevents a crime from being committed. Even the neighbors who are absolutely fed up with Fido would jump for joy if he sounded off when there is a criminal, thug, trespasser, gang-member, rapist, stalker or petty thief hanging around the perimeter. In fact, if they saw that the dog prevented a crime or drove off an intruder, it would make up for the many years of not being able to sleep in, or enjoy their own yard.
But truth be told, the only dogs who are comparable to a professionally-installed burglar alarm system are professionally-trained working canines. And being living, breathing, feeling, and sensing living equipment, their training needs to be maintained, and they have needs, unlike a mechanical wire. This takes far more money, discipline and training than most of us can realistically provide.
I felt the need to relate my experiences because at one point I thought that dogs would be enough to meet our security needs. But after what I have observed, my opinion has changed.
I say enjoy your dogs, but unless you REALLY know what you are doing, have a backup system for security -- in fact have two or three lines of defense in place.
The problem of too much barking
I have noticed that some dogs are extremely trigger-happy. If a little-old-lady walks by with her shopping bags, she gets accosted with a ru-ru-ru-ru-ru ... then the dogs in surrounding yards follow the leader and pretty soon there is a halleluiah chorus of yaps, barks, bellows, arfs, squeaks, yelps and bow-wows.
. . . add the teenager coming home from school, the mother picking her son up from daycare, the people from down the street walking their dogs, etc.
But only sometimes.
And what do people do, when the dogs surrounding them are constantly wailing like banshees?
They tune them out.
They might even tune them out, while Mr. McCrook and his assistant load up a white van with all of the neighbor's valuables.
Finally, when you have a dog or dogs who bark at everygoddamnthing ... a guy casing the place might be like "oh, perfect, a noisy cover" and take whatever he wants and then leave.
Actually no ... come to think of it, the bored and lonely dog might also be quiet because he thinks that the burglar is there to give him attention and play. Or if he is a real thug, (or if he knows how to manipulate dogs) dog might be afraid of him and cower.
Or he could bring his own dog around, as a pretext to keep the dogs barking and make a distraction.
Any number of scenarios, none of them are good.
Every "pack" of neighborhood dogs seems to have a different collective personality. If I were a criminal I would be very attuned to this.
Untrained dogs seem to prefer to antagonize people they consider "safe."
I have observed that the dogs on our end of the block seem to have a barking "culture" but they don't tend to bark at genuine jerks.
For example, there was this guy walking down the street barfing on people's lawns. Seriously. I was out late at night watering the lawn, and he stopped at every single house and tossed a bit of vomit on everybody's patch of green.
Not a peep. (sorry ... bark I mean.)
I told him to cut it out. I told him that this was disgusting.
Then there was somebody walking on somebody's property, stealing recyclables. Today in a separate incident, there was a homeless guy scavenging through everybody's household trash looking for aluminum, etc. Harmless enough, but far less harmless if the homelessness and the shopping cart is actually a disguise for an identity thief.
You could hear a pin drop in both instances.
BUT ... the mail carrier comes by, it is all over.
On a more grim note, I was also assaulted while my dog sat comfortably in the car. Either she slept through it, or she enjoyed the show.
But then she bars her teeth and puts her hackles up at the 65 year old widow who lives next door. She treated the elderly landlord on the other side, in the same manner.
I have seen her cower in front of random strangers at dog parks. I have also experienced this particular dog hiding between, and under, my legs, when she is afraid, such as at the veterinary clinic getting her rabies shot.
This is not the kind of "protection" that any of us need. In fact, it is more of a liability than an asset.
You know your dog's personality. But I would listen very closely at what other people have to say about him or her, without taking it too personally. That is how you can gauge how his temperament plays out with people who aren't you.
If she is tough enough to bully the elderly neighbors on both sides, she can tough it out at the vet's.
But keep something in mind: she is an untrained dog, and skittish by temperament. She has other virtues. It is my job to not be naive.
Our best watchdog
Don't be prejudiced!
My experience is that Bland is the best watchdog. He is some kind of terrier-shih Tzu mix, or just a badly-bred shih-tzu, but actually who cares .. Of all the dogs on this side of the block, he is the one who is most on target with his barking. Him and (don't laugh) the malti-poo across the street.
Not the "macho" Rotterman or Boxer. Forget about it. In fact, those two have put my husband and I in danger more than once.
Not the Doberman two doors down. He only barks when his family is GONE, thus alerting any passer-by that the house is indeed vacant at the moment. He is also really good about sounding off (get this!) in the middle of the night, like at 2 am. when I go to the kitchen to get a glass of milk. Acute hearing. Poor judgment. He hears the refrigerator open and the milk being taken out, despite the fact that our doors and windows are shut and there is an entire house, and yard between us.
Certainly not the huskies across the street. They are adorable but they only howl at police sirens.
Definitely not the dachshund next door. He only barks at me, when I am watering the lawn.
So I urge you, if you want a dog who has "natural" talent as a watchdog, don't judge a book by its cover.
I suggest having multiple lines of defense
By no means should you dismiss the idea of canine protection altogether.
But I would argue that dogs are a more of a deterrent then anything. If a criminal sees that you have dogs, and even worse ... multiple dogs, he will probably simply take it elsewhere unless he really has a reason to target your house.
Frankly the possibility that one of these mutts will sound off just makes it too easy to get caught.
Unless, of course, he knows your dogs or can get around dogs like yours, in general.
If you are on a low budget, I suggest a few things:
- Use door and window locks that can't be picked, pried open, jimmied or whatever. There is a surfeit of information on the internet on this topic.
- Don't use doors with glass panels.
- Keep some of your dogs in the house, others outside. Have in indoor sentinel and an outdoor one. They will likely feed off each other's alerts. If they are all outside together, they might be more interested in hanging out then showing off for each other by alerting.
- The most vulnerable area of the house is the garage, actually. If it stays cool enough in the summer and warm enough in the winter, consider housing one of your dogs there.
- Don't laugh but I recommend a really cheap system called "Doberman" ... it is a sensor that sounds an alarm when somebody tries to open a window. A vibration makes it go off. That is a system that you simply can not crack from the outside without moving the window. So if you are on a limited budget but still want security, a criminal will see that you have an alarm (albeit a cheap one) in place, as well as dogs and locked doors and he might seriously consider taking it elsewhere, or finding a real job.
- Hang up motion detector lights.
- Close curtains and keep them closed.
- Put lights on timers.
- Be a nosy neighbor and encourage your neighbors to address anybody seen around your property.
- Don't allow newspapers to accumulate.
- Put dowels in windows that you can't afford to properly seal.
- trim back bushes and hedges.
- praise your dogs for barking appropriately.
Your dogs are a vital part of this process.
Your dogs' contribution to your security
If you can afford a trained canine, that is great but unless you have a real reason to invest the money, time, energy and discipline into this animal, I reckon the next best choice is enjoying the dogs you have. Be proud of their strengths and be realistic about their weaknesses and most of all, use relatively inexpensive, low-maintenance and common-sense security measures.