How to Train a Dog to Attack? (Explained Step By Step)

How To Train A Dog To Attack? Photo of a dog showing attack behavior.

Your dog is a powerful and smart furry friend. Do you want to know how to use that power by training your dog to attack on command? Here are the details to do just that!

Training your dog to attack command will be a set of simple steps that, when followed correctly, will help you finetune your dog’s reaction to what you want. These steps include:

  1. Equip yourself (and helpful “intruders”) with safety gear
  2. Teach your dog basic obedience commands
  3. Irritate your dog into attacking
  4. Teach the “attack” command
  5. Gradually create distance using this command
  6. Test with “intruders” to see how it works

How to train a dog to attack on command: step by step

It sounds so simple when it’s all laid out like that, right? In reality, it does take a bit more work. But you and your dog can do it safely when you focus on all of the most important facets of each step in the training process. Here is more detail on each stage to help you out.

1. Equip yourself (and helpful “intruders”) with safety gear

Safety, as always, comes first. Since you will be starting your dog out with the training yourself, you’ll need thick gloves that fit well. You’ll also want to protect your wrist and arm. Most people will use an old puffy winter jacket. The goal is to pad your arm in the (likely) event that your dog attacks you. Don’t skip this step!

When the time comes for you to involve another person (more on that in a bit), you’ll want to have the right protective gear for them, too. This includes the same gloves and sleeves/coat that will keep them safe from your dog’s bite!

2. Teach your dog basic obedience commands

Before you start helping your dog learn how to attack, you’ll need to know that our dog will listen to the “stop” or “no” command! Make sure your dog has a comfortable understanding of essential “stop” and “no” as well as your other basic ones like “sit,” “stay,” etc. The more obedient your dog is, the better. You don’t want to be unsure of their obedience once you enter the attack training!

3. Irritate your dog into attacking

After putting o your protective gear, you’ll need to irritate your dog into attacking you. Get your dog to sit and then repeatedly bop his nose with your gloved/protected hand/arm for the best results. He’ll resist a few times, but eventually, will growl and snap at you.

He may nip you, or he may bite you. Keep going with it until he gets really angry and bites you. This is the action you want since a simple nip wouldn’t be enough to throw off an intruder, should you ever need to use it.

4. Teach the “attack” command

As he chomps down, say your chosen command (typically, “attack”) loudly at the exact moment. Use a firm tone of voice as you would typically with other obedience commands. Your dog will recognize this tone of voice even if they don’t understand the command yet.

Immediately after, give your dog a treat or use a clicker (or whatever you typically use to show your dog that they’re being obedient). 

Repeat it 3-5 times this way and keep everything as consistent as you can. This will help your dog start to understand the connection between the command you’re giving and the action of biting you.

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Do this regularly for 3-5 days, each time doing it several times and keeping it as consistent as possible. You’ll know when your dog starts to get the hang of it. Stay on this stage until you’re comfortable that your dog understands what the job is.

5. Gradually create distance using this command

Now that you’ve got the first stage done, you need to teach your dog the active part! Get your dog to sit/stay. Walk several paces away with your protective gear on. Use the attack command that you’ve chosen and hold your arm out. Your dog will lunge forward to grab your arm.

If he doesn’t, don’t get frustrated with your dog. This is a learning process, so it may take your dog a few tries to understand the “lunging” part. When it does it successfully, treat him as usual and repeat it 3-5 times.

Gradually increase the distance between your dog until it’s across the room. Your dog will quickly gather what his job is. 

6. Test with “intruders” to see how it works

Once you’re confident that he understands the new command, you’ll want to test it out with someone else to see if he listens to you, even if you’re not the one he’s lunging at. Start first with a doll/teddy bear/cardboard cutout. Get your dog to sit/stay. Put the object in place across the room.

Return to stand by our dog. Point to the object you’ve chosen and give your dog the command word. Most dogs will hesitate and/or look at you in confusion the first time. If this happens, restart the experiment. Keep your voice/commands as consistent as possible and stay calm. Remember: this is a learning process, and your dog is trying hard to understand his job!

When your dog completes the attack, praise him as normal, even if he’s a bit tentative. Repeat it several times. Each time, your dog will understand more about his role. Before too long, he’ll be attacking full force again!

7. Test with a real person

The last step to this process is to test it with a real person. You’ll want to give your protective clothing to them (or have a second set to loan the). Pick a person to help you out that understands what you are looking to do and that knows and trusts you and your dog. Don’t force someone to help out that doesn’t want to.

That person should stand across the room, preferably in the doorway. After you give the command to your dog, the person will close the door firmly. Get the dog to return to your side and do it again.

Try it again once everyone is comfortable, leaving the door open this time. Do this several times so that your dog is making the right connections. The person helping you out mustn’t praise the dog, as you should be the one they listen to!

The last challenge is to get the dog to attack the person, and then you will call out the “stop” command. The person helping you out should still be ready to close the door if the “stop” command doesn’t work. It may take your dog a few tries to understand the need to stop when told to do soKeep practicing until the entire attack, stop, and heel process is smooth, and your dog follows your commands properly without hesitation.

Photo of a dog preparing to attack

How long does it take to train my dog to attack?

The time varies, mainly depending on how obedient your dog usually is. The better trained he is to listen to you, the faster he will learn. It could be anywhere from one week to 2-3 months. Some dog breeds will earn faster than others since some breeds are better suited as attack dogs.

How do I train my dog to be aggressive towards strangers?

If you aren’t entirely sure if you want your dog to attack on command, you can also teach the dog to bark/growl/defend on command. You’d follow the same steps as above but use a different action and command. Most will use the command “growl” or “protect.” The goal would be to teach the dog to growl and warn anyone you ask him to, keep him close to you as a barrier between them and you.

At what age should you train your dog to attack?

As with any kind of obedience training, the younger, the better! You can teach dogs that are only six months old to attack, and they’ll get into those habits just like their other commands as they age. You can still easily teach adult dogs to attack on command, however. It just takes a bit longer than it would with a puppy or younger dog.

What is the common attack command for a dog?

The most common one is “attack”. However, you can also choose something a bit more discreet. There is no right or wrong choice as far as the trigger word. However, you will want to make sure that you don’t pick a trigger word that is so common that your dog is attacking without you meaning for it to happen. Make sure you are consistent with the word; otherwise, you’ll need to retrain your dog.

Is it bad to train your dog to attack?

Some feel that intentionally training your dog to attack will be a bad thing since your dog is kind and loyal. There is nothing wrong with training your dog to attack as long as you aren’t forcing your dog to do something they don’t want to do.

Training your dog as an attack dog can be helpful for those who live alone, have difficulty defending themselves, or just feel unsafe when they are out and about on their own. If your dog is willing to be trained as an attack dog, it is perfectly fine to train them to be that way.

 That is, getting your dog to attack mail carriers or neighbors that you don’t like, etc. An attack dog is a weapon, so you need to be careful and responsible in how you use it. 

In essence

Training your dog to attack is about starting them off with a basic command and then teaching them how to help your dog associate the command with the action so that they can do it correctly for you, should you ever need it!

While it will take time and patience, it is an excellent command to teach your dog!

Training an attack dog is a step-by-step process done carefully, slowly, patiently, and responsibly. At the end of it, you can have a great protective dog that will help you stay safe, should the occasion ever arise that you need it. The proper steps above will help you do just that.

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Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.