7 Ways On How To Train A Protection Dog (Explained)

While dogs might be your best friend, they can also be a great protector for you and your family, should you ever need them. Curious as to how to train a protection dog? Here’s what you need to know!

Training a protection dog is wonderful when you have kids, or you just want to ensure you have a little extra security in your home. The actual protection dog training process includes:

  1. Prioritize obedience training
  2. Show your dog their territory bounds
  3. Help them learn proper responses to guests in your home
  4. Leave them on their territory to get used to protecting it
  5. Test your dog with an “intruder”
  6. Practice regularly
  7. Test your dog’s limits

Can I train my dog to be a protection dog?

There’s some misinformation out there that you must have a certain dog breed to protect you. While different breeds will be better than others, most dogs can be protection dogs. You don’t need to get a new dog for protection! The key is going to be in training.

How to train a protection dog step-by-step

As introduced above, there are specific steps that you’ll have to take when helping your dog learn his “job” as the family’s protection. Let’s look at those in greater detail.

1. Prioritize obedience training

Your dog lives to please you. This works well with this first step, which will prioritize and refine obedience training. When you are helping your dog know how to react, and when, you need to teach theme an action to do (bark, for example) when you say a particular command (such as “help” or “attack.”)

Along with your other obedience training, add in these actions and the commands to start and stop the behavior. This will help your dog understand what to do when which will be essential for learning the sequence.

2. Show your dog their territory bounds

You need to help your dog next understand what their territory is. This includes marching them along the property line and even exploring the home. Your dog will understand that this is their turf and that they can defend it. There isn’t a specific kind of technique to this since it aligns well with a dog’s natural tendency to defend “his den” and “his pack.”

The only goal is to make sure that you keep them on your property so that they understand where the (literal) lines are as far as what is “his” to defend and what isn’t.

3. Help them learn proper responses to guests in your home

Next is the idea of teaching them responses for guests and intruders. This means that you can show them how to be good with guests and defensive with intruders or similar. For example, teach your dog to “sit” and stay calm, etc., when guests come. They will have their opportunity to greet the guest, and then your guest can greet your dog. Your dog will pick up on your body language and behavior and understand that guests are good. 

Likewise, you’ll want to have a pretend intruder enter the home and then use the commands that you give your dog for the action that you taught in the first step. This would be with the “sit,” etc., command you gave when a guest came.

It will likely take your dog some time to understand the difference between a guest and an intruder but keep at it. You’ll need to use different body language and work hard at keeping it consistent for your dog to make the connection. Stay patient and calm, and do it regularly enough to help your dog react each time appropriately.

4. Leave them on their territory to get used to protecting it

This is when you will start to take a step back from the training and get your dog used to defending the property and loved ones. At first, leave them alone at home for a short outing and come back. Then, get them used t longer times alone, and then leave them with your children or family members.

Your dog will understand their role as a guard in your absence. This isn’t something easy to spot, of course, but many can notice their dog watching, checking the perimeter, etc. Don’t try to direct your dog to do or not do specific things, assuming they are not harmful, since it can confuse them.

5. Test your dog with an “intruder”

When you feel that your dog is ready, send an “intruder” in. At first, to an empty home with just the dog. See how they react. The intruder can give the command when they need to after the dog has proven their protective behavior.

Once that is going well, send an “intruder” in when your family members are home. Since this is the ultimate test, don’t rush this too early. Make sure that your family members know the command and can give it, to stop the behavior when needed. 

6. Practice regularly

Your dog most likely won’t get it all right the first time they’re tested. This is frustrating, sure, but you must understand that this is a learning process, and your dog will take time and practice to get it right. Keep at it and make sure that you use positive behavior rather than punishment when they misinterpret something.

Practice regularly (once a week) and continue to do it regularly and consistently so that your dog understands what’s expected of them, just like with any other regular command.

7. Test your dog’s limits

Once your dog has gotten the hang of the commands and behavior, you need to start pushing him. After all, you have to know where that breaking point is. Is he distracted by the cheese wrapper in the middle of an invasion? Will he chase a ball if an intruder throws it? What will happen if there is a loud noise or if your dog knows the intruder in another context? 

Understand how your dog reacts to all of these situations so that you can know how to refine the training as needed. This way, you’ll know how your dog will respond as you want him to, regardless of a cheese wrapper, ball, or loud noise.

Photo of a dog owner training her protection dog.

How long does it take to train a protection dog?

As with anything with dogs, it depends on a variety of factors. These include:

  • Your dog’s intelligence
  • Your dog’s tendency to be stubborn
  • How consistent you are with training at each stage
  • Your dog’s natural tendencies

The actual process typically takes several weeks at the least and can take months. This is a critical process to get right, so you’ll want to take your time with it. If you do it right, it’ll work perfectly as intended. If you don’t, it can make correcting it much grader.

Help is available, too, through courses and classes. This can help you start and work with your dog toward the end goal you want—more on that in a bit.

At what age should you start protection dog training?

As with any kind of intense training, you’ll want to start your dog on this training as soon as you can. If they are puppies, combine it with their obedience training. If they are a new addition as adults, you can start immediately. You’ll be happy to learn that the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” myth is just that — a myth.

How do I train my dog to protect himself?

Dogs are wired with a survival instinct just like humans are. If a dog is under threat or feels that they are, they will protect themselves with growls, barks, and whatever else is needed to keep themselves safe.

Protecting you and your loved ones and home is a learned behavior, whereas protecting themselves from harm is biological!

How can I stop my dog’s protective behavior?

If you’ve got a situation where your dog is active protectively when it isn’t needed, you can address this. This comes with a few critical and distinctive steps.

  • Understand why your dog is reacting this way
  • Redirect the behavior using obedience training
  • Reach out for help if needed

Understand why your dog is reacting this way

Dogs don’t lash out without reason. If your dog is protecting you or themselves from something or someone, the first thing to do is understand why your dog feels that need for protection. This will help you understand how to redirect your dog’s behavior.

To do this, learn about what is causing your dog to act protectively. Is he protecting you or your child from another dog? Perhaps a specific kind of person? What patterns are repeating?

Redirect the behavior using obedience training

Next, you’ll need to teach your dog basic commands to stop the behavior. “No” or “Down” or “It’s okay,” etc. This will stop the inappropriate behavior and help you start teaching your dog that there is no need for that behavior.

Don’t ever punish your dog for acting out inappropriately, no matter how angry it makes you or how embarrassing it might be to have your dog lash out at a child on a bike. Your dog is reacting to something out of worry or fear, and making them feel like they are “bad dogs” will make it worse. Be firm in your commands, but use kindness rather than anger or fear towards your dog.

Reach out for help if needed

If you are in a situation where your dog’s behavior scares you, or you can’t understand how to redirect it using the tips above and the training, ask for help. Often, rescue dogs react poorly to aggression or random things that don’t make sense. Experts in the field can better interpret what is going on and help you get your dog to react as intended.

Guard dog versus protection dog

It’s important to note that a guard dog differs from a protection dog. A guard dog acts out aggressively on command. A protection dog will act on command but as a warning or an alert system. While many use the terms interchangeably, they are different and should be treated as such. When looking for courses or asking for advice, make sure that you get what you want!

What is the best guard dog?

Some dogs will be better than others regarding their protective qualities. For example, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and Cane Corsos are all excellent due to their breed-specific personalities.

That being said, any dog can be trained as a protection dog. The characteristics to look for include loyalty, intelligence, family focus, bravery, and more. It’s more about how you train your dog to react and your diligence to the process rather than the breed.

How much is a protection dog?

It’s uncommon to buy actual protection dogs that come trained already. It also is sketchy since you never know how they’ve been trained. Your best choice is to buy or adopt a dog, which will have its own costs, and then look at the idea of paying for a training class. This training class will help you get a focused and assisted approach to having a reliable protection dog in your family!

Dog protection class costs

Of course, this will vary greatly, but you can expect classes to be $200+. These are intense, carefully structured classes to help you learn the basics alongside your dog. If you are serious about having ap protection dog, a class is a great idea. Also, check with local animal charities and shelters, as they sometimes will know of more affordable or even free options.

Can a protection dog be a family pet?

Yes! This is the recommended approach since a protection dog, and a family dog will act the same way 99% of the time. A protection dog is just a classic family dog with more attention paid to the protective aspects, should strangers approach. If a protection dog is a faithful family member, this will only work more in your favor!

What do personal protection dogs do?

We’ve been talking about the process and even the differentiation between guard dogs and protection dogs, but what is the goal of a personal protection dog? To be watchful of those things that could bring harm to you or your family and defend everyone as needed, if needed. The goal, of course, is never to have to put your protection dog’s training to the test. However, it’s nice to have it there just in case! Their prime goal is to defend and bring attention your way so that (human) help can intervene.

How do I know my dog will protect me?

This is the question, right? The reality is, there isn’t any specific way to know for sure unless you are testing it. This is why following all of those training steps above is so important — it will help your dog learn what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. At the end of the day, this is all that you can ask of your dog. After this point, trust is all that is left!

In general

You can train protection dogs by following specific steps to help them learn what their “job” is. These steps include obedience training, showing your dog their territory and how to defend it, testing their defenses, and practicing the drills with them regularly.

A protection dog is different from a guard dog, and you’ll want to make sure that you are getting the type of family addition you think you are!

Your dog can easily be a dependable and effective protection dog as long as you follow the steps above and keep your end goals in mind. These are great additions to your family, and they are a great reassurance for those that want a little extra protection.

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