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Basic Dog Training
April 14, 2021
Many people get dogs for their companionship. We love dogs because they’re always happy to keep us company and they cheer us up with their goofy antics. But what if you’d also like your dog to protect you? This brings up the question ‘ Should I train my dog to protect me?’
Generally, I don’t recommend training a dog to protect you. Most dogs will bark at intruders. Dogs are highly attuned to change in their environment – especially change that feels very unusual. For most intruders a simple bark from your dog is sufficient. You can rely on your dog’s natural instinct to bark and alert to changes rather than training your dog to do more.
Why am I so reluctant to teach a dog to protect you? There are a few things to consider before embarking on this training plan, each of which poses its own challenges.
Teaching your dog to growl, lunge, or even bite people is challenging and dangerous, both from a practical and legal perspective.
One of the most dangerous things to do is to teach your dog how to attack, bite, or protect you but not teach them when to do it and when to stand down. It’s absolutely imperative that your dog is highly trained and can disengage from a situation as soon as you ask.
It’s even more important that your protection dog does not act on its own accord. You don’t want them attack your mailman, a visiting cousin, or a passing jogger. This is a very serious and challenging training project.
Imagine that you do need your dog to act upon their training. This puts them at risk, and they could be hurt or even killed. Poorly trained protection dogs have been killed by the police because the dog would not allow the police to enter the premises. Other dogs have been harmed or even killed by criminals. While it may be worthwhile to protect your family, think hard about whether or not you’re ready to put so much risk and responsibility on your dog’s shoulders.
Overall, I think that it’s far better to invest in a home alarm system, pepper spray, and a Run Angel to keep yourself safe. I spent several months traveling Latin America with my dog Barley, going on nearly-daily runs in Guadalajara, rural Guatemala, Panama City, and everywhere between. I ran with Barley, pepper spray, and my Run Angel. The Run Angel is a device that looks like a watch, but if you press the alarm button on it, it emits a 120-decible alarm and texts your GPS location to 3 “angel” contacts – my mom, my sister, and my boyfriend, in my case.
Barley’s presence on the runs was a comfort to me. However, I intentionally taught him a “get between.” This cue tells him to step behind me, and then to put his head and shoulders between my knees. Why this action? This behavior keeps him further from any potential danger. But it also shows that he is well trained, compliant, and keeps him facing any risk. This show of obedience and confidence was sufficient in my mind. I would rather rely on pepper spray and a Run Angel than put my dog at risk.
I understand that everyone has different risk tolerances and may disagree with my assessment. However, I urge anyone considering protection training for their dog to think hard about the implications of this training. If you decide to go forward with this training, hire a professional trainer and work through their full package of training – this is not a journey to embark on as a novice.
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