How to Train a Guard Dog

As primitive as it may seem, a guard dog makes an excellent addition to your home and personal security system.

These four-legged protectors can safeguard your property and your family with the added bonus of built-in love and companionship—even the most high-tech alarm systems can’t provide that!

In all seriousness though, trained security dogs are not mean all the time. They’re loyal, loving and a bit overprotective, only snarling at those they don’t know.
Training a guard dog can help keep your space secure while you’re home or away and can provide you with a personal, four-legged bodyguard at all times.

But the key word here is training. No puppy is born a guard dog, but all have the potential to become one with the right training. Here’s how to get started on training your canine defender.

1. Decide if Your Pup Is a Good Candidate – One of the first things to consider when determining the aptitude of your guard dog is breed. Common guard dog breeds include German shepherds (this is one reason why they’re often bred to be K-9 cops), Rottweilers, Dobermans, and mastiffs.

Be sure to check the American Kennel Club (AKC) for the best guard dog breeds if you’re starting from scratch with a puppy. While certain breeds have a natural instinct to protect, any pup who’s obedient, intelligent, brave, loyal and excited to learn can be trained as a guard dog with the right techniques.

2. Know the Different Types of Training – There are two primary types of guard dog training: alert dog/watchdog training to teach your pup to alert you with their bark and attack dog training to teach your pup to attack an intruder.

Choose one or both to suit the specific needs of you and your family. It may be a good idea to seek out a professional guard dog trainer if you’re interested in teaching your animal to attack or apprehend an intruder.

3. Start with Basic Obedience – Even the most specialized military war dogs and K-9 officers started out as mischievous puppies. The first step in training any animal for any job is to lay the foundation with basic obedience.

Teach sit, stay, speak, heel and other commands before you advance to any defense-specific training. This helps dogs hone their responsiveness and reflexes, which will make it a whole lot easier to introduce more complex commands into the mix.

It will also cement the idea that doing things right, such as obeying their commands, will result in a positive outcome—a treat or affection, for example.

4. Determine a Trigger Word – Once your four-legged friend has the basics down, it’s time to identify a trigger word. This will help you teach your dog to bark or alert you when a stranger comes to the door.

Most people use a simple trigger word such as “speak,” but it may be a smart move to make your choice something less obvious so that potential intruders and attackers don’t have time to brace themselves.

Although your dog may be a natural defender and speak every time someone approaches your home, this trigger word will help give you more control and ensure that your pup speaks when prompted. Go outside and ring the doorbell or knock on the door while giving the speak command.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice – Now for the fun part: staging break-ins! Have someone your dog doesn’t know well approach the house and put your dog’s training to the test. The key here is to make sure you don’t exhaust your pet.

Practice a maximum of three times in a row before giving him a break for at least an hour. Obviously, you only want to create safe mock scenarios for yourself and your helpers, so stick to the bark commands with this type of practice, leaving attack commands to the professionals.

6. Use Positive Reinforcement – Positive reinforcement is one of the best tools you can use to train an animal to achieve any kind of outcome. Stocking up on training treats and toys will help you reward your dog, when deserved, while boning up on your affection and praise will help reinforce that good behavior equals a happy owner.

At the end of the day, most dogs just want to please, which is why positive reinforcement is one of the most effective training tools. Note that physical discipline and scolding are not recommended in any scenario and will not help correct undesirable behavior.

7. Emphasize Love and Loyalty – The best guard dogs are the dogs who are cautious of strangers and loyal to their family members, but it’s easy for bodyguards-in-training to get confused about who’s good and who’s bad.

Spend some time training your dog so he knows exactly who to listen to, as you don’t want to risk him yielding to commands from an enemy. You will also want to make sure that you emphasize calm, gentle behavior around your family and children.

Do this by creating a playful, loving environment when the dog isn’t “working.”

8. When in Doubt, Seek Professional Advice. As intelligent and loving as they are, at the end of the day dogs are animals that can be unpredictable and aggressive when prompted.

This means that any and all attack and apprehension training should be done either under the supervision of a guard dog trainer or using extreme safety precautions and props, such as professional bite suits or dummies instead of humans.

When in doubt, it’s best to seek the advice of a trained professional who has experience working with future guard and attack dogs.

-Mark Hedman is the CEO of

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