Before you buy a personal protection dog or consider training a dog for personal protection, you may want to do some research. There really isn’t much advice out there for the person looking to obtain a personal protection dog besides from those who are selling personal protection dogs to you. I get emailed a lot of questions so I decided to make a post with some random thoughts, advice, ideas, and me just being the devil’s advocate. The dog world is a very unregulated industry and attracts a lot of unethical individuals. You don’t always know who you can trust. So here is a list of some info and I’ll mix in some videos to demo my points. Excuse the sloppiness of this post, I will most likely come back and add to it or brush it up.
Why listen to me?
I have been around the block in this field. I was formally trained in the sport of schutzhund and in personal protection training, I have trained for private security, government agencies, and for people desiring protection. Personal protection training has been a steady part of my business since 1998.
Also, I have been at the other end of the phone and training field with dozens of people (who spent a LOT of money) who did not get what they expected when they bought a personal protection dog. I get a lot of emails asking for advice and have heard all their stories. So below is some info that will relate to the most common questions I receive and/or wish the average person knew before they purchased a personal protection dog or pursued personal protection training for their dog:
A sport dog is NOT a personal protection dog
Be familiar with the dog sports of Shutzhund and French Ring in particular. Many places are just reselling dogs that are titled in these sports and dog sports similar to these with little to no cross training in real personal protection training. Sometimes they will demo the sport exercises off the training field and in realistic environments to make it look like real protection. Don’t be fooled. Unless the dog is cross trained it may look real to the untrained eye, but what you are seeing is a game to the dog. Without the pads and sleeve they wouldn’t know that they are supposed to bite and why? Often these dogs are biting the pads off of the same people who take care of them. In most of these sports the dog is working to bite the equipment and is desensitized to think stick hits don’t hurt (the original purpose was to prove the dog can take a beating and not be intimidated easily). But, just because a dog can take a beating with a padded stick doesn’t mean you should set the dog up for failure when they are encountered by someone who is going to hit them over the head with a lead pipe or ax. Sport training is fun for the dog and more like a glorified game of tug-o-war than personal protection training. Dog sports are good and serve a purpose for selecting good breeding and training candidates, but without cross training it is NOT personal protection training and there is no guarantee that they will react correctly. If a sport dog, without cross training, performs successful personal protection in the real world, they probably would have done it anyway with or without the sport title. Some dogs with sport titles will NOT protect when faced with the unexpected experience of a real threat. I know this for a fact, I have seen it firsthand. The fact that a dog has a sport title will usually drive the price of a dog WAY up, but for the sake of personal protection it is not needed and can be misleading to what the dog will do in real life. Sometimes it is an easy way for brokers to sell “personal protection dogs”, because they can get away with just giving a demo of the dog’s predictable sport routine to the uneducated buyer without doing any cross training.
You do not always get what you pay for, sometimes you do:
Prices for trained personal protection dogs can range from $4500 (or less) to over $50,000.
What are you paying for? Hopefully, a return in investment. Even the most ethical trainers can’t get by the cost of a fully trained adult dog. There are usually many hours of labor from multiple trainers over many months of time. Even the dog, with no training, is usually worth a pretty penny. Someone is compensated for breeding, raising, and feeding that dog for at least 18 months to over 3 years. There are often more than one middlemen in the exchange of a good candidate. Sometimes the dog goes from the breeder, to an importer/broker, to a trainer/business, and then to you.
But, I have dealt first hand with trainers that will simply charge what they think they can get from you. I have known of one trainer who demoed several dogs to a potential buyer and showed the same dog twice (only changing the collar), called it a different name, and gave it a twice as high price tag second time out. In this way he covered his bases of not losing a sale with a “bargain dog”, but also not losing out if the client wanted “the best money could buy”. Seems outrageous, but 100% true.
Many dog businesses import a sport titled dog, quadruple the price, and let it live in a kennel without any further training until someone buys it (as I mentioned above).
I have known of another trainer that asked a buyer how much he was looking to spend. The answer was $18,000 and the trainer said, “Well, I just happen to have a personal protection dog that I think you will like and it just so happens he is $18,000”. He would have sold the mediocre dog for half that amount. Smart business or unethical business? It is not really farfetched to what happens when you haggle at the car dealership or at a farm market – but it is the truth in this industry.
Personal protection dogs are needed for defense NOT offense.
Unless you are law enforcement or some type of vigilante, there is no reason to be sending a dog to attack a fleeing person that is not a direct threat to you or family members. If you can escape to safety or a phone there is no need to send a dog to “attack” a person who is not challenging your personal space. Some dogs will never make good police dogs or sport dogs because they have no desire to chase someone to the ends of the earth to bite them, but will readily defend their owner if the need arises. This is why you very rarely see any of the flock guardian breeds in law enforcement or sport, but individuals from these breeds are often excellent personal protection dogs. A dog doesn’t have to be very prey driven to do this work.
What this means to you? You do not usually need the “top bloodlines in the world” for personal protection training. Guaranteed I can go to your local shelter and find a dog there that will defend you to a degree with minimal training. What is most important about choosing a dog for defense is the ability and instinct to defend and good solid nerves – not high prey drive. I have worked with dogs that worked great if they were on the offense, but would run away if placed on the defense and felt threatened. In a video below I will show you a dog that you would never guess ran away from creepy people.
The anti-social guard dog option
Back to the shelter… Maybe you are the anti-social type and don’t have many guests coming around. Maybe you live in a very secluded area. Most shelters have dogs that are EXCELLENT with the people they are bonded with, but are very suspicious of outsiders. Create a bond with these dogs, put a little bit of obedience into them, and you usually have a great budget personal protection dog (and guard for the property) that is not going to stand there and watch as someone threatens you. You will sleep well at night knowing that this option isn’t going to lick the face of someone climbing in your window. The con of this option is that this dog may require closer supervision and management if needed to be brought into social situations. But, for the right responsible person can be a rewarding choice – especially paired with the right obedience program.
Control, Control, Control
I want to emphasize how important control is in the personal protection dog. The dogs with the sharpest instincts to protect are potentially a liability and danger to friends and visitors without good control, boundaries, and structure.
You want the real deal?
In the rare case you believe someone might challenge a personal protection dog, the last thing you want is a dog that was trained to take a beating with a stick that causes no harm. If someone is going to challenge a dog it will not be a competition clatter stick – it will be an ax, a crowbar, lead pipe, bat, etc…
If you want to rely on the dog for real direct physical challenges, you must make sure the dog is trained for real direct physical challenges.
Personal Protection Dog vs. Gun?
Gun will generally win – this is common sense. You and your dog’s best chance is if he is trained to bite the aggressive arm. This might buy you time to escape, but common sense tells us that the dog may die. If you are a gun owner, the dog may buy you some time to get your own gun and even out the odds. Know your limitations with a personal protection dog.
Some dogs can do it, most just can’t.
It doesn’t matter what breed or sex the dog is. Some dogs can be personal protection dogs and others just can’t no matter how much training you put into them. If starting with a pup you can increase the odds by picking from a litter of proven lines and running some temperament tests. Ultimately you won’t know for sure if the dog will do personal protection until he/she matures.
With older dogs, an experienced trainer can usually run a few tests to see if he/she is a candidate without having to wait for the dog to mature. Attempting to train a dog to do personal protection that doesn’t have the instincts or correct temperament can be cruel to the dog. Most dogs do not excel at personal protection training no matter how much training you do with them. You usually need to seek out a candidate.
Here are some potential red flags when considering a personal protection dog for sale:
Is the dog biting a big sleeve and getting hit with a stick? Give the dogs some credit, they are actually smarter than that. This is a game, they want to pull the sleeve off the guy and run away with it. They are not defending themselves or the handler and probably have not been trained to.
A seller that promises the dog will protect you, double as a nanny, and fold your laundry. If you don’t see it, don’t believe it. Dogs capable of personal protection should never be left in the care of a child period and should not be left to make their own decisions if left out in the yard with a child playing. Dogs can be fooled and dogs can make bad decisions.
Super duper elite level 1000 executive protection dog packages – Same thing here. If the dog will do all those things, be sure you see it, and wonder why you will only need a two day handling course or VCR tape to be trained to handle a dog like this. Training is only as good as the person in control of the dog, therefore the more advanced the training, the more advanced the handler training should be or else it is useless.
Must Do Tests for the Personal Protection Dog
If you decide that want to invest money in a fully trained personal protection dog, these are tests that you MUST do if you are going to rely on this dog to actually engage with an attacker:
The muzzle test: Will this dog defend and do everything that is promised if the dog is wearing a muzzle and the attacker is wearing only jeans and a t-shirt (and no bite pads)? If the dog is trained to bite the legs will it defend if the person is wearing shorts?
The passive test: Does the agitator have to act “like an agitator” to alert the dog? Some dogs will only give the display that you are hoping will deter a creepy individual if they start shaking a stick or making herky-jerky movements or exaggerated “bad guy” postures or dressed in a big puffy suit or wearing a big ol’ padded sleeve.
The hidden sleeve or hidden suit test: Will the dog bite ,without hesitation, agitators wearing hidden protection under various types of clothing?
Is this dog controllable? Seriously, will this dog be controllable by YOU? If the trainer has to yell at the dog or choke him off a bad guy, or throw his arm out jerking the dog expect you will have to do the same to control him. A poorly trained dog can cause more of a danger to family and friends than that of being an asset to your feeling of safety and well-being. And, just because a dog has earned an obedience title or sport title don’t assume he is going to be a dream to handle in the real world, off the training field, where there are cats, skateboarders, neighbors’ dogs, and kids running around. See it first and then believe it.
The best advice for personal protection dog
If someone asks, and time is on their side, I say get a dog with solid genetics, from a proven line that has done the work, raise it correctly, socialize it, and train it in off-leash obedience. A dog that has the instinct to protect will protect. It doesn’t need much training to do that. What separates the personal protection dog from a dog that will bite is the control that the owner has on that dog and the ability to bring the dog with you places so that the dog will be there to act as a deterrent and if needed act upon his instinct to protect you.
A dog, can of course be trained how to fight an attacker more effectively, but the dog picks up more bad habits than good from most dog sports (such as allowing themselves to get beat with an object, or think there is going to always be some kind of padded arm to bite). I prefer to not have to undo some of that training and start with a dog that hasn’t been exposed to the preferences of sport work. A dog that will naturally bite the most aggressive body part will be able to stay in the fight longer and keep a true attacker occupied long enough to give you the greatest chance for escape.
The only way to be smooth in intense situations is to practice the drills, hence all the fire drills as a kid. If you have a real need for this type of dog REGULARLY scheduled scenarios with a professional or club is recommended – not a video tape.
These are examples of some Exercises to practice with an experienced trainer for the personal protection dog –
Attack on the handler – The most basic and most important for the personal protection dog. If a dog does not practice these drills with the owner, the owner can accidently be bit by the frantic dog not exposed to the situation.
Keeping someone at bay – a dog lunging at the end of the leash is hopefully all you will ever need to stop someone from approaching closer.
Attack on the dog – Think like an attacker. Won’t it make sense for an attacker to try to scare away or disable the dog first? This is why it is very important for a dog to NOT ignore an object in the hand.
Attack on the dog while someone attacks the owner – This is a likely multiple attacker scenario. Someone may attempt to occupy the dog while a second assaults the handler. The priority is to teach the dog to flee from any kind of encounter with a person to get to the handler/family member in need.
Multiple attackers in general – If there is ever going to be a situation where the training and experience of the dog is going to be a huge factor in making or breaking the likelihood of a person escaping an assault, compared to the situation with an untrained dog, this is it.
Any other scenario that may be likely for your personal situation.
PERSONAL PROTECTION TRAINING IS SOMETHING WE ONLY RECOMMEND UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF AN EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONAL
We have a “bite club” for our clients that are interested in practicing personal protection scenarios and training – suits are used to teach the dog to bite (sleeves are RARELY used) all the handlers of the dogs are OWNERS of the dogs – they are there to practice drills. None of the dogs have any sport titles and most don’t have any exceptional pedigree. The only thing that they have in common is the natural instinct to protect which you cannot train into a dog.
An important thing to note is the control of the dogs in the videos: All the dogs were trained in off-leash obedience first. Then, the dogs and handlers had to master controlling their dogs in different difficult situations, and THEN the dogs were allowed to go through personal protection training. If an owner can not call their dog away from the front door when someone is knocking, they should not be training the dog to master his fighting skills.
Here are some personal protection videos that illustrate some points:
This is a newer video that shows a couple of dogs being trained to focus on the weapon:
Here is the rottie in the previous level at an earlier date (before he mastered going to the weapon) performing a multiple attacker scenario. Note that the dog is being used for defense and escape of handler.
Here is a video of a Malinois doing a defense scenario and practicing avoiding the hit of a crow bar.
Note that the obedience allows for better safety of the dog since the dog can escape with the handler.
Here is a video of dogs doing various personal protection exercises at the “bite club” for owners of these dogs to master handling techniques and for the dogs to get better and more confident with different scenarios. It is usually a lifetime commitment for owners to own a dog with types of skills. Note that we test the dogs on muzzles and hidden sleeves. We also have a full hidden suit that fits tightly under clothes (not seen in video):
Here is an older video of a dog being used OFFENSIVELY not defensively. You would never guess by watching this video, but this particular dog would run away from anyone who truly creeped him out. I am the one taking the bites from him, but I was also his care taker and he really loved me. I am not saying that all dogs that are used for offense will run away from a threat, but I am just giving an example of how what you see may be deceiving. He only wanted to peel the suit off me and drag it around. We got a lot of calls for the purchase of this dog, but we ultimately gave him away for free to a good home because we knew he didn’t have the correct temperament to be a realiable personal protection dog.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the post. Sorry so sloppy. If you want stay updated on any new blog posts I put up, BE SURE TO JOIN MY MAILING LIST BELOW AND FACEBOOK PAGE HERE: Click for my facebook fan page.