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Guard dog

Guard dog

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Guard dog – First and foremost, it cannot be emphasized enough that guard dog work is one of the most responsible branches of dog training! Taking a nonchalant, unprofessional, or perhaps “DIY mischief” approach is not equal to carefully structured, purposeful guard dog training. It can lead to serious, sometimes tragic consequences.

Unfortunately, there are cases where certain owners consider guard dog training as “THE TRAINING”. Viewing everything else as a waste of time.

  • Why should the dog come back when called or walk nicely by your side when it’s on a leash anyway?
  • Why is it good for the dog to stay in place on command? I can just tie it up and that’s it.
  • Why should it let go when I want it to grip?

Such questions may arise for those who are fixated on the captivating image of a dog dominating its owner. However, the reality is not that simple.
The basic formal elements learned and reliably executed during obedience exercises will form the foundation for more complex tasks in the future. Through obedience or disciplinary exercises, the dog’s controllability is conditioned, making it suitable and willing to follow our commands.

guard dog

Controllability, obedience to commands? Are we in the military? Of course not, but responsible dog ownership, especially in gguard dog work, requires discipline.

A dog that has been accustomed to obedience since puppyhood and is held in check – whether it’s a poodle or a Rottweiler – becomes a source of pride for its owner. Due to its discipline, enjoys much more freedom than poorly kept companions.

Guard dog work and control

Due to its controllable behavior, there is minimal chance that it will pose a burden or danger to its immediate or broader environment. Such a dog can be let off the leash without worry because it will come back from anywhere when called. It won’t engage in fights with other dogs on a whim because its owner has forbidden it. It won’t run across the road because it has learned to stand on command, and so on. There are countless situations where we and our dogs benefit from the advantages of obedience. Whether we are hobbyists or professional dog handlers.

Many believe that this type of training is only for working dogs. Even though, regardless of whether we are raising a working dog or a family pet, every dog needs basic obedience. Although it originally intends to please its owner and fulfill their wishes, the dog still has to learn it.

Guard dog work and authority

Obedience fundamentally rests on the authority and consistency of the owner!

guard dogThe dog, like its wolf ancestors, is a complex social being that “thinks” in a system of subordination and dominance. To feel good in its skin, that is, to live balanced, it needs to clearly understand the power dynamics with its owner and within its family or pack. The dog likes to know who’s in charge, whose word is sacred. This provides security for the dog. Moreover, like every social animal in a group, if possible, it instinctively seeks to climb higher in the hierarchy. In extreme cases, this can manifest as questioning the owner’s authority, open defiance of their will, and, most often, in a more subtle form (e.g., selective deafness, muddling tasks, fake peeing, etc.).

The inclination toward obedience, or, in other words, respect for authority, varies by breed and even within a given breed, depending on the individual. Depending on its temperament, one dog may easily accept its situation, while another may need more “persuasion.” Therefore, there is no general recipe for developing obedience; the method varies from dog to dog, but it is absolutely necessary.

I found this brief detour important because a responsible person starts guard dog tasks only with an obedient, disciplined dog, as an unreliable, or worse, uncontrollable dog – especially in inexperienced hands – can pose a serious danger not only to the trainer, assistant, or its owner but also to strangers.

Now, about guard dog work

We can divide guard dog work into two directions according to its purpose:

  • One trains the dog to repel potential attacks,
  • the other is a kind of hobby, a combat sport for dogs.

Both directions have their uses and roles.

  • In the case of hobby or sports dogs, the required formal exercises and routines are channeled into more regulated frameworks demanded by competitions. The emphasis is not on effective combat against humans, but on providing meaningful entertainment for the dog and its owner. When pursued more seriously, it offers a popular, performance-oriented option for dog sports. All of this is an extremely useful activity that expends the dogs’ excess energy and helps them express their inherent abilities, both mentally and physically.
  • Trained and “sharpened” dogs in combat can be found among service dogs performing dangerous tasks (e.g., patrol, border control, special commando unit dogs, etc.). After thorough and careful training, these dogs can be used as a kind of self-defense weapon. It’s a strange contradiction, but their abilities and acquired knowledge come into play in situations where human life is at stake, either indirectly or directly.

Guard dog Work and Instincts

The teaching of modern guard dog work fundamentally relies on a dog’s two internal drives: the prey drive and the protective instinct. During training, these two instincts, carefully followed, can be developed into effective guard dog work through a systematically structured program.

Since both instincts are necessary during training, a fundamental expectation for a good working dog – whether for sports or service purposes – is to possess the prey drive and protective instinct in appropriate proportions. Both instincts play a role during training, and in different stages of the training, each may be emphasized to varying degrees depending on the training goal and the individual characteristics of the dog.

Different instincts

Prey instinct

In the case of so-called sport dogs, the prey drive predominantly dominates. The motions of seeking, grabbing, dropping, and possessing prey can be observed in young puppies as they chase, topple, and wrestle with each other or a piece of cloth placed among them. This basic, genetically determined drive is utilized and shaped by humans for the benefit of guard dog work. The goal is for the protective arm to embody the prey for the dog and attempt to grip and acquire it. Training based on prey drive is highly popular as it can be taught more broadly and is applicable to breeds not specifically bred for guard dog tasks. The learning of gripping – arising from the dog’s inherited instinct – can begin at a very young age, albeit in playful form. It provides a training alternative and engaging activity for individuals and breeds that may not be the most suitable for guard dog training due to their temperament or tasks.

Protective instinct

In police and border control services, dogs performing “professional” duties, the emphasis during guard dog training is on the protective instinct. The primary goal is to fend off attacks against the handler or the dog, meaning the dog engaging successfully in combat with the assailant. While combat is part of the dog’s inherited behavioral patterns, combat against humans is distinctly separate from the dog’s basic fighting instincts (establishing dominance). The dog must learn the combat maneuvers against humans, as it is not a natural behavior. Although protective instinct and a certain level of aggression manifest significantly in some breeds, this desirable trait became part of the breed’s behavior through selective breeding and use, and it cannot be considered a natural drive but rather a trait shaped and utilized by humans. Even in these breeds, individuals only carry the capability, which can be effectively brought to the surface with appropriate training but can also be completely suppressed if necessary.

Breed Prejudices

Unfortunately, sensationalist media, demonstrating significant amateurism, blame not the heartless, money-driven “breeders” and irresponsible dog owners behind tragic events but rather blame these breeds and, in worse cases, THE DOG itself as a breed for the incidents. No dog breed is inherently evil or murderous. The blame lies with “breeders” who selectively breed for extreme aggression or produce mentally weak individuals, along with inadequate housing conditions and treatment.

guard dogIt’s essential to mention that a well-trained guard dog dog, with its controllability and instilled discipline, poses far less danger to its environment than the previously mentioned uncontrolled companions. This fact is supported by the absence of highly trained dogs among the protagonists of recent dog attacks.
Whether for competitive sports or service use, the expectations for dogs intended for guard dog training are very high, regardless of the breed. Tangible results can only be achieved with dogs possessing suitable qualities. It’s a commonplace but true statement that the breeding of working dog breeds – especially popular breeds – has markedly diverged. One direction prioritizes exhibition conformation, while the other focuses on utility value and workability.
This perspective creates the strange and not very redeeming situation where so-called show dogs perform poorly, if at all, in the working field, while successful working dogs do not excel in exhibitions. Exceptions can rarely occur, but – as we know – exceptions only confirm the rule. Therefore, it’s crucial that those seriously interested in dogs choose a progeny from proven, successful working individuals because, without exaggeration, everything depends on this. The best trainer cannot work miracles with a dog lacking abilities, while a genuinely talented dog can overcome minor training deficiencies.

Working Dog Training

Since working dog training entails strong mental, physical, and emotional strain, it is essential that the chosen dog be healthy, possess a robust physique, and be courageous and self-confident. It should have a stable and balanced nervous system while displaying sufficient liveliness and activity. Taking all this into account, a puppy that approaches food and toys eagerly, displays dominant behavior, and, in unfamiliar places, behaves confidently and freely while reacting minimally or negligibly to mild pain, likely has more potential than its shy, timid companion.
Overall, it is desirable for the dog to show strong instinctual reactions in all areas (food, play, hierarchy, etc.). These internal drives are closely related to each other, and since training is fundamentally instinct-oriented, they correlate with the dog’s future performance. A dog with healthy and strong (though not exaggerated) instinctual reactions will likely respond more receptively to training in the future, quickly and reliably mastering various tasks. Of course, external influences on the dog, as well as upbringing and training, significantly influence this, but they can provide a sort of guideline.

Perhaps this should have been the starting point, but it is crucial to be aware of the purpose and training direction we want to pursue with our dog from the beginning. Therefore, choose a specific breed, decide on and raise your future companion. This foresight can be highly rewarding in the future.

If you are interested in other lifestyle programmes, check out our articles on Mantrailing, Dog Dancing, Frisbee, among others.

Whatever sport you do with your dog, it’s a good idea to use supplements to help alleviate the increased physical strain.
Check out our Hip & Joint support products.

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