A guard dog is trained to protect your property and whoever lives on it. Contrary to what many people think, these animals are not taught to attack. Instead, they learn non-confrontational techniques, such as keeping their guard up and using barking to alert potential danger. Training takes time and patience, but you will soon have a well-behaved dog that will protect you.
Method 1 of 3: Preparing for Training
Step 1. Learn to differentiate a guard dog from an attack dog
The watchdog is trained to alert the presence of intruders through barking and growling, without attacking or acting aggressively with strangers. Because of this, guard dogs are usually not good for attacks.
- Attack dogs are typically used by the police, being trained to attack on commands and to respond aggressively to potential threats.
- Most attack dogs are well-trained and don't act aggressively unless given a command. Poorly trained dogs, however, can attack without warning and pose a serious danger to humans and other animals.
- It is unlikely that the average person would need an attack dog.
Step 2. Determine if the dog breed is good for a guard dog
While almost all dogs can be trained to stand guard, there are some small breeds (such as chow chows, pugs and shar peis) and large ones (such as Doberman pinscher, German shepherds and akitas) with higher success rates.
- Some breeds, such as German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers, can be trained to be guard and attack dogs.
- If you have a dog of a breed that is not known for hunting dogs or a mutt, it is still possible to train him. If the animal has the behavioral characteristics of a guard dog, it is possible to train it to protect its home.
Step 3. Know the ideal personality traits for guard dogs
Contrary to popular belief, guard dogs should not react out of fear or aggression. Ideally, the animal is territorial and wants to protect its owner without ever disobeying its commands.
- A good watchdog should be confident, curious and not shy around new people. It's likely that your pet already has these traits, but proper socialization can make him even more confident.
- A good watchdog is also assertive: the animal should feel comfortable putting itself in positions that allow it to receive what it wants without aggression. In this way, the animal will feel confident in approaching new situations or people without fear.
- Sociability is a very important characteristic of a good watchdog. A well-socialized animal will be able to recognize strangers without attacking them or showing aggression.
- Good guard dogs should also be easily trained. Chow chows can be good guard dogs, as they are naturally suspicious of strangers, but they are very independent animals and are difficult to train.
- Loyal dogs make great guards because they want to protect and defend you. German Shepherds are known to be very loyal.
Step 4. Socialize the dog as a puppy
A well-socialized dog is comfortable in its environment, having less fear and being more relaxed – important characteristics for guard dogs – without ever losing suspicion of strange and potentially dangerous situations. The best time to socialize your pet is between the first three and 12 weeks of your pet's life.
- After 12 weeks of age, puppies begin to be more cautious and become more difficult to socialize.
- During the socialization period, make the dog comfortable with meeting new people and interacting in new environments. As this is an important task, divide the socialization into small sessions and expose the dog to situations over time according to his comfort level.
- Reward the puppy with positive reinforcement (snacks, play, cuddling, etc.) whenever he does well in a socializing experience.
- Puppy schools are great for socializing. Don't forget to keep the puppy vaccinated and dewormed so that he doesn't catch diseases during training.
- If you have a trained and socialized adult dog, he is already halfway to being a good guard dog.
Step 5. Make sure the dog is able to follow basic obedience commands
Before starting training, the dog should already be able to obey basic commands such as "stay", "sit" and "down" so that he learns defensive techniques such as warning bark and guard position.
Teach the above commands yourself or hire a trainer
Method 2 of 3: Teaching Alert Bark
Step 1. Choose a word for the command
To train the dog to alert you to the presence of a stranger on the property, you need to establish a command. Some owners prefer to use a word other than "bark" (like "speak" for example) so that the command is not so obvious to those around.
- After choosing the command, repeat it with the same tone of voice each time.
- Use the same word whenever you want the dog to bark.
Step 2. Practice the command
Most dogs don't need a command to bark in the presence of a stranger. The idea then is to make the animal bark after the command. To start, snag him somewhere and hold a treat in front of him. Back away slowly and out of the animal's field of vision.
- As soon as he makes a sound, whether it's a bark or a whimper, go back and praise him using the command's keyword. Have a snack right away. After repeating the training a few times, the dog should be able to associate barking praise with a reward.
- When the animal is comfortable with the command, move it to another area of the yard or house. Also test his response to command during walks and games in public spaces.
Step 3. Be firm and clear
Consistency and practice are the primary elements of training. If you want to test his response during a walk, stop and look him in the eye. Then issue the command in animated mode. If the dog seems confused or hesitant, hold a treat and repeat the command.
Ideally, it can only once after receiving the command. If he doesn't stop barking, don't reward him. Wait for it to calm down before repeating the command
Step 4. Set up a simulation
To see if the dog has understood the command well, keep him indoors and walk out the door. Once outside, ring the bell and repeat the bark command. Reward him when he barks. Then repeat the process by knocking on the door and reward him if he responds as expected.
- If possible, set up the simulation overnight. It is likely that you want the dog to alert you to the presence of a stranger at this time, so it is important that he respond to your command at all times.
- Practice the bark command at short intervals. After a few repetitions, let the dog rest for about 45 minutes. Then practice the command a few more times. The idea is to keep the dog from getting bored or frustrated during training.
Step 5. Ask a friend or family member to test the warning bark
Once the dog is comfortable receiving your command, see if he does the same to someone else. Ask someone to leave the house and ring the bell. Stay inside and issue the command, rewarding each bark with a treat. You will be reinforcing the protective instinct to bark at strangers.
- Continue practicing the command with family members, rewarding the dog whenever he barks at the sound of the bell and the knock on the door. Over time, the animal will associate the bell and knocking on the door with barking and will bark when it hears these sounds.
- As training progresses, try to make the dog bark when he hears the bell or a knock on the door without needing to hear the command.
Method 3 of 3: Teaching the Silence Command
Step 1. Issue the bark command
Now that the dog has learned to respond to command, it's time to teach him to be quiet. In order for the silence command to work, many people recommend that the dog learn to bark first. Being able to command him to bark and be quiet will help him to be a good watchdog.
Reward the dog with treats whenever he responds appropriately to the bark command
Step 2. Teach the dog to stop barking
Ring the bell and, as soon as the dog starts barking, place a treat in front of him. As soon as he stops barking to sniff the treat, say "thank you" or "quiet" and deliver the food.
- Do not yell or speak loudly to the dog when issuing the verbal command, as this can alarm the dog and encourage barking.
- Do not say "quiet" or "no" as these commands have a negative connotation.
Step 3. Toggle between bark and silence commands
Such a switch will allow you to have more control over your dog's barking, which is important for training. Have fun varying the number of times you repeat the bark command before issuing the silence command. The dog will likely interpret this as a game, which will make training more fun for both of you.
Step 4. Encourage the dog to bark whenever a stranger approaches
He should bark when he hears the bell even if he knows who's at the door. He may not know who's on the other side and the idea is to encourage the protective instinct to bark and warn of something strange. When you reach the door, issue the silence command and reward him as soon as he stops barking.
Don't encourage him to bark when you meet a friendly or neutral stranger during your outings
Step 5. Practice the silence command over and over again
As with any canine training, repetition is essential for the dog to learn to respond properly to commands. Practice at short intervals and reward him whenever he does what you want.
- Place a dog sign on the property. This should deter strangers or intruders. The sign must be large enough for passersby to see it clearly.
- If you want to turn a guard dog into an attack dog, enroll it in professional training. Attack techniques must be taught by a trained professional so that the dog does not end up being too aggressive. Ask for recommendations from trainers on the internet or for a veterinarian.