It may come as a surprise to learn that guard dogs are actually friendly when their owner is not under threat. It is only when that situation changes that the attitude of the dog does, too. When the dog develops that new attitude, he will await further instructions from his owner; attack or stand down. Good guard dogs are not those that are constantly suspicious of everyone, as their behavior is usually fear based. If a dog is constantly on high alert and ready to snap at anyone he sees, he is most certainly NOT a good candidate for guard dog training.
The dogs that do fit the guard dog bill are generally those that have a naturally laid-back, non-confrontational demeanor. Dogs that constantly live in fear always run the risk of attacking someone non-threatening. Positive socialization is a must for dogs to be successful in guard dog training. They should be comfortable in meeting many people and not resorting to growling when they do so. The prime socialization period for dogs comes between the ages of 6 and 16 weeks old. You should not reinforce bad behavior with petting, soothing talk, of treats, and you should never encourage fear in a dog. A dog that is fearful is one that is like a tightened spring waiting to uncoil. This is a dog that will become a fear biter. For protection dog training, it is important that dogs be confident without living in fear.
There is very little difference in the way you train a guard dog and one that is meant to be a “regular” pet. What is required for both is a frequent socialization in a friendly, positive environment. The fact of the matter is that dogs who bark when someone is at the door is not necessarily a trained guard dog. Just about every breed of dog will behave in that manner. The difference is that guard dogs need to be able to recover from that behavior and return to an appropriate form of behavior when there is not any perceived danger.
How to Train a Guard Dog
While I have never actually trained guard dogs, I am well aware of the temperament that dogs require to be considered a good guard dog candidate. If I was looking to train a guard dog, it is not something I would consider doing alone. I would definitely look for help from a person who has a vast level of experience doing protection dog training.
Of you are in the market for a protection dog, or have one that you would like to train in that manner, it is advised that you get in contact with a local trainer who can help guide you through the process. A guard dog is a lot like a loaded weapon, and you had better be in control if you don’t want it to go off.
Here are some traits every good guard dog will possess:
Loves to play (fetch, tug of war, etc.)
Boundless energy – working dogs can make you a little nuts with their almost constant need to be mentally and physically active.
The ability to quit when told (after being trained).
Strong work ethic – guard dogs are well aware that they and their handler are a team.
High level of attention to the owner/handler.
Able to focus.
A high tolerance to pressure.
Patience – they should be able to wait until they are told what to do.
After extensive training (sometimes years) and experience, he will develop the ability to decide when his help is required.
The ability to be flexible to new situations, environments, elements, etc.
Neither reactive nor impulsive.
The ability to be able to pass the Temperament Test given through the American Temperament Test Society (http://www.atts.org/).
The dog should also be able to pass the AKC Canine Good Citizenship Test (http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/index.cfm).