Here at VKA-Spokane, we offer obedience training, behavior rehabilitation for aggressive and fearful dogs, and Personal Protection Dog training. Most people understand obedience and behavior training, but there is a cloud of confusion surrounding protection training. Oftentimes in people’s minds, the terms “protection dogs” and “attack dogs” are synonymous – when in reality they couldn’t be more different! Personal Protection Dog training is a huge passion of mine so I’m writing this article in hopes of debunking a few myths out there!
What is a Personal Protection Dog?
A Personal Protection Dog – also called a Family Protection, Estate Protection or Executive Protection Dog – is a highly-trained, social and obedient family pet that is trained to protect and defend his owners, family and property. The most popular breeds used for protection training are German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Dutch Shepherds, Rottweilers and Dobermans. American Pit Bull Terriers, Bouviers, Giant Schnauzers and a number of other breeds are also used but not as frequently. What’s important to understand is that a well-trained Personal Protection Dog is trained as both a fearless protector and an obedient family companion. Having a strict fighting machine doesn’t do any good for families and children; therefore, a stable temperament is an absolute MUST for protection dogs. Not all dogs have what it takes to be a Personal Protection Dog.
What is the training process like?
Before we get into training specifics, you need to know that there are good trainers, and there are bad trainers. Good trainers use a balanced approach to training combining positive reinforcement with a dog’s natural instinct to elicit wanted behaviors. Bad trainers use force, fear and punishment in training and as a result, the dogs they produce are unstable, edgy and sometimes aggressive. Their heads hang low, and their tails don’t wag. They obey because they have to not because they want to. If you come across a protection trainer that doesn’t first perform a thorough evaluation of your dog before starting training, stop right there. If you come across a trainer that tells you to stop socializing your dog during protection training, walk away. If you come across a trainer that promises to train your dog in a week, RUN! Good protection training takes time, effort, dedication and experience.
There are three main components in protection training: prey drive, fight drive and defense drive.
Prey drive is a dog’s natural instinct a dog to search, point, track, pounce, chase, or stalk. These actions constitute what a wild dog would perform during a typical day to capture prey and survive. Dogs with high prey drive can be taught a greater number of functions with fewer repetitions while maintaining a great attitude.
Fight Drive is what you see after a dog catches its prey. The fight is the intense thrashing, cranking, body twisting and jerking you see when a protection dog is bringing down the aggressor. This drive is a devastating force which keeps the dog in the fight under extreme circumstances.
Defense drive is a dog’s natural protection instinct. It brings out the suspicion level and alertness a dog has to their surroundings and when combined with prey and fight drive it constitutes a well-rounded dog.
Early training uses a dog’s natural prey drive to teach the mechanics of bite work: alerting, targeting, gripping and holding. Bite sleeves and bite suits are used to teach dogs where and how to bite. Training sessions are short and sweet, leaving the dog wanting more. As the dog grows and matures, session duration increases and scenario training or “street training” is added to help generalize behaviors to different environments. Dogs are trained to alert, bite, release and return to their owner on command. Even off leash, protection dogs are always under complete control. Throughout the protection training process, ongoing obedience training and socialization are paramount.
The ultimate goal in protection training is to produce an extremely well-balanced dog with supreme levels of intensity. A dog that is trained to confidently battle and work against many types of threats, scenarios, environments and weapons. A dog that is trained to identify and respond to any threat, any time, any place.
No. It takes a specific set of drives, the right disposition and solid nerves to be a Personal Protection Dog. Regardless of breed, not all dogs have what it takes. Dogs that are most likely to excel in protection training come from proven working bloodlines and have been properly socialized and exposed to new environments at an early age.
How much does a fully-trained Personal Protection Dog cost?
The average price for a Personal Protection Dog is $50,000 with some dogs costing as much as $250,000 depending on the dog’s age, breed, pedigree, level of training, titles and awards. Oftentimes, Personal Protection Dogs are imported from Europe after competing in dog sports such as Schutzhund and IPO, and from there they go through a rigorous training process to prepare them for their new role as a family companion and protection dog. The piece of mind knowing your family is safe is priceless.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and I hope it has provided you with some insight into the world of protection training. Both of my adult German Shepherds, Duke and Havok, are fully-trained Personal Protection Dogs. They are super social dogs that go everywhere with me, and they’re great with people of all ages, kids and other animals. I’m so thankful for them, because I know that no matter what happens they always have my back!
I firmly believe that the best Personal Protection Dogs are bred, raised and trained by a professional with the specific goal of becoming a fully-trained protection dog. Havok is the ideal Personal Protection Dog because I raised and trained him myself, and I know everything about his temperament and working abilities. I trust him 100% and would drop him off in a daycare right now knowing with absolute confidence that he would be on his best behavior. I also know that if someone breaks into my house tonight, Havok won’t hesitate to protect me with his life. He is fearless, confident and capable, and his love and loyalty know no bounds.
Please share this article with your friends so we can spread the word about protection dogs and debunk the myths! If you have any questions, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.