Guard Dog Training – Step-by-Step Guide

guard dog training

Are you looking to train your guard dog for total home security, personal protection, and obedience? 

Then this Guard Dog Training guide is for you!

best family guard dogs
The best guard dog breeds are big and are often working dog breeds like German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Malinois, Dobermanns and Boxers.

Here we give you some practical steps and tips to help you get started with guard dog training. With guard dog training, you will have a reliable companion and an “alarm system” for your home and property.

Guard Dog Training Basics

Step 1 – Choose the Right Breed

german shepherd guard dog
When considering purchasing a guard dog for sale, learn about their daily requirements for exercise and stimulation. Although the Belgian Shepherd Malinois makes an exceptional guard dog, they are not low maintenance and a German Shepherd or Boxer would be a better option for families.

Certain big dog breeds have the inherent ability to guard and protect their owners and property. Some of the best breeds for personal protection are German Shepherds, Cane Corso, Belgian Malinois, Rottweilers, Mastiffs and Doberman Pinschers.

These dog breeds possess the physical and temperamental traits that are needed for guarding and protection. 

Breeders also selectively breed such dogs for these specific traits that are needed for guarding and protection. Dogs like German Shepherds, Cane Corsi, and Rottweilers also have a long history of herding, livestock protection, farm, military, police, and search-and-rescue work.

These dogs are extremely trainable and possess the intelligence and natural instincts needed for guarding and protection. They are also large dogs with intimidating sizes that help deter intruders.

The difference between a guard dog and a watchdog is that a guarding breed is big and strong enough to take a hit from an intruder and not be deterred. A Dachshund might make an excellent watchdog, naturally alerting their owner to the presence of an intruder but they are not guard dogs.

Some of the best guard dog breeds are livestock guardians. They also happen to be some of the biggest dog breeds in the world and include the Tibetan Mastiff, Russian Ovcharka and Anatolian Shepherd. They have deep, scary barks that would scare away most intruders. Weighing in at 70kg + they are huge and not easily trained.

They can be stubborn and disengaged, but will usually work for their daily food allowance. Livestock guardians are not the best guard dogs for families with small children.

Step 2 – Start with Basic Obedience Training

best guard dogs for women
Crate training and obedience are important in guard dog training. They build life skills such as calmness, independence and engagement.

The first step in getting your dog ready for guarding and protection is to teach it some basic obedience commands.

Your dog should know commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”. By teaching your guard dog these commands, you’ll be setting yourself up as the pack leader helping to forge a loving, respectful relationship with your dog. 

You must also teach your dog to walk properly on a leash without pulling. This is very important to maintain control over your dog in public places. Loose leash walking training is also important to prevent your guard dog from lunging at other dogs.

Other obedience commands such as Off/Down/No can help prevent unwanted behaviours in your pet, including jumping on visitors, keeping the paws on the table/furniture, excess barking, etc.

Follow the simple guidelines given below when teaching basic obedience to your dog:

guard dogs for sale
Positive reinforcement is the best dog training method to train a dog or puppy in obedience. Other training solutions that use aversive tools like electric shock collars, prong collars etc can make dogs more anxious, reactive and fearful. An unpredictable guard dog can be dangerous.
  • Be consistent and patient when teaching your dog basic obedience. Go at your dog’s pace.
  • Set your dog up for success – practise what your dog knows before moving on to new commands.
  • Keep training sessions short. End each session with playtime, praise, and cuddles. This will further enhance your bond with your dog.
  • Use positive reinforcement – rewards, toys, and treats are some great motivators for dogs.
  • Avoid punishment, scolding, etc. These negative methods might work initially but studies have shown that they can make your dog fearful, aggressive or timid.
  • Practise the commands in different environments. You may start the training in your home, then proceed to the yard, and later, to the dog park. This will ensure that your dog will obey you no matter what the situation may be.
  • Refer to our Obedience dog training guide for tips and tricks.

Step 3 – Socialise and Desensitise Your Dog

big guard dogs
Many dogs make great watch dogs but a guard dog needs to have sufficient height and weight to knock over an intruder and be able to take a hit without running away if required.

Socialising your guard dog and exposing it to various scenarios will help it distinguish between genuine threats and regular situations.

You can do this in the following ways:

  • Enrol your dog in puppy preschool or a dog obedience school.
  • Arrange “play dates” for your dog with other (vaccinated) well behaved dogs.
  • Make sure your pet gets to interact with other animals like cats, smaller pets, etc in a controlled environment on a leash. If your dog chases or shows aggression towards these animals, they should be kept on a leash at all times.
  • Take your dog to dog-friendly cafes, beaches, bush walks and parks.
  • Have visitors over to your place. This is a good time to ensure that your dog does not jump on them. You can teach your pet the “Down/No/Off” commands to prevent it from jumping on visitors. Until your puppy or dog is calm, keep them behind a baby gate or in a crate when visitors arrive.
  • Crate training is an important part of the guard dog training process because when done well, it increases calmness and reduces anxiety.
  • Expose your dog to loud sounds in a controlled positive environment like those from the TV, blender, vacuum cleaner, etc. Combine the sound with the feeding of their favourite treats.

Step 4 – Teach Your Dog to Bark on Cue

Guard dogs should warn their owners about dangers in their surroundings. For this, you’d need to teach your dog to bark on cue. Once your buddy understands how to bark on cue, you can also teach it the “quiet” command.

Step 5 – Teach Controlled Aggression and Bite on Cue Commands

best guard dogs
Livestock guardian dogs can make formidable guard dogs. They do not require any training to protect their property and your possessions. Dog Breeds like the Tibetan Mastiff and the Anatolian Shepherd are among some of the most popular guard dogs and have a deep, sonorous bark.

Once your guard dog is well-trained in basic obedience and life skills, you need to teach it controlled aggression – one of the crucial lessons in guard dog training. 

Controlled aggression training can help you train your dog to distinguish between real threats and non-threats.

The steps for teaching controlled-aggression include:

  • Bite on cue – this type of training is best done by professional dog trainers. The handler/trainer may wear protective equipment during this training. You can start with getting your dog to bite the sleeve, or give bite tugs. Your dog should also learn to release the bite on cue. Bites suits and hidden sleeves can help in this training.
  • Agitation training – this involves stimulating a dog to react to intruders. The handler may wear protective gear and pose as an intruder. The dog should pin or bite the intruder until the owner gives the stop/drop/no/release command.

You may even simulate scenarios where you are “attacked” and your dog must protect you. The training should also be geared towards progressing to increasingly complex scenarios. 

Step 6 – Continuing the Training

protection dogs
Dog behaviourists and professional dog trainers can help you understand the foundations of guard dog training and help you select a suitable puppy or adult dog. A calm, obedient and alert big dog breed is required for guard dog training.

Guard dog training should be an ongoing process. Your dog should continually get to practise various obedience commands, agitation, and bite-on-cue scenarios.

It may be best to hire a professional dog trainer or a canine behaviourist to train your dog to be the best guard dog for your family. These professionals can provide guidance, ensure the safety of both you (the handler) and your dog, and tailor the training to suit the specific needs of your dog and its intended role.

FAQs – Guard Dog Training

Are guard dogs easy to train?

Most guard dog breeds are gifted with protective instincts, intelligence, and high-trainability. They are also eager to please and devoted to their owners. This makes them fairly easy to train.

Having said that, guard-dog training requires time, effort, patience, and consistency. Some aspects of guard dog training, such as controlled aggression and biting on cue, require a great deal of expertise. When buying a guard dog, sound behavioural genetics is vital. A reactive and unpredictable guard dog can be dangerous.

What age can you train a dog to be a guard dog?

Guard dog training may begin when the puppy is 8 weeks old. You can start crate training, house training, and basic obedience at this age. Introduction to a bite sleeve or bite-tug can also occur from 8 weeks of age. Breeders that specialise in breeding guard dogs will often have already introduced these guard dog training tools to their puppies.

Do guard dogs need training?

While many things, such as protecting territory and owners, might come naturally to your guard dog, you must train it in basic obedience. You also need to teach your guard dog to distinguish between real and non-real threats. Guard dogs are often big breeds and their height alone can make them hard to handle without proper training. It is for this reason that the best guard dogs for women are often well-bred German Shepherds as they can adapt to family life and are generally easy to train.

Can a guard dog protect you?

Yes, true guard dogs can protect their owners. The best guard dogs for families are low maintenance and easy to train. Some guard dogs are intimidating due to their large sizes, bark and overall appearance. These traits can help deter intruders and miscreants. Moreover, guard dogs can also be trained to physically intervene and stop intruders using controlled aggression until law enforcement arrives.

Can guard dogs be family pets?

low maintenance family guard dogs

Yes. Guard dogs can make excellent pets because they are highly devoted to their owners. They are excellent companions for kids. Well-trained and properly socialised guard dogs can be as affectionate, fun, and playful as any other dog and can also keep the family and property safe. An untrained guard dog can be a dangerous dog and potentially have behaviour problems.

Guard Dog Training Cost

protection dog training

Guard dog training is a specialised field when carried out by qualified expert dog trainers. Expect to pay up to $10,000 for a fully-trained guard dog and dogs with personal protection training (man-stoppers) can be $20,000 or more.

Conclusion – Guard Dog Training

best protection dogs

A reliable guard dog is one of the best investments you can make. With a guard dog, you will always have a reliable companion in times of crisis, and it will also alert you and your family to danger. A well-trained guard dog can be a wonderful alarm and security system for your home and property. 

We hope this brief guide helps you understand what guard dog training entails.

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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney
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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

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