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What is a Protection Dog?

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Getting a dog can add some level of safety or security for you, your family members, and your household, but maybe not in the way you are thinking.

Most people who want to get a dog aren't necessarily thinking about the security aspects of adding a dog to your home, while other people may want a dog specifically for this reason. Let's talk about some of the innate safety or security benefits that come with just having a dog as part of your household.

Security Benefits of Dog Ownership

Burglar deterrance - some sources say that just owning a dog that will bark at the presence of someone approaching or entering the home may be enough to deter a potential burglar from choosing your residence as their prime target.

  • The Guardian posted an article which highlighted a study of 12 burglars. Those interviewed “named loud barking dogs, strong heavy doors, a TV being switched on and locked UPVC windows as the next most likely to put them off breaking into a home.”

  • An investigative report by KGW8 out of Oregon surveyed 86 burglars. The study concluded that if “a homeowner had a big, loud dog most burglars would stay away.” One of the convicted burglars even said, “dogs are a deal breaker for me…Big breeds, home protectors are the best to keep people out.”

  • Career burglar Jack Black revealed in his memoir that dogs wreak havoc on a burglar’s well-laid plans: “Dogs, young or old, are the bane of the burglar’s life.”

  • A story by the Miami Herald touted the benefits of dogs for burglary prevention in a report which interviewed a K-9 services expert. Tony Guzman, a specialist with three decades of experience said, “For deterrence, there’s nothing like a canine. It’s the fear factor…They just fold up when a canine shows up.”

Mugger Deterrance - It is never wise to walk alone at night, but sometimes if you want to get that evening stroll in, having your dog with you can add an extra layer of safety.

Potential muggers like to choose easy targets and having a dog with you would likely complicate the ability of a crimal to successfully assault you or take your money. When a potential mugger sees you walking with even a medium or small dog, they would expect that the dog would likely bark or make a bunch of noise if they approached or attacked you, and would likely draw unwanted attention.

Bringing your dog for your evening walk can be a great way to keep you and your family members safe compared to walking alone.

However, this does not necessarily make them official "Protection Trained Dogs."

What is a Protection Dog?

The term "Protection Dog" is actually a very broad and rarely used term to describe a specific type of training. Generally, a protection dog is trained to used controlled aggression to deter or stop a person from attacking or fleeing depending on what they are trained for. The training for these dogs also includes a very high standard of obedience to ensure that this dog that you have now weaponized is unlikely to harm an unintended person.

Protection trained dogs actually fall into a variety of categories:

Personal Protection Dogs

Personal protection dogs are usually purchased as adult dogs that have been trained to use controlled aggression to prevent someone from physically harming or assaulting their owner for family. There can be some variations in what these dogs are specifically trained to do, but in most cases these dogs will be trained to protect their owners while in public settings like walking through the neighborhood or down the street as well as inside of the home.

Personal Protection dogs are generally what most people think of when they think of their dog protecting them. These dogs should also be able to be stable and friendly household pets without having issues with family members or friendly strangers coming to the home. These dogs should also have a very high level of reliable on and off-leash obedience.

Protection Sport Dogs

Protection sport dogs are trained to participate and compete in one of the various types of protection sports that currently exist. These dogs also used controlled aggression to simulate stopping a potential aggressor (these are called decoys or helpers), or to prevent an aggressor from fleeing based on the specific sport.

There are several different types of protection sports and each has different rules, criteria, and require differences in training as well.

Types of Protection Sport:

  • IGP

  • Protection Sports Association (PSA)

  • Ring Sports

    • French Ring

    • Mondioring

    • Belgian Ring

  • American Schutzhund

Each sport has different rules, regulations, and requirements. The challenges of each sport and the scenarios presented can also differ greatly as well. This will very much effect how the dog is trained to compete in these sports. Some protection sport dogs can participate in multiple sports, however training for one of the above listed sports may actually make the dog less successful in some of the other sports in the list.

Additionally, some dogs trained as Protection Sport Dogs can also serve as personal protection or even military/law enforcement dogs (very rare). However, just because a dog performs behaviors required of a protection sport does not mean that they will necessarily be effective as a personal protection or military / law enforcement dog.

Military and Law Enforcement Tracking and Apprehension Dogs

Not all military and law enforcement dogs are trained to perform protection type tasks such as barking, pursuing, or biting, but many are. Some dogs are used for other purposes such as detection dogs, tracking, search and rescue, and more. Some dogs may be trained to do both protection tasks as well as tracking and/or detection work.

The Differences

While many of the behaviors trained in the military and law enforcement dogs are similar to behaviors trained in personal protection dogs, their purposes are somewhat different.

A personal protection dog is trained to prevent the injury to their handler by an aggressor. If the attacker flees the situation to get away once they realize that this was not the easy target that they had intended, there is not reason for the dog to follow or pursue the attacker. Some dogs may be trained to do this regarless, but ideally once the attacker disengages, the dog should remain with its handler.

Military and law enforcement patrol dogs are trained for apprehension. This means that the dog is used to find, chase, and subdue a criminal to prevent them from both aggressing or escaping. These dogs are also generally trained to track to aid in their ability to find a suspect that may already have a head start in their escape.

Several variations of both of the behaviors describe for both personal protection and for military and law enforcement are found in many of the various dog sports.

What about guard dogs?

Guard dogs generally refer to dogs that are trained to deter or stop individuals from unlawfulling entering private property. These dogs can be trained for different behaviors based on the desires of the owner or the recommendations of the trainer.

Guard dogs are intended to work independent of a handler and are commonly used for commercial businesses where they are able to roam the property when their human counterparts are not on the property.

Guard dogs should have a high level of obedience to allow for the appropriate control of the dog in dangerous situations, but because the dog should ideally work independent of their handler (in the handler's absence) the high standard of obedience is not a requirement for them to be an effective guard dog or deterrent.

Some guard dogs may only be trained to bark or alert to an approaching intruder, while others may be trained to use physical aggression to stop an intruder has already entered the property. This again would be determined by the wishes of the owner and the recommendations of the trainer.

Most breeds that would make ideal guard dogs are not genearlly successful as protection trained dogs.

Can my dog be trained for protection?

While the short answer is "maybe", the better question is SHOULD my dog be trained for protection.

While certain dogs may be far easier to train for protection tasks, and others just may be more difficult or nearly impossible to teach the behaviors. There are some dogs that should not learn that using aggression would be appropriate or acceptable in any situation.

Dogs who are trained in protection are taught to use aggression to address a perceived threat. As dog trainers, we see a great many dogs come through our doors that have issues with fear, anxiety, phobias, dog aggressions, and even people aggression. These are all factors that would likely make these dogs unacceptable candidates for protection training.

Dogs who are already a bit fearful or nervous often are likely to perceive threats where there is none. And a dog who is trained to aggress on perceived threats, this now makes your dog into a liability. Dog aggressive and people aggressive dogs are often this way due to some form of fear or uncertainty.

How do I get a Protection Dog?

There are actually several routes to consider when you are deciding that you want to get a protection dog. Before deciding which route to take, you need to really identify and narrow down what type of protection dog you want from the list above.

Once you have decided if you want a dog to be a personal protection dog, or if you are looking to participate in a protection sport, you can then start to decide about what steps to take next.

Do I want to buy a dog that is already trained, or do I want to part of the training process?

There are private organization that find suitable candidates and train them to be either personal protection or even protection sport dogs and sell them to interested buyers. Once the dog is purchased, the process should include a training period for the new owner/handler to learn how to use the skills that the dog knows in various situations. Depending on where the dog is purchased, the contract or agreement may also include refresher training and some forms of health or behavior guarentees.

If you are interested in the process of taking a dog who knows nothing and making them into a protection dog either for sport or for personal protection, you will want to start by selecting a puppy from a reputable breeder of your prefered breed.

Preferred dog breeds for protection training:

-Belgian Malinois

-Dutch Shepherd

-German Shepherd Dog

Alternate Breeds

-Doberman Pinscher


-Giant Schnauzer

Other breeds may be able to be trained on protection behaviors, however are unlikely to be very effective or competetive.

Before going out and purchasing the first puppy available from the breed of your choice, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing not only your breed, but also finding a reputable breeder, and lastly choosing the individual puppy from the litter.

Many of the breeds that make quality protection dogs require a lot more structure and proper training to be able to behave properly in a normal family home. The same qualities that make these dogs sometimes difficult to live with also make them successful in protection training.

This is why it is important to be honest and clear about your longterm goals for your dog. If you are determined to own a future protection sport world champion, you can likely anticipate this dog make require large amount of structure and management to coexist in a home.

Even if you decide that you prefer one breed over another, the next thing to research and choose would be your breeder and breeding lines. You will want to look for a breeder who breeds dogs from a lineage of dogs who have been successful(titled) in the field or sport that you are anticipating your dog will be participating.

Choosing the best breeder in itself is a very involved process and should include a conversation with your trainer.

Once you have chosen a breeder, selecting a puppy is the final step before you end up with a dog. You should communicate with your breeder what you intend to do with your dog and in many cases, your breeder will likely select a puppy for you. You will have the right to refuse a puppy that a breeder recommends, but you will unlikely get to choose a different dog from the litter and will likely have to wait until a future litter.

Holding out for your ideal puppy can be worth it for you, but your breeder should have experience and knowledge to select the puppy that gives you the best ability to be successful in your chosen field. Be prepared to be added to a waitlist for your ideal puppy, and be prepared to pay anywhere from $1000 to $4000 for your puppy.

Once you finally bring home your puppy, you will want to communicate and work closely with a trainer to ensure the puppy gets the appropriate upbringing as a future protection dog.

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