Well trained protection dogs are a force multiplier and allow you another tool in your pocket in dealing with situations that could turn confrontational. Notice the term well trained in the previous sentence. A dog that is not well trained could actually be a liability in such situations. Their “spun up” behavior as Joshua from Baden K9 would say could in fact escalate an already tense encounter. Barking and growling when it senses the aggression in the air leads both sides to up the ante if you will. On the other hand, one that is calm can actually be an ace up the sleeve because the aggressor won’t pay as much attention to them and will be surprised when you call the dog to action if the need arises.
You can think of protection dogs as adding layers of security.
Protection dogs as a deterrent
The very presence of a dog at your side lessens your appeal as a target by predators. Criminals want a soft target and having a dog at your side, even if it’s a small yapper, makes them think twice before engaging you. Now if you have one that is bigger and has the appearance of possibly being able to stop man, your appeal decreases even further.
The second way a protection dog can act as a deterrent is through a “watch” command in which the dog barks and shows aggression to the would-be assailant. That is enough to make most people back up and leave you alone.
I used Scout as a deterrent coming back from New York at a gas station in South Carolina at 0500 in the morning. I noticed a lady in a tattered and stained white dress going to the different truckers in the parking lot. Ash and I took turns going to the restroom and the lady went up to Ash on her way in. I tried to duck the lady on the way out but she caught me and asked for money. I told her I’m sorry I couldn’t help and made my way to the car. It was Ash’s turn to drive so I settled down in the passenger seat and didn’t think much of the lady. Next thing I know, the lady was standing at the driver’s side window. It surprised me and I couldn’t figure out why she was still accosting us. With Ry and the wifey in the car, I was taking no chances and calmly and quietly gave Scout the “watch” command. Scout reacted the way she should, she focused on the threat and let her know in no uncertain terms she was ready to go should the need arise. The intense barking made the lady back up, just the way it was supposed to. We quickly exited the parking lot and got back on the road. I’m pretty sure nothing would have come of the encounter but you never can be too safe with your loved ones in the car. I wasn’t taking any chances. Scout definitely got some cool points after her display and then stability as I called her off the “watch” command.
Protection dogs as a weapon
As much as we love our Dutch Shepherd Scout as part of the family, should the need arise, it is her job to close with the aggressor to give me and my family time to escape a violent encounter. That is the job and duty of a protection dog. Quick rant about protection dog training philosophies that encourage the “full mouth, bite and hold.” I think it’s completely irresponsible and ridiculous. Those that train that way are training their loyal dog for a suicide mission. It’s too easy for the assailant to bash the dogs head in or shank it while the poor dog is doing what it was trained to do, bite and hold no matter what. I want my dog to having a fighting chance. She should go in, bite, see a threat, disengage as it comes her way, and then reengage, each time causing more damage, rendering the attacker less dangerous every time. I understand that some have dogs purely for sport and that’s great, they are fantastic trainers with very amazing dogs. But don’t confuse a sport dog with a protection dog.
Should the first two deterrents, visual and a warning, not work, the dog should be deployed. As mesmerizing as it is watching the dog work, the dog has his job and yours is to escape the violent encounter. It happens all the time in training where the handler deploys the dog and just stands there watching the dog fight the decoy instead of looking for an avenue of escape. Train like you fight and fight like you train. Quick aside about training for the real world. Josh from Baden K9 was down from Canada cohosting some training with Rich Graham in Orlando that Ash, Ry, and I got to attend. One drill was conducted with both Ash and me, with Ry in a stroller. My job was to keep Scout between us and the attacker as Ash pushed Ry in the stroller and found us an escape route through a dead bolted door. Talk about a Charlie Foxtrot. It was fantastic real world practice though.
The dogs I’ve seen love working the decoy and getting a clean “out” shows fantastic cooperation between handler and canine. A well trained protection dog should “out” on command and rejoin you and your loved ones once you get to a safe location.
The security layers added by a well trained protection dog can not be overstated. Besides the benefit of a visual deterrent, having an extra tool to help you in a situation increases your chances of survival.