What Temperament to look for in a Protection Dog

Many people have erroneous opinions about what the temperament of a personal protection dog looks like.  Some see the protection dog as a vicious, unpredictable dog just looking to “eat” someone.  Actually, the opposite is true.

personal protection dog training

First, a protection dog is confident.  (Yes, we are aware of low-level trainers who say that a nervous dog can/will protect you but this just isn’t the case.  Save yourself some money and frustration by going elsewhere.)  The dog’s confidence refers back to his genetics, the environment he was raised in, and his training.  Unpredictability comes from fear.  In fact, the number one cause of dog bites is a fear biter.  A confident dog rarely bites.  Also in regards to unpredictability, this confident dog is trained when he can bite and when he cannot.  He learns what is acceptable and what is not.  He does not bite on his terms but on the terms of his handler.  Of course, in most cases, an attack on his handler is in itself a command to engage and subdue the attacker.

It also needs to be understood that a protection dog is not an attack dog.  He, rather, is a defense dog.  His services are used only in the event that a threat is directed towards his handler/owner.  He reacts to a threat; he does not create the threat.  He’s an asset, not a liability.

A protection dog also needs solid obedience training.  The dog’s bitework will rarely be needed but his obedience will be used on a daily basis.  Like a pet, he must be under the control of his handler at all times.  A disobedient dog is a liability.  But hey, so are disobedient children (but we’ll save that for another time lol).

Another aspect of a protection dog is his drives.  He will need to be an active, “drivey” dog.  Dogs who lack this drive/motivation to work will not do.  Some people mistakenly label this motivation as hyperactivity but in reality it is drive under control.  It is drive corralled in the direction needed for his work.  He is very active but not hyper.  His activity can be channeled into a honed focus, not an air-headed frenzy that prevents him from working.  Hyper dogs are poor protectors.  

Not everyone can handle a drivey dog.  Be sure this type of dog is truly what you want before committing to a purchase.

One of the needed drives is prey drive.  This is defined as the dog’s natural tendency to chase, catch, and possess his prey.  In protection training, this drive is directed toward the bad guy.  In everyday life, this means the dog may chase anything that moves:  tennis ball, pant legs, skirt hems, children, small pets, etc.  Of course, as a balanced dog, this prey drive can be led and channeled into acceptable expressions.

Another needed drive is his defense drive.  This is defined as fight-or-flight.  The dog will either stay in the fight or tuck tail and run.  It is very closely related to how the dog handles stress.  Defense drive is genetic, a dog either has it or it doesn’t.  Therefore, it is of extreme importance to purchase a dog from a proven working line where defense drive is often seen and expressed.  No amount of training can produce defense drive.  If the dog doesn’t have it, protection work will not result.  If the dog has defense drive, it can be developed and channeled through good training.  Many so-called trainers are ignorant of how this drive works, its expression, and how to use it safely and effectively. 

Lastly, a protection dog (for most applications) is a balanced dog.  He has an “on” switch and an “off” switch.  He is a strong dog who can work hard, play hard, defend his family, yet safely interact with children in the home.  Again, this balance goes back to genetics and maintenance training.

Many dogs who are brought to us for protection evaluations fail.  Usually it’s a confidence issue, sometimes a drive issue, or sometimes an owner’s misunderstanding of what this type of dog can do.  When it comes to personal protection, we don’t cut corners or lead people on.  If your dog has what it takes, we’ll gladly train him/her for you.  If your dog doesn’t have what it takes, we won’t waste our time or your money.  Here at Conifer Canine, we breed, raise, and train protection dogs on a frequent basis.  Various breeds with consistent protection tendencies are available.  If you want/need a protection dog but don’t have a dog of this amazing caliber, contact us at info@conifercanine.com or 800-795-4201.