There are so many beautiful things that a dog can bring to your life. This includes companionship if you live alone or company if you like to get outside to go for walks, runs, or hikes. They bring boundless energy into your home that will encourage you to get up early in the morning and play throughout the day. They offer undying, unconditional love. Some breeds can bring another benefit to your home: security.
If you also like the idea of having a dog for safety reasons, you may be considering getting a guard dog and training him to be protective. Is this a good idea, though? Would you be better off getting a regular dog and hoping his instincts naturally protect you? Let’s go over what you need to think about before getting a guard dog.
Should You Get a Guard Dog?
It’s difficult to train a dog to be protective of you and vicious toward intruders while also ensuring they’re friendly to non-threatening strangers, friends, and family members. In order to strike the right balance in your dog, he’ll need advanced training, and you may not be thrilled with the tactics some dog trainers use. It could be incredibly difficult to watch your new puppy be subjected to pain through a shock collar or other methods just for the sake of keeping you safe in the future.
It’s also possible that dogs trained as guard dogs will warn you about things that are not threatening if they become startled. For example, you don’t need a warning every time your spouse comes home from work — that defeats the purpose! If this gets out of hand, it could impede your quality of life, or it could cost even more money to train the dog out of these habits.
That said, you may still feel that a trained guard dog is necessary, and you may find that they fit well in your home and lifestyle. Guard dogs, like all dogs, can form incredible bonds with their owners. They can be loving, playful, and a ton of fun, even if they’re also regularly on guard for a threat. For many people, a guard dog can be both a loving companion and a form of security.
Best Breeds for Guard Dogs
Certain dogs are natural guard dogs, meaning they have instincts to protect their owners, families, and homes. Guard dogs tend to be smart and trainable, and they should be kept in great health so they can continue to provide the protection you need. If you’re looking for a guard dog to keep you safe, consider these breeds:
- Belgian Malinois
- Doberman pinscher
- German shepherd (and other shepherd breeds)
Also referred to as “guardian breeds,” natural guard dogs will alert you when there’s an intruder in your home or a dangerous situation, and they may take steps to protect you as well, such as attacking someone who is trying to hurt you. They should also be obedient, though, so that you can exercise control over a situation if the dog has misjudged it. An example of a loyal and obedient guard dog is the Belgian Malinois, which is a good choice for single women who would feel safer with a protective dog by their side.
While you want to go with a breed that’s known for having protective instincts, you should also learn about common health issues with certain breeds. For example, German shepherds tend to have hip problems that can cause arthritis and can eventually lead to paralysis. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get the type of dog you want — just that you should be aware of potential health issues down the line. It also helps to work with a breeder who can give you the proper documentation; if the dog’s parents didn’t have health issues, your dog may avoid them as well.
5 Considerations Before Getting a Guard Dog
Getting any type of dog requires a lot of thought and planning. There are several things to consider, including the many costs of pet ownership and how much attention and care you’re realistically able to provide. When it comes to guard dogs, you could have even more on your plate. Here’s what you should consider before starting your search for a guard dog:
- Dogs are expensive! You have to make sure your budget can include a dog, along with the maintenance, healthcare, and training he’ll need. If you want to raise and train your dog from as early as possible, you’ll probably have to get him from a breeder so you can start training him as a puppy. Buying from a breeder can cost several hundred more than adopting a dog. It’s possible you’ll be able to counteract some of the costs of owning a dog thanks to tax breaks, though.
- You need to get your dog vaccinated as early as possible, which starts at the age of six weeks and continues to the age of 16 weeks. Additionally, you may need to have your dog fixed at some point. Altogether, these costs can add up to $300 — a lot on top of guard dog training.
- Guard dogs require more exercise than a regular dog in order to keep them in top shape. If you’re not able to provide the dog with the exercise he needs, you may have to hire someone to keep your dog agile and healthy.
- In addition to regular dog training (sit, stay, housebreaking), guard dogs also have to know how to react to certain situations, listen to your commands during high-pressure moments, and protect you without causing more harm than necessary. This requires advanced training that you’ll want to hire a professional for.
- While the point of getting a guard dog is to protect you, that also means that your dog may be at greater risk for being injured. A non-guard dog may hide or escape a situation, while a guard dog will face it head-on.
Getting a dog is a wonderful addition to your life and home, and having a guard dog can give you some peace of mind. These considerations aren’t to discourage you from getting a dog; they’re just to help you prepare for one. If you don’t have the budget or the sort of lifestyle that can accommodate a guard dog right now, it’ll be that much more difficult to make him comfortable in his new home and train him to keep you safe.
Liability for Dog Bite Injuries
What happens if your guard dog attacks another person or dog? Dog owners must be responsible for their pets, and they have to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries from happening. If a dog owner has been negligent and that negligence caused their guard dog to injure another person or pet, the owner could be held liable. It’s also highly important to always obey leash laws, which can require a dog to be fenced in and/or on a leash in certain areas. If a dog owner does not obey a leash law, they could be held liable for any injuries their dog causes.
Since dog bite law will change based on your state, it’s important to familiarize yourself with state laws. For example, in Indiana, some victims (police officers and postal workers) have extra protections after a dog bite incident. These victims get special consideration because their jobs require them to be in the same location as dogs, and it’s common for dogs (especially guard dogs) to get territorial when a stranger invades their property. Additionally, landlords in Indiana can be held liable if one of their tenants has a dog that causes injury.
Know How to Treat Dog Bites
Since guard dogs are trained to be protective, it’s possible that they will bite another person or another dog, or they could even bite you in the heat of the moment. For these reasons, it’s incredibly important to make sure your dog’s vaccinations are always up-to-date. Also, you should know how to treat dog bites as well as any wounds your dog may have after an altercation. Here are some basic first-aid steps to treat a dog bite:
- Wash the wound with soap and warm water. If the bite broke the flesh, press on the wound gently to draw a little blood, which will flush out bacteria. If the wound is bleeding as you go to wash it, wipe away the blood first.
- Use an antibacterial ointment on the bite.
- Cover the wound with a fresh bandage.
You should also know the signs of infection. Infected wounds are usually red, swollen, warm, and very tender when touched. If you think that the dog bite victim or your pet has an infection, visit a doctor or medical center immediately.
If you have your heart set on getting a guard dog, start thinking about the requirements now so that the process goes smoothly. Figure out the type of personality you want your dog to have so you can narrow down breed types. Talk to a trainer about what you want the dog to be able to do and how you’d like it to behave.
Discuss training tactics and ask about alternatives if you’re not happy with some of the more aggressive techniques some trainers use. Get your budget and house together to accommodate a new dog, and seek out a breeder who can confirm the dog’s family history. While it takes a lot to buy and care for a guard dog, many owners feel that it’s well worth it.
Devin writes from somewhere along the West Coast. He is infected with wanderlust but always tries to bring his dog, Scrummy, along for the ride. You can follow him on Twitter.