6. Vital Commands Your Guard Dog Must Learn - Taming the Beast Within
Guard dogs are considered working dogs. They are not meant solely for amusement or companionship purposes (although those are perks). Because of this fact, dog owners must understand the importance of their role in proper command training.
While a professional dog trainer must be brought in once the dog is around one year old, your pet will be expected to already have a few tricks up his sleeve to begin with.
He must be sharp, strong, and relatively easy to work with for best results. That’s where in-home command training comes in.
In terms of dog training commands, there is a basic level and an advanced level. As with humans, a dog must learn the basics before he can continue to the more advanced, specific command training that a professional will demand.
This means starting at an early age, and continuing with every day practice. Key commands that your guard dog will need to be taught before a professional trainer is brought in may include:
Before You Begin Command Training
Command training can be tiresome, both for the master and for the dog. It is a daily process that requires constant practice and effort, and the owner may be tempted to simply give in before the training is complete. Be patient with your pooch. He is likely trying just as hard to understand as you are trying to teach.
There are a few items that you can purchase to make this process a bit easier on the both of you. Before command training begins with your new guard dog, make a quick visit to your veterinarian’s office or to a reputable pet store and pick up the following items:
- dog treats (crunchy treats are better for your dog’s oral hygiene, but moist treats may be easier to administer)
- a whistle
- a low impact correction collar (Do not use unless your dog is of the appropriate age. Check labels for more information.)
Sit, Stand, Stay
The commands “sit,” “stand,” and “stay” are usually the easiest commands for guard dogs to learn during their early training. A protection dog must be able to respond quickly to these vital, basic commands before he can adequately receive professional training later on. Begin by teaching the sit and stand maneuvers.
With your hand raised in the air, ask your dog to sit several times and wait for his reaction. Then, place your hand firmly on his backside and place him onto the floor, speaking in a comforting tone. Be careful not to arouse confusion or aggravation, as this will make your guard dog wary of your purpose.
When he sits, even with your prodding, reward him. Next, teach your guard dog to stand for his treat. This command can be learned before the sit command is mastered, if necessary. Develop a different hand signal for this command, such as raising both hands into the air, so that your canine friend will not become confused (to even the best guard dogs, “sit” and “stand” sound very much alike). Again, help your dog by raising his two front paws gently until he is “standing,” and reward him for the effort. After a few days of consistent training, give the treat only when he follows the commands on his own.
The “stay” command can be a bit more difficult to teach, however it is essential for a guard dog to master, for quite obvious reasons. If he is to ever misidentify a friend or neighbor as being potentially harmful, you will have to have a command already in place to calm him. This command must be learned as soon as possible, preferably before professional training is in place. Using your control whistle, warn your dog to cease whenever he has crossed a boundary, and accompany the whistle with the word “stay.”
The noise will alarm your dog, and it will eventually teach him what the command “stay” means. For this training, you can also use a corrective collar. Corrective dog collars are controlled by a hand remote, and they give the owner the ability to send a slight but irritating vibration through the collar in order to correct the dog’s behavior. After about two weeks of training, abandon the whistle or collar and try to use the verbal command only. If this is not effective, go back to the original method for a week, and then try again.
Speak and Hush
Excessive barking is a common problem among guard dogs in training. At first, it may seem difficult to teach your pet the difference between appropriate barking and nuisance barking. Appropriate barking is defined as anything that warns of a real predator, such as any human visitor, a fire, an endangered family member, etc. Nuisance barking consists of unnecessary warnings of harmless creatures or objects, such as cats or passing cars.
Never correct your dog for barking at a human. He should always alert you of another person’s presence, regardless of whether or not they are “friendly” visitors. Do use the corrective collar, along with the “hush” command, to curb nuisance barking. While corrective collars cannot be used on small puppies, you may begin correcting the problem immediately by using the verbal command until your dog is ready for it.
The speak command is a bit simpler to teach. Simply use the verbal command along with a treat to coerce your guard dog into ringing his alarm. Hold the treat up high above the dog’s head, and use the verbal command in a friendly voice until your dog barks for the prize. Never give the treat to your dog early, or you may hinder his progress.
What to Let Your Dog Trainer Handle
Of course, there are much more difficult commands for a good guard dog to learn than those listed above. However, it is best to leave the more specific and aggressive commands to a professional guard dog trainer. Without the proper instruction from a dog trainer, a protection animal tends to become overly aggressive. Commands that relate to attacking, releasing, and alerting are best left to someone who can effectively control a dog’s instinctual rage.
It is your job as your guard dog’s caretaker to ensure that he is properly prepared and conditioned for professional training. The seemingly simple commands above are not mastered by all dogs, therefore intense practice at first, and daily refreshing exercises thereafter, are an absolute must. Ensure your dog’s suitability for protective services and training by giving him the best early training that you can provide. Leave the rest to a pro.