Guard dogs are an age-old and well-tested home security system. Virtually every culture on earth has, at some point, made use of our canine friends to protect family, property, and livestock. Combined with their uses in hunting and war, this created the often bewildering variety of dog breeds out there.
So, should you get a guard dog?
The answer, drum roll please, is “maybe”.
The first order of business is to determine whether or not you have the time and resources to properly care for a dog. Unlike an electronic alarm system, dogs are living things that need food, water, space, exercise, and companionship. There’s a lot to think over, so take the time to do some research and decide if a dog is right for you.
If you decide that a dog is the right choice, the next step is deciding what kind. Again, your living situation will dictate the breed to a great degree. I love Irish Wolfhounds and Belgian Malinois, but I don’t quite have enough yard for either. And the truth is, most of us don’t need a large, aggressive dog for home security. A small to medium sized pooch that will alert you to potential ne’er-do-wells and bark to deter burglary will take care of most of your needs. Plus, they provide great friendship and love, two things that I find are lacking in this troubled world. So please consider adopting a shelter or rescue pet; it makes a big difference.
After weighing your choices, you may decide that you need a dedicated “guard dog” breed, i.e. one with the temperament to best fulfill that role. Again, as dogs have been used that way around the world for millennia, you have a lot of breeds to choose from. I can’t offer any hard recommendations; this is really one of those times where you have to do a lot of research, talk to some breeders, and find what best fits your needs and budget. If you decide to get a purebred, I strongly recommend going through an accredited breeder rather than an amateur or puppy mill. You’ll be happier with your new dog, and you won’t be supporting some of the ugliest parts of the animal industry.
The task doesn’t end when you find the right dog. All dogs need training in order to be a positive part of a human household. With most pups, this begins and ends with housebreaking and obedience training, both of which are widely available across the US and around the world. For a guard dog or security dog, you might consider getting some specialized training. As with anything, there are a great many approaches to this. Schutzhund training, modeled on police dog training, is a popular choice. It’s a competitive sport, but your dog will acquire a lot of good skills and you’ll both get some exercise in the process. There are a lot of other programs available, so shop around and do your research. Even just some basic “when and why to bark” training can go a long way.
I’ll close with this: a good guard dog can augment and enhance your home security and family emergency plans. The dog itself cannot be the whole plan, so make sure that your home and property are prepared and that you’re ready to do your part. And even if that day never comes, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment out of your new companion.