How to get the best from your Security Dog

By Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM | May 18th, 2017

One complain I often get is the problem of non-performing dogs and sometimes puppies that refuse to bark at strangers and playful to everyone. One of our clients bought a Boerboel puppy and at the age of 6 months the puppy was expected to be performing as a full security dog. I got several complains from the client that the dog was always playing with the renovation workers and that he refuse to bark at then or even try to bite any of them. I tried to tell him that the dog at 6 months is too young to function as a full security dog. He agreed with me relying on his Rottweiler dog that was already performing well as a security. The only problem the Rott had was the fact that it was only the owner that can handle or even hold the dog.

The Rott later passed on and the young Boerboel was left. The invaders saw an opportunity to break into the man's house. The Boerboel was busy playing the invaders while they look for ways to break into the man's home. It was in the early morning around 1am and luckily for the man he was able to inform his friends on phone who helped to contact the patrol police that saved the family from the invaders that were already breaking the bullet proof door from the concrete part. The invaders ran away via the fence.

The man quickly called me the next morning to come and remove the dog from his house in anger but I tried to make him change his mind because the dog did not have the necessary training like his dead Rott. He insisted and gave the puppy away to a dog trainer.

A second contrasting story is that of a client of ours that lived in an estate rounded by a slum. The history of this estate is that while people are gone to work the criminals that live in those slums enter through a giant drainage meant for a river that was there before the estate was developed. These criminals tend to time these people and invade their homes to take away their belongings. This our client had an experience with these criminals and decided to buy dogs.

His first dog, Bull a bullmastiff grew to a very docile dog that hardly barked. Someone told him about Caucasian breeds so he went in search of it and got one that has some German shepherd in her Tish. Tish has the attitude of refusing strangers entrance into the house. The man loved the dog despite the fact that the dog was not a pure breed as long as she was performing the function.

One faithful day, the criminals came again and were resisted by Tish and Bull Bull performs better with Tish around. The criminal now decided to use the neighbor's ceiling to gain assess to the man's house.  The building was a semi-detached bungalow with connected roof. The neighbor didn't have dogs so it was easy for the criminals.

Unfortunately for the guy that was already inside the ceiling trying to gain access to the man's house the neighbor came back and his friends ran off. The dogs kept barking on top of their voices staring at the roof. The neighbor always perceived the dogs to be noise makers so he ignored them but when he got to his entrance door lo and behold his door has been forced open so he ran to pick a stick and called the estate security. They search the house and found nothing and left.

The dogs kept barking at the roof but nobody tried to look at the dog on the other side of the fence because of the demarcation.

The man came back with his son from school and saw his dogs barking at the roof. He was then distracted by the neighbor who was narrating his story. He held his son tightly while he listened to the stories but away from his own house. When he eventually got into his house his dogs almost entered with him which was quite unusual.

Let me cut this story short. The criminal now tried to quickly run out of his front door now it was open,  bumped into the dogs who pounced on him. The sound was like the dogs were fighting so the man ran out to separate them and met them holding the criminal down. The criminal was eventually caught and taken to the police. Tish was not trained formally.

Long after I heard this last story I tried to understand the secret behind that apprehension. What did the guy do to his dogs? Of course he gives me information of how he keeps his dogs so I tried to piece his style of keeping dogs and some other personal experience which I want to share here.

Getting the best from your security dog is very simple but ignored or misunderstood by many. Here are my own tips:

Make sure your dog is healthy: A sick dog will rather hide in pains than stand up to strangers.

Allow your dog to bark at people: It gives the dog confidence to do it again especially when it is very important. Barking will help to deter intruders who know that they have a dog or dogs to contend with.

Allow your dogs to know their environment: Dogs need to know the extent of where they live in order to protect it as their own territory. If they are often confined to a small space in the environment it sends a wrong signal to them.

Don't over feed your dogs: Most Nigerians I know tends to feed their dogs in the night or late evening. Dogs tend to get lazy after feeding heavily and will want to rest thereby affecting their performance at protecting the house.

Caging your dogs often may make them try to protect the cage rather than the house or home. Some dogs are mostly caged for more than 12hrs making them protect the cage rather than the house. These dogs will get very aggressive while within the cage but very less functional outside the cage.

Always try to find out why your dog barks: Whenever your dog barks they are actually calling your attention to something and your presence will reinforce their confidence to do it again especially when it matters.

Nurture the pack leader: if you own more than one dog, one of them eventually becomes dominant to the rest. It doesn't matter if the dog is male or female. This dog is usually the first to bark or attack while the rest follow. This dog is referred to as the pack leader and you really need to identify and nurture him or her well because their actions are what the rest of the dogs emulates or acts on.

Avoid buying adult dogs that were not pack leaders: if you get a dog that was not a pack leader where he or she was coming from, the performance of the dog as a security dog might not be impressive. Some dogs tend to pick up after a brief training, working with other dogs but not in all cases.

Buy dogs that will display security attributes: there are dogs that are security dogs by nature and will surely display such attributes in most cases with very few exceptions. Breeds like German shepherds and Caucasians are very good security dogs and are most likely going to perform as expected.

In conclusion, you can see that getting the best from your security dog largely depends on your choice of dog and so many other behavioral reinforcements instilled in the dog by the owner or handler. I believe there are other ways to enhance the security performance of dogs as long as the dog understands the intention of the owner and is able to perform accordingly. Thank


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    Kodichukwu Okonkwo, DVM

    Founder of Fairvet Animal Clinic Ltd since 2011, studied at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. He is well experienced in small animal, large animal & poultry medicine, and also skilled at zoo medicine. He loves animals and builds both professional and personal relationship with pet owners in order to sustain a good interaction with pet and animal owners, coupled with His great skills in programming; he brought about which he personally built from scratch.

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