“His Bite is worse than his bark, but his bark is sufficient…”

Posted: June 1, 2012 in At Home with dogs., Dog Training, German Shepherd, Uncategorized

   Our neighborhood is in an uproar right now.  Recently, friends 3 doors away  went thru a broad daylight home invasion style robbery.  They lost a lot of stuff that can be replaced, but they also lost something completely unrecoverable.  Their peace of mind is lost forever.

The invaders knocked on the door in the middle of the afternoon, presenting themselves as students selling raffle tickets or something.  Two young men quickly became 4, and they forced their way into the house, tied up the homeowner, and ransacked the place.  By the time they left, there were seven of them.  Scary stuff…

The homeowner called me two days later, and his fear was palpable.  He had thought his home protected, his belongings safe, because they have a rather aggressive male Akita in their home.  “Spike” is always at the door, the window, or patrolling the yard.  He is the type of dog to be a deterrent.  “Why did he just let them in and watch while they emptied our house?  He won’t even let the mailman on the porch without having an aneurysm!”  he wailed to me when we visited.

  “Well,  you know what?  This isn’t that uncommon.  Your dog is not trained to protect your home, or your family, or you.  He’s naturally protective, but he has enough sense to avoid situations where he might get hurt.  It’s called the “Fight or Flight” instinct.  He just did what was safest in his mind.  He hid under the bed…”

  “Well then we need to start training right NOW so that next time he’ll do some real damage…I’ll pay you to train him!”

I’m not going to train my neighbors dog to hurt anyone.  I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I think it’s worth discussing because so many of my friends here have German Shepherds.  Some trained, others not so much.  I would be willing to guess that somewhere in the range of 80% of GSD owners believe that their dog would rise to the level of heroic action if the need arose.  Statistics, and experience make me believe that perhaps two untrained dogs out of 100 would actually take action.  Sorry, but I know that your dog is smart enough to avoid a fight that might get him injured.  I also know that too many people aren’t that smart.  But I’m not being insulting  to you in saying that…follow me here.

  Your dog should never be thought of as a weapon, so think of this in terms of a gun in the home, or legally carried.  Most people who carry, have training and documentation and certification of said training in the form of a CCW.   The smart ones anyway.   The vast majority who have this training would rather NOT shoot someone, and would go out of their way not to shoot.  Usually, the sight of a weapon, or even the suspicion of possession, is deterrent enough. 

  Your dog, be it German Shepherd, Doberman, or Chinese Crested, has taken you under it’s protective wing.  You are the center of his world, and he takes the responsibility seriously.  I am among those who believe that your dog Loves you.  (Some will disagree, but that’s another discussion.)   He or she will absolutely raise a ruckus if someone or something comes around his yard, his house, or his family.  That’s Protection in it’s most basic form.  Give Warning.   But,  ATTACK SOMEONE??  You shouldn’t need that, if you train your dog properly.  And, you shouldn’t want that, if you want to keep your dog, and not pay a heavy legal price.

  The sad fact is that our society, in it’s politically correct atmosphere, often protects the bad guys first.  You don’t need to read far to find that some criminal has been bitten by a Law Enforcement Canine, while fleeing the police, and then sued the K-9 team and his office.  Believe me when I say that there are lawyers that specialize in Canine lawsuits.  You, as a civilian dog owner, have even less protection from this problem. 

  In the good ol’ days, a police canine could get away with literally HOLDING a perp’ in his pearly whites.  If the perp escaped, there would be an easy blood trail to follow.   Today, more and more,  maybe even MOST canine units are teaching the “Bark and Hold”.  Lots of barking, a bonus growl or two, some great vertical leaping…Psychological Intimidation at its finest.  Scare the bejeesus out of whatever lowlife is being held…Your dog can learn to protect you, AND keep you protected. 

A proper Bark & Hold.

 Unless you are seriously pursuing Schutzhund or Protection Sports, and  I do mean seriously, BITING by your dog is something that you don’t need.  But there is an alternative, and it can be just as effective.   You and your dog can learn the Bark and Hold quite easily from someone who knows how.  But it needs to be learned in person, not from a book, not on the internet.  My dog Hans and I could win an Academy award for our Bark & Hold, and we practice it a lot.  Clicker trainers, take note:  The behaviors I teach in preparation  and escalation to the Bark & Hold, are Clicker training to the purest level I can perform.  There really is no better way to teach such a “Concept” to the dog, and do so with such Precision…You can quote me. 

  Teaching your dog this technique starts with small steps.  Using a clicker, (again, I am not a clicker purist.  But this is really effective here.) First step, is teaching your dog to “Speak”, or bark on command.   Secondly I  teach the dog how to, (on command only), GROWL like a rabid wolf.  Teeth showing and throat rumbling.  The act of growling alone affects the dog’s posture into something quite menacing, and this is a deterrent  enough usually.  The escalation is then a single lunge, on leash, with the requisite barking and teeth displayed.  The final conclusion to this is the off-leash, six inches from the target vocal display.  Generally, no situation will ever reach this point.  Your dog will have frightened off any attacker with what appears to be a psychotic werewolf threat.  No blood, no foul, no lawsuit.   Never-the-less, this is NOT a trick that should be used as entertainment.  I do NOT show this little circus-stunt off to people.  It is still a very serious matter, and should be kept that way.  The most serious behavior taught in this process is still the “OUT” .  At which point your dog should lay down and return to being a big baby-doll. 

  My bottom line is this…The chances of your dog needing to attack someone to protect you are  small.  But relying on your dog to do so without Preparation and training, is foolish.  He may be smarter than you, and avoid the fight altogether.  Teaching your dog to intimidate first, is wiser.  If a crook breaks into your home, and you’re brandishing a mini-gun and two or three large ammo belts, you won’t need to fire a shot.  (Which would be fun to watch anyway.  Those beasts are HEAVY, even WITHOUT the ammo!!)  A Barking dog has much the same effect on someone up to no good

  I always laugh at a radio commercial in our area for a home alarm system.  It asks  “Which would cause a burglar too run fastest?  A blaring alarm, or a human voice?”   My reply is, “How about two large German Shepherds telling you that they’re home?”

  I’m off to teach a certain Akita how to talk to criminals!


  1. Wendy says:

    This is EXACTLY what we are getting our Omorrow GSD for! I don’t want a dog that bites, but rather one that will scare whoever comes near his family. One that I can take running with me on the bike trail, the kids can take for a walk up our country road and will warn off whoever may get too close. Thus being part of the reason for an Omorrow pup. Most are quite large =) However, I also want a loving family companion to be my buddy, play with my family and friends when we go camping and enjoy my company. Being quite familiar with law enforcement techniques with the bark and hold, this is what I’ve been searching the internet for in how to train an effective personal protection dog without destroying his natural loving personality to be both a protector and member of the family. How can we contact you to show us how to train our upcoming member when the time is right? We are facing having to put my beloved friend, my rescue GSD down to health reasons and have just recently spoke with Rhonda about getting on the waiting list for one of her beautiful dogs.

    • Robert says:

      Wendy, find “German Shepherd Adventures” malso on Facebook, or look at the Omorrow Facebook page and you’ll find me under Robert Vaughan. If you are coming to the reunion next week, we can talk there!!

      • Wendy says:

        I’m hoping to get a few hours off to come to the reunion Sat. Would love to talk to you about your training as I want to start my little guy off right. Until I read your post, I knew what I wanted in a GSD, just didn’t know where to look to learn how to train him.