In general, guard dogs are supposed to protect someone or something. However there are many different types of dogs that are used for guarding that receive specialized types of training in order to provide varying degrees of protection. We have all seen the popular sign warning us to “Beware of Dog” but unless you personally know the dog, it is hard to tell if this warning could mean that you should simply cover your ears to block incessant barking, or stay away to save your life.
The most common type of guard dogs are not really guardians at all: instead, they’re watchdogs. Most dogs will by nature alert their human companions when someone is at their door or worse, intruding. These dogs may or may not attack or subdue another person consistently, which prevents them from having the title of guardian. Just this alerting along with the ability to instill fear often provides enough comfort for without having professionally trained guard dogs. Hence the phrase, “his bark is worse than his bite.”
Professionally trained guard dogs know how to alert, find, and often attack a subject who is threatening the person they are guarding. More importantly, however is that these dogs do this on command either from verbal or hand signals from their handler. It is imperative that the dogs are able to stop whatever they are doing as well, or in other words, be totally submissive to their handler.
Schutzhund is a German method of dog training that literally means “protection dog”. Guard Dogs trained in Schutzhund are exceptionally obedient, excel in tracking and are able to guard and subdue a subject in any situation including those with many distractions such as gun shots or crowds. Schutzhund are usually trained not to bite unless they or their handler have been injured or they are told to do so. Excellent dogs will always cease attack on the first command.
Schutzhund was designed to be applied to German Shepard dogs but can extend to all breeds including mixed breeds. Not all individual dogs are capable of being trained in Schutzhund. Potential Schutzhund are first evaluated on their intelligence, temperament, loyalty, agility, endurance and eagerness to work before they are deemed fit for this training. These types of dogs are often used in police work, search and rescue operations as well as for personal companions and protectors.
Guard dogs that are used for personal security do not have to be trained in Schutzhund to be effective protectors. There are many methods of dog training that can teach a dog to protect its family by obeying commands without going through the rigorous training that professional guard dogs learn. Some of these dogs are trained to attack and others are simply trained to instill fear in others. Regardless, you should always be extremely cautious of a dog that is showing signs of aggression, since you may not know if it is trained to attack.
In commercial situations, guard dogs are trained to attack without being provided commands. These dogs are trained to defend their territory and will protect it instinctually. Commercial dogs are rarely companion dogs but rather live on premises in order to provide after hours security.