When looking to make a home more secure, many people think about getting a guard dog. And while a guard dog may seem to be a simple solution, there are many things to consider before using a live animal to protect your family and belongings.
Size of your home vs. size of the dog – I live in a 1300 square foot house with my husband, our 11 month old son, four cats, and that handsome Chihuahua you see up there. We’re perfectly comfortable that way – we’re rarely are on top of each other, but we’re cozy.
About a month ago, we rescued a stray Lab off of our street and kept her overnight. To say it was crowded is an understatement. A dog that large in our home would never have been happy because she would need more space to run and play than our house and yard had to offer her, and that was painfully apparent in the short time she stayed with us. So even though a German Shepard might sound like an awesome guard dog, if you live in 900 square feet, it’ll not only be crowded, but you’ll also have a frustrated and under-exercised pet on your hands.
Breed of dog – Every breed of dog comes with its ups and downs, and most dogs actually carry guarding tendencies in their personalities. However, when looking for a guard dog, there are some preferred breeds when it comes to protection services. There are also differences in “watch dogs” versus “guard dogs” so consider what you’re actually looking for in means of protection.
Do you just want your pet to alert you to an intruder, or do you want them to take the initiative to attack? Here is a fairly comprehensive list of traditional guard dog breeds, as well as some distinction between watch and guard dogs.
Temperament – Also with breed comes temperament. All dogs have natural guarding tendencies, which may manifest as simply as protecting a favorite toy to becoming aggressive when they feel their food is threatened.
If you’re getting a dog to guard your family, you need to also find a dog that is compatible with families. Will your guard dog snap at your preschooler for playing with its favorite toy or food dish? Or will your dog tolerate a child climbing all over it without a flinch?
Our Chihuahua ferociously barks at every stranger at the door (and actually most males in our home), yet is extremely loving with my husband, myself, and the cats. But we still have to keep an eye on him with our son because Chihuahuas, as a breed, are notoriously bad with children and our son hasn’t completely learned to be gentle with the doggy just yet. So even though Cheech isn’t a guard dog per se, we know we have to keep our son away from the crate and the dog toys because those are things Cheech will protect. (But also know that whenever the doorbell rings, that 10 lb canine wonder always positions himself between the door and the baby, so his priorities are straight about 95% of the time.)
Care – Dogs require a great deal of upkeep and care. Many cities, counties, and states require licenses as well as annual rabies shots and tests for distemper, heartworms, and other canine-borne illnesses. Some even require spaying/neutering of new animals. Plus you have the daily needs of food, water, shelter, exercise, playtime, affection, and training.
A dog is a living creature, and to get a dog for protection purposes without proper care is not only irresponsible, but can put you on the wrong end of an angry, neglected animal.
Legalities/Liability – In Ohio, it’s illegal to adopt a Pit Bull or a Pit mix due to the supposed high propensity for attack. Make sure you know the laws governing owning particular dog breeds in your area, especially when it comes to restraints, noise, and licensing. Also, check the legal ramifications for if an intruder were to enter your home and be harmed by your dog – you might be surprised by where the responsibilities will lie. And please be sure you know of the proper surrender policies of your local shelter in the unfortunate event that you and your new dog aren’t compatible.
In the end, you have to remember that you’re adding a living creature to your family, and with that comes many different kinds of responsibilities. As a former animal shelter volunteer, I urge you to consider adding a dog as a pet and a family member before you add one as security, and to always check out your local shelter for a new pet because there are many wonderful animals deserving of a good home out there who would love nothing more than to protect their new forever home and forever family.