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I would be careful with this. Yes, it's possible to train, but often the problem is that people encourage what is really a fearful reaction and the dog is acting overly defensive. If you *really* want to train the dog for protection, get with a legitimate trainer or club. The dog needs to learn how to show confidence and power while maintaining control. Pestering and threatening the dog into these reactions where there is no "win" for the dog will just cause some dangerous problems.

I am a 26 year old female and live in a not-so-nice neighborhood but I've never actually needed to alert my dog. What really freaks people out is obedience. They see a dog that shows a high level of obedience on the street and wonder what else can that dog do? Just popping my dog into a really formal heel when passing a suspicious person is all I've ever needed.
 

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Nikon is a major barker (which I've embraced, lol) so besides teaching him to speak (which usually results in him barking at me like Chris is saying) and whisper, I taught him to do kind of a fake alert bark in front of me by tossing out a toy or something besides me for him to bark at. I actually trained this so I could work on calling the dog back to heel "Hier Fuss!" without having to actually do it in protection work the first time. Of course training things in obedience mode is a totally different frame of mind than protection, but I've taught a few things this way so the dog has somewhat of an understand of what I want (another example is I taught Nikon to run all size blinds just using a ball). However, when I command him to "alert" at a toy (or thinking a toy is there) the barking is different than his barking like in SchH when he is guarding. Hard to explain, but I definitely know the difference, maybe a suspicious person would not but like I said, I've never had to ask my dog to alert for real even with a sex offender across the street. The obedience is what scares people!! The barking/alerting might get you in trouble if you jump the gun. Obedience is always safe. I can also get my dog to act with a tad more suspicion based on my body language. I might whisper to him, "whooozzat?" and give some anxious cues and this tends to solicit a more wide-eyed look with the mouth closed and the ears up (as opposed to the happy, prancy obedience). But I would caution doing even that until it's clear that the dog has no issues as far as nerves and is not a young dog possibly going through a fear stage age.
 
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