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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
This doesn't require a full regimen of protection work, but does require some suspicion work and basic agitation work by a competent individual. While it can be handy, really think about if you need it and the potential disadvantages it can bring in certain situations... waking up suspicion in a dog who was previously social but now has been rewarded for the opposite and now you have to manage, potentially rewarding fearful reactions as Lies mentioned.
This is kind of what I was thinking about when I asked if it was a good or a bad idea. I wondered if teaching a dog to bark AT a person might be stirring up trouble. After all, I think they will bark anyway if they sense they need to.

And your point about the alert bark needing suspicion/agitation is enough to make me say, not for us. I don't want to agitate my *family dog* who, as Diane wisely said, needs to be friendly with kids.
 

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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.
This.

I am 25, live in the middle of the city and often run/walk my dog after 10pm due to my schedule.

I get asked all the time if Stark is in training to be a police dog - from educated people none the less - because he is so obedient under MOST situations.

I think an obedient dog and a confident owner are more of a deterrent than anything (and being a GSD doesn't hurt either).
 

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What bothers me a lot in this thread is that people assume that, just because a dog has specific training, it can no longer be a pet, or would no longer be safe around the family, people coming over, etc.

My Mal, Ronja, is a former police dog. She will agitate on command. She will go get a bite on command. She'll go into a building, find the bad guy, get a bite, out, and recall on command, no leash needed. She is also a fantastic pet. She loves to cuddle, loves to meet new people, doesn't mind people coming over to the house AT ALL, including strangers. I've never had any issues with her interacting with kids (especially since she loves to be hugged!), nor have I ever worried about leaving her loose if I had repair people coming to the house.

Being one does not rule out being the other, nor does it make the dog somehow dangerous if they've been trained to do that kind of work. Just my two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Not sure if any of you have seen kidkhmer's video on how he trained his dog to the "Guard" command (his post about that is what got me thinking). His dog is barking but happy, wagging her tail the whole time while she barks and not at all threatening, hackling or lunging. So I guess in fact it is a glorified 'speak' where you have the dog bark more than once at the command (and even in the video, at the owner). Personal protection is a whole different ballgame... one that I have no interest in persuing.
 

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What bothers me a lot in this thread is that people assume that, just because a dog has specific training, it can no longer be a pet, or would no longer be safe around the family, people coming over, etc.

My Mal, Ronja, is a former police dog. She will agitate on command. She will go get a bite on command. She'll go into a building, find the bad guy, get a bite, out, and recall on command, no leash needed. She is also a fantastic pet. She loves to cuddle, loves to meet new people, doesn't mind people coming over to the house AT ALL, including strangers. I've never had any issues with her interacting with kids (especially since she loves to be hugged!), nor have I ever worried about leaving her loose if I had repair people coming to the house.

Being one does not rule out being the other, nor does it make the dog somehow dangerous if they've been trained to do that kind of work. Just my two cents.

I don't really see people saying that. But Shawn has said that she doesn't want to really do protection training. That's her choice.

The problem with teaching a true alert bark via suspicion and agitation (not just a speak command) is that depending on the dog, and mainly on the trainer, this can be a problem. This is done utilizing defense and suspicion, but typically without any sort of release of stress and without any sort of transitioning to other drive states, all of which are an important part of real protection training. As such, it can awaken something in the dog, but not give the dog the balance that is needed to be truly sound, or the training experience to really know what and when and where it is appropriate to act in that manner. Nor does it give the owner the training skills or experience to manage that in the dog. It could be done well, with no problems, by a very good trainer but frankly good protection trainers are hard to find and someone new to this is going to have an even harder time finding a good trainer and then knowing if the training the dog is getting is actually good.

This sort of pseudo protection work is much, much more problematic that doing protection full bore because it is not balanced. Protection is not something to just dabble in or do half arsed, and in most cases with this sort of alert bark training that is exactly what will happen. That's why I at least would advise against it. If someone wants to do protection, do protection. But if someone doesn't want to do protection, then don't do it. Don't dabble in it a bit but never complete the training because that can lead to problems for sure.
 

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AbbyK9-If what I said angered you in any way, shape or form I apologise. My point is that an animal trained in PP or schutzhund is now not just a pet. I may be taking it a little far but I liken it to a dog who is trained as a service dog. This dog needs and lives to work. When the dog is 'retired' the dog still wants to work and I've heard stories of dogs who 'worked' until the day they died, because its what they lived for-service and otherwise.
An animal who has been shown what it is like to work should be allowed to work for the remainder of its life, if it enjoys the particular job.
A dog properly trained in PP or schutzhund, ring sport, mondio, etc etc should be safe around all children, visitors, strangers, etc. A dog should not have entered a training program unable to discern the difference between a threat and joe walking with his coffee. This is why we have BH tests, the unsound ones get weeded out. A dog trained in PP or schutzhund has a regular life, where he is a happy butt wriggler who snuggles with his pack who happens to include a 5 year old girl. (now, thats a great picture someone needs to take)
But that dog also has a life where he is encouraged, and rewarded, for going into drive and working.

'I think that pets should be pets and sch. dogs should be sch. dogs-but sch. dogs can still be pets'

A dog trained in anything that shows aggression towards a human-including just putting on a show(barking, lunging, snarling) is no longer a pet. This animal is a PP dog and I hope you continue your training.

I wrote this in another post. I forgot the 'just' and corrected myself in a later post:What I meant was 'is no longer JUST a pet.
 

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The problem with teaching a true alert bark via suspicion and agitation (not just a speak command) is that depending on the dog, and mainly on the trainer, this can be a problem.
But, Chris, the original poster was not asking about training a true alert bark, she was asking if it's possible to train a dog to bark at another person, on command. I don't think it matters whether that command is "Guard" or "Bark" or "Pickles" - it's just that, a trained response to a specific command.

I don't think she was asking about protection training or how to get started with that, only about teaching her dog to bark on the command "guard" to act as a deterrent if she ever finds herself in a situation where she may be threatened or feel threatened by a stranger while out with her dog.

What I was responding to - and Deathmetal, it was not particularly directed at your posts - were people who seem to believe that you cannot teach a response to a cue (barking on the cue "guard") without protection training. And then people who suggested that a dog that IS trained to do REAL protection work can suddenly no longer be trusted to be a safe, stable companion around the family.

I don't think that training a dog to bark on command is training that teaches the dog to "show aggression" to people. You can train a dog to bark on command without training it to be aggressive. A bark itself is not aggression, although a lot of people may find it scary.
 

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But, Chris, the original poster was not asking about training a true alert bark, she was asking if it's possible to train a dog to bark at another person, on command. I don't think it matters whether that command is "Guard" or "Bark" or "Pickles" - it's just that, a trained response to a specific command.
Of course it doesn't matter what the word is. But a lot of people were talking about teaching what is in essence a speak command, and while certainly any dog can be taught that it doesn't really look the part of a "back off and don't come near my mom" bark. A speak command just isn't going to cut it in terms of adding additional deterrent. An alert bark will, but that is an entirely different thing to train. And a whole lot of people do not understand the difference between the two.

I don't think she was asking about protection training or how to get started with that, only about teaching her dog to bark on the command "guard" to act as a deterrent if she ever finds herself in a situation where she may be threatened or feel threatened by a stranger while out with her dog.
Exactly.

But the point is, a speak command, no matter what scary sounding word you use to cue it really has no deterrent value. You might get some if you teach it using someone else as the holder of the treat/toy rather than yourself. But the usual way of teaching a dog to bark on cue to earn a reward the owner has is useless for the type of scenario she is thinking it might come in handy.

An alert bark does the trick nicely and does have great deterrent value, but the very essence of teaching a true alert bark is getting into the realm of protection training. Whether one is interested in going further or not doesn't matter, that is what is happening. This type of barking comes from a very different place inside the dog than a speak command, and the psychology of what is going on in training it is very, very different.

As far as the idea of a dog trained in protection, whether a little bit or a lot, is suddenly going to become unsuitable as a pet. Well, that's total BS of course.
 

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As for the original question... My dogs all have an 'alert', maybe not guard, command - even the pomeranian mix because it gets them to quickly check out their surroundings and be ready.

What they do is go on alert - ears pricked, not TENSE, but not relaxed, and if they see what I'm trying to tell them to they will bark or vocalize. I use this to show them prey animals (flame me, my dogs are dogs, they rat for me and keep squirrels out of the property so they won't destroy my nut trees and ruin the gardens burying the nuts), if I am particularly uncomfortable with a person when I'm out with them I give the "Watch 'em" command, and the dogs pay attention.. the person catches this usually and makes note of not getting close. Keep in mind I'm about a 5'2 female in a questionable neighborhood and my dogs get walked mostly at night.. The command isn't to provoke aggression, but alertness, and if I tell them to, vocalizing. The vocalizing includes barking or growling/snarling.. The average Joe doesn't know an alert bark from a general dog's barking or vocalizing..

I taught it very simply (because all my dogs have good prey drive), I'd get all excited to excite them, show them the rat/squirrel ect. wait until they're focused and give the command "Watch 'em", praise, and release, they catch on very fast, all I have to do is say the command after the first few times. They start to catch on that it doesn't just mean fun little furry toys quickly, or at least mine have, because I'd give the command when there was only a person, no animal, around and they would eyeball the person and get praised.

My old bitch had it down so well if you said it she'd look all over and alert bark while still looking if nothing was around - she was always a bit ditzy though..


Not what I usually use it for at all, but a good example of why it comes in handy.. I had my elderly GSD pair out on unfenced property, they were 12 and 13, so slowing down and not the best hearing, eyesight, sense of smell.. I was a good 50' from them and they were coming up, sniffing and relaxing but following me. I saw - quiet to my horror - two labs that I know running loose. These two were a pair, a male/female, young, fit, and the most vicious dogs I've met to date. They spotted my two and started barreling towards them, I was going back to them as fast as I could and they still didn't know what was coming, I gave the alert command and they quickly looked around just in time to brace themselves. Those labs hit them like trucks and started biting immediately. At least my dogs were facing them and halfway ready to defend themselves. If the two had caught them, or two on one, when they were completely relaxed, loose and not expecting it and from behind, they would have been much worse off..

My dogs are little more than pets - but I've always had the command taught to my dogs, and my past dogs. It's never ever caused a problem. It's not teaching a dog to attack or bite, it's teaching them to go on alert.
 

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My friend has the same thing with her GSD/ all you have to do is say "Stranger Danger" and she is on. She wasn't taught this, the kids said it one time and her reaction was serious.
 

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JUST now, I realized there is a man just standing there outside of my fence, I opened the door, let J stick his head out and whispered "Watch 'em.." - J looked around, saw the guy, and I said it again (when I say it a few times, it lets him know I want noise) so he gave a few very malicious sounding barks at him, that got the guy's attention and the guy actually left pretty quick when he saw me too.

I like letting creepy people know I have a grouchy 85lb watchdog IN the house.. His presence is deterrent enough.
 

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As I said earlier, I think this sort of training shouldn't be done unless people are very aware of the psychology behind what they are doing.

What Lies said earlier bears repeating:

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.
Especially if starting with a dog with less than stellar nerves, intentionally encouraging fear aggressive behavior, and the owner acting in a disturbed/suspicious manner and thus making the dog more unsettled and less able to count on the owner for leadership or security sure doesn't seem like a good idea to me. And doing this when encountering perfectly benign and innocent people solely for the purpose of "training" sure doesn't help with the breed's reputation either.
 

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So APBTLove, are you going to tell us what happened next with the Labs and your two old GSD's? Sounds like it could have been a disaster.
I didn't want to derail it further - my dogs came out well. Nothing too deep and thank the Lord the two lab's owner showed up within a minute and they backed off when they realized it was him yelling and hitting them, I don't like to speculate but I certainly guess he beat his dogs.. because when they did recognize him they hit the ground and both were picked up by their choke collars as high as he could. I got there when the dogs really started grappling, the male lab got me on the leg because I put it in the way trying to get him off my girl.
 

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Chris,

One question - do you, and others, think that teaching a dog to bark on command is teaching him/her aggressive behavior. I mean just to bark, with no encouragement to do anything else. If that is even possible?

I have taught previous dogs we have had a "What's that" command which made them super alert to what is going on around them but not to act in any specific way nor was it intended for them to watch any particular people.

Our current dog is always super alert to what is going on around him even to people entering the field where we do obedience training - with him I would never teach "What's that". It is hard enough to keep his attention on me now!
 

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'Beware of a silent dog and still water'...

I taught my dog a regular 'speak' command just for the sake of him understanding 'no speak' (which worked). Anton's natural alert bark is not even close to his 'speak' on command, it's just something completely different. It's like a dynamite explosion, very intimidating, but he is not lunging or snarling, he's alerting me and keeping an eye on the approaching threat and on me and my reaction at the same time. I acknoledge him and tell him that I got it from here, or I say nothing and the other person stops on their tracks and backs off (happened once but I was kind of scared of a strange guy changing his direction towards me in the middle of the night). I have never trained this reaction, it's natural and thankfully, my dog has a very clear head and good judgment. I think, if Shawn gets a well bred dog then she does not need to worry about 'guard' command. :)
 

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Chris,

One question - do you, and others, think that teaching a dog to bark on command is teaching him/her aggressive behavior. I mean just to bark, with no encouragement to do anything else.
It CAN be. That is the concern if people are doing it, and especially if having some of the "protection trainers" running around doing it, without really understanding what they are doing.

There are really only 2 ways to teach a dog to bark.
Frustration of drive, usually prey or food, which leads to a flushing prey type bark. This is the usual way a "speak" command type bark is taught. Bark for the toy, treat, whatever. Frustrate the drive, when the dog leaks drive through barking, mark and reward and voila the dog has learned to bark on command.

The other reason dogs bark is as a defensive display. One that alerts the pack to a potential threat and also serves to scare the threat away. Whether people like to consider this aggression or not, that is exactly what it is. Does it mean the dog has become some vicious Cujo? Of course not. But alert barking of this type, whether taught or coming naturally, IS an expression of defense/reactive aggression. The dog is not performing a trained trick or putting on an act. He has been placed into a defensive state of mind and once that defensive reaction in a dog is turned on and the dog's brain is in defense mode it can escalate from there.

To encourage this, especially on non threatening persons (and most especially with a dog who is a bit iffy in that regard in the first place) can lead to problems with creating a dog who is too quick to react, is reacting in inappropriate situations because now it's been taught to view non threatening people as threatening so it's judgment in that regard has been skewed, or simply because it learns that it's owner wants it to act that way and that acting that way also gets a reaction out of the other person, which dogs love to do, so it becomes self rewarding as well.

Certainly with the right dog and right training and right handling and an owner who is aware of what is really going on, it can work out just fine without any negative effects. But IMO suggesting this sort of DIY alert bark training via the internet is irresponsible because it's skirting the edge of suggesting DIY protection training over the internet. A milder form certainly, but it IS playing with the exact same drives and mental states that are used for actual protection training and targeting those drives on innocent passersby. And as the saying goes, if you play with fire you may get burned. Especially if you don't know what you're doing.
 

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I have never trained this reaction, it's natural and thankfully, my dog has a very clear head and good judgment. I think, if Shawn gets a well bred dog then she does not need to worry about 'guard' command. :)
Exactly my feelings as well.

In a good dog, it comes naturally, but *appropriately*. Encourage it constantly, even going so far as to using encounters with random completely innocent people as a training opportunity as some people in this thread have suggested, and the dog's judgment may go out the window because he's learned that the owner likes him to react that way and wants him to react that way toward everyone and rewards him for doing it. So even if he doesn't see someone as a threat, he may treat them like one because it's what makes the owner happy. One could say this is a good way to turn a good dog into a bad dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
. I think, if Shawn gets a well bred dog then she does not need to worry about 'guard' command. :)
I think you are right! That's what I've concluded reading all the info in this thread. A GSD is a deterrant in itself, and has the natural instinct to respond appropriately if I was really in harm's way. No reason to mess with making them suspicious etc. in my case.

This is an example of why I really appreciate this forum. I get a chance to ask questions and run things past experienced people. Love it! Thank you.
 

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Just wanted to share something that happened to me tonight while taking Stark out to potty.

I live across the street from the biggest mall in my city, there is also a bus terminal in the mall parking lot on the other side of the mall.

I was walking Stark along the busy road behind the mall where my apartment building is located. There is a large grass area and I took him over there to potty and to let him sniff around.

I happened to look to the right and there were three men standing in the dark, on the side of the grass area that was next to a wooden fence. The men were talking and trying to look over the fence, not really sure what they were doing but I decided I wanted out of there.

Stark was staring intently at these men even though I had not given him any verbal cues too. He felt my anxiety and probably noticed a change in my body movement/pattern and adjusted accordingly.

He did not bark, he did not growl, he just kept watch. Even after we were a good ways away and back in *my* safe zone he still kept watch while walking in that area. No guard command needed.

When I turned the corner to head back to my building's property I noticed the men had come up behind me (about 40 feet away or so) they were talking low (couldn't hear what they were saying, only knew they were talking). I immediately told Stark to "fuss" which is his formal heeling command, then when we came to the edge of the road, I told him to "platz" (looked more formal than a sits, at least in my mind) and he complied, still looking back at these men though. Once I had his attention (without asking) I told him to "steh" which is his stand command. Then we "fuss'ed" back to our apartment. I did hear one of the men say, "holy crap, look at that dog" which made me ease up. Stark still was watchful of them though.

He knew there was reason to be watchful, but was still obedient and complied. No "guard/bark/watch 'em" command was needed. I think a well bred dog, with proper training in obedience can scare off anyone, or at least make them think twice. I am sure the men didn't mean any harm but being a young female, at night in the middle of the city... I am happy to have my GSD.
 
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