We all know times have changed. Crimes occur today that were unheard of fifty years ago. Even twenty to thirty years ago, the world was a different place. Murder, burglary, robbery, kidnapping, and rape are at all-time highs. The statistics are scary. Our businesses fail, losing billions of dollars a year to theft, and we are no longer safe, not even in our own homes. Firearms laws become more restrictive every year, and most people cannot have their firearm available twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year.
Every forty seconds, another child is reported missing.
A woman is sexually assaulted every two minutes, seventy percent occur in the victim’s HOME!
Businesses lose an estimated THIRTY BILLION DOLLARS each year to theft.
Every fifteen seconds, a home is burglarized. In 28% of these burglaries, a family member is HOME!
A home security system is essential in today’s world, for both your home and your business.
In my opinion, however, this is not enough.
The average police response time for verified (audio or video) alarm police dispatches is around seven minutes, nationwide, according to Chelsea Mitchell from Secure Pacific Corp. Most police departments have a 4 part response schedule. The highest priority (priority 1) goes to a burglary alarm verified by audio or video (typically a government or business installation), while a conventional motion detector based system is assigned priority 3, based on availability.
I know, from personal experience, that the response time can be dramatically longer, especially if you live in a rural area.
The question is, what do you do until help arrives?
You may answer this question, as many do, with something like “well, I own several firearms.”
That is great, I do as well, but what if you are caught off guard and your weapon is not immediately accessible (look at available examples of home invasions)? What if your jurisdiction has very strict anti-gun laws? I do not believe, for even one second, that the fear of being arrested should ever deter you from protecting your family or yourself. Unfortunately, arrest, following a fight for your life, is a very real possibility in some parts of the United States, and many other countries are far worse.
Another consideration, you cannot “recall” a bullet. Once you pull the trigger, there is no turning back. Unfortunately, a quick internet search will return story after story of family members who were accidentally shot after being mistaken as an intruder. While tragic, it happens.
Do not get me wrong, I am not against firearms, quite the opposite. I just believe you are far less likely to hesitate to protect yourself with deadly force, the more confident you are concerning your decision.
The best-laid plans …
Regardless of your current security measures, you should always look for ways to add redundancy to your plans. Ol’ Murphey loves throwing wrenches into our well-laid plans and when one security measure fails, you will be glad you have backups in place.
In multiple studies and interviews conducted among convicted sexual assault, robbery, and burglary felons, they were asked what security measures were most effective at deterring their criminal intentions. Consistently, at the top of the list, were security dogs. When asked why, criminals listed these reasons:
- Canine hearing abilities pick up suspicious sounds earlier than alarm systems
- Canine barking alerts homeowners and neighbors too quickly
- Fear of being attacked by a dog
- Confronting a dog is much more hazardous than dealing with an alarm system
Most criminals admit to completely bypassing a property where trained personal protection dogs were kept. They simply moved to a more accessible, less risky target.
These are all great reasons adding a properly trained protection dog to your security measures is a smart move.
They can subdue an intruder until authorities respond to your security alarm, buy you time to access your firearm, as well as give you more time to properly assess a situation, potentially averting a tragedy. Another bonus, you CAN recall properly trained protection dogs.
From a liability standpoint, this is a game changer. With the proper training, you can apply only the force necessary to stop the threat and immediately de-escalate your use of force as necessary.
A properly trained protection canine is the single most effective, and safest deterrent to crimes against you, your home, your business, and your family. It would be wise to seriously consider adding a trained dog to your security plan. That said, I have provided a training protocol below to give you a head start.
The automatic perimeter alarm
It is often said, “The best offense is a good defense”. I think the best defense is to not play the game. If someone forces you to play the game, and your safety or that of your family is in jeopardy, CHEAT!
“All is fair, in love and war”
How do we cheat? We stack the deck.
One way we can stack the deck is to be a few moves ahead of potential threats, prepared long before danger strikes.
This training protocol is one way to stay a few moves ahead of your opponent.
First, let’s get a few things together. Some you will need now, others a little later on.
- A dog (I know this seems self-evident, but so does not using a blow dryer in the shower)
- Something, ANYTHING, that makes your dog bark consistently (I highly suggest something you can control the dogs access to)
- SMALL soft treats your dog REALLY likes (Should be small enough your dog can practically inhale them. You want your dog to take as little time as possible to eat the treat)
- A few willing volunteers (more on this later)
- Enough visual markers to flag the perimeter you want to secure (Dogs see blues best)
The first part of this training protocol has two stages.
1. Teach your dog to bark on command:
A quick word of caution, use something that your dog will only have access to when YOU are interacting with her. Otherwise, you may find yourself going mad to the sound of a dog that barks all day and night just to amuse himself until you train her to stop barking on command. You could also wind up with a neurotic dog if you leave your target object out where your dog can see it but not access it.
The easiest way to accomplish teaching your dog to bark on command is if you have an item the dog really wants, that he will bark for, when you take too long to give it to him and his frustration builds. If you have something your dog already barks for every time she sees or interacts with it, even better.
When your dog FIRST barks for your target object, reward them with it. When you reach the point when your dog immediately starts to bark when you present the item, you can start holding out a little longer before you reward the dog. Slower progress is much better than moving too fast and confusing the dog, fixing this will take more time in the long run than taking the time to do it right to begin with. Remember “measure twice, cut once”. Now, Slowly work on duration, until your dog will bark incessantly no matter how long it takes to get his reward.
When you can accurately manipulate your dogs barking with whatever method you are using, it will be time to add your verbal cue. You can use whatever word you want. Consider something like “Easy” or even “It’s Okay”, this way you look like you are trying to de-escalate a bad situation to any witnesses. You do not want to look like the aggressor when law enforcement arrives. Also, I prefer to speak in a low voice or to whisper when I give verbal commands. This may sound odd, but there is a method to what may sound like madness to many. One, there are many situations where you do not want anyone to know you are communicating with your dog. Two, dogs have much better hearing than humans, they do not need us to be loud to hear us. It also helps train your dog to pay better attention to your verbal cues. Finally, there really are not any situations where you need to be loud or advertise that you are cueing your dog.
Once you have decided what cue and tone you will use, begin pairing your command to the barking. Reward your dog at random intervals during this stage of training. Start repeating the cue and praise WHILE the dog is barking, using the tone you decided works best for you. (i.e Softly saying “Easy… Easy… good Easy… Easy”) This is a training method known as capturing. You are essentially tying a command to a behavior your dog is already presenting.
This method clearly communicates, to the dog, what behavior you are asking for. Done properly, this is an excellent training method that you can use for all manner of behaviors.
Wash, rinse repeat. After several repetitions, put your target object away, let your dog stop barking, and relax a little bit. A good indication of when your dog is ready for this step is when your dog starts anticipating what you want. Now, give your verbal cue WITHOUT the target object. If he does NOT bark, go back to the previous exercise for a few more repetitions and then try again. If your dog responds properly, immediately reward her, as fast as possible. When your dog consistently and reliably responds to your voice command without the target object, move to a variable reward schedule.
2. Teach your dog to stop barking, on command:
At this point, your dog is barking on command. This is an essential component of the next stage of this training protocol. You will need your reward treats for this exercise. You will also need to decide on what you will use as your cease barking command.
Start with a few treats in one hand and make sure you are within arms reach of your dog.
Give your dog her cue to bark, praise and reinforce as before.(Easy … good easy)
Now, give your stop barking verbal cue at the same time you present your treat hand to your dog. This is a physiological training method. Your dog physically cannot bark while sniffing. Your timing is imperative for this exercise. You need to give your verbal cue at the exact moment your dog stops barking to sniff the treats in your hand. You should reward the dog with the treat immediately. Do not get discouraged if it takes you a few tries to perfect your timing. Let your dog have a treat or two while reinforcing and praising as before. (i.e. Hush … good hush … hush)
After a few repetitions, test if your dog will cease barking on command, without presenting your treat hand for the sniff. If your dog will not quit barking with the verbal command only, return to the sniffing exercises, testing periodically. If she does, fantastic! Quickly reward him with the treat. As before, slowly add a delay between command, response, and reward. Remember to work at your dog’s pace. You do not want him getting bored or frustrated.
When you reach the point where your dog will stop barking on command, without the treat, and stay quiet until you cue her to start barking again, consistently, you will be ready to move forward. An eighty percent reliability is the commonly accepted standard of consistency. Our standard is ninety-eight percent.
Work on both barking and cessation of barking, on command, in as many environments, locations, and conditions as you possibly can, to help your dog generalize the behavior.
If your dog struggles or acts like they have completely forgotten their previous training, in a new environment, or under certain conditions, no need to worry. Dog’s are environmental learners and this is fairly common. Take a few steps back and reinforce the training. Eventually, your dog will generalize the behaviors and will respond properly, regardless of environment. Any time you change something about your training, environment, duration, etcetera, only change one thing at a time, and start with as few distractions as possible. Once your dog has generalized a new behavior or additional skill, slowly add more distractions. Once your dog responds properly, no matter the environment or distraction, you can begin to fine-tune and perfect behaviors.
Applying the behavior:
Start by placing your visual markers along the perimeter you want your dog responding to. If the area is fenced, you can attach your markers to the fence. If the area is not fenced, or only partially so, you can use survey flags, strips of cloth on stakes, or something similar. Remember, as shown in the diagram above, dogs see blues best. You want the perimeter clearly visible to your dog. Outside of this area, your dog takes no action other than observation. Inside this area, your dog responds with the conditioned behavior(s). You should also decide on a command you want to use to draw your dog’s attention to something you want her to watch.
The rest of your preparations revolve around your helper. Ideally, your helpers will be people that do not visit regularly, or that you have enough helpers so you do not have to use the same person multiple times. They will need to bring a cell phone with headphones for some of the exercises. Discuss exactly what you need your helper to do ahead of time. Make sure whoever is helping you has a complete understanding of everything before you begin.
Bringing it all together!
So, here is what you need to do. Start outside with your dog on a leash. Act natural and do whatever you normally do, other than activities that are very distracting for your dog, or that really amp your dog up. We always start easy and add difficulty to training sessions after the dog is consistent with the current expectations.
Your helper should walk up from beyond your property line on the OUTSIDE of your perimeter. Your helper should act as if they are on a casual walk, paying no attention to you or your dog.
In the beginning, do not give your dog his attention and watch command until your helper is approaching the location where they will cross your established perimeter(maybe a gate or driveway?).
Now, several things need to happen in fairly rapid succession. You will give your dog the “attention and watch” command you chose, while pointing at your helper, this is a cognitive training method that relies on inferential reasoning. As your dog draws her attention to your helper, praise softly, your helper crosses your established perimeter, and you give your bark command, your dog begins barking, you praise as your helper turns on his heels and leaves the perimeter, you give your cease barking command, and your helper continues walking away, not looking back, until out of sight. If there is not somewhere for your helper to go “out of sight”, praise your dog as you walk inside after your helper has left the vicinity. All of this happens very quickly, much of it at the same time. The faster your helper can react to your dog’s behavior, the faster and easier your dog learns their behavior dictates the actions of your helper(s), and that attempting to influence the behavior of people entering your property is rewarding.
This is a complicated series of stimuli and behaviors, if you have an issue with part of a training exercise, break it down to its simplest steps, known as component training, and work on the steps individually. You can get better results as you have the ability to focus on problem areas.
You should always end your training sessions with success, even if that means only doing one repetition, at times, especially in areas your dog struggles. I would rather end after one success than fall into the trap of “one more”, which inevitably does more harm than good.
When the results of this outdoor perimeter training exercise are acceptable, you can move indoors. Repeat this outside portion of the training, while inside, watching with your dog from a window that gives a clear vantage point of your helper and where they will cross on to your property. For the training sessions inside, your helper will need their cell phone and headphones. Call them and set your phone to speakerphone. Put your phone in a pocket before you interact with your dog. You do not want to inadvertently create cues for your dog. Have your helper place their end of the phone call on mute and use headphones, essentially creating a one-way communication where your helper(s) can listen for their cues to perform their jobs. They will have to rely on your commands to your dog and your dog’s barking to know when to cross the perimeter, turn around, walk away, etcetera. If your dog is an inside dog, inside training exercises should be your main focus.
At this point, your training progresses by drawing your dog’s attention, with your “attention and watch” command(still pointing at your helper, test when you can cease using the pointing and verbal cues the same as you have for your verbal cues in the past), further and further from the location where the helper will cross. Your goal being for your dog to pay attention, but not bark until the helper crosses the perimeter, and then cease barking when your helper exits your established perimeter. Practice with approaches from different directions, crossing your perimeter at different locations, at different times of day and night, helpers of different sexes, and as many different races as you can, and helpers wearing different styles of clothing. Some carrying things in their hands, other not. It is important that you do not use the same helper exclusively, you want your dog responding to the ACTIONS of your helper, not the particular helper you are using. The more thorough and varied your training sessions, the more your dog will generalize the training and respond appropriately.
Once your dog responds as he should, regardless of the variable, you can begin removing some of your perimeter markers, one or two at a time. Repeat some of the training exercises above. As before, if you encounter any issues, take a step back.
Remember to move at your dog’s pace, end every training session on a positive(success), only change one variable in your training at a time, use your verbal and visual cues only as long as your dog needs them, and return to them, in the beginning, when you are changing a variable. Your ultimate goal, of course, is that your dog will respond, by barking, to anyone entering your property. If you are not expecting company, you are certainly not going to be caught by surprise.
There are numerous ways to add to, modify, and/or enhance these behaviors to better suit your needs and situation. There are also many uses for the individual components of this training protocol. Your only limitation is your imagination and dedication to the work involved.
This training protocol is only a general outline and is not intended to address specific behavioral issues, nor specific circumstances involving your individual dog, in regards to this protocol. There is more than one way to skin a cat and your dog may respond better to alternative training methods. If you experience issues or problems, your best option is to contact a qualified professional.