[Editor’s Note: We would like to think our dogs are vigilantly guarding our properties and will deter anyone who dares to enter, but this isn’t always the case. Dogs can easily be swayed and manipulated to concede.
In a SHTF scenario, you want to ensure that your dog will not back down; and training a dog to protect requires a different type of training they are given at obedience schools. Look into local guard dog training facilities in your area or training manuals like this one, if you feel confident in your abilities. As well, do not solely rely on your canine to protect your home. Look into adding layers of security in and around the home; because as Ruby Burks points out, dogs have been trained to back down with one simple item: treats. ]
As those of you that have been keeping up with my posts know, I had to take an off-farm job several months ago in order to help make ends meet. I work for a utility company located here in the Sierras and my job involves a lot of driving and even more hiking as I go from one location to the next to perform inspections. It’s the first time I’ve worked off-farm in over five years (with the exception of working at farmers’ markets) and it’s made me realize a few things: too many people drive while talking on their phones and there are lots and lots of supposed “guard” dogs.
A large part of my job involves going onto to private property unannounced in order to do inspections. Most people don’t realize this, but when you contract with a utility company for services, you’ve granted them easement rights and we can enter your property at any time without notice. Most utility companies make every effort to make it as convenient for you as possible and will try to schedule appointments or at least let you know when we’re going to be in your area, but a lot of times, and especially for the type of work I do, we’re in and out to do quick, routine inspections and you’re never the wiser.
When it comes to guard dogs, I hear it all the time: people think that their dog would never allow anyone on the property or inside the house. Or they think their dog has a ferocious bark and an intimidating presence that will deter all but the most determined criminals. I thought the same things about my own dogs.
I inspect hundreds of locations ranging from densely populated urban areas with six-foot fenced enclosures to very rural areas with acreage in locations that require 4-wheel drive each month, unannounced, and I can tell you from experience that there have been very few times that I haven’t been able to get past the dog and onto the property. When I enter a property, the vast majority of the time no one is home and I never know who has a dog or if that dog is loose. I’m shocked at how easy it is to get their “guard” dog to let me in.
First, I carry an assortment of dog treats. It’s important to have an assortment because every dog is different and some will turn their noses up at one treat, but not the other, and if I can find the treat the dog wants most, I’m golden. As I approach an enclosure, whether it’s a six-foot solid wood backyard fence like one would find in urban/suburban areas or a cattle gate in a rural area, I always do the same thing: shake or pound on the gate to draw the attention of the dog. The last thing I want to do is walk into a yard or onto a property and surprise a sleeping dog. I want to see the dog and know what I’m dealing with, but more importantly, I want the dog to see me.
Once I have the dog’s attention, I size it up. Dogs that are big enough to take me down or reach my throat slow me down and require the most coaxing, but rarely am I ever stopped from entering. I start by talking to the dog in a sweet sing-song voice. You know the voice- it’s the voice we all use with our own dogs when we love them up. Next, I break out the treats. It helps if I pretend to eat them- it shows the dog I have something delicious. Once I know I have the dog looking at the treat (even if they continue barking at me), I toss a treat or two over or through the fence. I have never seen a dog yet that can resist going over to investigate what just landed in their yard. A sniffing dog stops barking and his or her mind is no longer focused solely on ripping my face off. They always eat the treat.
If the area is fenced in anything except a six-foot solid wood fence, I attempt to get the dog to come to me to take a treat through the fence. This does two things: it allows the dog to smell my hand and know I’m not going to strike them and it allows me to keep my hand safely behind the fence until I know your dog isn’t one of those sneaky-sneak dogs that act like they’re friendly, but in reality is just trying to trick me into a false sense of security so they can get close enough to bite. Once the dog takes a treat through the fence, I test their obedience by commanding them to sit before I’ll give them another one. Not every dog will- mostly because they were never taught to or because they’re just so happy to get a treat they’re too wiggly with joy to do it. Either way, obediently sitting or silly-happy, I just got past your guard dog.
I am now free to go about my business. While I’m there walking about your property doing whatever I want with your dog’s permission, I make a point of getting to know your dog. Ironically, well-trained dogs are the easiest because they have been conditioned to know that if they behave, treats and praise follow. They’re also the dogs that really want a job to do. I have them perform basic commands for me like sit, stay, and lay down. I’m now in command of your dog.
I’m also looking around the property or yard for any dog toys. I love seeing a ball- that almost always means you’ve got what I call a Ball Dog. All I have to say is, “Where’s your ball?” or something similar in an excited, happy voice and your dog is off on a mission to bring me his ball to play fetch with me. If your dog hasn’t been taught basic commands and is instead a Happy Wiggler, I’ll make a point of stopping my work every now and then to scratch its back or otherwise give it positive attention.
Once I’m done and am ready to leave, I always make sure to either tell the dog to sit one more time and give them a treat or I’ll play with them or scratch their backs before giving them another treat. Dogs have great memories and I know that even if I don’t come back for another month or so, they’ll remember me as the Human Who Brings Treats and Plays. The next time I come, they’ll bark less and will trust me faster. I’ve laid the foundation towards conditioning your dog to allow me entry.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but for the most part, I can get past almost any “guard” dog. A little patience and a bagful of treats almost always guarantees me entry. Once in, I’m able to condition your dog to remember me so that the next time I show up your dog will be even more trusting and friendly to allow me faster access. Next up, I’ll talk about how to train your dog to prevent this conditioning from happening and the steps you can take to make it more difficult for someone to get past your dog. Stay tuned!