If you want your dog to protect your property while you’re away, there are a few things you can do that make it easier for the dog to do his job and to protect your dog from those that would otherwise want to do him harm.
Limit the Protection Zone
Dogs are naturally territorial, but they have a limit to what they consider their territory. You may think of your entire acreage as “yours”, but your dog doesn’t. The larger your property and the farther away from their territory they get, the less incentive they feel to protect it. I feel much safer meeting your dog at your gate at the end of your long driveway than I do if your gate is open and I attempt to get out of my vehicle closer to the house. The exceptions to this rule are dogs that are bred specifically to be livestock guardians, which we’ll discuss later.
If you have acreage that is fenced around the perimeter, put up a fence around your house and out buildings, too, and keep your dog inside that zone. Install adequate shelter for the dog (a doggie door that leads inside one of the buildings or a dog house) within that perimeter. This is not only the humane thing to do; it will also take advantage of the dog’s natural desire to defend its “den” and territory.
Never leave out fetch-type toys when you’re not home. Balls, Frisbees, and other types of toys commonly used to play fetch are the first things I look for. If you have a dog that loves to play fetch, I have a dog that loves to play fetch! I’ll either try to get your dog excited about “Find the ball! Where’s your ball?!” or if I’m unable to get the dog to go get the toy for me, I’ll look for a suitable substitute on my side of the perimeter like a stick.
Keep the dog poo picked up. A yard full of dog poo is just gross and encourages parasites, but it’s also a dead give-away to let me know what size of a dog you have before I see the dog. Little bitty poos and small dog houses- perfect! I walk right in. No one is that afraid of a twenty pound dog. If your dog is on the smallish side, try to locate the dog house out of site. On the other hand, if you have a big dog and a dog house sized to go with it, place it in a conspicuous place- the intent is to intimidate and give pause to whoever wants to enter your property before they get a chance to meet your dog. Dogs can pick up on body language much better than we can and someone who is apprehensive is nervous and a little afraid.
Limit the amount of bushes and objects near your home. One of the only times I feared for my life was while entering the backyard of a suburban home. I had been told there was a known biter at this house, but that the dog was secured inside the home. No one told me about the doggie door. I was halfway across the backyard before the dog realized I was there and I was much too far away from the entry gate to get out before the dog could catch me. The only reason I was able to escape is because the owner of the house was so messy. Their yard was cluttered with all manner of things that I used to defend myself.
Provide a Pack
When we form a bond with a dog, we become part of their pack and dogs will defend anything in their pack, including other dogs and animals. Many breeds that are now used in police and protection work were originally bred to protect a flock and don’t do well when left alone for an eight-hour (or longer) workday. An “only child” dog left alone all day while you’re at work is often a bored and lonely dog. They don’t have the job to do and will often welcome my unexpected company.
Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) make great protection dogs, but they need something other than property to protect while you’re gone. The pack instinct is very strong in these types of dogs and, with proper training and supervision to control the prey drive instinct, they’ll bond with almost any kind of livestock and make it part of their pack. This brings me to the Backup Auxillary Dog- a small dog that acts as a companion to your LGD (if they have no other livestock companions) and an additional set of ears/eyes.
Dog flippers are just like real estate flippers, except real estate flippers don’t steal your house. Purebreds, especially unaltered animals that are still capable of breeding, are prime targets, but any dog can fall victim to these pet thieves. As reported in this Time article, pet flipping is on the rise.
“In a typical pet-flipping situation, a criminal will get hold of a pet — either by stealing it or seeing the animal in a “Pet found” poster or ad on Craigslist and claiming to be the owner — and then turn around and sell it for a quick profit. It’s a cause for concern for pet owners, obviously, but also for anyone looking to buy a dog or cat. The scam is an extension of dognapping, a trend that the American Kennel Club reported spiking in recent years.”
Contrary to popular belief, these dogs are no longer stolen by unscrupulous Class B Dealers, aka dog bunchers, and sold to laboratories thanks to a recent change in the law for research facilities.
“Class B” is a USDA designation for individuals who buy, sell, or transport animals they did not breed and raise themselves…. Class B dealers sell dogs and cats for research, and some of these individuals have generated controversy because of repeated failures to provide adequate care for animals and, in some cases, selling lost or stolen pets to research labs.”
Instead, most pet thieves are motivated by a variety of reasons. Purebreds and “designer dogs” can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. The thieves steal the dogs and then turn around and sell them as unpapered purebreds, use them for dog breeding and sell off the offspring, or claim to have found the dog and demand a finder’s fee (a form of ransom) from distraught owners. Occasionally, expensive or highly desirable breeds are stolen by thieves to give to themselves or to their friends or family. Arguably the cruelest of all are the dogs stolen and used as bait animals in dog fighting.
Another group worth mention is the Do Gooders: those individuals that make it their mission, whether they belong to an organized animal rights group like PETA or not, to “rescue” dogs. Non-aggressive working dogs are especially susceptible to these types of people. They see a dog that was bred to be perfectly suited for the environment and conditions it’s working/living in and think the dog is being mistreated.
Never Feed From Your Hand
Using the tactics above to take advantage of your dog’s instincts will also help protect your dog. Additionally, never feed your dog out of your hand or toss food at their feet or in the air. It teaches the dog to accept hand-held treats and to eat things thrown over a fence. Instead, toss a bit of food down and train your dog to “leave it”. This won’t fool-proof every dog, but make those hand-held and tossed treats less familiar and therefore make your dog more cautious about accepting them when left to their own devices. If your dog is small and portable, never leave it unattended in a yard or alone in a car.
Make Your Dog Less Desirable
Spaying and neutered your dog makes them less desirable to would-be dog thieves and reduces the animal’s desire to roam in search of a mate. Micro-chipping your dog is the best form of identification. Virtually all veterinarians and animal shelters have the device to read the chip to find out the rightful owner. It’s important to note that the information on the chip needs to be registered to your name as soon as possible and then updated anytime you have a change of address or phone number. Take close-up photos of distinguishing characteristics of your dog- for instance, a white stripe on it’s chest or the pattern of it’s stocking feet or any scars it may have. Take yearly photos of your dog, including full body and face shots, so you always have updated photos in case you need to post a “lost dog” ad.If you do discover your dog missing, watch the “found” ads in the newspaper and on the internet. Respond to any that are even close to your pet’s description. What one person describes as a “red hound mix” may look like a “yellow pit mix” to someone else. Check your local shelters and search websites like www.petfinder.com or www.petharbor.com to see if your dog has been taken in by a rescue. Many communities also have Facebook groups dedicated to finding lost or stolen dogs. If you post to your own Facebook profile, be sure to make the post “public” so it can be seen and shared by as many people as possible. Monitor pets for sale or pet adoption ads in newspapers or online from pet thieves are looking to profit from stealing your animal.
By making a few small changes to your property, you can help your dog to do a better job of defending it. Teaching your dog that food comes from a bowl, not from your hand, will help prevent them from becoming conditioned to take treats from strangers. Micro-chipping your dog and taking yearly photos will greatly increase your chances of getting your dog back if he gets stolen. Done together, you and your dog are better able to protect each other.