“Alpha Dogs” Are No Personal Protection Dogs

Nat Geo Wild has launched a new show, “Alpha Dogs,” which features German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois working dogs, and we’ve been getting some questions about the show and how closely it relates to the work we do at Protection Dogs Plus. Simply put, the dogs you see on “Alpha Dogs” are police and military dogs and they have very little in common with personal protection dogs.

There are some similarities here: we do train German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois to bite, we do encourage dogs with some of the same techniques that you see on the show (such as motivating dogs by using their food and toy drive), and we do condition dogs to be comfortable working around gunfire and other distractions. But to paraphrase the show itself, “these (military dogs) aren’t pets.”

The truth is that military and police dogs aren’t good for homes, let alone children. Police and military dogs are selected for different traits than personal protection dogs; unlike police and military dogs, we look for a combination of power and friendly, stable temperaments. This complete package is much harder to find than dogs that are simply good at attacking targets or searching by nose. We know this because we have had experience in training dogs for other purposes than just personal protection, and can say that very few of the dogs chosen for police or military work would be the right fit for our program- probably around 5% of them. In “Alpha Dogs,” the dogs shown have little to no functional obedience training when they’re considered “finished” and many of the handlers on the show don’t seem to have control.

The trainers on “Alpha Dogs” are professionals, but they’re in a different industry than us, and therefore their knowledge and background is different than ours. They get dogs and usually turn them over in a matter of weeks, as they do not have to spend as much time training their dogs for obedience and sociability as we do. We train our dogs for months with every situation imaginable, and the personal protection dogs we train epitomize control.

This morning, for instance, we worked with Rex on one of our most valuable exercises: “turning off.” It’s one thing to get a dog to turn on aggressively against an attacker, but it’s another thing to make that same dog friendly on command. The dogs in “Alpha Dogs” are shown biting and then refusing to “turn off” or release their bite. Rex, like all of our protection dogs, can be told to instantly stop displaying aggression and release his bite on command. The scenario goes like this: we send Rex off-leash to bite a decoy with undercover equipment, and a second before Rex hits his target we give him the command to lie down. There’s no delay- Rex is “off” now, the decoy is safe and the dog can now be approached and pet. Our dogs do not have to be redirected, or given a ball to be rewarded each time because we’ve taken our training past that point and we’ve transitioned them to respond to a verbal command said in a normal tone.

We wouldn’t be surprised to see a reality show about personal protection dog training, but even that wouldn’t give you an idea of what happens at Protection Dogs Plus. TV producers like drama and that’s just not what we’re about. We take precautions so that our dogs aren’t biting the hand that holds them. We raise dogs to be a pleasure in your home, not just to look extreme for the cameras. And when it comes to training, we never rush the process or compromise our values.

Take a look at our fully trained protection dogs for sale, and see what functional training looks like on our Videos page.

We’re Back from Buying Dogs for Protection Training

We’re fresh off a trip to Europe, but this was no vacation. In six days, we drove over 1,300 miles to 6 countries to test over 100 dogs. Of those dogs, we decided to take only a small handful into our protection dog training program. That’s a lower acceptance rate than Columbia and Harvard! It’s not that there’s any shortage of nice German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois in Europe, it’s just that the best personal protection dogs need to be well-rounded in everything- health, temperament and protection. We don’t train police dogs or military dogs, so it’s not enough for a dog to bite a sleeve or turn on aggressively. They need to be friendly and obedient, and they need to accept even a five year old as their master. Finding a dog with one or two exceptional qualities is easy, but finding one with all of them takes legwork.

We want to raise the best dogs for personal protection possible, so we’re highly selective about which dogs to bring back. At the same time, we realize that any dog we pick will be given months of our intensive training before going to a home. Great dogs aren’t born, they’re made, and we know how to make them great. To do this though, we need to start with a certain amount of raw talent. What are some of the things we’re looking for? We check for things like making sure they won’t back down from an aggressor, that they have tenacity, and that they are accepting of children and other dogs. Because our program is very physically demanding, we make sure that all of our dogs are healthy and in prime physical condition.

In Europe, we also seek and select dogs that fit client requests. If you’re interested in a different dog than our current protection dogs for sale, we can keep you in mind for our next trip. Contact us today to let us know what your needs are.

The Perfect Fit for Apartment Life

You might not think that a protection K9 would be a good fit for life in an apartment or condo. These buildings can be on the smaller side, after all, and most complexes are heavily trafficked by people and other dogs. Some landlords seem like they’re just waiting for a chance to hand their tenants a leash violation. So are you asking for trouble by bringing a dog into your rental for security? If your building allows dogs and your companion has the right training, absolutely not! The size of your home, apartment, or condo isn’t important because your protection dog will be selected and adjusted to fit your lifestyle.

While clients in the countryside often request that their dogs alert them whenever someone is at the door, this would cause many false alarms in a building with narrow corridors and thin walls. In this environment, custom trained personal protection dogs will easily top guard dogs that don’t have the same advanced training or control. Your dog will only bark on command. When you’re in common areas you won’t have to worry about unpredictable behavior around other tenants, their children or their dogs. When you’re in your room, you can feel prepared for a forced entry situation, and you’ll be able to enjoy the loving company of the most hassle-free apartment dog possible.

During the matching process, we’ll find a German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois that will not just fulfill your protection needs, but match your energy level as well. There is a misconception that a working line dog will be hectic and high energy in a smaller space, but our dogs offer energy on demand. Even though they are fast and powerful in dangerous situations, they move with grace and care around the apartment.

Each of our dogs are trained thoroughly in off-leash obedience, so you won’t be pulled down the stairs and your neighbors will see that you have a friendly dog with perfect manners. The usefulness of off-leash exercises extends to your own living spaces, too. The “place” command will keep your dog exactly where you want him or her, which is great when you’re cleaning up or when you have company coming over. Your dog will stay off the furniture and away from unattended food. Our training is designed to put your mind at ease, from worry-free daily life to knowing that you’re secure at home.

Do you want to find out how our training can be personalized for your apartment or condo? Send us a message to tell us what your needs are.

Military Working Dogs Still Classified as “Equipment”

By Dan Moore

Whether you own a protection dog, other working dog or just a pet dog, you can probably get behind the three tenets of the Canine Members of the Armed Service Act (H.R. 4103). The first part of the act would authorize the secretary of the appropriate military department to transport retiring military working dogs to the 341st Training Squadron or place them for adoption. Historically, military working dogs have been abandoned, given away or euthanized. The second part of the act would task the Secretary of Defense with providing a veterinary care system for retired military working dogs once the dogs are adopted. The final provision holds that military working dogs would be classified as members of the armed forces instead of “equipment,” and decorated/recognized for being killed in action or performing extraordinary acts in service of the country.

The act passed the House of Representatives and Senate, but it was appended to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which was signed into law at the end of 2012. Unfortunately, the entire resolution wasn’t left intact. The good news is that military working dogs will not be abandoned or given away overseas. Instead they will be transported back to the United States once their service is over, and veterinary care will be provided. The bad news is that these canine heroes will still not be classified as members of the armed forces, and instead will be considered “equipment” or “surplus equipment.”

Protection dog owners can tell you that their companions are more than guard dogs or security systems- they’re a member of the family. Handlers in the military will take comfort in knowing that their comrades will be cared for and not left behind after duty, but it seems wrong to ask so much of these dogs without considering them a part of the armed forces. There is a growing movement to remedy this issue, and we’ll be on the lookout for any developments with military working dogs, since we consider them close cousins to the dogs we train for family security.