This page is part of the Watchdog section of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network

Comprehensive Behavioral Conditioning for Dogs
Section Three of the Advanced Course

How to Train a World-Class Watchdog
Page Two of a four-page article

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The Three Types of Protection Dogs

You can think of there as being three kinds of dogs a person might employ for protective purposes:

  1. Attack Dogs,
  2. guard dogs, and
  3. watchdogs.
The role of the attack dog is to bite people, either when the intruder enters a certain geographic boundary or when the dog is commanded to do so.

The role of the guard dog, on the other hand, is to keep other people from attacking his master. Not necessarily by attacking the bad guys, but rather, through the deterrent factor. One would suppose that every great once in a while, a guard dog will save his owner by going on the attack and driving off someone who is attempting to harm his master. But much more often, guard dogs serve their purpose in a deterrent fashion, simply by being with their masters and thereby, forestalling an attack that might have otherwise occurred. Therefore, guard dogs need not be attack trained.

Then, there is the watchdog.

The Proper Role of a Well Trained Watchdog

The role of the watchdog is not to attack intruders. Nor is it to forestall an attack by the same. Nor, is the role of the watchdog to bark at everything he sees.

Rather, the proper role of a well trained watchdog is to sound the alarm by barking when he sees someone do one of those specific things that he has been trained to watch for.

Your task as someone who is about to train a watchdog is - first - to make a list of those things that you want your watchdog-to-be to bark at and - second - to arrange the training contingencies to ensure that your dog always barks at those things. However, just as importantly, you must ensure that your dog will bark only at those things, because the value of a watchdog lies in his ablility to call human attention to the fact that an intruder is present. Therefore, if your dog barks at cats and pedestrians and other superfluous stimuli, his value to you as a watchdog wil be nil, because you will have no idea if his vocalization signals a burgular on your front porch or a leaf blowing down the sidewalk.

The Scourge of Noise

In days of old, it was considered acceptable to put a dog out in the yard to bark at everyone who walked by, or to scream randomly at all hours of the day and night. Of course, at one time, it was also considered acceptable to smoke a cigarette while changing a baby's diaper.

The fact is that modern science tells us that over time, noise kills people. It tears families apart and it does harm to children that is easily the equal of more notorious forms of abuse. To be sure, putting a barking dog in your yard can wreak havoc on your neighbor's health and potential for happiness.

That being the case, you'd be well advised to make a list of the things you really need your watchdog to bark at. Then, you should make sure that he always barks at those things and that he all but never barks at anything else.

The Things to Be Barked At List

For most people in most situations, it is really better if their watchdog barks only at an intruder who is actually on their property or attempting to enter their property in a wrongful fashion. For example, it would be improper for your watchdog to bark at a stranger who is standing just outside your front gate ringing the bell. On the other hand, if the stranger were to cut the lock and enter the gate unescorted, at that point, barking would be indicated.

Unless you take steps to discourage it, you are likely to find that your dog will tend to bark to herald the arrival of family members when they return home after an absence. However, there really is no point in your neighbor suffering a new acoustic outrage every time somebody in your family comes home.

Your dog can whine, race around and make a general display of excitement to signal the return of well known family members. It makes no sense for you to allow him to disturb your neighbors by bellowing out an announcement that can be delivered just as effectively in a much less raucous fashion.

In truth, if you are like most people, then, short of a stranger actually physically coming onto your property in an improper manner, there is very little that your watchdog should be barking at.

How to Train Your Watchdog

Once you have your list of what you do and do not want your dog to bark at, obviously, the thing to do from there is to punish the animal every time he barks inappropriately and to reward him every time he barks when he should. Presumably, you read the first and second sections of the fundamentals workshop before you tackled this section. If not, please read those sections now and learn about how to properly reinforce as well as how to properly punish your dog's behavior before proceeding.

However, rather than just waiting for your dog to bark, so you can punish him for alerting to the wrong things and reward him for barking at the right things, you can create various scenarios in order to give him a chance to practice. For example, if you want your dog to bark at people who peer into your front window, then, recruit someone the animal does not know and have them do that very thing in such an exaggerated fashion that he is sure to bark at them. Then, when he does, reward him in lavish fashion. If your dog tends to bark at other dogs when they walk by on the sidewalk, then, you might want to pay some neighborhood kids to walk their dogs past your house every couple minutes so that you will have repeated opportunities to convey to your dog that shouting at other canines as they journey past is unacceptable.

Providing that you make it a point both to reinforce as well as to punish your dog's barking behavior in proper fashion, then, the more practice the animal gets, the faster he will learn and the closer he will come to mastering his craft.

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This page is part of the Watchdog section of the Advanced Course of the
D.S. Dog Training Workshop, and an element of the Dog Science Network