Family watch dogs & guard dogs

Throughout history, trained dogs have been used to enhance home and family security and have become increasingly popular in the past decades. However, the choice of the right dog to guard your family or property, should be made carefully. This may depend on various factors like your family members and circumstances that may offer the dog a comfortable environment.

Family Watch dogs vs. Guard Dogs

Dog owners make a common mistake by misconceiving a guard dog as another name for a watch dog. In reality, the two have very different roles. A guard dog is a strong, usually big built dog that protects its owner or family from intruders and threats. A threat to the guard dog can be anyone outside of the family. His job is to restrain a stranger from entering the premises, unless the owners allows otherwise and in some extreme cases, even injure an intruder if it poses a threat to the owner or the family. A guard dog has the physical strength and aptitude (sometimes depending on breed attributes) to guard his territory.

A watch dog on the other hand acts as an alarm to alert its owners, by barking to inform them of any approaching threat or strangers. A watch dog may not necessarily be big built and physically strong to fit this role. A miniature pincher or Chihuahuas may be a perfectly good watch dog.

What to remember while picking a guard dog

There are a number of factors and guidelines that people should consider when deciding a watchdog or guard dog breed. Various breeds of dogs naturally show different characteristics and qualities, depending on their breeding over generations and assigned roles of work, through these generations.

Working a guard dog is very important, as is for any working breed. Training a guard dog or seeking professional help to do so will result in bringing out the best in the dog and help him perform his duties, as he is meant to. The dog is also the happiest when performing it's role. The dog relates to his training, not as a compulsive exercise but as an interaction between him and his owner, or incase of a professional trainer, the dog works to prove it skills for praise or recognition and reward.

Some dogs are aloof by nature to strangers and non family members. It is also regarded as a virtue as aloof dogs don’t tent to be swayed easily by superficial attempts of friendship by strangers.

As I mentioned earlier, dogs generally enjoy their role of protecting the entire property but a single dog is also vulnerable to attack from an intruder.

If an intruder is able to break into a premise which the guard dog cannot reach, the protection or guarding has little or no practical relevance. So the area designated or covered by your guard dog should be easily accessible by the dog and open to him for roaming and guarding.

Some breeds that make great guard dogs are Bull Mastiffs, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Komodor, Puli, Giant Schnauzer, German Shepherd, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kuvasz, American Staffordshire Terrier, Chow Chow, Belgian Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Teruven, Dogo Argentino (Argentine Mastiff), Tosa Inu, South-African Boerboel, Neapolitan Mastiff & Bulldog, Cane Corso, Bouvier des Flandres, Thai Ridgebacks, Beauceron, Akita Inu, Fila Brasileiro.

Apart from selecting the right breed, another important factor dog owners or potential dog owners may take into consideration is the gender of the dog. Females of many breeds may be less aggressive and have a loving temperament at home but very protective of family members from outsiders.

A darker coloured dog has no direct relation with its physical capabilities as a guard dog but a black or dark dog may be difficult to spot at night while guarding the premises and make the intruder more weary of his act.

One should keep in mind that dog attacks are not a common occurrence and the major source of aggression in dogs stems from abuse or wrong training by the owners. Therefore it is suggested that specialised training should only be given to your dog by a qualified professional to achieve the best results with the dog's maximum potential.

What can a watch dog do for you?

As I mentioned earlier in this article, the basic difference between a watch dog and a guard dog is the roles they play in alerting and guarding their territory and their owners. A watch dog will only alert you and a guard dog will guard you which means even if has to trap or pin down an intruder, it will do so, if trained properly, without hurting the intruder unless commanded to do so by you.

Some guard dogs such as Rottweilers and German Shepherds also serve as great watch dogs and should be included in this category. Mostly, watchdogs include many small breeds that bark liberally but are not physically equipped to offer protection. This lack of physical strength is however compensated with their excellent hearing. Sometimes stronger than larger sized dogs.

The Pomeranian, Toy Poodle, Welsh Corgi, Shetland Sheepdog, Lhasa Apso, Akita, Maltese Terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Samoyed, English Springer Spaniel, Dalmatian, and Irish Setter, all maybe considered as watch dogs.

Great Pets and working dogs, not guard dogs!

Some of these dogs make great house and farm pets but it is their lack of inclination to bark that makes them unfit for the purposes of watch dogs at work. These include the Bloodhound, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard, Basset Hound, Bulldog, Old English Sheepdog, Clumber Spaniel, Irish Wolfhound, Scottish Deerhound, Pug, Siberian Husky and Alaskan Malamute.

Caring for Your Dog

Most possible owners and first timers looking to get a dog do not realise the amount of responsibility and emotional investment, that is involved in caring for a dog. It is important to realise that you will be responsible for maintaining the well-being of your dog. Unlike other security measures such as lighting, fences, electrical fences etc, a dog is a living, loving and feeling individual that requires your care and deserves attentive and constant care from its owner. This helps not only to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, but to build a level of trust both-ways, without which there is no fairness or fulfilment of this unmatched relationship.

The results of this investment in your dog by caring for it, will ensure a life long, undeterred loyalty and security for you and your family.

Besides companionship and love, you dog requires regular health check-ups, flea and skin checks / treatments, vital organ checks, de-worming, daily grooming and one-on-one interaction, weather it be play time or training. Dogs require and cherish companionship and affection from the families and eagerly return it. Dogs that are deprived of attention may suffer from, or be prone to, psychological trauma. Dogs are no different from your children and neither come with a rule book of upbringing. Prospective dog owners should consult experts and seek their help on the care of their new dogs. It should come as no surprise that the behaviour of a puppy will be different from that of a young dog or a grown up dog. As is the case in humans.

A healthy dog is a happy dog

Dogs are also prone to various physical ailments and diseases, usually based on their breeds. Other factors that may affect chronic aliments in dogs are the line of breeding and genetics, which may be hereditarily passed on.

The belief of spaying or neutering your dog and the effects of it on their behaviour are not a proven fact. Many believe that it calms a dog down or makes it more aggressive, depending on the gender, but none of this has been proven or recommended as a solution to a behavioural problem with a dog. Most behavioural problems stem from either lack of love and attention to your dog or an undetected health condition that the owners or doctors may not be able to detect soon.

Besides a lot of love and attention, regular care and activity, balanced and good diet and ample exercise followed by regular check-ups, all ensure a healthy and happy dog.

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