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Out of Options — Get a Guard Dog, by T.J.

We came late to the prepping party.  We didn’t own any guns.  We lived paycheck to paycheck in a suburban area.  We couldn’t afford to buy property in Idaho, while it’s still a dream.  We have slowly stocked up on short term and long term food and water, bought heirloom seeds and learned to garden, loaded up on firewood for two huge fireplaces for cooking and warmth, but that’s about it.  Recently our son, honorably discharged from the Armed Services, came home to start his life as a civilian.  He owned a 9mm and promptly proceeded to purchase a .22 handgun for ma and pa.  The problem was, we couldn’t find any ammo, anywhere.  We are a long way from being prepared, but better off than most people we know.  We decided to get a guard dog.  The difference between a guard dog and a watchdog is the guard dog is trained to protect the family using aggression, while the watchdog will alert the family by barking and making a fuss (with not much to back it up).  Our Brittany Spaniel is a good watchdog.  She barks at every new sound, when she needs to outside, and when she thinks it’s time to eat.  I think she trains us.

After searching for the right dog, we stumbled upon good fortune.  An acquaintance, a breeder and trainer, was looking to place her prized purebred German Shepherds trained in Schutzhund (google it or youtube it) with good families for personal reasons.  Schutzhund trained dogs learn to control their drive and learn to obey the owner even when very excited.  We gratefully met the dogs and selected a lovely 5 yr old gal who had won awards in self-defense, provided puppies over the years, and who was ready to relax with a good family.  If you didn’t know this gorgeous animal, she would scare the daylights out of you if you met her in a dark ally.  Our experience with her so far, is that she is obedient, playful, loving, and loyal.  She bonded quickly with our small family, including our existing family dog.  Our Brittany Spaniel was quite put out with the very big Shepherd invading her space, but the Shepherd helped her along by being respectful and careful.  They now can eat and nap in close proximity to one another.  It only took 48 hours for the dogs to come to terms with one another.

Our goal is to ensure our new dog doesn’t forget her good training and we have some planned exercises with her former owner to learn the Schutzhund commands and routines.  It is amazing that you don’t need to collar or leash this dog.  She responds immediately to voice commands and hand motions.  One afternoon she decided to explore the neighbor’s backyard (we have very low fences between yards).  With one firm call of her name, she turned around immediately and raced back to me, almost apologetically.  Impressive.  I’m not sure my Brittany Spaniel would have been so obedient.  She would have played hide and seek for a while first.

Schutzhund training includes tracking, obedience, and protection.  The most important part to understand about protection is that the dog has been trained to attack upon command, but more importantly to quit the attack by command.  The bite force of a German Shepherd, depending upon size and ferocity, is quite strong as compared to other dogs.  However, this is not an out of control attack dog.  This is a dog that works on command and quits working on command.  She only barks if confronted with a threatening situation.  She hasn’t made a peep since we’ve had her.  We are learning the German commands, but were assured by the trainer that she is very smart and will adapt quickly to our version of the commands without a problem.  This gave us a great sense of confidence. 

Some people believe that getting an aggressive-tempered guard dog is the right way to go, but how do you know that dog will not attack one of your
sweet grandchildren, the mail carrier, or a neighbor walking his or her dog?  One of my daughters is terribly afraid of German Shepherds having been bit by the neighbor’s Shepherd when she was a young teenager.  That dog took a huge bit out of her thigh, requiring a trip to emergency and many stitches.  She still has scars and is terrified.  The dog was not teased or threatened in any way; it just decided to attack for no good reason while the children were playing in the front yard.

One of the web sites I found that provided good information on what type of dog to get for personal protection was Cesar’s [1].  Cesar listed the top 10 dogs in this order from best to least protection dogs:

1.       Bullmastiff – very big dogs
2.       Doberman Pinscher – need room, very fast, very smart
3.       Rottweiler – big, loyal
4.       Komodor – needs socialization to become a family pet
5.       Puli – very active and love to bark
6.       Giant Schnauzer – requires strict training
7.       German Shepherd – calm, smart, reacts quickly to threats
8.       Rhodesian Ridgeback – strict training required
9.       Kuvasz – very territorial
10.   Staffordshire Terrier – requires strict training and socialization

You can do your own research and talk to other dog owners.  Our choice was to find a highly trained and skilled German Shepherd for family loving and protection since we didn’t have the fortitude or experience to train one from puppyhood.  Every family is different and has different needs.  We wanted to snuggle by the fireside with our protection animal, as well as expect her to attack an intruder.  Purebred Shutzhund trained shepherds can cost into the thousands of dollars.  We were graced with a great deal by a loving trainer after searching for months online for the right dog, so I don’t suspect you will find the same kind of deal.  However, selecting a guard dog should be part of your preparation plans. 

Should SHTF, home invasions are expected to commence by the have-nots. The CCW By State [2] web site provides home invasion statistics for 2011.  According to the web site:

“…1 in 5 homes in the US will be broken into or experience some sort of home invasion – in other words, more than 2,000,000 U.S. families!”  Other statistics cited: 8,000 home invasions occur every day in North America, 720 forcible rapes occur every day (that’s 1 every 2 minutes), 1,440 robberies occur every day (1 every minute), 4,320 violent crimes per day (1 every second), 2,468 grave assaults per day (1 every 35 seconds), 8,640 burglaries per day (1 every 10 seconds), and 28,800 property crimes (1 every 3 seconds).”

You may live in a low crime area, as we do, but should SHTF expect the aforementioned statistics to skyrocket.  These statistics cover all of North America, but just think about it.  I confessed to my husband that I had slept better than I had in a long time, since we brought the Shepherd home.  She hears what I cannot and is alert even while resting.  We all need our sleep to remain alert and make good decisions.

While you, like us, wait out the ammunition shortage, think about investing in a guard dog.  I would rather have our dog scare off would be intruders prior to using what little ammunition we have and save those bullets for worst-case scenarios.  Do your research and understand your family needs.  Understand your own limitations in regards to breeding, raising, and training a guard dog.  It is a huge commitment.  Don’t think you can go to the pound and pick up a Doberman or Pit Bull (which are plentiful at the pound) and hope for protection.  The dog may turn on you, your family members, or neighbors if not properly trained and socialized.  And the neighbors will sue.  You don’t want to stick out as the one house in the neighborhood everyone is afraid to walk by and be subject to a police visit for suspicion of having an aggressive and dangerous dog.  We made the choice to invest in a mature, fully trained animal rather than go it alone.  Good luck and good hunting.