Selection Tests for Personal Protection Dogs

By Tony Gravley

With the rise of the working dog industry the get rich quick breeders have been coming out of the woodwork not only in America, but in Europe as well. I’ve heard more than one person say “I’m going to have a litter of puppies, keep them till they’re a year old and sell them for big money!  It can’t be that hard right?”

Wrong! That is very far from the truth even with the best genetics and bloodlines. There is far more involved in developing a personal protection dog than just genetics. I have tested and evaluated hundreds of dogs that I am sure have never been inside a house let alone a car.

Let’s take that particular dog and put him in the typical family house with kids playing Xbox, whipping down the side walk on skateboards and crashing into the garage door as they misjudge the space between the car and the open garage door. Without training do you really expect the dog to stay completely neutral to these types of situations, when he has the genetic make up to bite any moving object but he’s probably never been exposed to more than a kennel for 99% of his life? That’s just asking for disaster.

What if the genetics are bad? Now there is so much drive the dog goes into over load any time they start bite work. The dog can’t even control himself so don’t expect the handler to control the dog any better.

Selection Process

Selection of a canine that will enter into a protection dog program should be based on several factors. The main three areas that selection testing will be based on are Temperament, Drives and Health.

Temperament is normally a direct reflection of nerve strength and character of the K9.  How does the dog deal with startling situations like a car backfiring or a grocery cart tipping over at your local market? Reaction is to be expected, but how he displays the reaction and how quick the dog recovers from environmental stress is the important part.

Dogs that flee and run away faster than an Olympic 100 meter Gold medalist don’t work so well because they will never protect you. Then you have the dog that reacts with aggression and goes into full blown attack mode. You can’t have a ticking time bomb like that at your side unless you live in a war zone.  You want a dog that becomes startled and shows a bit of curiosity, but remains neutral to the startling situation.

These are the dogs that have good temperament and strong nerve strength and this is in part why these dogs cost more. There aren’t that many dogs that can pass the temperament test, yet will still defend you with their life. Bargain basement dogs most likely can bite you into both civil and criminal court. Or they will leave you high and dry without defense if you get attacked because they haven’t been thoroughly tested for temperament and nerve.

Well selected dogs can deal with new environments and the stressors of an active family and house hold. Training for protection is also stressful. The pressure of the “bad guy” will be put on the dog in all kinds of situations. The weak-nerved dogs will not be able to deal with the pressure. Since dogs can only relieve stress in three ways you will experience out of control barking, biting and/or running around like the proverbial chicken. High levels of obedience like you need in a personal protection dog will be massively difficult if not impossible to train. Things will spiral out of control. A dog like this will either wash out or an unscrupulous company may sell it to you anyway.

Click here to learn about drives in Part II

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