After spending time in Ukraine, I have an “itch” that I need to relieve myself of: the issue of having a dog for the primal reason of home security or for “self-defence” that, in my opinion, greatly contributes to the creation of stupid discriminatory laws against dogs.
Describing the Ukrainian list of the so-called “dangerous breeds” would be too long. It is easier for me to narrow it down to a statement that for Ukrainian authorities having any dog heavier than 20Kg (44 Lbs for my US readers) is the equivalent of owning a firearm and by law, these dogs should be kept on the lead and muzzled in public at all times. Imagine, even a Labrador Retriever is considered a “dangerous” dog (I am not kidding, check it for yourself if you don’t believe me).
However, by observing a big chunk of the locals’ approach to dogs that glorifies viciousness and canine aggression, this type of legislation does not come as a surprise to me. In general, when you combine fools with dogs, an ignorant of the topic public and opportunistic journalists, you have a perfect ground for stupid discriminatory laws to be created. Such laws, more often than not, persecute the breed instead of the individual owner or a particular way of handling dogs.
This approach will eventually absolve from any responsibility owners of breeds not included on the discriminating list of “canine weapons”.
Anyway, in order to avoid stupid situations, it is important to maintain a good conduct of dog ownership and treat dogs as companions and members of your own group and not as disposable weapons.
I understand the feeling of security of having a big dog next to you while walking around a dodgy neighbourhood or when you are alone at home. It is reassuring to know that there will be a possible inconvenience for anyone having bad intentions, as your pet buddy will fearlessly risk its life to protect you, and also, some dogs are a deterrent against bad intentioned people simply because of their looks.
I believe, this noble and courageous quality of dogs shouldn’t be abused but respected and used wisely and responsibly. I am not on the side of people who believe violence is never the answer, while they count on other people to maintain their safety by committing violence on their behalf. I stand by the saying that ‘violence is not the only answer but ultimately is the only answer’. Unfortunately, not everyone is a law-abiding civilised citizen as you probably are.
Some people are opportunistic predators and there is nothing wrong in considering a course of action to take in order to prevent bad situations. Owning a big dog could be one of the many solutions a person may have at his or her disposal, however, I believe it should not be the only reason or the main reason to have a dog.
In general, nearly all the dog types created for guarding or big enough to deter the average criminal are dogs not recommended for first-time dog owners and usually here is where most of the problems lie. Not all dogs are equal and despite all dogs require responsibility and attention, some breeds or individual dogs require even more of that.
By not having a clue and owning a big dog over which you have no control, it will most likely put you in a situation where you will end up being the perpetrator responsible for an unfortunate event.
If you fear for your safety, I recommend you to take action regarding yourself and your property first. I am not an expert in regard to personal security, however, I like the topic and I like to share my thoughts and what I have learned by informing myself on the topic.
My most important lesson in self-defence didn’t come from Muay Thai or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training but from a simple tip called ‘situational awareness’ that can be practised and used by anyone. The core of this tip is simple: pay attention to your surroundings.
It is not difficult, put your smartphone in the pocket or your bag, leave it there and raise your eyes and pay attention to what is going on around you. Remove your headphones and listen to your surroundings. Being distracted makes you a potential victim of some opportunistic predator. Each time you enter a building observe what is going on and where the emergency exits are.
Emergency exits are not only useful for escaping a fire but also for escaping bullets and blades. If you do not see an emergency exit and you cannot leave from where you came from, if the place has a kitchen, remember that often times kitchens have a backdoor exit and also you will probably find a big knife there.
If you are one of the lucky people living in states of US where they think a good gun can stop a bad gun, get a concealed carry license and get trained but, only get it if you are capable of using it or you may end up being a victim of your own tool. I can already imagine some of my liberal friends ripping their hair off because of this statement.
A gun has no brain and cannot make its own decisions, it is a mechanical tool that only operates under its owner’s decision. On the other hand, a dog has a brain and, therefore, he or she can also make his or her own decisions that usually are driven by their instinct and they may not always make the best choice for the given situation. However, if a concealed carry is not an option due to laws or your personal choice, consider carrying a pepper spray can.
If you live in Europe where you may get into legal trouble for ‘carrying a toothpick’ (I am being sarcastic), you need to use your imagination and play it smart. In Europe, they don’t like you to carry anything for self-defence purpose because it will make criminals’ life difficult. In their mind, if you carry anything for a self-defence purpose, it means that you are planning to hurt someone, even if you had a reason for defending yourself. Here is an example of Finish police telling their citizens how to defend themselves from criminals.
So, if you carry anything to defend yourself with, make sure it is an everyday legal object like a steel barrel pen or a ‘not too tactical’ tactical pen. If someone asks, it’s a pen you use to write, the ‘monkey fist’ attached to your keys is your ‘key-chain’. Do not call these items a monkey fist or a tactical pen otherwise you will expose your true purpose of carrying these items.
So, these are your pen and your key-chain and you were scared for your life, had no chance to get away from the situation and you used your key-chain and pen to defend yourself. Do not keep hitting the attacker once he or she is running away or is on the floor and no longer represents any threat, or else, it will no longer be considered self-defence but an attack.
Please, be reasonable, do not attach a brass knuckle or a knife to your keys and call it your key-chain, you will not get away with something that obvious. Remember to avoid confrontation at all cost and listen to your gut, keep morality in the same place where you should keep your smartphone, away. If someone or a group of people look dodgy, avoid them by all means, don’t try to appear politically correct. It’s better if people say bad things about you rather if kind good words are spoken at your funeral.
Many criminals, terrorists (whether domestic or not) and even charity organisations use the cheap trick of shaming you for being a …ist or a …phobe or a bad person in order to manipulate you in their favour. Be strong, not a victim.
For your home, before getting the guard dog, I believe you should assess your house’s vulnerability first. A good tip I got from a book of a former CIA agent is: imagine to be a burglar in your area and observe houses around and decided which of them would be the easiest to break in. Assess what weak points there are in your house and secure them.
Consider fitting your house with CCTV cameras, alarm system and motion activated lights all around the house and install a strong main door. Fit windows with anti-burglar bars, preferably fit them internally (there are models that can slide when you don’t need them). They may not look good but the burglar has to break the glass to operate on them and that will set-off the alarm, delaying the intrusion and possibly injure him or her with the shards of glass which will deter the burglar even more.
Keep any door locked whether you are in or outside the house and put a “beware of the dog” sign even if you don’t have one a dog. Remove any dark or hidden spots in your yard where burglars can operate without being exposed. Again, depending on laws of your country and your willingness to do it, arm yourself.
There are many more tips and suggestions that experts in this industry can recommend you, mine are simply personal suggestions as I am not an expert.
I am not telling you to go out and do as I say but I am trying to give you some examples of what can make your life safer without having a dog only for a purpose of guarding and “self-defence”.
Now, let’s consider you have assessed your home security and you are a more aware and better-equipped citizen and you want a dog that will be primarily your pet and at the same time a dog that may turn out to be useful in a bad situation.
The first thing I would suggest you is to learn as much as possible about dogs and, in particular, about the type of dog you are interested in. Consider your lifestyle and current situation. A dog requires time and attention, if you are someone who is always away and have no time for a dog, well, a dog is not for you, do not make your life and the one of your dog miserable. You also have to remember that big dogs do not do well in very small apartments, especially if the time dedicated to them is limited.
Give your dog basic training from day one. The secret with dogs is to get their attention and trust, a dog responsive to your commands is a dog under control that represents no threat to anyone around.
I do not advocate teaching dogs to attack at your command, it is a liability that can backfire at you, especially with accidental attacks where probably the fact that you or someone else has trained the dog to attack at your command would be taken in consideration by the legal system.
In the kennel where I sometimes work, there are fine examples of guard dogs damaged beyond repair and that makes them non-adoptable due to their extreme and out of control aggressiveness. Anyway, these dogs experienced a level of negligence and treatment that goes beyond animal cruelty.
Defending the territory and the group is a natural dog instinct and as said already, many dogs will fearlessly protect you and your house even without being trained to do so.
However, due to selective breeding, some dogs have a higher guarding and protective instinct and some others may have it very low. So, if you want a dog for this purpose, choose wisely.
When choosing a dog, it is important to know what a particular dog was created for. This piece of information can make it easier for you to better understand what to expect from a dog, if a particular dog could be a good choice for you, how to behave with this dog, what games are better to avoid or better to focus on and also if a dog fits your needs, in this case of a watchdog.
Remember, dogs like the American Pit-bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and their relatives are not dogs designed for guarding. Terrier dogs are designed for catching and killing little rodents and small mammals. Big terrier types such as the Pit-bull Terrier have been created with the purpose of the nowadays illegal sport of dog fighting and bull-baiting. These dogs can also be territorial and protective of their owners like many dogs but, anyway, are not the first choice when it comes to watchdogs.
If you are looking for a dog that apart from being your pet can also act as a guardian, you should look at the working group. In this group, you will find dogs designed for different purposes including guarding.
In general, dogs that were originally created to guard livestock can do great as a watchdog and examples of these dogs can be German Shepherd and other Shepherd dog types, the Rottweiler, the Bullmastiff, the Boerboel and the Doberman Pinscher are other examples of dogs designed for guarding livestock and properties.
A terrible mistake I see people doing is leaving dogs unattended around the house perimeter. If the security of your house and family is your concern, (and I hope your dog’s safety is your big concern as well), do not leave the dog roaming outside your house. Anyone planning to break into your house and harming your family will probably try to poison your dog first or try to get rid of it in any other way.
If you want your dog to protect your house, it must be kept inside, where an intruder cannot approach your dog without alerting you or risking to get attacked by the dog. This is a concept that I also stress on my book “Before You Get a Dog”.
All dogs previously mentioned need a serious training and early socialization and, as we have said, they are not a first-time dog owner’s choice. They can be great family pets but owners and anyone in the family must do their “homework” first.
Just because they do not require a license, it does not mean they do not require the same level of responsibility and caution as ones required to drive a car. I am not saying they are bad and I definitely do not stand with people who want to ban them.
What I want to ask is to not take these dogs only for a reason of guarding and consider all responsibilities that come with them.
They are pets first, and please, do not do stupid stuff that gives ‘ban bad dogs’ advocates materials to suggest laws that punish perfectly normal and well-behaved dogs just because some people miss-used them in the past.
Please, be a responsible dog owner, if you love these breeds and also you own one, it should be your primal focus and responsibility to own a dog that is totally under control and is an outstanding example of a well-behaved dog.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like to learn more, please, feel free to subscribe to this blog.
Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.