Some of you may be aware of the French Police dog named Diesel that was killed in the raid that targeted ISIS asshole Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The story caught my attention, as I have a general fondness for K9s and because I suffered the unexpected loss of my own beloved German Shepherd earlier this year.
Apparently, Diesel was a Belgian Malinois in service with the French Police RAID unit. It is reported that she was first into the apartment where a female associate of the aforementioned ISIS mastermind opened fire with an AK-47 and then detonated a suicide belt. The human officers involved in the operation suffered only minor injuries, likely due to Diesel’s inherent sense of duty and training.
As I have remarked to my friends, I usually like most dogs more than most humans. As the old joke goes, “Lock your spouse and your dog in the trunk of your car. Then see who’s happy to see you in an hour!”
I don’t really know a lot about service dogs or their training, but I did specifically choose to get my German Shepherd from a breeder that specialized in service dogs. My dog’s K9 relatives were drug and explosive dogs that I had met, so he came from good stock.
What I want to discuss today, though, is the simple value of owning a dog as a key component of your home defense strategy. Many people misunderstand the role of the dog in home defense and have unrealistic expectations associated with owning a “guard dog.”
Let’s start with what the dog is NOT. Your dog does not necessarily need to be a typical working dog breed, and certainly doesn’t need to be Shutzhund trained. Your dog doesn’t need to be an “attack” dog, and probably shouldn’t be anyway!
You DO need your dog to have basic obedience training, and the reasons for this extend far beyond any home defense applications! I’m talking about “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “Come,” etc. Having verbal control of your canine sidekick is quite useful AND impressive. This investment in training will pay huge dividends over time.
Let me use my own dog as a prototypical example. As a German Shepherd, his appearance carried a certain gravitas that other breeds lack. Although he was really just a big lovable goofball, many who didn’t know him would be intimidated by the simple fact that he was a large and well-trained German Shepherd. The delivery guys learned quickly that they didn’t want to ring my doorbell, simply because his bark was quite loud and threatening. In truth, my dog was very well socialized to many other dogs and humans and probably wouldn’t have presented much of a threat to anybody unless they meant me or my wife harm. He wasn’t terribly fond of cats, but that is a trait shared by his owner!
This leads to my key point in this post… my ONLY expectation of my dogs is to act as an early warning system to alert me to potential danger. Dogs have exceptional hearing and smell and are generally excellent judges of character. Regarding this last point, if you’ve ever had a dog growl at you, it was more than likely due to YOUR subconscious behavior rather than the dog’s temperament. In fifteen years of suddenly entering complete stranger’s homes in my career as a paramedic, I’ve only ever been bitten by a dog once, and in that instance, the owner was physically restraining the dog as we entered her home and asked me to lock the dog in a closet after we found her immobile in the basement. I am convinced that the dog bit me because it perceived me as a threat, as it was not allowed to initially sniff me out at the door, and its owner was in apparent (and quite melodramatic) distress.
I am of the firm opinion that as far as alarm systems go, dogs are superior to the electronic variety. My dogs generally alert me to anything suspicious on or near my property by way of vigorous barking without any particular hard perimeter breach occurring! The rest is on me. When your dogs are acting strange, pay attention! They may sense something you don’t. This can apply to anything ranging from impending severe weather to unwelcome predators on your property.
Now, if you want to invest the time and money into getting a Shutzhund trained dog, more power to you! I just don’t see it as necessary for the majority, unless it is integral to your career choice or inclinations. One thing that I do see as potentially valuable is habituating your dog to gunfire, much as is done with hunting dogs. Again, not requisite for our purposes, but it certainly can’t hurt.
So if you have the ability and means, consider adding a dog to your home defense plan. If you already have a dog, get some training. Not only will a well-trained dog be a loyal companion to you and your family, it may even give you enough early warning to save lives!