Are Dogs A Crime Deterrent?

News reporting these days often involves crime and its victims. No matter your age, gender or race, no matter how rich or poor you are, crime does not discriminate, and it often comes without warning.

Many people start thinking about and planning for such event only after they have been victimized. Taking necessary precautions and being prepared is key in protecting yourself and your family, including situational awareness and certain tools like home alarm systems, pepper spray, firearms and others. Gun ownership comes with its pros and cons, legal and practical, particularly if there are children in the family home.

Perhaps because of this ambivalence within the general population we are often asked whether a dog can act as a crime deterrent. The simple answer is yes, however the devil is in the detail. Two basic areas provide a potential role for a K9, (1) home and property guard and protection, and (2) personal protection. Let’s examine burglary, the crime circumstance that applies to most people:

Millions of burglaries are committed annually. The perpetrator is typically young, not a pro, in and out in under an hour, often stealing your things to support a drug habit, and the odds of assault are high if you or your kids are walking in. Your home is not chosen randomly but likely be cased to some degree before breaking in, usually during the day. The perpetrator is not likely to get caught as police are able to solve less than 15% of such crimes. On the upside, your laptop, TV and Percocet prescription is of no interest to skilled professionals. Your typical, drug addicted burglar doesn’t want to try too hard and doesn’t have the same skill set as the guys in movies. He also doesn’t like alarm systems, entry points that are visible to the neighbors, and dogs. Not necessarily because dogs bite, but because they may bark and draw attention. The Department of Justice reported that burglarized houses are less likely to have dogs than are non-burglarized houses, suggesting that dog ownership is a substantial deterrent.

The Three Basic Types of Dogs in This Setting:

Family Dogs

The typical family dog (not protection trained) will more likely than not bark defensively at strangers approaching “their” territory, following animal instinct. However, while just having a dog diminishes your risk of burglary, the effect on an intruder or on other violent crime such as robberies and rape is negligible with a family pet. Likewise, people jogging or walking with their dog, depending on breed and size, often assume an additional layer of protective benefit. However, once you watch a few videos of a simulated break-in or strangers approaching people walking their dog, you realize that most dogs don't make very good protectors at all. In fact, most dogs that are not protection trained may respond to a threat with what we call ‘shy-sharp’, meaning they will flash with defensive behavior, but quickly back down if the threat doesn’t retreat. This is not surprising as it takes careful foundation training and stepwise progression to have a dog act steadfast under pressure. This characteristic is not inherent to most dogs and has to be developed and trained. Bluff dogs end up with hurt owners. What would you do if you were attacked while walking your dog and you couldn’t rely on your dog for help? Think it through and have a backup plan.

Guard Dog

A guard dog is basically trained to keep any intruder out except the handler or the owner. Guard dogs are trained to protect property aggressively and are usually not kept with the family or in the home. These dogs will be a strong crime deterrent but also present a considerable liability risk if not 100% controlled at all times.

Personal Protection Dog

There are major differences between guard dogs and training a personal protection dog, which is essentially a family dog, geared and trained to protect the members of its 'pack'. The dog's training is also not simply teaching the dog to bite, instead it takes many hours of proof training amongst distractions to solidly teach a dog the appropriate response to any life situation, be it horseplay amongst the kids or a real threat by a criminal.

A huge part of this training is control work, for the dog is only allowed to react without your command if you are physically threatened. The level of advanced obedience these dogs possess allows them to be a big part of your life such as the beach, a picnic in a park, jogging, or walking with you and the baby stroller.

In addition, there are numerous tactical aspects of offensive and defensive training that most civilian dog trainers are not aware of. Dogs must be conditioned to react appropriately if you want to depend on them for protection. Breeds of dogs with a naturally strong protective instinct, i.e. most herding, working and terrier breeds, if left untrained, will sometimes decide on their own when you need protecting; more often than not, inappropriately.

Most dogs are not naturally forward aggressive, and they will typically only bite as a last resort. And while most dogs instinctively recognize and understand the difference between a friendly person on the street and the threat of a potential attacker, it is the conditioned response how to work against a determined attacker that makes a personal protection dog.

Similarly, the notion that such dogs are ‘crazy aggressive’ couldn’t be further from the truth. A personal protection dog will usually live in the home with the owner/family, be extensively socialized and oblivious to environmental stimuli, and have a clear and balanced temperament. Having a party at your home with many strangers should have the dog acting social and/or oblivious to what is going on. Such dog will thoroughly understand the difference between neutral situations and a threat, be obedient and respond as directed by the owner/handler.

Obviously, achieving this level of training does not happen overnight and requires not only significant time, dedication and skill but relies also on appropriate dog selection, correct foundation work and upbringing of the dog. To illustrate this better, a police K9 could be considered the ultimate personal protection dog but it will require an aggregate of approximately 1,000 training hours in order to be certified. Most families will not need this level of comprehensive protection and apprehension training, but even wanting a reliable, basic level personal protection dog requires significant commitment, understanding, and continued training. Ideally, you along with the help of an experienced K9 trainer should be involved in the protection training of your family dog. On the upside, you will have a 100% loyal companion that can never be turned against you.

Have Questions Regarding Protection Dogs?

Our team at North Edge K9 is comprised of active police K9 handlers and trainers with decades of street experience. We are available to help you finding the perfect K9 partner and assist in all your training needs. E-mail us at for more information.