They Keep Dogs for Protection
“BEWARE of the Dog,” printed in a bright, glowing orange, was observed as the most prevalent sign in one part of New York city. It was followed by a more official-looking one: “This Property Is Protected by Guard Dogs.”
People can hardly be blamed for seeking protection, especially after repeatedly being mugged or burglarized. But are dogs the answer? Are they really an effective crime deterrent?
What Dog Keepers Say
Dog trainer Arthur J. Haggerty, who has had over seventy rented dogs on nightly duty at construction sites in New York, says: “Contractors have told us that petty thefts and vandalism start to decline as soon as they post a ‘Warning—This Area Patrolled by Attack Dog’ sign on the site. When a dog moves in, thieves just move on to easier pickings.”
Dogs have also proved valuable in protecting stores. “I was robbed eight times in four years,” said Martin Blauvelt, the owner of a small liquor store, as he fondled his huge German Shepherd. “But since I bought Hercules two years ago, nobody has had the nerve to try anything.”
In large department stores, specially trained attack dogs accompanied by a handler patrol floors at night. While thieves may be able to conceal themselves from human guards, it is not so easy to hide from a dog. During the past year, according to Emanuel J. Falcone, security director at Gimbels, more than eighteen persons were apprehended with the help of dogs in one of their New York stores.
Many home dwellers, too, now consider a dog vital for their protection. For example, a family man living in a high-crime area explained: “Ordinarily I wouldn’t keep a dog in the city, especially a large one. But every home in this building has been burglarized, except ours. Besides, I would be afraid to let my wife step outside alone without him.”
A young man interviewed while walking his fierce-looking shepherd near the Brooklyn Heights section of New York felt similarly. Twice he had been mugged in recent months, once being severely knifed. “It wouldn’t have happened,” he claimed, “if my dog had been with me. I rarely go out without him now.”
Even little dogs are valuable, says Diana Henley of the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Of her own Chihuahuas, she noted: “They couldn’t do anyone much harm, but they are great at alerting me if anyone is outside.” She also keeps a black Labrador that has growled at and scared off would-be muggers that have stalked her while they were out walking.
Even in many small towns and rural areas dogs are now considered important to have. For example, a young man living in the country at Wallkill, New York, recently paid $1,400 for a professionally trained guard dog.
Such examples could be repeated thousands of times over. It is estimated that over twenty-five million dogs are maintained by households in the United States. And dog trainer Tom Nova claims that by far the majority of them instinctively protect the home. In addition, he says, many thousands of trained guard dogs are kept specifically for protection.
Most dog owners probably have observed a protective instinct in their dogs. Regarding it, The New Dog Encyclopedia says:
“Once a dog has accepted a person or family as his master, he immediately develops a well-defined sense of proprietorship and is ready to defend them, their home and possessions against all intruders. This sense of guardianship is present in almost all dogs, regardless of the breed, although it naturally asserts itself more in bolder or more aggressive animals. This guardian trait [is] now recognized by science and canine authorities as a definite instinct.”
This protective instinct can be encouraged and developed to a high degree of efficiency. A dog can thus become a weapon more effective, in certain circumstances, than a loaded revolver. For this, however, special training is required. Yet a dog may provide fine protection without any such training.
Dogs Without Guard Training
Professional trainers tend to categorize dogs according to the protection they provide. For example, a so-called “image dog” is large and imposing, belonging to a breed with a reputation for aggressiveness, such as a German Shepherd. Yet the dog need not have any aggressive tendencies. He can be mild-tempered and good with children. Simply his looks are a deterrent to wrongdoers. Interestingly, a dark-colored dog is generally feared more than a light-colored one, and so makes a better “image dog.”
A “watchdog” is a housedog that will bark, which is usually his principal effectiveness. Yet he may instinctively show signs of aggression in the appropriate situation. He may even bite an intruder, but since he has had no real guard training, there is little guarantee he will. You might consider a large “image dog” the best watchdog, but even inoffensive-looking little poodles or Chihuahuas can also make good ones.
Dogs with Guard Training
Then there are dogs with various degrees of special guard training. Some may simply be obedience trained, and developed to the point where they jump to their owner’s protection on command, or upon provocation. But they have, only to a very limited extent, been taught to bite.
It is different with the fully trained “guard dog.” He is trained to fight, and the power of his bite is developed by practice to where it can break an arm or snap a collarbone. He learns to protect himself and his handler from knife, gun and club. Such a dog has been compared to a professional soldier who may feel more at home in battle than in civilian life.
The dog is trained on a leash. A handler holds him while an “aggressor” agitates him with increasing offensiveness—by shouts, menacing gestures, digging a rounded-end stick in the groin, and so forth. The “aggressor” may have a heavily padded arm sleeve for protection, or hold a burlap bag that the dog bites. The dog’s confidence is built up in these attacks for he always drives off the aggressor. He never loses. Thus he is taught to believe that he can subdue any opponent.
An elite guard dog is sometimes called an “attack dog.” Instead of just a few weeks or months of training, he may require a year or so. Such a dog can sell for $4,000 and more. He will not only protect his owner but attack a specified person on command. This dog is, in every sense of the word, a weapon.
Are Dogs with Guard Training Safe?
Theoretically they are, since they supposedly will attack only on command, or under real provocation. Thus experiences are told of guard dogs escaping and being befriended by passersby who took them home and noticed nothing unusual about them. Yet different experiences occur too. Last fall in New Jersey two such dogs kept to protect contracting equipment escaped and killed six-year-old Hubert Russell. When they lunged at police officers, they were shot.
Even owners may not be safe. Craig Iwig paid $1,200 to a well-known New York dog trainer for a German Shepherd to protect his TV repair shop. The dog worked well for about six months. But then one Sunday, while alone in his shop, Iwig stooped to pick up a tool. The dog sprang, hitting him in the side of the face, and raking his scalp with his teeth.
“Guns misfire, and so do guard dogs,” trainer Tom Nova observed. “Like humans, dogs, too, make mistakes. They misinterpret. Two youngsters may be roughhousing, and a guard dog may hit one of them. It happens. I’d never keep one at home.”
Many trainers feel similarly. They are very hesitant to sell a guard dog for home use; some simply refuse to sell one to families with children. As trainer Jack Healy explained: “Sooner or later they’ll tease the animal, and even the finest dog can hit a child, given the right provocation.”
A Protection Dog for You?
Police departments and persons owning or in charge of stores, construction companies, trucking concerns and other commercial establishments may well decide that professionally trained guard dogs are for them. But is such a dog for you?
You might ask yourself: Would I keep a loaded pistol? Would I have it around the house where children might play with it? If not, a trained guard dog is not for you! The risk, not to mention the high price of such a dog, simply is not worth it, except perhaps under the most extreme circumstances.
However, due to skyrocketing crime, you may decide to keep a watchdog, or so-called “image dog.” But first count the cost. A New York city owner of a 75-pound German Shepherd recently calculated his weekly feed bill at $3.40. That is over $175.00 a year! Then there is the cost of collars, chains, license and perhaps veterinarian fees. And remember, a dog kept in an apartment needs to be walked outdoors at least once or twice a day.
Dogs can be wonderful pets and companions. How sad it is that world conditions are so bad that they have been trained to attack people! Happily, the promise of God’s Word is that soon, under His righteous Kingdom rule, all mankind will enjoy true security, with no need to keep dogs for protection.—Isa. 11:6-9.