Good (Guard) Dog!
(Page 3 of 4)
“It’s important to understand that you’re using aversive conditioning and that the interrupter you use should fit the dog,” she says. “If the conditioning is too strong, the device will elicit a fear response, which is not what you’re trying to do. You also don’t want your dog to think that appropriate barking is bad, since that’s an important part of its job.”
When my dog wakes me up by barking in the middle of the night, I get up and look around before I tell her to settle down. I can feel her relief when she sees that I’m doing my part.
Security dogs take watchdogging a step further by aggressively defending their territory. Because they can be dangerous, security dogs require special training; owning one is a serious responsibility.
“I do not recommend that people buy or attempt to train a protection dog,” Mlinek says. “This requires a great deal of expertise and many years of training, as well as precisely the right kind of dog. A protection dog that is poorly trained or handled by an untrained person can be very dangerous.”
Luescher adds, “People want a guard dog, so they will encourage it to be aggressive because it makes them feel safe. Then things get out of hand.”
Aggressive dogs are more likely to bite, which occurs more than 4.7 million times a year in the United States – and that’s only the number of bites reported to authorities. In 2003, according to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for a quarter of all homeowner liability claims, and the insurance industry paid out about $322 million for them. Note that these are civil claims, and 50 percent involved dog bites on the dog owner’s property. If a dangerous dog harms someone because the owner has allowed it to run loose, the owner also can be held criminally responsible.
With these kinds of numbers to back them up, insurance companies often ask questions about family dogs. When I applied for my last homeowner’s policy, I was asked about my dog’s breed, age and whether she had been spayed (she had). I eagerly answered my insurance agent’s questions, thinking that having a watchdog would reduce my risk of theft – and reduce my insurance premiums. Not so, because nobody knows how often property crimes are thwarted by barking dogs.