K-9s as Part of Your Self-Defense Plan

Choosing the best guard dog

So, you want a dog to protect your home and your family…. well, I can tell you from my experience as a police K-9 handler and dog trainer that there is more to it than what the average person realizes.  Let me be clear that I am a big proponent of using K-9s as part of your home and self-defense plan, and I will address personal protection dog questions in this post.  However, experience has taught me that not everyone needs a fully trained “attack dog” to utilize man’s best friend for home and self-defense.  In some ways, having a dog in your home can help keep you and your family safe.  So, let’s explore the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of having a “protection dog.”

Southern Hills K-9
Belgian Malinois I trained back when I owned and operated Southern Hills K-9

Guard Dogs the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Before we unpack the pros and cons of owning a protection dog, let’s first clarify and define exactly what we are discussing.  Any dog, whether trained or untrained, can be considered a protection dog if it simply enables you to know when someone is at your door or if it has natural protective instincts. For clarity, let’s call an untrained dog that will bark when a stranger is on your property or at your door a watchdog.  We will call any dog that does this but is willing to show aggression to protect you and your home a guard dog.  A dog that is formally trained to protect you and your family, including by attacking command, we will call a protection dog.

The Watch Dog

When looking at the types of dogs we listed, you may be inclined to put the watchdog at the bottom.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss this type of dog as ineffective; a good watchdog is invaluable to keeping your home and your family safe.  I will assume that most of you reading this blog are gun owners. 

watch dog barking

Most of you also would not hesitate to use your 2nd Amendment rights to protect yourself and your family from a home invasion or similar scenario.  Unfortunately, the odds are not in your favor if you don’t realize that the home invasion is happening until the door is kicked open while you are still reclining in your lazy boy.  Watch Dogs are a great early warning system to let you know that there is someone or something near you or your house.  A watchdog that barks to alert you is also a great deterrent because many criminals will avoid dogs.

The Guard Dog

Like a watchdog, a guard dog will also let you know if someone is approaching you or your home.  The guard dog will respond with aggression if it feels a threat to you or your family.  This level of aggression will range between different dogs.  For example, some dogs will bark, growl, show teeth, and raise their hackles. But if directly challenged by an attacker, they will ultimately retreat. 

Dog watching over baby

This dog will chase you if you run, but if you charge the dog, it will not stand its ground.  On the other end of the spectrum is the dog that will aggress against or engage a perceived threat.  This dog will not back down from an intruder and will do everything possible to stop the threat.

I will concede that there is an essential divide between a dog showing aggression and a dog engaging an attacker. I almost created two categories due to the difference; however, the dog displays aggression on both ends of the spectrum.  Therefore, we will discuss the references and examine each separately.  

Types of Guard Dogs

training guard dog
My 7 year old doing protection training with one of our female dogs

To clarify things, I will explain which type I am talking about when the difference is germane to my point.  Many of you may think that the second guard dog type is “the better” of the two.  In some cases, that may be true; however, you have to give something up for everything you gain.  This is true with the guard dog willing to engage a perceived threat fully.  Both dogs have value as part of keeping yourself and your family safe.  Think of them as two different types of self-defense “tools.”  One is not necessarily better than the other, but they are different.  Think of different types of firearms. A shotgun with birdshot is ideal for dove hunting but not the perfect weapon for close-quarter combat (CQC).  The different types of dogs that we are discussing all have value with different strengths and limitations.

The Protection Dog

The protection dog is a dog that will alert you to the presence of a threat or intruder.  The dog will also engage in a perceived threat.  Trained to protect and act given commands to engage or disengage a threat. 

Personal Protection Dog FAQs

The main difference between a protection dog and a guard dog is the level of control over the dog.  There are other differences, protection dogs are taught how to engage and are trained to take specific actions. Many of these actions don’t come naturally to a dog.  However, overwhelmingly the most significant difference is the level of obedience. This gives you control over the dog in a self-defense scenario.

Which Dog is Best for Protection

Most of you want to know the answer to that question. Others may have decided that the trained protection dog is the best choice.  If you rank each type of dog, it’s easy to see how they could be viewed as the top choice.  However, which Dog is best for protection depends on many factors. Therefore, I plan to provide an honest overview of each type of dog. In addition, I will cover detailed pros and cons. I rely on 15 years as a K-9 officer and my experience from owning my own dog training business.  In addition, I have had the privilege to learn from some of the world’s best K-9 officers and trainers.  

Officer john hill and k-9 renzo
My first patrol dog: Renzo 2007

Personal Protection Dog FAQs

What breeds are commonly used for personal protection dogs?

Breeds such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, and Boxers are commonly used for personal protection dog training.

How are personal protection dogs trained?

Personal protection dogs are trained using a combination of obedience training and specialized protection training, which includes teaching the dog to bark on command, bite on command, and release on command.

Can any dog be trained as a personal protection dog?

No, not all dogs are suitable for personal protection training. Dogs with aggressive tendencies or fearful behavior may not be suitable for this type of training.

Are personal protection dogs dangerous to have around children or other pets?

Personal protection dogs can be trained to coexist peacefully with children and other pets, but it is important to ensure proper supervision and training.

How much does it cost to train a personal protection dog?

The cost of training a personal protection dog varies depending on the breed of the dog, the level of training required, and the training facility. It can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

How long does it take to train a personal protection dog?

The length of time it takes to train a personal protection dog depends on the dog’s breed, age, and temperament, as well as the level of training required. It can take several months to a year or more to complete the training.

Do I need a license or special certification to own a personal protection dog?

The laws regarding owning a personal protection dog vary by state and country. It is recommended to research local laws and regulations before acquiring a personal protection dog.

Ask your Personal Protection Dog Questions

I welcome feedback and comments to see if you want any specific personal protection dog questions covered.  Also, some of you reading this may have K-9 experience of your own. If so, I would say this blog series is for the everyday person. I will use layperson terms and keep it geared toward the average dog owner. Keep an eye out for the upcoming blogs as we dive into the use of dogs for protection.


  • John Hill

    John Hill is an active police officer with over 18 years of experience. He has served on road patrol, crime suppression team, and K-9. He is also the co-owner of Shield Protection Products.

Leave a Reply

Product added to cart
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop