Copyright 2013. Slee Canine Training & Security. All rights reserved.

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An article on the advantages, and the arguments against, using canines for security.

     In this modern age of technology, many people are inclined to believe, partly through societal and marketing conditioning, that new inventions are always the best and can always replace older methods or vehicles for any given end goal, in this case dogs being the older vehicle for personal, business and home security.

Major areas of electronic security include surveillance, burglar and fire alarms, car alarms, monitoring systems, personal safety/security alarms and bomb alarms. Canines can and are also used in each of these areas, with the possible exception of monitoring, in it’s strictest definition. For example, a dog cannot monitor a machine’s temperature, so in that one arena a dog would not be functional. But in all of the other major areas a canine can perform and achieve results superior even to cameras, camcorders and personal security/safety devices.

Some disadvantages of electronic security systems, those same drawbacks being absent in canine use, include: electronic surveillance systems must be monitored in order to enable anyone to stop a crime/abnormal event in progress; electronic systems cannot protect a person from physical harm, generally; although tasers and ultra-sonic devices can immobilize a dog as long as the device remains activated, they are no match for multiple, well trained and conditioned dogs, or against one dog and a skilled and/or determined person; dogs do not present invasion of privacy issues; motion detector activated recorders cannot stop a crime in progress; electronic surveillance devices are limited in ability to cover all areas, even those which swivel, and when cost is an issue, may be practically useless; electronics can be disabled silently by a skilled person, and in places in which tyranny exists, illegal entry may be conducted by official personnel; since not everyone can afford a backup generator, electronics are useless during a power outage.

Many criminals will not kill a dog, even if it means being unsuccessful in the crime, some being animal lovers themselves. Those whom will kill a dog during the commission of a crime, when using a silenced weapon, knife or club, take the chance of the dog making an audible noise before and/or during it‘s death, thereby alerting someone to the presence of an intruder. Poisoning a dog may make it easier to track who it was that obtained the poison, especially a fast acting, lethal chemical, many of which are not obtainable “over the counter”.

Although wealthier folks can install gates which will shut automatically when an intrusion is detected, a guard dog can be trained to refuse entry to ALL people, except those whom the master has trained the dog to accept. And aside from the exceptions, ALL means even animal lovers and skilled dog trainers, once properly trained.

Dogs such as the Bull Mastiff will patrol an area, including large forests and grounds, and upon locating a trespasser (originally a poacher), subdue and detain the person until human assistance arrives. These dogs were used in England, quite effectively, to keep large estates and the adjoining forests free from poachers.

For those people that don’t wish for intruders to be harmed, or to remain distanced from bodily injury liability, there are at least two techniques with which they can maintain a clear conscience and/or a thicker billfold: a sentry dog’s duty is simply to alert the household of a detected intruder via barking, and can be trained to evade the trespasser while doing so, in order to further minimize the possibility of either the dog or the intruder being harmed; some sentry (watch) dogs are trained to go push a button to an electronic alarm when a break-in occurs or when an intruder is detected, and most or all dogs can likely be trained to do so. Incidentally, these same techniques could be employed when using dogs as fire guards.

Many dogs acutely notice when something is different within a familiar area and will investigate. These dogs can be trained to alert someone when they notice a door ajar, an open gate or other things which are not right. One notable dog on this concept is the Shitzu, which will bark if something in the house is out of place or different, such as a curtain shut when it is not normally, a piece of furniture moved, or anything else that is different. Some dogs can be trained to differentiate between not so obvious things. For example, Wayne, who owned a 110 pound Doberman, trained that dog to growl when someone showed their middle finger or swore. You could show any other finger and the dog wouldn’t react. But show that middle one and he’d get mad. Experiments have shown that dogs recognize the difference between two triangles of a different size, or one pointing in a different direction, and the difference between various facial expressions.

For very large properties with clear views, such as farms, ranches, golf courses and the like, dogs that hunt by sight can be utilized as spotter dogs and, according to the handler’s preference, either approach more closely to a predator/trespasser and chase them away or subdue and detain them, or else go to a pre-designated spot and alert a human, either physically or by pushing an alarm button, perhaps a siren.

The Doberman Pinscher is one dog noted for the ability to patrol an exact perimeter, round after round, without human supervision. Herding dogs that also guard, such as the Great Pyranees and German Shepherd, could also be relied upon to perform a similar task. The guard dogs which originally watched over livestock can be trained to systematically or randomly check certain spots or areas periodically while patrolling a general area or perimeter.

Due to a dog’s superior sixth sense, they naturally will sense when something is amiss, be it a human intruder, a fire or smoke, or predators preying on livestock. A friend of mine related to me that his daughter and her husband were asleep one night, when the dog started barking frantically and would not calm down. Upon investigating, the owners discovered that there was a gas leak in the house, which would likely have proved tragic, since the woman usually smoked a cigarette upon arising in the morning. There‘s also a good chance that they would have been asphyxiated by the time they got up.

Properly trained, a guard dog will not harm a subject who is remaining motionless and posing no threat. The canine guard can also take down an assailant without causing undue harm or injury and hold them until the handler takes the suspect into custody.

One man I met many years ago had two large Rottweillers, which he had trained as guards. When I visited him, the dogs were slobbering all over each other to get my attention, to get petted. I remarked how easy it would be to rob his place, thinking that he surely didn’t rely upon those two goofballs for protection. He laughed and uttered a command to them as he walked to the kitchen to get us a drink, telling me not to get up. The dogs withdrew from me and just sat there, watching me. I moved slightly and noticed a lip curl on one of the stocky, muscular curs, then I stopped, remaining in the same position, wondering. Once Randy walked back into the room, he ordered one of the dogs to go to it’s place in another room. He then told me to try to get up. I moved farther than I had before, and that dog let out a deep, unearthly growl, showing his teeth, so I sort of eased back onto the couch, both dumfounded and in awe. Randy had a good laugh and gave the dog a different order, at which the dog not only relaxed, but started clamoring once again for my attention. That was probably the best lesson about dogs that I could have learned. Randy noted, “I can teach any dog to attack. It’s getting’ them to stop that’s the real trick.”

To partially ease the concerns of interested, potential guard dog owners, it may soothe them to know that since dogs are very territorial, they are usually not aggressive if wandering off of the home domain, harming no one unless aggressively approached, and even then they will usually avoid conflict.

Once in Wabash, at about the same time as the story mentioned in the previous paragraph, I found a nice looking German Shepherd that appeared to be lost, perhaps just wandering. It let me approach and pet him, so I led him around by the collar and started the process of locating the owner. Once that was discovered, I took him to it’s home. The master clipped the chain to the dog’s collar and thanked me. I made a remark about the apparent inadequacies of his dog’s protection qualities, and the man just smiled. He said something to the dog, then turned to me. “Now go over and pet him” he suggested. I walked over and reached out to the seemingly harmless canine, and he came unglued with a lightning quick snarl. At that, the amused owner explained to me about a dog’s inherent, territorial characteristics. “Always remember that, son” he admonished. I always have.

Many dogs, though strong and fierce enough to singly kill a wolf or fend off a bear or mountain lion in a group of 3 or 4, are kind and gentle with children and other family members, as well as other welcome people. Two examples are the Russian Wolf Hound and the Old English Mastiff.

Is two or more dogs running toward you aggressively always a sign that you are about to be bitten? I found out when I was still a kid that the answer to that question is no. I was walking past a neighbor’s place once, and the two German Shepherds came galloping towards me, their eyes riveted on me as they emitted throaty growls. George was always that way, the younger dog, but I was alarmed, because I had always gotten along with Sam, a very large-boned dog, older and very experienced. As they neared, it seemed Sam recognized me and quit barking, though still alert, but that ornery George lunged at me. Sam leaped forward and blocked George’s evident assault, and herded him back towards the house, as I looked over my shoulder admiringly at Sam as I continued on.

Observing a security monitor will reveal to you if anything within it’s viewing area is not as it should be, but how can a dog accomplish the same thing, other than barking and perhaps leading the handler to a trouble spot? A dog’s various barks, growls, whines, snorts, howls and other body language contain much information, once an owner gets to know the dog and learns how to decipher that “communication”. Is that reliable? According to a neighbor, he can usually tell what my dogs are barking at by the sounds of the various noises they make. And not so long ago, a dog was admitted as a witness during a court case in Wabash County, Indiana.

One of the most dangerous tasks in the world was performed more efficiently than, and just as effectively as, a machine in Iraq. It was documented on The History Channel and verified by military personnel, soldiers assigned the duty of clearing mine fields, that dogs are the preferred “tool” for achieving a safe path, rather than a machine called a mine sweeper. The dogs did just as good of a job and were much quicker.

When using only electronic monitoring systems, a person in a stressed frame of mind may forget to check a surveillance device or look around the property for signs of theft, vandalism or other trespasses. But a dog will “check” the master if either the male or female master is angry, giddy or in some other way simply not quite in a right frame of mind, such as after having had a bad day or when very tired, thus giving the owner a reminder to plant the feet firmly onto the ground. Electronics are obviously unable to do that.

A fringe benefit of owning a dog is that having one provides companionship while also promoting responsibility with the master, in addition to instilling more feeling and warmth for living things.

Listed here are most of the main attributes desirable in guard and sentry dogs. Every dog listed will possess one or more of these, many of which are more acute in some dogs than in most dogs. Like humans, each dog has it’s strengths and weaknesses: good memory; durable; sharp sense of smell; discrimination ability; obey by hand signal; adaptable to a wide climate range; able to withstand extreme cold and/or heat; both home and flock guard; sharp hearing; adaptable to either city or country living, some bigger dogs are well suited for an apartment; guard without supervision; dependable with children; stays calm in difficult situations; curious of strange things; much endurance; agile; super jaw strength; normally quiet; very intelligent; excellent night vision; hunt/spot by sight; loves the water; alert; steady & consistent; tolerant to bugs; good manners; go up to 24 hours without water; good jumper/climber; stamina; loves to be with humans; tolerant to cats; good in underbrush; keep up with horses on the hunt; strong discernment; rat & snake killer; retriever; livestock herder; aloof to strangers and/or people in general besides the master and/or family; indifferent to other dogs; good on boats.

The list cites a wide variety of attributes which all dogs can possess, but which, again, are inherently stronger in some breeds than in others. Depending upon the circumstance, situation, condition and intended mode of security, a person in need of a dog for security should be able to select a breed with the right combination to suit their purpose.

Following is a list of American held dog breeds which are, have or can be used as watch, guard, search & rescue, bomb and/or therapy dogs; Golden Retriever, Gordon Setter, Labrador Retriever, American Water Spaniel, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Siberian Husky, Collie, Shetland Sheep Dog, Old English Sheepdog, Great Pyranees, Rottweiler, Belgian Tervuren, Belgian Sheepdog(Groenendale), Belgian Malinois, Bull Mastiff, Great Dane, Boxer, German Shepherd, Briard, Bouvier De Flandre, Standard Schnauzer, Giant Schnauzer, Doberman Pinscher, Mastiff, St. Bernard, Bernese Mountain Dog, Newfoundland, Maltese, English Toy Spaniel, Chihuahua, Affenpinscher, Miniature Pinscher, Black & Tan Coonhound, Norwegian Elkhound, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Irish Wolfhound, Afghan Hound, Scottish Deerhound, Borzoi, Scottish Terrier, Skye Terrier, Fox Terrier, Bull Terrier, Dandie Dinmont Terrier, Border Terrier, Staffordshire Terrier, Norwich Terrier, Australian Terrier, Bedlington Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Irish Terrier, Manchester Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Welsh Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Boston Terrier, Dalmation, Chow Chow, Keeshond, Schipperke, Lhasa Apso, Mountain Feist, Pit Bull Terrier, Akita.

Before obtaining a dog for any purpose, it is wise to decide what all tasks the dog will be utilized for, and conducting some research, in order to make a perfect, or near perfect, match between the dog and you and/or your family, environment, conditions, situation and intent for the dog.

The answer to the question contained in the title to this article could be either, depending upon each person‘s, family’s, business’s or agency’s needs and requirements, but overall, my choice is the canine which, I truly believe, is the superior tool for the job of security.

Electronic devices cannot replace the canine for personal protection, sentry duty, guides for the blind, livestock security, or home and business guards. A person, home, business or area can be made just as secure with properly trained dogs, actually a bit more secure, than with solely electronic devices.

Given the advantages and limitations of each of the two vehicles for security, it is my conclusion that if a security minded person must choose between a dog(s) or electronic devices for personal, home or business security, a dog or dogs is the wisest choice.

Used properly in conjunction with one another, dogs and electronic devices can be used to make a person, place or thing close to the utmost of security and safety.


A. Encyclopedia Britannica, 1959; The History Channel; Wikipedia;; Wabash Plain Dealer; Thurman Spears, Roann, IN; The Doberman Book, Mario Migliorini; Wayne, Peru, IN; Randy, Wabash, IN

     By Todd A. Slee