Congratulations to TJ and family for getting connected with a great dog. I love German Shepherds!
Allow me to offer a couple of additions to the concept of survivalists utilizing guard dogs.
Food; When you ask people my grandparents age how they fed dogs “back in the day” you are likely to get the answer “the dogs ate table scraps” or the dogs ran around and found their own food. In a survival scenario there aren’t going to be any scraps nor is there going to be much to “forage.” Therefore if bringing a dog on to the team is your plan then you need to ensure you will be able to feed them. “Dog preps” if you will.
Vaccinations; In addition to food preps it is a good idea to have a years worth of de-wormer on hand. How often you de-worm depends on the environment the dogs are in. Meaning in the suburbs once or twice a year should suffice however if they are around livestock they should probably be de-wormed every three to four months.
In a Schumer scenario rabies and “rabid” dogs will likely be rampant. Have your dogs vaccinated with a three year rabies shot every year.
Breeds; The author mentions “watch” dogs versus “guard” dogs and there is a third category frequently referred to as “working guard dogs”. Working guard dogs sometimes referred to as “livestock protection dogs” do just that. The litmus test amongst goat and sheep people of what breeds qualify as working guard dogs is breeds that can kill a cougar and run off a pack of wolves. Much as I love German Sheppard’s and agree that “dobies” and Rottweiler’s can make excellent guard dogs, they are, on balance, no match for a cougar or wolf.
There are a good number of breeds used around the world as working guard dogs most of them are in the extra large breed category (German Sheppard’s are a large breed dog). The two most common working guard dogs are The Great Pyrenees’ and the Anatolian Shepherd. The Great Pyrenees is an awesome breed but we opted for the Anatolians for two reasons. First where we live (within the American Redoubt) gets very hot in the summer and we felt that their thick bodies and long hair would not do well in such heat. Secondly the Anatolians have more of an “edge” towards people protection so they can function as both a guard dog and a working guard dog. These are very independent and head strong animals so don’t expect to teach them to attack on command but they are highly intelligent and fiercely protective so you don’t have to. They are a 6,000 year old breed of dog from the Anatolian region of Turkey. In fact I was looking at some of the maps in my Bible and you can read about the area called "Anatolia" in the days of Moses. With 6,000 years of breeding a “guard” dogs they know what to do instinctively.
The AKC web site states that the Anatolian is “a working guard dog without equal”. However these dogs need space and are not for the uninitiated dog handler. You can love these dogs up and play fetch with them etc but they are not pets. They do not go to the dog park ever, we have the veterinarians come to us or if they have to go to the clinic they go in through a side door directly to the exam room. These dogs are not to view any person or animal who is not part of the “pack” as anything but outsiders who need to be chased off.
Lastly any survivalists who decide to employ dogs should have a perimeter fence. That is your line in the sand and keeps your dogs from running away which helps insure their safety.
There are many great dogs and breeds out there and the German Shepherd may well be the best fit for TJ and family but I wanted to throw these ideas out there as a compliment to his article. - Peter P.
I read the recent post about guard dogs with interest, as I'm a new owner. I agree with most of the points submitted. A guard dog can be a 'heightened sensor' so you can rest as well a fierce opponent of aggression toward you and your family. I have owned mine for a year and to be truthful never had an interest in dogs beforehand. Even though I am a prepper, and practice stocking up on the 5 Gs (Gold, Guns, Ground, Gas, and Grub - a Robert Kiyosaki-ism) I never gave considerable thought to a guard dog.
Recently a friend of mine was very generous in that he gave me a puppy. The breed was Black Russian Terrier and was shipped to me from the Ukraine. As stated, I never had an interest but felt compelled to accept this gift if for nothing else that show appreciation for the immense generosity. After being around this dog I quickly grew attached. I also saw just how intelligent and quick to learn this breed is. Even though I have limited knowledge of dog training, I could teach him basic commands in a few hours or no more than a day. He is big and strong - tops out at about 130 lbs. He doesn't slobber and doesn't shed. I had him house broke in a few days and now he guards my family while I am away on business. After saying this I guess I was a bit disappointed that this breed wasn't even listed in Caesars Top 10. It's possible that it wasn't listed simply because of rarity and many Americans never heard of it (my vet included). Even so there are several kennels in the USA that raise these unique canines and I would encourage those in the market to research them before making a purchase. I would also encourage them to study the breed. It's beginnings were founded in the Soviet army. It was a highly classified project to make the perfect working dog/Guard dog. Roughly 20 breeds were mixed together to produce what is now a Black Russian Terrier. Such dogs as the Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, Yorkshire Terrier etc were mixed together in an attempt to make a working dog that was durable in the diverse terrain and climatic conditions of Russia. My friend showed in various Ukrainian competitions it almost always outperformed the German Shepard. And I personally watched them in attack drills - seeing them perform immediately on command.
The only breed that was close was the Belgian Malinois. I have also seen where the breed is used to pull small carts which could be useful if you had some walking to do. Of course there are pros and cons to everything, and with me the maintenance of it's fur is the big drawback. Keeping him groomed properly is a continual task that I usually do every 90 days. And monthly I brush him out. Other than fur maintenance, I find nothing negative and would recommend him along side the 10 submitted - and feel confident to say he could even outperform them. In a TEOTWAWKI situation he would be a force multiplier. - S.K.
I enjoyed the posting by TJ about getting a dog to help out with protection during the long emergency, especially when you are "out of options". There were many relevant points made, and I congratulate the writer's decision to add a protection dog to his limited preparation supplies. That said, in my opinion, no dog will replace the necessity for other forms of self defense and home security. More importantly, it is not as simple as it may seem...it takes a great deal of repetitive training to keep those dog-skills finely honed. The addition of a dog to your mix is an augmentation, and a good one, if you have the right dog. Chances are that even with zero background and training, a dog who has had the right exposure will come through for you. A good chance exists that in the event of an attack upon your home, your dog may unfortunately be the first casualty, but in the meantime, we all have an inherent fear of getting bitten, and even a small dog's aggressive bark when we least expect it, can make us jump out of our skin. I would also not recommend a "junk yard dog" that never gets the benefits of human interaction or controls. The risks far outweigh the benefits...unless of course you actually have a junk yard.
I am a former K-9 handler with a medium-sized Sheriff's Department in California prior to my retirement; I was blessed to have lived and trained with the Danish Police, the source for my k-9 partner, "Sheik" (pronounced "Shike"). We worked night patrol and trained hard, for 5 + years, until I promoted out of the unit. We lived together in my bachelor years, and became very close buddies. We handled many high-risk situations together, from crimes in progress to felony car stops, and I miss him, to this day. My only complaint? That dog never wrote one report or testified in court even one time!.
Needless to say, I have many fond memories. His nickname among our squad was "John Wayne" because he was such a hard charger. If he could talk he would say that I was a knucklehead and a pain to work with, but I had never been loved by an animal more.
It took a while before I was competent, and even longer to become really good at being a handler; that came only after I learned from Sheik, and learned how to read him. One of the enduring traits of Shepherds is that they are very loyal and forgiving. I also witnessed and played the decoy or "bad guy"(taking bites or being a hidden suspect for the dog to find) for lots of K-9 teams, from departments all over, including the Danish Police. I saw lots of dogs and lots of handlers, in all stages of training. Most of the teams here in the states had dogs that were "Shutzhund". More on that later. Compared to the Europeans, who have been at it much longer, Americans were in the infant stages of understanding how dogs tick, and utilizing them to their full capacity. Our military has a much better grasp than the civilian/LE world, but of course the mission is entirely different. I will also note that there are scientific studies going on now that are opening up whole new realms of understanding about man's best friend, and how he got to be so.
A word about the mission. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an "alarm dog", even a sissy-pooch, who will notify you whenever anything goes bump in the night. Know that you will have many false alarms, but he is just doing his job, and to the dog, a possum intruder, a butterfly intruder, and a man intruder are equally suspicious, and worthy of sounding off with an alarm.
Most if not all dogs are naturally suspicious, and protective, of their territory, whether that is the car, or your yard, some more than others. Keeping your dog kenneled, or confined to your fenced yard, will make that suspicion grow. He will become extremely suspicious of anything that makes a move or a sound on your property, which he views as his own. I am a fan of kenneling, because it helped to protect my dog from the outside world, not the other way around. Encouraging him to "watch him" when the moment presents itself will also help him in knowing what you want from him. The right dog desires to please you! While his senses will be heightened outdoors, if the dog lives in your bedroom, frankly, his alarm will be too late coming, his sense of smell will be less sharp, and his sense of natural suspicion will be dulled...in short, he will get lazy!
In no case, ever, should the animal be allowed to wander the neighborhood. That is a death sentence for him, not freedom. Remember that dogs are pack creatures, their DNA is identical to wolves. Don't let those floppy ears, wagging tail and soulful eyes fool you...they are pack animals (and you must become the pack leader!) Capitalize on the keen sense of smell that the dog is blessed with and that has proven itself time and time again, the acute hearing, his instincts to identify and neutralize dangers, and his physical fighting attributes, to your advantage.
On breeds. Naturally I am biased toward Shepherds (the term "German" Shepherd is not used in Denmark, where they are known as Shaeferhunds, or "Shepherd dogs"). Of the 250 dog teams in the country at that time, there were only two that were not Shepherds, a pretty good indicator that the Danes did their homework on which breed would be best suited. With respect to my Rottie-owning friends out there, just be aware, that Rottweilers require special handling, because they are stubborn! One very major factor is the physical characteristics. Shepherds have great endurance, and are able to withstand harsh climates. Like some other breeds, there is an undercoat that acts as an insulator. In my area, the short haired breeds are probably not the wisest choice for an outdoor dog. A down side to having a Shepherd is that in certain parts of the country, they can be mistaken for a wolf or coyote, at a distance.
Nor does the dog have to be huge. One of the best working dogs I ever witnessed was a female Shepherd no more than 50 pounds...but you did not want to be on the receiving end when she hit you from six feet out on the run (and you will not outrun most dogs); the "decoy" would hit the deck like a sack of potatoes, and without protection, would have been out of the fight, period. The same holds true for the Belgian Malinois; wirey, fast, and tough, now a leading figure for our military's combat needs.
Larger dogs have more physical problems, and of course can be expensive to feed as well. They die sooner, and invariably suffer from joint and bone problems. Never allow your dog to jump into car windows, crawl around on ladders in the air, jump over limbo sticks, all for the sake of "trials" that have nothing to do with the real world. This will shorten the life of your dog and/or subject him to injury; all of that pounding on the joints and tissues are not good for the animal, just like it is for us. Yes, I did open the car door for Sheik, and no, I never competed in trials. We would have received poor scores, undoubtedly, but I was more interested in the patrol dog attributes than what some judge determined to be the perfect "heel". I would put my dog up against any other, any day. We were actually one of the few teams who were always asked to do the "call off" drill during public relations "demos". Why? because I had every confidence that the dog would call off in the midst of a full-on attack, even on a decoy without protective gear. But it took training.
All of that said, folks will make up their minds on which dog to choose, much like firearms and motor oil, so let's move on.
Shutzhund dogs are impressive! Just keep one thing in mind. Shutzhund is more or less a sport, or competition, that tests obedience, scent work, and aggression, mainly. It takes place on flat ground, usually a soccer field or similar setting, and is entertaining, as well. Anyone would find it thrilling to watch. Not to say that Shutzhund dogs will not "transition" to law enforcement or protection work, believe me, I have seen some fantastic dogs with a Shutzhund background. But not always. Put the dog and handler in a real world setting, on rural ground or an urban environment, like the roof of a department store as my memory serves me, or a pier jutting out into the ocean, and all of a sudden it is not the trial, or competition setting. Stress enters in, and if the dog has what is known as "trained courage", and his heart is really not in the real world, you may have a problem if this is your sole source of protection.
I remember testing, and then rejecting, a police donation from a couple whose dog had a lineage to be proud of, and a high ranking in the dog show world and Shutzhund arena. A beautiful animal with perfect conformation. However, once away from his handler, on his own and early on in the test, the dog showed signs of extreme stress, i.e. diarrhea, straining to escape, etc. I shut the test down immediately to avoid trauma, but at the owner's requests, brought the dog back a few days later for another round of different tests. Unfortunately, when the handler was absent, the dog freaked out, clearly unable to handle a threat coming his way. Perhaps his training was too harsh in the early phases, who knows. The couple were miffed and bewildered at the same time, but could not but accept that their (expensive) prized animal was not even close to Rin-Tin-Tin status. He was, undoubtedly, a great alarm dog, and a loving pet, and a dynamite show dog.
Some dogs are actually what is termed "sleeve happy", which can be attributed to misdirected training or just a dogs' obsession for the fight...it happens when a decoy can simply slip out of protective garb when the dog is hanging on during a bite, and run off, leaving the dog to wrestle with his prize, having torn the suspect's "arm" off. Or "ball happy"; he loves to retrieve so much that he will leave the bad guy on his own, in order to go chase a thrown ball or other object. These examples beg the questions...how will the dog perform under stress, multiple assailants, gunfire, around a female in heat, or offered food? These are all things that must be included in training routines, constantly, so that the dog is always thinking. Do you have the time, energy, or expertise to really tackle that? If not, then settle for a giving, energetic, forgiving, and loving dog that also has protective traits, and suspicions of what he senses. In other words, a good alarm dog. That training is a lot less intense, and you have a good tool in your arsenal.
You will find that most "dog people" readily admit that they do not have all of the answers or pretend to have the correct fix for a problem each and every time. The "dog whisperer", Caesar Millan, gets it. He knows that the dog has a prey drive and other natural instincts, that he wants to interact with his human master, that he wants to have a job in the order of things, and above all, that the dog owner/trainer must be the pack leader in order to be successful. Until our canine friends learn how to talk in order to tell us where we go wrong, then we will never be sure, at least this side of Heaven.
Bottom line? Choose the right dog for your mission, at least give it your best shot. Do not pick up a freebie with "issues" and expect to change the animal to your liking. You will, through love and patience, bring a traumatized dog "back to life", but you will not turn that dog into the hero that you may be seeking. Dogs are much like children, they react negatively to trauma, but unlike children, they do not learn how to cope as they mature. Trauma has a huge negative impact on the dog's life, throughout his life.
So what would be characteristics to look for?
Besides the obvious health issues, look for a natural inquisitive nature. Which pup chases the toy tied onto the fishing line, which one actually grabs it, and the ultimate, will he give it up to you when you ask him for it? This is the classic retrieve, which in the form of a game will tell you a lot about the dog. It goes against his grain to give it to you, but if he is willing to do that, this is a major plus...the desire to please, to make friends, to share his new-found bounty when he doesn't have to.
Test him with like models, just never demand at this stage, or frighten him. Know this: the dog who will not retrieve will usually not meet your demands of him.
Look for the leader of the litter, one who displays confidence. Size is not the issue here. How many times have we seen a Chihuahua-sized dog rule the roost in a group of dogs? We hear, "he doesn't know how little he is". This guy is the alpha, and dogs respect the leader.
Does he react with curiosity to noise, like some pebbles inside of a tin can that you have rolled into his world. Does he chase it, poke it with his nose, bite it, bark at it, or, does he run away to the safety of the litter, never to return to that vile thing that makes a strange noise. Does he show no ambition to check it out? The ideal youngster is the one who cautiously approaches, perhaps barks, and grabs it! This is a trait of courage, and overcoming his prey.
I personally like a pup that is mouthy, a big mouth. Usually these are happy fellows. This usually ties into that trait we seek, the alpha, the fighter jock, the confident one who wants the world to know that he his there and does not intimidate easily, that the world is his kingdom. Dogs that bark on command are a huge plus, and keep in mind that once this command is mastered, and he knows exactly what it means to follow it, it is far easier to then teach him "Silence!" when the time for silence is appropriate.
As previously stated, size is not necessarily the number one aspect of why you should choose a particular dog. As Americans, we love everything big...big cars, big guns, big horses, you name it. Just remember, the bigger the dog, the more problems you must deal with, not to mention that the larger dog is usually slower, and agility suffers as well... just as in the human world. Picture that nimble Border Collie vs. a tank like a Mastiff, moving that herd around. On the other hand, if you have ever wandered into a sheep pasture being guarded by a Newfoundland or similar livestock protection dog, you quickly realize this guy's capabilities, and will, to crush you like a rodent.
Male or female? The facts are, that males are usually chosen for their fighting spirit rather than the females for their nurturing spirit, in the world of K-9. That said, I have broken up my share of dog fights (a dangerous pastime that also gets real tiresome) to know that one usually does not suffer the same fate when handling the ladies. Ditto for cat chasing, peeing on everything in sight, and other knucklehead things that, okay, males do. Sheik, bless his heart, even went out of his way to drink from another dog's water bowl on the training field, and then, with a look on his face as if to say, "...bring it dude", he peed in it. The choice is yours, but just know that many of the same attributes are there for males and females alike, but with less aggression for the females who do not have the testosterone that the males do.
A word on nutrition. We have a 16 year old Dachshund, with Cushing's Disease, which is in essence a benign cyst on the pituitary gland. Her weight ballooned, and with her severe diabetes-like symptoms, I was preparing myself to say good-bye to this beloved little pet. A friend told us about "Honest Kitchen" food, which is dehydrated, all natural, organic, USA-made dog food. It comes in varieties depending on needs, and is easily prepared in small batches ahead of time. It completely turned our little girl around. The Cushing's has taken it's toll, and she has little muscle left now, but she is pain free, and for being the age that she is, gets around, at least for now. We were blessed to have been given the gift of having her around for a little while longer. The vet was amazed at how quickly she got back to her 8 pound ideal weight. So I highly recommend it, and will keep it in my larder from now on as a nutritional, and tasty, protein-rich main source of dog food. I read where it is actually approved for use by humans...if you were so inclined of course. The poops, normally a messy and smelly chore, come out quite different with this food, easy to pick up and with far less unpleasantries, I am supposing due to the high fiber content and all natural ingredients. Even in the case of occasional indoor "accidents", it just picks right up with no stains, smears, or intense odor.
At a cost of $50 or so for a 10 lb box, at first glance this stuff sounds unaffordable for most of us. Keep in mind, however, that it is dehydrated, so in adding water, it is equal in duration to a big bag of high quality kibble. It would be a great food for a working security dog.
Don't forget one final aspect of all of this: People who have dogs have a happier and more adventurous life, with less stress. They live longer, and just enjoy their existence more. Dogs are even taken into nursing homes and cancer wards, with fantastic results. These animals can be our companions, our friends, and can make our tasks a bit easier. In a world where chaos and social unrest are the rule of the day, I would say that owning and caring for animals, especially a good dog, just might put a smile on your face. As one pastor put it, the "Goodness" and "Mercy" mentioned in the Psalms, that follow us all the days of our life, are just the names of our four-legged pals. - L.R.D.