Dogs for Protection

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2000

Due to an unnerving incident at my new home in Kensington last week, (an armed parolee/sex offender came to my door)-- I have stepped up my search for a family dog or two, and need help with choosing the right kind of dog. --We have two children, ages one and three years.
--Ideally, the dogs would like to be outside--we have a huge level lot. (Do all dogs need to be fenced in?)
--They would need to be gentle with children yet good watch dogs.
I think we would be better off with adult dogs rather than puppies. I have heard Collies are all of the above. Does anyone have any experience or recommendations for these dogs or others, such as Golden Retrievers, etc.. Any input or help with our search would be greatly appreciated. (I have already read everything in the archives, and there's not much there regarding types of dogs.) Maura

Check out the rescue dog websites. There are many beautiful dogs out there needing homes due to divorce, or bad planning. They are usually carefully matched to families, and given family/kid training before placement. They can tell you if the dog is a good watchdog, kid-friendly, etc. Try and search dog rescue organizations. They are listed by breed. You can find wonderful adult dogs just right for a family situation. The other good place is the Marin County Human Association. They have a resident dog behaviorist, and she can help you find an appropriate animal (check out their website, too, to see who's available). And, yes, you DO need to fence the yard if you love the dog and want to keep it healthy. BTW, our dog is a shelter rescue, and they are the very best! Good luck, Linda
I recently got a dog, and wanted to put my 2 cents in regarding finding a pet that is both family friendly and a decent watchdog. I did lots of research about breeds, most of which I found through (just search for *dogs*). I ended up adopting an adult mixed breed dog through the Milo Foundation. My dog is part Pit Bull, part Labrador Retriever with possibly some other mutt thrown in. For all the negative press they get, I am really fond of Pits - they are naturally quite friendly to humans, though of course they're trainable to be fierce watchdogs. And I feel safer because she actually looks like she's part Pit Bull, and so people tend to keep their distance. I highly recommend considering mixed breed dogs as a way to minimize the likelihood of negative personality traits found in some purebred dogs. I don't know if my dog was in a family with small children before, but she does really well with my none-too-gentle 2 year old. And as a bonus, she only barks to warn us of people approaching the house. All that said, every dog is different. I really encourage you to do your research and then spend some time visiting with prospective dogs to find the right fit. Take your kid(s) to get a sense of how the dog behaves with children. There are so many good dogs out there that need good homes - there will definitely be one (or two!) for you. The Milo Foundation is located in Mendocino county, but they come to Berkeley with a mobile adoption unit every other weekend. They set up at a pet store called George on 4th St. Good luck finding a pet! Diana
We have a 1/2 lab, 1/2 golden retriever who is all of the things you asked for. He's great with kids, a great watchdog, and before our fence was built (so we could leave him out when we weren't home) we just let him out the door and don't worry about him. But we did take him to training classes when he was young, which were a big help. Not that they trained him, but they trained us, which is really the issue in dog training. But I would highly recommend a lab or lab mix, and a training class. Ann
There are several websites which will help you find an appropriate breed of dog by indicating which attributes matter most - watch dog (barking), protection (attack strangers), good with children, amount of exercise & grooming necessary, etc. Here are a few we've used in our quest for the right dog.
By the way, there are other things to do which may make you feel and be safer at home, and you might also ask a police officer to come to your home and help you evaluate any weak points in your home security. Little things can make a big difference - like whether you have a porch light that's always on at night, whether you have motion detector lights that will go on if someone approaches your perimeter (these can be a nuisance, but if you're really worried you might be able to live with it). Natasha
I want to thank the person who wrote on 1/26 about her dog as a deterrant and protector. I think this is really important for everyone to appreciate about a dog, as well as their loving and fun companionship. There are many people who are irritated with dog barking and go to extremes in complaining about them- with law suits, throwing rocks at dog owners houses, demanding dog owners to get rid of their dogs or coup them in the house all the time, etc. Dogs are a valuable asset to a neighborhood. They do much more than any alarm system. The alarm system is only good once your house is broken into. The dog owner who wrote has a great neighbor to help care for the dog when they are away.
My two cents worth about dogs as protection: As a new Berkeley homeowner living in the flats, my house was broken into about 10 years ago when I first moved in, while we were on vacation. We had a house alarm, and the alarm went off as soon as the intruder went into a room with a motion detector (he came in thru a second-floor window that wasn't wired for the alarm). The police responded quickly and nothing was taken. In speaking with the police about that incident, they said that having a dog is the best deterrent. Shortly after that, I took in a stray German Shepherd/ husky mix dog and I have never had a problem with burglary since, neighbors have. He is an extremely gentle dog with my kids, but has a very loud-serious sounding bark, and sounds off whenever anyone comes near the back yard, where he spends most of his time. After many years, he still barks at my next-door neighbor when she drives into her driveway, and she's the one who feeds him when we are out of town! he's very smart and friendly with strangers when I or my children are around, but even as a very old dog now, still seems to intimidate the bad guys - at least they stay away!

So I would advise you to pick a medium to big dog that looks scary (almost any big dog that will bark at strangers), but is gentle with children. As a kid, we had a Norwegian Elkhound - looks like a wolf, but is a medium size dog, very good family dog, but protective of yard, house and family. Or a German Shepherd mix.