Guard dogs – A bit of a mixed bag
Alright, I know that most of you that are reading this probably already love dogs, are biased, and will defend their effectiveness to your grave. So, I’m going to throw you a bone. I think that dogs CAN be effective deterrents to criminals. On the other hand, I’m going to tell you why they aren’t fool proof.
Don’t have false illusions the the effectiveness of your dog as a home security solution (AKA guard dog).
After all, their effectiveness can be a mixed bag. I picked this up in just a few minutes of reading “Ask me anything” (AMA) posts from former burglars. In response to a question about how a person could keep their things secure, he responded,
Get a dog. Houses with dogs don’t get robbed. Dogs are loud, hard to spot, and bite. Doesn’t have to be an attack dog – just a barking dog. Thieves would rather save the hassle and hit the next house.
On the other hand, the next AMA with a thief said just the opposite,
I am amazingly good with dogs and have never had a problem with them making noise. Professional guard dogs are a problem, and I’ve never had to deal with them. If I had to, I suppose it would be to have a mild tranquilizer mixed into some steak to throw over the fence. It would depend on the situation I think.
And, then he further clarified later by saying,
I only encountered a couple barking dogs so far. I’m good with animals and know how to approach them. I’ve only had one dog not calm down after a minute. In that case I just grabbed what I could in a minute and walked out.
Here’s the link if you want to read it for yourself. So, what should we think with this conflicting information?
One of the best questions may be, is this your dog
or is this your dog. To summarize if you didn’t watch the video, all 5 of the dogs failed to stop an intruder and most either licked or played with the guy when he broke into the home. In summary, the average dog makes a lousy security system. They need to be trained specifically for that purpose and even then, they may be circumvented with some pretty obvious techniques depending on their training.
First, let’s dispense with some misconceptions
Let’s go through the arguments you may think of to support the effectiveness of a dog.
- My dog barks at everything, so he’s as good as an alarm.
An alarm that goes off all the time (false alarms) is useless, because you will turn it off so that it doesn’t drive you crazy. A dog that barks all the time is just as useless. It’s worse than an alarm system, because you can’t turn it off. And, it’s just as ineffective because you and your neighbors won’t pay any attention to it because it always barks.
- My dog is very protective of us/our home, so she’ll defend our house.
If a person your dog doesn’t know approaches you on your lawn, how does your dog react? If she doesn’t bark and otherwise show some discomfort until getting a signal from you that it’s OK, then you have to wonder if she would be just as docile meeting a stranger in the home. Even if there is a naturally protective nature that you encourage and do not train that behavior out of your dog by getting on to her when she acts that way, are you confident that she will not quietly and happily chew on a steak rather than attacking a stranger in your house? This will most likely require training your dog, and can cost thousands of dollars. And, even trained guard dogs fail this distraction, the most obvious of attacks.
We put together a Slideshare presentation that summarizes the shortcomings of using dogs for home security pretty succinctly.
Now for some good news
Dogs are definitely a deterrent.
- Just like some of your neighbors may not be comfortable with dogs or you may not trust dogs that you don’t know. There will be some criminals that either don’t have or don’t like dogs or have an innate mistrust of dogs. I haven’t been able to find any stats on what percentage of the population that is, but at least you take a portion of the criminals out of the equation.
- To get around an aggressive guard dog, a certain level of preparation is required. That can mean tranquilizers slipped in a door or windows in a piece of meat and waiting 10 minutes before the dog is asleep. Or, it could mean some steaks wrapped in butcher paper in a backpack. Either way, your dog may turn away the thief that doesn’t come adequately prepared.
- Good dogs bark at the right times. And, if you are a criminal breaking into a house, a sudden source of extra noise to draw attention to you is the last thing that you want. So, add one to the dog column once again.
And . . . the bad news
Some of these, I have already covered. So, I’ll be brief.
- First, your dog needs to be effective as a guard dog. Most of the dogs that I meet are very friendly with strangers, so the odds are against you here.
- It’s not that hard to shut even a trained dog up. Just bring a large, tough piece of meat with you when you go robbing houses or a tranquilizer in some meat that you pick up from the vet.
- Even if your dog barks and acts tough, without training it probably won’t actually attack and interrupt a burglar’s routine. After all, burglars usually just need a few minutes in your house to grab any cash, jewelry, and small electronics that they can find. Even if your dog follows them around barking or confronts them at the door, they may be able to keep him calm long enough to steal some valuables.
- Some people are just great with pets. What dog doesn’t become friendly when a person acts like a friend and gives him rawhide treats.
- Dogs are expensive. According to the ASPCA, they are $700 per year expensive, plus another $600 for other one time costs. For that kind of cost, you can afford a really great security system with top-notch monitoring services, cellular backups, and multiple cameras.
#2 is confirmed in this scenario, again taken from Reddit:
I drove around his home with binoculars and found the shortest point in his fence. I hopped it. I knocked on a window and sure enough, dogs start barking. I had some dog tranquilizer (very easy to obtain) and some lunch meat in my bag, as I was expecting dogs. I walk around his house a bit and see a power box. I start picking the lock, it opens, and I power down the house. I pick the front door open, set the drugged meat down, yell at the dogs and hop the fence again. I wait ten minutes and I peek back over and the dogs were out. So I stroll on in the houses and start loading up.
So, what’s the score?
Of course, this is your decision. But if I look at it objectively, I can do a lot more with my money by increasing the robustness of my home security with an alarm system and other home upgrades. So, if I get a dog, it’s because I want to train him to hunt birds with me and not because I want a deterrent for criminals.
I’m sure some of you will disagree with me and may even have great stories of how your dog as helped you. Feel free to share those with us in the comments below.
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Hi, I’m Jody. I graduated with honors with a Masters of Science in Computer Engineering and have over 15 years of experience working as an engineer with electronics products. I’m a lifelong learner and tinkerer and enjoy automating things around the house so I can solve bigger problems than getting out of bed to check if the garage door is closed . . . like too little sleep!