I have been thinking and discussing the act of guarding and protecting lately. When asked "is your dog a good watchdog?" We usually get into a discussion of whether or not you think your dog would kick into gear and protect you. The term guard dog and watchdog are basically meant as the samething. Even when I looked up both meanings in the dictionary they are pretty much the same. The term "alert dog" is a good term to use for most dogs who just alert us to someone at our home.
Guard dog: a large, aggressive dog, as a German shepherd or Doberman pinscher, trained to guard persons or property and often to attack or restrain on command.
Watch dog: A dog trained to guard people or property.
But let's look at what we expect from our dogs in the way of protection. Many people buy big, guarding breeds so that they feel well protected; others choose completely non guarding breeds like Goldens or Cavaliers strictly as a companion. But even though people may choose a dog strictly for companionship; some of these people still say to me in frustration "they would open the door, and show the thief the goods." So even though we may choose a breed that is not known to serve and protect; we still expect some sort of a soft net of protection from mans best friend right?:
Most dogs bark at a strangers approach to our home, not all though. I know a few dogs that simply stand there and look. This is due to breeding out some of the undesirable qualities. Barking is a normal behavior, it is our dogs means of communication. "Hey, there is someone coming up the walk." This in turn allows us to respond by taking over the situation. That is how it typically should go, but this is where it can go wrong. If we do not step up and take control from there you can be left with a dog in charge.
Promoting a guarding behavior is never a good idea; egging your dog on to bark more so that you feel safe can cause problems. In a natural well balanced situation a dog will bark, you will say thanks and take over the situation. This lets the dog know he has done his job and now you will do yours. The dog is not left feeling that they need to deal with the situation. You never want a dog to make the decision on who is friend or enemy.
Most of us like the fact that our dogs will alert us; I do. I am often engulfed in an activity and if it were not for my dogs I wouldn't even know I had a guess standing at my door. I have been very thankful a couple of times when my dogs let me know someone had entered our backyard while I was bent over with my head in the garden. Both my breeds, the standard poodle and the Jack Russell are very good alert dogs. Typically of course, not always.
It comes down to the individual dog and the individual guardian. My dogs know that barking is allowed, crazy overly long barking is not. If you coax your dog to be the guard by getting them to bark more and work themselves into a frenzy, you may be creating a monster that you will regret bigtime down the road.