I thought this morning that I would discuss watchdogs. There were many definitions in the dictionary for watchdog but I liked this one - to watch carefully, esp. so as to detect illegal or unethical conduct. This statement makes me think of a very serious tiny dog watching over their home and human companion. A serious job indeed.
There are many types of watchdogs, degrees and levels of intensity. So many times while I'm watching a movie I will say "if they had a dog this wouldn't happen." Dogs have amazing hearing and sense of scent far beyond what we have. Infact lastnight Luke was barking up a storm outside; I went out to see what was up. He was standing to one side of the yard, head held high in the air sniffing out the intruder. Of course I couldn't smell anything but he definitely could.
Tilley will often wander outside and suddenly move into a pacing action back and forth at the side yard. She obviously knows something is there and she knows when it leaves as well; which is usually soon after her arrival. Most dogs will alarm in some way if something is out of the ordinary. And even if your dog is not the barking type they may tell you in other ways if you are paying attention. Like Tilley's pacing, she is not much of a barker but communicates with ease displaying that something is not right.
All of my dogs use to be great watchdogs; even my little JRT. Now they are not as quick to jump to the occassion as they are all moving just a bit slow. If they know there is someone new at the door, a stranger or someone they just have not met yet they are there in a flash. Often they will think that a family member has come in alone; when they hear one word out of the new persons voice they sound off and charge.
A watchdog is all most of us need; someone to tell us when that they hear something strange or smell something out of the ordinary that we as meer humans cannot sense. A good watchdog can be any size; afterall it is just an alerting requirement, not an action requirement. My breed; the standard poodle are very good watchdogs; surprising to most people, especially the ones being charged by a full sized cranky poodle. Many breeds do not have a watchdog bone in their body. Most dogs natural instinct to bark at a strangers approach often kicks into gear; even if they do plan on licking the person to death once they arrive.
It is the alert; a heads up that you want from a dog, no action other than that is required. This is how it should be but for some breeds it is hard to stop at that. Some of the natural guarding breeds are on the job 24/7. For these types of breeds it is important to let them know where their job ends and where yours starts. In essence "thanks for the heads up, I'll take it from here." Unless you want your friends and family to get the "up against the wall, spread'm" routine everytime they come over, you need to work on clearly defining the job description.
Even if you love that your dog is barking at the door; don't promote the continuation of the behavior. It can quickly turn into a serious problem. You can thank them; praise for letting you know and then tell them to go sit down while you answer the door. This works for everyone involved and you won't have to worry about a bite from your guard dog.