A dog's barking and snarling from inside a house may not necessarily guarantee safety from a burglary, but it can certainly act as a deterrent. The last thing a thief want is to have that dog alerting its owner — or the neighbors — that you're around and up to no good. Many professional burglars and reports agree with this fact, confirming that because dogs are typically vigilant, protective and noisy by nature, owning dogs can help prevent home burglaries.
However, there is a difference between dogs that bark, those that are trained explicitly to bark and those trained to subdue and scare off intruders. Additionally, while most dogs bark at unexpected or unusual events, dogs need to be specially trained to become true guard dogs.
Why Dogs May Prevent Burglaries
The main reason why loud dogs make burglars think twice before breaking into a house is because of the opportunistic nature of thievery. Break-ins that involve cutting alarm wires or picking locks are great for movies and novels, but the reality is that this level of sophistication isn't something a garden-variety burglar wants to deal with. Burglary research by law enforcement academicians and experts with the U.S. Department of Justice points out that thieves are on the lookout for the easiest, least-messy job possible. Loud noises — such as the ruckus created by barking dogs — means breaking in isn't worth the time or effort.
The burglars themselves agree with this assessment. More than half of former burglars queried in one survey indicated that the most effective deterrents for home burglaries included heavy doors, locked windows and loud, barking dogs. Another survey, spearheaded by an Idaho television station, queried inmates at a local prison. "Dogs are a deal breaker for me," one inmate commented. "Big breeds, home protectors, are the best to keep people out."
"There have been numerous reports to show that burglars will generally avoid buildings that have dogs, because it makes their job harder, and also risks them being detected by the owner, or a neighbor," said Jeff Carbridge, a dog trainer and expert with DogOwner.co.uk.
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What Makes a Good Guard Dog?
One thing to keep in mind is there is a difference between a dog that barks and flings itself against the door when sensing an outsider, and a dog that barks and flings itself against that outsider should it become a home intruder. The former is a regular dog or even a watch dog. The latter is a trained guard dog.
The regular dog can be protective and will bark at a variety of things, whether it be a blowing leaf or a stranger on your front lawn who might be casing your house. Then there is the trained watch dog, sometimes known as an "alert" dog, which is trained to let the owner know that something unusual is happening, such as the front-lawn stranger.
However, a true guard dog is specifically trained to attack and restrain people or other animals. The guard dog will make noise to ward off the threat. If the noise doesn't do it, the dog will attack, based on your specific commands.
You can train your regular dog to be an alert dog or guard dog, though a dog-training expert can equip you with the right tools for use with your four-legged friend. To succeed in training, consistency and frequency are important. "Equally important is that all dogs should be only trained with positive reinforcement dog training and not aversion, or punitive dog training equipment," advised Russell Hartstein, founder of Fun Paw Care. "Never use a choke chain, prong collar or electric collar to train a dog for any task."
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Determining the Best Deterrent Dogs
While a domesticated canine's original role was to protect its human owners against wild animals and other humans, not all of today's dogs are good at scaring off potential intruders or burglars. The American Kennel Club (AKC) suggests that certain dogs, bred as "guardian" dogs, are watchful and intelligent. These include the Akita, Australian Shepherd, Belgian Laekenois and Boxer. Cesar Millan, who came to fame as the "Dog Whisperer," lists the following breeds as good guard and deterrent dogs: Boston Terrier, Affenpinscher, American Eskimo Dog or Chihuahua.
"The ironic part is that alert dogs — dogs that bark often, such as Yorkshire Terriers — are often small, and not the 'enforcement' part of the security system," Hartstein pointed out. Such smaller dogs can be effective at thwarting burglaries, due to sheer noise levels, which alert their owners to potential problems. Meanwhile, a larger dog, such as a German Shepherd Dog, might not bark or make a lot of noise, but would be an imposing force against a burglar. "So, they make a great pair," Hartstein observed.
Whether your choice is a Chihuahua or Akita, be sure it gets the right training as soon as possible. "You want to be sure they are properly trained from a young age so that they are properly socialized and don't become aggressive," Carbridge advised.
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The Bottom Line
While very few things can prevent a determined thief from breaking into your home and taking your possessions, a loud dog can force that thief to stop and think it through. Anything that can alert a homeowner to anything unusual is a definite, protective plus for your home. However, although any amount of barking can potentially deter a burglar, dogs need to be specially trained to become watch dogs or guard dogs, and some breeds are naturally better than others at accomplishing this.
(Photo by Robert Lennie / GettyImages)