I have a “Defense Dog”

We have a “defense dog”.

Or at least, I think that can be a good term to describe her.

She’s not an “attack dog”, both by breed nature and by well… this morning’s example.

Every few years, Austin Energy comes around to trim trees away from the power lines. This morning was our day, and they’d need to get into the backyard to have access to some trees. I knew the guys were out front, but they were still finishing breakfast (as far as I knew). Sasha had been wanting to go out and I figured one last pee break would be a good thing. I went into the backyard to check, saw no one, went back to the door to let Sasha out… she zoomed out the door, and by the time I turned around she was barking and going nuts.

It seems, by sheer coincidence of timing, that the moment I let her out was the same moment the tree workers decided to open the fence gate and come into the backyard! ¡Ay dios mio!

Sasha barked big and hard, but she didn’t rush the workmen. She barked, made aggressive “go away!” posturing, but was constantly fading back as if to assess the situation and buy herself time while things unfolded and she could determine where things were going (Kuvasz are smart dogs, they think). I know the workmen had the daylights scared out of them so there was certainly no posturing on their part, certainly retreat and signs of not just submission but “OH SHIT!” 🙂  Within seconds I was between them, ordered the workmen to leave the backyard, and was able to snap the leash onto Sasha with little trouble and get her back inside.

Once inside, I went to explain things to the workmen, and of course they had questions, like if she’d bite. And this is where I came up with “defense dog”.

You see, if we have the time to explain things to people, we can explain that she’s a Kuvasz, that the breed is a livestock guardian dog, that their demeanor is not to attack but rather to control the intruder, keep them away from the flock, pose and posture looking as big and scary as possible, all in an effort to scare the intruder away. They don’t want to attack, they don’t want to chase (because then they’d leave the flock, undefended, unprotected), but if attack is the only remaining option then so be it because protecting the flock is their job, what they are programmed to do.

But you see, that’s a mouthful. We’ve been searching for ways to describe and explain Sasha to others in a manner that’s brief, concise, yet accurate. That would explain what she’s like, and why we got her (in particular). To say “defense dog” I think can work, because that’s what she is. She is NOT an attack dog, she was not gotten to hurt anyone, to be aggressive to anyone. Kuvasz are there to defend the flock, and that’s why we got her… kinda rolls with the whole personal defense Lt. Col Grossman “sheepdog” paradigm.

So we’ll see how the term goes. My hope is that it’s enough to explain it, but that people will be likely unfamiliar with the term (and I expect they’ll be familiar with the “attack dog” term and will probably make a quick mental connection there that should make them go “huh?”) and then perhaps they’ll ask for more detail. Hopefully it’ll work. 🙂

7 thoughts on “I have a “Defense Dog”

  1. I think “defense dog” is an interesting term. To be honest I’d say the vast majority of dogs will be “defense dogs” in their own house or yard. Territoriality plays a huge part in canine behavior.

    The vast majority of aggression cases, and especially cases with a bite history, that I’ve had were due to fear-aggression. Many times the dog had given stern warnings (like Sasha did in the above incident) only to have their owners punish them for offering a warning (perhaps growling at a child or company). The dog soon learns that giving warnings will result in punishment (and thus will be less likely to warn), but the underlying fear is still there. This can result in the dog biting “for no reason” and without warning.

    Anyway, the point is that I love my dogs giving me warnings. That’s exactly what I want them to do. They usually pick up on people in the yard long before I could. There is an intact male lab down the street and my dogs know when he’s in my front yard by smell alone . . . which I think is incredible.

    My answer to the “does it bite?” question has evolved over the years. For a long time I would just answer “absolutely” because if they were asking that question they were most likely afraid, at least to some degree. That fear is easily picked up by a dog (mostly via body language) and will impact how the dog behaves. Nowadays my response is tailored to who I’m speaking to and if I have time for a lesson.

    Sasha deserves a nice rawhide or peanut-butter stuffed kong for doing her job. She behaved (as did you, John) exactly how I would want. Alert me to the intruder and let me deal with it. Once I’m present, cease and desist. Good girl!

    • Oh yes! We praised her because she did her job. She doesn’t understand the human context of things and we cannot expect her to. The months of training that we did with her really helped us get into “dog think” mode and understand more about how dogs actually tick and function. So yeah, she got some treats and a big “good girl” rub.

      I will agree that many dogs do have the “defense dog” notion, but it’s the term itself that I like because it seems novel and curious and people may not “get it”… but it clicks in some regards (because it has this antithesis to “attack dog”), and hopefully they’ll be willing to listen to a bit more explanation, but if they’re not willing to or there’s no time or whatever, hopefully enough information has been conveyed in those 2 words.

  2. Of course, the guys might’ve been thinking “Jerk’s dog scared me. I’m gonna come back and rob his ass.” In which case, you want to say “Yes, she’ll bite the crap out of you and eat your liver for lunch with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” 😉

    I think “Defense Dog” is accurate 😉

    • True, but based on the look on the guy’s face? I think if he wants anything it’s a clean pair of shorts. 😉

      I do work to make it clear to folks that yes, if push comes to shove she’ll bite your nuts off. But it’s about finding a way to explain her to folks because really, a lot of folks just do NOT get our choice in dogs and why and what we did. But, I’m not out to satisfy the rest of the world here.

  3. heh, where as by contrast my 9month Tibetan Mastiff pup woulda gone “oh!!! New people to PET ME” and charged them madly. Equally scaring the heck out of them. And no, thats not typical Tibetan behavior, he’s just a nut.

      • I’m not sure how successful the term will be, but hey… we keep experimenting and working to refine our way to explain her as quickly and succinctly as possible.

        Glad to hear your pup is coming along so well!

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