Do You Want a Terrifying Dog?

One of My Dog's Snarls (I call it "Smarl" smile/snarl) on Command

Last year I fell off the wagon when it comes to my running regiment.  I was up to 13 miles, but when my 8 year old dog, Snitch, died it broke my heart and I stopped doing a lot of the things that use to bring me joy.

Recently I decided it was time to start lacing my shoes and hitting the road again.  I take my 1 year old puppy and 18 month old dog with me when I run, not only because it makes me feel safe, but also because they need the exercise and mental stimulation of it all.

The other day as I was running (they are always in “heel” position when I run) a squirrel ran out in front of us.  I swear if I had seen it coming I could have touched it with my foot, it was that close and thankfully my dogs have a good “leave it” and know my expectations when it comes to running.  Otherwise, I would have had some road rash on my face, down my body and into the woods.  I live in a very rural environment!

As I stutter stepped and continued my run I beamed at the loyalty and obedience of such young dogs.  I was quite proud of them and could have understood if they had miss-stepped and tripped me to the road.

But it wasn’t until about 2 miles later that I realized how crucial good obedience is in my running program.

An SUV slowed down beside me and I stopped.  As I stopped my dogs immediately sat and then I directed them into a “down” as I pulled the tunes from my ear.

The man in the car said “I have seen you running out here before and I saw that squirrel run in front of you earlier”  and I just wanted to tell you “your dogs are terrifying”.

“What!!???” I asked, somewhat astonished that anyone would refer to my fur babies as terrifying.

“You have so much control over them, a person doesn’t know what they have been trained to do or what they might be capable of.”

“I am very familiar with those breeds.”  He assured me.

“Well,” I said, “Then you must have a background in police and protection dogs?”

“Yes.  I have worked with many K9s over the years”  He agreed.

I assured him that I could neither confirm nor deny his report without having to kill him, :)  haha.  But I agreed they were quite formidable and very, very well trained in a variety of skills.

As he drove away I chuckled and gathered my dogs together I thought to myself.  It is true, I bet there is nothing more terrifying to someone looking to commit a crime on another person than a large, well behaved dog.  I don't even know what HIS true intentions were stopping to talk to me while I was out running alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that just the appearance of a large dog is a deterrent but a well-trained dog is even more formidable!

This is not Intimidating

Imagine if you will seeing a big imposing dog pulling his owner on his leash, choking himself as he runs from tree to tree.

Now imagine the same dog in perfect heel position, stopping and sitting when his owner stops, looking up at his owner’s every move and listening flawlessly to each command.

Which dog would you think was protection trained?

Poorly trained dogs are not scary, they are unpredictable but not scary.  A loud noise, a tossed treat, or a dropped leash would be all it would take for dog #1 to be gone from the scenario; however dog #2 might have been trained to work through any distraction.

That is not to say that all well-trained big dogs are protection trained, but it gives a criminal some pause to their thinking!

I have always been of the opinion that an obedient dogs is more of a deterrent, but to hear it from a passerby was conclusive!

As a female I often worry about jogging alone, driving alone, or otherwise being in a bad situation, but having a dog by my side evens the odds a bit.

This is All you Need to Ward People off!

I have always taught my dogs to bark on command and with a small hand signal in case I should ever need a little reinforcement to warding off strangers.

When I had Rottweilers, my female Rottweiler loved all humans.  If someone stopped to speak to us, her whole body would wag; starting from her buttocks and working its way through to her ears.  She was adorable, but she wasn’t very imposing if you knew dog behavior.  However, I could at anytime by just clicking my fingers together get her to bark ferociously.   This would deter anyone from asking to pet her or wanting to talk to us.

On most occasions I let anyone pet her, but there were a few people I didn’t want getting that close to me while I was alone, they just made me feel uneasy and so I would get her to bark.

We live in a scary world where people do unmentionable things to other people, but I don't believe that aggression training or protection training is always the answer.

She had no protection or bite training but she had great obedience and would bark at the drop of a hat and that was all I needed.  I didn’t need the liability of having a dog trained to bite or be protective.

Sometimes I would lie and tell people she was so that they would stay away and not want to pet her, but again that was only if they gave me that creepy

I believe this IS Intimidating for Someone Looking for Trouble

feeling.  I knew they would never “test” my statements.

Protection dogs or teaching your dog to be aggressive is a HUGE liability and sometimes once immersed in the process it can be very hard to control the dog.  For the most part I don’t recommend this type of training.

But, I do know the benefit first hand of training my dog to be obedient and teaching them to look scary.

Be very careful what kind of behaviors you promote in your dog training!  Even though I could and can get my dogs to bark, they never associated it with barking AT someone or driving someone away and so I was always safe and in control of situations as they arose!

Remember, if you want a dog that will keep you from being bothered, work on your leash manners and obedience commands and that is all it takes to keep people at a safe distance from you and your companion.

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  1. Debbie says:

    Well, that is a great story — but my dog is a 9 week old shih tzu yorkie cross. Even full grown I don’t think she will be very intimidating. She does need training though.
    She sometimes growls and shows her teeth, so maybe she may be somewhat scary for some people (an ankle biter?) and I don’t want her barking or growling for no reason (like a passing car)– she could be an ankle biter perhaps.


    Minette Reply:

    At 9 weeks you must stop that barking and growling! She otherwise might turn into a terror for you!

    Although she won’t be as intimidating as a big dog, just her presence will probably keep people away. And, I have heard that small dogs are better at keeping burglars away than even the bigger barkers!


  2. Jacqueline says:

    This is a good article on the reasons to make clear cut decisions on what to train your dog to do to be able to send a message. My thought was that it was going to be the “How to” train your dog to bark. And, how to train him to stop. These are often thought provoking, though I prefer the instruction.
    Thanks, J


    Minette Reply:

    The how to bark is upcoming! Keep your eyes out!


  3. Hope says:

    I have a 5 month old Great Dane.. My babys’ size alone is enought to keep people away. He is very happy to meet new people, but one day someone came to my office, and he let them know under no uncertain terms by barking and growling and showing his teeth that he didnt like them. I held on tight and talked calmly to him, and told these people, that he was doing what he is trained to do, and that is to protect me, and i would not tell him to stop. They backed out and left.
    Whats crazy, they were babysitting my bookkeepers little dog, and they are suppose to be animal lovers. Yeah Right, my dog knew that they were bad people and didnt want anything to do with them. I love my pooch.


  4. Savannah says:

    My 6 month old chihuahua is almost a terror he can be sweet at one moment and then all of a sudden he starts to either bit or barks. Like one day I was lying in bed and he was digging into m side I thought he was playing so I pretended to have my fingers there for him to dig more and he grab my finger and tears th skin open I blamed myself for playin ruff but then I was just petting him after a few days after that had happened and he just all of a sudden lashed out at bit my hand and drew blood. How can I stop This from happening.


    Minette Reply:

    You need to change your relationship. Right now he thinks he is in charge, or the parent and he can have whatever he wants.

    Get him off of your bed and your furniture until he is no longer threatening you. This is a privilege he needs to earn!!

    Work on obedience and make him work for his food. Some dogs merely tolerate us petting them and so that is not truly a reward for them so make him work for his food first then teach him that petting = food treats and praise.

    Don’t let him bully you or you will be in for a lifetime of abuse! Change this behavior NOW!


  5. ted says:

    i have three labs and i too agree leash control and a well mannered dog is the most effective deterant not to mention countless other positive atributions that a well mannered dog can bring .

    thanks for shearing that great story with us .



  6. Reesa says:

    Dear Minette,
    Help! I have an 8 month German Sheperd that I can’t get to stop nipping me & my husband. We brought him home at 6 weeks (too young) I now know, but seemed to adjust to us very quickly. He was so sweet the first day one and seemed very content, but has been bitting us ever since. We’ve tried everything, but he is very aggressive and strong willed. I’ve put him on the ground in the submissive position & he will lay down, but the moment you let him up he gives a lil nip again. He thinks most correction is a game. I don’t think he is trying to hurt us, it’s more of a battle for the pack leader position. When he was younger, he drew blood on a daily basis with those sharp lil teeth & he now seems to know to be gentle, but there still is that constant disrespectful nip, even when I pet him, brush him or touch his paws. Btw: I lost my extra large dog of 11 years last year to bone cancer. He was extreemly obedient, loving and never bit anyone in his life. I’m still grieving over his loss & trying to love my new dog, hoping to train him to be as well behaved as my beloved Abraham, but the times of affection with my new dog are far too few. Now in recent months he has begun barking from our yard at all the neighbor dogs,especially the pit bulls across the street. We now have to ride him in our car to our gate and tie him to the fence so we can drive through the gate then release himeverytime we need to laeve. We have to do this now each time we leave & come home or he will charge through the gate & run across the street to pick a fight with the two pit bulls. If they are not out while he is tied as we go through the gate, he barks & barks for them to come out. The are not the trouble makers, he is. As we leave he runs to the corner of the fence jumping up & down barking to get at them. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong because I know I did a very good job in training my beloved friendthat passed. I do know at heart that Zack is loving, but he is also very aggressive & very dominant. It is a constant battle of the wills in correcting him. We have had many victories with him, but the nipping & the barking at all dogs in the area seems to be a problem we have not been able to resolve. I hope you can offer solutions.
    Thank you for your time & any advice that you can offer.


    Minette Reply:

    I think you are going about it the wrong way! I am not an alpha roller nor do I do anything to make a dog submit, instead I use my mind to control them and if they don’t do what I want or they do what I don’t want, they lose a privilege. I know that sounds silly, but dogs are like people and they need things like food and affection and play and exercise but if you aren’t good and don’t listen you don’t get what you want. It all about controlling them without physical force.

    Each time you force him or go toe to toe with him you are in some ways teaching him to continue to be aggressive! You are showing him whomever is toughest wins and at 8 months…he may end up winning in about a year.

    I would also neuter him ASAP!

    Start clicker training and using positive reinforcement with him and I think you will see a big difference!


  7. Elizabeth Fletcher says:

    Wow quite amazing. such a facinating article. now I have something to aim for with my own dog. How to bark on command. my dream dog is an Australian Kelpie and they are not attacking dogs, they would sooner lick you to death. It is nice to know there is a way of teaching your dog to protect you without doing the whole Protection Dog thing.


  8. Maggi MacGregor says:

    great article! I have taught my GSD to bark on command, with a hand signal, but always with her facing me, and just as a ‘trick’. I hadn’t thought of it as a deterrent, but have started working with her tonight, in the ‘sit’ by my side, and transferred it to a different hand signal (a finger snap). After 3 mins she had got it! Thank you! I live in the country, and often have to go walks in lonely places, and it can be a bit scary at times. As you say, a well trained, obviously obedient dog, (who by implication, will carry out your every command!) is much more intimidating than one who, even though big, doesn’t listen to a word you say! Maggi


    Minette Reply:


    My female Rottweiler use to bark on hand signal but her body would WAG… she loved everyone… good thing most people don’t understand dog behavior 😉


  9. Kaitlyn says:

    That is awesome! How to you teach your dogs to do that? I would love if my dog could do that! 😀


  10. Giltweave says:

    This is so true. I work at a doggie daycare/boarding facility, and some of the dogs get walks outside(by owner request only).

    One day I only had two dogs to walk. A 16 year old pit bull mix, and a 10 year old whippet. The pit, I keep at heel position because once he starts pulling, he’s stronger than me. The whippet doesn’t like to pull, but does like to orbit, which I allow because it doesn’t yank my arm.

    Guess which one an idiot felt secure enough bitching at me about picking up after them(which I do anyway).


  11. Kathy says:

    I have a three year old cocker male and he is very loving and happy, but he has been through a death and was in the house when it happened so I am not sure if he has issues from that or not. He is good most of the time, but he tends to like to mark in the house or friends houses and if he gets a hold of a box or some paper and is ripping it up and then it is taken away and told no he gets aggressive. How can I help him not to do this and maybe help him not mark in the house. Thanks, Kathy


    Minette Reply:

    Contact customer service at I have a whole program on aggression and possession issues or resource guarding


  12. Richard says:

    Dear Minette:

    I read your e-mail blogs as soon as I receive them and with great interest. I have a 6 year old Sheltie who barks at every dog that passes our house or passes us on our street while we walk. He strains at the leash and growls also. When he’s walked in the park, away from home, he’s quiet and quite non-aggressive. I realize shelties are territorial, however, I wish I could correct this behavior. Some people have recommended a head collar for training but I have never tried this. Any suggestions???


    Minette Reply:

    I would absolutely try a gentle leader and try getting him to give you eye contact and focus.


  13. Vicki says:

    Dear Minette,

    I have 2 senior citizen dogs; a 12 year old cockapoo and a 10 year old dachshund mix. I have never been able to get their barking under control. Now I have an 18 month old terrior-mix. They all incessantly bark, shrieking, when I leave the house, when I return. Also, if someone is walking a dog on the street, or when someone rings the doorbell, delivers mail, etc. Sadly, the terrior-mix pup has learned their bad habits. I have never been able to stop this behavior. I don’t lock them up, so they bark at the front door or stand on the back of our sofa in our den, so they can see out of our glass front door. They also jump up. I have tried everything to stop this awful behavior, including swatting them with a newspaper, Should I try a squirt bottle of water? A neighbor told me that my house sounds like a kennel – very embarrassing. What on earth can I do?


    Minette Reply:

    Try citronella collars. You can do a search for an article I had written about when and why I recommend them and how to use them appropriately.


  14. Ashley says:

    My dream/favorite dog breed is the American Pit Bull Terrier. Every Pit must be raised and trained to become an ambassador of the breed, for there are idiots that are just waiting for you/your dog to mess up, so they can hammer yet another nail in the breed’s coffin, and blame it on the whole breed, and their Guardians. My first Pitty was a female that I rescued from Craigslist. She was very sweet and loved everyone. A total mush ball. Plus, that way, you can prove that not all members of that breed are like the myths fed into the minds of the uneducated on a daily basis. No, they will not be like Golden Retrievers, no matter what you do/teach, as they were never meant to be like that. however, you can teach them to be as close to a good citizen as you make them into, all puppies/dogs are like clay, they end up what you mold them into.


  15. Antonio Thomas says:

    I have a bull mastiff mix with pitbull. He’s 2 years old and only has a thing for cats. He will only chase cats. How do I prevent him from doing that and just keep him at the barking on command. I haven’t even gotten him to bark on command. How do I do that also?


    Minette Reply:

    search my articles for cats and barking 🙂 there are several in here


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