By Helene Nietsch

The owner of a Bullmastiff knew her dog did not like children, but she decided to "introduce" her pet to several children on a playground. Without so much as a growl to warn, the dog lunged at the child, who then joined an estimated five million plus Americans, mostly children, who were bitten by a dog.

The primary cause of bites is not the dogs themselves, but how owners treat and raise them and how unwary people unwittingly provoke them. We as real "dog people" usually know how to act around our working dogs and how to interpret their behavior, but many of our working dogs are sold to unsuspecting novice owners who think that our working dogs are "gentle giants."Some breeds are more likely to be aggressive than others, no doubt. Male dogs are more likely to bite than females, and in-tact males and unspayed females are more likely to bite than those that have not been neutered.
Obviously dogs with a history of aggressive behavior are inappropriate pets for families with children. As dominance-seeking pack animals, dogs that are not taught who is the "boss" are more likely to try to act aggressively toward humans. Most dogs, even those that are well trained, do not consider children as figures of authority. Dogs, like children, need to be properly socialized into the family and should be taught submissive behaviors.

Below are excerpts from some AKC standards of some working breeds relative to temperament. If you were to research many of the working breeds via illustrated standards, breeder and judges education, google websites, talk to responsible breeders, exhibitors and owners, you will find much more information relative to the function of these guard breeds and how they behave in a family situation. Responsible breeders take very seriously placing their precious puppies into only the most well-informed appropriate forever homes. Careful screening of the puppys’ parents as well as the prospective breeder and buyer require some work, but the end result will be rewarding.

 • Alert and responsive
 • Dignified and courageous
 • Aggressive toward other dogs
Anatolian Shepherd:
 • Instinctively protective, he is courageous and highly adaptable
 • Highly territorial, he is a natural guard
 • Reserved around strangers and off its territory is acceptable
Black Russian Terrier:
 • Bred to guard and protect
 • Deliberate and wary with strangers, he will exhibit curiosity, but, most importantly, fearless courage if threatened
 • The breed was developed in England by gamekeepers for protection against poachers.
Doberman Pinscher:
 • Energetic, watchful, determined, alert, fearless, loyal and obedient.
Dogue de Bordeaux:
 • Gifted for guarding, which he assumes with vigilance and great courage.
German Pinscher:
 • He has fearless courage and tenacity if threatened.
Giant Schnauzer:
 • Amiable in repose, and a commanding figure when aroused.
 • Demonstrative with those he loves, selflessly devoted to his family and his charges, and will defend them against any attack.
Neapolitan Mastiff:
 • As a protector of his property and owners, he is always watchful and does not relish intrusion by strangers into his personal space.
 • Has an inherent desire to protect home and family.
Tibetan Mastiff:
 • He is aloof with strangers and highly protective of his charges and his property.

People generally form their opinion of an entire breed on the basis of one unfortunate incident. Much as we wish the public were properly educated on the subject of dogs and dog behavior, it is not, which can create a biased reputation in your community. In cities across the country, various breeds of dogs are being banned. It is critically important that puppy buyers of our working breeds fully understand the work the breed was bred to do and learn how to prevent disasters from occurring. Unfortunately many owners are deceived about the enormously strong instincts of these protective breeds.
When a cuddly Rottweiler, Akita or Bullmastiff puppy is brought home, they are freely people-loving, happy and playful pups with people, children and other dogs, even cats. Owners pride themselves on maintaining an open-door policy with friends and neighbors, lulling themselves into believing that their sweet puppy will remain so throughout its lifetime. Then somewhere between adolescence and puberty, maturity is approaching, the instincts are emerging, and your puppy becomes a teenage guard dog. If you have not already taken steps to properly socialize or train your working dog, this is the time to immediately step up.

No amount of training or socialization will overcome the instincts of a Bullmastiff to protect and guard. Rottweilers often follow their masters from place to place in the home, keeping a vigilant watch over their loved ones. An Akita has a strong-willed mind of his own, requiring a confident owner who can take charge. Nervous, shy, excitable or hyperactive individuals will set a good guard dog on alert for erratic behavior that might require careful scrutiny. Ownership of one of these working breeds carries much greater than average legal and moral responsibilities due to traits possessed by these breeds and their size and strength. When dogs move in with humans, they interact with other animals and with humans in much the same way as with a group of other dogs. Their sense of where they belong in a hierarchy is finely tuned and they have no trouble assessing their proper position in the group and quickly moving to occupy it.

The key to a successful relationship with your dog is control and leadership. The best time to gain this control is during puppyhood, the earlier the better. Providing clear limits at an early age, proper socialization, and basic training will allow your working dog to be a discerning guard dog, the dog will be confident and friendly and discerning in all situations. The puppy socialization is the foundation for the appropriate guard behavior and key for preventing inappropriate aggressive behavior during the rest of the dog’s life. The more assertive working breeds need a major commitment from the owner in providing the right kind of leadership and control. These breeds are not for everyone, but if you socialize and guide your puppy and provide strong leadership, educate your puppy buyers and breed only the best temperament, you will have a devoted companion for many years.

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