Will The Family Dog Protect Your Home?

SPOKANE — From the North side to the South Hill, dozens of local home owners have been victimized by burglars.

No matter how frequent or creative the thieves get, most people say they feel confident their home is protected because their dog is standing guard. But when their owners are gone, would dogs stand up to the plate and protect their house?

Meet Leo, a 75-pound German Shepherd, but he’s not your average dog. Leo is a highly trained animal, part of the Spokane Police Department’s K-9 unit.

“Our dogs are what’s are called the ‘alpha male’ dog,” said Officer Shawn Kendall, a Spokane Police Department K-9 Officer. “If you went out in the wild with these dogs they would be in charge of a pack.”

In a recent training session, Officer Kendall played the role of a burglar trying to enter a training house. Leo had no trouble taking Officer Kendall down when he broke in the home with a hammer.

Leo is a highly trained K-9 officer, but what would your dog do if someone tried to break into your home when you were gone?

Jan Gemberling owns Milo, a 25 lb. West Highland Terrier, she says Milo shows some aggressive behavior when other dogs walk by his home.

“We just never know what he would do when there is nobody there,” she said.

With Gemberling’s permission, Officer Kendall put Milo to the test, but not before putting on some protective clothing.

“Everyone in their mindset would say, ‘I want that dog to bite them just in that one situation when they are protecting me,’ but you can’t train a dog to know that this is the time I need to protect my family because this is a burglar or a stranger and this is the time when the neighbors are visiting,” said Officer Kendall.

Gemberling describes Milo as a Pit Bull in sheep’s clothing.

“I know he will go after small animals, but big scary guys, that’s what we want to know,” she said.

Officer Kendall tested Milo’s skills as a watch dog by creeping up the side of the home, but Milo is oblivious to Kendall. Kendall walked right into the home and had to go back outside to get Milo’s attention.

When Milo finally confronted Kendall he seemed suspicious but still friendly, even allowing Kendall to pat him on the head.

“He can be a scrapper, but he loves people,” said Gemberling.

While Kendall had no problem getting past Milo, it was now Tucker’s turn to prove his skills against an intruder.

“He is a nine-year-old puppy,” said Tuckers owner Randy about his Golden Retriever. “He comes from a very gregarious line of hunting dogs.”

Randy says Tucker is protective and is always sleeping between him and the bedroom door. Tucker even blocks the entrance of the tent when they go camping.

“His basic instincts are definitely there,” said Randy.

When Officer Kendall, dressed in a seventy five pound suit, confronted Tucker, the dog didn’t show signs of being threatened. In fact Kendall walked right into Randy’s home with Tucker wagging his tail.

“He likes people, but when he barks, I’m not sure if he is barking to warn people off or to invite them over,” said Randy.

Tucker’s happy demeanor puts the pressure on the third dog in the test, Charlie.

Charlie is a Labrador mix who shows a bit more skill when it comes to fending off would-be burglars. Charlie’s owner, Elizabeth Seymour, is confident he will meet the challenge head-on.

“He’s definitely going to give them run around, definitely going to growl,” she said.

Sure enough, the second officer Kendall crept up to Charlie’s house, Charlie sounded the alarm.

Charlie barked as Kendall approached the door, the dog stayed focused on Kendall the entire time. When Officer Kendall finally opened the door slowly, Charlie continued to growl, ready to protect his house.

“Charlie has been one of the best thing that has happened in our lives,” said Seymour.

Charlie did the best thing a family pet can do to scare away a burglar, he barked

“That’s what you want,” said Officer Kendall. “A dog that’s going to warn someone that’s not welcome that they’re not welcome, all through that scenario we played, he was trying to protect his territory.”

Officer Kendall says you don’t necessarily want a dog to react like Leo did. Dogs that react like him are trained and worked with on a daily basis, something most people don’t have the knowledge or time to do.

“We see a lot of people try and buy the attack dog,” said Officer Kendall. “Vendors do sell dogs with bite training and the problem is they lack the continued, consistent, persistent training with this dog and they get a dog that is unpredictable.”

Despite that only Charlie tried to protected his home, there is no telling how Tucker or Milo, or even the dog next door would react to a legitimate threat.

Kendall says these dogs did exactly what they were trained to do, behave like good family pets.

Since you can’t predict animal behavior, make sure you have done other things to protect your home like invest in good locks and get to know your neighbors.