How do guard dogs react in domestic disputes?

Say a large guard dog is in a house, and things turn south in a few situations, how do large dogs tend to react to:

-A husband and wife physically fighting, will they choose a side and attack the other owner? Or will they defend whoever is losing?

-A friend of the family that the dog is on good terms with, punches the owner?

-Does a guard dog owner have to be careful about losing his temper around someone the dog doesn’t know well? For example if you yell at someone that they’re being an jerk and you’re annoyed, would a dog get aggressive to that person sitting on your couch?

I know the answer is going to HUGELY be “it depends”, and some of these questions might be stupid because I’ve never owned any pets at all, I’m interested in the psychology of how the big and strong dogs interpret when they need to step in.

BTW I’m assuming a responsible dog owner who has given the dogs at least basic people-training and it isn’t trained to attack, just defend the home. Thanks!

They will defend whoever they’re most bonded to. You can even see this behavior in totally non-trained, non-guard dogs.

There is no such thing as a guard dog. There are only dogs trained in different ways, some well-trained, some not. You don’t want any such animal, because you’re not qualified to handle it.

We have three dogs. A friend who trains dogs for police work (and is a cop) brought over his bite sleeves to test our dogs’ responses to various situations.

All three dogs are great with people, and especially love kids. But with one afternoon of training they were predictably attacking my friend when he made aggressive moves toward me and I gave the verbal signal to attack. Once I told them all was well, they again behaved nicely with him, although they remained tense.

As far as my SO is concerned, our main problem is that they think we are “playing” in bed and they want to join in.:eek:

This is silly. By this logic there is ‘no such thing’ as any animal or person in any job.

A dog that is trained and employed as a guard dog, is a guard dog. There are breeds typically used this way, and typical programs of training to this end.

There’s no such thing as a doctor. There are only humans trained in different ways.

Guard dog is far too broad a term to speak of “guard dog” and ask how it might react in some scenario. Dozens of vastly different kinds of training and desired responses could all be "called “guard dog.” The term is meaningless except to convey a vague sense that the given dog has some specialized training and is not a mere pet.

Meh, dogs are individuals. Guard dog is a role, and some breeds have been bred for characteristics that make them good in that role – I call those “guarding breeds.” The claim that “guard dog is too broad a category to know how a given dog will react,” while true, misses the point that even specific dogs from the same litter and trainer will react differently. The OP is right to assume the answer will basically be “it varies.”

A dog will often side with the person to whom he/she is most closely bonded…that’s no guarantee the people in the household have clearly identified who that person is, however. On the other hand, sometimes a dog will lie low and appear submissive during conflict, or simply flee.

There are plenty of anecdotal stories of dogs defending a victim of domestic abuse from the abusive party, but I wouldn’t say it’s predictable.

“dog will often side with the person to whom he/she is most closely bonded…that’s no guarantee the people in the household have clearly identified who that person is”

It doesn’t really matter what the people know, no? What matters is that the dog will have decided which is the alpha creature

A well trained, safe for society dog will growl, hackles up, and maybe even bark, but will not attack unless given a signal, verbal or visual, by her handler.

But most dogs aren’t this well trained, and will attack based on when they perceive the seniority of the pack is - the “alpha” (the person the dog is most bonded to) will be assisted. Even here, there’s a possible exception - if the “alpha” is perceived as losing the fight, some dogs will actually turn on them and assist the other fighter. Pack status isn’t unchangeable, and a naturally aggressive dog who isn’t well trained may actually seize the opportunity to try and take leadership of the pack. This is why you sometimes see stories about people killed by their own dogs. Dog felt owner wasn’t up to snuff and felt obligated to try to be a stronger leader.

Bottom line: train your dogs, train them well, and if you can’t, get them to someone who can.

Thanks so much, I’m glad I now know I’m not in the elite cadre of dog owners who can handle it since you were born into the hereditary cast that can, and it isn’t something I can learn. Like Horse Whispering.

Don’t be butt-hurt because you’re not qualified. You aren’t, I know it and you know it.

My point is that people often claim to be surprised by a dog’s behavior, even though dogs typically clearly telegraph their intent. The charitable conclusion is, many people don’t understand dog body language and social cues very well. The OP asked how the dog would react – I am reminding readers that the dog’s assessment of the situation may not match their own.

When I was a wee lad and my brother and I would fight, our toy poodle would run and bark at my mother until she made us stop.

Since this is GQ, let’s back down on the snark and try to focus on providing the OP with some useful information about dogs and domestic disputes, 'kay?

Can you point me to where I said I was qualified? Or that I was even buying a dog?

Yeah that came out of nowhere.

I’m the alpha in my house but when Mr. Vigilante and I get into a heated discussion (we don’t really fight but we can get pretty loud even when we’re discussing the latest Doctor Who episode), one dog leaves the room. He’s not a guard dog though. The other dog doesn’t care either way.

“There is no such thing as a guard dog”

This has already been addressed but let me put in my “Pooh-pooh” as well.

“There are only dogs trained in different ways” - but apparently no dogs are trained as guard dogs - which will come as a big surprise to those entities and individuals engaged in the buisiness of training, selling and renting “gaurd dogs”.

When I “fight” with my partner (not real fights, just playful wrestling), our untrained dog will always grab the pants leg or sleeve of whoever is on top and try to pull them off the other. He seems more interested in stopping the fight then attacking one of us.

Our collie bitch would break up fights. She’d get between the people and start barking, baring teeth, and snapping. Even raising voices would set her off. We had a lot of fun with that. In fact she’d go nuts if you’d act like you were fighting yourself! Evidently this is a somewhat standard behavior for collies.

If push come to shove, pun intended, she would protect my wife first in our play fights. The kids next. I think I came in after complete strangers.

True story: When the St. Louis Rams won the Superbowl a few year ago, I started jumping up and screaming. Rosie, our collie, bit me in the balls in response. In front of about 10 guests. Best SuperBowl ever!

Otherwise she was a very gentle dog. Miss her.