Would Your Dog Protect Your Home?

Honey the Golden Retriever guards her stick

Nobody better try to steal my stick. I might have to, to, to…floof them with my tail.

A stranger enters your house.

Your dog:

  1. runs and hides
  2. barks her head off or bites the intruder
  3. wags for joy

Which did you pick? And how sure are you?

What Dogs Do When Strangers Break In

A news station asked several dog people what their pets would do in case of a break in. Then they tested the dogs by having a dog trainer in a bite suit enter the house and caught the results on film.

Here’s what happened:


CBS Atlanta 46

What a Real Break In Looks Like

This test made fun television. But it didn’t mean anything related to a real break in.

Burglary is something I know a little bit about. I don’t remember how many times we were broken into in Philadelphia. I only really remember the times we caught the thief in the house.

But here’s what I do know:

  • Thieves look for low-hanging fruit. If they hear a barking dog, most will move on.
  • The really bad guys won’t hesitate to kill a dog if he’s standing in the way of something they really want.

Oh, and I know one more thing. If you want to keep your stuff safe, buy good locks. Or a burglar alarm.

And let your dog do her job—being your best friend.

Do you rely on your dog for protection? Do you think he’s up to the job?

Thank you, Peggy Frezon, for bringing this interesting video to my attention.

Pet Blogger Gift Exchange

Today’s the last day to join the fun. Give and get the best gift money can’t buy—encouragement, compliments, and link love. Click the badge to learn more and to sign up.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. That’s quite amusing… I always thought Flo would protect me, never mind the house, but when it came down to it a few weeks ago and I was threatened while we were out walking, she wasn’t much help! Maybe that’s because I kept really calm though and didn’t give her cause to go off. She really barks when people come up to the gate and, on the odd occasion when some fool has still walked in to the garden despite her scary barking she has baled them up and got in their space. If they behave as though they’re supposed to be there she just runs up to the deck and barks from the front door. Not sure what she’d do if they came up after her… especially after seeing that video! I didn’t get either dog with the intent that they would be guard dogs, their barking is just an added bonus. :)

    • Sorry to hear you had a bad experience on a walk. By commenting here, I can assume you’re ok, right?

      I think it’s not fair to expect my dogs to become all macho and confront a threatening person if I’m not willing to do so myself. The last time someone asked me to hand over my money, I yelled a little (barked?). But I handed over the money.

      It’s great to know the dogs are doing their jobs of being good company even if they wouldn’t replace a policeman in a pinch. :)

      • Actually, I didn’t mention that he even hit Flo with an empty (plastic) bottle… and she still didn’t bite him. I was a bit relieved that she behaved the way she did. And yes, her job (which she does brilliantly) is definitely only to be my pet.

  2. I know they’d rather that I just kept out of the way and didn’t get hurt, but they don’t know what I’d do – my ancestors were bred to protect. A man, late one evening, tried to stop my female biped closing the front door on him and I stood up and growled very quietly – which was enough for him to change his mind and leave.

    • Many generations of genes led you to do just what you had to and no more. Good girl, Clowie.

      When we’ve been threatened, I try to keep in mind that any “thing” can be replaced. But no creature ever can.

  3. The video is entertaining. I actually really am happy that the dogs didn’t show signs of aggression. 1 – the guy opened the unlocked door. They might have reacted differently to a busted in door, or to someone ringing the doorbell (to check if anyone’s home). 2 – always nice to see the ‘macho breeds’ NOT proven to be ‘vicious monsters’… and also nice to see the woman with the cute pitbull say “good girl!” when her ‘vicious pitbull’ performed tricks for the guy instead of attacking him – a good owner to represent the breed, one who is happy her dog didn’t attack anyone, even when provoked with a break and entry.
    I think that, overall, Gwynn isn’t going to be much of a help if someone breaks in to the house. He might bark, especially if they ring the doorbell first, but he’ll be backing away at the same time. I think his bark would be enough to scare a lot of people off, though, even if he looks like a marshmallow.
    A guy I met at the dog park told me about his cousin, wakling her two huskies off-leash in wooded parkland (within a fair sized city) – she got attacked by a guy who wanted more than just her wallet, and those dogs took him out. And got a medal from the police for it too. I’d say that, if I were attacked and not remaining calm, Gwynn would react to it, though likely not as extremely as those two huskies. I’d rather he did just what Flo did – chances are, if you’re bad enough to attempt anything from robbery to rape, you’re bad enough to be carrying a gun or a knife, and I wouldn’t want Gwynn to get hurt. I’m glad that the police officer in that video wasn’t encouraging people to go out and get their dogs protection training.

    • Overall, I thought it was a pretty positive video too. The trainer seemed like a decent person who pointed out that few dogs have the drive to be trained to protect.

      And yes, I loved the pittie doing tricks. That was such a good message on so many levels.

      As for Gwynn’s reaction to a threat–let’s hope you never have to find out.

      One of the times we were broken in was when I was taking Agatha and Christie for a walk. When we got home, they ran into the dark dining room and started barking up a storm. I figured they had someone cornered in there but I couldn’t turn on a light in that room without walking into the dark.

      I called out to the thieves (later determined to be my crack addicted neighbors) that I was talking the dogs out on the porch for 30 seconds and they better be gone when we got back in. They were.

      • That would be a terrifying experience, even with them as people you recognised as your neighbours. I’m glad they got the hint and ran off when you gave them the opportunity – and I think that’s definitely the best choice when it comes to your own safety. Give the bad guy the chance to run off, rather than standing in their way. even just having a dog is definitely enough deterrent for most people – it’s the possibility that the dog won’t react nicely to attacking its owner. The dog might be completely fine with you reaching towards their owner… or you might find yourself with a puncture wound, and non-dog-people definitely tend to assume it’ll be the latter. That’s why I don’t worry too much about walking in the woods at night, especially since I take my neighbour’s dog with me too on those walks. That and my big bludgeon-like flashlight 😛

  4. So interesting! I guess my first thought would be that Sherman and Plunger would protect our home and Leroy would not, but after really think about it, I think that if no one was home a burglar could come and go with ease. If someone was at home and a person broke broke in I think it would be a different story because they would sense my fear and go into protection mode.
    Better locks it is!

  5. I don’t have any delusions about Bunny, Blueberry and Kuster. They are so friendly and outgoing, they would never expect the house. Morgan is another story. I’m not sure if she would stand up to someone if I wasn’t here, but she would definitely bark. She goes ballistic when the Schwann’s man shows up every two weeks. She’s also scared off people who just stopped in the driveway. She is definitely protective when I am home, especially if my husband isn’t here. It’s part of what makes her so tough to work with, but also part of what I love about her.

  6. Yikes, I’ve never experienced burglary of any sort and I’ve lived in some pretty tough neighbourhoods. Am I just really lucky?

    I have no idea what our dog would do if our house was ever broken into. Because she is always in her crate or locked away in the spare room when we’re not home, she wouldn’t be much of a threat anyway. I suspect she would bark as she barks at my husband when he comes home late at night. But beyond that? No idea. As you say, I think I’d rather her back off and stay safe than try to protect objects in the home.

    Coincidentally, there was a pretty tragic story in the news here yesterday of a house broken into and the dog stolen along with all of their other things. Luckily I just heard this morning the dog was found by police and returned to them. I don’t know if any of their other belongings have been returned but I doubt they much care.

  7. I love that they showed the truly un-vicious nature of pitties! Sadie would certainly bark but she barks at every single person who enters the home, even the Hubster sometimes. I don’t think any of mine would go so far as to attack but since there’s a barking melee anytime anyone steps onto our porch, I feel pretty comfortable the noise would scare someone away (in fact, I’m fairly certain it has at least once due to some suspect scratches around our front door lock a few years back).

    I hope my dogs are never put into a position to defend me or my home. But the one thing I would point out about this report is that no trainer dressed up in a bite suit opening an unlocked door will ever be perceived by dogs as someone with ill intent and I truly believe dogs can smell intent/evil/bad-doing/whatever you want to call it. I’ve seen it in how sometimes they growl at someone we walk past for no reason when other times they are all tail wags. Especially Maggie. She’s so people friendly that when she growls at a stranger on the street, I practically sprint to get away. I do trust that my dogs can sense the good people from the bad and that might have an impact on how they react to a stranger entering the home.

  8. I have a couple observations: first, dogs became domesticated because they are inherently cowards…that is, self-preservation is the huge genetic marker that turned them into pets in the first place. Secondly, dogs have a very finely tuned antenna for who is hostile and threatening to them and who isn’t. They can smell bad. This guy was reeking of “I love doggies” at every move. On the other hand, they are pretty territorial, and if the guy had grabbed their favorite treat toy they may have decided to bark, at least!

    My 6 dachshunds would make an uproar simply because they think that is so much fun, not because they were protecting anything!

    For a great read on the interior life of dogs, and how they think get Stephen Budiansky’s The Truth About Dogs. Great book, insightful and scientific and funny.

    • I thought the same thing – the trainer didn’t enter or react with malicious intent, which I would expect to be an important indicator to the dogs about how they should respond to the intruder.

  9. These dogs are companion animals, not guard dogs – so I’m really not surprised. And you wouldn’t want a guard dog around your kids! I agree with you – get a security system, and let the dog just be a pet.

  10. Little Bogie would drive away offenders who don’t want to get licked to death. May not guard against breakins but as I watch this on my smart phone he is loudly proclaiming that he will protect me from whoever is barking in that little box in my hand.

  11. If a burglar brought bacon, my dogs would point out the family silver and help carry the TV out.

  12. That’s pretty funny. I think my dogs would be a pretty good deterrent, as even their friendly behavior is overwhelming to most people:) Lamar would bark constantly but let a burglar who was smart about it pet him; Fozzie barks and jumps all over anyone, friend or foe, and it is enough to worry all but the most dog loving.

  13. This was fabulous! I honestly think Dakota would make an unreal amount of noise. He barks incessantly for delivery people or ANYONE that enters our home that he doesn’t know. Would be interesting to see what he would do but I pray I never have to find out.

  14. As for my dog…I suspect that if I were home alone and frightened, he’d be a lot more protective than if the house was empty. But unless ‘we’ are actually faced with an intruder–who knows! Interesting video!

  15. I’ve often wondered. Our two are big barkers, and look and sound fierce. I tell people, strangers who solicit, that they may bite. But when I’ve had friends come to take care of them when we’re away, they just wag their tails when the person comes in. When I’m here to protect, they bark their heads off. I’ve always just figured if someone wants my stuff badly enough to get past my dog, they’ll probably get past an alarm, too.

  16. It would be interesting to see what Rita would do (under that controlled environment, I mean – not “for reals”!). She is part German Shepherd and is very protective of me, but also afraid of a lot of things. She barks her head off when people come to the door, or at the men we’ve had in working in our back yard. If the workers have to get close to our sliding glass door, she really unleashes a “hound from hell” fury on them. So I think anyone would be foolish to attempt to enter, but if they did, I imagine she’d be like the GSD in the video – she might bark and snap, but then she’d look for an out.
    The only time I’ve ever had a place broken into was when we didn’t have a dog, so here’s hoping it’s correct that the criminals are smart enough to move on when they hear a barking dog!

  17. My understanding has always been that Buster and Ty are more of a deterrent than actual protection. Seriously, who would break in if they cased the place and knew a big, black German Shepherd and his saucy little brother lived there? In actuality, I imagine Ty would show the intruders to the treat cabinet in hopes they’d start looting there, and Buster would run out the door to search for me.

  18. I know the answer for my dogs because it’s been tested.

    Beau (the Lab) growled and barked when an intruder tried to just steal the bikes off our porch in NH. He never growled but when he did, no one would have dared tested whether or not he’d bite. Size and presence were the perfect deterrent and the guy took off. He also protected me a few times when we were out walking. Funny, because he was also the most gentle dog in the world – just don’t “f” with his family.

    Bella (the mix) barks and growls and lunges when the UPS guy drops off packages so not much of a surprise there either. She barks (does not growl or lunge) at guests entering our home and only stops when we reassure her everything is okay. I don’t know if she’d actually bite but she’s big enough also to scare off most intruders. But since she over-reacts when anyone moves ‘aggressively’ towards me, so I’m pretty sure I know she will defend me – whether I need it or not. 😉

    I do wonder if Beau would have behaved differently in this situation. I think he knew the guy trying to steal our bikes was up to no good. He’d probably also recognize that the intruder here had no malicious intent. (And that’s the problem with these set-ups – the dogs are reacting to a person they probably know is not a real threat.)

    But as you say, someone determined to get something inside isn’t going to hesitate to shoot a growling dog. This is my biggest fear. Beau was big enough that someone might actually think twice that a bullet would be enough but Bella, this is my biggest fear – that she would be seriously injured trying to defend her home. Thankfully, we have never had our theory tested where we live now. I hope we never do.

    PS – LOVE the tricksy Pittie!

  19. Dexter is a pretty good deterrent since he barks, but I’m pretty sure that he would tuck tail & run if it came down to it. Jersey? She’d be running to the hills.

  20. Interesting video! I have no doubt that all of my dogs would put up a fight if someone came in their home. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d love to have that suited guy come to our house and take the test!! :)

  21. Wow, great video to watch! I am assuming that Luna would be submissive and friendly and even offer her paw like one of the dogs did. Penny would most likely be crated, and she would probably bark up a storm.

  22. That was interesting…and funny. I don’t have the expectation that my dogs would protect me, but I do think they would bark enough to scare someone off based on how they react when people we know come into the house. Besides Malarky has a shriek on her that is like fingernails on a chalkboard. You don’t want to be anywhere near her when she gets going.

    I used to have a cat that every now and then would growl and run toward the window and door when someone was approaching the house from outside. It was really surprising to see. And of course the dogs I had then weren’t concerned at all.

  23. Interesting video. I do have a couple of issues with their “scientific” test….

    1. the dogs were home when the cameras were planted, so they already had all kinds of strangers coming inside.

    2. the front door was unlocked, as another commenter mentions.

    3. If an owner was home, a dog might have behaved more protectively. A “personal protection” dog doesn’t care about the TV

    Really, if you don’t want somebody to steal your TV, get a security system. If you feel unsafe, personally, than educate yourself, practice, and purchase a firearm (provided they’re legal in your area).

    Also, that poor German Shepherd….he looked so very fearful from the time he was introduced (on the leash with his owner), and his hindquarters show the unfortunate characteristics of a show line breeding, so he’s got that floppy froggy gait that just makes me sad.

    I’m interested in what Elka would do, and have anecdotes of people coming over (with our permission) when we weren’t home, and how she reacted. And some anecdotes of how she reacted when I WAS home…..hmm. I seem to have another blog post in the making, rather than just a comment on your blog. Thanks!

  24. That must have been a terrifying experience for you.
    Glad you found the video interesting! One thing I noticed is that the fake intruder in the video seemed so calm and non-threatening. I’d imagine a real intruder would project a dangerous aura that the dogs would sense, and they wouldn’t be so calm.